23rd of July, 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: space marines, endless runners, and a true next-gen title.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What we've been playing, here's our archive.
In the week a new XCOM was announced for iOS - although not perhaps the sort of XCOM you may have expected - I've been hovering over the buy button for the smartphone version of XCOM: Enemy Within, my favourite game of the series, and a tactical delight unlike any other.
But I've also been playing Spaceland, an Apple Arcade game I missed out on at release, but which turns out to be a lot of fun. In Spaceland you take a squad of differently decked out soldiers through their paces in a range of tactical turn-based missions. Spaceland doesn't use the near-perfect two-actions system of XCOM, but it's still a lovely thing to play, and perfectly designed around a small screen and touch controls.
My favourite mission so far involves going into alien nests and blowing up the holes they emerge from by booting oil drums around and then triggering them to explode. It's a simple pleasure, but one that I am still having a lot of fun with. While I'm hovering over Enemy Within, unsure if I dare unleash that compulsion on my iPhone.
I woke up this week thinking "104". The number, and I think I have this right, used to be your score in Canabalt, the classic endless runner, if you failed to make a single leap connect. Actually, maybe it was 94? Whatever. Canabalt measures your fate in the distance you've run, and neither of those numbers are good scores.
After that I decided to see if Canabalt is still available on iOS - some part of me would die if it wasn't. And it is! And it's still as much fun to play as ever. It's hectic and cinematic as you race through a city that's being dismantled by aliens all around you. There's a hunt of Impossible Mission to the graceful running man and a lot of John Woo to the doves that take to the sky as you dash past, leaping from roof to roof.
Within a few goes I was firmly back in, delighted most by the little things. Those doves are great but how about the way your footfalls change when you move from the roof of a building to the metal bars of a construction crane? This game is so focused, it's able to really sweat the details. It's great to return to it and find it as much fun as it ever was.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, PS5
What a treat this has been. I can't pretend to have spent too much time with Insomniac's signature series in the past, but through the likes of Sunset Overdrive and Spider-Man I've become a fan over recent years. Still, I went into Rift Apart with low expectations - this is just a simple game for kids, right? - and have had them steadily blown away by one of the most jaw-dropping triple-A games of recent year; a real next-gen sucker punch of a thing.
Yes, the visuals play a large part in all that - I think I finally understand what all the fuss is about raytracing now - but more than that it's the sheer amount of detail in this thing, from incidental dialogue from gorgeously rendered NPCs or side missions ferreted away in this bustling world down to the DualSense's feedback allowing you to differentiate each of the madly inventive weapons in your palms. If this is what next-gen gaming really looks like, we're in for a hell of a ride these next few years.
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