Ajay's 2021 Games Log

Hi, thanks for reading. This is just a list for me to write little thoughts about the games I've played this year. This time I'm choosing to include games that I have watched my boyfriend play. That's about it for changes. Bye!

Previous years: 2011201220132014201520162017201820192020

List items

  • Played by Jace 🐶

    • (early) January 7th • PlayStation 2 (via PCSX 2 Emulator) •

    ✓ Completed main story

    I like Yakuza. Much like revisiting Grand Theft Auto III, the first Yakuza is retroactively adorable. You can see the seeds being planted for more elaborate stuff later in the series, like substories, minigames, stores and endlessly complex narratives. Most of that stuff has yet to bear fruit the first time around, but it instead provides this deep appreciation for how coherent the series' progression has been. This is pretty by-the-numbers by series standards at this point, but it's still hard to not be impressed by Yakuza's ambition. It addresses mature subjects with (mostly) mature perspectives, and it takes its time slowly building multi-faceted, well-written and sympathetic characters. Plus, its open world is so jaw-droppingly detailed for a game released in 2005, and is supposedly realistic as hell to boot.

    I remember thinking Yakuza was kind of cool when I played it over a decade ago, but seeing it through Jace's perspective made me appreciate it so much more the second time through. He had never played it before, so it was really fucking exciting to see how he'd react to the ridiculous plot twists, silly English translation and absolutely chaotic third act. He was so genuinely excited to explore where Yakuza's origins laid - it was to the point where it felt like I was experiencing the game again, but in a completely new way. His thoughts and enthusiasm for the story, alongside his deep eagerness to beat the total shit out of everyone, made this repeat play memorable in ways I didn't think I'd experience.

    With those things in mind, seeing Yakuza again was humbling. To see such a massive franchise start from ambitious beginnings, and from such a fresh, genuine perspective made me appreciate just how rare and rewarding it is to experience things you love in such a special way. To kick off a franchise-long playthrough of what is perhaps my favorite game series ever - and with the person I love dearly at that, I feel left beside myself.

    Some stray thoughts:

    - I love Haruka. So much. She is, without exaggeration or hesitation, probably one of my favorite characters ever.

    - The English dub is still pretty hilarious, but Jace's appreciation for Kiryu's English voice kind of made me come around on it? After all, the bizarre dialogue isn't really his fault at all.

    - Nishikiyama is so fucking good in this game. I appreciated that Kiwami tried to add more story stuff to explain his motives, but I sincerely think that Kiryu being left in the dark about his best friend's heel turn is so much better. It makes me feel like he is a villain beyond my reach.

    - Kiryu shot so many dudes, man

  • • (early) January 17th • PC • Complete Edition •

    ✓ Completed base game (with 🐶)

    There was a point during our playthrough of Postal 2 where I referred to it as a game made by someone with paranoid schizophrenia. This isn't a slight to people suffering from schizophrenia by any means, but it is more a theory on the game's distance from reality. Yes, it claims to be some sort of witty, offensive satire on American society and the games industry, but I find that is selling it too short. It certainly attempts to be funny, but instead what it ends up being is a bizarre, creepy, hollow video game. I sincerely don't have the words for it, but I found that describing Postal 2 like that was as close to a profound thought as I've ever had about it.

  • • January 20th • PC •

    ✓ Completed expansion pack (with 🐶)

    Bad

  • • (early) January 28th • PC •

    ✓ Completed story on normal (with 🐶)

    After so long, Devil May Cry is still genuinely one of the coolest, most thoroughly-realized games that I have ever played.

  • • January 31st • PC •

    ✓ Completed campaign on easy

    The original Call of Duty might be adorable and feeble compared to what it has become, but make no mistake - this is a Call of Duty game, through and through. You're switching from different perspectives all around the war on the nazis, shooting an overwhelming amount of dudes and there's lots of scripted explosions and sequences. I'm not even gonna lie, it's still pretty fucking impressive to play today, especially given how shit games from 2003 and beyond have aged. Some of these missions are fucking nuts - like the first Stalingrad mission, or clearing the apartments or fuckin' infiltrating a nazi ship and planting bombs on it. It is a lot more dry than later Call of Duty games are, but there's a lot to enjoy here once you get past its age.

    Something that I found really cool is the trademark mission design of Infinity Ward being super prominent in this game. Stuff like using time countdown to emphasize tension, or audio design that's so overbearing and cacophonous that your ears are still ringing from intense machine gun fire once you're done. Plus, the same sound effects, animations - I'm telling you, this is a Call of Duty game in its blood.

    Some stray thoughts:

    - Jason Statham is in like, one mission and it's so weird??? He says like six lines. OK.

    - Everyone walks like they got doodoo in their pants, man.

  • • February 3rd (and again on (early) February 5th) • Xbox 360 (via Xenia emulator) • Leaked XBLA Remaster •

    ✓ Completed campaign on Agent

    You can blow up the boxes in Train and find the secret RC-P90. There's a computer monitor hidden inside of several tiny boxes in Caverns. You can shoot through the door windows in Bunker and can still remain unseen. The same enemy waves, the same weird tics, the same level design - this is Goldeneye, all right. But, like - the KF7 soviet doesn't look like a pencil anymore. In fact, most of the weapons look like actual weapons instead of weird, abstract objects. It's Goldeneye, yeah, but with a new pretty textures here and there.

    As far as retexturing and remasters go, Goldeneye 007 for XBLA is probably as faithful as it gets. A lot of the work on this probably informed the Perfect Dark XBLA re-release, given it had the same great controls + frame rate, but without the retexturing. It's a fuckin' strange product - or, lack thereof given this 2007 beta build was leaked just this week. I love playing unfinished video games, because you always get to see a fraction of what the development process is like. The placeholders, the glitches, the unfinished parts - it's bizarre how this version doesn't even have proper lighting in some levels, or how Statue is rendered even less legible because there's no skybox. It's so fucking cool, aside from being a pretty and more playable version of Goldeneye. Like, imagine what could've been if this miraculously ended up coming out? Do you think we would've been spared that fucking pitiful reimagining from Activision? Who knows, but more importantly, I bet it would've helped people understand why they liked Goldeneye in the first place.

    Like, I love Goldeneye so much, but I don't have any affinity for the James Bond name whatsoever. I like fast, fun first person shooters and Goldeneye was one with a super sharp eye for details, single player innovation and a no-frills, fun-as-shit split screen mode. Goldeneye wasn't good because it was a James Bond game, though I'm sure the big name lent some sort of credibility to it. The fact that its success tainted James Bond games forever by forcing them to chase after some sort of lightning-in-a-bottle FPS rush is, in retrospect, fucking bizarre. James Bond, from my understanding was never about gunning millions of dudes down. You can fuckin', like, dual wield SMGs in this game and how has that ever been a James Bond thing???

    I feel like no matter what kind of game Goldeneye was - racing game, puzzle game, action adventure, fuckin' anything - as long as it was this detailed, innovative and popular with multiplayer, it would've still set the standard for what Bond games would be like in the future. Alas, everyone thinks that Bond games need to be this, while completely missing the point on what *this* even is.

    I don't know. Rare, Microsoft, and everyone in between have said it more times than I have, but Goldeneye is one big, fuckin' headache when you take it out of the extremely specific context that birthed its success. Whether this game being shelved was for the best or not, will probably forever be up to the gods. Being able to play the beta version of it was one hell of a thrilling curiosity, but beyond that, I genuinely don't give a shit.

    Some stray thoughts:

    - I fell to my death in Cradle, but still managed to complete the mission? I've never seen that happen before.

    - Statue is one of the most fucked up and unrecognizable levels in any video game. Playing it unfinished somehow made it even less legible.

    - The placeholder faces for all the models are so fucking funny, dude.

  • • February 24th • PC (via Hitman 2) •

    ✓ Completed all Hitman (2016) levels (with 🐶)

    There is an exhaustingly thin line that most things in life abide by. Stuff like life and death, or light and dark, hot and cold and other shit. It is a balance that many people try to walk, but very few can do it with elegance - if at all. Such a proficiency in balance is remarkable, to the point where we don't realize it's possible until we witness it for ourselves.

    Hitman walks the line that most video games do - one between absurdity and sincerity. It's easy to be too serious, and it sure as shit is too easy to be cynical. Games, like most types of creative media, often times lack this sort of awareness in the final result. This isn't to dunk on game developers or anything - quite the contrary, because it's fucking hard to get things right. By contrast, Hitman makes it seem like the most sugary and sweet of cake walks.

    Like, Hitman is profoundly stupid. You hide in plain sight from excessively armed patrols, decimate world-renown criminals with rubber duck explosives, and wear any sleeve with the pure-blooded confidence of a bald white dude. It almost comes across as a parody of human behavior, but even kicking it so low would be severely under-handing IO's craft. Hitman works because it never explicitly winks and nods at own its silliness. The tone and character blend in as well as any of 47's disguises, to the degree that it may as well wear its heart on its sleeve. It is a frightening balance to walk, but it remains so effective that you don't even realize it.

    Yet, Hitman knows exactly how fundamentally hilarious it is. It sprinkles in with subtle easter eggs, outlandish costumes, and completely fucking nonsensical situations to find yourself in. At some point in the Hokkaido mission, Jace remarked at how convenient it was that a troubled admirer of Helmut Kruger (who suspiciously carries a striking resemblance to Agent 47) was getting surgery to look just like his idol. It would be so contrived and eye-rolling in any other hands, but it feels right at home. These are the sort of opportunities that are brainstormed, but never brought to fruition because of how precisely they hit the nose.

    I think Hitman hits (so to speak) its target because it beams with confidence. It believes so much in its slapstick humor that it doesn't need to tell you what to laugh at. It carries its premise with such brevity and purpose that it can still immediately pull you back in to its decidedly vague, yet alluring tale of corporate warfare and intrigue.

    Hitman's good. It's the kind of good that stands out in your head. It's the kind of good that can organically create stories, memories, laughs and above all else - a deep, deep sense of satisfaction. They make it look so easy.

    Some stray thoughts:

    - Jace had never seen Hitman before so running through it with him as the brains (and me as the brawn, I guess) was a savory treat. His creativity, quick thinking and eagerness to stir the pot make this one of the best games in the world.

    - The voice acting is SO GOOD. It sells the story so hard, and the motion capture kicks ass, too. This is IO at the top of their game.

    - The episodic format worked so well for this game as it was coming out. It's a bummer that they didn't continue it going forward - I think a game with as much replayaility as this benefits a lot from the wait between levels.

    - I love shooting dudes so much, man.

  • • March 10th • PlayStation 4 • Remastered edition •

    ✓ Completed story on casual

    Still extremely fucking good.

  • • March 14th • PC •

    ✓ Completed story on casual with good ending

    Saints Row IV is fucking crazy, beyond any other game that dares to be this referential and committed to its own canon. There were several instances where the game just came from such a niche and horrendously specific angle, to the point where I kept wondering who these jokes were for. Why did they make so many extremely specific throwbacks to the first Saints Row - from one-off characters, to exact locations, to the CAMERA ANGLE??? Why did they bring back Neil Patrick Harris to voice Veteran Child for like six new lines??? Who decided that you should be shooting t-posing bad guys and default character models from the previous games???

    It blows my fucking mind that Saints Row IV had such a big budget, was four games into its multi-million dollar selling video game franchise and they capped it off with making something so unapologetically weird. Playing it again in 2021, it feels like Saints Row IV was ahead of its time - grown out of the same soil as all the fucked up Gen-Z memes of t-posing Jimmy Neutron and Spongebob eating Patrick's ass and shit. It's incredible just how well this game aged, and how much more impressive its chaotic garbage seems now.

    I love it. I love it so much. It slips with its characterizations on occasion, but it otherwise overwhelmingly treats its characters with love, care and the sort of respect that weirdos like me would give to the Saints Row story. It treats the journey up until now as something tangible and coherent, as weird as it might sound for a game that deals in retcons, simulations, aliens and time travel. The boss and her crew of lovable psychopaths make sense in this world, against all odds and it comes across as a Fast and Furious-esque level of narrative craft where you can tell the people behind the game love it as much as you do.

    It's great. It's so great. I'm so happy that Saints Row IV is miles, upon miles better than I remember. We don't often get that sort of treat when coming back to old shit, but Saints Row IV was seemingly future-proofed from the start.

    Some stray thoughts:

    - The tribute to the late Michael Clarke Duncan is a real fuckin tearjerker. So much respect for how they honored him.

    - Zinyak is a pretty typical alien overlord villain, but I really do love him and his stomach-churning pretentiousness.

    - The Jane Austen element to the story is so weird??? And it makes so much sense by the end???

    - I don't want another Saints Row. Supposedly as of this writing, Volition is working on a new game. I'll play it, but I wish that they could move on considering just how perfectly this quad...rology...? wraps up.