ACE COMBAT 7: SKIES UNKNOWN has some really solid missions that deal with political and military intrigue, a fantastic weather system, and constant chatter that wouldn't normally be tolerated by any military force. It's a bizarre and endearing title that's an absolute a joy to play. ACE COMBAT has been sorely missed for the past twelve years (we don't talk about 2012's Assault Horizon). ACE COMBAT 7: SKIES UNKNOWN is a triumph, and return to form.
ASTRONEER is as long or as short as you want it to be. It’s the kind of game that de-stresses you at the end of the day, and something you can play with friends for zero friction. You’re always making progress, and the game saves often, in addition to entering vehicles and bases to save as well. System Era Softworks have made an incredible crafting and exploration game in ASTRONEER. In learning the systems means you become more proficient at trying out the new planets and the challenges they offer. As such, you’re never marooned in one place too long, and you never want to be – there’s so much to see and do.
The Hong Kong Massacre is just short of something great here. But many things that works against it, and things that it lacks. And VRESKI clearly have some work to do to get the game in better shape. When it works, the game really starts to flow like a stream of blood carrying spent shell casings. This feels especially good when you finally clear a level you’ve been stuck on, as it feels truly sublime, like you’re unstoppable. And that’s when The Hong Kong Massacre is at its, and your best.
FutureGrind is incredibly well thought out and designed. It understands what it is, and what it asks of you. The instant restarts are a feature it couldn’t live without, and it’s story mode is more than enough to carry you through. The game is wide open for DLC and expansions to do more of what it does so well. What this all amounts to, is that FutureGrind quickly becomes technically demanding for you to do mental and physical gymnastics with the controls. It never is anything insurmountable, but rather constantly forcing you to reteach your brain what bike you’re using, and what modifiers are on the track. This kind of thinking is necessary to reach the end, and work towards those diamonds. FutureGrind feels familiar and fresh all in the same breath, but it is certainly a standout title from Milkbag Games that’s the first must play of 2019.
Elastic Games gets it right with Last Year: The Nightmare as it easily gets its hooks in you from the start. With a free content road-map outlined for 2019, the future looks bright going forward. It has a few bugs that keep it from greatness, but nothing to keep anyone from playing it right now. As you get paired up with random people and are forced to work together, this is the kind of game you make friends from. If you want to see what the definition of a successful Kickstarter is, look no further than Last Year. Upcoming platforms are in for a treat, as Last Year: The Nightmare is a killer game.
Developer New World Interactive have plans for post-launch support, and possibly a campaign in the future. There’s a limited number of maps and modes here, but there’s a lot of game all the same. Insurgency: Sandstorm is heart-pounding in every match and mode, and there’s little room for error. New World Interactive’s vision is unmatched, though notably niche. You’ll not find another first-person shooter in a hardcore setting than what Insurgency: Sandstorm provides.
Hitman 2 brings in more of what I loved about the first game and then some. The tight gameplay, the serious but comical undertone, and the plethora of challenging bits to accomplish make Hitman 2 an amazing package. It’s unfortunate that IO forces you to connect to a server to actually access the challenge information, let alone be able to save your progression of them. It leaves a nasty stain on such a pristine, near perfect white suit.
DUSK looks, feels, and acts like a classic first-person shooter from the 90s, but doesn't rely on anything but itself to impress you. From the first moment when the ominous voice saying "KILL THE INTRUDER", DUSK sets a tone that it delivers every step of the way. The DUSKWORLD multiplayer is mildly disappointing, but doesn't take away from what an amazing offering the campaign is. DUSK revives the first-person genre with a customizable retro aesthetic, a head-banging soundtrack, and levels that rival modern first-person shooters; DUSK is the FPS dreams are made of.
Just Cause 4‘s villains never have enough screen-time to warrant their position of power or revenge, but this game is the equivalent of a popcorn flick for video games. It’s as ridiculous as the series gets, where the bad guys are trying to control the weather (the weather!), and Rico is the perfect person to remove them from power. Just Cause 4 is at its best when it isn’t too serious, and focuses on the fun and silly – which this game has in spades. Just Cause 4 is a great ride from start to finish.
Battlefield V feels less like an experiment, and more of a refinement for the series to-date. It doesn’t have much in the way of environments that recall World War II. From its War Stories single-player to its robust multiplayer offering, this feels like a World War II movie with how the gameplay feels, the visuals look, and the sound punches. Battlefield V is a game that’s going to evolve over time, and as it stands, has the foundations of something great. I look forward to the improvements DICE will be putting into the game throughout its lifespan.
When I wasn’t about to throw up by its canned animations and jerky movement, I found there’s a decent game in here that could have been handled much better. KURSK did well at showing that these Russians were humans, not monsters – and some of them were basically kids. This is an amazingly looking game that’s an unfortunate, buggy mess. That said, KURSK does respect the lives lost, as well as convey the emotions and thoughts of those aboard. And to that end, KURSK succeeds. It’s a shame then, that this sinks under the weight of its own ambitions.
Tate Multimedia’s wreck and ride platformer is something special, even though it made me mad and wasn’t that memorable. Steel Rats is rather unique on the whole, and stands out against everything else in the genre – whether it be platforming, action, or racing. Steel Rats has replayability, detail, and general cleverness in its world, design, and presentation that’s worth checking out at some point. It’s just a shame that it the controls and navigation become the biggest adversary.
Diablo III: Eternal Collection is such a perfect fit and excellent port. It should be considered the gold standard for ports and Action RPGs going forward. Blizzard is putting everyone on notice. Diablo III: Eternal Collection is a complete and definitive collection of what’s sure to be the final form for Diablo III. It’s a perfect swan song for this game, because it’s Prime Evil how good this release is.
Party Hard 2 does just about everything right. It’s a game of skill, strategy, and patience. It can also be frustrating with its increased difficulty, and can be off-putting, especially when you’ve completed most of the objectives and an ill-timed move spells disaster. Party Hard, a game I absolutely adored, is simply outdone with Party Hard 2. Every aspect and mechanic is improved over the original for the better, making Party Hard 2 a must-play.
As an expansion only, American Wilds fails to impress. As a complete package, this is a better value add to get base game and all DLC included, but it’s still a simulation that’s frustrating to deal with. With MudRunner 2 announced earlier this year, this series is going to need to be more diverse in terrain, detail, and controls. Until then, American Wilds‘ new locations and vehicles don’t provide enough to get you stuck in the mud again.
Treyarch eschewed one of the tent poles of every Call of Duty game since the original, perhaps boldly, with removing the campaign to make the game more omnipresent, accounting for all types of players who enjoy multiplayer gaming. The game now has three powerful modes that offers “something for everybody”. This was previously the case when campaign was a part of it, but there is somewhat of a shift away from single-player experiences, and the direction is shown here. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 almost defiantly makes itself known as the ultimate all-in-one multiplayer experience to play – and does so with incredible confidence and execution.
Klei Entertainment have put some serious work into making sure that the game is updated to today’s standards, and is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor. Mark of the Ninja: Remastered is the definitive version of the previous release by including all DLC, and improving every aspect of what came before. Playing this again was a constant reminder of what makes the game so great. From the way vision and sound are incorporated to the basics of gameplay to how you interact with enemies. Mark of the Ninja: Remastered is unmarred by time, is the quintessential stealth game after all these years, and is a mark of 2D excellence.
Oregon as an expansion and DLC is very much worth the price. This, and all state DLC is modestly priced for what you get you out of it. Being able to expand your trucking empire into the Pacific Northwest now extends your time with the game, and lets you do runs from Portland to Santa Fe are now possible, and incredibly fun as you listen to internet radio along the way. If you're going to buy any state DLC for American Truck Simulator, let it be Oregon.