Eidos Montreal applies its signature gameplay touches to Tomb Raider, making for the series's most satisfying balance of combat, exploration, and puzzle solving. Unfortunately these mechanical successes are let down by a journey that fails to deliver a compelling study of Lara's personal shadows.
I wish Shadow of War was as confident in itself as I am in it. Had Monolith proudly led with the Nemesis Fortress system and introduced players to it quickly, they would unquestionably be on the shortlist for making the Game of the Year. Thankfully, the system acts as the Mithril-strong foundations for the game, so while the additional elements may be generic and unwelcome, there is very little digging required to find the shining silver.
It was inevitable that The Witcher 3 would close on a high, but few will have expected what they’ll find in Blood & Wine. While unrequited love, barrels of red with a blackberry aroma, and excessive amounts of pomp may not be what you think you want from The Witcher, it won’t be long until you’ve changed your mind.
True disasters crash, burn, and are never rebuilt. Visit a game of Conquest or Rush in Battlefield 4 today, and you could be easily fooled into thinking there'd never been a problem in the first place. Hopefully such a launch is one for the history books and not a future repeat, but Battlefield 4 is testament to both DICE's dedication to enduring design and getting things right, no matter how much pain they have to endure on the way.
The low price point means it's not a massive gamble to buy into Five Nights at Freddy's 4, but considering you've likely played the previous three games and have now spent around eight hours keeping homicidal animatronics at bay, there's nothing about this fourth game that begs for you to return. Instead spend the cash on a bag of snacks and some drinks, and watch someone else shriek loudly into a microphone for you.
But the game is only £6.99, and what you get for that bargain basement price is a good slice of well-built fun. When you first boot it up it feels surprisingly robust, and there's never a sense that it was created on the cheap to cash in. The matchmaking can certainly make or break the experience from match to match, but when the going's good Block N Load is a smile-generating shooter.
Visceral have create a perfectly good functioning Battlefield game in Hardline. It shoots as good as the best of them, the car-chases are fun, and the small tweaks made to the core formula are very welcome. But a little refinement does not mask that this is a very similar game to what we bought in 2013; despite the strong efforts to make a variety of new game modes, you can't shake the feeling of playing classic Battlefield. And quite honestly, Battlefield without tanks and jets is only half as fun. Curiously the single player campaign is the most interesting element, which is surely due to the studio's strength in solo-play design from their days on Dead Space. That's not enough to make it an essential purchase, though. Players new to the series may find the urban setting interesting and will certainly benefit from the refined mechanics. Series veterans, however, are best sticking to what they already have.
Starships may not be a grand epic like Civilization, but its stripped back design fulfils a purpose. If you normally struggle with the multiple complexities of a 4x strategy game, Starships is a great introduction to the genre. It even offers step-by-step advice at every point if you need it. But for anyone more advanced than total rookie, after a handful of campaigns you'll have seen everything Starships has to offer. Without the usual 4x depth or any multiplayer, Starships lacks the level of replayability. Even though it's priced accordingly, that's still its open exhaust hatch. A couple of afternoons after buying, Starships is likely to be lost among the debris of your unplayed Steam collection.
Evolve is really good fun. With its four-player co-op matches sharing so much base DNA with Left 4 Dead, it's great that it feels like something completely different. It still shares that pace - extended moments of quiet followed by massive bursts of excitement - but provides it in a very different manner. There's not a huge amount of content in Evolve compared to many unlock-led games, but by keeping things tight the game always stays focussed on what's important: the thrill of the hunt. The almost absence of variety in the map design may well hack down Evolve's lasting appeal, but what's here in the main game is perfect for many great hours.
It's additions may feel almost wholly unnecessary, but they do nothing to dilute the genuinely great multiplayer core. The lack of online is surely a barrier to entry for many, but for those in the right environment - university halls, Friday-night game sessions, after school with buddies - TowerFall Ascension consistently delivers massive heaped doses of fun. It revels in humiliation - even saving death replays as GIFs for easy social media bragging - and is likely to destroy friendships for an hour or two. And the more heated the arguments and the fouler the swearing, the more likely you are to do it all over again next week.
Simple in almost all respects, Luftrauser is one of Vlambeer's biggest triumphs because it strips back everything in the name of exposing the fun at the centre of the game. It's almost as if the designers were engineers of the rauser itself; reducing weight and tweaking fuel lines to ensure the most effective deliverer of death possible. The concessions to lower skilled pilots makes the bosses a bit of a non-event, but the overall result is a challenge that works for all players, and that's a genuine achievement. Wrapped in a stylish package with darting machine silhouettes and authentic World War 2 colour-pallet, Luftrausers is really quite special.
A fumbled finale puts a notable stain on the experience. They say one of the key rules in comedy is to leave the audience wanting more, but as Jazzpunk's credits rolled I was left feeling a little indifferent. But the game is something to be admired. Few titles dedicate themselves to comedy as wholly as Jazzpunk does. This is a game that delivers every silly, bizarre moment with a toothy grin and a badum-tish, waiting with barely contained excitement to deliver its next surprise. A few may be booed off stage, but when so many can hit the mark as closely as they do, I can't deny it a round of applause.
Strike Vector deserves more. It deserves a selection of inspired game modes. It deserves a collection of well-balanced, strategic weapon unlocks. It deserves a flight school that's more than picture boxes and poor spelling. Because underneath that wrapper of disappointments is a phenomenally cool, brilliantly built game that excites, thrills, and challenges. You won't regret your time spent in Strike Vector's lead-and-gunpowder filled skies, but it won't be long before you're seeking thrills elsewhere.
Broken Age is a unique game. It's made directly for and on the demand of a very specific audience, rather than for any publisher. In some ways it's surprising that - despite being traditional - it doesn't feel like a Lucasarts game. That's likely what backers wanted, and whilst those elements are there, this is a Double Fine game to the final letter. It's gentle, loving, and fun; not a Grim Fandango rehash, but the gaming equivalent of a petting a kitten. If your eyes are not welling up with sheer joy at such a thought, then perhaps Broken Age is not for you. For everyone else, it's probably already in your Steam library anyway.