July’s PS+ Titles Slam Down Plagues, Zombies, Battle Royales
At this stage of the game, the PlayStation Plus subscription service knows what its true competition has become in terms of monthly download offerings, and what benchmarks need to be hit. Since the release of the PS5, they’ve really stepped up their game, even in a slump of a month like July where a lack of higher-profile titles could be forgiven. Instead, they’ve made available one of the more unique titles on the PS4 that’s been upgraded in visual quality for the PS5, as well as a very recent Call of Duty title and an arcade wrestling game that’s bound to offer at least a brief burst of enjoyment for just about anyone.
Let’s take a closer look at the games, but before doing so, it might not be a bad idea to Grab a 1-Year Subscription to PlayStation Plus from Amazon to make sure you’re covered for a while.
A Plague Tale: Innocence
When thinking about settings that might be appealing to regular video game players out there, the historical period during which the black plague runs rampant through Europe probably comes in somewhere near the bottom. From the general filthiness and bleakness of the setting to the austerity of political control and the attitude towards anyone that isn’t wealthy, it just doesn’t inherently communicate a place where you’d want to spend at least 8-10 hours of spare time. A Plague Tale: Innocence will change one’s perception on that, however, and not by avoiding the ugliness.
Following a young girl armed with a sling as she shields her brother from armed guards and swarms of rats, the game employs stealth and environmental puzzle-solving to keep the pair of protagonists alive. While A Plague Tale does tap into supernatural aspects for an injection of some added storytelling juice, it finds ways of making the grimy, hazardous atmosphere and the limited capabilities of the protagonists inherently compelling, amounting to one of the better horror gems to come out last generation of consoles. This version is the PS5 iteration with native 4K resolution and 60fps, so there’s even more appeal to sink teeth into here.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
Arguably the most innovative and substantive thing that Call of Duty has done over the past 10 years was in Black Ops 2, where they introduced branching narratives and a choice-and-consequence system. While not earth-shattering, it’s enough to bring something fresh and layered to the single player campaign alongside the obvious draw of the multiplayer experience. From that point on, Black Ops has essentially become the version of Call of Duty that’s more able to withstand weirdness and experimentation, showcased by how Black Ops 3 and 4 jump decades into the future and feature integrated zombie campaign modes.
Black Ops 4 is an odd beast, in that it’s almost not interested in primary single-player campaign storytelling at all, more of a response to time constraints and less a creative decision. Instead, it focuses entirely on a variety of multiplayer components that have intersecting “campaign” aspects, from the far-flung components of the “Blackout” narrative that makes up the game’s focal battle royale layout to how the zombie modes are put into action. It’s tough to get a read on the public’s overall response to Call of Duty titles nowadays, as critics note that it’s one of the best Call of Duty experiences of late while players have strong opinions about the absent campaign and focus on the battle royale fad.
WWE 2K Battlegrounds
The appeal of simulation sports games is easy to grasp, but sometimes sticking to realistic portrayals of said sports can start to feel a little stiff. The creators of NBA Jam understood this, which essentially started the “cartoon big-head arcade sports game” subgenre, and it became a roaring success alongside traditional simulation games from the likes of EA. Profession wrestling naturally has an attitude that’s easy to exaggerate in the same fashion – though some, like WWE All Stars, inflate muscular torsos instead of heads – and WWE 2K Battlegrounds hopes to offer a similarly amplified, entertaining spin.
Following the problematic release of WWE 2K20, Battlegrounds seems like a breath of fresh air, not taking its graphical prowess so seriously and genuinely trying to have fun with sports entertainment. Boasting a huge roster at release and a nearly identically large slate of wrestlers to come in the months after, the game now sports about 130 different personalities to select from as they brawl in a variety of different arenas, under several different match constraints and with different power-ups available. While it delivers on fun, both critics and players weren’t fully convinced by its illusion of variety, citing repetitiveness of matches and a sameness between the wrestler skillsets.