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The RPS Selection Box: James's bonus games of the year 2022

This is a place of honour, actually

Don’t look at me, I’m just the hardware guy. But I do recommend looking at these, my favourite also-ran games that weren’t quite team-impressing enough to win a spot on the RPS Advent Calendar 2022. Out of everything I played this year, these are the avatars of adequacy, the sultans of satisfactory. The prime ministers of pretty good.

I’d probably also tip a hat to Warhammer 40K: Darktide, but Alice0 already nabbed it for her honourable mentions, and frankly there’s enough shootybang stuff here as it is. But, also: toilet build quality testing, pushing Nazis into cement pits, and more than a hint of 70s funk. Check ‘em out.


Aperture Desk Job

A most unexpected return to the deadpan mad science of Portal, Aperture Desk Job could easily have been constrained by its utilitarian purpose of acting as a Steam Deck controls tutorial. Instead, Valve went ahead and made a cracking little comedy. It’s never mentally or mechanically taxing, so don’t go in expecting Portal 3, but the understated wit and delightful voice performances that helped make the first two great are present and correct. J.K. Simmons even returns as moon dust-huffing Aperture CEO Cave Johnson, and despite the game’s brevity, is absolutely not wasted.

Also well-utilised: comedian Nate Bargatze as Grady, your weary yet friendly robotic supervisor. Grady is a regular source of laughs, and the main driving force behind how your menial khazi inspection job goes so badly off the rails – a narrative necessity given you’re constantly parked at the titular desk. Still it’s not too hard to come to terms with this really being Grady’s story. Bargatze’s earnest delivery and some impeccable animation work make him a fine companion, even as he drags you, the desk, and the toilets into ever-unexpected escalations.

For anyone with a brand new Steam Deck in their hands, Aperture Desk Job should be one of the first games you install. It’s free and does genuinely help if, like me, you view things like gyro controls with a kind of confused terror. It’s playable with a lot of regular gamepads, too, so when you’ve got 30 minutes to spare, you can give it a whirl on your desktop instead.


Sniper Elite 5

A screenshot of Sniper Elite 5 showing the player ziplining over an explosion and directly towards five or more firing Nazis.

The most Game Pass Game-y of all the Game Pass Games™ I’ve finished this year. I had to be talked into playing Sniper Elite 5 in the first place, by a friend in need of a co-op buddy, and even now I’m not sure I’d pay full retail for it. As part of a cheap subscription, mind, it’s enough of a thoughtful sandbox shooter to be worth your time.

I’d not played any of the previous Sniper Elites, mainly knowing them as that WW2 series where you commit war crimes in the first one then spend the following three just trying to blast Nazis’ heritages off. As such, I was pleasantly surprised I could tackle number 5’s occupied French farmyards/castles/U-boat bases as I might in a Hitman or a Deus Ex: not just abusing vantage points, but silently skulking around to quietly shiv baddies before dumping them in a baddie-sized bin. I know Hayden didn’t care for the close quarters business in his review, but I found those moments – of sneaking up to plant bombs on fully crewed tanks, of icing a general with his bodyguards mere feet away – to be just as tense and rewarding as landing a perfect kilometre-long headshot.

It's not essential playing. For starters, the stealth isn’t as deep as the average Hitman’s, and while you can deploy distractions and the occasional environmental hazard, it’s not as richly systemic as Deus Ex. Fatigue is a risk too, as some missions can take well over an hour to clear, especially if a momentary lapse in concentration suddenly summons half the SS upon you. But enjoy it I nonetheless did, and for Game Pass money, you might too.


The Anacrusis

A human is surrounded by aliens in an airlock in The Anacrusis

Apparently we’re allowed early access games in these things, and I’ll admit, The Anacrusis goes heavy on the early. Only two of the planned five campaigns were available on launch, and while that’s since ticked up to four, the most recent is labelled as a beta. So, like, double early access.

Ah well. At least it’s already an enjoyable Left 4 Dead-but kinda game, in this case being "but in space and aslso groovy". In a year full of dark sci-fi horror, this is a much lighter ‘n’ brighter shade of retrofuturism, with lavish spaceship lounges instead of cold, viscera-strewn corridors, pew-pew laser guns rather than boxy rifles, and sharp suits in place of tacticool uniforms. The Anacrusis has style – dare I say it, a vibe – and that’s no bad thing in a co-op shooter subgenre that’s become as crowded as its own zombie hordes.

Since even a relatively benevolent AI Director is happy to chuck thick waves of tentacled monsters at you, supported by a diverse mix of specials, survival depends on how you handle the perks and gear upgrades you can equip from fabricators. There’s a strong RNG element to this, but there’s pretty much always a good choice of bonuses, with enough impact to reward you adapting your tactics mid-mission. I like to go for a battle medic build, adapting goo grenades – which splatter an enemy-slowing goop across the ground – to heal teammates when they stand in it themselves. Groovy indeed.

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About the Author
James Archer avatar

James Archer

Hardware Editor

James had previously hung around beneath the RPS treehouse as a freelancer, before being told to drop the pine cones and climb up to become hardware editor. He has over a decade’s experience in testing/writing about tech and games, something you can probably tell from his hairline.

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