This is what makes Fallout 76 painful: many worthwhile moments surrounded by a game with just as many nagging issues. The bare-bones plot and general lack of direction mean you must make your own fun. It's set in a largely static world that doesn't care about the choices you make, and the few times when you can impact the world may be lost to you or circumvented by others with a mere server hop. There's fun to be had if you enjoy the thought of poking around a Fallout wasteland with a friend. Otherwise, very little here feels new, and it feels like a lot of content is missing in comparison to previous games in the series.
Despite the issues, I'm really enjoying BattleTech. Get past its learning curve and get a few missions under your belt, and you begin to feel like a capable commander. The company management gives a backbone to your progression, while the mission gameplay is an enjoyably tangled web of tactical options and trade-offs. It's far from a perfect game, but it's a solidly good title that's a welcome entry in a long-overlooked franchise.
The core gameplay of the original Vermintide was an incredibly strong formula that was wrapped in a package that didn't live up to the same level of quality. The sequel, Warhammer: Vermintide 2, has clearly taken what was learned from that game to heart and delivered an awfully gleeful gameplay loop. Hop into a match, lop off a few heads, gain experience and gear, and next time, lop off stouter heads while carrying a couple of grims. Vermintide 2 is exemplary of what the genre can become, and it's an especially great reason to grab some friends, sit down, and slay a few thousand foes.
If you're looking for an open-world RPG that tends to throw you into the deep end, Kingdom Come: Deliverance definitely scratches that itch. The game could still use some patches, and I suspect many people are going to want to dip into mods to smooth down some of the title's rougher edges. There's a fine game under the layers of clunky systems and punishing early mechanics, but Kingdom Come: Deliverance is enjoyed as much as it is endured, and how often that wavers back and forth is perhaps the game's largest shortcoming.
For me, it's that aspect of Farming Simulator 2017 that feels the most at odds with itself. When you're manually mixing feed or loading up bales of hay with a front-loader, the game feels like it lives up to the notion of being called a simulator. As deep as the simulation can get, it stops short of introducing any driving forces to anything you do, short of your own curiosity. How far that will get you into the game is very dependent on your own drive and, ironically, how much relaxation you can handle.
The blessing and curse of Battlefield 1 is that it is another well-polished entry in a series that clearly follows a sacred gameplay formula. Fans who have enjoyed the series thus far will find the same enjoyment in this latest entry, and aspects of World War I have clearly been carefully curated and incorporated into the game. However, it does feel that the series is playing things too safe. As good as the multiplayer is, I'm hopeful that future entries will take more risk. In the meantime, Battlefield 1 is another great offering that follows the series' enjoyable gameplay template.
It's unfortunate that the Mafia III gameplay isn't anywhere near as compelling as the storytelling. An ingenious mix of setting and characters has been established to generate a believable spin on organized crime, but the game mechanics are nowhere near as impressive in either design or execution. You'll want to see it through to the end, and there are obviously some elements that are entertaining, but the gameplay becomes a tired loop far too early on. It's perhaps one of the biggest disappointments of all that the gameplay fails to complement such believable worldbuilding.
At the end of the road, Forza Horizon 3 really isn't the type of game where you're cutting surgical lines across pristine tarmac. Instead, you're racing a variety of vehicle types against an equally diverse landscape while kicking up dust and dodging the occasional downpour. It's a wilder side of Forza where you're free to tackle Australia in whatever way you feel is the most enjoyable, and it gives you all the tools you need to make the experience yours. I've always enjoyed the Motorsport side of the track, but Horizon 3 is where you go to have flat-out fun while still sharing the series' strong racing pedigree.
No Mans Sky would've made an excellent tech demo of something greater yet to come, or as a $20 independent game from a studio trying to find its footing. It certainly doesn't live up to what was once a marquee title during one of Sony's E3 press conferences, and it doesn't come close to justifying its $60 asking price. No Man's Sky had so much potential in delivering a game that compelled and rewarded unbridled exploration. That it fails to do so only makes its shortcomings more striking, and it's disappointing when compared to how the game was described leading up to its release.
XCOM 2 took a formula that was already deeply compelling and made it even better. The game is even more punishing due to the expanded gameplay and the emphasis on urgency, but it gives you plenty of opportunity to succeed all the same. You'll celebrate every victory, you'll learn from each defeat, and either way, the game manages to be amazing. As good as the previous release was, XCOM 2 is an even better game in every conceivable way.
Guitar Hero Live is basically a return to its guitar-only roots, which is what made the original games great. The current song catalog is a pretty good mix, but it is their presentation within the channel-based TV mode that makes the game truly different. Rock Band still holds the crown as the musical party game, but while that series is in a rut, Guitar Hero Live is a fresh take on the genre that future games would do well to follow.
Much as was the case with World of Tanks, World of Warships does a lot of things really well. Its gameplay is easy to get into but allows for a fair amount of depth in how you approach each battle. I've reviewed many games that I never touch again, but I've kept coming back to Warships with my friends. I'm not sure there is much better praise than that.
It's difficult to give Project CARS a score. When it comes to the actual racing, the game gets top marks primarily because of how deep the handling model feels. It also does a fantastic job of giving the player every possible option to tailor his or her experience to their liking. However, everything outside of the racing, such as the career mode, is mere window dressing. The game certainly excels at its intended purpose, which is to be one of the most accurate racing games around, but I can't help but feel that the game is pretty bare-bones when it comes to the creature comforts that other games offer, even from the standpoint of catering to the most hardcore crowd.
It sounds like I am harping on Elite: Dangerous, but it's a fantastic game and makes one wonder why space sims have been away for so long. For all of its polish in some areas, it has obviously unrefined aspects in others. For all the aspects that let you tell a story about the game, there's little to allow you to create in a story within it. During the first few weeks, the game will absolutely demand your free time, and you will gleefully engage. It just needs a lot more to sustain itself.
If Borderlands 2 was an example of the series coasting under its own momentum, the Pre-Sequel is something of a master class in how to refine the series into a step forward. The underlying game isn't that different and it's filled with the same humor that you've come to expect, but the change of setting and the polishing of the gameplay have done wonders. The game seems more reliant on a central plot than the series is normally known for, and through it, you learn how Jack became such a horrible person. If you're like me and thought the Pre-Sequel is just another game in the series, then Claptrap's class isn't the only "Mistake." For being the third game in a franchise and with a name that implies it to be more of the same, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is a surprisingly fresh experience.
However, I'm not convinced the purchase price of $59.99 lines up with what Kinect Sports Rivals has to offer. Of the six game modes, only bowling and wake riding stand out, and the other modes suffer from a lack of entertainment. For all the enhanced graphics and technology involved, the game isn't that much more impressive than Wii Sports was at release, and it doesn't feel worthy of a full-price sticker. It's fun to pick up and tool around with some of the modes, and between the gameplay and the avatar scanning, it showcases the Kinect's capabilities. It's just disappointing that the game doesn't have that much depth, and with few exceptions, its only successes are things that have already been done before with different technology.
The ideas behind the design of TitanFall aren't new to the genre, but the resulting combination works well. The pilot gameplay makes incredible use of a map's surfaces and elevations, the Titan gameplay trades vertical gameplay for heavy firepower, and the transition between the two is seamless. The sheer fun and unparalleled mobility that the game provides cannot be overstated. The Xbox One finally has a console-exclusive shooter, and TitanFall is such a damned good one that it's tough to go back and play others.
Take away the pretty looks, and Forza Motorsport 5 is a sterile mess of gaping holes where features from previous games once were. Forza has never had a serious career mode, but an overhaul to the established formula seems overdue. Other than the new graphics and the Drivatar system, there isn't much that differentiates it from the prior release. Its saving grace is that the racing is so refined that once you are in a race, a lot of its shortcomings seem to no longer matter. Forza 5 will do as a holdover racing game for now, but for all the bombast that next-gen brings, the game is awfully stagnant, and its lack of competition has never been more apparent.
Ryse: Son of Rome is a solid game and arguably has the best graphics of any console game to date. The combat is engaging, and the multiplayer extension feels like the Shadows of Rome multiplayer that never was. Although the title does come across as a one-trick pony, a fair amount of care was put into that element. Ultimately, I found the game to be the most enjoyable of all Xbox One launch titles, and putting this much emphasis on a new IP is always commendable. If you want the best-looking game on the new Xbox One console, Ryse is the easy choice to make, and the combat is enough to keep your interest until the end.