As an intermittent admirer of the series, I found "The Phantom Pain" unexpectedly emotional, not as a story or as an arrangement of digital things to play with, but as a parting gesture to a community of which I have occasionally been a part.
"Super Mario Maker" feels like the antithesis of this spirit. "Mario" levels begin to feel like traps that can't be escaped. As with many digital tools that seem to liberate us from the laborious demands of creation, "Super Mario Maker" is primarily an engine for circulating bad ideas and broken gimmicks as if there weren't already an overabundance of them.
There are some who can dominate Battlefield's multiplayer with an Olympian efficiency, but the overwhelming majority are marooned in the middle, where the concussive sound of bullets and the smoldering plumes left by grenades aren't signs of domination but reminders that you're still on your feet, not dominating the world, but surviving in it for another few seconds. There's genuine awe in these moments, a beauty particular to video games, demanding respect for scale and the necessary investment of thought, coordination, and time to accomplish simple acts like moving a duffel bag from A to B. It's a poetic antithesis of the game's story mode, proof that order can more easily come from conflict than from conflict's preemptive repression.
Like a punchdrunk heavyweight in the 15th round, "Revelations 2" is both a sad echo of former glory and an agonizingly perfect summation of it. It should have been over long ago, but it remains a marvel to see how much will remains in the slouching goliath, the once powerful frame of sculpted muscle and sinew slowly turned into dead weight, counting as a victory anything that keeps it on its feet for another round.
The zombie is the perfect antagonist for this kind of interactive delusion, always justifying new abandonments by threatening another victim, a cycle which goes on until the entire world has been infected and stands in the streets, needed by no one, and with nothing left to want.
In "Unity", the arc of the "Assassin's Creed" line has become ever clearer as a devolution myth, a lone runner chasing the thread of conspiracy which is unspooling across the centuries derailed by business experiments, untrustworthy technology, and the increasingly insupportable weight of its own storytelling. The result is a regal mirage, opulent and complex but ready to fall apart at the first sign of stress.
As sensory entertainment, "Advanced Warfare" is about as pleasant as licking a battery for eight hours while a crowd of angry men surround you and chant your name. As a parable about the dangers of corporatizing the military in the 21st Century, it feels like a massive failure.