Spider-Man 2 is exceptional. In your hands, it’s the best a superhero game has ever felt. On your eyes, it’s a pure tour de force of what the PlayStation 5 can do. On your heart, it’s heavy, enticing, exciting. The open world is a tonic, the characters are a riot, the villains are unbelievable in the best way. Suspend your disbelief in a neat little web above your head, dive in with your mask pulled tight over your face, and prepare yourself for the daftest, most earnest action game of 2023. It’s a 20-or-so hour hoot you’re not going to be able to put down until the post-credits scene has rolled.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty is an excellent action game, and a tightly-focused, well-executed example of why Team Ninja is often mentioned in the same breath as FromSoftware. Razor-sharp combat that wields the power of momentum with deft ease, supported by intricate and well-designed levels, against the backdrop of an over-the-top historical fantasy? It’s just a shame about the quality-of-life aberrations that constantly chip away at your morale.
Wild Hearts often feels like a game that doesn’t want to be played. It’s fussy, it’s janky, and it constantly trips itself up. An erratic gameplay loop, an absolute bastard of a camera, and some ill-conceived weapon gimmicks prevent Koei Tecmo and EA’s experimental hunting joint from ever really succeeding where its genre rivals have. It’s ironic that building is such a core part of this game: if this is the start of a series, Omega Force has laid down some important groundwork, but it needs to make some serious structural revisions from the foundations up if it ever wants to look eye-to-eye with Capcom’s imposing juggernaut.
This is a top-tier rhythm action game that’s pitched as a love letter to the Final Fantasy series, brimming with content and packed with love and care. But – like some of the more ambitious double-albums out there – it sometimes feels like quantity over quality, as you trudge through some of the less well thought-out note maps in order to get to the ones you know will inspire you. Some will have more patience for that than others. Given that I’ve already played through Blue Fields about 20 times, I’ll leave you to figure out where I land on that.
This isn’t to say there isn’t a good game oozing within the sticky flesh of this Frankenstein, though; it just feels like it’s not what Striking Distance wanted it to be. It’s not the next step in horror gaming, the evolution of Dead Space, or a proposition unlike anything you’ve seen before – it’s the opposite. An amalgam, less than the sum of its parts, whose main focus becomes overwrought and frustrating by the time you’re halfway through its short run-time. The scariest thing about The Callisto Protocol, sadly, is all the potential that’s been wasted on a small moon in Jupiter’s orbit.
In a world where we've seen Square Enix fall down with remasters (examples include the lacklustre Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters and the egregious Kingdom Hearts on Switch), Tactics Ogre: Reborn highlights something special – a change of the guard, so to speak, that bodes remarkably well for the rest of the publisher's classic RPG oeuvre.
Metal: Hellsinger is a good time, if not a short time. Hard as nails, rewarding as they come, and fuelled by some of the best names in heavy music, The Outsider and Funcom have made a game that’s worth every second of your time it takes up – even if that’s only about the length of one of the more epic prog albums out there. A knowing and fun take on the rhythm shooter genre, plagued with some calibration and UI issues, this romp through Hell is as satisfying as it is frustrating – and not even hearing the dulcet tones and throaty growls of Trivium’s Matt Heafy can offset that.
If you grit your teeth and pay out for the DLC, you won’t be disappointed: Sunbreak is an essential expansion for any Monster Hunter fan, and – paired with Rise – may well be the best entry point for anyone eager to learn more about this fascinating series, too.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is a B-movie game. It’s loud, dumb, and full of fun. You have to ignore a lot – a lot – of issues if you want to extract the joy from its chaotic heart, but once you commit, toy around with the weapons, penetrate its poorly-explained mechanics and forgive Jack for his one-dimensional personality, you’re left with a game that’s part Devil May Cry, part Nioh, and part Face/Off. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to play that?
Resident Evil Village is an essential horror experience that shows off what Capcom is capable of when it doesn’t compromise its vision in any way. The developer uses subgenres like puzzle pieces, clicking them into place on a grid to reveal the bigger picture: a survival horror collage, realised with remarkable production values and a deep love for its extensive roots. Resident Evil Village will be held high by Lady Dimitrescu and her peers for years to come, to rest head and shoulders above its genre rivals.
It’s a shame, then, that some of the level design choices don’t really pair up with the engine Toys for Bob has built this love-letter to 90s platforming games in. Loose and floaty physics, an abundance of different mechanics that often feel part-baked, and some design choices that feel sadistic – rather than simply difficult – leave this approach to Crash Bandicoot feeling less like a true sequel, and more like a licensed spin-off.