Need a refresher course on all things discordantly cyberpunk-y before October? Look no further. Developer Bloober Team and publishing partner Aspyr settle us in to an unsettling world through a point-and-click exploration of malignant mind and afflicted body.
Make no mistake, this is a very good game and takes a rightful place among its Forza brethren. However, I'm not quite as enthralled or captivated after my play test as I was with Forza 6. Largely, I think that's due to those bits of gameplay that felt brand new in 2015 aren't as shiny now.
Wrestling's best and brightest from the past and present collide in this main event feature! Yuke's and Visual Concepts is back with another round of top flight action inside the virtual WWE squared circle. A deluge of content is affixed as the worthy centerpiece.
When two unfamiliar leaders of two very familiar factions square off, an interstellar David and Goliath struggle ensues! Microsoft Studios is enlisting keepers of the Halo franchise mantle 343 Industries with crucial support from Creative Assembly for the second call to arms in this RTS aside.
First party franchises may not hold the same importance from a pure sales standpoint as they did in the 1990s and early 2000s, but they still play a vital role in branding. In-house exclusives are vehicles for advertising and product recognition. From big conferences to little banner ads on mobile devices, creations like Gears of War become pivotal elements in which the elixir of lure is concocted. It's Delta Sqaud, it's wearing amror with a bandana instead of a helmet, it's lambasting your way through any and all problems and forgetting to ask questions later, it's the Crimson Omen. This level of iconography would not have a pronounced effect if it were not proliferated by games that people wanted to play again and again. Repeatedly, Gears has provided the Xbox with a trusty destination for players looking to feed their inane desire for unadulterated virtual violence. And very few have done this better over the past decade. Fortunately for us brutish meatheads, the fourth numbered installment carries the flag adeptly and waves it heartily for everyone to see. The Coalition has done a fabulous job taking the framework principles of Epic Games and applying them to a project for the new machine. All the familiar gameplay aspects return with a few new tricks to increase offensive agency. Campaign is worthy of its ancestors and will probably prompt more than one play through for hardcore fans. Versus and Horde 3.0 both add tons of replayability and the presentation package is the best in series history and is contemporaneously adroit. Gears of War 4 will be one of the pre-eminent shooting galleries this holiday.
In the last several years, this game has really set itself apart with one or two other yearly sports releases as being around the top. An argument could be formed that no other athletic franchises have benefited from the increased hardware capacity of this generation more than NBA 2K and FIFA. In my estimation, those two have been neck-and-neck for sports GOY honors since 2013. Which one will hoist that trophy this fall remains to be seen, but EA Canada has definitely thrown down the gauntlet. Gameplay needs a round of buffs and nerfs in the "finer points," but the overall base is strong, particularly for nascent engine usage. Creation of The Journey is very welcome, and should be popular enough to warrant inclusion, and perhaps expansion, next year. All of the familiar modes are on the roster with a few new tricks up its kit sleeve here and there. Throw on expected opulent sights and sounds, and what we have is another worthy addition to the physical/digital shelf. If this is a usual 12 month purchasing decision for you, absolutely no reason to stop now. Uninstall 16 and get up with the new team!
It would be easy for an observer to write off the Horizon flavor of Forza as a campy, amateurish, uninspired offshoot. Turn 10 and Playground's partnership has consistently worked to thwart these potential worries with solid mechanics that tweak certain aspects of Motorsport to be a touch less sartorial. It's a delicate balance that the two teams have gotten correct twice previous. Things are reliably no different this time around. Everything that gives driving the festival its own identity is here again, with just a twinge less sophistry in racing environments. The slight changes make competitions more prim and proper without having an overt effect on free roaming joy rides. A dizzyingly expansive event list tandems with a solid online component of good range. The Blueprint system is a respectable attempt to add more community interaction that should beneficially evolve in post launch weeks and months. Another awesome selection of four wheeled creations get to speed, skid, and slide along in stunning backdrops with a refreshing soundtrack to boot. Everything we've come to expect from the Horizon festival is back in spades, which is motor music to every virtual gear head's ears!
EA's second stint with UFC's license shows some positive growth. On the plus side, the ground controls are simpler and the optional Grapple Assist does make learning how to roll much easier. Fights feel a little more steady in terms of character interaction with improved collision detection. But although the striking principles are solid, I still think the tempo is turned up too high. If stand up was more even keeled and ground transitions were quickened a bit, all aspects of gameplay would feel just right. Despite this criticism, it still plays very proficiently. Available modes cover all the bases of the sports genre with the advent of a strong Ultimate Team experience and addictively fun KO mode. And presentation is pristine in all areas and couldn't have been designed much better. UFC 2 didn't correct all of 2014's mistakes, but it's still striding in the right direction.
In the days of third party sales supremacy and value added services, the impact of a singular title or franchise doesn't leave the same mark as it did two or three generations ago. But for 343's efforts, they made an excellent FPS that should earn them a good portion of credit they so urgently need from the fanbase.
With many series with more than a few sequels, keeping the interest of anyone outside the core supporters becomes tough, particularly with those that have an annual or biannual release schedule. Some have been able to stave off obscurity and keep their profits high, like Call of Duty, but these are the rarer case studies. Relevance becomes an even bigger issue with genres that depict experiences with an abundance of monotony, like sports titles. "Simulation" tuned racing games are of a similar conundrum. One one hand, the need to stay fresh and increase creativity to warrant a new AAA purchase price is side-by-side with the obligation to car enthusiasts that expect a good amount of realism. Off-the-wall driving antics and resplendent gameplay garnish that work for the likes of Need for Speed and Burnout don't have a place among Gran Turismo and Project CARS. Forza Motorsport has traditionally been closer to the latter contemporaries. The Horizon subset is afforded a little more slapdash, but such "arcade" caveats don't have a place in Forza proper. With this the 6th entry to the main thread, it wouldn't be a surprise if the proceedings felt dated and rehashed. Fortunately, the series avoided that fate this holiday. Game modes display a good amount of variety and offer diversions when the Career grind gets too tiresome. Jumping into a Showcase Event or online tilt after a tough series of single player contests is a great way to stay engaged for hours and hours. Changes made to rain and night races are the shining jewels of this iteration and are "must play" experiences for hardcore racing gamers. And the graphics package corrects the little oddities from Forza 5, creating some of the most pleasing visuals I've yet seen on the Xbox One. With one of the most anticipated software holiday seasons in recent memory upon us, making "$60 a pop" purchasing decisions will be very tough. Deciding if a vanilla racing game is worth one of those tokens is ultimately up to the consumer. What I can say is within that relatively narrow definition, Forza 6 does about everything necessary to fulfill the niche to a high degree.
Puzzlers exist in an interesting genre. From Tetris to Bookworm to Angry Birds to The Talos Principle, they all add unique dashes of panache to the classic game type. Portal made a seismic impact onto the puzzle platformer subgroup, proving that teasing the mind's critical thinking quality could be just as commercially viable as the usual "action" release. Magnetic stands as one of the more blatant attempts at recapturing that magic, even down to story lines. I don't necessarily dislike the basic idea here, nor do I think it's exponentially inferior to Portal's gimmick. Electromagnetism is one of the four forces of nature, and the magnetic field could play host to a great number of interesting gameplay possibilities. The problem is that the puzzles don't consistently deliver the complexity needed for them to be considered challenging. After completing the first several events and learning all the tools of the trade, identifying the test elements and stringing together the solution in one's head takes just a minute or two. Primarily, the challenge comes from simply executing the steps, being careful not to fall and get burned, hacked, or gassed to death. Magnetic works best as a platformer, which may be disappointing for those who wanted intermediate to advanced puzzling.
If anyone reading this has a One but hasn't experienced Gears first hand, this is a must buy right before the rush of the holiday releases really gets going in a month or so. For long time Gear heads, I still think this is a worthy hard drive partition, and makes retiring the 360 from your HDMI ports that much easier.
Racing games are often iterative in nature. So retreats from the mundane are a welcome change of pace. Storm Island offers a unique perspective on Horizon 2's template without completely retooling what makes the gameplay work so well. The weather patterns are amazing eye candy, but (for better or worse) don't have quite the aggressive effect on handling as one might expect. The new vehicles are the best part of the expansion, and have great showcase races on which to properly display their best traits in a competitive setting. This DLC may not offer 50+ hours of new races, but it does include enough to be a legit extension to Horizon 2's frame, and the fresh landscape affords plenty of new casual drives. If this was at the $15 price point, I'd say go for it with no hesitation whatsoever. For $20, I caution those looking for truckloads of new content to be leery of the abbreviated collection of Championships and Gauntlets. Still, this is a very solid offering for Horizon 2 owners looking for a reason to put the virtual pedal down during the holidays.