Gone are the days where Call Of Duty sets the trends, but Black Ops 4 does a great job of keeping up. Choosing which mode to play first every time I launch the game is a struggle, with each being unique and impressive in their own way. Black Ops 4's individual components may not be groundbreaking, but as a package, it's one of the most refined Call Of Duty games. Black Ops 4 is a complete and polished package with Treyarch's deft touch of quality.
Forza Horizon 4 offers racing fans endless, ever-changing amounts of fun. Few racing games are as dense with a seemingly infinite amount to do and collect. It's immensely liberating too, allowing you to play through it however you like. The open-world might have been better populated with environmental features and I wish the menus had been a little faster and easier to navigate, but it's a small price to pay for a game with so much under the hood.
Guacamelee! 2 is a fantastic, almost flawlessly designed and well-paced action platformer, complete with charm, humour and heart. It builds upon the first game brilliantly, making Juan's latest adventure just as thrilling and hilarious as I'd have hoped.
Thimbleweed Park absolutely achieves what it sets out to, its unpredictable narrative contributing to a beautifully presented point-and-click adventure, worthy of being considered a true spiritual successor to the classics to which it pays homage. Bar a couple of design issues, Thimbleweed Park achieves something special, and longtime point-and-click fans should rejoice.
There's nothing necessarily wrong with the tried and tested Ubisoft formula. However, it begins to feel more tired when the narrative potential falls short, the engagement and immersion I would have otherwise felt hindered by not taking the subject matter seriously enough. However, the slick gameplay, blending of stealth mechanics with a Far Cry like world, seamless co-operative play and well-fleshed-out solo experience prove Ubisoft's teams aren't resting on their laurels and are actively trying to build upon the formula.
Ty The Tasmanian Tiger, now finally on the PC, is definitely one to play if you missed it more than a decade ago. It holds up well as a 3D platformer, even if it remains somewhat polygonal, not only thanks to its clever levels design and assortment of specially powered boomerangs, but also to its unique, Australian charm.
Often in an attempt to appeal to everyone, you can appeal to no one. However, in the case of Final Fantasy XV, we have a rare exception. It sits comfortably somewhere between a traditional Final Fantasy experience and the Western action-RPGs currently setting new standards. A slightly muddled tone, narrative shortcomings, and a little too restrictive open-world are faults largely forgivable due to the game’s robust combat system. The benefit of ten years of development is evident in the fine tuning of the combat mechanics over the apparent attempts to keep up with the current open-world action-RPG trend. To quote Aristotle, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of nice things to say about The Martin VR Experience. Virtual reality has the potential to be a major entertainment and media platform. For that reason, I want to encourage major filmmakers and storytellers to experiment with the platform sooner rather than later but c’mon, let’s hold ourselves to higher standards than this.
I like to think I give credit to a developer where it’s due. I also try to give them the benefit of the doubt. If they’ve made a bad game, perhaps there’s an element of potential there. Sadly however, FireForge really aren’t proving themselves with Ghostbusters.
When everything comes together, there’s a beautiful flow to Unravel; there’s a tranquillity to moving through these stunning environments and exploring its past. Sadly, the game design and platforming interrupts this flow and breaks the immersion, weakening the impact of what is a relatively strong game conceptually and thematically.
Firewatch is truly something special. It tells a beautifully crafted, character-driven, engaging story with impeccable pacing. It’s deeply reflective and thought provoking, not only in the context of its characters and their situations, but in a broader context of player interaction with video games.
On a surface level, it looks like it ticks all the boxes for this new-wave of exploration games – that are rapidly gaining popularity with developers and gamers alike – but at a deeper conceptual and technical level is falls far short of it sources of reference.