- No Man's Sky
- Horizon Zero Dawn
Evil West is a fun, frenetic, blood-soaked, testosterone-fueled action game with a lot to like. There’s some old-school charm to it, but at the same time some old-school frustrations. When co-op works, it’s fun, though it is by no means required to enjoy the game on its own merits. When you’re through the holiday’s festivities, and you want something to play that’s a bit mindless while also being entertaining, then Evil West should be on your list of games to play.
Sonic Frontiers is a strange, yet fun time. The individual levels showcase Sonic at his fast-paced, ring-hoarding best, and some of the overworlds sport rewarding exploration mechanics. The insistence by Sonic Team to jam in minigames that block progress to the story is frustrating to say the least, and some of the larger maps’ designs feel a little haphazard. Overall, though, the weirdness of the story will keep some going just to see, well, where the hell it’s all going. It’s weird how much this doesn’t feel like a Sonic game outside of the individual levels, but this is an interesting direction that Sonic Team has taken their blue blur, and hopefully we will see a continued evolution that coalesces into something great.
The Chant is a fine first offering from Brass Token. It may be a bit rough around the edges, but overall, this is the perfect thing to play for those long, dark nights coming this season. With a short playtime and three different endings to unlock, this should be fun for others to watch as well. It may not be the scariest game to release this year, but The Chant has a freaky design to its creatures that will unsettle some late at night. Balance your chakra and join in The Chant if you’re looking for a decent spiritual adventure.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 subtly improves on a winning formula. It’s no real surprise that the multiplayer gunplay is the best in the series to date, but considering this is coming from the team that started this craze to begin with it’s to be expected. While the campaign may play it mostly safe, it features an enjoyable challenge, with a couple of interesting survival-type sections that almost turn it into another game entirely. There’s little doubt most Call of Duty players will feel right at home playing Modern Warfare II as it’s a solid entry and seemingly the shooter to play this holiday season and beyond.
Gotham Knights has a few interesting things going on. It’s just not enough to elevate it to the level of previous Batman games. Now, sure, technically speaking, this isn’t truly a Batman game, as the focus is on his legacy of proteges. But the Arkham series of games has elevated expectations quite high, and while Gotham Knights didn’t hit them, it has moments where it does feel like something interesting is brewing. With more to do in the city, and an easier method of switching characters, perhaps this could be the start of something greater.
If this really is Suda51’s last major venture with Travis Touchdown, then it’s a passing ending for the “passing assassin.” There’s no re-invention here – if you got a kick out of the earlier games, then there is plenty for you to enjoy this time around. It might get a little stale as you fight a group of enemies in a Designated Fight for the umpteenth time, but at least you’ll look stylish doing it. If No More Heroes has never been your cup of wrestling-inspired ultraviolence, well, best move along then.
Session: Skate Sim is the best skateboarding simulator you can play today. It might not be the best skateboarding game, though, with so much focus on getting the feel of the ride just right. The learning curve is such a steep cliff that many more casual skateboarding fans (or especially those without huge chunks of time to dedicate to a game) will likely give up before being confident on these virtual decks. Still, Session: Skate Sim is a challenging simulator worth your time if you’re a hardcore skateboarding fan.
Temtem was never going to usurp Pokémon as the best monster catching game. But if it gets at least part of the way there, then it should be considered a success. In that light, then, Crema has indeed succeeded. This is a great start, and with continued support and possibly some expansions down the line, Temtem could become a wonderfully addictive, challenging turn-based collect-a-thon with MMO elements mixed in. The creatures might not be as inventive, nor are there as many of them to collect. But Temtem has a charming world to get lost in, and while the battles can feel repetitive at times, seeing other trainers scurry about the area is a fun reminder that you’re playing something just different enough that this game can stand on its own.
Madden NFL 23 has some good new ideas, but is mostly more of the same. The graphics and presentation are fine, but only just. The football appears to have a mind of its own sometimes, while commentators don’t always have a response to the on-field action that makes sense. If Franchise mode is where you spend your time, then you are likely to enjoy the changes. Outside of that, though, Madden 23 feels awfully familiar.
AI: The Somnium Files – nirvanA Initiative is an entertaining trip featuring a sharp story by Kotaro Uchikoshi, though it may not be for everyone. If you prefer to be told exactly how to solve puzzles, the easier difficulty levels can help, but ultimately the game’s nature is to be esoteric and reveal each Somnium’s secrets piece by piece. Fans of the first game will definitely enjoy this trip, while new players can hop right in without any major spoilers if they so choose. Either way, nirvanA Initiative is one game you’ll actually want to finish.
Evil Dead: The Game has a ton of appeal to fans of the horror franchise, while also offering up a good deal of gameplay for players who may not be so familiar with it. The resource management aspect to playing as a demon is intriguing, and for those who aren’t so good at strategizing, playing against AI is always an option to hone your skills. Occasional glitches take some of the shine off, and no checkpoints in the single player missions is a baffling decision. Can such a game grow long enough legs with the ever-popular games as a service model? Only time will tell. But for an asking price of $39.99, there is enough content at launch to appease most fans.
You probably could have guessed this by now, but Dolmen should have released before Elden Ring. All Soulslike games from here on out will constantly be in that game’s gigantic shadow. It’s not that there’s not enough room in this genre for more entries, especially ones that are in such a wildly different setting. It’s just that whatever games release in this space must now meet such incredibly high standards or face intense criticism and likely faltering sales. Dolmen will surely appeal to those who want a Soulslike adventure in a sci-fi setting, and perhaps were disappointed by 2020’s Hellpoint release. Just go in with lowered expectations owing to a smaller dev team, and perhaps you’ll have some fun smashing enemies to bits.
Trek to Yomi is a challenging, relatively quick trip to the past that is sure to entertain fans of old samurai films. The mechanics are easy to pick up, but difficult to master. The story is engaging, and surprisingly branches with different endings. With a campaign length of around 5 – 7 hours for most players and priced right at $19.99, this is a game that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Repeating sections is not easy with no real save management, and the 2D combat may not appeal to everyone, but it’s hard to ignore the authentic look and feel that such a design choice adds to Trek to Yomi. If you’ve got a day or two to spare, this is one to not overlook.
Babylon’s Fall seems like it needed a lot more development time. The core combat feels stiffer than my left wrist, which is currently recovering from a broken bone. Combining that with lackluster graphics and limited multiplayer options would be bad enough, but locking out key features of the game behind ten or so hours of gameplay makes Babylon’s Fall a very tough sell. Stacking microtransactions on top of it all leaves a nasty aftertaste that Platinum Games is going to have to wash out for a long time to come.
Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires is tailor-made for super fans of the franchise. While players may feel like a lackey at the start of any new Conquest campaign run-through, rising up the ranks and having the Prime Minister agree with your suggestions can feel rewarding. If you enjoy making decisions about whether to increase ration development or to collect tribute on a monthly basis, or politicking in general whereby interacting with important people gets your heart racing, then by all means check out Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires. The rest of us will get by on regular Dynasty Warriors 9 just fine.
Dying Light 2 is probably exactly what fans of the first game wanted. The story may not be particularly motivating, but combat is fun while the PS5 powers a smooth experience. A few questionable tweaks by Techland will not be appreciated by all players, but co-op will make it easy to forgive some of that. If you're not completely tired of zombie games yet, give Dying Light 2 a try. There's plenty to see and do, and you'll likely enjoy your harrowing stay in Villedor.
Serious Sam 4 is good, mindless fun, that is unfortunately mired by performance issues. This is recommended for big fans of the series, or for those looking for a nostalgia fix, for back when games were simpler, linear affairs which could be completed in a weekend. It's not a particularly great-looking or running game, but it is also only $39.99 at launch. The full campaign doesn't overstay its welcome, and its many secrets will tempt completionists. Give it a shot if you like your bloody kills combined with quippy one-liners. Just be ready for a bumpy ride.
Mobile Suit Gundam Battle Operation: Code Fairy is strictly for the fans. That isn't to say people who are unfamiliar with the series won't enjoy it. Indeed, with as few walking tank games out there as it is, anyone into this type of gameplay will probably enjoy things here. It's just that being invested in the story of Gundam helps a lot, because much of the game is about taking in the story. Combat is clunky, but gets the job done, and the episodic format makes that fact easier to forgive.