No Internet? Good Luck Playing Video Games!

Do you remember Don Mattrick’s infamous handling of the Xbox One? You know, that moment when he said that there was a console for people that didn’t have internet, and it was known as the Xbox 360? As it turns out, old Don was correct. Not entirely correct, mind you, but he did correctly envision a world where consoles essentially had to be connected to the internet 100% of the time. Trust me, I’m finding this truth out through first-hand experience.

“Fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity, it’s called Xbox 360.”

I recently moved out to a lake in the middle of Oregon. It would seem like a strange choice, but my wife got a job opportunity that she couldn’t pass up. Plus, we are getting paid to live on a lake in the middle of the woods. It’s beautiful out here!

However, there is one major downside in that there is no internet. Ok, let me rephrase. There is some internet, but the speed is roughly 256 kb/s. Yup, you read that right. It’s slightly faster than dial up. Sure, the internet works well (most of the time) for sending emails and checking sports statistics, but it struggles greatly when shopping on Amazon or even scrolling through Facebook. This slower internet also doesn’t work with my Vizio TV that relies on a built-in Chromecast to function.

And then there are the video games…

Shortly after moving out here, I quickly discovered that my consoles can pick up the existing wireless signal in theory, but the results are far from pleasing. The connection is spotty at best, but the weather causes some nasty effects. There is no downloading of updates to keep my consoles ready to roll. To install a system update, I have to pack up my consoles and drive two hours to my in-laws’ house to hijack their internet. Not the easiest thing to do when working a full time job and getting off late.

Of course, this basic lack of internet also affects the exciting new era of games. You see, I bought Destiny 2 on release day–the first new game I had purchased in quite some time–only to discover that I was moving. I’ve basically put about six hours into the new shooter but haven’t made any more progress. The game sits unplayed on my shelf. The same goes for Fortnite. The base game is terrible, but I have really enjoyed the PUBG ripoff battle mode. Now I can’t play it. Possibly the worst part is that Marvel Heroes: Omega also sits unplayed. I was really getting into that game, especially in couch Co-Op mode. My wife and I destroyed as the team of Luke Cage and Hawkeye.

Don Mattrick’s world vision even messes with single player games as well. I have been playing Rise of the Tomb Raider on and off for the past few weeks and have been truly enjoying the experience. I love exploring the world and finding the hidden treasures. However, one of my favorite parts of the game up to this point had been discovering the random backpacks signifying one of my friends dying. It was so satisfying to avoid a trap only to discover that someone from my friends list failed. That little touch has been ripped out of the game. Even Borderlands: The Handsome Collection is vastly different considering that I have 76 Shift Code but can’t use them without an internet connection.

Sure, not finding backpacks anymore isn’t a huge deal, but these issues also extend to Forza Horizon 3 and Trials Fusion. Both of those games aren’t technically always online, but they both rely on beating your friend’s avatars in races. While still entertaining, these games just feel soulless without the online features.

Which brings up my biggest concern: what happens when Hitman’s second season drops? The first iteration was my favorite game of last year by far, and I played it on both Xbox One and PS4. However, the biggest portion of Hitman was the online features. Each mission pack was released via internet, and the entire game was only available in that format until the disc version was released much later. IO-Interactive also released monthly Elusive Targets that were only available for three to seven days. Not having internet means that I will miss out on those special missions.

The other concern when having essentially no internet is that fact that 256 kb/s is nowhere near adequate for downloading the 10-30 Gigabyte patches that every game requires. What happens if I buy a game that is broken out of the box? I will be out of luck until I can go visit family members. I will be playing Star Wars: Battlefront II upon release because I loved the first game and can’t wait for the campaign, but I am genuinely scared. EA has pushed out some broken games in the past (Battlefield 3) and generally sends out a massive patch on day one. This won’t be an option for me.

Look, I totally understand that the modern era is all about taking advantage of faster internet speeds to fix games and connect players. It’s just been quite an adjustment trying to completely rework that gaming time that helps me relax after a hard day at work. In essence, I’ve had to both kick it a little old school and think a little outside the box.

So how have I been dealing with the changes?

Well, the first thing I did was start playing Grand Theft Auto V for the third time. I absolutely adore the story in Rockstar’s most recent game, minus a few messed up moments, and love exploring that world. Cruising around Los Santos, especially in First Person Mode, is a little disconcerting at times, but it functions like a safety blanket. I just feel comforted in that world, even when simply exploring. Plus, I’m still discovering little details and missions that weren’t previously available. I am missing out on the GTA Online but only to a point. The only reason I ever loaded that mode up was to drive my bright pink lifted truck around for a while. That’s it.

The reason that replaying GTA is more “kicking it old school” for me is that I have always had a habit of replaying Rockstar releases. I played GTA III three times on PC and once on the original Xbox. I also played part of the game on iPhone, but that version wasn’t exactly user friendly. When it came to Vice City, I kicked it up a notch. I played the PC version four times (twice with car mods) and the Xbox version once. I played San Andreas four times on PC and twice on Xbox. The only GTA that I didn’t play multiple times was GTA IV.

Rockstar has always kept me entertained, whether I had internet or not.

The other thing I did to combat the lack of internet is pick up Middle Earth: Shadow of War on release date. Although I did just discover that there are special missions that will appear if you have online friends also playing. It’s a little sad to be missing out on those moments, but not that much. The base game is still pretty rad.

Obviously, this is a very specific problem to have, but I just had to bring it up. It’s hilarious to me–and also a little sad–that Don’s flippant comment about online consoles actually became such an integral part of my life. Although I am working through the struggles. I’m quite sad about missing out on Destiny 2 and some online Battlefront matches, but it has been quite nice going back to play GTA once again. And so far, Shadow of War is downright fantastic and doesn’t appear to be broken. Thank goodness.

I’m one month into what appears to be at least a two or three-year experiment. There is an outside chance that “faster” internet will be available in the coming months, but that is all speculative at this point. Surprisingly, I’m more fascinated than frustrated, despite missing out on some of the more integral experiences of connected gaming. I may not have internet, but at least I can still behead Orcs.