It's hard to fault the moment-to-moment gameplay of Back 4 Blood when all of its pistons are working in tandem and you're running with a good crew. Though the effort to contemporise and grow beyond its roots is commendable, just about every other aspect of the game feels like a misfire. The campaign isn't fun and, more offensively, it pays no regard to solo players.
It's no surprise given Milestone's pedigree that Hot Wheels Unleashed is a mechanically sound and confident racing title as it boils down the true essence of Hot Wheels and puts on a showcase exactly why they're a beloved pastime. The bloated story mode does little to obfuscate the game's skeleton crew of modes, though I think the game will find resilience through a community of online racers and their wonderful, imaginative creations.
It's not an easy thing Arkane has done here in serving up a genuinely fresh take on one of the medium's most enduring genres. Deathloop redefines what a shooter can be, and the developer has used their entire toolkit to get there. Satisfying action, world-building that's second-to-none, style and substance, and a genuinely enthralling riddle at the centre, Deathloop delivers it all. And it's through these triumphs that Deathloop earns its place in the first-person shooter pantheon, and puts its hand up during Game of the Year talks.
Toem combines elements of both Pokémon Snap and its mainline series, letting players loose into a darling world full of weird and wonderful characters, animals, and sights to behold. Armed with nothing but a camera and a pair of itchy feet, Toem is further evidence that 'taking aim' in video games can stem from a creative and peaceful place.
As a guitar-shredding odyssey throughout a stunning cosmos, The Artful Escape delivers on its name tenfold. It is a short tale and I'm in no hurry to book a return trip to the Cosmic Extraordinary, but it remains an unforgettable journey thanks to superb art direction, an uplifting story, and stirring guitar solos by cliffside.
While it manages to side-step its shortcomings through clever design, Twelve Minutes ultimately feels like it'll be one of those water cooler games that some will love, others will hate, but everyone will just want to talk about. It tells a cerebral story while demanding your full attention, along with an unorthodox wit, to best its cat and mouse puzzles.
This quaint story about a workaday crow discovering that death is a force of nature that without discrimination takes all, both good and bad, winds up being far more memorable and touching than I could have ever expected. With a world and characters full of Miyazaki-proportional charm, and combat and puzzles that offer up a real test, Death's Door is a beautiful sophomore effort from Acid Nerve and is certainly something to crow about.
Metro Exodus shows some heart, and it's clear the developers have poured a lot into this third chapter of Artyom's story. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that keep the game from hitting the standard set by its predecessors. Pacing is hamstrung by the ambitious misfire of an 'open-world', while performance issues and glitches mar much of Exodus.
With some doubt at the front of people's minds, Returnal is a shushing finger across the lips of detractors as well as a tremendous example that PlayStation's middle line titles can still offer as much value and entertainment as its tentpole exclusives. Housemarque achieves an atmosphere like few can and set up a universe ripe for expansion while marrying it to a grind - which is more forgiving than most of its kind but will still alienate some -that's both brutal and gratifying all at once.
Although the story of Cody and May doesn't meet the standards set by the game's varied gameplay, It Takes Two sees the continued form of Josef Fares and his team at Hazelight in crafting wonderfully creative and engaging worlds for players to share and collaborate in. It Takes Two is a co-op experience that's second to none, which offers more ways than you can imagine to experience these larger than life play spaces.