Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is very much its own thing, taking the best parts of the prior game and putting it in a new perspective. It evokes Privateer and Freelancer vibes, with the look of X-Wing spectacularly. It’s an accessible arcade game that has a lot of repetition in its loop, but that gameplay is really fun. There’s so many secrets to discover, and places to explore, that even dozens upon dozens of hours I haven’t seen it all. Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is one of better games I’ve played this year.
Metal Wolf Chaos finds new life on PC, PS4, and Xbox One with Metal Wolf Chaos XD. And while it’s not a full remaster, it does more than enough to become accessible for the first time in its existence. The work done to bring this to modern systems and give people a chance to finally play it by removing the complications of obtaining the original Japanese game and hardware, is so appreciated. Metal Wolf Chaos XD is bonkers from start to finish, only getting crazier by game’s end. It very much feels like an unearthed time capsule, but Metal Wolf Chaos XD offers much in the way of replayability and absurdity that I couldn’t help but love its zaniness.
It's been a long time since Age of Wonders III was released back in 2014, and Age of Wonders: Planetfall reminds me what makes this series so great. This is a strategy game that feels like classic Age of Wonders in every respect, but thrust into the future with a renewed energy. There's essentially two games here that work in concert with one another, and Age of Wonders: Planetfall demonstrates how to do this flawlessly. The missions feel handcrafted, rather than "make your own fun"; the planets are colorful and vibrant, teeming with life, and the factions are unique, silly, and fascinating. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better strategy game than Age of Wonders: Planetfall this year, or in the past few years.
While I complain about Wolfenstein: Youngblood, the issues I have with it center around the inclusion of RPG mechanics that don’t really find their place in this game, and hurt it in the long-run. Arkane’s influence to level design makes these places feeling more lived in, and more interesting than any of the locations in The New Blood, The Old Blood, or even The New Colossus despite the populace having been displaced due to the occupation. As a primer for the events of Wolfenstein III, it’s well worth the price of admission. You can still be a turbo killer as one of the Terror Twins, by murdering Nazis with reckless abandon with a shitload of heavy weaponry — and that’s more than enough for me.
After thousands and thousands of bugs killed, the infestation is seemingly never-ending. Rebooting the series with EARTH DEFENSE FORCE 5 is likely for the best, making it an excellent entry point, but also a familiar place to return to. It feels right out of a Syfy movie, but its lack of gravitas is what makes it all work. Sure it’s a little unbalanced, a little uneven, but it’s a whole lot of fun. Whether EARTH DEFENSE FORCE 5 is your first or fifth time with the series, you’re in for a great time.
Depending what difficulty setting you select, Blazing Chrome can either be too easy or too hard, thankfully it is endlessly replayable alone or with a friend. Blazing Chrome is my favorite from JoyMasher yet, and it is on-par with the challenge of their other releases. This is a 16-bit game with an 8-bit challenge that makes for an instant classic. In turn, it stays authentic to the era in terms of difficulty, presentation, and feel. In Blazing Chrome's case, this is an exciting game that nails the era with an 80s and 90s feel that's perfectly complimented by its gameplay and even end-credits song.
F1 2019 has so many improvements, changes, and a overall fantastic feel. It doesn’t make you feel like anything was left out, and the extra DLC is just that – this is value-packed offering. Codemasters have blurred the lines between broadcast and gameplay, and it offers immersion on a whole new level. The interspersed drama heightens the stakes in all the right ways. F1 2019 is the spectacle it should be, just like its real-life counterpart. This is the best it’s ever been.
DeadToast Entertainment has made a game that builds on the systems and mechanics it introduces incrementally to the player. This is a game where you feel like John Wick, (or maybe Neo for a more accurate Keanu Reeves reference) by game’s end. The late game annoyances in platforming don’t sour what is otherwise and incredibly fun game where you’re in direct control of the action. The tagline is “Blood. Bullets. Bananas.” and that couldn’t be more accurate. Though, I’ll never look at a banana the same way again after experiencing the final level. My Friend Pedro is equal parts substance and style, with emphasis on the style.
There’s nothing cooler than seeing a Ferrari F40 re-imagined as a LEGO vehicle that you can not only drive but customize in Forza Horizon 4. In a lot of ways, this feels like a test for Playground Games to do a standalone LEGO racing game someday. As it stands, this is a great expansion for people of all ages, despite how displaced it seems from the rest of the game. LEGO Speed Champions doesn’t disappoint in its delivery, but it does feel like it’s taken a few missteps in the build process. Ultimately, this is a childhood fantasy come true.
MotoGP 19 has so much new going on that makes this a must-own for those following the franchise. The series still manages to lack a personality, but is now forming its identity with this release. The before and after TV-style presentation is really solid, but I wish there was more. Fans and historians of the sport will love the challenge mode, and everything it offers. If you've never played the series before, this is the year to get into MotoGP. MotoGP 19 has no shortage of simulation racing to be found in its multitude of well-rounded modes.
Shakedown: Hawaii is better than Retro City Rampage in just about every way, but they find a way to compliment each other. The game’s biggest strength is not relying on references, even though I miss them. The story is very guided by being very hand-holdy. I wish you were given more creative latitude, but that’s where the free roam and arcade modes come into play. With a styling akin to a Super Nintendo or Genesis console, Shakedown: Hawaii looks and plays amazing. It’s being ported to literally everything, and no matter where you play it: you absolutely should.
Void Bastards is among the very best of the genre, and my favorite game of the year so far — it’s an instant classic. It’s as if you have infinite lives, and upon death you realize your save is 15 minutes old. Sure, you can’t pick up from where you left off, but it’s never anything to feel defeated about when you have to start anew. Blue Manchu has thought of everything when it comes to its systems and how they interact with each other. Centered around the story and progression, this is a wonderful experience. Without hesitation, Void Bastards is exceptional in every sense of the word.
Hell is Other Demons offers two great, differing modes that will grab your attention, and hold it for hours. The aesthetic will almost hurt your eyes, but you’ll never want to look away from it as the soundtrack and accompanying effects both visually and audibly are tantalizing. Cuddle Monster Games has achieved something special with Hell is Other Demons. This is a devilishly clever bullet-hell shooter that you need to see for yourself.
RAGE 2 is doused in neon, bright colors, and blood. This post-apocalyptic punk-wave world is an absolute blast thanks to the co-development of id Software and Avalanche Studios blending styles and ideas. I wish there were more main missions as they are often the most exciting part of the game, but this is a game where you make your own fun. It has a better and satisfying ending over the previous, and has a fully-realized open-world with things to do that doesn’t ever waste your time. RAGE 2 has been worth the wait. When combat is in full swing, its kinetic energy and momentum is the most stupid fun you can have.
Sniper Elite V2 Remastered has dated gameplay that’s a stark reminder at how much the series has improved with Sniper Elite 3 and Sniper Elite 4. When examining this game as a purely standalone experience, Sniper Elite V2 Remastered is a solid game that benefits from improved visuals and a way for those who haven’t experienced this series with a better way of doing so. This game’s influence is one to be remembered, and is captured so well with this remaster.
I feel like Starlink: Battle For Atlas has been overlooked, and very much underappreciated. It offers a fantastic space arcade experience whether you’re on a planet or in space, and the smooth transitions between each is ever so satisfying. I do consider the PC version the best and definitive way to play the game, with the exception of the Star Fox content you’d find on the Switch. It is also otherwise in full parity with the other console versions to include the support of the physical toys if you wish to go down that route. Starlink: Battle For Atlas is great for all ages, and has no shortage of content or enjoyment.
Katana ZERO is really fantastic at providing mind-bending, reality altering sequences both in gameplay and story. While I never felt like I knew where things were going, it ultimately falls short of greatness by the end. With nothing more than a tease and a wink, the game ends, feeling unfinished with too much of a setup to continue via DLC or a sequel. That said, Katana ZERO is absolutely a worthwhile slashction platformer that does unexpected things with its story to make this a must play.
At five dollars, ISLANDERS is a steal. What it lacks in permanence, it more than makes up for in replayability thanks to its point system for score chasers and procedurally generated landscapes. I only wish I could zoom in to get a better look at what I’ve made, but that’s a quibble against something really fantastic and cool. Beyond that, this is a game I keep coming back to for how laid back it is, for it relaxes me between games I’m playing. ISLANDERS is simply wonderful, a micro game for macro enjoyment.
Dangerous Driving is somewhat basic for a racer, but this offering goes at incredible speeds and has unexpected depth and nostalgia for a series that’s found new life. On PC, you’ll have to forego some modern features and connectivity over its console brethren. The amount of hours you’ll spend in Dangerous Driving feels really good, and something you’ll keep coming back to. Dangerous Driving has its flaws, but it’s a magnificent return to form from a small team that knows how to make a Burnout game all but in name.
Limbic Entertainment has breathed new life into Tropico that seemingly had offered all it could with the last entry. Tropico 6 eschews the things that didn't work, keeps the things that did, and introduces tons of great new features. I enjoy how the way the new systems play off of one another, that landmasses change how traffic is shaped, the genius levels of pirating world wonders from their original locations, all adds up to a streamlined offering that lets the personality shine through. Tropico 6 doesn't miss a beat with its latest entry, even with a new developer behind the series – in fact, it is the best of the series because of it.