An utterly enjoyable shooter that shines the brightest with its co-op mechanics, Helldivers 2 has crushed all initial apprehensions about its live service and procedurally generated nature and delivered a dose of lovable democracy. The progression systems look to be on track to keep players invested for the foreseeable future, and the fun just doesn’t seem to want to stop anytime soon. Even with the friendly fire and accidents that arise from having others around you, the very nature of Helldivers 2 makes it more of a positive than a negative, and that is no mean feat. Super Earth requires the effort of every person to liberate the galaxy, and it is a no-brainer to enlist as soon as you can.
A poignant story that will matter more to longtime fans but is otherwise still accessible to newcomers, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth delivers a robust adventure that takes advantage of its turn-based system to make combat even more enjoyable, aided by an expanded job system that continues to impress. With more cohesive writing and storytelling, the cast of familiar and new faces come together for an engaging tale that strikes a great balance between the absurd and the serious, constantly driving players along for its main storyline and providing a plethora of distractions along the way to entertain. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is undoubtedly the best work RGG Studios have put out in recent times, and the team will have a hard task ahead of them if they hope to surpass the greatness that is now available for everyone to enjoy.
Tekken 8 makes the wait worth it by successfully introducing new systems that make sense and improve both the player's and spectator's points of view with explosive action. Newcomers will appreciate the thoughtful onboarding process while giving veteran and pro players a deep combat system to sink hundreds of hours into. It feels like Tekken 8 has successfully taken the step to the next level, releasing an installment that's not just a simple iteration but with significant updates and changes that make it feel fresh and fun. Time will tell if the team can successfully support it the way they have with Tekken 7, but this is an extremely solid launch experience that's certainly ready for the big stage.
The Last of Us Part II Remastered was a must-play then, and it remains a must-play even today. The way the story and gameplay hold up is a testament to how high the bar was set during its original release. Intense, raw, and emotionally charged, The Last of Us Part II Remastered is a reminder of Naughty Dog’s sheer brilliance. The addition of a No Return mode makes this package even sweeter, adding a roguelite-inspired affair that works well given the context and systems of the game. Offering hours of repeatable gameplay, this mode alone is worth the $10 upgrade fee if you already own the PS4 version, making this the definitive way to play the game. Despite the hard-to-spot visual upgrades, the game still looks as visually impressive as ever.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is a supremely stylish and stellar start to 2024, and coming from a company that usually just spews out open-world titles, this is such a welcome entry in their portfolio. Developing this as a "smaller" title worked wonders for the game, as Prince of Persia fits perfectly in a Metroidvania setting that puts gameplay at the forefront of it all.
While the FarCry formula is certainly evident in Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, the game does just enough to make it stand out from similar titles that simply tick off boxes in the open-world formula. The world is beautiful and interesting enough to explore, and Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment have done well to translate this IP into a worthwhile title for some players, especially fans of the franchise.
Persona 5 Tactica has a wealth of systems and mechanics that work well together, elevating the experience and giving the genre a fresh twist that's more than just the usual. Paired with series staples such as One More and Persona fusions, all of these form a cohesive effort that is brimming with personality and fun. That said, it is a "lighter" take on the genre. It isn't particularly difficult or challenging, and Personas aren't particularly useful enough, unlike the mainline titles. Even then, Persona 5 Tactica is a serviceable spin-off that fans may enjoy before the inevitable move to the next mainline Persona game.
Star Ocean The Second Story R is a superb remake that takes an already content-heavy game and further improves the adventure with meaningful additions that enhance the experience by a wide margin. From simple quality-of-life conveniences to added crafting and customizing depth, Star Ocean The Second Story R does not disappoint. Despite launching in between big releases, Star Ocean The Second Story R is a fantastic RPG experience that shouldn’t be overlooked. Fans of the original will be pleased with the breadth and scope that the remake offers, while newcomers can use this as a stepping stone to dive further into the series.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage is a triumphant return to form for the franchise, shedding its action RPG-heavy influences from previous installments and creating a smaller and tighter adventure that is centered on the key pillars of stealth, assassinations, and parkour. Assassin’s Creed Mirage is a great fusion of new and old, and simply goes to show that when Ubisoft listens to what fans want, they can go on to build something that many will enjoy and appreciate, especially an entry from a beloved franchise such as Assassin’s Creed.
Forza Motorsport is unmatched when it comes to Xbox racers. The driving feel is superb, and the audio-visual presentation is an absolute standout that enhances the experience by a mile. With a plethora of cars to choose from, there’s always that next vehicle to look forward to. Admittedly, the overall amount of features that the game has at this point is slim compared to others out there. This will vary from player to player and will depend on what they value, but there’s no denying that the game could use a bump in this category. Thankfully, the developers are committed to improving the game throughout its life cycle, so we can expect only better things from here on out for Forza Motorsport.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon heralds the triumphant return of the classic series that is now brought to greater heights because of FromSoftware's learnings throughout the years. By adding the best parts of their most recent titles, they've successfully incorporated these into Armored Core VI, which has elevated the title and their status as fantastic developers. Armored Core VI is a stellar offering that deserves a spot in your collection, fan or not. Offering frenetic combat, flawless controls, and a polished experience not seen in many AAA titles of late, the game makes it much harder to disagree with the fact that FromSoftware is one of the best at their craft right now.
Saying it again, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has good bones but is lacking some meat in important areas that may make or break it. With only three maps to play at launch, players looking for more will surely feel disappointed. Even then, there’s fun to be had in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but it is quite hard to recommend it at launch when things are still a bit bare bones, so to speak. Fans of the genre may want to check it out due to its fantastic recreation of the film, but some caution regarding the breadth of content is advised.
Remnant II does a lot of things right and does it well. There’s so much to enjoy about the game, and a lot more is waiting in its depths once players give it a chance and look over its challenging reputation of being “Dark Souls with guns.” While solo play can be enjoyable, multiplayer is where the game really shines, allowing players to complement each other with the various archetypes in the game that offer distinct playstyles. Bosses are a big highlight of the game and require thought and patience due to their challenging but interesting mechanics.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is a highly enjoyable experience that I’m glad Capcom deemed fit to release for modern audiences. It’s charming and unique, and the story is written well enough to keep you captivated throughout your playthrough. This game is perfect for gamers who are looking for a break between long open-world games, and with so many of these grand and high-budget titles that have either been recently released or are coming soon, this Capcom classic is something that we would not recommend skipping.
Overall, Viewfinder is a simple yet fantastic concept that’s brought to life with brilliant execution. It doesn’t get too fancy with effects or photorealistic visuals, but the entertainment and satisfaction factor of the game is up there with the best of them. Solving puzzles is extremely satisfying, prompting back pats for a job well done. The puzzles aren’t frustratingly tough but will require players to think and approach them from a new perspective. In fact, there are multiple ways to go about things, bringing forth creative ways to solve one problem.
Overall, Street Fighter 6 is a triumphant return for Capcom. Coming from the lackluster showing of Street Fighter 5, this latest installment ticks all of the right boxes and then some. There are a ton of modes for players to sink hours into, and with the inclusion of rollback netcode, online matches are pure bliss. While the addition of “easier” control schemes may be a controversial decision, this gives budding world warriors the chance to jump in and quickly be competitive right off the bat. Higher levels of play will want to stick to the classic controls for full access to any and all moves, but it is always nice to have a choice.
Park Beyond is an interesting time with an interesting concept. Impossification is a great feature, allowing players to let their imagination run wild, all while meeting the checks and balances of a sim game. Sadly, the game is marred by bugs and crashes that have happened more times than I normally forgive titles for. Add a UI that feels unfinished and unpolished, and the experience really sours the more you play. Despite using a powerful rig, Park Beyond still has some hitches, but it's great that the developers are hard at work on fixes.
F1 23 is a great title for what it aims to do. The game is fast, chock-full of features, and fulfills the need for a competent and polished driving sim. With the return of Braking Point along with the all-new F1 World, racing fans can expect a good time with the game.
The combat isn’t turn-based, and you don’t control a huge party of characters… Yet, Final Fantasy XVI is still very much a Final Fantasy game through and through. Some fans, both long-time and more recent, will have a hard time accepting the fact, but there’s no denying the work that Yoshi-P and the team have done here. Final Fantasy XVI is a damn masterpiece of epic proportions. This is the future of Final Fantasy’s artistry – an ever-changing canvas that can be what the team wants it to be and at least, for Final Fantasy XVI, this exercise has proved to be a triumph.
Overall, LEGO 2K Drive is a surprisingly competent racer that I totally did not expect, and while it is mostly aimed at a younger target audience, more experienced players might be pleasantly surprised at what LEGO 2K Drive has to offer. There are a lot of side activities and collectibles to be had in the game, and when not exploring, players can take part in the campaign mode to race it up against other aspiring champs. There’s also a local and online co-op to take on other racers across the world. Sadly, the aggressive monetization really ruins a lot of the fun in the game. There’s always a choice not to use this avenue, but between the low payouts per race, the long grind, and the expensive pricing, the push to spend more Brickbux is as powerful as ever.