Watch Dogs: Legion pushes through Ubisoft's generally noncommittal attitude towards storytelling and exploiting current events to create something that feels like a genuine shift, or at least the prototype of that shift. It might be a sloppy game in many regards, but Legion offers a novel way to experience an open world, with its interconnected NPCs and the introduction of permadeath to the genre.
Mafia: Definitive Edition is the best of both worlds. Its updated graphics bring Lost Heaven and its inhabitants to life without burdening them with modern game design elements. While the characters themselves haven't aged as well, Mafia: Definitive Edition, though based on a game that's nearly 20 years old, feels more refreshing than most open-world games.
Spelunky 2 rests on the laurels of its predecessor, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It still retains all of the gameplay mechanics and level design that made the original such a satisfying experience. But as a sequel, Spelunky 2 feels a little too scared to expand its horizons. For a game that's all about taking risks, Spelunky 2 is surprisingly risk-averse.
Tell Me Why might be smaller in scope and less mechanically complex than Dontnod's Life is Strange series, but it's just as emotionally impactful. It's a compelling story with relatable, complex characters, and yet another example of Dontnod's unbeaten ability to make players feel something, anything, in a medium that's increasingly more mind-numbing.
Carrion doesn't just flip the horror script—it's the ultimate power fantasy, packed into a tight, uncompromising space. It might utilize some video game tropes, but it doesn't seem too concerned with accepted video game values. It's a 2D side-scroller without platforming, an action game where you dictate the action. The Doom Slayer might talk a big game about ripping and tearing, but Carrion's meatball monster puts its money where its many mouths are.
Maneater constantly blurs the line between sadistic mass murder simulator and clever satire, while also managing to be as fun as any human-based open-world game. Chris Parnell's narration can get a little repetitive, as can the missions, and the camera could use a little work, but it's all a matter of context. It's a wild reversal of ego, an experience that is both completely freeing and oppressive at the same time. Stare into the dead eyes of the shark, and the shark stares into you.
As long as Doom Eternal didn't stray too far from its predecessor, it was going to be a good game. But id Software comes surprisingly close to muddying everything with new mechanics. The flamethrower and rechargeable chainsaw give you more options during battle, but they can also feel like unnecessary additions. Still, a deeper lore, a banging soundtrack, and plenty of demons to gib leave Doom Eternal in a happy place—relatively speaking.