Got a new video game console? Here's what to play: Talking Tech podcast




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Hey there, listeners. It's Mike Snider here. Welcome back to Talking Tech. Brett Molina's off today, but I'm being joined by our colleague, Tech column's Marc Saltzman. Marc, welcome to you again and thanks for joining me.

Oh, for sure, Mike. Thanks for having me.

Well, we get to talk about both of our favorite subject, video games. We know that game consoles, whether you're talking about the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X and S, they were going to be a big holiday gift option this year. And if someone was lucky enough to get one, I think you have some recommendations to test drive their new machines, right?

Yeah, for sure. There was a lot of concern about not getting your hands on these consoles because of the global chip shortage and other supply chain challenges caused by the pandemic and some other issues, but I've been following along and I haven't seen too many people left without one, I should say. I saw Walmart and some other retailers got a last-minute bunch of batches across the country, so I hope you weren't left not getting a console that you wanted. I was wondering because the Oculus Quest 2 did so well over the holidays and I was wondering, "Is that because no one can get their hands on a PS5?" Not quite sure, but if you weren't able to get one but you got some gift cards for the holidays, yeah it's still... Whichever console you go with, there's so many great games.

So why don't we talk about a couple of exclusives? A lot of the games, of course, are playable on all of the different machines, but why don't we talk first about a kids game that is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch?

Sounds good.

Yeah, so let's do Super Mario 3D World with Bowser's Fury. This is all in one game. They're all related, but they are two games in one. So this is a really fun and family-friendly game. Super Mario 3D world is a refresh, in fact, of the 2013 game that was playable on the Wii, or is it the Wii You? I think it was the Wii U, in fact. But now with high res courses to run through. There's local and online multiplayer support and a lot of collectibles like stamps and things to use in other modes, like snapshot.

But basically, you are playing as different characters, each with their own abilities. You can control Mario or Luigi, Peach or toad, later on in the game Rosalina, but they're basically out to save the kingdom. It's kind of like an open world platformer game, but again, it's just some of these other Nintendo games. They're more fun when you play with others with you.

And then Bowser's Fury is basically, it challenges Mario to team up with Bowser Jr. and venture through this cat-themed world called Lake Lapcat. I'm not doing it justice. It's really a lot of fun. There's power-ups and collectable items, and it's something that's really fun to play with some friends beside your family members. So Super Mario 3D World plus Bowser's Fury, definitely worth it for the Nintendo Switch.

The exclusive that I would pick, I guess, for teens would be for the PS5, and it's Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. This is, again, an exclusive where if you haven't played a Ratchet & Clank game before, these are arcade or action adventures played from a third person perspective where Ratchet is this alien and he plays with Clank, a robot, where they solve puzzles and they combat different enemies. There's some platforming to it as well.

But Rift Apart's really... I would call it just really a showcase for the PS5's technical prowess. I mean, it's just amazing the near CG-like graphics, very fast boot up times, the amazing controls, the feedback. The haptic feedback feels amazing on the DualSense controller, including triggers that change the tension. That's something that the PS5's capable of doing based on what you're doing in the game. So it's really a lot of fun.

It's a great story, and you also get to play as other characters, like a female from the same planet as Ratchet. Her name's Rivet. She's a great role model as well for different reasons that I don't want to give away.

But just a lot of fun in this game. You travel to different dimensions and worlds and so fun. So again, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart from Insomniac Games and Sony Interactive Entertainment, just a lot of fun.

And then one more exclusive for mature players, so those 17 and older who can play an M-rated game, I would pick Halo Infinite, of course, for Xbox Series X or S or the Xbox One and Windows as well. This is one of the most hyped games of 2021, and I don't think it let too many people down. It's hard to live up to the hype, but it's kind of like a throwback to what made Halo so great right from the get-go 20-odd years ago. So fun, but with next-gen graphics, amazing tight, responsive controls, lot of fun single end multiplayer gameplay and of course, all the weapons and the vehicles that you know and love plus a lot more, new maps. So you get to play once again as Master Chief. Once you play through the tutorial in the single-player game, all the controls will immediately fly back to you. It'll be immediately intuitive if you've played any of the previous Halo games.

But really a lot of fun mostly open-world game play that has to different modes that you can play. If you are more of a fan of multiplayer, there's different iterations on capture the flag and different death match games, last one standing kind of thing. There's a big team battle which is a lot of fun. I think that's a 12v12 kind of gameplay.

So that's all. And I should mention, Mike, if our listeners aren't aware of this, that the multiplayer portion of Halo Infinite is completely free to play. So you do not need to purchase the game for that, which is great. You don't have to purchase the Xbox Game Pass or the Gold or anything like that. It's completely free, so definitely take advantage of Halo Infinite's multiplayer, which is free.

But this game came out December 8th. It's been a huge seller for both Xbox and Windows PC. And surprisingly, you don't need the latest and greatest computer to run it. It may scale back some of the visual finesse the game, but it works really well. So that's my pick, I guess, for best exclusive for mature gamers.

Cool. Now, are there any games that caught your eye that are multi-platform games that maybe play well on more than one console?

I would say one of my favorite games of 2021 would be It Takes Two from EA. They're the publishers of this game, but it was created by an indie UK developer that did a great job with this game.

It Takes Two requires two people to play, as the name suggests. You could play side by side with someone or over the internet. And if you do play over the internet on Xbox or PS4 or 5 or Windows, only one person needs to own the game, which is great.

But the way the game works is you play as these parents of a young girl. These parents are divorcing and, without giving too much away, basically the young daughter is of course upset at the situation. The parents, Cody and May, their souls, if you will, get trapped into these little dolls and they have shrunk down in size and they have to work together in order to navigate these very dangerous environments now with wildlife, underground, in trees, in the walls of the home, and of course find a way to get back to being full-sized humans and to see their daughter again.

It's a really interesting concept, and I wasn't really sure what I thought of it when I first played it. I'll be honest. I reviewed it for another publication and it really grew on me over time. When things started opening up again this year, we had a lot of friends with their kids come over. It was one of those games that you can play very easily with someone from any age. It is, I think, rated E10, if I'm not mistaken, so 10 and older, but really just a lot of fun.

So you're playing inside of a snow globe. You're playing inside of a garden in a tree house kind of thing, and you want to return to your human bodies. But there's some instances of the game where you... So you have to work together, in other words, as I mentioned, but at other times you could compete head to head in a whack-a-mole game or tug of war and things like that. There's these little mini games.

But It Takes Two is such a great game. I think it's Hazelight Studios. I didn't mention the studio earlier. They did a great job, so I would recommend that as a multi-platform game.

I'd also recommend Psychonauts 2, where you get to play once again as Raz, a young psychic who has to unravel this epic mystery and use not just some platforming skills, but some psychic powers. He can slow down time. There's levitation and mind reading. That's a really fun game from Tim Schaper... Schafer, rather, who created, of course, Brutal Legend and Grim Fandango and Broken Age and many other amazing games. So I would recommend that.

And then it's not just about sequels. Returnal for PS5 and Deathloop for PS5 and Windows were both great action games for the mature player. So it was a great year, I would say, overall for games. There were some letdowns like the GTA trilogy, kind of reminiscent of what happened in 2020 with Cyberpunk 2077. And then Forza, right Mike, a really great game for Xbox and Windows as well has won several awards this year, and definitely worth climbing the wheel behind if you're a fan of car racing games.

Yeah, I'm not the best car racing player on video games. I'm a lot better driver in the real world, thankfully, but the look of that game is just mesmerizing.

Really fun. It takes place in Mexico, but lots of the different locations. It's a really fun fantasy racing game with several solo and multiplayer missions. Yeah, Forza Horizon 5. Microsoft Games, or Xbox Game Studios formally. They did a great job with this one.

Well, these all sound like fun to me, Marc. Thanks for filling us in and joining us today.

Thanks, Mike. My pleasure.

And listeners, Marc has more suggestions in his recent column on tech.usatoday.com. So let's hear from you. Have any comments, questions or show ideas? You can find me on Twitter at @MikeSnider. And please don't forget to subscribe and rate us or leave a review on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, anywhere you get your podcast.

And don't forget, you can have tech news delivered straight to your inbox. Subscribe to the Talking Tech newsletter. Comes out every Thursday. Just go to newsletters.usatoday.com. You've been listening to Talking Tech. We'll be back tomorrow with another quick hit from the world of tech.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Got a new video game console? Here's what to play: Talking Tech podcast

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