The first episode of Dontnod's Life is Strange 2 promises a bigger, more complex story than told by its predecessor, charting a cross-country road trip across Donald Trump's America. Though its social criticisms feel broad and rather clumsy so far, its core story of brotherhood and fraternity between two believable characters is already enormously touching. Like the original, Life is Strange 2 Episode 1 makes time for small details and quiet moments, and when it does it's capable of a beauty we rarely see in video games.
There's no doubt that City of Brass is meant to be punishing. But between its ungainly controls, its inability to stave off a sense of tedious repetition, and spirit-breaking lack of progression, it feels far less fair and more painful than its rogue-lite brethren. Its superficial use of the Arabian Nights folklore, combined with its monotonous design and reliance on exotic cliche, make it as uninteresting to experience as it is excruciating to endure.
Intuitive, authentic, and surprisingly realistic, Killing Floor: Incursion emphasizes the physical dimension of its virtual world, delighting in the tactile qualities of VR and making the most every little object. Whether you're staring down the scope of a remarkably believable sniper rifle or clobbering enemies with the dismembered arm of one of their own fallen comrades, you never fail to have a clear, satisfying sense of how every item, weapon or body part feels.
Clumsy, superficial, and in many ways fundamentally broken, Crisis On the Planet of the Apes is an often infuriating VR game that plays like a bad arcade rail shooter from the early ‘90s. Far from reaching the artistic heights of the rebooted film series in whose world it takes place, it takes a silly, action-heavy approach to the material that doesn't respect your intelligence. It's perhaps the worst thing to happen to the Apes franchise since Mark Wahlberg saw the monkeyfied Lincoln Memorial.
Nevertheless, these new elements have been seamlessly integrated into the recognizable LittleBigPlanet foundation, and as a consequence never feel like the source of drastic change. What they offer instead is rejuvenation: a jolt of exhilaration—of imagination—from a series whose novelty had perhaps begun to wane.
This sort of ridiculousness proves a good fit with Call Of Duty's metamorphosis. The removal of any meaningful ideology—however toxic it was when present—has diminished Call Of Duty to the level of pure fancy. It is, in other words, free to be silly.
So much of Bound by Flame induces boredom or irritation that it seemed the best recourse to seek out a style of play that facilitated, if not outright enjoyment, at least an absence of hostility. Well, better that an aggravating game permit you to play around its points of aggravation than to force you to suffer them in earnest. In the case of Bound by Flame, I merrily sheared away until nothing remained.
As an action-adventure game, Tomb Raider needs to have you spend eight to ten hours shooting people in the face. That the developer at least tries to address this dissonance in earnest is perhaps commendable—so few games strive to account for the expected incongruities that even the ambition distinguishes the effort. And yet their attempt makes their failure more pronounced.