Over the years I've had a love/hate relationship with Football Manager. Some years I can't put it down, others I can barely make it through a season. Football Manager 2022 is a cracking entry in the series and has added plenty to make it feel fresh when compared to previous years, the data hub being the cream of the crop.
The Train Simulator series has been showing its age for a long time now. Whilst Dovetail's continued support is admirable it is perhaps time that ties were cut and its energies diverted elsewhere. Whether that's into Train Sim World 2 or an actual successor to Train Simulator is immaterial, but what is clear is that there's not enough bondo in the world to paste over the cracks that are starting to show.
In a gaming landscape where everything has to be big, bold and brash, Sable stands out as a calm escape from the norm. Its relaxing, low-fi approach with an equally soothing soundtrack will be the perfect escape for those who wish to just kick back, relax and explore.
Whatever may come in next year's WRC 11 Kylotonn leaves behind a strong legacy and has created what is probably the most underrated racing series currently in active development. That being said, WRC 10 really is an incremental upgrade and unless you absolutely must have it for one reason or another there's perhaps not enough here for owners of WRC 9.
Whilst you can argue Imagine Earth doesn't necessarily do anything new, its use of its campaign to send out a message of sustainability with one's own environment sets it apart. It may not scratch the itch of hardcore Anno style players but if you're in the market for a relaxing world builder with a solid art style and gameplay mechanics, Imagine Earth fits the bill comfortably.
F1 2021 yet again improves over its predecessors in enough ways to make it the version to be on and to upgrade to. Whether or not this trend will continue under EA's stewardship remains to be seen. The story mode isn't perfect and the omission of classic cars is a huge shame, F1 2021 is still a fantastic game through which you can live out your childhood motorsport dreams.
The world of professional cycling was never going to be an easy sport to translate to a game. Cyanide Studios have made this even harder by making a game that seems to appeal only to the sport's keenest of fans at the expense of educating and rewarding the curiosity of new fans to the sport.
As Mulder once said "all we can do is pull the thread, see what it unravels." Dark Nights with Poe and Munro has a fair number of threads to pull should you want to see them all, adding to its longevity. Brief as it is, the decently written script and well acted scenes tempt you into trying something different if only to see what would happen.
We clearly had the big leap last year, as WRC 9 only shows minor improvements overall. It still suffers from a lacklustre multiplayer experience, but for those wishing to take cars and drive at speeds that defy all sense around roads ill-designed to be driven that fast, WRC 9 is the game to do it with.
Codemasters has managed to inject new purpose into the arcade brethren of their DIRT Rally series. With some fun, community-focused game modes DIRT 5 could be great. It is, however, let down by a lacklustre handling model and mostly non-existent force feedback.
When you're shooting hoops and playing basketball, NBA 2K21 is rather fun to play. However, it suffers from obtrusive microtransactions and game modes that are made in such a way that they try to nudge you to buy more virtual currency. NBA 2K21's appeal dives even more when you realise very little has changed from NBA 2K20. Hopefully Visual Concepts will come back strong on next-generation consoles with something that feels more than just about making money.
HB Studios continues to improve the title that had a rather humble beginning. Each year brings with it new features and improvements and that's no easy feat. That being said, PGA Tour 2K21 isn't perfect and whilst the presentation has seen a much needed improvement it's still a touch limited, especially in the commentary department. Though if you're keen for a round of golf but don't fancy the walk that goes with it, you won't find anything better on offer.
Post-apocalyptic games rarely stray from the formula of making the Earth some barren dust bowl. By doing something a little different, Horizon Zero Dawn affords itself the opportunity to craft a truly unique tale and with it a complex and strong female lead. If you haven't already played it on PS4 and enjoy well-crafted stories, you owe yourself the opportunity of playing your way through the game and its expansion.
F1 2020 continues Codemasters' excellent form in delivering a fantastic recreation for Formula 1. The new My Team mode injects new life into the series and is far more welcome than Devon Butler was last year. It's never easy making iterative releases relevant but they sure do seem to have a grand plan in play. One wonders what we'll be treated to next year, but until then there's a bucket load of fun in F1 2020 to keep you entertained.
When the stars align, racing in Assetto Corsa Competizione is absolutely fantastic. It is, however, marred by some questionable omissions in its configurable options, issues with some of the most popular wheels and pedals on the market, and public lobbies that aren't currently available to all regions. It can, and should, be better.
MotoGP 20 is a top notch recreation of one of the fastest series on two wheels. The career mode is entertaining, especially if you decide to take on being a new team. Visually stunning, audibly arresting and just downright fun to play when you get the hang of it, MotoGP 20 is a must for any serious fan of the sport.
With more tracks and stages than you can shake a stick at, DiRT 2.0: Game of the Year edition barrels on sideways whilst welcoming back the name that started it all: Colin McRae. Despite a lacklustre feel when using a wheel, there's still a very impressive rally simulation hidden away inside just waiting for you to turn the key.
AO Tennis 2 is this generation's Top Spin 4. It takes over a baton that has been carried through mis-steps and let-downs as tennis fans young and old finally have a game worth their time and effort. It's not perfect by any stretch but up against the competition and its predecessor it stands head-and-shoulders above them.
Phoenix Point comes from the creator of the original XCOM, and as such you'd think it'd be an imperious, spiritual successor to the pre-Fireaxis series. Instead, it's a decent if disappointing addition in its current state and in dire need of some TLC from its creator.