Ultimately, The Magic Circle relies on its pure intrigue to sustain the player throughout. It draws on decades of gaming history, offering a short, but poignant, commentary on the state of games today, whilst still managing to deliver something altogether quite different. Occasionally, the game requires your willing patience, but once a couple of hours have been sunk into this fantastic abstract meta game, you'll likely revel in its charm and inventiveness.
Undoubtedly, fans of abstract puzzle games will find a lot to enjoy here. But those not so inclined to stick with something a little frustrating and overtly self-insistent perhaps may prefer to wait for the next reboot of this intriguing but poorly executed experience. Where Journey uses the concept of abstract, indirect storytelling to its empowerment, Soul Axiom ends up leaning on it like a crutch when it suits, much to its detriment in terms of the overall experience. The confusing PR description of the game, which is nothing like the experience you actually get, is testament to that muddled framework. This is well worth a go, but it is not a polished gem by any stretch of the imagination.
When it comes down to it, Riptide GP: Renegade is not a significant step up from its predecessors, despite the developer's PR rumblings. It is, however, a flashier, more content heavy upgrade with a lot to get stuck into, whether you favour single-player or multiplayer. While there are some obvious flaws holding it back, such as the lack of interesting varied tracks, if taken at face value, Renegade packs a big punch for its price point. This is not a Wave Race-like classic, but it has potential.
In conclusion, ignoring the stat glitches, lack of private lobbies and the somewhat questionable way the game is packaged, what's underneath the hood is seriously impressive. Any dedicated racing nuts who feel like testing themselves at the wheel on console should look no further. While there are other console games, such as Project CARS, with more cars and more courses, claiming also to be serious racers, Assetto Corsa undeniably owns the genre on console now, due to its uncompromising and unwavering dedication to realism. For now, there's nothing better for that on console. It's just a shame that it lacks the polish and omits some major draws, such as private online lobbies, which stop it from being considered a classic.
Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo is a well-made rally game that builds wisely and extensively on top of a rich heritage of rally games. While it ultimately fails to make up its mind about whether it's a sim or more of an arcade racer, which does hold it back in some senses, there's still no question that it's a highly worthwhile package. It's crammed with content and offers hours of driving joy without quite the same amount of grief one gets from a DiRT Rally or Assetto Corsa. Milestone has impressed massively with their latest rally offering, benefiting exponentially from the insight and presence of Sebastien Loeb. Let's hope there's a sequel!
FIFA 17 is still an incremental step up in the series, but considering the bold assertions about what the power of the Frostbite engine would make possible, it is a somewhat underwhelming package overall. While The Journey must be applauded for attempting to offer something genuinely new, it's also not particularly brimming with any new content, either, besides its cut-scenes. With Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 looking very competitive, it's disappointing that this year's FIFA couldn't do more. It rather settles for the top four, instead of illustrating its title credentials. There's always next year, though.
On reflection, F1 2016 is a game that has enhanced itself significantly with this instalment. It accentuates the smaller details of the sport, but also makes a series of more wholesale changes, which makes the game seem more purposeful. The availability of proper lap analysis and telemetry data brings a proper purpose to practice sessions. It finally turns a too often pointless mode into the proactive, useable tool that it should be for improving driver performance. While it's not the perfect outing, it's a more serious and functional affair that will appeal to the purists two-fold. Codemasters has certainly learnt from DiRT Rally, which didn't deter less serious racing fans, but introduced the details to players in the right way. Although it is not quite perfect overall, it's an encouraging step in the right direction and still easily the most authentic F1 racing game ever made.
The knock-on effect the game's various problems is a somewhat hollow driving experience overall. WRC 6 is valiant in terms of its content and its knowledge of rallying, and fans of the sport and of the genre will find an enjoyable package here. However, the simple reality is that this year fans are spoilt for rallying games and there are many better experiences to be had. It targets neither DiRT Rally, on the sim-side of the spectrum, nor the more all-encompassing, centre of the road experiences such as Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo. The result is a somewhat diluted rallying title with plenty of substance, but less than ideal execution. This is yet another driving series that needs to go back to its roots.
Despite a few minor irritations, such as the odd bug in a MyCareer training session or a slight oddity in the animations, NBA 2K17 is basketball at its absolute finest in gaming terms. While it's obviously difficult to rank it alongside games of yesteryear, like the more arcade-centric NBA Jam on the SNES, when it comes to simulating the game on modern hardware, this is the purest, most authentic experience out there, bar none.
Steep is a solid, fun and fluid experience, well worth checking out whether you're a fan of winter sports or not, but there is a sense that the sequel (if there is to be one) will learn valuable lessons from the jumping-off point chosen here. Better yet, perhaps upcoming content will amend some of these drawbacks. With all that said, it's still an enjoyable and refreshing game quite unlike anything else available at this time. Next year will bring rivals, but for now, this is King of the Mountain.