11th of February, 2021
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: action films, action films through a very different lens, and Animal Crossing over someone's shoulder.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.
Uncharted Lost Legacy, PS5
The Uncharted games offer a power fantasy of playing an action film. The discovery of ancient tombs and artefacts, followed by the crash-bang of shots fired, explosive chase sequences, and collapsing environments.
Where they stumble, though, is in gunplay - not just for that infamous dissonance between hero and gameplay, but in the way it often punctuates the action with frustrating difficulty spikes.
The recent Uncharted Legacy of Thieves Collection on PS5 has provided an opportunity for me to catch up on Lost Legacy, which I initially missed. It's the Miles Morales of the Uncharted canon: shorter, more tightly paced, and with a more interesting protagonist. Watching the friendship between Chloe and Nadine blossom is the game's truest highlight, even with all the stunning vistas and glittering, golden tombs.
And there's a greater focus here on puzzle solving, from its little open world section to that Tomb Raider-esque delight of stumbling into an undiscovered catacomb. Yet that makes those gunplay spikes all the more frustrating when they inevitably rear their head.
Lost Legacy's final sequence is an impressive callback to Uncharted 2, but rather than a smooth, grand crescendo towards its conclusion the action film stutters and stumbles through unfair deaths. It's as if the film director is shouting "cut!" every 30 seconds because the stuntwoman got accidentally shot. Or maybe that's just my own weakness to launching the photo mode at every inopportune moment.
Not a Hero, Switch
Not a Hero is one of those games that looks like a departure but isn't really. It's a supremely violent action game made by Roll7, the team that, up until then, were known for OlliOlli, the supremely kinetic skating games.
But of course cinematic action, which is what Not a Hero trades in, has a lot to do with extreme sports. You slide in and out of cover, stunning enemies, dodging bullets, blowing people away and reloading. Get close and you do a crit. Get an enemy down first and you do an execution. It's horrible, but somehow wonderfully horrible - the pixelart and general cheerful lairiness does a lot for the conscience in this case.
What both games have in common is chaining your moves and moving across a landscape in which you can really excel. You can scrape through the levels here, or you can move like a shadow and escape without taking a single hit. It's OlliOlli to its core.
This was obvious when Not a Hero came out, of course. But it's lovely to return now, fresh from OlliOlli World and see how clear this team's sense is when it comes to what they want to do and how they want to do it.
Animal Crossing New Horizons, Switch
Does it count if I haven't actually played the game? And before you answer, hear me out. Sometimes I feel like you can get so close to a game that it doesn't matter if you haven't played it, it feels as though you have. Case in point: Animal bloody Crossing.
I've never played it and yet I know it intimately, and I know it intimately because I cannot escape it. It doesn't matter where I am in my flat, which admittedly isn't very big, I cannot hide from a daily update from the island. "Look at my pumpkin patch! Do you want to see my new wallpaper? I've got another room in my house!" Argh!
Somehow, I've followed the progress of this island from tented wilderness to an urban-planned settlement with Godzilla topiary. Somehow I know that you can catch those pesky wasps with your net. Somehow I've developed a dislike for stern Tom Nook. And I don't even play the game!
So I think it should count.