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.
If there's a sticking point to Returnal, it's that it's a big PS5 exclusive that is most definitely not for everyone. It's next-gen beautiful all the way, but if you've never played a game like this before, even all that beauty and amazing design might not be worth the sense of dejection you might feel as the body count starts mounting. Returnal and other games like it will force newer players to ask questions about what kind of games they want to experience. It takes a little bit of weird thinking to relish the prospect of repeated punishment. I recommend it, just for the experience of it. If you're part of that wider audience who wants to give a next-gen roguelike a shot, then be prepared for an awakening. And another one. And … another one.