#169: Back Issues 2022

Looking back on the highlights of the first full year of Hit Points.

#169: Back Issues 2022
“a collection of videogame magazines on a bookshelf, digital art / DALL-E”

Well hello there! It wouldn’t be an end-of-year celebration without some kind of retrospective, would it? One of the ol’ recaps, great stuff. Besides, Hit Points’ readership has more than trebled over the course of 2022. More than 70% of you have, mathematically speaking, missed out on some good stuff this year. We should get you caught up somehow.

I had a few ideas about how this might look in a Hit Points context, though none felt quite right at first. Something broken out into categories, to help pick out the year’s big trends? Hmm, not sure. A chronological link-dump of all the important stories? Eww, no. I could just sack the whole thing off, post a link to the Hit Points archive, and let readers work it out for themselves? Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. That’s the kind of impromptu creative thinking that deserves a lunchtime brandy! Back shortly.

I am a magazine man at heart, of course, and I like to think of Hit Points as having something of the old print spirit. Perhaps we could model our retrospective on a magazine, choosing one edition from each month? And since we don’t have to recap the news because our audience is so switched-on, so affable, so well-mannered and fragrant, maybe we could just choose our favourite bits of work, rather than the most pertinent or consequential ones? Hey, that might work. Let’s give it a go.

Right, that’s far too much intro, old chap. Brandy doesn’t half make you go on. Presenting: Back Issues 2022!


The first month of the year brought us the story of the decade — though I have chosen this edition not for its subject matter, but the circumstances under which it was produced. The news of Microsoft’s bid to acquire Activision Blizzard broke in the afternoon, just as I was leaving to collect the eldest from school. I was labouring with a cold that day, and hadn’t planned to write a Hit Points at all. Instead I put this together in an hour and a quarter and sent it out at 5pm sharp as usual. Looking back now, I think I kind of nailed it?

#86: Gigaton, January 18

I suppose the fundamental question here is: does this acquisition detoxify Activision in the eyes of the gaming community, or does it toxify Microsoft by association? I don’t know where I stand on it just yet. I suppose there is in theory no more efficient way to cleanse the Activision name than this, but that does not mean it happens instantly, and it will certainly not happen easily. Absorbing a company of Activision Blizzard’s size into one the size of Microsoft would be a long, difficult job even if both companies were perfect. How much work needs to be done before that process can even begin? The price-tag may imply that Microsoft is buying a palace, but in many ways it has just signed the deeds on a teardown.


While I typically keep my writing and consulting work at arm’s length from each other, there are times when the two come together. So it proved here, in a story about how CD Projekt had crafted the first chapter of Cyberpunk 2077’s comeback. Yes, this is a fun, funny takedown of something I thought was silly, and deserved to be treated in kind. But nestled within it are the sorts of arguments I often make to studios when consulting on their work. There is insight amid all the piss-taking, which now I think of it is a pretty good tagline for Hit Points as a whole.

#95: Redemption 101, February 16

Finally, an observation on patch notes that I would like every developer on the planet to jot down somewhere. You should not do jokes in patch notes unless you have made a universally acclaimed and widely beloved game whose failings are minor. When your launch has gone as badly as Cyberpunk’s, I would probably advise against saying things like, “Fixed an issue where vehicles could be frozen in the air after loading a save file. Now they are just regular boring cars that fall down.” Or, “Fixed an issue where River would instantly hang up after calling him. How rude!” The vibe here is not one of, ahh, isn’t game development funny sometimes. Rather, it is: lmao we sold you guys a right fucking lemon didn’t we. Thanks for paying us to finish it.


I wrote an awful lot about Elden Ring, both in Hit Points and elsewhere, and I’m very pleased with how most of it turned out — starting with this piece, written in response to the widespread gamedev hand-wringing over From’s thoroughly nontypical approach to videogame UX. This reads even better, I think, in a post-Ragnarok world.

#101: Are you experienced, March 7

But this is sort of the point, is it not? This is exactly why FromSoftware games have become so popular: the way they seem to thumb their nose at convention. They are built on a fundamental belief that players are able to work this stuff out for themselves, and that a game is much more rewarding when they do. In an era where so much of the industry’s output feels the same, so smoothed out — the tutorials that make us crouch under low beams and mandate an explanatory stealth kill from tall grass, the ubiquitous detective-mode variants and objective markers and map icons; the pause-menu difficulty switches, the loading-screen tooltips, the protagonist VO guiding us to the next task or offering puzzle solutions because we stood still for 20 seconds — FromSoft games stand out. They were a breath of fresh air even before Elden Ring plopped us into one of the finest open worlds ever created. That Miyazaki and team should now be playing in the same sandbox as many of the industry’s biggest sellers puts the ‘FromSoft difference’, if you like, into even sharper relief.


While most editions of Hit Points are put together on the hoof, thrown on a page in a couple of hours in response to some recently broken news, some are in gestation for much longer. This falls firmly into the latter category. I’d wanted to write something about balance for some time, but I couldn’t find a way in; it was only after watching a YouTube video about Elden Ring’s balance, or perceived lack of it, that everything fell into place. I was working on this one for days, and it’s probably my favourite edition of the year. If you only click on one link today, make it this one.

#110: On balance, April 5

It is an even more complex problem for Elden Ring, a game in which it is possible to become terrifically strong even before you start pilfering tactics from the speedrun scene. It adds so much to the FromSoft template — you can craft damaging items, fight on horseback, summon a souped-up copy of yourself, put unique moves on your weapons and have their basic swings inflict status effects, and if all else is lost, respec your character over a dozen times each playthrough — that I sort of understand FromSoft’s lategame rug-pull, where you suddenly feel as weak as a kitten again despite your enormous health bar and maxed-out arsenal. How do you balance enemies around a player with all that power in their pockets? Okay, one-shotting them is a bit extreme, but this is FromSoftware we’re talking about. It’s not exactly surprising that Miyazaki and co should find themselves faced with a walnut, let their gaze pass over the nutcracker and the sledgehammer, and reach directly for the nuclear warhead.


Another idea I’d had bubbling along in my subconscious for a while. I wrote something pretty similar to this in an Edge column years ago, and when a reader left a comment about achievements one day the idea was reawakened. Pieces like this are a vitally important part of Hit Points, not least because they give me something to write about in a quiet week. If there’s a lesson here it is: please leave more comments, because I am running out of ideas of my own.

#124: Sense of achievement, May 20

That aside, the fact that the two achievements that stick most firmly in my memory are from games that are now, respectively, 16 and 12 years old says everything about my lack of engagement with these things. I think it also says a lot about the extent to which most games design their achievements at first around basic critical-path progression, and then rapacious completionism. At their worst, achievements break games down into some pretty boring component parts, stripping away the magic of the developer’s craft and turning them into a series of rote, repetitive activities. What should be a way to express your devotion to a beloved game too often feels like an act of submission to it instead.


A bit self-reflective, this, and a bit morose. It’s about the search for a place to call home; a game to return to when there’s nothing else you want to play. After finally quitting a years-long Destiny habit, I found myself strangely adrift. The onslaught of free and free-ish games available to us these days made that feeling even worse.

#132: House hunting, June 20

We’re swamped with freebies and subscription games. With no real agenda, I spend my rare free evenings flitting endlessly around what’s new: browsing the recently added section of Game Pass, checking out that month’s PS Plus giveaways, or fiddling disconsolately around with whatever my phone pings me to say has just hit Apple Arcade. Nothing sticks, but of course I continue the search — floating through open sea with neither rudder nor anchor, visiting every island I come across for only as long as it takes me to realise I don’t want to stay there forever. That, unsurprisingly, is a pretty high bar for most games to clear.

[Six months later, I can sheepishly confirm that I’ve gone back to Destiny again.]


With the UK in the grip of a record-breaking heatwave, I played Powerwash Simulator and pretty much lost my mind. I think part of me was embarrassed by this one once the weather went back to normal, but someone emailed the other week to say it was their favourite edition of the year, so I read it again and ah, yes, it is good. Still quite embarrassing though, sure.

#138: Under pressure, July 19

More than anything, it made me anxious. As I blasted away the grime beneath a garden dining set I thought of the sorry state of my own back yard, left parched in the murderous sun. As I very precisely sloughed off the last of the grime from a virtual van’s rear bumper I remembered that the family car has been bereft of screenwash for two weeks and I have persistently forgotten to sort it out. (I really must get round to that.) On it went: every second I spent cleaning something in Powerwash Simulator was another reminder of the laundry list of domestic jobs I have been too busy, too lazy or simply too bloody hot to get around to — and here’s me sat on my sweaty arse, morosely sipping over-iced bourbon, pretending to clean some pretend algae out of a pretend pond. Powerwash Simulator, you say? Dad Guilt Simulator, more like.


A quiet month, since Hit Points was mostly on holiday, which was nice. I abandoned the children for a couple of hours one morning after Sony announced the PS5 price increase, and I needed to get some stuff off my chest.

#142: Universal overhead, August 25

Perhaps a situation quite like this is unprecedented, but consumers have their own crosses to bear right now. They are looking at skyrocketing energy bills, at enormous price rises at the petrol pumps and supermarket checkouts. The things we require to live our normal lives are multiplying in cost at a horrifying rate. Feeling the pinch, Sony, at the way your everyday essentials are getting more expensive? Come look at my fucking gas bill, then tell me why I should be the one to shoulder your financial burden.


This month saw a major scoop for Hit Points: an exclusive discussion with PUBG creator Brendan Greene about his frightfully ambitious new project. I’m incredibly proud of that — it remains by some distance the most popular Hit Points to date — and you should definitely read it now if you haven’t already. But it’s beaten to the punch by my take on the death of Stadia, because it has more jokes in it and we’re feeling festive.

#150: Down stream, September 30

Then, of course, we have Phil Harrison, who was a… let’s say ‘curious’ appointment from the start. What exactly did Google see in one of the minds behind such cautionary videogame tales as PlayStation 3 and Xbox One, and who resigned as president of Atari after quadrupling losses in the space of a year? It is not a CV, I fear, that exactly screams success. Harrison is one of the game industry’s true enigmas, a man who has spent the better part of two decades failing consistently upwards to the continued bafflement of everyone except the people that keep hiring him. I would assume he interviews well, were it not for the fact that he once messed up one with Eurogamer so badly that he got his PR to ask Hit Points chum Tom Bramwell back into the room so he could have another go. I can’t wait to see where he ends up next.


While website news desks strip-mined the juiciest headlines from Microsoft and Sony’s submissions to antitrust regulators — no shade; I’d have done the same — I was a bit struck by some of the stuff that Microsoft was saying in its bid to cast itself as the downtrodden little guy. It seemed to me that Microsoft was admitting Game Pass wasn’t doing very well at all. I began to think about why that might be.

#156: Pass notes, October 28

Yes, the pandemic hit game development hard. Its impact is being more keenly felt in 2022, as lockdown-era projects slip from their original release windows, than when Covid was at its peak. But surely things should not be this bad. Just five games will bear the Xbox Game Studios logo in 2022. One was developed externally by an indie studio; another has been in Game Preview for two years; another is a Forza expansion, and another a re-release. Obsidian’s Pentiment will be the only new game, developed entirely within Microsoft Studios, to land on Game Pass in 2022. I am well up for Pentiment, don’t get me wrong. But this is not how this subscription malarkey looked in the brochure.


A month in which I spent more time thinking and writing about God Of War Ragnarok than I did actually playing it. I was pleased with this piece about console-game graphics modes; likewise this one, about Ragnarok’s failure to appreciate the importance of a little peace and quiet. But frost-empowered axe to my head, this is the one I’m happiest with.

#160: All connected, November 11

It is not that this game specifically is like a Marvel film; rather, it is that Sony’s firstparty output in general is a sort of videogame version of the MCU. God Of War, Uncharted, The Last Of Us, Horizon: these games form, in their way, a sort of connected mechanical universe. The connective tissue, while not as blandly overt as in the Ubisoft open-worlders of years past, becomes more visible with each new game that features it, and it is rather losing its appeal. Ah, a climbing section, is it? A sort-of-hidden path containing… yes, crafting materials, of course. But how are we to traverse this high wall? It is taller than both of us combined! The bigger of us could give the smaller a boost up, you say? Capital idea!


Well I’m writing this on December 12, so this all feels a little premature. But I enjoyed the structure of this piece on The Game Awards, and hope its positive tone goes some way to making amends for the savaging I gave Summer Game Fest back in June. I still found something to be concerned about, obviously.

#166: The Hit Points The Game Awards Awards 2022, December 9

But when it comes to awards shows, indies are either ghettoised into their own categories, or used to make up the numbers in the more prestigious shortlists. Last night the sole dedicated indie award was consigned to one of the frequent round-up blitzes, sandwiched in between Best Role-Playing Game and Best Action-Adventure as if ‘indie’ were just another genre. I do not think this fair; it is neither reflective of the reality of the industry, nor most of its audience’s gaming habits.

And there we go! A decent body of work, that — perhaps if you’ve got a favourite that’s not made my cut, you could share it with the class in the comments. There are more than 70 more editions from 2022 to be had in the Hit Points archives; for access to the whole lot, and to support my work as we turn our attention to 2023 and beyond, a paid subscription can be yours for just £4 a month. Why not give yourself, or a pal, the gift of Hit Points this Christmas? See you tomorrow!