Don’t look at me, I’m just the hardware guy. But I recommend watching these, my favorite games also aired that didn’t impress the team enough to earn a spot on the RPS Advent Calendar 2022. Of everything I’ve played this year, these are the avatars of adequacy, the sultans of satisfying. Prime Ministers of quite well.
I would probably also take my hat off to Warhammer 40K: Darktide, but Alice0 already grabbed it for honorable mentions, and frankly, there’s enough shootybang stuff here as it is. Plus: toilet build quality tests, pushing Nazis into cement pits and more than a hint of 70s funk. Check them out.
Opening office job
A most unexpected return to the deadpan mad science of Gate, Opening office job could easily have been limited by its utilitarian purpose of acting as a steam bridge controls tutorial. Instead, Valve went ahead and made a cracking little comedy. It’s never mentally or mechanically taxing, so don’t expect Portal 3, but the quiet wit and delightful vocal performances that helped make the first two greats are present and correct. JK Simmons even returns as CEO of Aperture, blowing moon dust, Cave Johnson, and despite the game’s shortness, he’s by no means lost.
Also well used: comedian Nate Bargatze as Grady, your tired but friendly robotic supervisor. Grady is a regular source of laughs and the main driving force behind how your junior Khazi inspection job derails so badly – a narrative necessity given you’re constantly parked at the titular desk. Still, it’s not too hard to accept that this is really Grady’s story. Bargatze’s earnest delivery and impeccable animation work make it a great companion, even as it drags you, the office, and the toilet into ever-unexpected escalations.
For anyone with a brand new Steam Deck in their hands, Aperture Desk Job should be one of the first games you install. It’s free and it really helps if, like me, you see things like gyroscopic controls with a sort of confused dread. It’s also playable with many regular gamepads, so when you’ve got 30 minutes to spare, you can give it a whirl on your desk instead.
Elite Sniper 5
The most Game Pass Game-y of all the Game Pass Games™ I’ve completed this year. I had to be persuaded to play Elite Sniper 5 in the first place, by a friend who needed a cooperative buddy, and even now I’m not sure I’m paying full price for it. As part of a cheap subscription, beware, it only takes one thoughtful sandbox shooter to be worth your time.
I hadn’t played any of the previous Sniper Elites, knowing them mostly as that WW2 series where you commit war crimes in the first one and then spend the next three trying to blast the legacy of the Nazis. As such, I was pleasantly surprised to be able to tackle number 5’s occupied French farmhouse/castle/submarine bases like I would in a Hitman or Deus Ex: not just abusing points sight, but silently sneaking around to quietly hunt the bad guys before throwing them away. in a trash can the size of a villain. I know Hayden didn’t like close quarters in his reviewbut I found those moments – of sneaking in to plant bombs on fully equipped tanks, of freezing a general with his bodyguards mere yards away – to be just as tense and rewarding as landing a shot at the perfect head of a kilometer.
It is not essential to play. For starters, stealth isn’t as deep as the average Hitman’s, and while you can deploy occasional environmental hazards and distractions, it’s not as richly systemic as Deus Ex. Fatigue is also a hazard, as some missions can take well over an hour to complete, especially if a momentary lack of concentration suddenly draws half the SS on you. But enjoy it, I did it anyway, and for Game Pass money, you could too.
Apparently, we’re allowed access to preview games in these things, and I’ll admit it, Anacrusis goes heavy on the start. Only two of the five planned campaigns were available at launch, and while that’s since been ticked down to four, the most recent is labeled as a beta. Then as, double Early access.
Well. At least it’s already an enjoyable Left 4 Dead game – but kinda, in this case being “but in space and also groovy”. In a year full of dark sci-fi horror, it’s a much lighter and brighter shade of retrofuturism, with lavish spaceship lounges instead of cold, viscera-strewn hallways, laser guns pew-pew instead of square guns and pointy suits instead of tacticool uniforms. The Anacrusis has style – dare I say it, vibe – and that’s no bad thing in a co-op shooter subgenre that’s become as crowded as its own hordes of zombies.
Since even a relatively benevolent AI director is happy to throw thick waves of tentacle monsters at you, backed by a diverse mix of specials, survival depends on how you handle perks and gear upgrades. which you can equip manufacturers. There’s a strong RNG element to this, but there’s pretty much always a good selection of bonuses, with enough impact to reward you for adapting your tactics mid-mission. I like to go for a combat medic build, adapting goo grenades – which splatter a goop slowing the enemy on the ground – to heal teammates when they stand there themselves. Groovy indeed.