Post patching, Halo: The Master Chief Collection's small quirks can easily be overlooked, though we certainly haven't been pleased with matchmaking issues within the first couple of weeks. For those new to the universe of Halo, a vast array of single and multiplayer content awaits, all revolving around one of the greater ongoing stories available in gaming and featuring the franchise's hallmark genre-defining arena combat. For the more initiated, a chance to go back and relive many fond moments from a whole new perspective is also a boon. With Spartan-Ops content on the way, the Halo Championship Series, Nightfall, and The Guardians Beta included in the package, we can safely say that there is some aspect of this collection that should appeal to all, from those veterans of the UNSC who proudly achieved Level 50 on their original Xbox console, to the shiniest new greenhorn Spartan... Hoo-Rah!
It should be no great shock that next-gen NBA 2K21 is the best-looking basketball game ever made. What's perhaps more surprising is that 2K has added two substantial modes (in the new WNBA career mode The W and the massively multiplayer The City) to make it the most feature-packed one ever too. Much of its content still has the weight of microtransactions hanging over it, but as long as you don't mind ignoring that and putting in the grind instead, this is a great purchase for NBA fans: especially if you held fire and haven't played 2K21 on Xbox One yet.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla sees the long-running franchise at an absolute high point. A much tighter, more refined and narrative-focused experience, it learns lessons from other recent open world efforts, removing much of the series' tedious open-world busywork and channelling its players through a genuinely excellent and intriguing adventure. There's still plenty of exploring, looting and collecting to be done here but it's so much more engaging, full of fun puzzles and atmospheric treasure hunts that make the downtime between story arcs all the more rewarding. This is Assassin's Creed looking and feeling better than ever.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time is an excellent modernization of a decades-old franchise that was beginning to really show its age. This is a thoroughly entertaining, slick and addictive addition to the series that funnels players through a meaty campaign packed to bursting point with inventive set-pieces and devilishly devious level design. There's a ton of content to keep fans busy here with time trials, collectible skins, N-Verted mode and side missions galore in a generous package that sees Crash blast and bound his way through what is easily his greatest adventure to date.
Marvel's Avengers is sprawling and spectacular, messy and bloated all at the same time. There's a surprisingly fun and lengthy campaign here, excellent writing and acting and some of the best superhero brawling in the business. It excels at allowing you to really feel like you're fighting alongside your favourite superheroes as you decimate enemies and destroy scenery, but it loses some of that swagger as it enters its online endgame. There's a half-baked gear system, convoluted menus and questlines and some technical issues that make fighting online feel a little rough around the edges at this point in time. However, with a couple of patches, with the right support down the line in terms of new heroes, costumes, bad guys and story beats, Crystal Dynamics could be on to a winner here. This is a properly solid start and a pleasant surprise.
Battletoads is without a doubt one of the funniest games of this generation, and it's a pretty nifty beat 'em up to boot. It does have the occasional lull when things start to feel a little repetitive, but by and large it's a hugely entertaining experience and well worth your time.
Minecraft Dungeons does an excellent job of taking the blocky world and characters that we all know and love from Minecraft and transplanting them into a light and breezy, kid-friendly action-RPG. The streamlined systems of character building and upgrading here are delightfully easy to engage with, levels are beautifully realised, and randomly generated slices of the overworld and the various mobs and bosses you come up against provide a fun challenge for up to four players to get stuck into. It may not be the most dark or difficult action RPG out there, but for newcomers to the genre, young kids or massive Minecraft fans, this one is an easy recommendation.
DOOM Eternal takes the hugely solid foundations laid down in 2016's excellent franchise reboot and adds more of absolutely everything. This is a bigger, faster, funnier, more relentless and endlessly replayable game than its predecessor and it's one that gives you a ton more variety in how you go about dishing out death to the hordes of hell that await you across its meaty single player campaign. It looks stunning, plays beautifully and is quite simply one of the most strategic, intense and hugely satisfying first-person shooters we've ever played.
Sea of Thieves has managed to successfully steer a course through turbulent waters during its first two years. Its once somewhat sterile and empty world is now full to bursting point with activities and distractions and it's got a sense of direction and purpose which mean players don't need to work nearly as hard to find ways in which to indulge their inner Black Beard. Tall Tales provide a properly meaty, narrative-driven campaign that works equally as well for solo players as it does for eager crews of four and that once empty horizon is now full of things to see and do as you make your way from the lowliest bilge rat to a pirate of legend.