Game Pass Round Up! (July 2021)

Over the last year and a half of home quarantines, lockdowns and endless streaming services, if I haven’t been trying to unlock golden guns in Call of Duty (takes a LONG time for a player like me!) I’ve been jumping into Game Pass and checking out a games that can fill the hours between the bigger ones. After playing through the Mass Effect trilogy I’ve leaned on it a lot more over the last few months and it seemed worthwhile to chat some of the games I’ve recently been checking out.

With a number of classic LucasArts SCUMM adventures (Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle and Grim Fandango) finally landing on Xbox it was time to fire them up again and get nostalgic. The love and attention that’s been given to them is pretty amazing and the remastered versions (also on PC and PlayStation) are by far the best versions out there. They also have an old school feel that I really enjoy revisiting even when dealing with the old game quirks like skimming the cursor around the screen for interactions. The only recent game that gave me a similar nostalgic buzz was Thimbleweed Park which I suppose should be expected seeing as the developers were involved in many of the earlier SCUMM games from LucasArts. Running these games now on a Series X is great as the quick resume feature turns them into games that can work perfectly well in short bursts, meaning I can jump in within seconds and spend a half hour or so before moving onto something else.

For players who enjoy earning achievements and Microsoft rewards points at the same time, these are really great games to play as they provide a constant stream of them from start to finish.

Taking a break from Call of Duty doesn’t mean I’m walking away from shooters completely and so based on a recommendation I tried out Sniper Elite 4. Having never played any games in the franchise before I had few expectations but I’ve been pleasantly surprised with what the game offers. It makes me think of a simpler Hitman in that your objectives are more straightforward thanks to the war setting. And when you get that perfect kill shot the game likes to show it to you in glorious detail. Recently the game also received a backward compatibility upgrade to support the FPS boost feature and coupled with Auto HDR it looks and runs so well I could have confused it for a much newer game. And from the same developer there’s Zombie Army 4: Dead War which shares much in common with Sniper Elite 4 but puts players into a world that’s structured like Left4Dead with you travelling from safehouse to safehouse as part of the story missions. It’s another franchise I’m new to but it’s been fun so far and I’m enjoying the setting a lot. Definitely one to try out with friends.

Lastly, after a couple of stalled starts I’ve started playing Psychonauts. With the sequel arriving next month I thought I’d try it again after seeing so many on Twitter talk of doing the same… even Phil Spencer! I had made an attempt a while ago to play it on PC but having it now on Xbox seems to be more like the game’s natural habitat. If it weren’t for the cinematics dating the game (low resolution) this could pass for a much newer game and it still plays really well. If it weren’t for the sequel I could imagine a remastered version being a winner. Even as it is now the higher resolution in backward compatibility really does show off the imaginative art style.

It wasn’t until I was writing this up that I realised all the games mentioned here came from just two developers – Sniper Elite and Zombie Army from Rebellion and Psychonauts and the adventures via Double Fine. The potential to be able to access games from a favourite developer is an aspect of Game Pass that may not always be thought about. It’s something that Steam or GOG leverage thanks to their huge historical catalogues but consoles haven’t had that luxury before. Maybe it isn’t looked at in the same way as searching for your favourite director on Netflix but if the service reaches that point where there’s a steady stream of content coupled with a large user base it could happen. Sometimes it even happens when you didn’t plan it either. 😉

All games mentioned are available now on Xbox Game Pass.

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