As a playground for one of the most idiosyncratic superheroes of all time, Marvel's Spider-Man is sheer bliss. It's a sandbox platformer first and foremost, and a damn good one. Throughout playing the game I was constantly hounded by the question of whether this—sublime superhero traversal in a gorgeous, idealized version of New York—were enough. After countless hours later spent cleaning up every last icon on the map, I'm convinced they are.
A worthy successor to the first game, bigger in almost every way but without an inch of space wasted. But as it's grown in size and ambition, so too has the gulf between the herculean feats of strength Juan is asked to perform and the incomplete feeling of the universe he's doing so to save.
Its best parts feel basic in all the best ways, both classic and modern at the same time. It never made good on the dream of seeing another more tragic, more complicated side of Master Chief, but years later, through endless updates and balance patches, it's made good on the promise of its multiplayer. Even if that were all that Halo 5 was, at this point that would still make it a very good game.
Battles were raging and allies were calling for help, but for once the game offered me the option of deserting the fray and contemplating the larger world around it. It's a shame that everything else in the game works so emphatically against it.
Even the most clumsy and gnarled duel will achieve moments of greatness. And when two experienced players operating on the same wave-length begin stringing together slashes, parries and counter-attacks in an unbroken chain, the resulting exchange feels as much like a choreographed ballet as a fight to the death…if ballets ended with severed heads flying into the orchestra.
Instead of surviving Salt and Sanctuary's horrors by obsessively dissecting them, liberation comes as a result of being able to execute ever more deft acrobatics with a few simple twitches. In this way, the game helps us learn to shed the burden of realism by flattening it, reducing its physical and emotional details into obstacles that can be overcome with the flick of a button.
Solstice tends more toward murder mystery dinner theater than fantasy film noir. A penchant for playful melodrama and comedic banter in many ways undercuts the tension established through the game's mystery and its interactive methods for unraveling it.
Mini Metro submerges its formulae to create a space for more organic play. Like a city that leaves its streets to pedestrians, pushing highways underground and elevating trains overhead, the game seeks to avoid the anxious hustle of a traditional simulation by reducing clutter and keeping things at a more intimate, human level.
Far from the distilled purity of the sport it seeks to celebrate, PES 2016 comes across as an over-engineered appliance—an unfortunate reality, given the craftsmanship being smothered underneath as a result. For all of PES 2016's inching improvements in the way players interact on the field, the game seems more intent on bombarding you with the number of licensed leagues, kitschy diversions, and other doohickeys vaguely associated with soccer at its disposal.
Spend some time with Project CARS and you'll be fed up with how unforgiving each turn is on your over-eager vehicle. Spend a little more and you'll grow to appreciate each unique, licensed hunk of steel as it groans under the stress of constantly alternating between accelerating and braking. But play any more and you'll start to feel slightly detached, barreling aimlessly between locations and race courses.