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What we've been playing

A few of the things that have us hooked this week.

A screenshot from Rollerdrome. The only colour is yellow, really, other than black line work. We see a sort of Mad Max-like heavily armoured, huge gun-toting baddie falling, and the words "Victory" splashed across the scene.
Image credit: Eurogamer / Roll7

24th November, 2023

Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little bit about some of the games we've found ourselves playing over the last few days. This time: haunted writers, roller skates and Skeletor.

If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.

Modern Warfare 3, PS5

I have a new nemesis, and his name is Skeletor. This bright purple cartoon villain has been hunting me relentlessly in Modern Warfare 3, and it has turned into a vendetta. Call of Duty still pretends to be a serious military game, but wading into the quick play rotation I have been gunned down by several variations of Spawn - Todd MacFarlane's Batman with guns antihero - as well as a glowing twig monster called Gaia and, occasionally, Nicki Minaj.

This is excellent. It has been a while since I put hours into a new CoD game, and it's still largely a game about circling maps being shot in the back, or getting the drop on others. Modern Warfare 3 is a slim offering, too, as Chris mentions in the Eurogamer Modern Warfare 3 review. It is sometimes delightfully absurd however, and almost hallucinatory. I can play as a decorated Navy Seal veteran related to Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and face off against a Sardaukar from Dune.

Removed from the artful fog and colour correction of Denis Villeneuve's film, the Sardaukar is simply some guy in bright white pyjamas, instantly visible to snipers from the other side of a map. The Spawn operators have a bright green glow as well, but none are as silly as Skeletor - my most hated foe.

It takes skill to play as an operator so ludicrous and ostentatious. Every time a Skeletor Tokyo Drift-slides on his bum right past me and gets a headshot with his perfectly tailored sub machine gun, I seethe. I'll get you next time, I think. At risk of buying one of CoD's pricey operator packs, part of me wonders if I should accept my fate, bury the hatchet, and become Skeletor myself. It should give my opponents a chuckle, at least.

-Tom Senior

Alan Wake 2, PS5

Silence. A wooden plank creaks beneath my feet. A voice from... somewhere? Then the music starts. Why did the music start?! Oh god what's coming. The world swirls and mists and distorts as a film plays. I'm gripped and terrified.

With Alan Wake 2, the developers at Remedy certainly prove their flair for the surreal and the theatrical. The game is a multimedia tour de force. But it's ultimately just beautiful set dressing for a game as pretentious as it is patronising. It's a game about a tortured artist who's his own worst enemy, a rumination on art through the lens of psychological horror and detective noir clichés that all requires a little too much suspension of disbelief for my taste. The novel is the real world and the real world is a novel, the narrative folding back on itself in meta layers like a scrunched up manuscript page. Does art lead to suffering or does suffering lead to art? It's a story that attempts to dissect the incredible journey to make incredible art, but that only works if the art itself is incredible.

Aoife Wake 2.

For me, the art doesn't merit the journey. For all its production spectacle, the game is hampered by blatant monologuing and overexplaining, by the laborious process of hanging evidence on a wall to proceed. There's sublime survival-horror that transports you to the edge of your seat, but throws cheap jump scares at you to really hammer home the screams. It features a fantastic music section, then ruins the atmosphere with a maths puzzle.

On top of its perceived complexity it adds meta layers, with writer Sam Lake popping up in a self-aggrandising turn as smirking detective Alex Casey. Writer and artist are literally intertwined in what feels at times like empty, self-indulgent navel gazing more than layered intrigue. Alan Wake 2 is outstanding, but it's also torturous. Maybe that's the point.


Rollerdrome, PC

I'm doing a bit of Roll7 homework for a piece so I'm playing Rollerdrome for the first time. Don't - I don't know how that's the situation but it is. Anyway - what a first impression. Lots of things strike me about it. I love the thinking behind it, for one. I love the idea that someone sat there and thought, 'Do you know what's quite fun? Roller skating. And do you know what's also quite fun in games? Shooting. Why don't we... A ha!' And that that was all they needed - that it's fun and that's enough.

I'm sure I've done Roll7 a disservice there but it absolutely is fun - and it's immediately fun. I think it takes about a minute, maybe longer, before you're rolling around rinks and flipping in the air, performing tricks. And then you're shooting and it all just - bizarre as it sounds - feels like it was meant to be. Of course these things go together.

The other thing that strikes me is the story justification for it, because it's a bit ridiculous on the surface, and the way you're dropped into it suggests there's going to be nothing but action action action. But there is a story and it creates a really believable and touchable sense of a world around you. And it's all conveyed in glimpses rather than monologues, which I really like. It's in someone's artefacts in a locker that you're exploring, or an email you're reading. No one's ever grandstanding you trying to get you to care about the story they wrote - you're the one driving the discovery.

If you don't want it, fine, go skate and shoot. But if you do, nose around. And somewhat miraculously, I find that doing it this way makes me want it more - makes me go looking for the story more - because a part of me needs to put it all in context. It's clever stuff.