2021 has been a challenging year, for obvious reasons, but also in other personal aspects that are not part of this little essay. Despite all the trials and tribulations, I have probably never played so many games in just one year – some of them in Coop and others all on my lonesome. Many of them I finished, others I, or we, aborted. But not only that, I have also managed to transition from PC gaming to console gaming – a long-held goal of mine.
As always, I am pretty late to the party because I have trouble motivating myself to write stuff, despite having the ideas and mentally developing concepts for them. Much thinking, few doing. One of my 2021 issues.
(I am surprised I managed to get this huge Halo Infinite review out the door.)Here is how this will go. I am starting with a story about why I replaced my gaming PC with consoles and a laptop. Then I transition into my experience with said consoles, and I conclude this gaming year review with the list of games I have played in lonely-mode or Coop. Don’t worry. I didn’t go Halo Infinite on every game. I kept it short-ish because the list is astonishingly long.
When you look back at the history of video-based media, how many games
or movies come to your mind with such an iconic theme song that it
always evokes a particular feeling whenever you hear it? A theme that
you immediately recognize and that conjures specific scenes or
gameplay moments you are so fond of? Off the top of my head, I can
think of two: The Imperial March from Star Wars and Halo’s
invigorating battle soundtrack. Halo is back, infinitely better
than Halo 5, and along with it, its recognizable music. I suggest you
set the perfect mood and open the link above, and then come back and
read my review of Halo Infinite. Start from the beginning because I
linked directly to the battle music part (but that is also a good
Now, is it even worth getting in the mood? If you ask yourself, I hope
you do not mean my writing 😉. I hope you ask that question because
you are anxious for a good game but afraid you might get disappointed.
When I read and watched many reviews from known media outlets, I found
very different opinions and wasn’t sure what to think. IGN mainly had
positive things to say and was very upbeat in their Halo Infinite
podcast episode. In contrast, the Germany-based Golem.de
website found rather harsh words for some parts, mainly
storytelling and the new AI (more on that later). The most common
denominator among all of them was the excellent feeling combat.
Looking at the complete experience, I think I land somewhere in the
middle between Great and Mediocre, and if you are still curious, I
will tell you why.
Do you know the feeling that you occasionally get when watching a gameplay trailer, and you immediately want to get your hands on the game? Like, right now? This sensation does not come around too often for me, and two games managed to do just that last year. One was Outriders and the other one The Ascent, which I am discussing today. I am not sure what exactly did it for me, but probably because it reminded me of something I played in my youth. In 1999, a game named Expendable made the rounds, primarily due to its stunning visuals at the time. Back then, it demonstrated the power of a graphics feature called Environment Mapped Bump Mapping to enamor the game’s textures with depth information and more perceived detail. The core visuals will not excite anyone in 2021, but that game was full of effects and did not hold them back. Expandable still puts on quite a show.
Games like this are a rare breed and seem to catch my eye whenever one pops up. A more recent example of this type of game that I am aware of is Halo Spartan Assault and Halo Spartan Strike – of which I played the first one. Combine this with stunning visuals in a futuristic, gritty, cyberpunk-themed world, and you get The Ascent. Because it is 2021, no game can make do without some RPG elements. Thus, you get to create your character, level up, and collect loot along the way, making shooting stuff more enjoyable.
And enjoyable it is. Once you get to the point where your brain can cope with the twin-stick-shooting mechanics, and you start to both move and aim in the right direction, The Ascent begins to make a lot of fun – especially in Coop. I discovered how the game works with another player, which is always more motivating than figuring out weird concepts alone. After a while, it started to feel right, and I wanted to continue playing weekend after weekend until we had beaten the game – and that is a good sign.
Here is my report on The Ascent in Coop mode: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
In a recent blog post (that I somehow accidentally deleted;
thank you to WordPress for having a Trashed section from which you can
restore), I already summarized my first impressions of the smaller
variant of the new Xbox consoles, the Series S. Now that I have had
the Xbox Series S for a couple of months, it is about time that I go
into more detail.
There are a few reasons why I bought the Series S:
Overall hardware shortage, especially GPUs because I wanted a PC
The Series X was available nowhere or only overpriced (even worse
It was the only console of the new generation available in Germany
Before I took the plunge, I was very conscious about what to expect. I
watch Digital Foundry videos regularly where their team
investigates the performance and target resolutions of many console
games, old and new, among other things. From my experience with
connecting my PC to my 4K TV, I was confident that a resolution of
1080p is actually good enough for me to enjoy a game. Sure, I can see
the difference to 4K. But my TV does an excellent job of upscaling,
and the picture does not wash out and become a blurry mess. Therefore,
the Series S should not disappoint. And it didn’t. There is a caveat,
though, and I will address it in a later section of this probably
pretty long wall of text that is going to come.
It has been a long time since I have played a first-person shooter in
single-player mode. The last playthrough was probably the original
Half-Life as a Let’s Play on YouTube about three years ago (I expected
it to be longer, though). Since then, it has mainly been 3rd person
shooters or action adventures. The majority of 1st person shooting
games I have played are the Borderlands franchise and Counter-Strike
until version 1.6. There have been a couple of others, of course; big
names like Half-Life 2, Doom, Unreal (Tournament), Serious Sam, and so
on. But that was at a time I would now call my youth. I like the skill
aspect of shooters, but other than that, I have not found many that
got me interested in a way that made me want to continue to play them.
I have barely played through any of the previous games (Half-Life 2
being the exception 😉). In the here and now, I am looking for a
well-told story and character development. And by that, I mean the
main character’s personality and the relations the character has with
others, not a role-playing system.
I have heard many praises about the quality of Titanfall 2, despite it
not being a huge hit. When I discovered this game for a whopping 2.99€
in the Xbox game store, I figured why not try it out. Since I usually
try to write reviews for games I find noteworthy in a specific way, be
it good or bad, there must be something about Titanfall 2 that made me
mash some keys on my keyboard and publish it on the Internet. Is it a
Witcher 3 or a Battlefield 4? Curious?
The start of Q4 2020 was supposed to be an incredible time for PC
gamers – or gamers in general. Firstly, Microsoft and Sony released
their latest Next-Gen consoles, the Xbox Series X and S and the
PlayStation 5. Secondly, AMD and NVIDIA battled it out in the GPU
market, and AMD unleashed the Ryzen 5000 CPU family that ate Intel’s
10th generation for breakfast. And lunch. And supper, and dinner, and
as a snack in between. Unfortunately for Intel, the only thing the
11th generation of Core Processors can do is hold AMD’s beer. In
Excellent Hardware, No Stock, High Prices
I think by now, about six months later, we all know how things played
out. It is not about having the best performance anymore. Instead, it
is about who can get products on the shelves or into retailers’
warehouses so people can buy them. It seems like the price does not
even matter. Some affluent enthusiast gamers may be more willing to
overpay for their hobby, and first-time builders might not know any
better. I am neither in the first nor in the last category. I could
afford new PC hardware, but I am not willing to overpay a single Oren
for any of it. The reasons for these prices are manifold, and many
YouTubers discussed this very topic in many a video.
The story I want to tell you today is how all of that brought me into
Microsoft’s console hardware and gaming service arms. Well, I guess I
kind of already spoiled the reason: PC hardware is ridiculously
overpriced, let alone readily available to buy. But there is more to
it than that.
Germany-based company Crytek is best known for its Crysis and early
Far Cry games and the CryEngine technology. Ryse: Son of Rome is
probably not as well-known, and it certainly is not very popular. The
game’s Metacritic score is 61, and the user score is 6.8. The
biggest complaint I was able to ascertain was a lack of freedom and
extreme repetitiveness. While I cannot argue with that, I also see it
as a strength instead of a weakness. If you want to know why I
encourage you to continue reading.
Gaming on Linux is a challenge because only a few companies take the
time to create native Linux ports of their games. It is even more
challenging when those natively ported games do not run at all or do
not run well. One of them is Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. I have
bought this game specifically because it has a native Linux version –
and because I remember that it was well received by media and players.
This game has two issues:
It refuses to start in full-screen mode.
The performance is terrible.
Let’s go through these two issues and see how they manifest and how
to fix them.
It was until the end of 2019 when the Star Wars franchise was blessed
with another game that truly deserves to be part of the Star Wars
universe. The last good Star Wars game I played was Bioware’s
Knights of the Old Republic – and that was 2004! There were a few
others in between and I may have played some. None left a lasting
impression though, or otherwise I might still remember bits and
pieces of them. And what did players get in recent history?
Battlefront is what comes to mind. Well, it may have the Star Wars
branding and characters and weapons and sounds. But to me, Star Wars
is about a science-fiction fantasy story, a fairy tale if you will. I
am not interested in a multiplayer shooter when I think about a Star
Wars game. I am interested in an adventure and an adventure is what
you get with Jedi Fallen Order. Is it a good adventure? Well, that is
what I am here to tell you about.
Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order is a story driven, 3rd person action
adventure. You play as a young Jedi that is hiding on a scrap planet
until one day the Empire arrives and turns his life upside down. From
there you fight your way through imperial troops, wildlife, and some
zombies. Kind of.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is my first Assassin’s Creed ever. The first
time I encountered Assassin’s Creed 1 I did not really like the
concept. It felt weird to me that the actual interesting and cool
gameplay was constantly interrupted by the modern-day stuff. It also
did not help the game’s case that the German translation was
atrocious. I had to revisit this series a few years later to get more
interested. I did so by watching videos on YouTube where all
cutscenes had been edited into one large video, effectively turning
the game into a movie, sans the gameplay. Ultimately, I have come to
like the presentation of the main stories. They are interesting
enough and the cutscenes are of very high quality. As a result, I
have seen about four or five of these “movies” and watched some
gameplay of AC Origins. This really caught my attention and because
Odyssey was supposed to be even more like an RPG, I snatched myself a
copy once there was a good deal for it. But honestly, given the time
I have spent with this game so far, the full price would have been
warranted without question. I have finished the game including the
DLCs, I am close to 200 hours and I think I am ready to share my
GTA V was available for free on Epic’s Game store recently and so I
snatched a copy. There is the option to listen to your own music as
one of the radio stations. Unfortunately, GTA V does not ask you for
a location of your music. Instead it expects that you copy the files
you want to listen to to a folder in your user directory. Now,
although my collection isn’t insanely huge, I still do not want to
copy 30 GB of files. There is a better way though, one that I have
not found on any other site: A Junction Point.
This is a symbolic link from where GTA V expects the music file to
where they are actually located on your computer. This way you are
not wasting any space and changes you make to your collection are
immediately reflected in the game.
The next Assassin’s Creed will let you play as a Viking that is
trying to settle in a new world with his tribe. I am genuinely
excited about the setting. As a person that likes Metal music, I have
certainly come in contact with Norse Mythology by ways of Amon Amarth
and other bands. There is also a bit of that in some of the Marvel
movies and a lot of that in the Netflix show Vikings.
Now what does that have to do with not wanting to play Assassin’s
It is about the premise. You and your tribe sailing to England and
taking land by force. The last part is the important one: “taking
land by force”. From what is known about the game at the time of
writing this blog post, one central element of the game will likely
be that you and your comrades must raid random villages to expand
your settlement. That means threatening or even killing innocent
people, robbing them of their goods and burning down their houses.
You are basically starting a war and civilians will be caught in the
crossfire. That is what I have an issue with.
It is a similar experience with the Netflix Vikings show. I am not
sure if I should like it or not – ignoring that sometimes it moves
very slowly and treads on the brink of utter boredom.
I am not averse to violence in games. Apart from the Anno series and
maybe some racing games like Dirt, almost everything I play revolves
around violence – now that I think about it… that’s kind of sad. But
I do not want to swing the anti-violence Mjölnir and debate whether
violence in games is good or bad. I am certainly not that morally
correct, at least not in video games. However, there is something
about purposefully harming innocent civilians that makes me think
It is too early to know anything for sure and I am basing my opinion
on trailers and discussions that you can find on the YouTube. It is
just something that came to mind and made me think about it for a
moment. It depends on how violence in general, and with regards to
the raids in this game in particular, is implemented. I hope it will
not just be a mindless slaughter.
At the end of last year, I was researching GPUs like a madman, trying to find the best option for price and performance and maybe also have some headroom for a future CPU upgrade. My starting point was a Ryzen 5 2600, 16 GB of 3000 MHz CL15 RAM and an AMD RX 570 with 8 GB of VRAM. A very good performance per buck machine in the summer of 2019 for 1080p gaming. It was purpose-built to be cheap with an upgrade path in the near future. However, my inner hardware enthusiast didn’t want to be content. It also didn’t help that the two games I was playing at that time performed rather poorly (which was the games fault, but you take every excuse you can get to buy new stuff).
Putting that aside, I have data of three graphics cards to compare, tested in four games at three different in-game settings – plus a custom one for two games that I used for playing. In addition to that, I have a bit of CPU overclocking as a result of troubleshooting and a RAM upgrade from a 3000 MHz CL15 kit to a 3600 MHz CL17 kit – which is running at 3400 MHz. More wasn’t possible with this motherboard and CPU. This post isn’t about the CPU overclocking though. I did that to see if the 5700 XT was limited by the R5 2600 and would perform better with a faster CPU. Well no surprise there, but as it turned out, the numbers I found were not caused by the CPU. More on that later.
The Far Cry series has been going on for several years now without changing too much of the core game mechanics since the first Far Cry I have played – which was Far Cry 3. What’s new in FC5 is a coop mode that lets you play the main campaign with a buddy. Far Cry 3 had some form of coop as well, but it worked differently by presenting a story unrelated to the game’s single player campaign. I’m not sure how version 4 handled multiplayer, but to my knowledge Far Cry 5 is the first Far Cry to support coop gameplay. It has a few quirks though, which unfortunately still doesn’t make it a 100% coop enabled game. We nevertheless decided to give it a spin and here are my thoughts about the game, its story and gameplay and how the coop experience was.
It was a dark night. Rain was pouring relentlessly from the heavens as a helicopter made its way across the border to Bolivia, going unnoticed against the black clouds. Any of the chopper’s noises were suppressed by the droning rain and constant thunder in the sky. Its destination was a remote location, a secret safe house where an equally secret meeting will be held. The helicopter’s passengers were a group of well-trained covert operatives and their handler. These were the kind of people you only call upon in dire need, when circumstances don’t allow anything other than an elite group of soldiers that can get any job done regardless of difficulty or danger. And all that without ever being noticed. They are effectively ghosts and haunt whomever they have been unleashed on. This time around their target is El Sueño, the biggest and most ruthless drug lord in Bolivia.
And this is where you as the player come in. The story is nothing particularly spectacular, but it provides a good enough canvas for an entertaining open world action game that justifies why you do what you do. I’ve played this game all the way to end in coop mode and this my review of the roughly 75 hours it took.