The key factor in whether Elden Ring connects for you isn’t going to be its combat. (There are lot of Souls games and Souls-likes that can fill that purpose these days, if that’s what you’re after.) No, Elden Ring will get under your skin depending on how well the inherent promise of the game, one that From has been pursuing for years now, lands for you: Here is a vast world, full of mystery, danger, beauty, and humor. (Humor! Eagles with knives strapped to their feet are just the start of some of the wonderfully goofy monster designs on display.) It will not give up its secrets easily. It will frustrate and daunt you when it can.
Because at its core, Horizon Forbidden West is a game about saving the world—both in the sense of preservation, and in the doomsday-averting action that involves shooting supervillains with pointy sticks. It’s about asking ourselves what we’re willing to pay, and lose, to ensure some part of our legacy persists. And it’s about what you can do in a world where the rich and powerful have murdered your future, while greedily ensuring their own lives on. It’s not a masterpiece—masterpieces rarely come this big. But it’s a world worth keeping, nevertheless.
Is it worth the effort? Like we said: The highs here are very high, the sense of potential mastery potent. (Game looks great, too, with a fluid, slightly cartoonish style.) But progress will take a certain bloody-minded persistence—and a willingness to overlook the game’s various crimes against authenticity. (To be clear: This is a team of French developers making a video game about what they think an Asian martial arts movie looks like; it’s so divorced from anything resembling a story about real people or cultures as to land somewhere at the intersection of stereotype and cliché.) With those caveats in mind, though, Sifu remains the kind of game it’s hard to stay away from for very long—for no other reason than a desire to take vengeance on it for what it did to you the last time you played.
The only real question, then—and it’s one that haunts so many games operating in the endlessly ascending “games as service” space these days—is whether Extraction has legs beyond the initial thrill of disintegrating a Parasite with a well-placed headshot. Said staying power, though, might end up coming from the aggressive nature of the game’s difficulty. It’s still early days, but that sense of running, desperate and hunted, for an exit in the face of an overwhelming force helps Extraction feel as much like survival horror as the polished military shooter it’s taking so many of its cues from. The end result is thrilling and engaging in a way that a simple power fantasy can’t really match.
And that’s the core paradox of Deathloop, the worst game in recent memory from a studio so good at what it does that it’ll still inevitably land on our Game Of The Year list when December rolls around. It’s a great game in spite of itself, and its titular selling point; the loop might be broken, but Arkane’s grasp of its core mechanics remains solid as ever.
But that familiarity also extends to being familiar with the core, unshakeable competence of these solid platforming adventures that are designed for pretty much anyone to have a good time with. As a dimension-hopping adventure, Rift Apart might leave something to be desired. But as a reunion with one of gaming’s most energetically silly franchises, after so many years away, there are worse things you could wish for than the same old Ratchet And Clank.
As more of the same of a genuinely good game, it nails all the benchmarks—even if its efforts to be about more than just “Spider-Man hits the bad guys” steer it into some regrettable half measures and questionable choices. And judged on its own merits, there’s nothing automatically wrong with more of the same. But its status as a flagship part of the launch of the PS5 confers extra power on this unassuming little title—power it doesn’t always wield with the great responsibility such a prominent position demands.
Outside hardware early adopters, Squadrons’ longevity is going to come down to how readily its multiplayer side ends up being embraced; if the supply of aces to shoot down peters out, so will much of the game’s appeal, Star Wars or no Star Wars. For now, though, the ability to load up a compelling, adrenaline-pounding aerial battle, at the ready, is one hell of a selling point all on its own.
This is a big, beautiful world to explore, absolutely filled with things to do and see. In a time when our own personal worlds have only gotten smaller, that’s probably more than enough for most players. It’s a game of consistent, small pleasures—at least, until you round a corner, and see something so beautiful you’re forced to just put down the controller and stare for a minute at the rippling effect of wind on grass. There’s a reason we build theme parks, after all.
The best bits come in an interstitial visual novel that shows how Travis gets the Death Balls themselves; funny, self-aware, and styled with gorgeous retro-pixelated graphics, it’s the one part of the game that feels like the product of someone authentically giving a ****, an expression of the anarchic spirit that made Grasshopper’s early games feel like a refreshing breath of post-modern air in a frequently too-serious medium.
Like all of Quantic's games, Detroit is a big, stupid swing for the fences, yet another attempt to get Cage's dream of "playable movies" off the ground. Skeptics of the studio's previous games won't be convinced, but there are plenty of small improvements that make it Quantic's best offering to date
Subset also deserves credit for the game’s deliberately limited, laser-focused scope. Every aspect of Into The Breach’s design—the gorgeous soundtrack, the bleak storytelling, even the way characters quip about the in-game reset button—contributes to making the player’s battles feel like a life-or-death, “We’re canceling the apocalypse” moment.
Throughout its runtime, A Way Out is fun, in the way any game with a friend is fun (and that’s definitely the correct way to play it, since playing with strangers would make its communication-based challenges a goddamned nightmare). But outside a few promising flourishes, it ultimately fails to distinguish itself from any number of more engaging co-op offerings, and its best moments hinge on caring about characters who never rise very far above the level of flat, unengaging caricature.