As a complete package, from a Call of Duty developer that hasn't yet established its own Modern Warfare or Black Ops sub-franchise, Vanguard feels like it could end up being Sledgehammer's tentpole. Iconic characters, unique multiplayer and map design, and overall integration into the wider Call of Duty experience set the pace for not only the next year, but whatever comes next from Sledgehammer.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is a great Smash clone that painfully underutilizes its Nickelodeon license, to its own detriment. Lacking some of Nick's biggest characters, franchises, and environments, absolutely no voice lines whatsoever, and all wrapped up in a rather unimpressive package, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is a good concept, and one of the best Smash-alikes to come along in the last 20 years. But it really needs a stronger presentation and more thorough use of its namesake license to earn a better foothold as a mainstay character brawler.
While it may not wholly evolve the franchise in a radically new way, Far Cry 6 smooths out many of the wrinkles and growing pains previous Far Cry games have had, while building on a foundation that's largely worked for the series since 2012's Far Cry 3. Far Cry 6 strikes a great tonal balance, a variety of activities and exploration that never get dull, another imposing villain whose presence can be felt throughout, and a brilliant main character. Yara is a fun playground because it's Dani's playground, and that's a crucial part of the equation, part of the meaningful growth the latest entry brings to the Far Cry franchise. ¡Viva la Revolución!
A Juggler's Tale is enjoyable for what it is, but it doesn't quite reach the particularly memorable nature of similar indie games it so obviously takes inspiration from. There's a great introspective narrative with some brilliant themes regarding personal freedoms and cutting the strings of toxic relationships throughout, but a short runtime and occasionally obtuse puzzles and mechanics leave it feeling a bit more tangled up than it should by the end.
Editor's Note: To support the developers and employees at Activision Blizzard pushing for change, we are covering the games that they are working hard on making. However, we need to acknowledge that employees seek a shift in the company's culture, even as they are still passionately developing games. We will continue to report on the issues at Activision Blizzard as the employees seek to reform the culture and make it a safer, equal, and more inclusive workplace, even as we highlight the games those same workers are creating.Diablo II: Resurrected is Diablo II in everything that matters. Its strict adherence to the tone, themes, and even gameplay of the original makes this an incredible time capsule, revisiting a classic restored, yet not iterated on. It's the best of both worlds; a game that looks and plays wonderfully in 2021, but embodies the dark experience that was first brought to the world more than 20 years ago. They just don't make games like this anymore.
There isn't anything else quite like Deathloop. It's a riveting detective mystery, plays with time loops in unique ways, and never feels like it slows down, even in those stealthier moments. It's a game that's thought out top-to-bottom, with two perfect leads heralding the charge and a unique multiplayer component that feels central to everything that Deathloop is, without ever getting in the way. Whether you're looking to break the loop or preserve it, Blackreef is certainly worth the visit. You may find yourself as stuck there too.
Lost in Random is a magical adventure, and though its dice and card-based combat system never achieves a significant depth at which it could, its still a worthwhile journey. Zoink's strength lies in building wonderous, mysterious, and frankly just weird characters and worlds. Hand-in-hand with Even and Dicey, you won't be disappointed at getting lost in Random.
The Medium is an admirable horror experience from a developer that has been making a lot of huge strides for itself in the world of horror game development. It's not something that is going to change the world of horror games, but it does enough unique things with the simultaneous dual-world mechanic to stand out. Like many horror games before it, it fails to balance its tension with certain gameplay mechanics that can turn from fear to frustration pretty quickly, but these are spaced out enough that it never ruined the experience wholesale. For any horror fans looking for a Silent Hill-esque game to fill that ominous void, The Medium will at least scratch that itch.
Golf Club: Wasteland has a great vibe for its somber and solemn story about the end of the Earth, and I loved the concept behind its world. But it's burdened by a golf game that is simply not all that fun (granted, perhaps it shouldn't be fun to golf on the headstone of humanity). Occasional moments that seemed to portend exciting new golf puzzle mechanics were quickly followed by more lobbing to almost out of reach platforms, made intolerable by frustratingly simple mechanics that seem to have an air of randomness and luck. But while I won't be subjecting myself to Iron Mode, I did thoroughly enjoy the story, art, and music throughout as it plainly commented on the state of the world, making at least one round of golf on this post-apocalyptic world very cathartic indeed.
For all of its issues, Rustler is a fun little game that tries something a bit different, recapturing a long-lost element of game design and adding a fun new twist. Its humorous and satirical elements help keep it light-hearted, and though it occasionally has some comedic misses, its also full of genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. I'd hope to see some adjustments to the combat system as well as a general cleanup of the odd variety of bugs encountered, but as a whole Rustler is a clever and fun title that has zero shame being exactly what it is.
Clid the Snail is a lot of really interesting ideas executed in a way that feels really rough around the edges. It's almost there in many ways, but some quality of life issues and design choices hold back the unique concept. Its brilliant art and character design is masked by some hazy aesthetic choices. Its "methodical" combat often ends up more cumbersome and overwhelming than tactical. An interesting story, world, and mystery, however, helped to keep my interest despite these issues. If you love taking a chance on weird ideas-and that key art of Clid with his gun caught your attention-it's worth experiencing Clid's world, but be prepared for a number of speedbumps along the way.
For returning players, Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut is well worth diving back into for the Iki Island expansion alone and the way it explores a different facet of Jin's internal conflicts. It may not sate the desire for a full sequel, but it does a lot of cool things to make the experience feel fresh even as it explores the familiar. For brand new players who missed the game on PS4, there's no better way to experience Ghost of Tsushima. An engaging new story chapter will give new players even more insight into Jin and PS5 enhancements improve the entire adventure, which itself was already a technical marvel on last-gen consoles. Sony's experiment into re-releasing last-gen games on the new consoles with meaningful additions is so far paying off.
I haven't felt this drawn to a game in a long time. Hades is fully deserving of every award that it has earned, and PlayStation players finally get to experience this perfected Supergiant Games masterpiece on PS4 and PS5. It's an utterly brilliant melding of narrative, art, music, gameplay, world, and characters, with unique details throughout each element that come together to create a game unlike any other. Hades bears the mark of being a Supergiant game, while never feeling like it retreads any of the developer's past work. Rather it builds on everything they've learned. It's a triumph of player choice and discovery, consistently engaging, and always begging for just one more escape attempt.
As far as co-op games go, into doesn't get much more frantic or fun than Orcs Must Die! 3. It's at time unintuitive and feels like it's missing a few key quality of life features that could really help smooth out the experience, but at its core, the simple trap-building orc-killing gameplay loop is addictively engaging, far outshining any issues it may have at the menu level, particularly if you have a co-op partner to go through it all with. There aren't many shining examples of "active" tower defense games, but Orcs Must Die! 3 absolutely exemplifies what's so great about the genre and series, even if it stumbles a bit on its way to get there.
The Forgotten City is a consistently engaging mystery that I couldn't help but get trapped in. It features an amazing blend of narrative mystery buoyed by some fun bouts of exploration and light combat, just enough to really break up the pace. It's a game that encourages you to put pressure on its established boundaries to see what you can break and change. There's a brilliant web of mystery within a time loop that you can manipulate, delivering some great and clever commentary around a whole bunch of topics. Seeing how far Modern Storyteller has come from "The Forgotten City" mod to this full game makes me beyond excited to see what Nick Pearce and the team come up with next.
Doki Doki Literature Club works best if you go into it knowing nothing about it. It's still a visual novel dating sim, and the Plus! version really doubles down on the visual novel aspect, but it breaks the status quo and does the unexpected, making a deeply disturbing psychological horror game out of something that looks cute and adorable on the surface.
As a complete package, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade just feels like the definitive version of an already perfect game. And the addition of Episode INTERmission is a great excuse to bring old players back for new content (or just a solid extra couple of chapters for new players).
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is proof that some series are timeless. It celebrates and retains the classic gameplay first created nearly 20 years ago, while simultaneously feeling completely at home as a showcase PS5 title. It tells a heartfelt story that explores beyond Ratchet and Clank, bringing in new characters that stand tall in their own right. And those tools of destruction? They're here in spades, more destructive than ever before. Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart continues the PlayStation legacy, and I can't help but hope that in time it heralds the return of the PlayStation buddy platformers of old.
For better or worse, Mass Effect Legendary Edition is effectively the same classic trilogy we played a decade ago, warts and all. BioWare finely balanced updating the games with leaving elements that would recapture that classic nostalgia of first taking off across the stars in the Normandy. For my experience, this was the perfect way to bring the classic trilogy to modern audiences while preparing everyone for more Mass Effect to come. We'll get our proper new-gen Mass Effect soon enough, but right now, this is where players should experience where it all began with Commander Shepard's epic three-game saga. Whether you're an eager fan looking to return or a curious new player who wants to see what all the fuss is about, this is Mass Effect.