Resident Evil 4 has been reimagined with a better pace, clearer story, and without all of the bloat that held the original back from reaching perfect.
While it's undeniably a quirky mash-up of cards, tactics, and dating sims, Midnight Suns is a focused, well-structured, and fully realized experience. It doesn’t try to please everyone, but if you’re willing to go along for the ride, you’ll find a tactics game that shakes the foundation of the entire genre, along with one of the most compelling Marvel stories ever told.
Though it captures the heart of Darkwatch in its environments and atmosphere, it can’t make up for its lack of variety or its inability to scale difficulty in a satisfying way. The best throwback games borrow aesthetics, iconography, and mechanics from the past, and blend them with modern sensibilities. Evil West does the first part beautifully, but can’t quite pull things together for audiences today.
These improvements and refinements make Ragnarok a great sequel, and the increased length will please the ‘time spent = value’ crowd, but the path from Faye’s final resting place to the final battle of Ragnarok is not nearly as composed or worthwhile as it could have been.
Shadows of Rose is a shorter, worse version of Resident Evil Village. It’s so committed to recreating a micro-version of Village and following it beat-for-beat that it even copies its major flaws. It concludes in the same location with the same info-dump of lore that quickly wraps up all the loose threads. It ends with the same boss fight (somehow even clunkier and more frustrating this time), and unbelievably, also ends with the exact same cutscene. The scene where Rose visits her father’s grave at the end of Village isn’t the start of Shadows of Rose - it’s the end of it. There’s no new context that makes this scene more meaningful, and in fact, that weird line where the driver calls her Eveline is an even more bizarre thing to say after these events. Capcom is quickly running out of Resident Evil games to remake, and this expansion didn’t give me a lot of hope for the future.
Marvel Snap is a highly polished and impeccably designed game that is going to grow and flourish for years to come. It feels early access in a lot of ways thanks to some missing and underbaked features, but the core is rock solid. Collecting cards is fun, building decks is easy, and matches only last a couple of minutes. It’s the perfect on-the-go game, and my favorite CCG right now.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is a big, beautiful rehash of very familiar Spider-Man stories, which makes it feel like a bit of an imitation in the end. An exceptional imitation to be sure, but it could have been so much more.
Despite its ambitious scope, Hardspace never bites off more than it can chew. It is unapologetically pro-union and anti-corporate, and it shows a remarkable deftness in handling the social complexities of those positions. It distinguishes the personal value of labor from the material value - two products our corporate overlords are eager to conflate - and offers a perspective of hope in an otherwise hopeless world. I consider Hardspace: Shipbreaker essential media for anyone that is employed - blue-collar or otherwise. If nothing else it will provoke you to think about your relationship with work in a new way. Considering we spend one-third of our lives doing it, it’s a worthwhile experience.
It’s an easy recommendation for any one already invested in the series, but to the five million couples that played It Takes Two last year: We Were Here Forever should be your next co-op adventure. As the longest and most approachable entry, it’s a great place to start even if you don’t intend to play through all four games - though the second you finish Forever, you’ll almost certainly want to go back for more We Were Here. It’s been a delight to watch We Were Here grow from a student project into one of the best puzzle series around, and I can’t wait to see how Total Mayhem Games takes its signature style beyond Castle Rock next time.
The Witch Queen is nowhere near over. We still have the raid next weekend and, if Beyond Light is any indication, a lot more to discover once the first team crosses the finish line. It’s difficult to judge a Destiny expansion this early on, but based on the campaign alone, I feel confident in saying this is the best piece of Destiny content Bungie has ever put out. If this is the new standard for expansions, the future of Destiny 2 is extraordinarily bright… and dark.
Dying Light 2 is a game with a troubled development, and unfortunately, it shows. I know how much the first game grew significantly over the years with patches and content updates, and I can only hope that this one gets as much support, because it still needs a lot of work before it becomes the game we were first promised back in 2018, if ever.
The Gunk is not a disastrous game. I enjoyed turning my brain off for five hours and exploring this strange and mysterious planet. It’s okay for games to just be empty calories sometimes, and I wouldn’t knock The Gunk for just being a generic popcorn flick. The Gunk aspires to be more than that though, and it falls considerably short. The quality of the SteamWorld games gavethe expectation that this would be a fresh take on the third-person adventure genre, but The Gunk is too shallow for me to recommend - even in the slow December months. If you’re looking for character-driven action-adventure games on Game Pass, Lake and Firewatch were both added earlier this week. Give those a look and leave The Gunk in the gutter.
The best thing I can say about House of Ashes is that its story didn’t make me feel betrayed in the end. There is no “it was all a dream” twist that creates a dozen plot holes, and it doesn’t pull away from the supernatural elements at the last second to reveal that the characters were hallucinating. Rather, it uses its monsters to connect together its themes and create a closed loop that only the best horror stories can effectively execute. For once it feels like The Dark Pictures bit off exactly as much as it can chew, and House of Ashes is so much better off for it. This is where I would recommend newcomers start with the series, and it's a great indicator that the anthology is just going to keep getting better.
Lost in Random is an okay 15-hour game, front-loaded with seven fantastic hours. It’s worth playing even if you don’t make it to the end, simply because there’s never been another game like it. Disney goths will delight in its charming blend of cute and macabre, and there are some legitimate thrills to be had with the combat system for strategy-brained players like myself. If it had continued to innovate with new battle mechanics and more cards to collect throughout the entire game, it would be an easy contender for game of the year for me. Unfortunately, it rests on its laurels too early, and the game as a whole suffers for it. I would be eager to return to Random were there ever a sequel, but I don’t think I’ll be revisiting Lost in Random again anytime soon.
Sequels are often expected to be bigger and better, but sometimes a good sequel is just more of what made the original geat. I suppose I would have liked to see Schell Games push the mechanics and missions further, but ultimately I’m satisfied to play another round of cleverly designed spy puzzles. It’s not particularly ambitious, but it’s consistently good from beginning to end. If you liked the original, there’s absolutely no way you won’t like I Expect You To Die 2.
I love what I’ve played so far and I intend to grind out all of the classes to unlock those perks so I can experiment with potential builds before Season 1 starts. I’d love to see new campaigns, new classes, new weapons, new mods, and new perks with each season. If the next four seasons are as good as the base game, Aliens: Fireteam Elite will end up in my permanent rotation with Destiny 2 and Apex Legends.
There’s nothing lesser or limited about The Vale. It’s a fully realized experience that could only work in an audio space, and I sincerely believe it's going to inspire a lot of people to reexamine their beliefs about what a game has to do or be. If this is the beginning of indie audio games, I can’t wait to see where the genre goes from here.
I certainly enjoyed the game a lot despite this though, and I think CI Games has established a winning formula for the future. It’d be even better if it had any idea what it was trying to say.
So many of these problems can and should be fixed. Better netcode will go a long way, and I expect to see improvements to the controls, the combat inputs, and hopefully even more mechanically intense boss fights. There’s a tendency to recommend bad games to the most devoted fans, but I think fans of Drizzt and Co. will hate this game even more than the uninitiated. The saving grace is that Dark Alliance is included with Game Pass, so it won’t cost you anything to check back in from time to time and see how it’s doing. There is an enjoyable game buried here, I just wouldn’t expect to see it anytime soon.
Outriders would have been a much better game had the campaign been half as long and the end game had twice as much content. I had fun exploring the dozen or so environments throughout the story mode, but the game doesn’t start firing on all cylinders until the gear you get becomes meaningful. The disposable nature of gear during the campaign/leveling process makes the game feel a lot more shallow than it actually is, and getting players to that end-game grind sooner would likely have exposed a lot more players to the best that Outriders has to offer.