It’s nice, in 2023, to play a modern AAA open-world video game that doesn’t feel like a slog to work through. One which rewards stealth and non-lethal tactics, too. When I was finished with almost everything Mirage had to offer—after about 25 hours—I found myself hopeful that Ubisoft will continue making not just big “RPG” Assassin’s Creed games, but also smaller, stealthier entries, too.
El Paso, Elsewhere is both a badass shooter and a study of how people handle toxic relationships. It walks that tightrope and sticks the landing so strongly that I ended the game and immediately wanted to play it again. And I probably will, because James needs me to help him once again save himself and the world.
Regardless, if you own a Switch (and based on the sales of that device, you probably do) I’d recommend checking out Disney Illusion Island. Even non-Disney adults will enjoy the snappy action, low-stakes gameplay, gorgeous visuals and co-op shenanigans. And if you are a Disney adult, well, you probably already bought this game and have it installed on your Switch. Good news: You are in for a treat.
It’s really a shame that such a lovely and fun open-world sandbox is tied to stuff like a season pass, premium currencies, and expensive in-game purchases. Perhaps 2K will tweak some levers to make it easier to earn and unlock new cars—which would be nice—but until then the specter of greed will always be there, nagging at me as I build, smash, and race.
I didn’t think we needed a Resident Evil 4 remake. I guessed that Resident Evil 4’s remake would look nice and play well, just as the other recent remakes. But what I didn’t expect was a game that not only recreates the original but also builds on it in smart and interesting ways to create something different and better than the classic.
Assuming you don’t collect or do everything in every world, Cosmic Shake is about 10 hours long, which is similar to 2020’s remake. And while it crams a lot of good jokes and pretty levels into that runtime, it leaves a lot out, too, with the lack of multiple playable characters the most disappointing excision. I also found Cosmic Shake to be a bit less stable than Battle, though its technical issues never made it unplayable. Still, even if it isn’t quite the sequel I wanted to 2020’s amazing remake, I’m still very happy to get another colorful, fun, and light-hearted Spongebob action platformer in 2023.
Need for Speed Unbound is unlikely to pull the franchise out from underneath the shadows of bigger, more popular racing games in 2022. But I do think it has a chance of helping the series stand out more. And regardless of if Unbound becomes a big hit or not, it’s a damn fine game with some great ideas that make every race more exciting and every upgrade feel more valuable. And it looks rad the whole time, too.
For me, Evil West is the kind of game I miss these days. I’ll fully admit, I love games like Destiny and Fortnite, games that never end and are filled with battle passes, crafting, loot, etc. Those games can provide hours of fun and are great to play while chilling with friends or listening to a podcast. But I don’t want everything to be a complex, all-encompassing, time-monopolizing social experience that continues to grow and evolve as time goes on. And Evil West is a wonderful example of the kind of games I want more of moving forward. Not everything needs an endgame or a crafting table. Sometimes, I just want to move forward, hear some bad banter and punch some monsters in the face for a few hours. And Evil West gave me exactly that. No more. No less.
Kratos and Atreus are the heart of this new era of God of War. Ragnarök provides them plenty of quiet moments and lets you see just how much they’ve grown and developed since 2018. Getting to see the journey they take together to reach this new point in their lives is truly my favorite part of this sequel.
I can’t think of another Star Wars game that’s included so much of the franchise, in such a brilliant and well-made package, and does it all without becoming boring, or bogged down in canon details and retcons. Star Wars is silly. Star Wars is epic. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga knows this and embraces both aspects, while being a lot of fun and very funny. It’s one of my favorite games of 2022, and while some hardcore Star Wars fans may be loathe to admit it, yes, this is probably the best Star Wars game yet made.
Dying Light 2 doesn’t tell a great or original zombie story, and it features a lot of big choices that mostly amount to nothing. But that’s fine, because where Dying Light 2 succeeds is in the smaller moments between the big ones. A fight against a horde of undead that you hadn’t planned on and might not survive. Escaping a tough enemy using all the parkour moves at your disposal. Barely surviving a nighttime excursion gone wrong and breaking your last good sword in the process. Or just swinging around, looking for the next place to explore but getting too distracted by how much fun it is to move around this place that you just…don’t stop.
Psychonauts 2 isn’t about gunning down the big boss at the end and cheering over their dead body. It’s about understanding that even the biggest asshole is still a person, and deep down they may just need some help. We all need some help sometimes. The key is asking for it. Today, in 2021, it’s easy to look around and see people who seem cruel and evil, and to assume they are lost souls, not worth saving. Psychonauts 2 says otherwise. It says that everyone can change. I’m not sure I fully believe that, but I’ll be damned if that’s not one hell of a hopeful message.
It’s a shame that Biomutant isn’t a better put-together piece of software. Its world feels unique, the way it blends different combat styles is fun and it’s a visual treat to look at on a big 4K TV. But countless bugs, performance issues, overly talkative NPCs, boring quest design, and a sense of overall jank makes it hard to excitedly share this game with people.
Immortals impressed me. It’s an unexpected success, blending comedy and condensed open-world gameplay into one of the most entertaining games I’ve played this year. Even if the combat lacks some variety and the main quests are a bit stale, the rest of Immortals is fantastic.
Star Wars: Squadrons is good. For folks who have been wanting a Star Wars game all about X-wings and dogfighting, you’ll more than likely be happy with what’s on offer in Squadrons. Bugs and some multiplayer issues prevent it from being a totally smooth experience, but I’d still highly recommend Squadrons to anyone who thinks it sounds fun to moonlight as a hotshot Star Wars pilot.