Tony "OUberLord" Mitera
Obviously, there are a couple of rougher edges in this "reboot" of the Forza Motorsport series, but there is quite a solid game to be found. The PC version seems like it could use a patch or two to bolster the performance, and the AI doesn't seem to respect that you also exist on the track. However, this is a game that absolutely delivers if you are the kind of person who finds their peace while taking a vehicle on track and trying to find its absolute limit.
Ultimately, Starfield is a very enjoyable game that takes the overall formula that Bethesda established in games like Skyrim and Fallout 4 and expands upon it. It is familiar in the ways that feel comfortable, but the game feels like an exciting new experience. It's unfair to compare it to games like No Man's Sky given the vast difference in scope, but at the same time, I wish that the ways the ships are handled didn't feel so compartmentalized with the reliance upon menu-driven fast-travel. Starfield really tries to be many things all at once, and although there are varying levels of success to that end, the game is a downright joy to play.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but when it comes to games, you have to bring some of your own improvements to the table. The Crew Motorfest is clearly trying to be very similar to its competition, but it can't help but fall short. In the many areas where its features are almost carbon copies, they aren't implemented as well and force the player into playing the game in an odd way between bouts of grinding for credits. In the areas where it tries new things, it barely commits to them and leaves them feeling like afterthoughts. If Forza Horizon could also be played on Sony hardware, The Crew Motorfest would have no reason to exist.
If you didn't pick up F1 Manager 2022 but enjoy the idea of a game where you call the shots for a Formula 1 team, F1 Manager 2023 is in a very favorable position for your consideration. It makes strong use of its status as an official Formula 1 game and is ultimately a strong simulation game. The new features don't differentiate the new game too much from the old title. More than anything, the new game needs further refinement of the features it already has, along with enhanced feedback to the player over what the feature impacts can be. The game is far from a bad ride, but it's mighty similar to the one thatwe just had.
With all of that being said, Jagged Alliance 3 nails a lot of what it is trying to do. Gripes about financial pressure and perk points aside, the majority of gameplay is a ton of fun. It rewards tactical thinking, and with a skillful approach, you can watch your mercs absolutely rain hell down on a superior enemy force. Considerate use of special abilities and equipment is important as well, and rarely is any fight just an easy shootout. The execution isn't perfect, but Jagged Alliance 3 is simultaneously a love letter to the tactical games of old while also proving that their gameplay can still feel modern and fresh decades later.
For fans of the F1 series, this all comes down to one question, and it's the same one asked last year: Is it worth picking up F1 23 if you already have last year's title? In my opinion, the F1 World mode and the improved vehicle physics are noteworthy upgrades and feel more than what could realistically have been DLC or a patch for the previous title. The improvements for controller users are especially noticeable, and I suspect that most people playing F1 23 are indeed using that control scheme. When you combine all of that and consider the continuation and improvements made to Breaking Point, it's pretty easy to recommend picking up F1 23.
I'm shocked with just how good Aliens: Dark Descent ended up being, and I could hardly put it down from the moment I loaded it up. It clearly respects the Aliens franchise, but it uses the elements in a way that is in service to the gameplay rather than as mere fan service for the player. Its gameplay is not only incredibly fresh compared to the other games of the franchise, but it's also so well executed that it stands as a high point among real-time tactical games, let alone for an Aliens game. Out of the franchise's entire history of games, there are only three games notable for how uniquely good they are; Aliens: Dark Descent is one of them.
Dead Island 2 surely went through a few levels of development hell, so anyone following its path would reasonably suspect that the game might have issues. I can't say that it does anything exceptionally well, but it has enough life in it to avoid major stumbles. For better or worse, it is a by-the-numbers zombie basher that doesn't do anything terribly distinct. Its humor makes it compelling and fun, and it's at its best whenever it relies on that strength.
Pretty graphics or no, so much of the gameplay of Company of Heroes 3 is flawed in one way or another that it's difficult to recommend it. From campaign-breaking bugs in Italy to the inept AI that renders most Africa maps unsatisfying, the game came out in such a state that it's hard to believe it's part of the same series by the same developer. To the development team's credit, the game has been patched several times since release, but many of the issues persist. There are occasional glimmers of a brilliant game, but with so much of the content damaged by bugs, it is impossible to recommend it over replaying one of the other games of the series.
The 1.6 patch adds some good new features to Metal: Hellsinger, and the Dream of the Beast DLC adds some good news songs and additional ways to tweak how you play. My hope is that this is just the beginning, as the developers continue to court and work with metal singers from various bands to add new music that's only found in the game. At the very least, it cracks open a few doors for ways to allow for new content, and it's done in a way that can be used in a mix-and-match fashion with all of the game's existing levels and content. At an asking price of just $3.99, the DLC adds new content into an already fantastic game.
Overall, Deliver Us Mars is surprisingly compelling, with a story of a daughter searching for her wayward father despite his crimes - while others on the crew are searching for him because of said crimes. Most of the gameplay does a great job of keeping things varied, but I wish that there were just a few more puzzle ideas to break up the times when it feels like the game ran out of ideas and popped in another MFT puzzle. Endure those, and Deliver Us Mars is a great game that balances the narrative with allowing the player to have agency. It is further proof that sci-fi stories don't need to involve aliens or explosions, and the humanity within the game's story is admirable.
To that end, I love Motorsport Manager, but really I played it because it was the closest modern sim that had something akin to Formula One cars. F1 Manager 2022 drives a perfect line by clearly taking some inspiration both from that game as well as from the series' own (distant) past, but it feels like something fresh. Every element of it feels refined in a way that is clearly specific to the real-life sport, and it is both defined by and pays homage to reality. It's a game that has shockingly few true flaws, and while it is also very much geared toward a specific crowd, I had a great time elevating Haas to (just a little bit more) glory.
Still, it's hard to feel like the multiplayer wasn't just thrown into the wild for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II. It's not unplayable, but there are so many flaws that consistently and almost constantly crop up. The lack of post-launch support makes it feel as though Call of Duty is a victim of its own success, and it really doesn't matter what state it's in or how quickly it gets fixed because millions of people have already purchased it, and it'll all be forgotten before the launch of the next one. My hope is that the players won't be simply taken for granted going forward, but in the meantime, Modern Warfare II certainly subscribes to the mentality of, "Screw it. People are going to buy it anyway."
There is a good game somewhere under all of this, but it is buried under the weight of every part of Dakar Desert Rally being unlikable for some reason or another. There are the briefest moments where it shines through, the sun is hitting you just right, and you're blasting through the stage skillfully at top speed. The problem is it's at that moment that you round the bend and slam into a random truck or the game hitches and you suddenly understeer into a rock wall. Substantial patching would do this game wonders, but as it stands, it's a joyless mess that delivers frustrations at a far greater rate than podiums.
I'm in love with Metal: Hellsinger. First and foremost, the mechanics feel precise, which is critical in a shooter and doubly so in a rhythm game. The music is its heart, and it is good to the point that the OST would be worth picking up on its own. The part that makes Metal: Hellsinger special is in how well it weaves the music, the themes, the action, and the unrelenting rhythm together. It's a non-stop barrage of, "you get to perform awesome things done to the beat of a fantastic metal soundtrack." I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game until the credits rolled, and it left me immediately wanting more.
The biggest draw of F1 22 may likely depend on if you are interested in the VR support, as the game's implementation of VR is quite good. Beyond that, unless you are a Formula One fanatic and need to keep up on the current season, the other new main features are best left ignored. It is still a solid racing game, and no other game delivers such a comprehensive F1 experience. Beyond VR, it's unfortunate that every new feature added to F1 22 is a misfire.
In many ways Sniper Elite 5 is Sniper Elite 4 with a few new features and a fresh coat of paint, and I'm happy that this is the case. Except for the kill cam novelty having entirely worn off at this point, most of the gameplay still feels fresh. Sneaking around and lining up shots are equally rewarding, and the large, open levels give you plenty of freedom to tackle each objective in the way that you want. Sniper Elite 5 provides players with the necessary tools to feel like an elite sniper who's using superior tactics and stealth to take down a bunch of Nazis, and the game has certainly hit the bull's-eye.
There are times when I want to play a racing game that requires a wheel and incredibly nuanced changes to my car's setup. GRID Legends provides a counterpoint to that style, and it's a ball of fun that never feels like it loses focus on being a competitive racing game. It's a racing game that isn't afraid to become a spectacle, while at the same time managing to take itself seriously in the areas that matter. The story mode is the flashiest, but the game remains just as compelling in any other mode. GRID Legends is a great excuse to have some automotive fun.
Dying Light 2: Stay Human isn't a bad game, but it can't help but get in its own way. For all the freedom of its parkour system, you'll have to sit through cut scenes and fumble through the interior environments. For all the talk of conflict between the factions or that the choices you make matter, the game only recognizes them when it is convenient to the narrative and forgets about it entirely in the next. Much like the undead that populate the streets below, the gameplay is best avoided by sticking to the parkour as much as possible as you work toward the conclusion.
It's that safety in embracing the past that represents Age of Empires 4's most obvious flaw. In many ways, it plays and feels like the game is simply Age of Empires 2 with a very well applied fresh coat of paint. Love letter or no, between the rough issues with the campaign and the reuse of the multiplayer, it feels more like a remaster of an older game than of a new entry into the series. It is not easy to please fans of the long-running franchise while also attempting to attract new ones to it, and Age of Empires 4 finds itself in a strange no-man's land between those two goals.