Eventually, each story hurriedly resolves itself, foregoing tidy lessons or ironic endings but still lacking that crucial, elusive sense of lived-in authenticity. For as much effort has clearly gone into voicing and animating these characters within their 3D environments, we never spend enough time to seem like we really know them; quirks of the game’s strict linearity ensure we remain at a distance, observing relationships that are otherwise too thinly sketched to sustain the game’s emotional ambitions. Last Stop eventually arrives at an all-too-familiar game-design destination, hamstrung by its attempts at verisimilitude.
Despite its title’s declaration of intent, though, Rift Apart isn’t willing to stand on its own. That’s most evident in the game’s Anomaly puzzles, where you must interact with physical representations of all of Clank’s and Kit’s dimensional possibilities. This is predetermination in action. There’s only one acceptable route for you to guide these representations, like lemmings, down, and that’s the one that has them marching in lockstep along the same path that has defined every Ratchet & Clank to date. In the end, Rift Apart is a superficially entertaining but deeply unfulfilling adventure—one that, like the latest Star Wars trilogy, mistakes a shiny new coat of paint as reason enough to exist.
The occasional moments of tonal dissonance stick out, but they don’t necessarily hurt the experience. And it can’t be underestimated how great it is to have a game that’s very much an allegory about Asian people fighting to be heard, and with two Asian voice actors actually playing the leads. Still, the episode is titled quite accurately. At five-to-seven hours, Episode INTERmission isn’t quite filler, but it’s also not entirely filling. It’s an appreciable detour on a much longer journey.
Throughout Hired Gun, you very much feel its desire to emulate elements of genre-defining hits like the Half-Life and BioShock games, as well as its failure to understand how they utilized their systems and mechanics to engage and immerse players. Worse, Hired Gun turns its back to all that’s promising about Games Workshop’s fiction, such as the various spinoff novels that offer insights into a demented upper-class nobility as well as life in the Underhive, choosing instead to tell a meaningless, mostly incoherent story about archetypal characters who are unmemorable at best. Late in the game, a momentary detour featuring an iconic Warhammer 40,000 monster, one that’s wildly out of place and acting against its bestial nature, serves as a baffling example of how unmoored this game is to its own property.
Where other games tend to have a greater purpose and complexity behind more granular mechanics that demand closer attention from the player, Biomutant remains a rather simplified, if overstuffed, game of loot-hoovering. In practice, you’re still chasing objective markers and wandering salvageable areas in hopes of spotting the “interact with object” indicator. But while Biomutant’s breadth of options does indeed make that familiar process more rewarding than the norm, it never quite offsets the accompanying increase in tedium.
While these limitations have the potential for forcing nail-biting compromises, the irritating micromanagement clashes with other elements that otherwise suggest a breezier game experience, like the rudimentary combat and the way the environment practically overflows with currency and crafting material. So much of The Wild at Heart elegantly sidesteps the usual pitfalls of a resource grind that it’s disheartening whenever it devolves into busywork.
Village is marked by a maturity that’s new to Resident Evil. Even when it steers us toward the traditional climax set inside a laboratory, the route feels more intimate and thoughtful than it ever has in a Resident Evil game. What elements Capcom doesn’t bring into Village from its predecessor, they’ve carefully replaced with a striking sense of emotional logic. Resident Evil, as a series, reinvented itself in Biohazard, and with Village it continues to grow up.
The more you learn about Selene across the game’s gripping campaign, the easier it is to relate to or, at least, agree with her observation that “I deserve to be here.” That line is also more than a little apt, as it perfectly sums up just how simultaneously rewarding and punishing it is to live in the world of Returnal. Each time you make a perfect jump and air-dash to avoid a cluster of bullets, you earn your way forward, and each time you awkwardly fall off a cliff or gawk as an explosive squid flies at you, you earn the right to try it all over again. The terse thrill of all that fragility makes this a timeless adventure well worth returning to.