28th of January, 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: gods, monsters, and gates!
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.
God of War - PS5
It's the chests - I've always loved how Kratos deals with chests. For me, this is God of War distilled into an animation. It tells you who he is and what the game is about. And he is about power. He is about no nonsense. Does he carefully open a chest? No! He rips off the lids like they are jars of gherkins and he really wants to eat his burger. It's like he's furious at the lid simply for existing, for daring to get in the way. He gets so angry in God of War PS4 there are some chests he just punches straight down and through, furiously grabbing whatever hides inside.
I love that brutishness and that feeling of coiled anger in the game. Everything you do reinforces this raw power Kratos possesses: opening doors, pushing and pulling levers, rowing a boat around. All that busiwork that might otherwise sag in a game is here fastidiously animated to reinforce the sense of who you are and what you can do. You, this Hulk, this bubbling volcano. It's wonderful to behold.
Vampire Survivors, PC
It feels like this was the week that Vampire Survivors became unavoidable. It was being recommended from every direction. And that price! On Steam, this intoxicating game costs less than bus fair into central Brighton. Its success was a sure thing.
What I love most about Vampire Survivors is how ugly it is. That isn't a knock on the art team. It feels intentional. There is a grimness to the characters, the landscape looks like a mid-winter Rugby pitch. The game is ugly, but it's the ugliness of compulsion. This is a place you stay in not because it's all so pretty, but because you can't bring yourself to leave.
It's so simple. You move around the landscape auto-attacking hordes of monsters. They drop gems which you collect to level up, at which point you add more auto-attacks, or faster auto-attacks, or, or... onwards and outwards until it's three in the morning.
What's terrifying about this game isn't the hordes - although they're bad enough. It's those two words: "Early Access." What might this become?
Burnout Paradise, Xbox
The whole point of Burnout Paradise is that you can't come to the end of it. These streets loop and circle - drive in one direction long enough and you end up back where you started. For me, Burnout Paradise has been a bit of a constant: always playing it, never in danger of "finishing", whatever that might be.
Key to this is the crash gates, Paradise's genius spin on another Renderware treat, Crackdown. Crackdown had those Agility Orbs you couldn't help but lose yourself collecting. Paradise has crash gates, bright yellow, sprinkled across the map. They're a joy to blast through, but they also open up neat alternate routes. A beautiful videogame idea in every way.
As a result, I have always used the crash gates sparingly. I don't want to run out. And across the various different formats and consoles and years of playing Burnout Paradise, I have never run out. I have never crashed through all the gates. But now, now I'm playing Paradise alongside my daughter, who told me the other day it's her fourth favourite game, and then struggled to remember what the third spot was. My daughter has been sailing through Crash Gates like we will never run out. But we will run out! And soon!
It's a weird feeling. Will I finally reach the end of a game that has no end? Possibly. But it's also been a rare joy to share something like Paradise with another person. Burnout may be multiplayer-focused, but it's the most internal of videogames. It locks me into a private state that is very, very hard to put into words. To have to try to put it into words because you're playing alongside an eight-year-old has been brilliant. And it's been brilliant to see how naturally she took to crashing through those gates.