Features

What I Played on My “Winter Break”

There’s this really bad time to be a games writer if you aren’t working on big features constantly. Basically, between Game of the Year and usually sometime in late January, there’s tragically little to talk about, as it’s the best time to catch up on games. As this is stuff that doesn’t make a ton of sense for us to talk about in review form, I figured why not talk about some of the games I’ve been playing over the winter break.

Hitman: Patient Zero

I talked about this during my personal Game of the Year list, but tragically I had not had the chance to play it during our proper podcast/GOTY discussion. Hitman: Patient Zero is the expansion put out by IO while they figure out where they go with the Hitman franchise. While the first contract is pretty standard, each of the three contracts after is actually something drastically different from Hitman proper.

The second contract attaches a timer to it, where you have to pay attention to the bells of the church of Sapienza to catch a meetup with two contacts who are trying to trade off a container of a virus. It’s a neat change up. The third contract is a full sniper mission and it’s…okay. You are fed small clues about who exactly you need to kill, but this compound full of people is surprisingly chill about you just shooting their friends. It seems reminiscent of the mobile Hitman: Sniper game and…yeah, it’s just fine.

However, the real draw is the final mission, where you have to take out the titular “Patient Zero.” Taking place in Hokkaido, you have to kill a scientist who injected himself with a virus in order to become a plague carrier, as well as the doctor who’s treating him. However, in a huge twist, any NPC who comes into contact with this individual while not wearing a hazmat suit will become infected…and they can infect others. It’s absolutely brilliant and easily the best Hitman mission to date. 47 cannot get too close to the scientist without a suit, either, as he can become a carrier and spread the virus to others.

It forces you to deal with a situation fast, otherwise things will get out of hand. Essentially, how I played it was “Go in as fast as possible and kill this guy however I can.” Hell, I used my pistol in that mission and everyone knows that’s the worst way to play Hitman. There’s something so different about this single mission that made me rethink how I play this game (usually methodically, planning out as much as I can) that I really regret that we didn’t bring it up in our Game of the Year discussion.

Okami HD

I own multiple versions of Okami but I’ve never quite finished it. The furthest I’ve gotten is about half-way through, following the Moon Cave fight. However, with the PC re-re-release of Okami HD, there’s something just clicking about it with me.

Everyone has said that it’s one of the secret best Zelda games, and they’re right. The art style is top notch and the writing is fantastic. The gameplay options of how you handle each fight are made really cool with the inclusion of the Celestial Brush, the games main mechanic. Basically, you play a Wolf-God hybrid with the power to call forth the heavens and paint your attacks.

For some reason, each run I had previously stopped abruptly but in 4K on a PC, this game looks incredible. I’d love some options to speed up some of the text in the cutscenes but I really am looking forward to actually finishing this game for the first time.

Destiny 2 (PC)

We’ve talked Destiny 2 to death on the podcast, but I think I should emphasize that the core gameplay of it is absolutely brilliant. The shooting is solid and the fights can be a blast. So, when the PC version was available for $20, I couldn’t resist.

My significant other is not a big shooter fan. It’s not something she grew up with and she often derides the fact that she has never really had the chance to learn how to play these types of games. The thing about Destiny 2 is that it is a really, REALLY good introduction to FPS games. You can play with another person and get revived anytime you die and the game actively encourages multiplayer participation.

Playing this game together has been an absolute blast. For all of the dumb decisions that Destiny 2 has in its current state, that core gameplay is so solid that if you are ignoring it, you can still have fun. We’ve run through the main campaign, some strikes, and the Curse of Osiris DLC over the course of a week or so and I’ve had a fantastic time. It’s just a shame that now that we’ve wrapped up that content, a lot of my time playing is going to try to rebuild my PS4 character.

Titanic: Adventure Out of Time

I nerded out a bit with this game at the end of our last podcast, but I cannot understate how much of my childhood was spent with this game. Which makes its recent addition to GOG an absolute must-play during this winter lull.

The core concept is certainly unique. You start the game in your apartment during the Blitzkrieg of World War II. You learn that you were a spy who had a mission aboard the Titanic, but the disaster on the ship caused you to fail and inadvertently cause World War I and II. Your apartment is bombed and through magic bullsh!t, you are teleported back to the Titanic to complete your adventure.

While the first half of the game is a pretty standard point-and-click adventure, the second half goes absolutely bonkers. Basically, you have several tasks you need to complete before the ship sinks and it will sink. There is a timer on this part of the game and if you fail any of the tasks, you will actually cause disaster for the future. I developed actual strategies as a child on the best way to finish this game (always avoid talking to Ribeena and Henry Gorse-Jones until the last possible moment in order to always have a lifeboat while still having access to a lifeboat.)

I literally could go on and on about how this game specifically shaped how I play games as a child and honestly, I might. However, until then, know that it is on GOG for $5.99 and it’s easily one of my favorite adventure games of all time.

The Xbox One X

Having a 4K TV kinda requires you to upgrade hardware. That’s why over the holidays, I purchased an Xbox One X. Yes, it’s a ludicrous purchase all things considered and yes, most people have no reason to buy one. I’m not here to be a salesperson for Microsoft but if you are interested in a good 4K setup, the Xbox One X is a pretty good, albeit flawed, choice.

The biggest “good” is that yes, it is actually the most powerful console ever. The Witcher 3 looks absolutely incredible, as does Gears of War 4 and several other games that have Xbox One X enhancements. Also, the large backwards compatible library is a massive plus. And if you are interested in playing a decent set of games, the Xbox Game Pass is actually a decent choice. It has several solid games in it and for $10 a month, that is actually not a bad price if you don’t own anything.

However, it must be said that the Xbox One store on the console is absolute trash. I do not care how powerful your console is, if it cannot load a page of games during a sale, that is a bad experience. Also, while pins do help the overall Xbox navigation experience, it still feels like the entire dashboard needs to be ripped out and relaunched anew. Finally, maybe it’s just because I am used to the PS4’s system of screenshots but I’ve found it incredibly unintuitive to capture screenshots and videos.

If you’re looking for a decent mid-range 4K console, the PS4 Pro is a far better choice. However, if you want to future proof yourself and get a really powerful console with neat additional content, the Xbox One X is a pretty ok choice…just maybe wait for a price drop.

The PlayStation VR

I’ve talked previously about how much I like the PSVR, but I don’t think it’s the future of gaming. However, over the Holidays, I love to have family members check out VR. This was embodied with my family playing over the holidays and it was an actually fulfilling experience.

Having my grandpa go into a virtual shark cage made me actually feel like I was able to connect with him in video gaming for the first (and likely, only) time. It’s a great equalizer between people like us who play a lot of games and people who’ve never played games, in that neither have ever really played anything like it before. While the Shark Cage experience was lite on content, it was a revolution for him and for a lot of my family. Scaring the crap out of family with the Resident Evil 7 “Kitchen” demo was one of the funniest things and playing Job Simulator with family was a really fun experience. It was something that so enjoyable that I simply kept smiling as I watched them each play.

This was easily the best experience with gaming that I’ve had, maybe ever. These are people who watched me play the Sega Genesis as I grew up. They put up with my beaming over Ocarina of Time. For us to connect with gaming in this way, there’s just something unlike any other experience in the gaming world. Even party games like Fibbage don’t allow this kind of mind-blowing connection. They don’t care that the PSVR isn’t the most technically sound experience (it absolutely isn’t). They just find joy in going into this silly shark cage. And there’s nothing quite like it to fill your winter break.

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