NHL 21 tries to end the current generation on a high note, but legacy issues continue to hold it back. Its revamped Be a Pro mode is particularly disappointing, proving to be a disjointed, somewhat sloppy experience. It has its usual strengths, with online team play being a definite highlight, but longtime fans of the series will likely find this year's entry eminently skippable.
FIFA 21 closes out a mixed generation with some key gameplay improvements, making for the fastest, most enjoyable experience in FIFA 15. Its modes are more mixed, with career mode being a particular sore point. Ultimately, FIFA 21 may not be the comprehensive update everyone wants, but it's enough to generate some positive momentum heading into the new console generation.
Star Wars: Squadrons is a slim but highly enjoyable revival of the classic LucasArts space sims. It's hampered by a limited number of maps, and its signature Fleet Battles are a bit of a drag, but its moment-to-moment combat is sheer delight. With a solid single-player campaign and above-average VR implementation, Star Wars: Squadrons is the multiplayer space combat game we've wanted since the days of X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter.
Madden 21's gameplay takes some appreciable steps forward as the generation comes to a close, with The Yard providing some casual fun. The experience is marred by an abnormal number of bugs though, and the single-player modes remain a major sore point. Ultimately, it's able to pick up a few yards on the way to the next generation of consoles, but just a few.
Gundam Extreme Vs. Maxi Boost On brings the venerable arcade series to PlayStation 4 with a huge roster mobile suits, an expanded single-player component, and plenty of cosmetic unlockables. It feels like an odd anachronism in this day and age, but its strengths as a multiplayer game are real, even if it suffers a bit from its poor camera. If you like Gundam even a little bit, you owe it to yourself to at least give this game a shot.
The Last of Us Part 2 is an outstanding action game; a darker, more introspective follow-up that seeks to challenge the conventions of big-budget action games. In this it's not always successful, but its execution is impeccable, and its story proves an appropriate bookend to the story of Joel and Ellie. In short, it's some of Naughty Dog's best work.
XCOM: Chimera Squad retains much of what makes XCOM such a special tactics series, in the process adding in some genuine improvements to its already excellent formula. But these improvements are undermined by some strange art choices, as well as a general reluctance to maximize some of its bolder changes. All in all, an interesting experiment, but one that still has a ways to go before reaching its full potential.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake sets out to fully re-imagine a classic RPG with improved combat and an expanded story. Unfortunately, it's hurt by weak side quests and a surplus of padding, and its biggest change is bound to be controversial. It's one of the most coherent and enjoyable Final Fantasy releases in years, but it's also likely to be one of the most divisive.
MLB The Show 20 isn't a complete replacement for all those lost afternoons at the ballpark, but it's nevertheless a balm for the baseball fan's soul in these trying times. While this year's version largely rests on the excellence of last year's version, it still brings with it plenty of strong additions, including the return of online leagues. As a tip of the cap to conclude the PlayStation 4 generation, it comes highly recommended.