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As we said up top, there is a good mystery story at the core here, even if its complications aren’t quite as compelling as those of the first game’s. (And if you have a taste for the meta, Uchikoshi has you covered, as always.) And those Somnium sequences really are a major step up from the original. But if Uchikoshi’s work has always involved digging through the less savory or interesting elements to get to the treasure buried underneath, then Nirvana Initiative may be the biggest such pile of his career.

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Unscored - Elden Ring
Feb 23, 2022

The key factor in whether Elden Ring connects for you isn’t going to be its combat. (There are lot of Souls games and Souls-likes that can fill that purpose these days, if that’s what you’re after.) No, Elden Ring will get under your skin depending on how well the inherent promise of the game, one that From has been pursuing for years now, lands for you: Here is a vast world, full of mystery, danger, beauty, and humor. (Humor! Eagles with knives strapped to their feet are just the start of some of the wonderfully goofy monster designs on display.) It will not give up its secrets easily. It will frustrate and daunt you when it can.

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Feb 14, 2022

Because at its core, Horizon Forbidden West is a game about saving the world—both in the sense of preservation, and in the doomsday-averting action that involves shooting supervillains with pointy sticks. It’s about asking ourselves what we’re willing to pay, and lose, to ensure some part of our legacy persists. And it’s about what you can do in a world where the rich and powerful have murdered your future, while greedily ensuring their own lives on. It’s not a masterpiece—masterpieces rarely come this big. But it’s a world worth keeping, nevertheless.

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Unscored - Sifu
Feb 6, 2022

Is it worth the effort? Like we said: The highs here are very high, the sense of potential mastery potent. (Game looks great, too, with a fluid, slightly cartoonish style.) But progress will take a certain bloody-minded persistence—and a willingness to overlook the game’s various crimes against authenticity. (To be clear: This is a team of French developers making a video game about what they think an Asian martial arts movie looks like; it’s so divorced from anything resembling a story about real people or cultures as to land somewhere at the intersection of stereotype and cliché.) With those caveats in mind, though, Sifu remains the kind of game it’s hard to stay away from for very long—for no other reason than a desire to take vengeance on it for what it did to you the last time you played.

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The only real question, then—and it’s one that haunts so many games operating in the endlessly ascending “games as service” space these days—is whether Extraction has legs beyond the initial thrill of disintegrating a Parasite with a well-placed headshot. Said staying power, though, might end up coming from the aggressive nature of the game’s difficulty. It’s still early days, but that sense of running, desperate and hunted, for an exit in the face of an overwhelming force helps Extraction feel as much like survival horror as the polished military shooter it’s taking so many of its cues from. The end result is thrilling and engaging in a way that a simple power fantasy can’t really match.

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Unscored - Halo Infinite
Dec 6, 2021

It’s a very modern interpretation of what Halo can be, pulling from the kinds of games that are as big today as Halo was when it first launched. Rather that feeling like a Greatest Hits of modern video gaming, though, it still feels distinctly like Halo. Meanwhile, its potential to grow and change seems like it will have a much more lasting impact than any amount of bopping aliens in the head. Maybe “combat evolved” just means something new now.

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Oct 25, 2021

Really, Guardians Of The Galaxy is just like the ragtag space heroes it revolves around. It has a lot of messy bits that overcomplicate things, it lets interpersonal conflicts get in the way of its action and its story, and you may get a good laugh from its characters one second and then wish they would leave you alone the next. But, again, like the Guardians, it works because of those messy bits, not despite them.

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Unscored - Inscryption
Oct 18, 2021

As a love letter to card games, it’s cunningly crafted, and full of fascinating twists. As a pool of secrets, it’s deep enough to drown in. As a hybrid of the two, it’s one of the best games of 2021.

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Unscored - Far Cry 6
Oct 6, 2021

Far Cry 6 stands as a disappointment. As a political statement, it’s cruel, bleak, and simplistic. As a game, it’s rote, repetitive, and only surface-level innovative. As a hybrid of the two, it’s an outright disaster.

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Unscored - Deathloop
Sep 14, 2021

And that’s the core paradox of Deathloop, the worst game in recent memory from a studio so good at what it does that it’ll still inevitably land on our Game Of The Year list when December rolls around. It’s a great game in spite of itself, and its titular selling point; the loop might be broken, but Arkane’s grasp of its core mechanics remains solid as ever.

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Jun 8, 2021

But that familiarity also extends to being familiar with the core, unshakeable competence of these solid platforming adventures that are designed for pretty much anyone to have a good time with. As a dimension-hopping adventure, Rift Apart might leave something to be desired. But as a reunion with one of gaming’s most energetically silly franchises, after so many years away, there are worse things you could wish for than the same old Ratchet And Clank.

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May 5, 2021

Village isn’t quite as elegant a revival; its Doom vision doesn’t suit frantic warfare as well as it did the old-school hiding and running of RE7, and there are times when a player might wish that the camera would drop behind the shoulder again, completing the RE4 effect. But this is still a fast-paced, addictive, and gorgeously immersive addition to Capcom’s undying series. And for one tense, inspired detour—an unarmed ramble through a haunted house, adding some Conjuring energy to the grab bag of genre tricks—the game finds an angle Resident Evil never has. You may think you’ve seen every unspeakable monster these games have to throw at you. Baby, think again.

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As more of the same of a genuinely good game, it nails all the benchmarks—even if its efforts to be about more than just “Spider-Man hits the bad guys” steer it into some regrettable half measures and questionable choices. And judged on its own merits, there’s nothing automatically wrong with more of the same. But its status as a flagship part of the launch of the PS5 confers extra power on this unassuming little title—power it doesn’t always wield with the great responsibility such a prominent position demands.

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Unscored - Amnesia: Rebirth
Oct 19, 2020

Reasonable people, Rebirth argues, should set aside foolish attractions to things bigger than themselves and those they care about. Focus on what matters. Everything else is just the jump scares of life, things to be surmounted en route to a safe place for family. I don’t know what Frictional calls that, but anyone who invests even minimally in their character’s arc will want it to be a win.

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Oct 8, 2020

Outside hardware early adopters, Squadrons’ longevity is going to come down to how readily its multiplayer side ends up being embraced; if the supply of aces to shoot down peters out, so will much of the game’s appeal, Star Wars or no Star Wars. For now, though, the ability to load up a compelling, adrenaline-pounding aerial battle, at the ready, is one hell of a selling point all on its own.

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Jul 14, 2020

This is a big, beautiful world to explore, absolutely filled with things to do and see. In a time when our own personal worlds have only gotten smaller, that’s probably more than enough for most players. It’s a game of consistent, small pleasures—at least, until you round a corner, and see something so beautiful you’re forced to just put down the controller and stare for a minute at the rippling effect of wind on grass. There’s a reason we build theme parks, after all.

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Jun 16, 2020

But it’s usually smart to bet on Naughty Dog sticking the landing, and Part II invests so heavily in these characters—new but especially old—that by the time the actual ending finally arrives, it’s gutting in a wholly different way than the original’s. All of which is enough to make you hope against hope that this will be the last of The Last Of Us—and to suspect that if it isn’t, everyone involved will again justify the decision to continue it.

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Unscored - Resident Evil 3
Mar 30, 2020

Resident Evil 3 delivers that uncomplicated rush of old pleasure in spades; it should satisfy anyone who’s squirmed through the flagship titles of the series and wishes now for more, maybe to kill some hours in self-imposed captivity. Only in that beautifully rendered first act, though, does Resident Evil 3 threaten to find something new in an old blueprint, bringing a city of the dead to vivid life.

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Nov 21, 2019

Lightsaber combat is rarely as fun or interesting as it is in this game, and the plot hits some tragic notes that the bigger Star Wars stories tend to skip over—the Jedi Purge got a sorrowful montage in Revenge Of The Sith and the Rebels cartoon dealt with Jedi having to hide who they are, but this is one of the first times a mainstream piece of modern Star Wars canon has emphasized just how horrifying it was for the Good Guys to suddenly realize they had been totally played and that the Bad Guys had already won. It took a long time, but EA finally figured out how to put the Star Wars rights to good use.

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Unscored - Death Stranding
Nov 1, 2019

Rather than just pushing the control stick forward, though, walking in Death Stranding involves navigating difficult terrain or finding ways to cross deep rivers without getting swept away and losing the gear on your backpack. These navigation challenges constitute the major bulk of the game’s actual gameplay, and force you to reckon with its connective themes on an extremely personal, almost-granular level.

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