- Resident Evil 4
- Bushido Blade
Dangerous Golf fancies itself silly and fun, as telegraphed by its lime-green menus, rollicking, record-scratch score, and "punk rock" appropriation of a haughty, classist sport. But the destruction doesn't have much of a satisfying crunch, exacerbated by the floaty ball controls when you're in peak destruction mode. The load times and egregious re-purposing of assets and areas kill any desire I have to get high scores on holes. And it doesn't even lean into its anachronistic, extreme-sport silliness thanks to its sterile Unreal 4 tech demo aesthetic and character-less "world tour." It's fun for a bit and then exhausts itself completely.
Marrakesh has a little bit less lackadaisical exploration, a little less margin for error thanks to the population density and state of military high alert. Even fewer exaggerated costumes, far as I could find. But you can still brain a fool with a wrench from 20 yards.
Stunning art direction; satisfying game feel; a willingness to shake up third-person action conventions, to know when to introduce variety, or let a foot up off the gas; excellent dialogue that reveals a lot without oversharing; and a heck of a conclusion. A thief couldn't ask for a better end.
The main place Hitman continues to struggle is on a technical level. On the PlayStation 4 I'd need two hands to count the crashes I've experienced all week (plus one freeze necessitating a hard reset) and while the long load times aren't as much of a problem this time given the extra slack I found the lax coastal town to offer, it still does put a ding in a game that otherwise encourages you to try new things at the risk of failure. On the whole, though, Sapienza feels more robust than Paris, with even more gag costumes and slapstick deathtraps, leaving me even more confident in IO's move toward this new model, even if the American voice actors' pronunciation of "Falcone" physically pains me every time.
Stealing a staff uniform from the locker room, dropping your gun into a wastebasket so you can let a guard frisk you before he lets you into the room of a Sheik, then knocking the Shiek out, stealing his clothes, and infiltrating a high-society sale of state secrets so you can tamper with an outdoor heater and let a woman blow herself up when she goes to grab a smoke. That's Hitman's highs.
Gurgamoth is closer to Starwhal, another novelty-based, colorful competitive game, but at least the latter had a sense of humor and janky-controls that are part of the fun. Put another way, Gurgamoth really is just bumper cars: a fleeting, mild amusement best remembered as a sliver of an otherwise warm, fuzzy day.
The analog inputs (pulling up the walkie-talkie or map, spinning the same "1234" tumblers to unlock every single park lock box with Henry's paws) combined with unique animation and believable voice work help ground Firewatch, which manages both restraint and maturity in its story without ever going full mumblecore "walking simulator." The warmth of the budding relationship between two voices with natural chemistry is undercut by harsher realities and the drawn out segments of feeling stalked and vulnerable are legitimately stressful. The result is a tight, taut human tale well worth the trek.
Every once in a while, during a taught firefight that actually necessitates mixing and matching weapons (the shotgun alt fire, a stun gun, is possibly too useful), there are glimpses of a solid shooter let down by everything else around it. As it stands, playing Bombshell for more than an hour at a time is like ingesting a sedative, save for flashes of rage as you fall through the map one more time or are asked to find six more crystals.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is better than its predecessor, but only because of its additions; it doesn't fix any of the things that were wrong with Tomb Raider (2013). The story is smoothed down, much of it hidden away in dull audio logs. It's not about "survival" as billed, given the ease of mowing down dozens of folks and plenty of resources. But finding tombs wherein to clamber about ancient Rube Goldberg machines, coupled with the gorgeous visual flair and diverse environments, make Rise's wilderness one worth exploring and elevate Tomb Raider's otherwise perfunctory take on the third-person action platformer. I still get a strong sinking feeling in my stomach when I've misjudged a jump and watch Lara careening towards a splat.