Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Nanoreviews: The Ascent, Hitman Trilogy, Guardians of the Galaxy

 I'm generally suspicious of subscription services, but decided to give Xbox Gamepass Ultimate a try - and I'm happy to report that it's been great. Aside from Halo Infinite, I've only picked winners so far. Here are 3 games that I thoroughly enjoyed, though they are all quite different from one another. Noting that The Ascent is Xbox/PC exclusive, while Hitman and Guardians of the Galaxy are also available for PS4/PS5 users. 

The Ascent by Neon Giant (2021)

The Ascent is a stylish, isometric-view action game set in a rich cyberpunk world. It's big on mood, with bright neon colors and a killer soundtrack, but also a lot of fun to play. And it's quite challenging too, though never frustrating. Shows what a small team of dedicated developers with a clear vision can achieve. My only complaint is that they haven't added a New Game Plus feature yet. 

Score: 9/10. 

Hitman Trilogy by IO Interactive (2016-2021)

Hitman Trilogy collects volumes in the Square Enix series reboot. The results are...mostly but not uniformly good. The Hitman games are stealth, but each mission is a sandbox - with multiple, branding paths and a number of different ways to accomplish your goals. The missions in Hitman 1, though, are a bit bland and the solutions generally too easy to figure out. The games do improve - Hitman 2 is somewhat better and Hitman 3 is, well, a lot better. I'd go so far as to say it's the best stealth game I've played since Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, back in the ancient days of 2005. 

Score(s): Hitman 1: 6/10, Hitman 2: 7/10, Hitman 3: 9/10. 

Guardians of the Galaxy by Eidos Montreal (2022)

I love the 2 Guardians films - along with Thor Ragnarok, they are far and away my favorite MCU films. Why? Really comes down to 3 things for me: mood, humor and the way the characters interact with each other. I'm happy to report that Guardians of the Galaxy, the game, captures all 3 in a fully original story (with some creative deviations from the films). At its heart, Guardians is a squad-based action-RPG where progress unlocks new powers and team-based combos. In that sense, it evokes the Mass Effect series, though the gameplay is quite different. Actually the gameplay is the weakest part of the game - its battles, too often, are overly long, repetitive button-mashing affairs. But what Guardians does well, it does exceptionally well. This is a narrative game, driven by plot and character development - and in that sense it's one of the best I've ever played. It really feels like an interactive movie, which captures the films' signature humor and features superb dialogue throughout. Story, which can often feel like an afterthought in games, takes center stage here - and packs a real emotional punch. 

Score: 8/10.