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What we've been playing

Brawls and screenshots.

5th May, 2023

Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little bit about some of the games we've found ourselves playing over the last few days. This time: brawling, snapshots, and more snapshots.

If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.

Street Fighter 6, PS5

Aoife plays Street Fighter 6.Watch on YouTube

The Street Fighter 6 demo is in full swing, and while it offers a portion of the game that I, a Street Fighter competitive multiplayer purist, care little for, I couldn't help but dip in to see what Capcom had up its sleeve for newcomers and those interested in the single-player side of things.

It is, well, weird.

You may have seen some of the nightmarish avatars players have drummed up with the help of Street Fighter 6's robust character creator. Some have gone viral on social media, they're that... out there. In a genius move, Capcom has made it so avatars created in the Street Fighter 6 demo carry over into the final release, so if nothing else you can use it to save time before the game launches in June. And you will save a lot of time, because you can spend hours messing about in this thing.

In the end I went for a robot-looking ball-buster with piercing blue eyes straight outta Dune - and into the World Tour I took her. What I found was the first Street Fighter game with actual street fighting.

World Tour begins by thrusting you out into the streets of Metro City, Final Fight's famous crime-ridden metropolis. There's a Times Square vibe to this initial area, with bright lights and plenty of bystanders milling about. You get a message from Luke, one of Street Fighter 6's playable characters and your early-doors mentor, who tells you to speak to someone who then tells you to beat two people up. Who, exactly? Anyone. Just walk up to someone minding their own business on the street and beat them up. Really.

And so I did. You walk up to someone - they have their name and level displayed above their head - and press the button to fight them. And then the fight starts in Street Fighter's traditional side-on perspective. Win and the fight ends. You switch back to the third-person walking around town perspective, and they're on the floor, defeated. Emote in their face for maximum humiliation.

In Metro City, everyone's up for a fight. Like, you can go up to anyone, ask them for a fight, and they're like, sure thing buddy. What else are we going to do? It's like Fight Club without the need for a dusty underground hideaway, and the first rule is you absolutely must talk about it.

I saw a level eight mime. A dozen or so people were watching him work. I wondered, can I beat the mime up? So I walked up to him, asked for a fight, and, yes, you can beat the mime up. Nobody seemed to mind. In fact, I think the people enjoyed the spectacle.

Eventually, two Mad Gear gang members ran up to me and asked me for a fight. These gang members were both wearing cardboard boxes on their heads. This is a thing, apparently, all Mad Gear gang members do. It's the Metro City fashion. Sucks to be them - I beat them both up.

There's little more available in the demo's World Tour mode. You just walk around Metro City beating people up for half an hour. Luke praises your efforts. Good job beating people up! Thanks Luke. Appreciate it, man.

Street Fighter 6 is weird and wonderful and I love it, although I'm also not sure any of this World Tour stuff is for me long term. The lab and Guile and Zangief are my first port of call, but I'm glad all this exists. I can see it playing well on social media. I can see newcomers having a laugh with it. It's weird Capcom at its very best.


Horizon Forbidden West, PS5

Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores.Watch on YouTube

I have never been one for photo modes, but Horizon Forbidden West changed this. Over the bank holiday weekend, I played through Aloy's latest adventure and was left in awe by the world Guerrilla created. From Forbidden West's snowy peaks to its azure depths, the sheer amount of detail was astounding. For the first time, I felt compelled to stop what I was doing in a game, just so I could capture the moment.

It was the coastal areas that enamoured me the most. I have always been happiest by or in the water, so as soon as I was able to venture towards Forbidden West's sandy shores, I quite literally dived in to explore what was hidden beneath the waves. Now, my photo album is full of stingrays gliding serenely through the tides, bright coral reefs on a sun-dappled sea bed and an essence of calm I often only find when I am swimming.

My snapshots did not stop there. Even on the shore, I felt the urge to take photos. I photographed Aloy as she rode joyously on the back of a Bristleback, I photographed her standing proudly on top of a recently felled Slitherfang. I even photographed her mid-battle, when she wasn't really doing all that well.

My favourite capture of all, however, is this one. To borrow from The Last of Us' Ellie, while my personal jury is still somewhat out on Horizon Forbidden West as a whole (a topic for another day), you simply can't deny that view.

Horizon Forbidden West.

Victoria Kennedy

Octopath Traveler 2, Switch

Octopath Traveler 2 trailer.Watch on YouTube

I can't stop taking screenshots in Octopath Traveler 2. I'm obsessed with the vibe. The shimmer of a babbling stream beneath a stony, cobbled bridge. The way a beam of light streams through broken stained glass, piercing the candlelight of a grand cathedral. The soft autumnal hues of a sleepy village warmed by sunset. Characters pose threateningly in a desert ravaged by war. A rainbow is emblazoned across a dense waterfall.

All of this is accompanied by a gentle folk score of wind and string melodies that whisper of adventure. It's so wonderfully charming, harkening back to the Square of the 90s in its Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger heyday.

Thankfully there's a brilliant RPG underneath the presentation, with an incredibly satisfying turn-based combat system in which players need to use a wealth of varying abilities to 'break' enemies before unleashing a flurry of over the top attacks. I've finally completed the first chapter for each of the eight characters, and only now is the game truly opening up. I love that I can tackle each story in any order, at my own pace, and meander through this adventure in my own way. For anyone lamenting the lack of traditional combat in Final Fantasy 16, I can wholeheartedly recommend Octopath Traveler 2 as a link to the past. Just make sure you've got memory space for all those screenshots.

Ed Nightingale