Welcome to Grand Thrash Auto, where we have some of our favourite metal musicians discuss their five favourite games! Today we’re talking to Sam Jones (guitars/synth) of The Hyena Kill, a band behind one of the best albums of the year so far in A Disconnect, which dropped earlier this month.
Sam: As I’ve gotten older, video games have become a hugely important part of my life – not only as a means of valued escapism, but as a means of reflecting and understanding the world around me. As a medium, I think it has developed over the decades to be as capable as music or film in its ability to share stories and help us empathise with the human experience. Here are some personal favourites.
I resisted to include Bloodborne’s older brothers, Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls, on this list, because otherwise I’d sound like a broken record. Bloodborne took the elements that have led me to pour dozens of hours into the Souls series and gave it a fresh, downright disgusting, Lovecraftian cosmic nightmare twist that puts it as one of the most unique games I’ve ever played. Its status as a one-off, platform-exclusive title in FromSoftware’s canon only makes it more special and elusive. To say I’d be interested in a follow-up would be a profound understatement.
What Remains Of Edith Finch
Every now and then, I’ll encounter a piece of art that affects me so deeply that I’m left a sobbing mess – this is one of those games. I played it in a single sitting with a bottle of red wine; thankfully I was alone in the house at the time. What Remains Of Edith Finch is both heart-breaking and uplifting in equal measure – a beautiful rumination on loss, the legacy we leave behind, and how life is fleeting. Its ultimate message is one of hope; we should surround ourselves with the memories we have, and face the full spectrum of our short lives without fear or regret.
Deus Ex (Series)
Okay, I cheated on this one. I’m a huge fan of immersive sims, and the scope, setting and flexibility afforded to the player in both narrative and gameplay terms throughout the Deus Ex franchise is second-to-none. These games have insane replay value, too – there are a staggering number of ways their plots can develop and how each situation can be approached based on how you specialise your character. It’s a perfect execution of so many little systems. If I had a gun to my head and was asked to pick a favourite, it would have to be the 2000 original – but 2011’s Human Revolution is, for my money, the perfect jumping-in point for anyone who felt underwhelmed by last year’s Cyberpunk 2077 and is still craving a truly remarkable piece of elaborate sci-fi action.
I’m a sucker for a well-executed cold open. Nier: Automata’s cold open is about 20 hours long – or however long it takes to beat the game. Twice. When the title card does pop up in anticipation of kicking off Nier’s “Ending C” route (or, as it turns out, a significantly expanded chunk of the game that’s completely distinct to the prior playthroughs), you begin to grasp the scope of what this incredible piece of work is trying to convey to the player.
This game is an existentialist philosophy novel stuck in a blender with some hard sci-fi and insane anime thrown into the mix for good measure. To try and explain why this video game works to anyone who hasn’t played it is ultimately fruitless. I’ve tried. People think I’m insane. Like so many of my favourite games, Nier: Automata makes huge accomplishments in its storytelling in a way that only a video game can do.
The Last Of Us
The Last Of Us is a masterstroke in immersive, humanistic storytelling in a way that I’ve not seen other games come close to. And I really feel as though I’ve looked. A well-crafted script, a beautifully/terrifyingly realised world, and pitch-perfect motion-captured performances from Ashley Johnson, Troy Baker et al meet that insane level of Naughty Dog polish to create something even greater than the sum of its parts. Very few games have come close to the level of emotional impact as this; a story that is about, at its root, what we are willing to endure to protect those we care about.
The more recent sequel played better, was easily one of my favourite games I played last year – and drove the above concepts even further (and to more uncomfortable places) – but there was something about the impact of the original that has always stuck with me and puts it on my list as one of my favourite games that I feel lucky to have experienced. That start. That ending.
A Disconnect is out now on APF Records. Order here.
Words: George Parr