Battle for Bikini Bottom, despite offering a fair bit of fun, is a testament of antiquated design and, for better or worse, feels entirely like the game you remember from your childhood. There’s certainly a fun afternoon to be had ruining Plankton’s plot to rule Bikini Bottom while spotting the show’s many references with a keen eye, though ultimately Rehydrated is D.O.A.—dry on arrival.
The Last of Us Part II is a spectacular sequel, it’s a brave and unexpected direction for the series, expanding on the world both narratively and mechanically, producing a far sounder and rounded experience that never falters or gets in the way of the game’s clear storytelling strength.
Though it pulls a lot of the punches today’s open-world games freely throw, Mafia II is a time capsule in a lot of ways. Not only because its post-World War II Empire Bay lives and breathes only to have its face driven into the dirt by enterprising individuals fixated on the American dream, but because it’s a testament to the timeless, story-driven crime drama. The kind that became extinct once substance was forced to make way for Rockstar’s frenzied brand of mania.
Cloudpunk is a tremendous accomplishment in creating a setting; in the sub-genre of cyberpunk, it knows few rivals. There’s a sense of place that demands your attention and dares you to comb every corner and jaw with every sentient settler. For a game about choice, a simplistic approach to gameplay can, at times, deprive the player of meaningful agency, which feels as though it soars in the face of the message. It’s still an absolute pleasure to drink in this one unforgettable night in Nivalis, Cloudpunk is a frontrunner for indie game of the year.
There are parts of XCOM: Chimera Squad that will definitely disappoint long-time fans of the franchise. As a spin-off that departs in some significant ways from the true, mainline experience, XCOM: Chimera Squad is an excellent entry-level strategy game that’ll still provide a decent challenge to those looking to dip their toes in.
Full of ear-splitting energy, Modern Warfare 2's role in pioneering the cinematic, spellbinding first-person shooter can't be understated. With the world at a standstill, and with their careful and scrupulous translation of an undoubted classic, Beenox ignites the flare and call people back to this middle chapter, and where it all began for so many.
Like Evolution before it, AFL Evolution 2 is the best of the footy games. Of course, the bar isn't a high one, though it's fortunate in a way that it's the core gameplay experience that does the heavy lifting. Modes can be fixed, patched and reworked with less work, so knowing that the foundation is rock-solid is a bonus for Wicked Witch as they'll no doubt return time and again in pursuit of the holy grail.
I'd declare Half-Life: Alyx the new age of the first-person shooter, if the uptake of virtual reality had been a little more promising so far. It is a cut above everything I've ever played within a headset and it's a brave, risky step for a long-dormant series to take. It takes a special team to withhold for thirteen years and deliver on an impossible hype and yet Half-Life: Alyx was worth every one of those 4,548 days.