There's a lot to love in Mortal Kombat 11. It's a fantastic fighter with a roster of 25 varied characters, tons of customization options, beautiful graphics, and one of the best story modes in a fighting game. It's a shame that modes like the Krypt and Towers of Time inject annoyance and tedium into what was an excellent experience. The progression is complex and obtuse, when it should be easy and straightforward. MK 11 could been an all-time best, but it's just a contender.
Be the ultimate badass and kill your enemies in slow-motion. There are a lot of games that try to be like Hotline Miami, moving from area-to-area murdering with sheer ruthlessness, but few games match the execution and style like Katana Zero. Great pixel art, a wonderful use of color, and fantastic synthwave soundtrack. From start to finish, it's a fever dream worth having.
Anno 1800 is a city-builder that caters to new players. It's gorgeous, has a campaign that's a huge tutorial, and players don't have to worry about sim aspects like traffic and power distribution. While there have been improvements to the Anno formula, some mechanics are simply not explained and the user interface is lacking for a game built so heavily around trade and economics. It's a good game for sure, but it needs some tweaks to make it fantastic.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain plays around with the concepts players have gotten used to with previous EDFs. Classes are open, and the new Prowl Rider offers a new flavor of play that hasn't been seen in the franchise before. Weapons are open, giving more player freedom in terms of character loadouts. But Iron Rain loses some things from the main series, notably the huge swarms of enemies in favor of larger, more meaningful enemies. It's a fine entry in the EDF franchise, but it doesn't step far beyond its predecessors sadly.
Recent games have reminded me that sometimes great execution is better than a noble failure, and The Division 2 executes on its concept with finesse. The story is lackluster, and the real-world aesthetic will turn of some players, but it doesn't matter because the core and flow of this looter shooter is great. There are something things that could be tweaked, like enemy density and their ability to one-shot you, but overall The Division 2 is a sequel done right.
Capcom fills fans' dark souls with light! Devil May Cry 5 is an excellent return to form for the franchise, setting it up for a bright future. Nero's here, Dante's back in pitch-perfect form, and V provides a brand-new style of play. All Capcom really needed to do with Devil May Cry 5 was repackage the classic DMC gameplay with a modern coat of paint, but DMC 5 is an excellent, thoughtful update.
Dead or Alive 6 carries much of the franchise's risque DNA, but shows a bit more initial restraint. The more revealing costumes are unlockable and the jiggle physics tend towards a bit more realism now. Combat remains accessible, but new moves like the Break Blow and evasion add new layers for DOA vets. Dead or Alive 6 could use a little more graphical polish and its netcode needs to be better, but it's a pretty good fighter all around.
Anthem is a frustrating experience. There's a core gameplay idea that's fun, but it's not enough to keep the experience alive in endgame and beyond. It wants to sell us on flying and combat, but Grandmaster levels stop that dead. It offers a wide world to explore, but offers no reason to do so. Anthem ultimately doesn't feel like the best BioWare can do, and that's a horrible shame.
Far Cry: New Dawn cuts away some of the bloat of its predecessor Far Cry 5, to deliver a cleaner, more focused experience. The visual style breathes a good degree of life into a setting we've seen before, and Expeditions add more variety on top of that. The systems push you towards repeating content, but the boring rewards don't back that up. And hunting, once one of the core parts of Far Cry, is mostly an afterthought here. Despite those problems, New Dawn's short running time is a boon and the story provides closure to those who played the previous game. If you played and loved Far Cry 5, pick up New Dawn. If you didn't, know that it's still fun, but you'll lose some of the context.
Astroneer is definitely on the soft side of the survival spectrum. It looks inviting and fun, whether your lone explorer is bounding across the colorful landscape or mining deep within underground caves. Collecting resources and crafting them into new tools is the main focus, and Astroneer falters in not having more interesting things to find within each planet. In the end though, it's a lovely little game if you want to survive without all the pesky hunger and thirst you find in other games.
There are times when Just Cause 4 is amazing, but the final result is a game that loses parts of what made Just Cause great in the first place. The new mission structure repetitive and causes the series' staple destruction to take a backseat. The tether customization is top notch and the new weapons are a winner, but things like throwable C4 are gone. And the extreme weather, which is exciting when it appears, doesn't make its presence felt during most of the game. I had fun with Just Cause 4, but it's a game I want to love more than I actually do. Temper your expectations.
Eight years after the masterpiece that was Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar Games is taking a second shot. New protagonist Arthur Morgan gets a better supporting cast, an absolutely beautiful open world with more visual variety, and a ton of things to kill or collect. There's some occasional tedium in travel, and a few bugs and annoyances, but nothing that prevents Red Dead Redemption 2 from being an excellent game.
Building upon the foundation established in Assassin's Creed Origins, Odyssey brings together that title's RPG adventure with the ship-bound exploration of Black Flag. Choice and consequence feature heavily in Odyssey, with the player guiding Alexios or Kassandra through a massive journey to reunite their family and kill a lot of people. Not every feature is perfect, with things like recruitment and Conquest Battles needing a bit of work, but overall Odyssey is a grand next step for the journey Origins started.
Star Control: Origins is a solid reboot of a PC classic. It provide players with a a huge universe to explore, vast planets to conquer, and interesting aliens to meet. If you've wanted to be a sci-fi ship captain, now is your chance. Unfortunately, the main story lacks meaningful players choices, ship combat is simplistic, the great writing can sometimes devolve into repetitive dialog. Star Control Origins is a decent foundation and given the developer, it's likely it'll eventually be great, but right now it's just good.
Insomniac Games takes Marvel's most popular character for a spin and the results are fantastic. The developer establishes its own Spider-Man with a unique supporting cast and a beautiful recreation of New York to play around in. This is an absolutely beautiful game, with solid combat and a great story. Most of all, it really sells the feeling of being Spider-Man. The gaming history of Spider-Man has been uneven, but this is an amazing entry in that history. Pun intended.