Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora successfully immerses players into James Cameron's multi-billion dollar franchise. It's easily one of the most beautiful sci-fi worlds I have ever had the pleasure of exploring and ensures that when it's threatened, you'll feel the desire to protect it.
While some of Cyberpunk 2077's issues still linger, and the new content isn't without its own flaws, CD Projekt Red has done a commendable job at making me like a game I previously had disdain for. Phantom Liberty continues to prove CD Projekt Red has a deft hand for high-quality storytelling and has now shown it can provide strong RPG gameplay to match.
Pardon the pun, but playing Redfall really sucked the life out of me. It's a game that so desperately feels like it wants to be more than what it is, which is understandable. It's dreadfully dull, buggy, frustrating, and feels shackled to a genre that it doesn't really want to be part of. Far Cry with vampires sounds like a great idea, but ultimately, what we got feels like a shell of a prototype for such a concept.
Dead Island 2 may not always make full use of its promising setting, but it may be the most fun I've had killing zombies in quite some time. The combat is deliriously fulfilling and will likely be further heightened in co-op when players can ping-pong zombies off of each other with their drop kicks or whatever other hijinks the community can come up with. It's an artful display of zombie violence and mayhem, which is an achievement in of itself given how saturated this genre is this many years after the first Dead Island.
While it doesn't do everything perfectly, Hogwarts Legacy stimulates the imagination with a rich world to explore and gameplay that empowers and thrills the player. The Harry Potter films had the tough task of taking words on a page and creating a visual language for them. Hogwarts Legacy had the even tougher task of taking that visual language and making it interactive, ultimately expanding it all into something that is fun to play and immerse yourself in. Although there's still a long year ahead of us and tons of great looking games on the horizon, Hogwarts Legacy is already one of the best games of 2023.
NBA 2K23 is bogged down in a lot of problems courtesy of predatory monetization and an overzealous RPG game taking priority over the actual basketball-ing, but it does have great qualities as well. There is plenty of content ensuring there's something for everyone to play and the game leans into its simulation aspects in a risky, but effective way. If the series can hone these good qualities and leave behind its outdated monetization schemes, 2K could garner another level of respect and become something that rises above the other sports games.
Ultimately, Saints Row may not be the grand return to the franchise that fans were hoping for, but that doesn't mean it's not worth giving a look. Despite a poorly-paced story with average characters, it still has a ton of content and a sandbox that is ripe for hours of co-op fun.
Where dogs are usually considered "man's best friend," Stray suggests that cats may be robot's best friend. This is a game that wears its heart on its sleeve and expertly weaves its themes into everything the player does. There will likely be many people who buy this game because they want to play as a cat and their itch will be scratched, but there's also a high chance they will come away moved by its story of companionship and get caught up in its soothing and equally mesmerizing atmosphere. There are a lot of amazing looking games coming this fall, but Stray has already cemented itself as a contender for awards season.
The Quarry is a charming and surprisingly intimate horror story that creates real stakes and successfully does away with the idea of plot armor. Although it has some annoying or even frustrating quirks, it's a worthy successor to a game like Until Dawn and highlights Supermassive Games as masters of their craft.
Sniper Elite 5 has scratched an itch that I have had since Splinter Cell vanished nearly a decade ago. The stealth, level design, and sandbox elements have created something that will be incredibly fun to replay both by yourself and with friends. Although Rebellion still has to tighten up some areas such as the story and close-quarters gunplay, this is an extremely refined stealth game that has taken the series into a new era with a lot of meat on its bones.
The Xbox Series X|S and PS5 versions of Grand Theft Auto V and GTA Online are good, this isn't a bad game, it's just not as impressive as one may hope. It has some flashy new graphical effects, a menu redesign, and the 60FPS mode is remarkable, but it's all marginal. For newcomers with little to no experience with the game, this is going to be an absolute treat. For veterans, this may ring a bit hollow. It's worth picking up if you want to keep up with GTA Online and have the best possible version, but otherwise, there are no enhancements that demand you replay the story once more.
It's not as unsalvageable as Battlefield 5, but it's still hard to imagine this evolving into the definitive Battlefield game that DICE wants it to be. There is fleeting fun to be had here, but it's often spoiled by the game's blatant shortcomings. The maps are a slog, gunplay is bogged down by puzzling design choices, and there's no shortage of bugs that actively require the player to restart the entire game. It's a far cry from the 10-year-old Battlefield 3 and as it continues to age, the series strays further away from those glory days with no road to redemption in sight.
Alan Wake Remastered's improvements are subtle and won't dramatically change the experience, but that also means it retains what made it so special in the first place. The atmosphere is chilling ,and the story holds up after over a decade, meaning it doesn't need a full-blown remake to still feel worthy of a modern retelling. Even with its flaws, Alan Wake Remastered is worth playing in 2021, especially for those who missed it the first time around.
Life is Strange: True Colors creates a world that players will want to be in, and a story that needs to be seen to the end. Despite the small scale of Haven and its unnerving issues, True Colors plausibly allows itself to have high stakes and is convincing in its premise. It's a game that is not only a shocking emotional rollercoaster, but also a compelling lesson about the importance of empathy, and an enjoyable time that could serve as a viable foundation for more storytelling in the future.
MLB The Show 21 is yet another solid entry in Sony's now multi-platform sports franchise. The consistent tweaks to how the game functions and its quality-of-life improvements each year have helped create a balanced, solid foundation for each iteration to improve on. Even though MLB The Show 21 lacks in delivering a truly engrossing current-gen experience on the new consoles in some ways and has a few typical sports franchise pitfalls, it's still an enjoyable game that has a high degree of craftsmanship.