It was a risky gamble to tackle such an incendiary era of US history, but Mafia III handles it much better than an open world crime game has any right to. It masterfully hits the target in terms of its characters, story, and setting, lulling you into a misplaced belief you're playing something really special. Unfortunately, once the grind of taking over territory kicks in, and the lack of originality in much of its mission design is laid bare, it almost completely ruins the experience.
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds manages to differentiate itself from its battle royale progeny with its more tactical spin on the formula, even with its obvious lack of presentational prowess. While its grounded approach can be brutal at first, if you take the time to immerse yourself in its stress inducing battles, you'll find yourself involved in epic engagements that will have you sharing your successes – and failures – with anyone willing to listen. It may not be the king anymore, but PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds still more than deserves a place at the top table.
Call of Cthulhu's successfully evokes Lovecraft's Mythos by delivering an eerie story that ultimately doesn't stray too far from some well-trodden ground. While anyone expecting a terrifying horror title or an RPG packed will player choice and decisions will need to check those expectations at the door, there's at least a half-decent adventure game lurking under the surface.
While far from revolutionary, Strange Brigade makes it hard to dismiss it as “just another horde shooter”. The pulpy adventure aesthetic and the focus on the use of traps are a definite draw, and while a more interesting, self-aware story would have been nice to see, it's the satisfying shooting, well implemented online co-op, and interesting game mode variants that help stave off the tedious repetition that quickly end up haunting many horde shooters.
State of Mind offers an intriguing near-future tale that doesn't quite deliver on its initial mystery. While it's cast of flawed – and in some cases unlikeable characters – are interesting to get to know, the plotting ultimately lets things down by failing to get you invested in the story, and asking you to suspend your disbelief a few too many times. While the unique presentation proves to be an excellent fit for the setting, and helps distinguish it from the crowd, the price of entry will scare off anyone who isn't actively seeking out this type of experience.
While it's disappointing to see The Crew 2 fall into some of the same pitfalls as its predecessor, its open world remains one of the most impressive playgrounds, in terms of scale, out there. Sure, there's very little reason to explore its vast road networks outside of its visual appeal, but the sheer variety of different events, from nerve racking aerial races to coast-to-coast endurance runs, will still get your heart racing.
With the ups and downs of the many licensed LEGO titles having been well documented by now, you'll know exactly what you're getting with LEGO The Incredibles. Even knowing full well you'll be contending with dodgy controls, and occasionally repetitive gameplay, you'll somehow find yourself propelled through the story by an overwhelming compulsion to pick up literally millions of studs along the way. Even stretching The Incredibles source material close to breaking point doesn't put too much of a dampener on your time with the Parr family, and while it doesn't come close the best the LEGO games have offered over the years, there's just enough here to make you reach for your super suit.
With a dearth of decent games based in the Warhammer 40k universe, Space Hulk: Deathwing seems at first glance to be heading in the right direction. With a reverence for the source material that'll appeal to Warhammer 40K aficionados, it successfully evokes the space hulk setting and the relentless battles at its heart. While the basic building blocks of a decent experience seem to be here, the undeveloped gameplay, and repetitive structure – that degenerates into tiresome battles of attrition – mean that even transplanting it into the co-op multiplayer mode and adding more unlocks and rewards won't be enough to keep your finger on the trigger for long.
With Gone Home representing a key moment in gaming, Tacoma had plenty of potential to suffer from so called "second album syndrome". While it never manages to hit the same emotional highs – or lows – as its predecessor, it still stands out from the crowd, mainly through the implementation of some nicely interactive AR scenes to deliver its key story moments. While there are certainly other complaints you could level at Tacoma – such as its rigid linearity and how it occasionally falls into genre clichés – these can be easily forgotten as developer Fullbright once again proves where its strengths lie: with down-to-earth characters and thought-provoking storytelling.
A Way Out is a successful experiment in co-operative play with some excellent presentation and varied gameplay. The story may be predictable, but you'll be surprised how attached you become to Leo and Vincent, and you'll be compelled to see their journey through to the end regardless.
Fear Effect Sedna represented an opportunity to bring a well-remembered series – albeit not always for the right reasons – back to life. As is the case with many games arriving via Kickstarter, though, the ambition of the project fails to translate into the final product.
Rad Rodgers struggles to find its difficulty sweet spot. Spending far too much time being either too easy or frustratingly hard, the inconsistent pacing means that neither those looking for a fun romp nor a hard as nails platformer will leave satisfied. While the gameplay at its core is decent and the design of each stage provides an enjoyable variety of challenges, the crass outdated humour and the radically varying difficulty mean that Rad Rodgers falls way short of being an excellent adventure.
So called "walking simulators" live or die on whether they deliver an engaging story, and while The Station appears – at least at first glance – to have this covered, it misses the mark in a number of important ways. It's not bad by any means, but its characters and themes feel light and underdeveloped. While it stumbles narratively, it does at least successfully craft a tense atmosphere, but neither this nor its modest number of enjoyable – if somewhat easy – puzzles are enough to make this a prime candidate for first contact.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a quintessential single player shooter, and contains one of the best campaigns in recent memory. Rammed full of memorable moments and brilliant characters, it takes you on a horrifying yet fascinating ride through a Nazi dominated world that – as a result of real world events – feels a touch less like fantasy this time around. While the story is undoubtedly the star of the show, the viscera drenched combat, satisfying weapons, and rewarding perk system more than hold up their side of the bargain. The single player game is dead, long live the single player game.
RAID: World War II apes the Payday series so intentionally that it's pretty hard not to view it as an ill-advised spin off. With dated presentation, tedious combat, and a consistently low player count, it actually feels like a step back when compared to Payday 2. Perhaps the biggest nail in its coffin, though, is just how buggy it is, with frequent crashes and broken scripting fanning the fires of your disappointment until it resembles the haunted look in John Cleese's eyes during the atrocious FMV cut-scenes.
Given the origins of Thimbleweed Park as a Kickstarter project, it's not at all surprising to find that it's firmly aimed at a very specific audience. To that end it does deliver, with interesting characters, an enticing core mystery, and loads of puzzles, all wrapped up in a package that closely follows the tenets of the those classic Lucasarts titles.
Few would consider the combat in the various Saints Row games particularly memorable, so it's surprising to discover that the frantic, fast paced battles and excellent agent switching gameplay end up being the true heroes of Agents of Mayhem. While it's disappointing that the open world feels surplus to requirements at times, it's the 80s cartoon atmosphere and absorbing upgrade system that also help ensure that this is more than just a Saints Row spin-off.