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What we've been playing

The old PS2-era box art for Silent Hill 2. A posterised, green-hued close-up of a lady's face who appears to be lying down on the floor.

4th November 2022

Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little bit about some of the games weve found ourselves playing over the last few days. This time: bullet-vampire hell, classic horror, and a brand new SRPG.

If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What Weve Been Playing,
heres our archive.

Vampire Survivors, PC

It never fails to amaze me how Vampire Survivors can give so liberally with one hand and then, with other hand, take so rapidly and brutally away. Case in point: my last attempt. I was flying. I had the garlic and the wand and the bird and everything was clicking. I was well ahead of whatever the game was throwing at me, and I had that feeling you sometimes get in the game: that I was in control. I was the hunter not the one being hunted. I was actively seeking mini-bosses and charging into swarms of enemies, and character-levels were flying by. And in that moment I was thinking, Oh, what a different experience this game can sometimes be, what a reckless joy, what a romp. Because sometimes it doesnt all come together – a lot of the times it doesnt come together. But in my merriment, Im going, Oh but I suppose you need the rough to appreciate the smooth. I was full of it. I was primed for my fall.

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I cant believe Im writing about it and not playing it.

It was like the game heard me. Suddenly, a kind of enemy I couldnt defeat quickly enough flooded my screen, and I couldnt get out from the pack surrounding and suffocating me. So I dove through a part of them to escape, still confident enough to think I could do that, and half my health disappeared. Then, I panicked. I was scrabbling, on the run, desperately looking for breakable objects I could get a roast chicken health-drop from. But all the time, my health was being nibbled away at and the inevitability of death was rapidly catching up with me. Then another large wave boxed me in a corner and, overcome, I died. This all happened in the space of about 30 seconds. I was humbled in the blink of an eye, and left staring blanky at the screen.

Sometimes I really hate you Vampire Survivors.

Challenge accepted.


Silent Hill 2, Xbox 360

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Aoife is disappointed in Chris, you can just feel it.

Ive been on a bit of a Silent Hill binge following the recent showcase reveal and Vikkis expert response. I even watched the so-bad-its-quite-good Sean Bean film, which at the very least succeeded in inspiring me to finally, all these years later, play a Silent Hill game.

So I did, even though Silent Hill 2 is surprisingly difficult to get hold of these days. I found a very pricey special edition PS2 version in a nearby game store, but instead opted to play the HD remaster released on Xbox 360 (and PS3) thats available via Xbox back compatibility.

Its a bit of a frustrating play these days. The design is archaic with its lack of direction, the puzzles are abstruse, and the interiors are so dark its almost impossible to see anything. Im sure purists will love this and I can appreciate its a game of its time. But a few modern tweaks wouldnt go amiss, so Im definitely looking forward to Bloobers remake to see how far it goes in switching things up.

Even in this old form, though, I love Silent Hill 2 for being a horror game that doesnt rely on jumps and cheap scares. It thrives on its eerie, oppressive atmosphere: the washed out visuals devoid of life, the creepy sound design, the iconic enemy designs of Pyramid Head and those nurses. Its no wonder it remains such a cult classic all these years later.

And one more thing: I love that you can separately set the difficulty of combat and puzzles, so I can test my brain more than my reactions. More games should do this!

Ed Nightingale

Live by the Sword: Tactics

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Live by the Sword will look comfortingly familiar for fans of classic 90s SRPGs

As a fan of classic SRPGs I should be tucking into the Tactics Ogre remake right about now, but – and Ill whisper this quietly so Im not found out – Ive never really got on with the game that made Yasumi Matsunos name. Its an overwhelmingly complex, vast thing, and with so much to manage over the course of any one battle Ive always been scared away after a couple of hours.

Im not going to suggest that Live by the Sword: Tactics, which just recently came to consoles, is better than Tactics Ogre, but its certainly more in tune with some of my tastes. A stripped-back take on the genre built predominantly around 5v5 battles rather than the vast armies at your disposal in Tactics Ogre, its an enjoyably direct take on the kind of tactical RPG action Matsuno was once known for (and that hed perfect, Id suggest, in the incredible Final Fantasy Tactics).

After a couple of hours, though, Im starting to find this particular spin on the genre perhaps a little too shallow – but its been a fun couple of hours nevertheless, and if youve any love for a genre thats sadly often overlooked theres plenty worthwhile to be found here.

Martin Robinson

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