With Banishers, Don’t Nod have elevated their craft to a new level. They combine elements from numerous previous games, but always with a new spin on them. They have combined them into a gripping story of life, death, guilt, and responsibility in a novel fantasy setting. Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden is a notably accomplished action game that should not be overlooked.
Despite these shortcomings of the original game, Kingpin Reloaded could have been a useful historical exercise. It could still get closer to that goal, as Slipgate Ironworks continue to work on the remaster. The studio’s attention is divided, however, as they are surely overburdened with seven other in-development projects. As things stand, this version is very difficult to recommend and will do 3D Realms’ reputation no favours.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III arguably sees the series in something of a holding pattern. It neither completely finishes the solo narrative, nor revolutionises the online experience. Indeed, this release may well be quite unlike what Sledgehammer Games were originally meant to deliver. Established series veterans will grumble about the relative lack of completely new material, but this is another polished continuation for a series which likely has another decade left in it.
It is possible to imagine a hybrid of ‘90s JRPG and ‘80s wrestling that could be genuinely engaging, if only for a modest audience. WrestleQuest, however, is not that game. Behind the kayfabe, its obsessive adherence to dated tropes and deeply tiresome combat prove very real and sadly fatal.
It lacks a compelling story, and its efforts to vary things up are not always successful, but Turbo Overkill is a consistently exciting and often great-looking shooter. Like Cultic, it is a startling example of how much can be achieved by a one-person developer. Fans of retro shooters, so well catered to in recent years, should be sure to find time to spend time with Johnny Turbo.
Company of Heroes 3 is a game that wrestles with how to improve on the brilliance of its predecessors. Relic should be applauded for trying new things with the Italian campaign, even if there are a number of issues still to be ironed out. In skirmish and multiplayer, its modest but welcome improvements to a fantastic formula should give the game a long life. This sequel may not single-handedly return RTS games to prominence, but it is a gripping experience and a very welcome contribution to that effort.
It’s clear that The Settlers: New Allies has promise. It is lovely to look at, has a good soundtrack, and provides an often satisfying city-building experience. But its inclusion of real-time strategy elements reignites a thorny old tension which Ubisoft Düsseldorf have been unable to resolve. Despite its warm and friendly appearance, New Allies also struggles with its lack of any kind of narrative hook. Patches may well resolve the lingering technical issues, but will not fix these fundamental problems. The first major strategy release of what may be a landmark year for the genre, New Allies largely fails to live up to its name. It is hard not to wonder what might have been.
With the right execution, Wanted Dead could have found a ready-made audience for its old-fashioned approach. But what the developers of Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood and particularly Evil West did so well, Soleil has done very badly. A game built so totally on combat simply cannot afford to have combat which is implemented in such a tiresome, frustrating way. Wanted Dead is a confusing, disappointing miss which will likely fall far below the quality of forthcoming action games in 2023.
It seems clear that Need for Speed is in safe hands now that it has been passed back to Criterion Games. The British studio has taken what Ghost Games achieved with Heat, and improved on it in numerous ways. The refined handling model and tighter economy make for some of the most tense and exciting racing around, and it helps that the game is rock-solid on the technical side. Need for Speed Unbound is a surprisingly excellent racer, and one which will hopefully continue to improve in the months to come.
Evil West is a great antidote to today’s sprawling, open world “forever games”. Its refreshingly tight focus recalls classics from earlier generations. Vampire hunting in the Old West is simply a perfect framework for the gory but cleverly crafted combat which Flying Wild Hog does so well. Those with an Old West action game on their “most wanted” list need look no further.
Today’s glut of “boomer shooters” is largely inspired by just a handful of classics from the original golden age of roughly 1993 to 1997. Any new game runs the risk of seeming too similar to one of these icons, of lacking its own identity. At first glance, Cultic seems sure to fall into this trap, given its evident similarities to Blood. In fact, Jason Smith’s fantastic first project uses Monolith’s 1997 game as a jumping-off point – and ultimately delivers one of the best retro shooters in years.