In the absence of other open-world racing series like Burnout Paradise and Test Drive Unlimited, the Forza Horizon series has steadily become a racing staple, and with Forza Horizon 3, it's now on cruise control. With a revised skill system, a wealth of racing content, and a co-operative campaign, you'll want to bend and curve around every corner in picturesque Australia landscape at least once, even if that's the only time.
Nuka-World may not have a storyline that is as significant and connective as Far Harbor's, but it still ranks as one of the better expansions for Fallout 4. Instead of ending the game with a heavy, emotional finale, Nuka-World is a humorous excursion that's feels like a well-deserved, fun-filled Nuka-vacation. (A Nuka-cation?!) As a world of refreshment, it certainly does the trick.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided isn't as polished as it could be, but it still continues the franchise's deft interpretation of modern political, technological, and societal issues without being preachy. Though the story could have brought more attention to the ending and more fully developed the character relationships in the game, the environmental storytelling and exploration through the city of Prague is intricate and memorable. The stealth-based first-person gameplay, paired with the flexibility of the augmentation system, remains as one of the best in the business. Adam Jensen doesn't ask for much, but I'm sure he wants a sequel, and I do too.
Gearbox Software's experience with Borderlands clearly shows throughout Battleborn, blending a silly episodic story and a cast of charismatic characters with the competitive, on-trend MOBA genre. While its single-player and multiplayer offerings are limited at the moment, they're strong enough on their own to sustain a community, so long as Gearbox continues to update the game frequently. Battleborn could have easily been a soulless copycat of Borderlands or just another MOBA, but this is one fusion game that has its own identity and lays the solid groundwork for much more to come.
Through climactic boss fights, bewitchingly forsaken landscapes, and heightened combat, Dark Souls III meets the lofty expectations of the Soulsborne series. Even with minor issues with linearity, framerate, and the originality of level design, Dark Souls III is an outstanding send-off for a seminal trilogy that has influenced and legitimized difficulty in games with unapologetic force. Its undying flames will be felt forevermore.
Street Fighter V is a work-in-progress. The combat system stands as the game's strongest and most important pillar, which masks some of the minor imperfections with the graphical clipping and online performance. Having a console release now is understandably more important for the sake of the competitive community even if that comes at the cost of the single-player experience. However, asking for both a full single-player and multiplayer experience at launch should be the standard. The review score for the game will likely improve over the next three months as more content is added over the course of the year, but unfortunately, I can't grade what doesn't exist. Along with the new Hitman which will release episodically, Street Fighter V makes the case for rolling reviews as a necessary practice moving forward. So expect periodic updates to this review or as separate reviews as Street Fighter V develops over its lifespan.
Despite a few flaws in the storytelling and the combat system—although both move at a favorably brisk pace—Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is still handedly the game that Digimon fans have been waiting for. Its faithful translation of an extraordinary roster of Digimon into fully-realized models lays the groundwork for future Digimon titles in this console generation. With more refinement in character interaction and less of a need to roam around in search of story triggers, this Digimon series could re-establish itself as a premiere RPG. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is the shot that Digimon video games have long deserved.
Although Blade & Soul is rough around the corners with its outdated quests and PvE envrionment, its strength in action-based combat and PvP shines through. Nailing a 20-hit combo on a poor fool has rarely been this satisfying outside of the fighting genre. The in-game store for microtransactions is mainly for cosmetic items and premium membership which keeps this free-to-play title away from the pay-to-win model, with Daily Dash prizes as bonuses for daily logins. While gold spammers had taken over the global chat, the new block spammer button has neutralized the situation. With NCSoft's attentive support of the title as the US release continues to catch up with the Asian release, the remaining story acts, classes, and dungeons will hopefully fill in the gaps by way of the developer's aggressive post-launch schedule. For now, Blade & Soul has a swift but cautious kick of a recommendation.
XCOM 2 more or less maintains the XCOM series as one of the best strategy titles today. The very nature of concealment and fast-and-loose guerrilla tactics lends itself to an almost obsessive amount of trial and error, but that doesn't mean you won't want to try over and over again until you pass unscathed. I've sunk hours into XCOM 2, and there's no doubt that you will too. With an unnerving sense of persistent tension and procedurally-generated maps that extend the value of every map, XCOM 2 survives the hype train with just a graze.
Amplitude is a solid remix of the original that should win over longtime fans as well as new players who want to explore a fresh version of a game that brought Harmonix into prominence. The track list could have been fuller in terms of quantity and genre variety, but the gameplay remains challenging, crisp, and energetic. Put on a pair of quality headphones, and Amplitude is worth every note.
Fallout 4 is a roaring response to criticism that the series has ignored its qualities as a shooter in favor of its deeper and stronger RPG roots. Nearly every design change in Fallout 4 poises the game as a more streamlined modern shooter with high production value across the truly open-world Commonwealth wasteland. The introduction of settlements, newly designed power armor, and deeper crafting evolve the Fallout franchise for the better. This occasionally comes at the cost of storytelling, however, with a plot based on stringently polarizing factions as well as diminished interaction with characters in general. But despite these missteps, Fallout 4 will only improve with time, assuredly with the assistance of the community and user-created mods, and soundly reclaims the franchise as a forward-thinking series in the industry today.
With the new limited reversal system and a much higher overall production value, WWE 2K16 is the competent fighter we always knew it could be. The fuller roster and a wealth of creation modes mark this year's installment as a notable comeback for the series. Only the submission system, the occasional glitch, and the some issues with the UI for creation modes hold WWE 2K16 back. Otherwise, WWE 2K16 crushes its predecessor with the impact of a Stone Cold Stunner.
That said, Sword Coast Legends works best as a co-operative multiplayer experience with a knowledgeable and patient dungeon master either in dungeon crawls, user-created modules, or the story campaign. Its overall graphics and presentation are rough around the corners, but it's an enjoyable experience if you can convince friends to join your party. But if you're a lifelong Dungeons & Dragons fan and expect Sword Coast Legends to be the classical D&D experience it claims to be, you'll need to look elsewhere. This is one skill check it does not pass.
If you're looking for a classic Dragon Quest game with a twist, then this more than fits the bill, so long as you don't mind playing alone the whole through way through. As unexpected as it might be, Omega Force has proven that it can adapt popular franchises with surprising consistency.
Nearly every complaint with the base game has been handled with attention, though the new diplomacy overhaul comes with its own unfortunate issues. But that aside, Rising Tide is an essential purchase for Civilization fans who want to give Beyond Earth a well-earned second chance.
While the lack of online multiplayer and Practice Mode is disappointing given Rock Band 3's suite of features, reliving the experience of having friends playing alongside you (perhaps at a party you've arranged, ahem) in local co-operative play more than makes up for the difference. It may have five years since the last Rock Band, but the feeling is utterly nostalgic.
The happiness of Happy Home Designer is a sheen. Poke at the surface and the clients are all too delighted about whatever you design, wherever it's located, however you fill it, and no matter the effort you put into it. If you're content with looking at the game as a tool purely for self-expression or as way to reunite with Animal Crossing friends both new and old, then Happy Home Designer passes adequately. But if you're looking for any kind of challenge or doing anything other than designing spaces for everyone but yourself, you're better off popping in New Leaf instead, especially since both titles have the same asking price of $39.99. Ultimately, what's exciting about Happy Home Designer is waiting for the enhanced touch controls, yard building, and item catalog to be included in the next main entry of Animal Crossing. Otherwise, Happy Home Designer feels like a standalone expansion that's inexplicably missing the solid foundation that New Leaf should have provided.