I can't get enough of Knockout City. Velan Studios put an impressive amount of work into a confluence of themes and mechanics that all work together in harmony for a symphony that resonates with a rubbery thwack. Everything feels polished to a degree that is rather monumental for a day one launch, and their plans to support Knockout City for the foreseeable future will ensure it stays downloaded on my hard drive. Every once in a while, a special game comes along that redefines the rules; that finds a unique concept that nobody knew they wanted, but that everyone ends up loving. Knockout City is one of those special games, a passion project built on originality that will surely go on to be bigger than anybody could have initially imagined.
Presenting the lore of Robin Hood in a whole new way, there's a really fun and unique game in Hood: Outlaws and Legends. While it has a number of balancing issues that can impact matchmaking in various ways, it's all wonderful when it works. Hood is a game that frustrated me on numerous occasions, but was also one of the most thrilling and distinctive multiplayer stealth experiences since Assassin's Creed's multiplayer modes. With some long term love and care, Hood has a ton of potential to really stand out. Hopefully that means the growth of the community with it in order to establish the kind of healthy player base that a multiplayer title needs.
Skate City is buoyed up by its excellent and mellow lo-fi soundtrack, a veritable repository of chill beats to skate to. This defining aspect helps elevate a simple concept to put you in the right mood to engage with it. While the visuals are nothing to write home about and the finnicky controls can sometimes cause frustration, there's still something special about chilling out with a 20 minute skate session after a hard day's work, and discovering yet another great lo-fi tune. However it should have launched for consoles with at least all of the content and modes from the mobile version, if not more for its bigger platform debut. While Skate City is a relatively engaging and mellow experience overall, it's one I have a hard time recommending on console at its new premium asking price.
Resident Evil Village is a good game with a lot of opportunity to have been a great game. And yet, for as many criticisms as I have, it was an experience that I was happy to play through a second time immediately after finishing the first. The new setting, creatures, villains, and story are engaging additions to the Resident Evil canon, even if the gameplay doesn't seem to have evolved all that much and the scares have been pulled back. It's still a fun romp in a new setting with new monsters; a great and fitting piece of the broader series that makes me excited to see where it's all headed next.
Returnal is an essential PS5 title, now and throughout the console's life. Housemarque took the rogue-like bullet-hell formula and applied it to a AAA experience in a way that creates something exceptionally unique yet wholly familiar. Returnal is an engaging experience in narrative, gameplay, and player discovery, consistently surprising on every level. Utilizing the PS5 technology in a way that most other developers are barely tapping into, Returnal feels like one of the first truly next-gen experiences, letting Housemarque set the stage for the new console. And like Housemarque games before it, it's the kind of game that will withstand the test of time, begging for additional cycles well into the future.
Outriders is simply and unapologetically Outriders. And that's what, despite its flaws, makes it stand tall. Because it owns its flaws and rough spots, all weathered with pride through a launch period that was as rough as the Outriders first landing on Enoch. Riding out that storm offers an experience that is simply fun to play, and its something that I consistently can't wait to get back to. High risk, high reward gameplay and crafting very tight and specific builds leads to an endlessly engaging gameplay loop. Balancing the power fantasy with challenge for players is a difficult task, but Outriders manages it well. It's far from a perfect game, but it's so undeniably honest in its pursuit of being exactly what it is that there's nothing else quite like it out there. And that itself is what makes Outriders so compelling. Because Outriders is just Outriders.
Reviewer's Note: We liked What The Dub?! so much, we wanted you to have a chance to try it out for yourself in this review! There's a missing chunk of text in the review below that we want you to fill in with your own review dub in the comments!What The Dub?! is the perfect blend of party games and bad movie nights. It's a relatively simple idea with endless hilarity unlocked by each group of people that plays it. Wide Right Interactive has mined the depths of places no human should ever go to bring you some of the best prompts and most awkward footage to ever be recorded to film. By sticking to the established party game formula, it's easy for anyone to pick up and play, whether they're a gamer or not. Whether your a party game fanatic, or just venturing forth into the world of what party games can offer, What The Dub?! is an essential addition to any party games collection.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 is still a perfect game, and the small PS5 enhancements only serve to make it even better, but don't expect a drastically different game or experience when jumping to the new console. The PS5 version simply continues to polish something that already gleamed beautifully.
It Takes Two is endlessly creative. Gameplay speaks to narrative, while narrative informs gameplay, and the entire experience just feels incredibly polished and detailed. It nails relationships in ways that so many games-and even other forms of media-just can't. It asks the player to engage with the the story through mandatory co-op to tell the tale of a couple on the verge of divorce, rediscovering the good in their relationship. It's not just one of the best action platformers in recent memory, but also a fantastic and unique story representing a dynamic that you don't often see represented in games, at least not to this depth and nuance.
At its heart, this is the same Crash Bandicoot 4 that we loved last year when it came to PS4. The improved loading times alone are enough to make the PS5 version stand out, and the enhanced visuals are an added treat, seeing Crash in native 4K at 60 fps. Additional PS5 features round out the package, but as I played, it was mostly just the improved loading that really stuck out to me as the defining feature of this next-gen port.
Frogwares is a master in mystery. While their pedigree is mostly rooted in Sherlock Holmes, this foray into Lovecraftian horror is an admirable effort made even better by the technology of the PS5. Loading times are vastly improved on The Sinking City PS5, and the game looks better than it ever has before thanks to improved textures, lighting, and resolution. This version is also free of Frogwares' publisher drama with Nacon, and paints a pretty exciting picture for what the developer can do with mystery games on the PS5.
Destruction AllStars is loaded with style, flair, and a great core concept, but what you see is what you get. While that's not a bad thing at all, there are very few surprises and no sense of depth lurking beneath the surface. I want more to do. I want more to chase. I want more reasons to want to jump into another match than just leveling up to earn coins for character color swaps. As a PlayStation Plus free game, there's a lot of potential, hopefully something that Lucid Games can expand upon before asking people to pay a premium up front. In a sea of multiplayer games begging for people's attention, Destruction AllStars has a bit more work to do to earn it.
Cyberpunk 2077, when it works, is a shallow popcorn flick of a video game, not a industry shaping experience that redefines the open-world RPG genre. Perhaps the bigger problem, particularly for console owners, is that Cyberpunk 2077 doesn't work. It's a mess of half-baked ideas and rough gameplay that should have never been released in the first place. While the PC version faces criticism for various issues and praise for others, the PS4 version of Cyberpunk 2077 feels and looks like a whole different game that simply needed a lot more time.
Suffice to say that Bungie is recapturing the magic that Destiny has always had at its core. It's exploring concepts and story ideas that fans have been speculating about for years. And it's focusing on developing a game for the players who love Destiny, not trying desperately to change things to get new players on board. As a living world, iterative in design with an evolving narrative and constantly updated content, Destiny 2 changes persistently, but Beyond Light feels like a whole new foundation rooted in the kind of space magic and vision that has made Destiny special all along. I can't wait to see what comes next.
Overall, Immortals Fenyx Rising is a surprising break from the traditional Ubisoft open-world fare, perhaps hinting at some newfound creative freedoms that we'll hopefully see play out in the future. Cribbing Breath of the Wild is a strength even as Immortals iterates and takes its own twist. And the deep dive into Greek mythology ends up being a fascinating foundation upon whose shoulders the entire premise rests. From the first magnificent glide onto the Golden Isle, Immortals Fenyx Rising is an unforgettable treat that surprised me more than I thought it would.
What you end up with is an experience that shows a ton of promise, but ends up being entirely average. It's hard to call Watch Dogs Legion a bad game outright. It's a serviceable, if traditional, open-world game with a boring story and novelty mechanics that play out better on paper than in execution. The PS5 version makes expected improvements to visuals and load times, but isn't a standout example of a "next-gen" title.
Demon's Souls on PS5 is a brand new vision of a classic, one that captured the hearts, minds, and frustrations of many a player more than ten years ago. Bluepoint retains its pedigree of respecting the original while making the new update seem wholly fresh. If you missed Demon's Souls the first time around, or maybe if you just want to relive some old traumas, the PS5 remake is an excellent archstone to pass through for newcomers and Boletarian veterans alike. Who knew that one of the best PS5 launch titles would come from recapturing the lightning in a bottle that struck back in 2009? You may have died again, but Demon's Souls lives on thanks to Bluepoint and the PS5.
In terms of PS5 launch titles, Sackboy: A Big Adventure didn't make headlines as a highly anticipated game, but it manages to be one of the most charming and fun PS5 games so far. Its heart was an unexpected delight, with a level of detail and polish that made it an absolute joy to play. Snipped free of the level creation side of LBP, Sackboy manages to swingamajig his way to platforming heights that the character never has before, in more detail than ever on PS5.
Bugsnax is a delight in the most unexpected of ways. Despite its cartoonish and exceptionally goofy exterior, it's got deep messages of community, relationships, and belonging. Though there are certainly missed opportunities for a bigger gameplay loop around catching the various Bugsnax, everything about Bugsnax is a joy, perhaps the reason that I wanted more from it. It may not be an obvious showcase of the PS5's power and capabilities, but it's certainly a unique game that shouldn't be missed.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is a return to form for the franchise sub-series. While perhaps not as visually splendid as last year's Modern Warfare, it gets the Black Ops series back to boots on the ground, introducing new characters and elements while lending adequate time and attention to series favorites. Treyarch expertly steps in to continue the recent interconnected Call of Duty franchise shift, exploring and evolving the series while still creating a game that not just retains but oozes that signature Treyarch style. Perhaps more than any Call of Duty game before it, I'm more excited than ever to see where it goes in the future.