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LONG BLOG

Media Moments 2021: The A-List Video Games

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My favorite 3 games this year have been no secret. I’ve mentioned them before, but let’s lavish even more praise on them. They deserve it. These are all AAA sequels, but this year was very, very good for those. These three, in particular, feel like love letters to their respective franchises.

BUT WAIT! We have a surprise 4th entry! A challenger! Halo Infinite has made the A-list for having a banger shooter campaign. Let’s take a look.

Resident Evil 8: Village Has It All

This feels like the big AAA beast in the room. The production feels like a new high-bar for videogames, much less Resident Evil. If nothing else, it’s a graphics, sound, and voice acting powerhouse. The production alone deserves to be gushed over. I hope those people got bonuses and raises and had a good year in general. But how’s it play?

RE8 is like an amalgamation of the first person anxiety and cat-and-mouse games of RE7, with the arcadey action, wild characters, and upgrade power-creep of RE4. It’s like a greatest hits of Resident Evil gameplay elements, with enough room to still try something new in House Beneviento.

And then there’s those amazing characters. You’ve heard about Lady D., but most of the rest of the cast also rules. The performances are so great. I especially love Angie the Doll. She only gets a handful of lines, but that character sticks with me. I find her totally hilarious for some reason. If RE7 felt like an experiment, this feels closer to being the actual future of the series. It’s just such a total package. You’ve got the scares, laughs, action, and puzzles.

 

Hitman 3 Is A Great Finale, And It Keeps the Innovation Going

The last time I was this impressed by level-design, I was playing Dishonored 2. I don’t just hand those out. Even if you play Hitman 1 and 2, the levels here will make quite an impression. The first level, a fictional world’s tallest building is both creative and a visual showcase. The second level is an Agatha Christie-inspired mansion murder mystery, where you can play the detecting and actually solve the murder. And the German nightclub, while it frustrated me at first, is a pretty smart turning of the tables, as unknown assassins in disguise hunt after you this time.

I urge you to try the World of Assassination trilogy. I think the Paris level in Hitman 1 is still a free demo. They have weaponized the tendencies of perfectionism and replayability into something incredibly smart and cool. The levels are designed for replayability, with multiple entry and exit points, numerous paths to each target, and occasionally even some moments designed for comedy. I’m impressed that IO didn’t just coast on successful formulas in 3. They really kept trying new things through the last game. I was impressed enough that I knew I had to remember it for the end of the year, and I never actually forgot about it.

 

Psychonauts 2 Upgrades a Classic and Is Once Again, All Heart

In the original Psychonauts, you play a boy named Raz who sneaks into Psychic Summer Camp, and starts learning to hone his psychic abilities and eventually solves a mystery. Psychic powers, in Psychonauts, are all represented as literal cartoon objects, like a balloon to balance on for levitation or a ghostly hand for telekinesis. And you mostly use them inside people’s minds, which you access with little doors that stick to their heads. It’s all very cute, but also well thought-out and smart. If you have a chance, it’s very worth playing. Psychonauts 2? Even better.

I couldn’t believe how much playing this sequel felt like I simply never left. Everything is better, but the characters and story pick up like Psychonauts happened a few days ago and not 16 years ago. God, that feels great. And this world never lost it’s humor, creativity, or heart. If anything, some of that’s better. If you have any interest in the mascot/collectathon platformer genre, both games are on GamePass and PC. They’re both the most creative and interesting examples of that genre that I have ever seen. And if you like the first one, boy will the second one delight you.

But why am I really obsessed with this series? It’s the little stories in people’s heads and the utterly un-cynical worldview of these games. These stories really believe in people’s resilience and basic goodness, and that’s just really charming. It’s that good kind of kids entertainment that’s smart enough for adults.

 

The Halo Infinite: Campaign Swooped in for an End of Year Surprise

I really didn’t think waiting for this would make a difference, but….this is really fucking good. It’s Halo…like you may have heard of, but better than I’ve ever seen it. You’ve got a game that feels great to play in an open world that’s just open enough to give you places to explore for collectibles and a good number of objectives. But it’s not a busy map that feels never-ending. The story is better than I expected, though it takes a backseat for a lot of the middle of the game. I ended up being really satisfied with it. I even came around on the villain, who I thought was lame at first. He’s this big booming Klingon guy, but he really amuses me. He’s very “Bonesaw is ready!”.  Dude just wants our stories to become legend and has a thing for the Chief.

There’s so many small things I could talk about. The friendly and enemy AI is really good. Random Marines can actually get some kills now and it feels like keeping them alive comes in handy. And the enemy chatter is as good as it's ever been. The FOB system works really well and lets you feel grounded in that area. The biggest gripe I have is that there’s no endgame stuff to do out side wrapping up collectibles. But I can’t ignore how high quality and fun this campaign was. It’s an A-lister.

 

And that’s my A-List. I’ve also got a B-list blog coming, of games that also deserve to be shouted out.

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About siddartha85one of us since 1:07 PM on 07.18.2011