OF 2022: The PlayStation Stuff

‘Of 20XX’ is my attempt to look back and catalog the previous year of gaming in my life. I haven’t done the “Best Of” category stuff in a long time so what you’ll find over this week is a recounting of what I played in 2022 with a mini review or personal anecdote for each, continuing with today’s focus on Playstation.

No surprise that PlayStation was my preferred platform again this year. It’s been where I’ve played the majority of modern games (and a handful of remasters) since 2014. What is surprising for 2022 is just how much Fortnite I played!

Fortnite – 343 Hours (plus a few dozen more by the time I post this)

Like Rocket League the year before, my time with Fortnite in 2022 was all thanks to my nephew. To be honest, I was glad we switched over because I was not competitive enough to keep up with him in Rocket League. But Fortnite? That kids game?

Like many in my age bracket, it seems 2022 was the year for the Olds to discover that Fortnite is actually a fun and ever-changing game with lots to see and do. Oh, it also helped that they introduced Zero Build mode that removes the insane wall-blasting, base building fervor of its traditional gameplay. I like that stuff for the original Save the World mode but not for something that’s so competitive.

While the gunplay isn’t exciting enough to keep me going for damn near 400 hours, the quests and map updates throughout the game’s average 90-day seasons are generally pretty captivating. There are longer weekly quests worth loads of Experience and piddly dailies that you’ll probably complete by simply playing a few rounds. It’s a great benefit to those of us that aren’t expert shots or ultimate Sweats. You can make just as much progression in levels and Battle Pass unlocks by following the quests as you can by slaying half of the round’s 100 players.

Sometimes those quests involve getting a number of eliminations or using specific weapons but there are plenty that don’t involve combat. With the game’s latest update — a graphical overhaul now built on Unreal Engine 5 — that also includes dirt bikes! It’s fairly simple but they did add a trick system with score multipliers and if you want to you can even drive and fire guns at the same time. Here at the end of 2022, after 300 hours with the game, the bikes and the major update have provided a real boost in interest for me. I’m probably going to log an astonishing number of hours in 2023 as well.

Elden Ring – 202 Hours

Now this is the game I thought would be number one on my list before Sony sent out our year-end stats. For someone like me who enjoys exploring and discovering things on my own there was no better experience this year or any year in the past decade for that matter. I never did finish the game but I never set out to either. I made it up to Godfrey’s second form but it was a surprisingly boring (though not easy) encounter after dozens and dozens of awe-inspiring boss fights and gargantuan foes before him.

For me it was chiefly about the world, the “what’s over that next hill” sense of wonder. I turned off all the annoying and intrusive multiplayer ghosts and glowing markers. I only summoned NPCs when I was really up against a tough fight. I only hit the forums and subreddits a couple times when I was utterly stumped by what to do next. Despite how grotesque and derelict the landscape was it was endlessly fascinating to poke around, explore, and sometimes exploit.

And for as big as I thought the world was at the start it never ceased to stun me as I saw more and more of the map fill in, revealing named locations and tempting architecture. Nothing was as gob-smacking, however, as the first time I descended below ground after having already played for dozens of hours. After an elevator ride that took what felt like an entire real-time minute and a fight up to the top of a temple I stepped out onto a watery plain filled with cosmos-like motes filling the underground sky and realized I hadn’t seen anything yet. Grim and dire as the setting is, Elden Ring was such a joy to experience.

Sniper Elite 5 – 40 Hours

I’ve loved the series since the second entry and have somehow played each sequel on a different platform so coming to Sniper Elite 5 down an odd path was no surprise. After starting the game on PC Game Pass I decided to just buy it outright on PlayStation 5 because I didn’t want to play a stealth game at my computer desk and spend the remainder of my month’s subscription with another time-consuming game.

The major change in this one for my playstyle is the addition of non-lethal ammo, traps, and takedowns. Although it’s pretty hilarious to think that a wax-and-wood bullet fired at 3,000 feet per second wouldn’t still kill you, it brings the series into the range of my beloved Metal Gear Solid. More strategy than ever is required here with consideration for gun volume and sight lines of still-conscious and patrolling guards — who will wake up their drowsy comrades or even carry them off to rouse them from cover. Ironically for the fifth entry in a series about sniping, I did less long distance firing and relied heavily on a new sidearm that can be tricked out into a near-silent, medium ranged, scoped darling. It seriously had more upgrades than my main rifle.

That said, the brilliant thing about the franchise is that you can play your own way and there’s never been more opportunity for it than in Sniper Elite 5. Go all the way loud. Go loud when your cover gets blown. Go full stealth. Go non-lethal. I think everyone but the most self-serious of players can find a comfortable mix of those styles and enjoy the game on their own level without feeling like you’re doing it “wrong”.

It’s been a while since the previous game but I couldn’t help feeling like this latest one was a bit rushed in comparison. Some bugs and glitches weren’t so bad but what really undermined my enjoyment was the inconsistent ability of the enemies to periodically spot me with superhuman accuracy. For a stealth game it’s an immersion breaker and in the end it took some of the shine off of my time with the game. I still enjoyed it throughout but I think the past entries were more enjoyable.

Balan Wonderworld – 31 Hours

I wasn’t so keen on Balan after playing the demo but I still picked it up on sale in 2021 and finally started it with the new year. It is incomparably weird in those beautiful Yuji Naka ways that I sometimes love! It’s most similar to NiGHTS in its haphazardly disparate dreamscapes but it plays like a muddy 3D platformer from the early 2000’s. It takes a lot of patience to get over the plodding movement speed and drawn out animations but despite its ample clunkiness the game was fun to explore, at times. 

Although I didn’t care much for it in practice thanks to those clunky controls, the game puts an interesting spin on power-ups. Somewhere along the way I described it as playing through World 8-1 of Super Mario Bros. in order to find a fire flower that you could bring back into World 3-2. Only in Balan the power-ups are what let you do basic platforming things like gliding, double jumping, and attacking so returning to previous stages to stock up becomes crucial to proceed. It’s an intriguing choice but with Balan’s plodding pace, backtracking for the ability to double jump is just too much work.

I’ll tell ya though, nothing saved this game’s bacon like its soundtrack. A fantastically whimsical and equally dreamlike score gives the game just enough emotional “oomph” that it generally leveled my frustration with just how clunky it was to actually play. These songs got into my head and my heart in ways I absolutely didn’t expect, punching the experience up just enough that I stuck it through for 30 hours.

Grand Theft Auto Online – 17 Hours (PS5) 20 Hours (PS4)

Forget hours, GTA tracks its playtime in days. I started out 2022 with 23 entire days worth of time invested in the decade-old game’s online mode and I expected to add several more to it through the year. Turns out, I only played about 40 hours. I revisited the game’s only solo-able Heist several times early in the year and finally worked on a few of its side businesses like filling out its retro Arcade with playable cabinets and researching some ridiculous weapon upgrades in the Bunker. I also worked on the game’s major 2021 update, The Contract, but still haven’t finished that off as of 2023.

I may have finally reached the end of my time with GTA Online in 2022. The PlayStation 5 upgrade reinvigorated me for a bit but I’ve seen and done so much of the content, and then repeatedly done that content over and over again, that it just doesn’t feel like fun anymore. Well, it didn’t feel like much fun in 2022 anyways.

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