An intense atmospheric adventure with an intriguing premise, The Callisto Protocol delivers a solid horror game that focuses largely on its satisfying combat. It doesn't have much variety and is lacking a bit of creativity, but it makes up for that with impressive visuals and disgusting, intimidating monsters. It might not meet the expectations of its obvious inspirations, but The Callisto Protocol lays a strong foundation of terrifying atmosphere and crunchy combat that makes it satisfying and spooky nonetheless.
The Chant storms out of the gates with a kooky but intriguing concept of cosmic-horror, but simply isn't able to live up to its own ambitions. It has some good ideas if you look hard enough, but the clunky combat, milquetoast puzzle solving and forgettable story firmly plant this one in the category of B-Grade horror, which, to be fair, is definitely the vibe the developers seem to have gone for. Even with a few good foundational ideas with the use of prisms and a couple of cool boss fights helping The Chant slightly redeem itself, the biggest misfire is that it's just not that scary, and without that, this cosmic-horror is just a cosmic-snooze.
God of War Ragnarök is more of the epic God of War that we loved in 2018, but it builds on those foundations in every single way to create a compelling and addicting adventure in its own right that improves across the board. Combat is furious and intense, exploring every nook and cranny of each Norse realm is captivating, and clever puzzles are seamlessly intertwined with abilities that change, evolve, and make you feel like a master of all crafts. Narratively, the heartfelt and fascinating story is supported by incredible writing that makes its whole cast of characters shine, and the production values are through the roof, with a gorgeous soundtrack and visuals that push the limits and stun at every turn. Santa Monica Studios have again managed to create something truly memorable and entirely special.
Gotham Knights smartly puts focus on some iconic DC Villains and showcases a new threat with an interesting story full of conspiracies and secrets. It does a good job of establishing this story with underrated heroes, tying in fun action which is enhanced greatly by playing with a friend. Other elements, like boring diversions from the main story, a tacked-on crafting system, and an over-reliance on throwing piles of long, repetitive battles in your path towards the end are less successful, but I still enjoyed my time exploring Gotham City overall. Especially if you have a sidekick, this is a superhero adventure that is well worth suiting up for.
Fans of the series were excited when Valkyrie Elysium was revealed, and a modern take on the loved franchise could have done it wonders. Unfortunately, the archaic level design and grubby visuals make the adventure feel like it would be more at home back on the PS3. Combat is its saving grace, dancing between combos and activating magic abilities on elemental foes in satisfying fashion. The Einherjar who fight alongside you add a nice touch, enhancing combat and adding some much-needed levity to the boring narrative. Mindless, enjoyable combat is here in spades, but it's not enough to make Valkyrie Elysium a reboot that I'd strongly recommend to anybody.
On the surface, Steelrising looks like “just another soulslike with a twist”, but the more I played, the more I felt enamoured by its gorgeous aesthetic, its likable robot protagonist and its variety of horrifying, angry automaton enemies. By incorporating cutscenes, a linear narrative and traditional RPG quest structure, it keeps the action and progression feeling very focused throughout, with no real roadblocks aside from the difficulty itself. Then, if that’s bothering you too, you can turn on Assist Mode and still enjoy the experience your own way. Despite some simplistic combat and unmemorable boss fights, Steelrising is a satisfying robot action romp that earns bonus points for being one of the most accessible soulslike titles on the market, meaning more gamers will be able to enjoy its haunting vision of alternate history Paris overrun by dastardly machines. Bon travail!
Saints Row successfully reboots the much-loved franchise, although things don't feel as wild or chaotic as I was expecting or hoping. The main campaign is a short but enjoyable romp with some decent creativity, but the open world template doesn't innovate beyond the trappings of the genre. Side missions and distractions are amusing yet repetitive, and the adventure is lacking in polish overall. Still, being able to play the entire experience with a mate by your side makes for a lot of laughs, and if you can forgive the cringe dialogue, there are some fun moments between all the meandering that still makes it worthwhile. I can't say that the Saints are "back and better than ever", but gearing up for a modest romp with a lot of explosions and strong personalisation will certainly set them up for a roaring sequel if given the chance.
Live A Live is an incredibly unique and endearing adventure, with multiple engaging storylines and strong combat throughout. Some of its ideas are so forward-thinking and intriguing that it’s almost shocking that this was originally released almost 30 years ago. While it maintains some weird quirks reminiscent of the SNES era that it came from and the pacing can be a bit strange from chapter to chapter, the beautiful visuals and catchy soundtrack propel Live A Live into the modern era and gives everybody the opportunity to experience a classic RPG that has a whole lot of heart. I’m incredibly grateful I’ve had the opportunity to play it, and am left dreaming about what other hidden gems just like it might be waiting to be unlocked and shared with the world.
Even though some of the puzzles outstay their welcome and can throw the pace off a bit, MADiSON doesn’t linger too long overall and the horrific atmosphere makes it a haunted house ride more than worth the price of admission. There’s plenty of moments that had me screaming and then laughing, my heart racing and palms sweating as I dreaded turning another corner, knowing that something awful was likely waiting for me. The soundtrack is particularly effective in making you feel tense at all times, with loud noises blaring at just the right moments, as shadowy figures loom just out the corner of your eye and a puzzle solution lies just out of reach. While MADiSON doesn’t tread a lot of new ground, its creators clearly have a love of horror and know what makes the genre tick, resulting in a solid spook-fest that will haunt your thoughts.
The core gameplay of Mario Strikers: Battle League is fast and frenetic, keeping your palms sweaty as you battle with your Nintendo favourites in an intense game of soccer. It’s flashy and well animated in all the best ways, with that trademark personality and charm carrying it a long way. It’s also a wonderful example of “easy to learn, difficult to master”, that starts simple but has some reasonable depth, even within the confines of its short matches. It’s a shame then that there just isn’t much more meat on the bone; with offline modes extremely limited with only quick play and tournaments, you’re going to have to truly love the mechanics to justify spending a lot of your time in competitive multiplayer. For those with a lot of mates to kick around with, that might be enough, but for everybody else, it’s a yellow card.
When Ghostwire: Tokyo capitalises on its spooky surroundings by whisking you off into strange dimensions, fighting evil with powers you shoot from your hands, it’s excellent. The haunted, deserted Shibuya is a thrill to explore, and helping spirits with their final requests provides some engaging mini-adventures. Where it fumbles slightly is in the delivery of its open world, which regularly feels a bit old school as you chip away at the fog of the map, cleansing fast travel points as you go and repeating some filler tasks. Still, with a curious mystery laid out before you and a creepy atmosphere that will keep you on your toes, Ghostwire: Tokyo provides plenty of spooks and intriguing diversions around every corner that are just begging for your attention.
After a poor last effort, WWE 2K22 brings the long-running wrestling franchise back in a big way, proving that the extra development time is just what the doctor ordered. It successfully streamlines its in-ring action so that it’s more adaptable to players of different skill levels, removing archaic systems that previously bogged it down. Animations and presentation are top notch, and there really is a game mode for everybody, with a lot of variety. While not all the modes deserve to main event when you dissect them in detail, there’s still a very strong foundation to build from; the bottom line is that WWE 2K22 is the best wrestling game in over a decade.
Horizon Forbidden West is everything you could hope for in a sequel. Not only does it provide more content to sink your teeth into, but it makes smart design decisions that refine its systems to be near faultless. Aloy’s personal story continues to evolve, this time with an even stronger supporting cast and memorable antagonists propelling her journey to another level. Above all, its moment-to-moment gameplay expertly combines the fun traversal, exciting combat, and creative problem-solving to awesome effect, meaning it always feels excellent to play. Horizon Forbidden West is one of the best open-world adventures available today and is a stellar experience from its strong introduction all the way to its dramatic conclusion, and beyond.
Rainbow Six Extraction ran the risk of being labelled as an expansion or an unnecessary spinoff, but confidently proves that there is more than enough room in this universe for a survival horror tactical shooter built on the foundations laid down by Siege. With a mixture of enjoyable objectives, a diverse range of Operators and a compelling gameplay loop filled with aggressive enemies and intense action, the addictive nature of the experience shines through with a constant struggle between playing it safe or risking it all for greater reward. Rainbow Six Extraction is full of truly exciting and memorable moments, continually testing your skill and perseverance around every dark corner, which makes it an incredibly gripping experience that doesn’t let go easily.
Forza Horizon 5 takes what we’ve loved over the series’ life so far and brings it full circle, with a comprehensive package that includes everything you could possibly want from a racing game. Mexico is an astounding and wonderful location to explore, and production values are on point, from the stunning visuals of its gorgeous open world to the well-executed audio that keeps energy levels high. On top of the diverse range of events we’ve come to expect, Horizon Adventures add another fun layer of story and player progression that keeps you engaged, and the vehicle handling is, still, second-to-none. With more content than ever before, the Eventlab to make even more experiences and a suite of multiplayer modes to engage with, Forza Horizon 5 is the best racing game available today, bar none.
Song of Iron is a short and sweet Nordic adventure that tells a simple story which ends up much deeper than it first seems. With a range of gorgeous environments to explore and relatively satisfying combat, it only occasionally frustrates with some tricky boss fights and clunky movement resulting in some platforming pitfalls. Still, these grievances don’t last long, as I found the world created by Resting Relic to be a stunning one to explore and very thoughtful in its style and presentation. Mostly, I’m just astonished with how great it is that a solo developer is capable of creating this wonderful little journey, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Black Book is a bewitching combo of deck-building RPG and D&D-esque storytelling, with a bucket load of ideas where some work better than others. With some refinement and editing, Black Book could have been a must-play release. Without it, it’s still an intriguing mix of gameplay systems that is bolstered by its striking visual style and incredible attention to detail with its Northern Slavic mythology and well-thought-out story-telling. It’s definitely like nothing else I’ve played this year, which is worth celebrating. Despite its shortcomings, I couldn’t help but be under Black Book’s unique spell.