It might not seem like it right now, but Forspoken had some very good ideas, and I ended up still having some fun with it. It feels like it needed a little more time to figure out its real identity instead of its disjointed little-of-this, little-of-that experience. I think it's true form, which it hinted at, is as a young-adult, Bayonetta-adjacent ass-kicker, that needs to pick a tone and lean into it. If that's what it had been, we'd be onto something.
I don't want to close with the impression that I had a bad time with Gungrave G.O.R.E. I didn't. But I didn't have a memorable one, either. It was a nice bit of action nostalgia for a short while, but in a world where less glitzy action titles feature so much more depth, agility or even wit, Gungrave G.O.R.E. will have a tough time separating itself from all of the bullet-fare that's out there.
In the end, I can't shake how captivating the chemistry among the characters was in God of War: Ragnarok. I probably laughed and got misty-eyed more times in the first few hours of playing this than I did for the whole first game. Plenty of heavy themes are tackled here other than life and death: alcoholism, abusive relationships, codependency, depression, emotional breakthroughs, true father-and-son bonding, manipulation, etc. You could call this game God of War: Families, Amirite? I've deliberately been vague about many of the key plot points, funny exchanges and gut-punch moments because I think people need to experience them for themselves. I probably already said too much regarding the bears, but they left an impact. The rest of God of War: Ragnarok will make quite an impression as well, and perhaps provide lessons that can outlive us all.
If you've never experienced it before, The Last of Us Part I is a must-buy. It's essential in any library. One of the things I liked about playing this again is that it's a nice change from a lot of the exhaustive open-world concepts out there. The level designs and settings are expansive enough for you to explore, but they're not big enough to go off the rails. You have a definite destination and mission, even if the journey carves a few pieces out of you. It's worth it. Just remember to perhaps pour yourself a drink afterward.
I would recommend NBA 2K23 for its sheer breadth of material and the fact that it really tries to be a basketball universe unto itself (hence the massive file size). It's certainly not perfect, as I still keep running into odd glitches now and then, and even some strange things that carry over from the last game (Do I really have to keep walking through the Dallas Mavericks shootaround to get to my guys? Why is that still a thing?), but it is and shall likely always be the sports game I play almost every day, no matter what time of year it actually is - even when the fans tell me I stink.
MLB The Show 22 is still among the highest forms of video game baseball available … right along with the game that came before it. It still plays exquisitely, and it's still definitely worth your time if you've never really experienced the series before. For veterans, however, this could be the moment where the game just feels … sort of "there," and the only big difference you'll notice is that this year's cover guy probably should have been last year's cover guy.
Small gaffes aside, Horizon: Forbidden West is everything I'd hoped for from the first game - and a lot more. It's a beautiful piece of work that deserves all the time a PS4 or PS5 owner can give it. It's a must-have in any game library and should be at or near the front of your rotation.
Despite my perceived flaws of Ghostwire: Tokyo, I'd still recommend it as something to experience to players of all levels, simply for the fact that I did enjoy playing it and learning from it. Also, I wanted to give respect to Tango Gameworks for heading in a somewhat different design avenue. It's a ghostbusting romp through Tokyo, and if someone asks if you want to play it, say yes.
If there's anything that might make me hesitate from recommending Sifu to everybody, it's that its difficulty clearly makes it not for everyone. In addition to being a beat-'em-up, it's also a roguelike in some ways, where repeated failure is to be expected and almost embraced. Not everybody is going to be into that, and it's a shame because in addition to all the action, it's got a very cool art style and outstanding soundtrack. It also just "gets" fans of fighting movies and kung-fu. There's a sequence in the game's first level in an abandoned building where the camera perspective shifts from over the shoulder into 2D, left to right, in a nearly spot-on replication of the hallway fight from "Oldboy." You get to fight a hallway full of people; that alone gave me chills and makes the ensuing hardcore, hand-cramping fights to come worth it. Perhaps one of the best compliments I can give to Sifu's essence is this: Playing and improving in this game actually seemed to make me better at other games. What's more kung-fu than that?
Through all that, I found Tormented Souls to be just intriguing enough to be worth checking out if you have the time. It's a lesson in where survival-horror games have come from and what stories can still be told within the genre. With a little more modernization within the combat and cleaner visuals, this probably could have been an underground classic.
As much of an odyssey as it was, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Deathloop. It's one of the more thoughtful and well-crafted games out there and one of the best things you can play on the PS5. In addition to everything else, I liked the game's sexy, graphic-novelish cartoon vibe in its visuals that made every area burst to life and fun to explore. It's a true piece of art and is definitely worth your time … over and over.
That said, I found Kena: Bridge of Spirits to be one of the best treats of the year, both for the eyes and for the soul. Not only does it show elaborate craftsmanship, but it also feels like it was infused with joy and awareness. I'm happy it's here, and I look forward to seeing where Kena's bridge can lead.
NBA 2K22 is generally a beautiful representation of next-generation console hoops, but it's a little disturbing that many of the newest things I noticed didn't have a whole lot to do with basketball. The on-court product is good, but it's not perfect. Basketball is still my favorite sport to watch, and I love the game, so I'll keep playing, but I can probably put the music and fashion career on hold - and I don't need to spend any more money.
Bloober Team is no stranger to making games that feature concepts with immense potential, like Blair Witch or Observer. The Medium is probably my favorite of theirs to date. It's got a couple of warts, but it's easy to get lost in its world (both of them), even with its pitch-black narrative overtones. It makes it feel important, though perhaps not something you'll feel compelled to play on repeat.
Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut feels like the truest, purest way to experience this title, so much so that I'm willing to go through it once again from the top, when Jin rode into battle with his uncle and almost died. I want to ride through the grass, stumble into duels, climb mountains and battle Mongols for another few dozen hours while making a stop on a freaky island to fight a crazy woman who likes poison and the color purple. I want to do it all, and I would recommend that anyone with the time should look into doing the same. It's still the samurai game of my dreams: Now it looks even better, and there's more of it.
I always find a message within the selection of the Madden cover athlete, and in the picks of Tom Brady (arguably the greatest quarterback of all time) and Patrick Mahomes (arguably the most naturally gifted QB of all time), the message felt like a dual nod to Madden's age and enduring legacy as well as the promise of a bright future. However, even with the new stuff, I can't shake the sense of sameness in the experience of Madden NFL 22. The love of football keeps me playing, but there were no moments that made me think, "OK, we are in the next generation." That holds the series back while other games have passed it by. It looks like another year where "the leap" will have to wait - if it ever comes at all.
I think the world of Scarlet Nexus has a lot to offer, and I enjoyed getting a significant taste of it. Its concepts on brain power and psionic combat feel fresh, at least artistically, and I want to see where it possibly goes. I'm still abuzz over the final boss confrontation. I don't think it's quite for everyone, but fans of the anime style of storytelling will find something to connect with here.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart could be one of the first true all-encompassing showcases for the PS5. Every time I sat down to play it, I felt like I was about to start a really long episode of a good show. If there's one small nitpick, it's that I felt that some of the larger confrontations got slightly repetitive - I mean, how many versions of "juggernauts" am I supposed to fight? Also, one might get the sense that not enough risks were taken and that the game's design, as cool as it is, feels comfortable and safe. That feels like a discussion for the artists among us, and this doesn't feel like the time for a literary salon. I am on my third playthrough of Rift Apart, and I'm enjoying it as much as the first time I went through it. Sometimes, all a game has to be is fun.
The Show has been one of the more consistently excellent and complete sports series for years, and MLB The Show 21 maintains that excellence as it steps into the next-gen batter's box. The cover athlete choice of the aforementioned Fernando Tatis, Jr., is no coincidence, as the young star is being seen as one of baseball's next big things, ushering in a possible new era of personality and Q-rating power that the game could sorely use. He can also do everything, and everything is what this series has offered to fans for years at a high level. Time will tell if there is yet another level to reach.