Dead Space is a triumphant remake that draws strength from familiarity instead of allowing its archaic origins to become a vice. This is now the definitive version of Isaac Clarke’s first chapter, one that doesn’t aim to reinvent his character, but to outfit him with a more relatable and nuanced arc that will likely set the stage for other games to come.
Somerville is one of the year’s biggest surprises, and I’m still shocked to see it fly under the radar. Its portrayal of an alien invasion raging across the British countryside hit close to home, while the story of a father searching for his family and being tied up in a dilemma so much bigger than he ever imagined is both nothing like I expected and everything I wanted. I can’t wait to see players far smarter than I piece its most devious puzzles together, since there are still so many questions waiting to be answered.
Scorn is a hard game to pin down, but it’s one I can’t help but recommend. It’s disgustingly alluring in its visual execution, with each new location bringing with it a waterfall of questions as you poke, prod, and cower at every discovery. This ambition of being artsy and cryptic can hold it back at points, but there’s something fiercely admirable in its artistic vision that few games in the genre are able to match. This is a tragic horror of Lovecraftian proportions, and one that really must be seen to be believed.
Northway Games has crafted one of my highlights of the year with this narrative adventure. It’s wonderfully engrossing and hiding so many worthwhile character moments and gorgeous secrets well worth uncovering. I’ve already spent so many hours with the game and feel like I have barely scratched the surface, prepared to dive back in and live out this life over and over again until I settle on an imperfect resolution that feels well and truly my own.
Even as the credits roll, We Are OFK is still an unusual game to describe. It’s an introduction to a band made up of fictional characters that aims to penetrate the real world and make a true cultural impact. We have no idea if this will be a success, but the story being told throughout its five episodes rings so true and feels so real that I can’t help but cheer them on. Itsumi, Luca, Jey, and Carter already feel like trusted old friends, people I’ve been through the shit with and can stand alongside as they hope to realise their dreams. In a medium where narrative adventures have grown rather predictable, this one shines.
Monolith Soft has crafted a JRPG that is so colossal yet also intricately focused. It delivers an experience that iterates upon everything its predecessors managed to achieve, resulting in a masterpiece that I am utterly enraptured by. Part of me feels like I’m still stewing in a cauldron of hyperbole, but in terms of characters, themes, and a world that I never want to leave behind - this is the series at its very best, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.
Live A Live feels like it shouldn’t exist, or was destined to remain hidden away with only a few fortunate fans stumbling upon it in the midst of online forums hosting fan translations of forgotten classics. I’m not sure what inspired Nintendo and Square Enix to bring this game back from the dead for a whole generation, but the fact they went through with it is a miracle. Whether you’re a JRPG fan or simply keen to play something completely different, Live A Live manages to surprise and delight in equal measure while refusing to show its full hand until the last possible moment. I’d argue it was almost worth the decades we spent waiting.
Power Wash Simulator is a darling escape into a profession I never knew I had any passion for. I’m not saying I’m about to quit writing and start going to town on my nan’s filthy patio, but there’s something about living a distant occupation through the medium of video games that pulls you in and refuses to let go. Life is stressful right now, so having a place to set my worries aside and clean up virtual arenas while also giving my own mind a good cleanse is more than welcome, and FuturLab has more than delivered on that grounded fantasy here.
The Quarry is an excellent survival horror experience with a strong cast of characters and a startling horror narrative that delights with campy scares and unexpected twists. Fans of Until Dawn and The Dark Pictures need to pick this up, or even those after a spooky outing either alone or with friends. It isn’t the alien abduction story I’ve been waiting for, but it still proves that Supermassive Games is the undisputed king of the genre when it matters.
Sniper Elite 5 is a great little shooter, and I had a lot of fun sinking into its sprawling levels and inventive mechanics. It doesn’t change the formula or even introduce anything particularly new to the wider genre, but perfectly understands what it wants to be and delivers on that expectation with significant flair. I viewed it as a palette cleanser of sorts, an experience that harkens back to a different generation of single-player shooters we don’t tend to see anymore. It’s almost nostalgic, and aside from Wolfenstein there is no better Nazi-murdering simulator out there.
Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition is a remaster that should have happened years ago, and I’m so glad that the JRPG classic has finally received the respect it deserves in the modern landscape. You seldom see it discussed alongside other genre greats in the mainstream zeitgeist, but perhaps that perception will change now Serge’s iconic adventure is available on a selection of platforms with myriad improvements. Not all of its changes are for the best, but are easy enough to accept when the underlying game is still so masterful.
Ghostwire: Tokyo is a shooter unlike anything I’ve ever played before. Its depiction of Japan is frighteningly lifelike in its execution, begging for us to explore its abandoned streets and dimly lit alleyways in search of wayward spirits that all have stories to tell. Whether you’re bounding across rooftops or doing battle in construction sites, it is constantly surprising in ways that few games in recent memory have managed to. It is fresh, exciting, and a demonstration of what a major studio is capable of when they’re given the freedom to tackle a new universe without compromise. It isn’t perfect, but it’s so different, and that should be more than enough for people to take notice.
JRPGs are often juvenile in some manner while trying to push forward a serious narrative, so it’s nice to see something that is mature in its outlook and expects us to come along for the adventure or leave it behind. I was on board from the opening moments and never looked back.
FromSoftware doesn’t rewrite the medium’s rulebook, but does tear its own tenets asunder while reconstructing them into a cohesive whole that outclasses all that came before it. The Lands Between invites you to explore it with an unparalleled level of freedom, offering up a plate of seemingly impenetrable challenges and intimately constructed stories that are always a delight to indulge in. This is, without doubt, one of the best games in recent memory.
The Legacy of Thieves Collection compiles the two finest games in the Uncharted series while making them look and feel better than ever before. Yet they already pushed boundaries that are yet to be usurped, meaning existing owners of this game need to shell out for a relatively minimal upgrade without too much to offer. I still think it’s more than worthwhile just to relive these adventures once again, but part of me wishes a little more effort was placed into bringing them to life for a new generation.
Dotemu has created a nostalgic slice of competitive sporting excellence with Windjammers 2. It might only offer a handful of modes, but its wide roster of characters, tight controls, and admirable dedication to what came before it meant I was entranced the moment I picked up a disc and hurled it into the air. This is one of the finest local multiplayer games in recent memory that is easy to learn yet devilishly hard to master. It’s also very sexy.
If the campaign will continue to be built upon with similarly intimate stories revolving around Master Chief and The Weapon then I cannot wait to see them, since the potential here for expansion is limitless. Multiplayer is spectacular, even as it struggles with teething issues associated with becoming a live-service model. At its core the punchy gunplay, reactive movement, and reliance on teamwork remains, and that’s all Halo Infinite needs to become a winner. As someone who grew up as a blubbering fangirl, it feels so good to see Master Chief deliver an adventure that is once again worthy of his iconic status.
Shin Megami Tensei 5 is a punishing delight. It revels in its classic approach to combat and exploration, brought to life with a battered and broken vision of our world as it teeters on the edge of extinction. JRPGs of the modern era are often content to hold our hands and guide us through each new journey, but Atlus decides to punch us in the gut, steal our wallet, and sprint away as we try desperately to catch up. As I’ve said time and time again, this isn’t a game for everyone, but those who gel with its specific brand of masochism will find something very special indeed.
This is a game that understands the importance of fighting back against fascism and taking a stand as part of your own personal revolution, yet it’s often held back by gameplay that wants to distance itself from that idea as you fawn over cute puppies and fire off outlandish grenade launchers. Yet it’s still a start, and a bold step forward for a company that has long sat on the fence of political discussion. If you’re after more Far Cry, this delivers and pushes the formula forward into exciting new territory.
Death Stranding remains a bizarre masterpiece on PS5, and the director’s cut only further cements that reputation with a number of worthwhile new ideas that enhance the act of delivering packages across a picturesque landscape of nothingness. The story of Sam Porter Bridges is overblown and wondrous, taking hold of you and refusing to let go as you’re dragged into an adventure that takes the medium to places it has never been before. It’s mindless self-indulgence of the highest order, and it’s rare to see a game deliver upon its overarching ambition in such a bold, uncompromising way in the modern era. For that very reason, it deserves to be celebrated.