By Joseph Jones
We all know that the world is going through a… rough patch; sometimes people may want to get away from it and escape into a new world which, of course, is a destination often provided by that of video games. In this article I am proposing to you 5 games that relate to our current days on a whole different level. Each listed game, detailed in no particular order, takes on a different approach to its own pandemic, whether in story, gameplay or world building.
Warning: this review will contain spoilers.
1 – Resident Evil 2 (remake)
The first game to have made it onto my list is the 2019 remake of ‘Resident Evil 2’. This survival horror game was developed and published by Capcom and it is a remake of the 1996 game of the same name.
The game takes place in ‘Racoon City’ and it offers the possibility to choose between two characters – Claire Redfield or Leon S. Kennedy – which play in a set of stories that coincide with each other during a sudden zombie outbreak that has completely swallowed the city.
Even though there is an overarching storyline from the first game, Capcom has done a good job of making this game stand alone. It may be a sequel but it’s a separate incident in a new location, involving fresh characters with their own goals. So, even though it’s generally a good idea to start a game from the beginning, this can be played without the knowledge of the previous one while still being a fantastic ride.
The game is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows.
2 – The Last Of Us
Next up is a PlayStation (PS) exclusive title, ‘The Last Of Us’ for the PS3 (or, alternatively, you can play the remastered version on PS4 if you prefer). This 2013 survival horror game was developed by ‘Naughty Dog’ and published with ‘Sony Interactive Entertainment’.
The game is set in The United States after a fungal plague has caused an apocalypse, devastating the country. The narrative follows two survivors, Joel and Ellie, as they try to survive and travel west through the country to find a possible cure to save what’s left of humanity.
‘Naughty Dog’ has done an amazing job with the story; crafting an atmosphere that creates a sense of bleakness and desperation in the face of tragic events beyond our control, whilst simultaneously showcasing that nature prospers, remaining as a blooming point of beauty within the remnants of the world that we have lost.
The game is available on PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4 (remastered only).
3 – Dishonoured
For the next entry we have the 2012 action-adventure stealth game ‘Dishonoured’ by game developer ‘Arkane Studios’ and publisher ‘Bethesda Softworks’.
The story of Dishonoured is set in the plague-infested city of ‘Dunwall’. Your character is ‘Corvo Attano’, the bodyguard of the Empress of the Isles. He is being sent by the Empress across the isles to find help with the plague that festers in her streets. Unfortunately, ‘Corvo’ returns and gives the Empress the devastating news that no one will help. After having the revelation that she and her people are on their own, the Empress is suddenly attacked, and even though ‘Corvo’ fought off the assassins he was unable to save her. The man is then framed for her murder as well as the kidnapping of her daughter, ‘Princess Emily’.
Whilst he is waiting for his execution, he is visited by a mysterious being who grants him extraordinary powers; from there on he sets out to get revenge, to find ‘Emily’ and to prove his innocence.
The world that the game takes place in is rich in lore and history, and it shows elements of careful craftmanship which truly create complexities. For instance, the game illustrates differences in class, ideologies and even personalities of the city, and each different district consists of selectively chosen architecture.
The city itself was influenced by London and Edenborough, drawing further inspiration from Gothic, Art Nouveau, Victorian, Victorian (Jacobean revival), Industrial and Nazi architecture. On top of that, there are added notes from steampunk, but with the world being maintained on ‘whale-oil’ fans have dubbed the game ‘whalepunk’. There is so much to read in-between the lines, but it doesn’t feel needed or forced upon you, so you can enjoy the game in its simplest form too, as just a classic revenge story with supernatural elements.
The game features a chaotic system that responds to how you conduct yourself on missions and in ‘Dunwall’, the louder and more chaotic you are, the more guards will appear later on. The more citizens become oppressed and the worse the plague gets, the quieter and the more peaceful the city is.
The game is available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
4 – Prototype
This next game is the 2009 action-adventure game ‘Prototype’, developed by Radical Entertainment and published by Activision Blizzard.
The game is set in a pandemic-ridden New York City full of mutants and military forces who are out looking for blood. We play as Alex J. Mercer, who suddenly wakes up in what appears to be a morgue inside of a research facility basement. After his escape, he realises that he has no memories and that he’s somehow acquired inhuman abilities, but for some reason he has become New York City’s public enemy number one. Now he needs to figure who he is and what, exactly, he has become.
Overall Prototype is a fun, third person sandbox style game. If blazing around in a chaotic power-trip sounds appealing, then this playthrough could be the one for you.
The game is available on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Xbox 360.
5 – Lone Survivor
For the final entry on my list we have ‘Lone survivor’, a 2012 independent survival horror video game by developer Superflat Games and publishers Superflat Games, Curve Digital, and Limited Run Games.
In the game we take control of an unnamed young man wearing a surgical mask. He became isolated in his apartment building after a strange virus decimated his known world and begun turning people into hyper-aggressive mutants.
‘Lone survivor’ was a very fun experience for me; its pixel art contrasted against the horror aspect to create a raw ominous atmosphere and a sense of claustrophobia that I was not expecting. The isolation I experienced in the game was harrowing and as a fan of atmospheric horror in games, I was left feeling more than satisfied.
The game is available on Microsoft Windows, MacOS, Linux, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4 and Wii U.
We may be living in uncertain times right now, but I hope that these recommendations have potentially offered you a game that could help to fill your time.
Images: Main image by Igor Karimov on Unsplash. Individual source information for the game covers can be found in their citations.