Looting for better gear is a trend that's taken over gaming, but it's never seemed as unnecessary and as cynical as it does in Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint. Turning the game into an amalgamation of Wildlands and The Division, Breakpoint's gear system ruins any immersion you may have felt in pretending to be an elite spec ops soldier. If that was the game's only issue, it might have still been salvageable, but its predictable story, graphical infidelity, and obnoxious open world make this a failed experiment at marrying two or three different properties from the same publisher.
Borderlands 3 has finally arrived, seven years after the last numbered game in the series. But in that time, while most of us were growing older and wiser, Borderlands has doubled-down on its most prefrontal cortex obsessions. There's more loot than ever, and it's more individualized, but there's very little room for other areas of growth, like in story or character. As busy as Borderlands 3 can feel, and as much as this game expands the universe, you'll still feel like all you're doing is keeping your nose on the ground, sniffing out shiny, colorful guns.
The remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is stuck between two places—the past and the present. Chances are that you've already made up your mind about whether or not to play it. It's a classic Zelda game given a second chance with a striking visual language and evocative, haunting musical reinterpretations. Making the jump from the Game Boy to the Switch means that you'll spend a lot less time changing items in the menu and much more time appreciating the meticulous clockwork of Koholint Island's challenges.
Gears 5 makes major strides in the series' approach to storytelling. This is the most heartfelt Delta Squad has ever been, and The Coalition backs up that emotion with genuine improvements to gameplay. While its new co-op mode, Escape, is generally underwhelming, Arcade mixes up the competitive meta enough to keep things interesting. All told, Gears 5 is more Gears, but it's also a bold statement for why this series is still relevant.
Control is Remedy at the height of its abilities. Finally, the studio's expert handling of tone and story is met with gameplay that's just as engaging and refined. As an experiment in nonlinear world design, Control doesn't just stick with tried-and-true waypoints and forests. Its Oldest House is a brutalist masterpiece, and the characters inhabiting it are just as unforgettable. All told, it's going to be one of the most memorable games of the year.
All MachineGames and Arkane Studios needed to do was make a straightforward, cooperative Wolfenstein experience. Instead, Youngblood replaces the series' celebrated narrative twists and turns with humdrum XP grinding and a live-service model. It would be bad in most games, but the fact that it's in a Wolfenstein title makes it sting a little bit worse.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is at once a joyful and joyless recreation of a stone-cold classic. Packed to the gills with content, this drive down memory lane still contains a sense of the original's magic, and artfully decorates your favorite tracks and drivers with an impeccable attention to detail. But it's not immune to the modern era, and the looming threat of live-service DLC and nostalgia-grabbing looms heavy over the entire game.
Super Mario Maker 2 will please both dedicated level-builders and newcomers. Story Mode gives players a nice pu-pu platter of professionally made Mario levels, and the inclusion of 3D World’s suite of tools and moves offer even the most seasoned veterans more with which to experiment.
My Friend Pedro is an enthusiastic, stylish take on the shoot 'em up genre that's elevated by its complex level designs and clever puzzles. It combines so many mechanics from so many games that you might lose track, but these elements all come together to create a unified, singular experience. If you ever wondered what you'd get by crossing Hard Boiled and Super Mario Bros., it would look a lot like My Friend Pedro.
Between its compelling art direction, surprisingly complex strategic decisions, and inventive weaponry, there's a lot much to love in Void Bastards. Unfortunately, its overall structure and narrative will leave you feeling empty by the end. That's not to say you shouldn't let yourself enjoy all that this charming, stressful game has to offer. Just don't expect to feel totally satisfied once you escape to the right nebula.