2021 – A better year for gaming

Written by Alex Maidment (nSanity Beach)

November 2020 was the most hyped I’ve been about gaming for a good few years, and for a good reason – it marked the release of a new generation of games consoles, and the first time in my life I could actually afford a day one console. Unfortunately, that’s where the hype and excitement ended.

Having spent 8 months playing an Xbox Series X, I can honestly say it’s a fantastic console. The speed, the performance, the way it sits so unassumingly on a shelf in my living room – I can’t fault it. Even some early issues with Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War didn’t stop me thinking it’s brilliant.

However, with this praise comes a massive caveat – the performance capability of the console feels wasted on what I’ve been playing on it. Since the launch, the main games I’ve played are: CoD Black Ops Cold War, Forza Horizon 4, Rocket League, FIFA 21 and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1&2. It plays every one of these games extremely well, but let’s be honest – Rocket League could almost run on a potato and the graphics aren’t what make the game, FIFA looks nice but nothing much better than when comparing to how it runs on my PC and my non Series X version of Pro Skater looks good, but doesn’t test the console at all.

Forza Horizon 4 admittedly looks amazing and runs so much better than it ever did on the Xbox One and still much better than my ageing PC, but… I had already played a lot of the game so really it’s just been driving around admiring how nice the UK looks in glorious 4K with HDR. Then we move on to what is the only ‘Next-gen’ game I’ve actually played much of – CoD Black Ops Cold War.

Calling it a next gen game is a little unfair as it had to be made to run well on the previous gen and only came out a few days after the Series X was released. The game looks and runs nicely, but the actual gameplay just hasn’t blown me away. Maybe we were spoiled by Modern Warfare the year before but I had high hopes for Cold War, and while games modes like Gunfight have kept me playing up until now, I’m not sure the console has anything to do with that.

Finally, Xbox have given me hope!

June 2021 couldn’t come quick enough – with the Halo Infinite tease last year being blasted and the whole project being pushed back, my hope for a next-gen game last year was squandered. Thankfully, the team at 343 look to have done an amazing job in bringing the game to the a next-gen worthy standard and I for one cannot wait.

Going free-to-play with the multiplayer for Halo was such a clever move from Xbox as it should allow for an extended lifetime for the game and means I can convince friends that otherwise wouldn’t have bothered buying it or the games pass to get stuck in with me on day one!

The look and feel of the teaser takes me back to the days of Halo 3, and I couldn’t get enough of that game. With solid gameplay and beautiful graphics, Halo gives me hope that this year will be a much better year for gaming.

Top this with the Forza Horizon 5 trailer and suddenly, I cannot wait until Autumn (Fall) this year to experience what looks like possibly the most beautiful game I will have played to date. I was blown away by the scenery and fantastic visuals, and watching it in 4K seemed to bring it to life even more – so much so that my wife said it was like watching a documentary.

While Forza games can sometimes be criticised for repetitiveness (in the same way any racing game can be!), the new large open world game looks like it will truly put the Xbox Series X to the test and will make me realise why I invested one in the first place. This coupled with the new arcade like game modes that can be enjoyed with friends looks like a lot of fun! Car bowling, anyone?

I’m also pretty excited for the Xbox version of Flight Simulator being released in July, mainly because as of late, it won’t open on my PC at all (some issue with the MS Store and validating it despite paying for Games Pass Ultimate), but also because I just can’t get my PC to run at the sort of quality that the Series X will deliver.

And an additional shout-out to Battlefield 2042, which not only looks nice, gives me Battlefield 4 vibes, which to date is my favourite BF game! If it can hold out on the promise of playing as well as BF4, then it might just edge out CoD this year for my attention, especially if the current rumours about Call of Duty Vanguard being a car crash are true!

After a rough year for all of us, the gaming calendar throughout 2021 is looking strong and finally showing some offerings that make the most of the new consoles!

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