By the end of A Plague Tale, its surviving heroes have earned their rest. It's hard to say goodbye to them, though, the same way it's hard to no longer spend time with the characters of a great book or TV show. A bittersweet post-credits sting hints at what might await the de Runes in the future; hopefully that's a story that players will be able to explore one day.
As an Assassin's Creed it turns Origins from an outlier into the start of the new status quo, sacrificing a bit of its identity in order to bring it more in line with Ubisoft's other open world games. It still captures much of what makes these games special, though, from the historical setting, to the dynamic action, to one of the few stealth combat systems that isn't too slow or frustrating to enjoy. Embark on this journey with confidence, but be prepared to lose a lot of your free time along the way.
This game understands why Spider-Man has been perhaps the most popular superhero of the last half-century, and does about as good of a job as the comics or movies at capturing the character's essence. It blends more than fifty years of Spider history together, molds it around a thrilling recreation of Spider-Man's trademark motion and fighting styles, and puts you in control of the whole thing. All together that makes this one of the most mechanically, narratively, and nostalgically satisfying big budget games of the year, and the best Spider-Man game yet.
It does take a half-hearted stab at commentary near the end, as you face off with the leader of the raccoons and his very American stance on (late) capitalism, but it's a little perfunctory and played more for laughs than anything else. If Donut County has contempt for anything, it's raccoons more than politics—it does not portray our furry, garbage-plundering friends in a positive light. Holes might wreck this town, but the reputation of raccoons suffer the greatest damage.
Not content with sheer novelty, Dead Cells importantly taps into the most significant aspect of both of the genres it fuses together. Few games are as addictive as those Metroid-style backtrackers, and perhaps the only thing that has come close this decade is the spate of roguelike platformers that flourished in Spelunky's wake. Dead Cells beautifully captures what makes both of those genres impossible to put down, uniting the “just one more” drive of a roguelike with the “must keep going” compulsion of a Metroid. It's a smart, confident piece of work that works perfectly with the Switch's portability, and anybody interested in either of the genres it builds on should consider checking it out.
It can feel faintly embarrassing one moment, and then do something unexpected and with surprising confidence just a few seconds later. There's probably an equal chance that you'll hate it or love it. In an industry that constantly obsesses on trends and often disrespects the taste and intelligence of its audience, Vampyr is as refreshing and anomalous as Dontnod's other cult games.
Cage's ambitions might eventually overreach into bad taste, but even then Detroit still pulls off what every previous Cage game has failed to do. It tells a coherent, occasionally thought-provoking story that unites the interaction of videogames with the language of film.
The story's biggest problem is that it attempts something that can't really be done. It tries to rehabilitate that which cannot be rehabilitated. This Kratos is the same Kratos who was pure animal lust for a half-dozen games, driven solely to kill or sleep with every living creature he came across.
The vibrant use of color and warm, stylistically varied score elevate the retro aesthetic beyond mere homage. Although the game's story feels slightly hampered by the practical necessities of its play, it's still a touching and occasionally insightful depiction of what it's like to live with anxiety and depression. And the mountain, as in every work of art that has ever featured a mountain throughout the history of human expression, remains a metaphor.
The campaign focuses on the valiant pursuit of freedom from tyranny, the online (when it works) is once again based on personal growth and progression through experience points and loot drops, and then the zombie lark is pure pulp fantasy. This is standard for games, of course, but this clash of tones and themes is rarely as glaring as with WWII. And because none of these disparate components feel fresh or new on their own, it makes the overall package feel even less like the sum of its parts. Perhaps with a more inspired direction, one similar to that scene where Rousseau tensely explores a Nazi headquarters, the seams wouldn't be as glaring.
The key to games is what they do in response to our actions. We put ourselves into these things through button presses and the decisions that we make, and how we feel about them is dictated by what we receive in return. Ideally, that receipt will be something we can classify as fun, no matter how vague that term is. Like so many Nintendo games, fun is definitely the primary product of Super Mario Odyssey, and the sole reason it exists. Cool: The Mario game is good.
Like real life, this game will overwhelm you. The key is to find your own way through it as best as you can, whether it's beelining straight to the next key milestone or taking the time to wander and discover both your neighbors and yourself. It's a familiar adventure, but not a forgettable one.
If you played Metroid on the NES, Super Metroid in the early '90s, or any of the other two-dimensional Metroid games made for Nintendo's handhelds over the years, Samus Returns will be an instant jolt of history, an immediately recognizable old friend that might have picked up a few new tics and traits but is still largely the comforting presence you've known for decades.
The depth you expect, the open exploration and constant sense of discovery the series is known for, are here in perhaps greater effect than ever before, but with the systems and mechanics that drive the moment-to-moment action heavily overhauled. The result is a Zelda that feels unmistakably like a Zelda, but that also breathes new life into the venerable classic. It’s too early to fully weigh it against the historical record, but if forced to rank the entire coterie of Zelda games, Breath of the Wild would come in near the very top.
Pac-Man, Dark Souls, the best Metroids and Marios and Zeldas—the true classics, the cornerstones of the medium that have made an indelible impact on how we play and think about games. Thumper is right up there alongside them. It is an essentially perfect realization of its own unique goals and concerns, and a game we’ll be playing and celebrating for decades, even if it leaves us afraid and confused.
Catalyst introduces significant structural and design differences that don't fit with what made Mirror's Edge so special. Those decisions turn a tight, streamlined thrill ride into an overstuffed and undercooked bummer of a reboot. If another Mirror's Edge comes our way eight years from now, hopefully its designers will look back to the original game for inspiration and avoid the urge to fill it full of videogame clutter.
Uncharted 4 cares about its characters, but not as much as it cares about its thrills, and it doesn't quite unite these two goals as seamlessly as Uncharted 2 did. The game tips its hand when, early on, Sam asks Nathan about the best thing to happen to him in the 15 years they were apart, and the options on display focus on Drake's adventures and don't even let you mention falling in love with and marrying Elena. As good as Uncharted 4 is at being the type of game it aspires to be, it also seems to argue, unwittingly or not, that no matter the budget and number of designers and amount of development time you devote to them, this type of game can't be much more than the sum of its thrills.
By the end any notion of nature versus nurture is long forgotten. Tragedy falls on both sides of this war no matter what you or your hero do. Friends and family die or permanently retreat with regularity. Fire Emblem is both an adorable game about cute anime kids becoming friends and lovers, and also one of the cruelest and most unforgiving virtual death marches you'll ever play. Don't hold all that death against Fates: it's the game's birthright.