Tony "OUberLord" Mitera
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.
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.
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.
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.
Espire 1: VR Operative is not a mechanically perfect game. Sometimes, the controls can feel a little clumsy in the way that many VR games tend to do, and I wish you could find more handgun ammo to make that class of weapons more useful. With so many VR titles that feel like glorified tech demos Espire 1: VR Operative has some real meat to it, and for most of your time in the game, you will feel like some sort of shadowy, robotic badass. Use all of the mobility and stealth at your disposal, and you will find that Espire 1 sets a pretty high bar for what a VR game can be.
It all shapes up to make F1 2021 more than, well, F1 2020+1. The new game has applied a generous amount of polish to the things that it carried forward, and the new modes, such as Braking Point and the two-player career mode, add some appreciable entertainment to a solid racing game. It is equally enjoyable to an F1 nut as to someone who is entering the sport fandom, and I have been having a great time whenever I fire it up for a few laps.
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.
I am hopeful that given time, the multiplayer portion will become a better experience. Its status does little to detract from the single-player portion of the game, which is finally free from the shackles of console-based hardware. The title is a beauty to behold when it's cranked up all the way, and it'll likely run on a pretty wide range of hardware. The PC version may not have any new content, but it hits the platform in an extremely polished way. It won't change your mind about the game if you've already played it on another platform, but it certainly cements itself as a fantastic version of an entertaining game.
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.
The campaign is done well, the cooperative multiplayer is challenging, and the adversarial multiplayer is arguably better than it has ever been. Perhaps most importantly, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare appeals to long-standing fans and new players alike.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As a fan of the movies and a fan of creative approaches to games, I've had my eye on John Wick Hex since the day it was announced. Its bizarre approach works satisfyingly well in the context of how John Wick would think in the same situations: risk versus reward, careful observation and planning, plays and counter-plays. It is a simple game to understand yet rewarding to attempt to master. It also makes a compelling case of how great movie-inspired games can be if developers really think outside of the box.
There are some issues within WRC 8, and they're not small, but the game is otherwise so good that it's easy to overlook them. For all the times your engine switches to stealth mode or a fence post sends you into low Earth orbit, there are hundreds of times when you are blissfully guiding your car into a drift around a dusty apex in Argentina, or masterfully twisting through a series of highly technical corners during heavy rain. The vehicle handling is so good — and that is so important for a rally game — that even with its flaws, WRC 8 is likely the high bar that other rally games should aspire to.
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.
I suspect that many players will have an uneven time with Planet Zoo. At times, it's pretty straightforward and provides the player with plenty of feedback so they can improve their zoo. Other times, the game has you digging around in areas that are unnecessarily tough to figure out, with tutorials that barely touch on the feature (if at all). The thing with Planet Zoo is that it is so charming and appealing that the fun parts outweigh the frustrating ones. It's not a perfect game in the genre, but it is one of the best ones you can play right now.