DiRT Rally 2.0 does nothing but improve the reputation of the purest, modern rally series out there. Codemasters' flagship sequel retains the same uncompromising sense of difficulty and challenge as seen in the original, but achieves it with a new-found sense of finesse and variety. The expanded and evolved Rallycross experience offers something equally visceral, but in a more quick-fire format and with exciting contact-based racing. This is an excellent counter-weight to the more gruelling and linear experience found in Rally events, and it may serve as the better jumping-in point for lesser skilled players. Overall, Codemasters have outdone themselves with one of the greatest rally packages ever made. Whether it quite out-manoeuvres Richard Burns Rally where it counts, the physics and handling through the wheel, is a matter of opinion, but it certainty hits that mark. One thing is for sure, rally fans everywhere must play DiRT Rally 2.0!
Monster Energy Supercross 2 is a mostly fluid and enjoyable two-wheeler experience, which hasn't been reinvented, but has been polished just enough to be a decent follow-up. The standard cynicism of incessant iterative cycles still applies here, because if Milestone gave themselves two years for this follow-up, it would be drastically better, rather than the usual half-step. However, at least the studio's commitment to the Unreal Engine 4, and their policy of providing an accessible driving experiences for all skill-levels, ensures Monster Energy Supercross 2 is still fun and engrossing for fans of Supercross, as well as those of the genre at large. Improvements to air-control reduces some occasional handling frustration, but doesn't erase it. Likewise, whilst throttle and front/rear brake application appears to me a little more tactile, the general handling and physics still leave a little to be desired. Good acrobatic fun, but with ample room for improvement.
Football Manager 2019 Touch is a fantastic package, that makes just enough incremental improvements to the UI, and the general flow and functionality of the experience, that fans who enjoyed and got plenty of mileage out of last year's edition, will be tempted to update. For newcomers to the series, there couldn't be a better time to jump in. The Touch series knows how to mediate the overwhelming nature of the experience, with a friendlier interface and some hand-holding that helps level out the initial complexity. With that said, the most avid of fans, who play the PC releases religiously, may find the spirit of this experience to be too watered-down. It really depends on whether they can tolerate the compromises, which have been made for the sake of functionality and accessibility, particularly with newcomers in mind. Overall, Football Manager 2019 Touch provides hundreds of hours of football strategy fun.
Yo-Kai Watch 3 is a fantastic last hurrah for the series on the 3DS platform, which is also an ideal jumping in point for new players. Although it's very much in the vein of a Pokémon-styled adventure, it's a franchise with its own interesting quirks. The battling system, which has been much improved here, offers something different, with its fast-paced special-attack mini-games and new Tactics Medal Board. On top of this, the universe of Yo-Kai Watch is very imaginative and vibrant in its own way. The concept of these creatures, influenced and based on Yōkai, is very interesting and with 600 Yo-kai in this version, that sense of discovery is palpable and ever-present. Although on a mechanical level, Yo-kai Watch 3 isn't as polished as a Pokémon title, it makes up for this in droves with its flexibility, not to mention its sense of charm and adventure. Great fun.
Ride 3 is a definite improvement upon its predecessors in various domains. Of all of Milestone's recent projects, the move to Unreal Engine 4 pays off most here. The previously washed-out visuals have been replaced by something more high-fidelity, bringing it up to par with the standards of other racers of its type today. It's more polished elsewhere too, with distinctly cleaner menus, a better soundtrack and crisper on-track audio too. The title features an impressive range of different types of bike, but unfortunately, it's still difficult to discern any handling differences between bikes within the same class. It's a bit disappointing that Ride 3 doesn't step things up more in this department, but it's still a much better-tuned instalment. With not a lot of competition in sight, Ride 3 is something of a Forza-equivalent for bike racing enthusiasts, but there's still plenty of room for improvement.
Despite the addition of four-player online games, improved matchmaking, head-to-head three-point contests, new Season and Playgrounds Championship modes, all-new playgrounds, plus a roster of over 400 past and present NBA players, it's difficult to recommend NBA 2K Playgrounds 2. The title sticks with last year's established formula too much, and doubles down on the microtransactions aspects whilst it's at it. Unfortunately, the actual gameplay just doesn't justify such an extravagant ecosystem wrapper, so only real NBA and collector fans will see the appeal in potentially putting more cash down for the best players. Overall, Playgrounds 2 is lacklustre and feels too much like a mobile game franchise. It takes advantage of its audience and never offers enough satisfaction in return for the money, or the grind sessions. Ultimately, NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 is a bad game, and certainly no spiritual successor. Stick with NBA 2K19 or NBA Jam itself.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 is solid enough in its footballing fundamentals, but it seems to have regressed in terms of its polish and immersion. Picking up nine more minor league licences is a consolation, but now that football games have reached a point of extreme high fidelity, with lifelike player models and animations, the fickle issues of its lack of aesthetic consistency is more jarring than ever. With the loss of the Champions League licence, it might have been expected that Konami would nurture the neglected elements of the series, such as the Master League, and the sloppy presentation and online connectivity issues. That doesn't seem to have happened, though. Consequently, it's difficult to sing the praises of the core gameplay as much as last year. That's especially the case as the AI isn't as sensible as it was previously, with too many reckless challenges and questionable keeper decisions. PES 2019 underperforms, despite its quality.