Games I Finished in 2018

Gaming is one of my big passions, alongside writing, music and fitness. To reflect that, I thought I’d share my impressions of the games I completed in 2018.

 Gears of War 2

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Scratch one grub!

I’m a long-term Halo fanatic but have never made time for Xbox’s other flagship shooter series, Gears of War. In fact, my introduction to the series (which began in 2006) wasn’t until 2015 when I played the first game’s excellent remaster, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition. Gears: Ultimate had some cool ideas and memorable moments, but I wasn’t blown away. I thought the remastered graphics were incredible and that the cover-based shooting mechanics were solid (if a little stiff), but I really didn’t care about its generic action movie narrative. The saving grace, however, was the surprisingly nuanced relationships between the characters. These four neckless dudebros spent most of the game assaulting you with one-liners, but they also genuinely care for each other. Their brotherhood and affinity for shit-talking was endearing. I didn’t expect to warm to them the way I did.

In many ways Gears 2 is a typical action sequel. It iterates on everything that made the first entry enjoyable and generally offers more – more action, weapons, variety, and more bombastic set pieces. Surprisingly, the story was more affecting story this time around. There are a few surprise deaths and a real exploration of how these characters feel, and what they – and humanity at large – are fighting for. The set pieces are thrilling and varied, and the entire campaign is paced perfectly. You’re constantly thrown into new and exciting locations and combat scenarios. Something new lies around every corner and there’s no time for any of it to grow stale.

I thought the first Gears of War was just okay. But after blasting through its exhilarating sequel I’m can now see what all the fuss is about. A thoroughly enjoyable experience.

 

Oxenfree

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I really expected to like Oxenfree. It’s frequently compared to Dontnod’s 2015 title Life is Strange, a game that improved upon Telltale’s adventure game template by adding a memorable time travel mechanic. The similarities between Oxenfree and Life is Strange are obvious: they both star adolescent protagonists, feature time travel and offer branching dialogue options. But where Life is Strange felt sincere and intimate, Oxenfree feels strangely impersonal. Its dialogue was quippy and trite. Exploring was less enjoyable; I didn’t really care about the characters; and the mystery, which initially showed promise, devolved into an overwrought mess in the vein of Lost.

A bit of a disappointment. Maybe my preconceptions worked against me here.


Super Lucky’s Tale

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Want rad puns? This game’s got you, fam.

 

Super Lucky’s Tale is one of my personal gaming highlights of 2018. It’s a wholesome throwback to the colourful 3D platformers of the Nineties. It’s got it all: cute characters, fun dialogue and a banging OST. The controls are super responsive, the level design was solid and the DLC ramps up the difficulty to cap things off nicely.

This game exuded charm and was a much-needed palette cleanser after playing so many shooters. I even nabbed all the achievements for it, which took a bit of work.

 

Borderlands 2

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Sigh.

Where to begin? I’m a huge fan of the original Borderlands (in my eyes it’s the definitive co-op experience, next to Left 4 Dead), so naturally expected a lot from its sequel. This game is regarded as one of the best games of last generation, but I found it a very mixed bag. Continue reading

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Sketches ’03–’05

So my mum surprised me with this weird time capsule parcel yesterday. It contained long-forgotten photos, love letters, birthday cards, scribbles and other detritus. It also contained a handful of drawings from my teenage years. Sur-fucking-real!

These are extremely crude (let’s just say I’ve improved since), but I still wanted to share them. Apologies for the image quality. Each page was marred by a big fat crease down the middle and it’s apparent I had a penchant for featherweight pencil strokes, which don’t show up well in photographs.


Ryu from Street Fighter.

Ryu from Street Fighter.

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My sweet little Jack Russell, Zac. RIP, buddy.

Ben Gibbard, frontman of Death Cab for Cutie.

Ben Gibbard, frontman of Death Cab for Cutie.

Tidus from Final Fantasy X.

Tidus from Final Fantasy X.

A damn-near-invisible tree. I really like drawing trees. There's a very Australian vibe here.

A damn-near-invisible tree. I used to really like drawing these. Very Australian vibe here.

This is a drawing of Lara, a German exchange student and the object of my [intense] affection. Nowadays it's apparent to me that drawing your crush is the pastime of would-be serial killers, but back then I thought it was a completely reasonable thing to do. Fortunately she never saw it.

This is a drawing of Lara, a German exchange student and the object of my [intense] affection. Nowadays it’s apparent to me that drawing your crush is the pastime of would-be serial killers, but back then I thought it was a completely reasonable thing to do. Fortunately she never saw it.

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Close-up of mein liebling, Lara. Bleh. Has kind of an uncanny valley thing going on here. Dislike.

Counter-Terrorist from Counter Strike. This one's my favourite.

Counter-Terrorist from Counter Strike. This one’s my favourite.

Review: ‘Halo: The Fall of Reach’

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Eric Nyuland’s Microsoft-commisioned novel, Halo: The Fall of Reach, is an excellent addition to the Halo canon. But as a sci-fi novel it is merely adequate. Nyuland proves himself a better writer than expected, but this is still a little hammy in places. The set pieces are spectacular — truly thrilling and cinematic throughout -– but the novel’s pace was undermined by its running time. At almost four hundred pages, and with the titular battle of Reach resigned to the last seventy (like an afterthought), this was far longer than it needed to be. Continue reading