When Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts works, it works amazingly well. The process of spotting, planning, and sniping makes for a tense, engaging experience, especially given the expansive maps that almost always provide multiple vantage points and approaches. However, the game too often demands that players close the gap and suffers as a result. Although Seeker’s toolkit is filled with toys, too many rely on noise, and the enemies flock to the slightest sign of the player’s presence, making the game tougher than will likely be enjoyable for many. Add to that the bugs that, although not game-breaking, are annoying and a story that is not much of a story at all, and Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts falls short of its ambitions. Maybe next time, CI Games will have its scope calibrated properly.
Despite everything written so far, Narcos: Rise of the Cartels does exactly what it aims to. The game is not an attempt to rewrite the strategy rulebook, but rather a gateway drug for anyone not familiar with the genre who is already hooked on Narcos. In that context, the title is solid: an entry-level strategy game that eases players in. The shallowness stems from the mass appeal and, as such, is a strength. However, those concessions will not spark joy for strategy veterans or anyone looking for a meaty, engaging experience.
Like its protagonist then, Woven is an odd beast. Alterego has succeeded in making something distinct—the game certainly stands out from the crowd. However, that uniqueness comes with concessions. Every charming feature is offset by a fumble: a fun premise by a non-existent story, a stunning aesthetic by burdensome exploration, solid puzzles by technical issues. Nevertheless, the game is fully functional and will certainly be worthwhile purchase for young children or anyone else who enjoys the simple pleasures.
RUNE II lacks the wow factor to be a serious contender in most Game of the Year lists, but that does not mean it should be overlooked. The game is solid and dependable, its faults never quite enough to sink it. Moreover, Human Head should be celebrated for daring to take a different approach to its open world. Where many games try to drive engagement through more quests, more distractions, more collectibles, more everything, RUNE II pares that drive back to its bare essentials. The result is a game that successfully walks the tightrope between appealing to the linearity-loving traditionalists, fans of sprawling RPGS, and the adherents of Minecraft’s make-your-own-adventure style of play.
Five hours into a session, the player could be forgiven for thinking that only half that time has gone by. WARSAW has an addictive quality that comes from sublime gameplay and a pervasive feeling of desperation. ‘Just one more mission,’ goes the refrain. ‘Just one more’ until the final mission is complete, and the game comes to its shattering end. WARSAW may be short, but as an engaging history lesson and an engrossing game, it warrants any number of replays.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood had the potential for greatness. MachineGames has proven itself as one of the best FPS developers active today with the previous two series entries, and Arkane Studios has a well-deserved reputation for great immersive sim experiences. Both are highly regarded for their single-player offerings, yet this collaboration squanders so much of the magic that could have been. The gunplay is as tight as fans could hope, and the central storyline is just strong enough to overcome the malaise that the repetitive open-world exploration breeds. However, those boons are not enough to offset the flaws, foibles, and—most of all—the sense that this is a game designed to keep players coming back: even as it lacks a hook to do so.
Warhammer: Chaosbane is a functional though fundamentally unspectacular addition to the Warhammer universe. The number of missions, the multiple playable characters, and the additional modes available after completion give the game a thick padding that could provide weeks of entertainment for the right player. However, the core experience is more bones than meat, which means that that ‘right player’ may be a rare breed.
In some ways, those adjectives suit Draugen as a whole. Slightly dated game design and some poorly telegraphed narrative elements aside, the game makes for a wonderful four-hour adventure. The town of Graavik is a delight to look at, and the stories it hides drag players deep into the mystery. The design tropes of walking simulators are backed up with more logical cause than is often the case, while the story leaves just enough open to keep the player thinking after the credits have ceased to roll. Draugen seems unlikely to win any awards for originality, but it shows what mastery of the ‘walking simulator’ format looks like.
Simply put, RAGE 2 is a strange beast. Perhaps that was inevitable as the follow-up to a middling first effort developed across two very different studios. Perhaps that shared production is also the reason for the lack of unity. Whatever the reason, RAGE 2 is clearly best suited to a particular kind of player. The game offers an often-beautiful environment combined with easy, enjoyable traversal mechanics. Comprising the bulk of the experience is some of the finest and most diverse gunplay combat to be found gaming today. However, these charms are let down somewhat by the lacking story and structure and a general feeling of a tonal mismatch between the bland protagonist and the madcap world.