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pinholestar

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  1. Taking a long taxi ride at nighttime in first-person view across the grimily authentic environs of Liberty City, while the serenely pensive refrains of The Journey drifted out of the radio was one of the most seminally atmospheric experiences I’ve ever had in a game. Leaving the stained brownstones and cracked asphalt of Broker, across the towering Algonquin Bridge into the crass glitz of the borough itself as you craned your neck upwards to peek the heights of glass and steel. It was incredibly evocative and Rockstar can do it like no one else. It raised the bar absurdly high for so many aspects of open worlds at its release and captured the essence of the outer boroughs of New York City for anyone who’s ever been there themselves in remarkable fashion. Haven’t played it in years, so have no idea how well it’s held up in gameplay terms (probably not that great considering it was deeply flawed in that regard even at release) but my memories of its gritty approach and unexpected take on a grim immigrant experience in the ultimate melting pot are still so strong. You can pick apart lots of aspects of its mission design and stodgy controls but it was a landmark game and in many ways was Rockstar at its most daring.
  2. I’m not usually one for these retro type of games in general but this is tremendous fun. 6 player co-op is absolutely fucking bonkers.
  3. It’s working and playable for all the cool Game Pass kids now
  4. This was by a country mile the best thing in the State of Play last night. Glen Schofield getting to direct the spiritual successor to Dead Space that he’s been wanting to make for over a decade is just about the best pedigree you could wish for, and I thought the trailer looked fantastic. Right up there as one of my most anticipated games and I’m far more interested in a genuinely new experience than yet another fucking remake of a game I played 15 years ago. A proper sci-fi horror game with today’s lighting technology and audio wizardry overseen by the guy responsible for the best example in its genre should be a winner. Hope it lives up to my lofty expectations but the trailer bodes very well indeed.
  5. Flight Sim is the ultimate chillout experience. Pick literally any spot in the entire world and just glide around soaking in the sights. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever tire of it. Tetris Effect journey mode always sends me off to a happy place. Star Wars Battlefront 2 co-op mode is good for some mindless fun with lightsabers and blasters. Cyberpunk 2077, just driving round Night City after dark listening to deep techno I find an incredibly relaxing and immersive experience.
  6. Citizen Sleeper was an intriguing one. A cross between a visual novel and a dice-rolling RPG set on a space station, with you playing an android avatar seeking answers to layer upon layer of mystery and some sort of conclusion to your fate. It runs out of steam a little once certain pressing matters have been taken care of, but there’s some excellent writing and characterisation and it does a lot with relatively little. I liked the undercurrent of its anti-capitalism messaging and there are some poignant endings to be found, depending on the choices you make. Fans of visual novels should check it out if you have the 5 hours it takes to complete to spare.
  7. Yup. Hope they patch that pronto because it made the story payoff at the end of the level really difficult to follow.
  8. First level took me 3 and a half hours to complete thoroughly. Got invaded twice. Killed the first guy with relative ease because he was running round like a headless chicken and then had an epic sniping battle with the second along the windswept promenade of a French seaside town. He got me in the end but it was great fun all the same and ratcheted up the tension to nail-biting levels. Not sure I’d want invasions switched on throughout the game as they could get annoying after a while but it’s a very cool feature to have as an option. Couple of other new additions to the formula like weapon upgrade customisation and what seems like better level design on first impressions means this is a very welcome follow-on from the hugely enjoyable Sniper Elite 4.
  9. Fucking hell it's almost midnight. Didn't realise I'd cut it that close and so narrowly avoided the unbridled wrath of @Benny.
  10. 1. The Last of Us Part II 2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 3. Elden Ring 4. Red Dead Redemption 2 5. Battlefield 1 6. Resident Evil 4 7. Bloodborne 8. Journey (2012 video game) 9. Super Mario Odyssey 10. Tetris Effect 11. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain 12. Death Stranding 13. Final Fantasy VII 14. Rez (video game) 15. Shadow of the Colossus 16. Half-Life 2 17. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 18. Mass Effect 2 19. Grand Theft Auto V 20. Final Fantasy XIV I haven't compiled a list like this for maybe 10 years or more, so it was an interesting exercise and particularly notable for how it made me realise that my assessment of older games has changed quite drastically in that time. A pretty significant number of former sacred cows have fallen off my all-time list, as I think by modern standards they just don't hold up as well as your memory would like to think they do. With that said there are still a few that have held their spell after all these years and here's some condensed thoughts on each one: The Last of Us Part II - quite simply the single most gripping and absorbing experience I've ever had with the medium. The entire thing from start to finish is a coiled spring possessed of a grim tautness and foreboding tension that is almost unbearable. The absolute pinnacle of what a modern AAA blockbuster video game can be, and from its peerless technical mastery and acting performances to its sublimely engineered and utterly brutal combat encounters it stands alone in my estimations as the most memorable video game I've ever played. A truly stunning work that left me emotionally exhausted, reeling in awe at what I'd just played, and stayed with me for weeks after. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - completely redefined what an open world game could and should be. When Nintendo had seemingly run out of variations on the 3D Zelda game template that Ocarina of Time had laid down 20 years ago and the series was in dire need of a shake-up, they produced this masterpiece that in one fell swoop solved pretty much every problem that open world games had struggled with for years and showed everyone else how it should be done. Very rarely a game comes along that plants a flag in the ground from which all others are measured and this will absolutely walk this poll with good reason. Elden Ring - always wary of recency bias rearing its head, but after 250 hours across two playthroughs with wildly different builds I have little doubt that Elden Ring's effortless vault into the very highest echelons of my all-time list is firmly deserved. I'll expound on it in greater detail come the GOTY awards at the end of the year, and although it's not without its flaws, its highs and triumphs are almost absurd in their brilliance. A distillation of Miyazaki's game design genius honed across the last decade into an experience that exceeded all expectations and will hugely influence the medium for the next decade to come. Red Dead Redemption 2 - you'll notice a common theme of the 'immersive experience' being a primary factor in how highly I personally rate games (my deep love for video games extends primarily from their utterly unsurpassed ability to transport me to a world away from the often trying travails of modern life) and Rockstar's Western epic stands alone in this regard. Its depiction of the vast, majestic American wilderness is perhaps the most extraordinary achievement in video game history, crafted with a richness and attention to detail that is genuinely staggering to behold in its soaring scale and bucolic beauty, and whose authenticity prompted me to roleplay the character of Arthur Morgan in a way that no other game has ever achieved. It's a game that greatly rewards those who fall fully under its captivating spell and who engage it at its own very particular and languid pace. The apotheosis of the video game as lived experience. Battlefield 1 - in terms of hours played this would beat all the others on my list combined with ease. No other game has so consistently provided me with such guaranteed fun across literally thousands of matches for coming up to 6 years now. I know people who worked on this and it was a true labour of love that took a hitherto unexplored real life conflict in video games and crafted a visual and aural experience that brought the thunder and fury of its mud-splattered battlefields to often terrifying and overwhelmingly frantic life. The chugging, mechanical brutality of the era of the birth of modern industrial warfare that it depicts provided a genuinely visceral ordeal that for me is by far the best multiplayer experience I've ever played. Most would probably pick BF4 as the pinnacle of the series but the historical setting, evocative map design, and more measured gunplay that the early 20th century weapons demand combine to create an ebb and flow and quite beautiful feedback loop that for me is unsurpassed. I can't adequately convey in words how incredible some of the truly desperate yet mighty battles that I've had in this game over the years have been. The day the servers are finally switched off will be a sad one indeed because it's increasingly apparent that DICE will never reach such heady heights again. Resident Evil 4 - still to this day the best pure action video game ever made and one that shook up the series in ways that rippled throughout the video game landscape for years afterwards. It's absolutely relentless in its brilliance, has so many moments of sheer unbridled joy and gory fun, and is the embodiment of a game made by a developer who understood the language of video games and how to entertain the player at every conceivable turn. Bloodborne - Miyazaki's eldritch masterpiece that drew on the Cthulhu mythos as its inspiration, painted a wonderfully evocative Victorian gothic horror upon its architectural canvas, and pummelled the player with a vicious demand to take the fight to its many gruesome terrors in a much more aggressive manner than its forebears had ever made you imagine possible. In terms of its all-killer-no-filler consistency this is probably FROM's most accomplished game and on balance I think it has the best line-up of bosses they've thrown in the way of the player too. Journey - if I had to pick one single ineffable moment that stayed with me more than any other in over 30 years of playing video games it would undoubtedly be the final bittersweet farewell I bid to the silent and unknown stranger at Journey's end. We met unbidden near the very start of the game and in cautious but reassuring steps, accompanied by plaintive yet somehow encouraging song, carried each other throughout the epic and unforgettable trek towards its final, celebratory and triumphant ascent towards the beacon of shimmering light that had stood beckoning on the horizon from the very first moment. I often wonder whether that unknown partner holds the memory of what we went through together in the same melancholic regard as I do, or whether they merely shrugged their shoulders and carried on with their day without so much as a cursory thought. I guess I'll never know, and that's what makes Journey such a uniquely beautiful and unforgettable experience. Super Mario Odyssey - the moustachioed mascot of an entire medium just has to be in here somewhere and although any one of 64, Galaxy or Odyssey could comfortably make this list I'm gonna go with with the most recent entry because I think it combines the truly, utterly, superlatively and incomparably sublime control that only a Mario game provides with a joyous compulsion to explore and tease out every last drop of discovery and reward from its many and varied levels. It's fucking Mario man. He is video games. Tetris Effect - there is only one truly perfect video game that cannot be improved in any way and that game is Tetris. With that said I don't care about T-spins and combos and high scores and leaderboards one iota. What places Tetris Effect on my list of the all-time greats is the way in which Mizuguchi took that most simple of concepts and rulesets that are embedded into the consciousness of just about anyone who has ever played a video game and fashioned it into a truly transcendent visual and aural experience that is at turns meditative and contemplative, dreamlike and ethereal, running the gamut of human experience from our origins in the oceans to the stratosphere above before one final metamorphosis into a form beyond our imagining. To perceive those seven geometric shapes falling into a well that elicit the titular psychological response, and recognise that something truly beautiful could be crafted from it is a level of artistic genius that I can barely comprehend. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain - apart from 4 they're all masterpieces in their own way, but I rate MGSV as the ultimate sandbox game. The amount of tools that the game gives you and the frankly absurd amount of possible permutations that you can then create from their use is unmatched. Beneath all the portentous philosophising and wordy treatises on the perils of a nuclear-armed world, the Metal Gear games have always been gloriously silly and MGSV is the most riotously bonkers of the lot that positively revels in its own absurdity. Death Stranding - and here he is again. I'm an unashamed Kojima fanboy and think that video games are lucky to have him, and so I really can't think of another huge budget AAA game that took such incredibly bold steps to craft an experience that is so completely and utterly unique more than Death Stranding. I've never played anything remotely like it either in tone or execution. As I mentioned earlier, I'm an absolute sucker for immersive experiences and atmospheric worlds so I guess this was always going to be my jam, but deftly picking my way down the faltering scree under the cover of heavy timefall rain towards a vast expanse of black volcanic ash stretching to the horizon, while the plaintive tones of a post-rock soundtrack completed the mournful scene was a thrill that I can't adequately convey in words. The core gameplay loop of traipsing across the United States recast as a post-apocalyptic Iceland delivering packages sounds about as dull as you could possibly imagine, and yet it's one of the most arresting and compelling things I've ever played. It's truly beautiful to behold in its vast and barren bleakness, twisted and unsettling to experience in its narrative weirdness, ineffably compelling to play as its rhythms veer between serene solitude and frantic horror-fuelled tension and I loved every single second of it. Final Fantasy VII - perhaps the one allowance that I make to unashamed nostalgia in my list, this holds a unique place in my heart as the game that redefined what a video game could make me feel and expanded the horizons of just what they could be in the future. Its translation by modern standards is absolutely dreadful and some of the overtly anime stylings would these days have a much harder time of passing muster in my affections, but FF7 will always remain as the first game that I truly lost myself in and its iconic characters and music just can't be dislodged from the fondest banks of my memories. Rez - not as transcendently bewitching as Tetris Effect perhaps but no less a work of artistic genius for that, Rez was my first introduction to Tetsuya Mizuguchi's unique artistic sensibilities and boundless imagination for the fusion of sound and colour by way of synaesthesia and absolutely fucking banging tunes. It came just at the point when I was falling headlong into the world of electronic music, a relationship that has grown and strengthened with every year since and has in many ways come to define my life, and it remains a stunning illustration of how technology and futurism and Kandinsky and video games and the fervent mind of one of Japanese video games' most incomparably creative auteurs can combine into something that defies all explanation. The giant running man loping across the screen above your head as thumping techno slammed into your ears before the refrains of Adam Freeland's Fear launched your mind into the great beyond felt like truly epochal moments that I don't think will ever be matched. Shadow of the Colossus - the vast, soaring beauty of its barren, windswept plains and the bewildering scale of the unforgettable colossi as they slowly turn their ancient and somnolent gaze towards you remain the calling cards of a game that captures a sense of lonely isolation in a hostile land better than any other ever has, and illustrates a purity of design that has stood the test of time with ease. It remains one of gaming's most truly memorable experiences, played out on one of its most evocative landscapes and suffused with a bleak and mournful air that is rare indeed. Half-Life 2 - its impact really cannot be overstated and playing this as a student late into the night when I really should have been studying felt like some sort of epiphany. Stepping out onto the streets of City 17 for the first time was a jaw-dropping moment, and yet it was but the first of many to come. The incorporation of physics into not only its game world but the manner in which you interacted with it represented a paradigm shift, and the sheer life that Alyx and Dog possessed flew off the screen and helped to create a singularly arresting and engaging experience. Someone earlier in this thread said that the reason Valve never made you-know-what is because deep down they knew they wouldn't be able to top the impact of this and I completely agree. Still the best single-player FPS campaign ever made? I struggle to think of another that has ever lived up to it. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Bethesda Game Studios feel like they have a reputation to retrieve these days but let's not forget just what a marvel and phenomenon Skyrim was upon release. It's certainly showing the somewhat clunky trappings of age these days in terms of its underlying mechanics and limited combat, but the snowbound reaches of northern Tamriel are just as rewarding to explore as they ever were. There's a staggering amount of content to be found and it could fairly be said that he who is bored of Skyrim is bored of life itself. It's a game that got me through a particularly brutal breakup and what was, looking back through the snowy mists of times long gone, probably the low point of my life, which is not to say that it's here purely on the merits of self-pitying nostalgia, but because its world is so enriching and immersive a place to explore that it could manage to engage and beguile in such seemingly bleak circumstances. Mass Effect 2 - because Mordin. Grand Theft Auto V - let's be honest, others have tried but nobody comes close to Rockstar. There really is nothing quite like venturing into one of their peerless worlds for the first time, and even a decade on I'm quite certain that I could comfortably navigate Los Santos and its surrounding environs from memory alone, which is not only remarkable when you consider its sheer size, but ultimately a testament to the masterful skill with which it was crafted. Yes, Vice City had the pastel suits and legendary soundtrack but go back and play it now and it's a tiny play area and handles like shit. GTAV still rocks and still has the ability to create sheer chaos out of thin air using some sort of lawless voodoo. For all the well deserved criticisms of their restrictive mission design they're still the masters of the freeform playground that is bound only by the player's imagination if you really wanna let rip, and there is absolutely nothing in all of video games that can come within a hundred miles of the titanic presence of a new GTA game when it lands. Final Fantasy XIV - I cancelled my sub a couple of years ago because I just don't want a single video game taking up that much of my time and I felt like the predictable content schedule had long become stale, but for the 3 years or so that I played FF14 it gave me some of the most memorable moments in my personal video game history and secured some lifelong friends among the people who I met when playing it. The ultimate exemplar of a triumphant victory snatched from the jaws of defeat, Naoki Yoshida and his team of probably frighteningly overworked developers have over the last decade crafted something that will go down in the annals of video game legend. Among all the juvenile anime fluff there's some of the best storytelling that the RPG genre has ever produced and at their best the dungeons and raids are absolute masterpieces of MMO design. It represents a small little chapter in my life that I will always look back on with fondness, and made me grateful that if only for a relatively short time I got to experience the uniquely shared and social charms of an MMO at the height of its powers.
  11. Zone hitting all the way. It’s harder to master but when you do it gives you so much more control and is incredibly satisfying. They’ve improved it this year by letting you pre-lock your neutral aiming point, so if you have a tendency to pull down or whatever it’ll mitigate it. If you’re having fun with directional hitting though then by all means stick with it. One of the many excellent things about the game is the wealth of options it gives you to tailor the experience to your liking/skill level. I’d recommend using Strike Zone view when batting though, as it gives you the clearest view of incoming pitches and helps you pick up things like curveballs out of the hand much quicker. With regards to RttS, last year it took me maybe a season and a half to get called up to the majors? I haven’t played that mode much this year though so I haven’t been called up yet, but I have seen a lot of people online saying that it seems to take ages despite them raking in the minors, so maybe they’ve changed something.
  12. I got hooked with ‘21 as it was on Game Pass and now I’m all in on ‘22 and am playing it a scary amount. I’m a huge baseball fan though, so not sure how appealing it would be to someone who isn’t familiar with the sport. It’s by a country mile the best sports game franchise, in my opinion. MLB are blessed to have a Sony first-party studio exclusively dedicated to putting it out every year. The Diamond Dynasty FUT equivalent absolutely shits all over EA’s gouging offering. They’ve fiddled with it a little this year but the amount of regular content they provide is insane and it’s entirely possible to have a competitive online team and obtain the very best cards without spending a penny. The learning curve for batting is pretty steep but once you figure it out it’s awesome. Will easily be my most played game this year, as it was last year.
  13. I played through the mainline series (and read story summaries of the 567 spinoff games) last year, and although there are some great moments it was often a painful experience that put me off any continued interest in further games. It’s a series that has well and truly eaten itself and become a bizarre confused mess of quite epic proportions. The new hyper-realistic style they’re trailing with KH4 looks like the absolute last thing the series needs.
  14. I’ve got well over a hundred hours in it and that’s almost entirely been played treating it as a single-player Fallout game. With all the additions and improvements they’ve made to it over the years it’s now essentially Fallout 5, just with the vestigial remnants of the misguided multiplayer approach they went with initially. But you can safely ignore all the multiplayer aspects (which are the weakest aspect of the game anyway) and have a grand old time just exploring the huge world and doing quests while scavenging for gear among the irradiated ruins. Same as it ever was and it’s great, if Bethesda’s style appeals. It stumbled so badly out of the gate that many wrote it off for good, but anyone who enjoyed Fallout 3 and 4 would love 76 as it is now.
  15. Guardians of the Galaxy was just the tonic for me after Miyazaki had relentlessly pummelled my brain with brutal brilliance for three solid weeks. Its character interplay is always engaging, often very funny and as a game it’s a breezy romp that cracks along at a brisk pace without ever being too challenging. I was really after some lighter, more easygoing and linear fare after Elden Ring and it was just the ticket.
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