I don’t think anyone thought at the start of last year that, in April 2021, we’d still be feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, I don’t think anyone quite expected it to even become a pandemic, yet here we are.
Let’s not mince words here, the past year or so has been pretty horrific, regardless of who you are and where you live. Things have been shut down and we’ve been forced to isolate in our homes, cut off from friends and loved ones. Zoom hangouts replaced pints at the pub, and it feels as though everyone mastered some sort of new skill in all that spare free time they suddenly had.
In the first lockdown, I’d managed to cope fairly well. The brighter days help stave off the deep depressions I often suffer from due to my Seasonal Affective Disorder and being able to socialize with friends outside during the summer months over here was the metaphorical ‘Reset’ button my body was so desperate for me to slam my fist down on.
Alas, the UK found itself returning to a further 3 months of lockdown at the beginning of 2021, and that’s when Xbox Game Pass came to save the day.
I’ve been a Game Pass subscriber for over a year now, and I’ve been ranting and raving about it to just about anyone who will listen. “Netflix for your Xbox!” I’ve screamed at innocent passers-by… bewildered at what the hell I’m talking about.
But in the past three months of isolation, filled with darker winter days and dismal weather, Xbox Game Pass has been my savior.
Forced to stay inside, I found myself blitzing through the games in my backlog, and fatiguing myself out on multiplayer titles I regularly play with friends like Black Ops Cold War’s Zombies or Multiplayer modes, FIFA 21’s Pro Clubs, and Rocket League. I even had enough time to learn to fly my little car… semi-competently!
With so few new major games releasing in the opening months of 2021, I found myself frequently turning to Xbox Game Pass’ ever-expanding library of games for something to fill the time. The addition of almost all of Bethesda’s last-gen offerings following the confirmation of Microsoft’s acquisition of the publisher’s parent company Zenimax Media was a seriously massive boon to the subscription service.
All of a sudden, so many massive games were available to me to dip in and try for ‘free.’ I revisited Talos I in Arkane’s epic Prey, chainsawed my way through demons in DOOM (what a great stress-buster FYI!), and ambled around the Appalachian Wastelands once more in Fallout 76 to see what had changed since I reviewed it at launch.
Indies like What Remains of Edith Finch, Night in the Woods, and Donut County also provided brief excursions on weekend afternoons or empty evenings when the thought of committing to any large time sink felt too much.
Then along comes Outriders just last week. A brand-new, super fast-paced and frantic FPS from developer People Can Fly and published by Square Enix. It came to Game Pass on release date, and is an absolute blast to play on the Xbox Series X with a buttery smooth 60 FPS. Hot off its heels, GTA V is also returning to Xbox Game Pass today, providing my friends and me another multiplayer title to fool about with and catch up over until we can all meet up in person once again.
The UK’s lockdown restrictions have already started to lift, and while there’s still a way to go until things return to normality, the worst is (hopefully) over. Had it not been for Xbox Game Pass’ superb library of games, these past few months would have been a whole lot worse.
I seldom talk about my mental health issues, largely because I feel I’m being a depressing burden on those friends and family that constantly have to put up with my fluctuating mood. It’s led to me often shutting myself off, feeling largely incapable of social interactions and just needing some ‘me time.’ It sucks, but that’s what’s made Game Pass such a godsend over the past few months.
I was able to escape into a myriad of experiences, immersing myself in their worlds and the plights of the protagonists. There was no commitment to keep going. No pressure to enjoy whatever I’d picked from the catalog because I’d spent some hard-earned cash on it. I could hop in, play as much as I wanted, and uninstall it from my hard drive before moving onto something else.
Xbox Game Pass is, at this point, a must-buy for anyone picking up one of Microsoft’s consoles. The inclusion of Bethesda’s back catalog and brand-new titles coming to the service on release date such as Outriders and Microsoft first-party titles makes for an incredible value. While the service may have come into its element for me during the pandemic lockdown, the value it offers means I won’t be canceling any time soon.
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