October’s PS+ Titles: No Flawless Victory, But Not Off-Course
The momentum seems to have slowed down for Sony’s PS+ subscription service and its run of impressive monthly free games. From the release of the next-gen consoles – soon to be current generation – in November of last year, PlayStation has stayed in step with the curve by offering one juicy PS5-enabled game and two others that usually ranged in quality from good to excellent, with the trio of titles amounting to a relevant, audience-aware cluster of additions. Then, over the past months, the quality has hit a downward slope, often including a new PS5 title that doesn’t grab much interest and a pair of support PS4 titles lacking firepower on their own or are sequels that are either dated or have lukewarm reputations. For October, Sony earns a commendation for thinking outside the box with their next-gen selection, but ultimately the trio of games doesn’t scare up enough enthusiasm to trend upwards. Let’s take a look at the titles, but before diving into that, here’s a reminder to Grab a Year’s Subscription to PlayStation Plus from Amazon.
Hell Let Loose
Developers have a strong, aware grasp on the need to keep players locked into the action of their game, something that has impacted the first-person shooter genre since its earliest stages. When the transition happened from chaotically mowing down monsters or Nazis around every corner to a desire for more realistic combat shooting games, balancing those things grew trickier since constant action doesn’t always line up with real-world military situations. Games like Rainbow Six, Call of Duty, and even Battlefield aim for the middle with their military shooter designs, but the push to constantly keep the experience in motion prevents them from achieving a full sense of realism, especially when it comes to the desolation of historical and tactical warfare that doesn’t begin and end in a flash.
Developed by the globally staffed Australia-based developer Black Matter, Hell Let Loose works hard to satisfy those looking for a more grounded, tactical, and realistically paced military shooter experience. From the scope of the battlefield to the coordination of soldiers for necessary activities and the travel time to points of battle interest, this game lays the groundwork for a sprawling simulation for multiple players … but it can also result in unsatisfying scenarios where, say, a long and semi-uneventful trek to a battle location may result in a quick death. Both critics and players seem to appreciate this focus on authenticity in the landscape of battle achieved by Hell Let Loose, though they also understand the mind state of someone who’d find the execution of this drawn-out, minimal reward gaming experience unsatisfying.
PGA Tour 2K21
As the Tiger Woods brand of simulator golf games from EA started to wind down in popularity, HB Studios began developing an alternative, initially titled The Golf Club. Upon release in 2014-2015, the franchise was met with lukewarm to subpar reviews that didn’t bode well for its continuation. However, after the series was picked up by publisher 2K Games and garnered official licensing from the PGA Tour, things have started looking up. Now, with this installment, the series has been rebranded to PGA Tour 2K21 to better echo the game’s intentions – hearkening back to when the EA games were just called PGA Tour of whatever year – as the new star filling that void.
Is it there yet? Probably not, but it’s getting there. The gameplay has been heavily refined since HB Studios first tackled the golf simulation gameplay a half decade ago, wherein players feel like the simulator’s working with them instead of against them due to faulty aiming or physics issues. The player roster features a hefty list of real-world atheletes, only without some of the bigger names of the sport that’ll still probably take enthusiasts out of the illusion by not seeing them in the mix. And while some of the other modes in PGA Tour 2K21 have been met with critic and player frustration due to shallowness, the game’s create-a-course engine has been widely celebrated. It may not be in the same place as the simulators of yesteryear, and other zany golf games might prove engrossing enough for the average player, but most seem to agree that the franchise has reached par with room for growth.
Mortal Kombat X
Over the course of its history, Mortal Kombat has attempted to evolve its style into something more contemporary, applying its signature gruesomeness and mythical world-building to 3D movement and action beat-‘em-up style of gameplay. What the folks at NetherRealm Studio eventually picked up on is that the storied game franchise that’s lingered in popularity since the ‘90s thrives on that old-school, side-scrolling fighting game design, amplified by the larger-than-life character appearances and executing those iconic fatalities. The Mortal Kombat rejuvenation of sorts from a decade ago brought that straightforward perspective back to the franchise, but it’s with the sequel, Mortal Kombat X, where the figured out the right way to bring the beloved fighting franchise into a more modernized platform.
The 10th official release in the Mortal Kombat lineage springboards off the events at the end of 2011’s “reboot” to jump ahead twenty years in the narrative, opening up the possibilities for both old and new combatants – some being younger family members of the legendary original cast — to enter the battle. The result is a huge roster of characters that leads to heaps of variety for players, both in fighting style and aesthetics, all rendered with some semblance of authentic graphical depth and dimensionality in mind against engaging landscapes. The really neat thing about this rebooted Mortal Kombat is that while the graphical polish and tight fighting controls are of this generation, the 2D design and prompts for fatalities make it so old-school players can pick up and play Mortal Kombat X without missing a beat.