xbox Series X – What Tom’s Guide is playing: Flight Simulator, Persona 4 and Tomb Raider
Welcome back for the second installment of “What Tom’s Guide is playing this week.” Last week, we were enthralled with Control and two Legend of Zelda games: Breath of the Wild and Skyward Sword HD. Since those games all take quite a while to complete, we’ve queried three other staff members to see what else has our intrepid tech journalists glued to their screens.
The newest game that’s drawn our attention is Microsoft Flight Simulator, which has finally come out on Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S after a long period of PC exclusivity. Beyond that, though, we’re enthralled with older games this time around: Shadow of the Tomb Raider from 2018, and Persona 4 Golden from 2012. It just goes to show you that catching up on your backlog – even with a bunch of new games out – is pretty common.
Read on to find out why these games are worth your time, and whether you’d like to tackle them before the big fall release season begins.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
Flying a plane is not like riding a bike. I discovered that after the third (or was it the fourth) time I crashed my Cessna 152 in the training mode while trying to land in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.
I’m playing the game on an Alienware Area 51m, which has an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 GPU; so far, everything has been very smooth, but I’m interested to see the performance boost from the latest game update, which was released this past week.
When I’m not smashing into the ground, I’m simply amazed at the realism. I seem to recall someone calling Flight Simulator the perfect pandemic game, because it allows you to see all the world around you in stunning detail without leaving your couch. You can even have it render the current live weather, which adds an extra layer of authenticity.
And it’s not just the outside world that’s stunning: Once, while banking my plane, I marveled at the texture and shading of the marbled plastic molding of the cockpit as the Sun’s rays moved across.
I’m going to need a lot more time behind the stick before I become anything approaching competent — I’d advise against starting off with a Boeing 747 — but I’m going to have a lot of fun learning. – Mike Prospero
Persona 4 Golden
You’re the new kid in town in Persona 4 Golden, a high school life sim-slash-dungeon crawling RPG that I’ve been playing since this past February. And while I could have beaten P4G by now, I’m glad I’ve taken the long way to the end. No, I’m not going for a completionist’s route (not that I’m aware of anyways), but I’ve found it to be a very calming regular break from life that I’m glad I get to unroll one piece at a time. And since it’s rated with an almost-nice HowLongToBeat.com rating of 68.5 hours for its main story, it does take a while.
Partially, I’m letting it work slowly that’s P4G is the main thing I do on my Twitch streams, playing 2 hours per weekend-day of the game, as I watch characters grow over time. Best buddy Yosuke’s slowly learning to stop putting his foot in his mouth, potential love interest Chie is becoming more direct and less awkward and Yukiko’s finding her career path … and she still can’t stop laughing.
All of this character development has happened, of course, as these high school students in Inaba (a quiet small town in Japan), are trying to solve a series of haunting murders, which happen to involve freeing their fellow classmates of the hangups in their minds. This is all performed, naturally, by walking through the screen of a TV at the local mall which takes them into a bizarre reality where they collect monsters that they put into fights, ala Pokemon.
Persona 4 Golden is very much a game from 2012, in that its graphics are a little dated and I sometimes find the characters to be a bit regressive, especially as one deals with gender identity issues. But at the end of the day, it’s a complex and intricate game that I keep smiling at. It reminds me of an old rambling joke that ends with the phrase, “a pig like this, you don’t eat all at once.” Persona 4 Golden is a PS Vita classic that’s finding new audiences thanks to its recent Steam release. – Henry T. Casey
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Yes, I know I’m late to 2019’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider. It’s the conclusion to the rebooted trilogy that began with 2013’s Tomb Raider. I had played the previous two to much enjoyment, but purposefully put off playing Shadow until I was ready. See, Shadow of the Tomb Raider was one of the first games to utilize ray tracing, a physics-based lighting system that makes content look more lifelike and realistic. The only problem is that it required Nvidia’s newer 20-series or 30-series GPUs. I had been rocking a GTX 1080 Ti, and decided to hold off on upgrading to, what in my mind was, an overpriced RTX 2080 Ti.
Rumors were pointing to Nvidia releasing its 30-series GPU in 2020, new cards that would perform substantially better than the 20-series at a more affordable price. What I didn’t know was that chip shortages caused by the Covid-19 pandemic would create a mass frenzy by resellers to buy up all available inventory to “scalp” at hugely inflated prices. Finding a new RTX 30-series card at retail became a never ending purgatory of refreshing Best Buy’s website or waiting for hours in front of Micro Center hoping a shipment came in.
Well, eventually I was able to get my hands on an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti, and gosh was it worth the wait. Shadow of the Tomb Raider runs miraculously on my LG C9 OLED, in full 4K with all Ray Tracing effects on. The way water refracts the glow of a fire, or how a faint flicker of light bounces off Lara’s skin is truly worth seeing. Not only that, all these effects at 4K are running at at least 60 frames per second.
The game itself isn’t too dissimilar from the previous two titles, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s still the same stealthy violence and gunslinging of past titles, with plenty of rock climbing and daring feats of mile-high acrobatics. While the series continues to have that fantastical dissonance, it’s a fun summer blockbuster romp. – Imad Khan