- BioShock Infinite
- Silent Hill 2
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
This game never makes the leap from smaller-scale locales to more epic-sized ones, meaning that the notion of laying waste to a city block as Mr. Stay-Puft or some similarly silly, over-the-top paranormal leviathan against the Ghostbusters remains only a fantasy. Like the film that preceded it, Spirits Unleashed is stuck sending us down memory lane at the expense of stepping forward into new terrain. For many, this nostalgia will be enough, but even with updates it seems unlikely that Spirits Unleashed’s core gameplay will sustain it for long.
Dying Light 2 is constantly introducing new abilities through its missions, and in such clever ways that that players become naturally acclimated to them. Consistently, the world here overwhelms us in lockstep with the dazzlingly dense gameplay. This is game about choice and consequences, and it rewards the player for exploring and engaging with the City’s environments. Unlike the derivative setting of last year’s Far Cry 6, the City is a character of its own, alive with lived-in detail and a refinement of the use of environmental storytelling. And it’s all the more incredible for making us feel as if we can change it for the better.
It doesn’t help that House of Ashes tends toward monotony. Much of the game is spent slowly exploring dark caves, sometimes the exact same ones, except with different characters. Too often you may find yourself trying to shake off tedium by trying to interact with something only to inadvertently activate a protagonist’s death. Or a jump scare might shake you out of it, but given how telegraphed they are, the game’s horror ends up being as ineffective as the story, which is given over to Aqua Teen Hunger Force-like levels of deranged non-sequitur plotting. While the prior games in this series never reached the heights of Until Dawn, they didn’t lack for disturbing and memorable imagery. By contrast, this game’s non-human baddies are so over-designed and uninspired that they never jangle the player’s nerves.
Only the human character models and their clunky facial animations suffer from a lack of realism compared to the stunningly detailed environments, and this remaster’s lack of ray tracing and HDR are odd for a game that boasts not only strong light effects but also makes both light and dark such an integral part of the gaming experience. Regardless, while Alan Wake Remastered doesn’t substantially alter the twisted tale of the writer and the dark forces that bind him, there’s enough here that connects to the events in Control and it’s Alan Wake-centered AWE DLC episode to makes the return trip to Bright Falls a worthwhile one.
Despite wearing its influences on its sleeve—Travis drives a facsimile of Kaneda’s bike from Akira and can transform into a Gundam rip-off—No More Heroes III shows no respect for the artistry or cultural context of the pop culture that it pilfers from. In fact, Given its alternately snarky, nihilistic, and condescending opinions of just about everything, you would be justified in feeling that the game doesn’t just dislike the things that it references but even itself.
Throughout Hired Gun, you very much feel its desire to emulate elements of genre-defining hits like the Half-Life and BioShock games, as well as its failure to understand how they utilized their systems and mechanics to engage and immerse players. Worse, Hired Gun turns its back to all that’s promising about Games Workshop’s fiction, such as the various spinoff novels that offer insights into a demented upper-class nobility as well as life in the Underhive, choosing instead to tell a meaningless, mostly incoherent story about archetypal characters who are unmemorable at best. Late in the game, a momentary detour featuring an iconic Warhammer 40,000 monster, one that’s wildly out of place and acting against its bestial nature, serves as a baffling example of how unmoored this game is to its own property.