Elden Ring is FromSoftware taming the monster they created, not by filing down its teeth and claws, but by giving players the weapons and armor to endure it. It’s the first of their games to not feel like a brick wall but a doorway, with allies in every direction all reaching out to help you tread carefully to the other side. The result is a paradigm shift, a seemingly once-in-a-generation recalibration of old ideas and taking them to the next level.
There are dozens of stories across Horizon Forbidden West that are every bit as cool, engaging, and thoughtful as that one. That makes it somewhat disappointing that the main story doesn’t quite hit the same heights in the end, as there’s a sagging middle that takes a little of the wind out of the finale. But it’s not something that’s worth sweating over, as the company that Aloy keeps consistently makes the trek work taking every step of the way.
Infinite wants so badly to feel like a fresh start—to deliver onto players a familiar setting that they can revel in but with a host of new tools. But that fresh start comes at the expense of all the big, beautiful, and ambitious ways in which the last few titles in the series made us want to take part in the Covenant War.
When The Circle comes calling again, encroaching on Nara’s meager existence, she also needs Forsa to stand a chance of fighting the cult, and even the ship has a deep recognition that it’s the product of reprehensible crimes. Their bonding over shared pain should be ridiculous, but in practice, it’s absolutely enthralling. All this runs parallel to the Lovecraftian cosmic horrors at the game’s heart, but even as unnerving as that material gets, it’s all the more effective thanks to the very human and understandable reasons they’ve been allowed to exist. There are dozens of space shooters that will take up more of your time, and very few of them are dedicated to making this much of an impact as an engrossing, thoughtful adventure.
Rockstar's remastered trilogy is, appropriately, an absolute car wreck of creative neglect.
That, though, isn’t to denigrate the power of a good blaster. The addition of a Sekiro-like stagger meter makes some enemies more bullet spongy than normal, but otherwise there’s something very old-school about the gunplay here. Success means constant movement, matching elemental weaknesses, and carefully employing the other Guardians as support characters. The battlefields are chaotic, but once there’s enough special moves at play to combine, the game is blissfully freeing in a way that not many shooters are these days.
Which isn’t to say that you’re locked into a path getting to your destination. Indeed, the game’s minor tonal shortcomings are eclipsed by all the ways that it perfects the 2D trappings of Metroid’s mechanics and hands players so much freedom when it comes to exploring its environments. All the while, the game is deliberate and quite devilish about taking that freedom away and picking the right time to dare you to fight to regain it.
Eastward wouldn’t be this frustrating if it didn’t get so much right when the narrative stays on target. There are numerous moments here that are truly alive to the strangeness of this world that might have truly inspired our awe, even our empathy for the characters, if we weren’t also being saddled with the frustration of wondering when the game is going to get on with the program. The payoff for the player’s patience isn’t without its power, but it’s also a bit of a missed opportunity. There are riches aplenty scattered across its protracted campaign, but you may remember Eastward most for its disrespect for the player’s time.
It’s worth noting that the main mechanical difference between Deathloop and Dishonored is that you can kill without moral consequence here. That’s liberating, but while it’s nice, and hilarious, that kicking enemies into the ocean is such a key part of Deathloop’s gameplay, there isn’t a whole lot that’s interesting about that. For a stealthy FPS that prides itself on the steady accumulation of power and understanding, the game also rarely makes either one feel particularly exhilarating. But, in the end, Deathloop’s almost perversely ironic saving grace is that it’s populated with charismatic weirdos who are just as irked about that as you are.
The fallout of that ending makes what had been a wafer-thin murder mystery with a gimmick into an exercise in psychological sadism, where the player is nauseatingly complicit. Despite the immense pool of talent giving their all to breathe life into these characters, Twelve Minutes is a game thoroughly lacking in humanity, in any sense of the word.
The occasional moments of tonal dissonance stick out, but they don’t necessarily hurt the experience. And it can’t be underestimated how great it is to have a game that’s very much an allegory about Asian people fighting to be heard, and with two Asian voice actors actually playing the leads. Still, the episode is titled quite accurately. At five-to-seven hours, Episode INTERmission isn’t quite filler, but it’s also not entirely filling. It’s an appreciable detour on a much longer journey.
Village is marked by a maturity that’s new to Resident Evil. Even when it steers us toward the traditional climax set inside a laboratory, the route feels more intimate and thoughtful than it ever has in a Resident Evil game. What elements Capcom doesn’t bring into Village from its predecessor, they’ve carefully replaced with a striking sense of emotional logic. Resident Evil, as a series, reinvented itself in Biohazard, and with Village it continues to grow up.