Friday, May 14, 2021

The first big Xbox exclusive of 2021 is just OK

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Tit means is an apt name for Bloober Team’s latest game, but perhaps unintentionally. Not only The way tell a story about a woman able to exist in dual realities and commune with the dead, but her title turns out to serve as an accurate review of the game itself. When someone asks if it’s a dazzling horror experience or a poor excuse for a next-gen Xbox exclusive, the answer is right there: meh, it’s Way.

The way tells the story of Marianne, a woman who has the ability to bring the recently deceased person to the other side. It’s the 1990s and she’s in Poland to put her late adoptive father’s affairs in order when she receives a mysterious call ordering her to visit Niwa, a long-abandoned Soviet utopia deep in the Krakow woods. . There, she investigates Niwa’s horrific past, helps her spirits pass on, and uncovers crucial information about her own upbringing.

Bloober team

Marianne’s supernatural abilities are raw and she is not totally in control. While she can deploy a bubble shield or blast of light at will (and as long as she has sufficient psychic fuel), Marianne’s consciousness splits in two at random times, simultaneously existing in the planes of the living. and the dead. When this happens, the screen literally splits into two segments, showing Marianne in both shots at once. One looks familiar, while the other shows an inverted and hellish version of reality. Here, she has extrasensory powers, including the ability to see undead, absorb the energy of memories, and cross certain physical barriers.

The split appears vertically or horizontally, depending on the circumstances, and it is endlessly fascinating to play these scenes in tandem, but in totally different worlds. It’s like playing two games at the same time – and it’s a bit like rendering two games at once, which is one reason The way is exclusive to Xbox Series X and S series (and PC), rather than eighth-gen hardware.

I played The way on Xbox Series S, Microsoft’s least powerful next-gen console. The game crashed once at a dramatic point and I had to re-do about 10 minutes of action, which was horrible, but probably not in the way Bloober Team intended. Otherwise, the game went well. There was no loading screen visible, other than post-death reboots, and even these took eight seconds, at most. I noticed some animations appearing at the start of some scenes, and that alone was enough to make me fantasize about how well the game performed on Xbox Series X – something I find myself imagining with every S Series title I play, to be honest.

The way

The best part of The way is sadness. She is the ghost of a schoolgirl, wearing a scorched porcelain mask and blackened butterfly dress. The skin connecting his limbs to his chest was eaten away and one of his arms was completely burned. She sums up the feel of the game, both visually and audibly: The songs playing on her stages are spooky haunted music box levels, and they are a clear reminder that famous Silent Hill songwriter Akira Yamaoka contributed to this game. .

Sadness appears and disappears throughout Marianne’s investigation as the Cheshire Cat, offering her own childish take on Niwa’s past, both innocent and gruesome.

This is the vibe that I wish Bloober Team had pursued during the manufacturing The way. The game excels at providing a rich environment for exploration and uncovering new terrors in the ruins of a Soviet-era massacre, but its most interesting points are often sacrificed in the name of introducing new mechanics or from completing recovery quests. The ideas on display in the game’s story – including an arc about child sexual abuse – are intriguing but hardly explored. Gameplay elements like sneaking around and holding your breath are only introduced to stagnate, used only a few times, and then seemingly forgotten. Ideally, these narrative and mechanical characteristics would build on each other to create more complex battles of strategy and tension, but the game seems to have stuck on easy mode throughout.

The way

Puzzles in The way mainly consist of finding missing levers and navigating between Marianne’s dual realities to read scraps of paper and postcards. Only one puzzle remains in my memory to involve observation and deduction, while the others are clearly at surface level. Usually when I got stuck in a scene, it was because I had failed to interact with one of the little white dots indicating an object of interest, and I just had to go around in circles for a while, holding LB to enlighten Marianne. sixth Sense.

Overall, the story unfolds in a way that is both predictable and confusing, with a rotating cast of faceless villains and, ultimately, the addition of a second playable character with abilities similar to Marianne. .

The way introduces Thomas as a playable character in the second half of the game, and that’s where things really fall apart for me. Thomas is able to transform emotion and memory into psychic power, just like Marianne, although he also has an ability called Spirit Force, which he uses to move large objects. Otherwise, they’re pretty much the same character.

The way

Bloober team

The scenes with Thomas at the helm give the impression of being fulfilled. They are not threatening and tiresome (ah, the boredom of The way) and don’t add any necessary perspective to the story. Most importantly, they’re not scary. Take the height of Thomas’ recreation, for example: he walks through a distorted, red-drenched landscape of towering filing cabinets, while a giant demonic dog chases him from below. Many times he has to cross a single plank spanning a space large enough for the beast to cross. As they approach, Thomas slows down, raises his arms for balance and walks slowly on the beam. The demon dog passes under him.

It’s a visually strained scene, but in my acting, I never felt that Thomas was in danger of falling. I tried to knock it off a plank at one point, just as the monster passed, and as it rocked precariously, its feet were sticking firmly to the wood. Despite the nightmarish scenery, there is no danger in these scenes (and many more).

The way

Bloober team

The way wasn’t supposed to be the first game to launch exclusively on Xbox Series X and S, but after the delays of Infinite Halo and CrossfireX, he ended up in first place. That’s a big pressure for any studio, let alone an independent team whose resumes are stacked only with mind-blowing horror games, and The way assumes this responsibility with elegance. For the most part, it performs well even on base hardware of this generation, the S-series, and the game’s trippy split-screen mechanics do a fantastic job of demonstrating the power of Microsoft’s new consoles.

Hopefully, with their next game, Bloober Team can remind us how horrible they are too.

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