No Man's Sky (Sniper)
Format: Xbox Series X
Genre: Sandbox
Developer: Hello Games
Publisher: Hello Games

Floating bubble-filled landscapes with giraffe-colored trees and exploding poison cacti-- this is just one example of the kinds of planets one encounters in No Man's Sky. The game runs at a perfect sixty frames per second at what looks like 4K on the Series X, while the materials, screen space reflections, and "Destiny"-mimicking user interface all look very modern. At the same time, many of the meshes-- particularly the way they haphazardly interact with the planet geometry-- betray the game's age.

Like most modern games, No Man's Sky focuses on ambient noises versus actual music. However, the silence is occasionally punctuated by some hipsterish and grating guitar work from an artsy-fartsy avante-garde band which describes its work as "exploring textures and timbre" as opposed to making real music. Uhhhh, right. There is no voice acting, other than the strange growlings of the various alien races, and in general there has seldom been a game which has placed a lesser emphasis on audio overall than this one.

As a sort of cross between "Elite" and "Ark", No Man's Sky involves traversing huge procedurally-generated landscapes-- usually by foot, but sometimes by rover or ship-- while collecting materials to build bases and other things. There are infinite things to do, but unlike something like "Minecraft", the feedback loop in this title is excruciatingly long, leading to huge stretches of "why am I wasting my life playing this game versus something productive", in between the comparatively brief moments of interest or excitement. The game does support full multiplayer however, and the control scheme is superb.

In the abstract, No Man's Sky is incredible: fly around a literal universe-sized playground, at real-time speeds-- with "Star Trek"-esque warp drive available, of course-- and land on any planet one desires. But when the abstract collides with reality, this title's principles are backwards: the best games cleverly sacrifice realism in exchange for fun factor; by contrast, No Man's Sky is too realistic for its own good. Like the aforementioned "Elite", this game is only for the most patient people, with the most free time to burn.

Sniper's verdict: