It’s a great week to be a fan of middling, very enjoyable action games


Let me start by saying that I take no delight in seeing games that I was excited about turn out to be disappointing. But the truth of the matter is that our mega-hit-obsessed triple-A industry simply allows no room for failure.

The higher the bet, the more it has to work. For this to happen, the game must attract as many people as possible to maximize its chances of recouping the investment. This is business, this is how things have to work.

Armies of talented developers work to deliver something that anyone would find interesting in one way or another. Maybe you don’t care for the franchise, or find its gameplay appealing, but isn’t it a great showcase for your expensive new console and expensive TV? The kind of thing you can show off to your friends, gesturing wildly at the stunned 4K graphics and particle effects, saying ‘look! Look at!’ and again.

Major publishers have doubled down on this approach for over a decade, and the result is amorphous, borderless games that might as well be spheres: soup of content you can’t quite hate, but won’t find anyone raving about. One way or another.

This is what I hate most about our current gaming reality, not server issues or monetization scandals (horrible as they are). It is apathy. It’s death by a thousand mehs.

I’m not a Sonic fan, but Frontiers looks like the conniving kind of bad guy.

It’s rare to see gamers complain about bad games these days, because they’re not that common anymore. Even the terrible Gotham Knights are perfectly playable. I put over 40 hours into it, racking up credits and unlocking most of its achievements. But I didn’t enjoy it. I can’t believe someone actually did it.

I’m not here to argue about the quality of the game, but about how uninteresting, disappointing and bland it is.

The B-tier and double-A games that we don’t see much of these days almost always have one thing in common that makes me want to play them more than any Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry: they fail in interesting ways.

I have been playing Evil West recently. I gave it an average review because while I enjoyed my time with it, I could see all the ways it could have been better. I know the Flying Wild Hog team has made better decisions in their other games, so I know a five-star version of Evil West. they can exist.

Despite my misgivings, I started a new save to try playing with the mouse and keyboard, rather than the controller. The game’s combat is engaging enough and its tools diverse enough that I want to re-experience it, even knowing all the irritating design elements I’m going to run into.

Evil West’s big, silly, bombastic action is its redeeming quality.

Today also marks the release of a similar game: Gungrave GORE, one that you wouldn’t mistake for a triple-A product either, but one that will intrigue you nonetheless. I know who I am. Its silly animations, outdated images, and (probably) poor localization have done the complete opposite of dampening my interest. They have bitten it.

And therein lies the crux of the discussion. I know that the GORE Evil West and Gungrave of the world will challenge me, mechanically, intellectually, spiritually, chemically… you name it.

The idea of, well, being motivated enough to have a say in those games is part of why I play them. The drama, if you will, is infinitely more interesting to me than spending ten hours with the new Horizon and ending up shrugging and defeated “okay I guess.”

Gungrave GORE has the jank, but does he have the charm?

So join me, dear reader, in celebrating the world’s mid-tier games and the publishers who continue to invest in them while avoiding the temptations to force every studio they own into making The One Single Big Game (see you here, Obligations).

And here’s to Game Pass too, while we’re at it. Let’s make a point of celebrating a service full of those brilliant mid-tier games, a service that feels like it’s designed specifically for people like me: people who want to play them without having to wait for price drops or a miraculous addition. to Games with Gold or PS Plus.

Gungrave GORE, at least, is on Game Pass right now, and I’m sure Evil West isn’t too far behind. Until then, Game Pass has no shortage of those games to keep you busy.


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