Stray does a great job at letting you act like a cat, turning a wide range of true-to-life feline behaviors into clever gameplay mechanics. But it's much less successful at making you truly feel like a cat, as the game's more conventional approach to its gameplay and story routinely shatters your immersion in odd ways. If you can suspend your disbelief and look past the missed opportunity of a more cohesive experience, however, there's a lot to like in its moody cyberpunk world and varied challenges.
Escape Academy is an exceptionally well designed puzzle game, if not a flawlessly executed one. Developer Coin Crew Games has replicated the creativity and fine-tuned challenge of the best real-world escape rooms while amping up the fantasy and stakes in a way only video games can. But the studio's inexperience rears its head when it comes to polish, with stiff console controls being the most obvious knock on an otherwise great experience.
Horizon Forbidden West builds upon the formula of the first game in smart (if not always revolutionary) ways to craft an even stronger open-world experience. The stunning visuals make for a great showpiece of what Sony's first-party studios can accomplish on PlayStation 5, with gameplay that holds up its end of the bargain. Unfortunately, storytelling missteps and a lack of polish keep Aloy's latest adventure just shy of joining the all-time greats.
Forza Horizon 5 delivers everything that made the last game enjoyable on a map that's more fun to drive with a lot more visual diversity. While the changes and additions are largely incremental-especially when it comes to the core game experience-what's here is good enough to warrant a recommendation for fans of the series or racing enthusiasts who've been meaning to try it out.
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy may not be able to quite match the humor of James Gunn's MCU films, but it's packed with plenty of personality and decently fun (if not groundbreaking) combat. To its great credit, Eidos-Montréal's story-driven approach always keeps the focus on its ragtag team of heroes, making for a worthwhile and memorable trip to the Cosmic Marvel universe.
Back 4 Blood certainly improves upon the gameplay formula of Turtle Rock's earlier Left 4 Dead, with a deeper feature set that allows for greater strategy and customization while fending off Hordes of the undead. But the world of the game and its characters lack the charm of its spiritual forebear, and a few curious design choices keep it just shy of greatness.
Far Cry 6's barely hangs together on the strength of the gameplay loop it inherits from its predecessors. Beyond the addition of some fun new toys, like the "resolver" weapons and Supremo backpacks, nearly every design change is mystifyingly for the worse, and the mismatch between the gameplay and storytelling ambitions is more conspicuous than ever.
Deathloop layers a refined take on Arkane's signature mix of ability-driven action and stealth onto a time-looping premise, and the result is one of most memorable games of recent years. While many of the pieces may be familiar, the combination is fresh and full of surprises.
Psychonauts 2 recaptures the humor, heart, and much of the creative magic of the original game, with modern refinements that make it more pleasant to play. While the combat still feels a bit clunky and outdated compared to the rest of the game, fans of the original will no doubt delight in revisiting old friends and making new ones in this charming adventure.
Resident Evil Village expands the pared-back, first-person gameplay of Resident Evil 7 into a more ambitious and over-the-top survival horror experience. Greater variety and more mechanical depth prove that there's a lot of potential left to explore in this new approach to the series, but some elements are a bit uneven, and you may find yourself missing the simplicity of the Baker ranch.
Returnal excellently blends third-person shooter gameplay with bullet-hell style enemies and roguelike elements to craft a fun, challenging action game that you'll have a blast learning to master. The only real shame is that the action is yoked to a story that mistakes being vague for being smart and interesting.
Cyberpunk 2077's bugs and technical issues certainly hold it back, and with any luck those will be fixed in the coming months. But it's more difficult to imagine CD Projekt Red doing enough to resolve the deeper problems: awkwardly balanced systems, storytelling misfires, and an inability to merge its open-world action and RPG gameplay into something smooth and cohesive.
Don't be fooled into thinking Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales is some minor spin-off of Insomniac Games' PS4 exclusive. Sure, it's not as long, but the experience is packed with enough new gameplay ideas and design refinements that it feels every bit like a true, substantial successor. Throw in a story that does justice to Miles as a character and tech that wonderfully showcases the power of the PlayStation 5, and you just might have one of the best console launch titles of the modern era.
Marvel's Avengers squanders the potential of what might have been a fun superhero romp by grafting on an annoying, overly repetitive games-as-a-service component. Playing as the cast of heroes offers decent thrills, and the campaign tells an enjoyable enough story, but odds are good you'll get bored long before you grind your way to the top.
Whether or not you consider The Last of Us Part II to be a worthwhile continuation of Joel and Ellie's story, there's no doubt that Naughty Dog has crafted a sequel that's every bit as ambitious and well-considered as the original, with quite possibly the best stealth-action gameplay realized to date.
On a superficial level, Predator: Hunting Grounds succeeds at translating elements of the original 1987 movie into a four-on-one multiplayer game, and the matchups are occasionally tense and thrilling. But shoddy game balance, sloppy design, frequent bugs, and significant technical shortcomings squander most of the potential.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare does a lot right from a gameplay standpoint—at least as far as campaign and multiplayer are concerned. But a confused story that simultaneously has too much and too little to say about war makes it a poor successor to the legacy of Call of Duty 4.