I'm not in the unenviable position of giving a score to a game with no generic touchstones or precedence. I can't help but laugh at the absurdity at giving a score to something like Kentucky Route Zero. Did it accomplish everything it intended to do? Almost certainly. Was it "good?" Making a qualitative determination for art almost certainly means you missed the point entirely, doesn't it?
Failure is part of mastery, and by the end of my ~20-hour playthrough of DOOM Eternal, I felt like I had developed a far greater mastery of the game than I ever did in DOOM (2016). Some battles took me 20 tries or more, it's true, but by the time I got through it I learned the timing of every wave and used every single one of my abilities to survive. For that, DOOM Eternal is likely the most satisfying shooter ever made. The easy mode (I'm Too Young To Die) is still available for anyone who prefers the mindless carnage of DOOM (2016), but I promise you, DOOM Eternal is worth the struggle.
Alyx doesn't propel VR to unseen heights, nor does it overcome the limitations of the platform. What it does is provide an exceptional name-brand experience that is extraordinarily polished and just about the best example of what VR has to offer right now. Every puzzle is satisfying, every gunfight is a thrill. The environments are beautifully horrifying and the interactables are absurdly detailed. It has no lulls, nothing ever gets played out or boring. It has a ton of fan service and builds some really exciting hype for the future of the series. However, I wish that the game built its core mechanics over time the way Portal 2 so famously did. Alyx is much more akin to a rollercoaster ride than a hill to climb. If you can afford the price of admission though, it's one wild ride.
Every looter struggles in the early days, and it would be naive think a studio that's never made a game of this type before would nail it right out of the gate. That being said, it's already in way better shape than I ever expected it to be at launch, and, most critically, the combat — particularly in multiplayer — is an absolute blast. I'm hopeful, and I'll be sticking around to see where things go from here.
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.
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.
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 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.