"We need a new Call of Duty game every single year," the Activision executives bellowed, and out popped Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 after the development times caught up with them. A truly anaemic release, there's never been a surer sign to press pause on the series. 14-year-old content is the best thing about this year's entry and if that's not enough of an indictment of where Call of Duty is at in 2023, we don't know what is. A franchise in serious need of a complete reboot, Modern Warfare 3 has to be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
The Invincible has a wondrous story to tell and dazzling graphics to match, but it's held back from greatness by gameplay that struggles to ever break away from the genre structure of old. Mostly walking and talking, it never feels anything more than serviceable. Still, there's an interesting narrative to experience, and with your own decisions changing events, The Invincible should still be played by sci-fi fanatics.
The Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection bundles together three of the greatest games ever made, but does so in a convoluted manner. Spread across five separate apps on PS5, it can be a challenge to locate the specific version or the bonus feature you need. The digital packaging surrounding the three classics doesn't quite feel like the labour of love it should do, but once you sink into the PS1 original, Sons of Liberty, or Snake Eater, it's abundantly clear there's still nothing quite like Metal Gear Solid. Konami's Master Collection gets by on the ever-lasting quality of its fallen series, not the means that have brought it back.
Separate Ways is about as good a DLC of this size can get, filling in narrative gaps and expertly tweaking a sublime gameplay loop. Playing as Ada Wong feels different enough thanks to new gadgets and weapons, while expanded areas provide fresh scenery for a second visit. A sense of disjointedness frays the edges, but Resident Evil 4 feels whole with Separate Ways by its side. A worthy expansion for one of 2023's greatest titles.
Lies of P feels like the result of a developer having already taken multiple stabs at the Souls-like genre, so it's impressive that Round8 Studio has accomplished so much on its first attempt. By fully embracing its dark take on the Pinocchio story, it sets itself apart from anything else available. Elevating it above other games are quality combat and extensive, satisfying customisation, turning Lies of P into a first-class experience for FromSoftware fanatics.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon admirably weds satisfying combat with extensive mech customisation, with short missions letting you quickly experiment with new ideas and builds. However, once you've settled on an optimal loadout, it's those same quick-fire levels that begin to blunt the fun. The result is a game that can be just as enjoyable as it is frustrating. A littering of good boss fights and rock-solid performance on PS5 make it a worthwhile experience as a whole, but Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon won't go down as a classic in the same way other FromSoftware titles have for the past decade.
Remnant II is better than its predecessor in basically every way imaginable, but an even bigger focus on procedural generation brings with it some baggage. Navigation is more difficult than it needs to be, while the UI leaves a lot to be desired. In the heat of the action, though, Remnant II is a great, satisfying shooter that allows for lots of different team compositions through deep character customisation. Get a few friends involved for some online co-op fun and you could have yourself an all-new obsession.
Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is a fairly safe sequel that allows its narrative and new cast of characters to do the heavy lifting. Through constant chit-chat between Riley and Jacob, gameplay remains enjoyable enough to keep you engaged, allowing the story to always be at the forefront of your mind. A few frustrating puzzles and frequent load screens aside, Night School Studio has put together a worthy follow-up that fans and newcomers can equally enjoy.
The online multiplayer space is so competitive that it's tough to judge whether Crash Team Rumble will be able to carve out its own niche and warrant support beyond what Toys for Bob has already committed to. However, those who give the game a chance will find a really fun fight for Wumpa Fruit with varied classes and characters. Addictive just enough to look past the lack of local play and potentially long load times, Crash Team Rumble is worth trying - even if you wish Crash would just stick to what he's known best for: platforming.
Amnesia: The Bunker sticks a little too close to what Frictional Games has been doing for over a decade now, but with a more free-form approach to gameplay, the team is back on the right track again. Coupled with an excellent setting, Amnesia: The Bunker represents a vast improvement over its predecessor. You'll still encounter the same stumbling blocks of old, but this horror experience comes recommended.
Five to six hours of playtime will be enough to reach one of the game's three endings, in which time you'll explore a number of eccentric rooms that wonderfully capture the visuals of the PS1 generation. We'd argue some of the environments look slightly better than what Sony's first home system was capable of, but the character models are absolutely bang on. With conversations presented just like Metal Gear Solid, it's a wonderful trip down memory lane.
In Tanta We Trust is a DLC better than the game it's based on, but that's more because it strips the Forspoken experience of its open world busywork than anything else. An expansion that focuses more on combat, the single open area is a condensed version of what the base title offers, turning it into a more tightly packed undertaking that gets you in amongst the action much faster. It's more Forspoken, but a better version of it.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor does what any successful sequel should do: it expands on the foundations of the first game and does everything better. Combat is just as enjoyable and offers more options, exploration is on a whole other level, and the Metroidvania elements make for engaging puzzles and satisfying rewards. Easily one of the best Star Wars games ever made, it hands 2023 yet another crowning highlight.
Nearly 20 years later, Resident Evil 4 is just as much of a masterpiece today as it was in 2005. Capcom has faithfully remade a genuine classic by bringing it into the modern age and kitting it out with new content, tremendous combat, and striking visuals. What was there before was already enough to consider Resident Evil 4 one of the best games of all time, but now it earns that title in 2023 off the back of better environments and sublime action. This is Resident Evil at its absolute pinnacle; an utterly outstanding experience that will live long in the hearts of longtime fans while inducting a whole new generation of supporters.
Capcom has translated the Resident Evil Village experience to VR in supreme style, but it comes with a few caveats. Some of the cinematic spectacle is lost, and you'll need to battle fiddly animations just as much as the werewolves dominating the remote village. Still, wonderful VR graphics, welcome comfort options, and great haptic feedback support make it a PSVR2 must-play.
Hogwarts Legacy has turned the hopes and dreams of Harry Potter fans into reality. Finally there is a proper simulator of the school of witchcraft and wizardry, allowing you to create your own student, attend classes, and explore the vast landscape outside.
No matter whether you're a hardcore One Piece fan or a complete newcomer, One Piece Odyssey is an utter joy of a JRPG. Its combat system remains incredibly enjoyable throughout, and new mechanics provide depth and strategy in droves. Most certainly the highlight of the experience, but with fun exploration to boot, you're always assured of a good time. One Piece Odyssey plays a lot like Dragon Quest XI, and it's not that far off being just as good as it.