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LONG BLOG

The Games I Played During Quarantine

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For the past few months, everyone around the world has been on lockdown. For many, this has meant staying at home and either finishing school online, working from home, or doing neither. Even with work or school at home, however, many have found more free time than before. Unsurprisingly, I have been spending my free time with video games, whether it be for writing purposes or otherwise. Only time will truly tell when this pandemic will be over, but as of the time of this writing, the world is slowly starting to go back to normal. With that said, I thought I would share some of the games I have played during this time.

Before I get into it, there is something I should explain first. This blog doesn’t go over all of the games I have played over the past few months. The games I have here are ones I played during quarantine that are not part of my writing schedule. Any games I played during this time that are on my writing schedule will have their own blog in due time. These are the games I didn’t plan on writing about, but here they are.

Hunt: Showdown

Of all the games on this list, this is the one I have the most hours in. I currently have around 180 hours into the game, and I have no plans on stopping there. Hunt: Showdown is a game I have been on-and-off with since its alpha back in early 2018, but now I am back into the game and in full force. I started playing this game again a few months back when I decided this will be the one multiplayer game I will really get into and stick with, and it’s still a blast even now. I even got a few friends into the game, who then got a few more friends into the game, and we all have put a lot of hours into the game over the past few months. As of writing this, we are all taking a little break from the game (I was putting in six or seven hours a day into the game at one point), but even then I am still playing a few matches here-and-there.

For those who are unaware of what this game is, Hunt: Showdown is a horror-themed FPS multiplayer shooter set in the late 1800s about bounty hunters competing against monsters and each other for a big prize. Each match holds up-to 12 players either playing solo, in duos, or in trios. Each group (or individual, if they are crazy enough to play solo) goes around the map searching for rifts, which helps them locate a boss. Once the boss is found and killed, it has to be banished, which takes a few minutes and will reveal the location of the boss to everyone. Once the boss is banished, it will drop two bounty tokens (the main prize of the game), which can be picked up by two players. If you have a token, your goal is to extract through one of the three extraction points found around the edges the map, while everyone else is trying to kill you and take your token.

Rifts can be found by going into dark sight and finding glowing blue spots.

There is a lot I can talk about with this game, but a lot of the points I would bring up are in a previous blog I did about the game’s tension. With that said, however, there are still some new features and talking points worth mentioning with this game.

For starters, there is a new feature in this game that helps build tension, but in a longer form compared to the ones mentioned in the previous blog. In this game, there are generated characters you purchase that you use in the game. You can buy weapons and equipment for these characters, and they earn trait points for upgrades with use. If they die, however, you lose that character along with the equipment they were carrying and the traits they had equipped. This feature has been around since the beginning of the game, but what is new to me is the ability to retire them. If you can get a character to a certain level threshold, they can be retired for a huge xp boost to your bloodline level (which unlocks better equipment). Retirement puts an even higher value on characters, and playing with characters just underneath that retirement threshold is a nervous experience.

Retirement isn’t the only new feature of this game. Throughout its lifespan, there have been updates adding in new weapons, equipment, weapon skins, traits, and so on. The game has unfortunately gone down the path of a monetary currency and skins, but none of it is bad. There is nothing in the game that can give anyone a paid advantage, and the paid currency is earned pretty fast. Advantage is something else I want to talk about that I believe this game excels at. There isn’t really anything in this game that feels overpowered. Sure, there are better weapons that unlock with a higher rank, but getting to the max rank doesn’t take that long (especially with retirement), and even then the better weapons aren’t too crazy. There are a lot of games that struggle with overpowered characters or overpowered weapons, but nothing feels too crazy in this game, and any weapon or trait that is powerful doesn’t feel that out of reach considering how fast leveling can be.

Every weapon, item, and trait you see here is on the line when using characters.

Not everything about this game is perfect though. My biggest issue with the game has to do with a lack of things to work on while playing. I am a big fan of the RPG mechanics of Call of Duty’s mutiplayer, which this game is lacking. In this game, there is your main level (which you can prestige), weapons have variants that can be unlocked but reset at prestige, there is a mastery book for weapons and monsters that fill as you play but resets at prestige, and that’s about it. I understand not being able to unlock weapon attachments and all that for this game, but I still wish this game had a bit more to do. I even got most of the achievements in the game, and I am not a fan of achievement hunting. I’m sure there are other issues I am blind to, but this issue is my main gripe with the game.

Issues aside, Hunt: Showdown is a great game. Hell, I even played a few matches with a friend while in the middle of writing this. Getting on every day and playing for hours-on-end with friends will probably be the best memories I have of playing games during this quarantine, and I hope it doesn’t end there.

Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey is pretty much the exact opposite of Hunt: Showdown, but both are are a joy to me. I like to 100% complete open-world games while catching up on podcasts, which is where this game came into play. When I started playing this game again, I was already pretty far into 100% completion, so I only put in another 10-20 hours into this game.

Coming back to this game, I forgot how much of a joy it is. The atmosphere of this game is pure happiness, and I loved every second of it. One thing worth noting is how incredible the music is. It’s boisterous orchestra is just as varied and incredible as its environments, and I would sometimes pause whatever podcast I was listening to just to soak up the music.

As for getting 100% completion, I found whatever moons and purple coins I had left to be fun to collect. Using the help of a companion app, I was able to get everything else relatively effortlessly. There were some moons that were a bit frustrating as well as some purple coins that were hidden a bit too well, but I still had a fun time through and through.

One last rest at Mushroom Kingdom.

In this whole experience, the thing I found the most surprising was my sadness when I reached the end. It wasn’t the kind of sadness that wells people up and makes them cry, but more like an empty sadness. I was standing in front of Toadette in Peach’s Castle when I received my last moon, and I remember thinking “this is it.” I was done, and I now had little reason to go back through this game’s incredible worlds. I’m not the type to play the same game over and over again either, so I probably won’t restart this game any time soon or ever. Right after picking up the last moon, I sat in the throne right next to Toadette, closed my eyes, and listened to “Peach’s Castle” one last time (in-game).

Super Mario Odyssey is an incredible game, as well as the saddest one to say goodbye to out of all the games here. There is a purity and happiness to Mario games that I haven’t really found anywhere else, and I guess I’ll have to wait until the hopeful Mario Switch remasters happen to experience that purity again.

The Last of Us

The Last of Us Part 2 is looming over the horizon, but the game’s plot and even some of the gameplay was leaked recently. I took a peek at the leaks when they released and felt…disappointed. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil the second game in any way here, but the leaks left me wanting to return to the first game. It has been roughly five years since I played the first game, and I was interested in seeing the game from a more critical standpoint considering I last played this game before I started writing blogs. So, over the course of a couple nights, I played through the entire campaign.

To me, the recent Naughty Dog games are a good blend of everything. Games like The Last of Us and Uncharted have good stories with memorable characters, good movie-like cinematics, and fun gameplay, which I think is significant considering a lot of games only tend to nail one or two of these aspects. However, I do remember Uncharted 4’s gameplay feeling mediocre, and that thought got me thinking primarily about the gameplay of Naught Dog games. Plus, I already knew the general story beats going into this game (as well as the new game), so I decided to focus on gameplay more than anything else while playing to see how well this game holds up and if I think The Last of Us Part 2 is worth it on those same parameters (assuming the gameplay is similar to the first game).

Unfortunately, yet predictably, I found the gameplay to be just okay. I still think the gameplay is great when you think about the game as a whole and compare it to others trying to do the same thing; but in a vacuum, The Last of Us is pretty much just a third-person cover shooter with some neat features but also some missing ones as well.

One man and one girl against an army of bandits. Take a guess who will win.

For those who don’t know, The Last of Us is a third-person cover shooter with stealth and survival elements. As a shooter, it is okay, but with some faults. The enemies are smart in combat and in stealth, making combat encounters exciting. The biggest issue with the combat, however, are the controls. Aiming took me half the game to get used to, and some of the controls feel like they are in the wrong place. I understand if the game requires you to aim before shooting instead of hip firing, but the shooting button without aiming is used for reloading instead of melee, and melee is the reload button, which baffles me. Also, L1 could’ve been used as a quick-select for a throwable, but it is instead used for sprinting, which should’ve been tied to the left thumbstick.

Issues with the gameplay go beyond controls, however, as for my biggest complaint is with the stealth. I wasn’t expecting Splinter Cell levels of stealth mechanics, but I think the stealth is lacking even compared to other games with stealth elements. Traps cannot be disabled (unless you throw something at the tripwire), you cannot move bodies, and alert indicators are sound-based instead of a visual indicator, making it harder to tell when an enemy will be on alert and who is spotting me. The survival elements are fine, but all it took was a little bit of extra time exploring for my bag to be constantly full of ammo and resources. As for the combat, outside of the good enemy AI and poor controls, I mainly found getting into cover a small issue, as for Joel never locks into it, and it would sometimes mean not shooting from cover as a result. This is by no means the worst game I have ever played gameplay-wise, but The Last of Us did lose a bit of its nostalgic luster the second time around.

Even for a game that is starting to age, it still looks great.

I sound very negative about the game, but I still think the game is great. The story is still gripping, the characters are still great, and the environments are absolutely stunning. Ever since I first played the game, I have considered The Last of Us as some masterpiece that has ascended above the rest, but playing it with a more critical mind plucked it out of the clouds. In the end, it is a game. A great game, but still a game with flaws. Playing through this game only hardened my decision to skip out on the new one, but I am still interested in seeing how the new game is perceived at launch.

Valorant

Counter Strike: Global Offensive is the game I have the most hours in. I used to play a lot a few years back, but I haven’t really played since then. Its 5v5 competitive mode has been around for decades and can be seen in many multiplayer shooters, but it’s a mode that works. As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” which is where Valorant comes in.

Valorant is Riot Game’s take on Counter Strike, mixing the, well, everything of that game with hero abilities similar to Overwatch. The game is currently in beta, and the only way of picking up the game is by watching Twitch streams and hoping for the game to drop in your notifications.

Counter Strike-meets-Overwatch is a term thrown around in relation to this game, but an important detail to know is how much of an influence each game has on this one. This game is an almost exact copy of Counter Strike, even down to how a lot of the weapons function. The maps, the mode, the weapons, the buying phase, and just about everything else is fundamentally similar to Counter Strike. Even the one-hit sniper rifle of Valorant, the Operator, has a similar name to the one-hit sniper rifle of CS:GO, the AWP. But you know what? I’m fine with that. I am a fan of CS:GO, and I wouldn’t mind a more modern version of the game.

A majority of these weapons are just a different skin of a weapon in CS:GO.

Not all of it is one-to-one, though, as for there are some small changes to this game that are convenient. In the weapon buying period, others can request weapons, and they can be bought within the buying screen instead of an awkward gun throwing party. Also, weapons can be refunded, which helped me more than once, and abilities that are purchased don’t disappear when you die. In terms of the maps, they all have teleporters, which changed up some strategies quite a bit, and there’s even a map with three bomb plant points, which I am personally not a fan of. I’m sure there are a bunch of other differences between this game and Counter Strike in terms of that style of play that I am missing, but these are things I noticed during my time with the game. All of this would be fine on its own, but where my issues really begin with this game is with the Overwatch side of things.

Heroes, heroes, heroes. They may take a different name, but characters with special abilities or equipment and their own personality feels as common as a battle royale mode in popular franchises. These characters work in some games better than others, but I would argue they do not belong in a game like this. The abilities aren’t that crazy compared to games like Overwatch, and each character’s ultimate ability takes multiple rounds to charge up, but there are still abilities in this game that I do not think belong. Some of the abilities operate like throwables in Counter Strike, and I think those are fine, but there are others like the ability to revive players and a bow that can shoot through walls that feel like a bit much. I think abilities are fine for a game where you are constantly respawning and can get back into the action, but this isn’t that game. Death has more meaning and weight in a game like this compared to, say, Call of Duty, so throwing in abilities feels wrong. In my mind, I like to picture how people would react if they brought some of these abilities to CS: GO. Imagine if Valve decided to put a rocket launcher into their game that could only be used by one person every few rounds. Or imagine if one person had the ability to call in an air strike every few rounds. I think those things would break the game and cause an uproar, but those are things you can do in this game. On top of that, the simple abilities like the curveball (flashbang) or the cloudburst (smoke grenade) can only be used by specific characters, instead of everyone being able to use them.

This ability is essentially just a flashbang, but it can only be used by one hero.

Am I against changing up the Counter Strike formula? No, but I am against this change. Before this game came out, I was half-mocking it for being too much like CS:GO. After playing it, I wish it went even further with the similarities. There are a lot of things to love about this game, but the heroes make it hard for me to love this game as a whole. I may return to the game if they make a mode that strips away all of the hero abilities, but I’m going to be done with the game for now.

Bonus: Ghostrunner

During quarantine, the upcoming game Ghostrunner had a short, limited-time demo to try out. For those who are unaware, Ghostrunner is an upcoming first-person parkour cyberpunk game. This game has been on my radar for some time now, so I decided to pick it up and try out.

The demo is super short, only taking me 5-10 minutes to complete. The demo went over the basics of their parkour as well as some of the combat, but there was enough there to get a basic sense of the game, and I loved every bit of it. The parkour was fast and buttery smooth, the combat and the ability to dodge bullets was great, and the game overall looked incredible. I even played the demo multiple times just to speedrun it, and I’m not a fan of speedrunning games.

Ghostrunner is a great game I am even more excited for because of this demo. The gameplay is fast, fluid, and challenging in a way that is exciting and fun, and I can’t wait to see what the full game looks like.

That’s going to be a wrap on my games of quarantine. If there are any games you played during this time, feel feel to let me know. Thank you for reading, and stay safe out there.

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About Black Red Gamingone of us since 9:35 PM on 01.08.2020

My name is Ben, and I started writing blogs back in 2016. A few years later, I changed my name to what it is now, and started my own website. Now, I mostly do game reviews, a little bit of news recap, and Twitch streaming. You can find this content and more at blackredgaming.com.