PlayStation Plus Essential’s July 2023 games have dropped, and they’re all in wildly different genres. One of these games is a third-person thriller, another is a small 2.5D survival game, and the last is part of one of the most recognizable franchises in the medium. Here’s a summary of what players can expect for Alan Wake Remastered, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, and Endling – Extinction is Forever.
Is Alan Wake Remastered worth redeeming?
Alan Wake Remastered is technically the oldest game on this list since the original came out in 2010, but it’s also the most well-regarded one of the three. Its successes, however, aren’t going to immediately be apparent. While this remaster looks good and has some noticeable improvements, it is still a 2010 game at its core. Alan Wake’s shooting mechanics are also not nearly as solid as the Capcom juggernaut it is clearly inspired by. Wearing down the shadow on an enemy with a flashlight before unloading a shotgun into their chest is novel at first, yet doesn’t grow much in complexity over time. At its best, combat is often just serviceable.
But its gameplay is not why it is still worth experiencing. Alan Wake’s storytelling has aged well and demonstrates why Remedy Entertainment’s titles are still coveted today. Wake’s artful monologues demonstrate how strong Remedy’s writers are while also reinforcing that Alan Wake himself is a talented writer. Reading manuscripts that foreshadow future events seems like it would spoil the best parts, but it manages to lay suspense and add even more tension. Like Twin Peaks and the Stephen King novels it was inspired by, the plot thrives on mystery and throwing the player for a loop, so it all fits incredibly well.
It’s a well-told story with memorable characters that somehow came together despite a rocky, elongated development cycle (it was supposed to be an open world and took around six years). There’s a reason requests for a sequel have persisted for over a decade and it all starts here in this remaster.
Alan Wake Remastered is also coming to PlayStation Plus at the perfect time, too. The highly anticipated sequel is dropping on October 17, which gives players plenty of time to get through this remaster and Control. Control may not seem related, but its second expansion delves into Alan Wake and connects everything together. Control: Ultimate Edition was included in the three PlayStation Plus games in February 2021 and is also currently part of PlayStation Plus Extra, meaning Sony has given players ample ways to prepare for Alan Wake 2.
How does Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War hold up in 2023?
Call of Duty’s yearly releases have made it difficult for any one entry to stick out, and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is no different. It was neither panned, nor held up as one of the series’ best, as evidenced by its average score of 75.
Regardless, it’s a decent shooter with a brief campaign that’s produced well enough to see through to the end. Gunplay remains tight, if familiar, and is the glue that holds the expensive thrill ride together. The thrill ride repeats many of the same notes, like the stealthy sniping level and the Vietnam War level, but they’re done well enough here. There’s also even a predominantly combat-free section that lets the player infiltrate the KGB headquarters and another frantic map that takes place on a Soviet training facility modeled after a stereotypical American town, showing that the game still has some novel ideas. While its trippier sections that call back to the original Black Ops are uneven, it’s a mostly well-made shooter that sits squarely in the middle of the tier list of Call of Duty games.
The zombies and multiplayer modes are also rather typical and both dig into the series’ past. Zombies has players unlocking bits of a map and surviving for as long as possible — something Vanguard moved away from — and is more akin to Treyarch’s earlier games. It was also widely criticized for only having one map at launch, but that complaint has evaporated over time since it now has four.
The competitive multiplayer, which also got its share of free post-launch maps, strips out ultimate abilities and operators and brings back a longer time-to-kill. With these reversions and the zombies’ mode following a more traditional structure, both are safe, yet still engaging versions of the Call of Duty formula that stand out just enough from the last generation’s futuristic entries and Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare titles. Familiarity can only carry a game so far, which is what makes Cold War a worthy PlayStation Plus title worth casually exploring.
What is Endling – Extinction is Forever?
Endling – Extinction is Forever is the spiritual inverse of Call of Duty since it is a 2.5D survival game starring a fox and doesn’t have any sequels. It was received relatively well when it launched in 2022, garnering an average score of 79.
And while it looks like an emotionally charged platformer in the vein of Limbo, it’s more of a survival game since players are tasked with protecting their cubs and finding enough food for them. It doesn’t end when one of them dies, either, so players are pressured to explore different paths and keep them alive, which adds a decent amount of tension.
Its narrative also has an overt message for players to digest, something that’s quite refreshing after Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and its muddy morals. Endling isn’t the most conventional title of the three, but its unique qualities (along with a relatively quick and easy Platinum trophy) are exactly why it’s worth trying out.