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Backlog: The Embiggening – January, 2022

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By Nelson Schneider - 01/08/22 at 05:41 PM CT

A new year is officially upon us, as 2022 roars in with… more COVID, more home-grown extremism on both fringes of the U.S. political spectrum, more economic woes, more China being China, more Russia being Russia, and generally no indication that things on the grand scale are going to improve any time soon. (Seriously, how is the U.S. bursting with Omicron Variant cases, while the Taliban puts no effort into public health and Afghanistan’s COVID situation never makes the news?) But what about GAMING? What about that most glorious form of escapism, where we can forget about how awful the real world is, and enjoy fictional scenarios where the Good Guys win, violence solves everything, and progress is inevitable? Neverending corporate greed is ensuring that gaming’s going to suck too. Let’s take a look at the new year’s opening releases to see just how hard it’s going to suck. After all, January sets the tone for the entire year!

We can, at least, rejoice in one small blessing: There’s no blatant shovelware coming out in January. We get an oh-so-rare one-month reprieve from licensed trash tie-ins, cynical garbage pushed out in order to keep a licensing agreement intact, super-casual non-games that would be better off on a phone (or, really, not at all), and annualized crap that comes out every year. Hurray!?

Of course, while shovelware was the bane of both console and PC gaming in Generations past, since the 8th Gen, it has been largely supplanted by the Port Phenomenon as the primary means of making each month’s release schedule look fuller… and WORSE! The Switch is, for the first time in months, NOT the primary target of shady publishers and Indie developers trying to rehash/remake/remaster/whathaveyou a bunch of old crap with minimal effort to see if the new crop of gamers (who grew up with smartphones) are dumber and have worse taste than their forbearers. Instead, Sony is back on top with the dubious honor of Port King for January, with baleful Roguelike, “Zengeon,” hitting the (dead) PlayStation 4, and “Human: Fall Flat” and a compilation of ‘Uncharted’ games hitting the PlayStation 5. The PS5 will also be sharing a Next-Gen port of “Train Sim World 2” with the Xbox SeX. Shockingly, the SeX itself is getting a rare port all to itself in “Demon Turf.” Of course, the Switch isn’t completely devoid of ports this month, with a compilation of ancient ‘Boulder Dash’ games as well as a Complete Edition of “Death’s Gambit.”

Shockingly, in the era of multi-platform releases dominating, there are only a couple of them coming in January… and one was a case that I almost classified as shovelware, but ultimately decided that Ubisoft doesn’t actually push these turds out annually. There’s a new Tom Clancy game! It’s “Rainbow Six Extraction!” That sounds like what Ubisoft wants to do to the money in everyone’s wallets! Don’t buy it, if you have any self respect! There’s also a new Hack ‘n Slash out there that looks like it can’t decide whether it wants to draw more inspiration from “Diablo” or “Smash TV”: “Blackwind.” It has mechs, and I’m normally a sucker for mechs… but that gameplay looks pretty bland, and it’s one of the few modern game releases that ONLY has local coop, without a networked option.

Well, that was a crappy release schedule! I bunch of ports and one predatory Live Service, that’ll probably be crammed with NFTs? Wait! There are actually several exclusive releases slated for January! PC is getting an Indie Survival Horror title in “Lily’s Well.” The Switch is getting a new ‘Pokemon’ spin-off in “Pokemon Legends: Arceus,” which looks to be doing something I’ve wanted to see ‘Pokemon’ do for years: Set the action in another time period (in this case, the past) and ditch the whole formulaic idea of Catch ‘em All and Gym Badge collecting. Lastly, the PlayStation 5 is leading from behind with two exclusives: A crappy WWII game set in Tannenberg called… “Tannenberg” and a… nother crappy WWII game set in Verdun… by the same developer as “Tannenberg” called… “Verdun.” Yikes! I remember when Sony attracted the most desirable exclusives…

Ew. Unfortunately, 2022 looks to be starting off with a moist fart instead of a bang. The only thing being released in January that I’d even consider trying is “Pokemon Legends: Arceus,” but after how badly I’ve been burned by Nintendo and Game Freak trying to turn the series into a subscription-based Live Service, I’m going to have to read some accounts from Early Adopters before I do anything as risky as buying a never-discounted Nintendo game.

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