Work sucks; we know. The all too fleeting Christmas break is over, and if you’re anything like us, you’ve been plunged back into the drudgery of your day job. But while the tedium of wage labour may seem overwhelming, we’ve been escaping as we always do into video games. Here’s what we’ve been playing this week to stave off the January blues: from Horizon Forbidden West to Hyrule.
Tom – Lead Writer
Horizon Forbidden West
Playing on PlayStation 5
I’ve been waiting patiently for Horizon Forbidden West to drop to a sub-£40 price point. With the current PlayStation store January sale, my patience was finally rewarded. But was it worth the wait?
Well, I have to say that Horizon Forbidden West is a Sony exclusive-ass game, for better or worse. There’s an open world with a map full of icons and question marks. There are multiple skill upgrade trees. You have a bow and arrow. This has become the Sony house style, and by now you probably know whether you like it or not.
Luckily, I do like it quite a bit. I’ve been having a great time battling robotic dinosaurs and exploring a post-apocalyptic United States. Forbidden West may well also be the best looking game I’ve ever played; the characters and environments are gorgeous, and every single cutscene features beautifully rendered m-capped performances.
But there’s something missing that I can’t quite put my finger on. I guess it’s probably the element of surprise; the formula that these Sony games adhere to has become very familiar, and Forbidden West iterates admirably on those ideas without introducing many new ones.
In hindsight, I think this is why God of War Ragnarök didn’t stay with me more. I played it, enjoyed it greatly, and then never thought about it again; I expect the same to be true of Forbidden West. It’s not that these games are bad. In fact, they’re great! They’re beautifully made, and there’s very little to actually complain about. It’s just that there’s not a whole lot to get truly excited about, either.
Joe – Writer & Lead Editor
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Playing on Nintendo Switch
I’ve been having something of a Nintendo renaissance over the holidays after barely looking up from the Game Pass home screen in 2022. But a last minute decision to chuck my Switch into the suitcase as I drove home for Christmas proved to be one of my better ideas.
Fast-forward to Christmas Day: the fire is roaring, we’re a few bottles of fizz deep and, much to her annoyance, my sister’s boyfriend is absolutely tearing up Rainbow Road. As we near the final lap, a series of ridiculous red shell and banana shenanigans see them drawing neck-and-neck. We all cheer and shout with excitement; heck, even my Mum peered over the top of her iPad mid-Candy Crush.
Later, after turkey and an ungodly amount of cheese, we fork out for the DLC, giving us access to 24 brand-new tracks (with more coming this year) which culminates in colourful language and a launched joy-con flying across the room. Who needs Monopoly to start a family feud when you have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe?
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Playing on Nintendo Switch
I’m ashamed to admit that it’s taken me until 2023 to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but here we are. I’m grateful to my partner for gifting it to me this year, not least because unwrapping a physical game took me back to those halcyon days of booting up a brand new PS1 game on Christmas Day.
Understandably, a lot has been written about Breath of the Wild. But for me, something that bears repeating is the sheer sense of freedom and choice it gives without resorting to a Ubisoft-load of map markers. I can’t help but think of Elden Ring and how it approaches exploration and discovery in a similar way (of course, comparing anything released after Breath of the Wild to Breath of the Wild has become a bit of a meme so I’ll tread carefully here).
Either way, 2023 feels like the right time for me start my adventures in Hyrule, and hopefully just in time for the much-anticipated sequel.