Tony "OUberLord" Mitera
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.
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.
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.
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.
Unfortunately, it all adds up to be a less-than-stellar experience for Battlefield 4. There is little doubt that the game will see patches to address some or all of these issues, but as it stands, it has an underwhelming single-player campaign and an unstable multiplayer mode that severely hampers enjoyment. The launch of a game used to mean that something close to a polished product was made available. In that regard, the Battlefield 4 launch can only be seen as an embarrassment. Hopefully, the game will be better after some patches, but in its current state, it shouldn't have been released in the first place.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 biggest issue with MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries is that it hits you with all of its shortcomings at once. Keep playing, though, and the game establishes itself as a fun title that's worthy of the MechWarrior moniker. Play it with friends, and it becomes even more entertaining. Dated aspects of its presentation aside, the combat remains fun mission after mission, and it continues to test you as you become more powerful. Start blowing apart enemy mechs with a small array of PPC cannons and make a few big pay days, and you'll appreciate the game for what it is.
To its credit, there's a good amount of fun to be found within Monster Jam Steel Titans. Although the game can feel limited or repetitive, it rarely feels unpolished or incomplete. The truck controls are spot-on and feel fantastic, which is the most important landing to stick. More than anything else, the game feels like it has a limited scope, but importantly, it does well within the goals that it clearly has for itself. It's a fun game involving monster trucks, and the freestyle mode alone carries a lot of the game's entertainment, as it should.
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."
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.
If you had a good time with the previous games in the series, you're likely to find the same level of enjoyment in Far Cry 6. However, many of the gameplay elements in this new game are awfully like the versions that were first established in Far Cry 3 and reused with minimal changes in every subsequent game. There's certainly more than enough content to validate the game as its own, full entry into the series. I wish for a future Far Cry entry that I can play without being able to pick out which things are exactly the same as the previous title.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.