It’s worth returning to that earlier word — “fun.” While much of the design seems rooted in the past, if there’s one feeling that endures after a session of Sniper Elite 5, it’s that Rebellion hopefully has a solid blueprint to do something truly innovative and worthwhile with Sniper Elite 6. Until then, raucously silly fun will have to suffice.
Its new features may not be truly revolutionary, and it may still have its fair share of repetitive and time-consuming moments, but it’s a faithful take on a well-loved game, and should certainly keep players busy until Pokémon Legends: Arceus arrives in January.
Metroid Dread suffers from some minor grievances, but overall it is a remarkable achievement in not just resurrecting a dormant and beloved series, proving its authority in the genre it inhabits, or exhibiting the kind of airtight design we’d expect from a title of this calibre. It is a remarkable achievement because it is one of those few rare games that sets itself an atmospheric goal and launches it towards and through the stratosphere. This, here, is one of 2021’s very best games - we’re always in for a treat when Samus returns.
All of that said, denouncing Eastward’s strengths and successes for any of the above would be disingenuous. It is a remarkable game that, while retro in ambition, will paradoxically go on to inspire the drive and uniqueness of future projects. It is clever, vibrant, and unapologetically original, and unless some magnificent twist of fate occurs over the next three months, it will undoubtedly go down as one of the best games of the year.
As I sit here now, wrapping up this review in an attempt to shut myself up before I accidentally spoil something I would rather people experience for themselves, I am wearing a stupid smile. I am, at this moment, thinking about how great it would be for Recompile to garner the attention, respect, and acclaim it deserves. This is no ordinary game - it is brilliant and ambitious and frustrating in the one and only way that frustration can be a positive term. Recompile is a rare gem in a cave of unremarkable cobblestone, a pearl among cracked shells and coarse sand. If you do one thing after reading this review, do both yourself and I a favour: download Recompile, and once you're done with it, tell your friends to download it, too.
It would be easy for someone to say that Omno does nothing new, but the reason it’s easy to say that is because it’s completely incorrect. Omno has plenty of imaginative and ingenious ideas - they’re just unfortunately hampered by more established ones that didn’t need to be there.
Ultimately, though, The Forgotten City is one of those games that will inspire other games for years to come. It’s absurd to think it was mostly developed by a three-person team, and yet the clear, unanimous focus a team this small permits is evident throughout the entire game. It is clever not just in terms of its story or themes, but in how it packages and delivers those themes through one of the most inspired and tight gameplay loops I’ve seen in a long time.
Pokemon Unite is weird. It both feels everything and nothing like Pokemon and nothing and everything like a MOBA. It’s not necessarily a balanced meeting point between these two ostensibly incomparable concepts - instead, it’s its own thing entirely. And, for the most part, this new, strange, messy hybrid works. Its misunderstanding of what makes it special in the first place is an unignorable aspect of an otherwise remarkable effort, and there will be people out there who are turned off by the overbearing presence of microtransactions, even if they don’t technically make the game pay-to-win.
New Pokemon Snap has issues when it comes to tedium between courses, arbitrary solutions, and boring, barely functional extra mechanics, but the courses and Pokemon are legitimately incredible. The Photodex is a marvel, multiplayer creates healthy competition for replayability , and just being able to inhabit Lental is a spectacle in and of itself. I’m not sure I’d recommend it to someone who can’t tell Bagon from Beldum, but if you’re a born and bred Pokemon fan, New Pokemon Snap could be your sleeper hit of the year.
If Persona 5 was about forming bonds with new people and recruiting them for a common cause, Persona 5 Strikers is about taking the Phantom Thieves and proving that the friendship they share is lasting, that it can and will endure any hardship. I think, right now, that message is immeasurably important, and hits harder than a bullet formed from the Seven Deadly Sins.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was a risk. Not really because it took Vikings as its subject matter — people love Vikings, to the extent that loads of folks are a bit sick of Norse stuff at this point. It was a risk because it compounded the ideals of Assassin’s Creed’s origins and Assassin’s Creed Origins. Fortunately, it turns out that the best game in this series is the one that’s drawn from pretty much everything that came before it, in order to carve out its own unique identity based on the absolute best bits of its many, many predecessors.
Hades is, to put it plainly, a masterpiece. It has a refreshingly unique trajectory, tells a compelling story with an alluring cast, and has such a good handle on moment-to-moment play that it is never anything less than genuinely excellent. It’s a game that grows the more you play it, as opposed to being something that suffers from a slow descent into tedium. And for that reason, it is a genuine forever game.
Presuming these techy mishaps are rectified, Ori And The Will Of The Wisps is one of the most charming, engaging, visually striking and emotionally touching games I’ve played in a long time. It’s difficult but fair, complex but intuitive, and gruelling but conquerable.
Shenmue 3 suffers from hamfisted exposition, tedious repetition, monotonous grinding, and a heap of other fundamental flaws that are inexcusable in 2019. However, its environments are so confident in their sense of place that exploration is a capable redeemer, and the game is at times, on that ground alone, worth playing.