WWE 2K16 strikes the perfect balance between technical wresting and Attitude Era brawling. Minor online issues hold it back, but the moment-to-moment flow of each match, the huge roster, and the stellar tribute to Stone Cold Steve Austin all combine to make this a must-play for anyone remotely interested in the WWE.
2015's Need for Speed is in many ways more grounded than other recent entries. You don't throw spike strips at each other and you don't jump off buildings. It's more about the inherent excitement of dodging traffic and drifting down the side of a mountain. The customization features are a welcome return, and the five-layered career lets you play with different approaches to driving. Some aspects of Need for Speed could use more variety, but it's a solid foundation to move the series forward..
Yet when the credits rolled, we didn't feel relief, but rather disappointment that the adventure was over. There's a lot to criticize in Tales of Zestiria, but the combat and characters make it enjoyable regardless. Like many good role-playing games, it's easy to get lost in, whether that means fine-tuning your strategies or watching the various character arcs unfold. At its best, Zestiria reminds us that the Tales series still has life left in it.
Halo 5: Guardians is a massive game that we intend to keep playing for the foreseeable future. There are parts that let us down, particularly the story, but it's hard to feel too stung when there's just so much fun to be had. Halo 5 has a lot to prove and it seems fully capable of doing just that. It's a pleasure seeing the series in top form once again.
Assassin's Creed Syndicate makes some strides forward with more substantial side quests and interesting story missions, even if the plot itself doesn't really go anywhere. Exploring this recreation of London is a marvel, but the repetitive cycle of taking territory and gathering pointless collectibles quickly wears thin, while gameplay pillars in stealth and combat still feel lacking. It's the most modern Assassin's Creed has been, but the Industrial Revolution doesn't quite bring the series into a new age.
The Live in Guitar Hero Live means a lot of things. In one mode, you're pretending to actually rock out in front of a packed arena, and in the other you're constantly competing against the rest of the world online. Your band mates overact sometimes, and you don't always get to pick the song you want to play in GHTV, but there's always a ton of music to play. So much is new, from the stage perspective, to the streaming service, to the updated guitar, that it feels like a worthy revival.
Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is old-school survival horror. While the story can be convoluted and the controls make navigation harder than it should be, it's dark take on death and atmosphere make it a ghost hunt worth taking.
Above all, Dragon Quest Heroes perfectly captures one of the most essential parts of the series: that it prides itself on joy. It's a quality that overshadows its shortcomings. Too many JRPGs are overly serious and shove the same tropes down your throat again and again. The levity and unabashed enthusiasm of Dragon Quest creates a childlike wonder that's still enchanting more than 25 years after the original game.
Lasting ten to twelve hours with complex characters, diverse scenarios, stunning new locations, and memorable bosses, this ten dollar expansion stands out in a period when many DLC offerings feel like lackluster afterthoughts. Even though it's an expansion that returns to familiar areas, Hearts of Stone doesn't feel like it's merely piggybacking on the main game, but has its own worthwhile tale to tell.
Transformers Devastation is short, lacks depth, and can be a bit repetitive, but Platinum's tight combat paired with the old-school aesthetics keeps it fun. It may not be the dream Transformers game that some imagined, but it's worth a play, perhaps after it goes on sale.
If you need to buy all of Rock Band 4 to get a band going, it's a lot to pick up, but it's a worthy investment if you're in the market for a great party game. If you're fortunate enough to already have compatible gear or pre-purchased music ready to download, there's no reason not to rock again.
Visual Concepts has done a commendable job with just one year of development. NBA 2K16 boasts many on-court improvements over last year, most notably on defensive that help create a better flow during games. Although the microtransactions devalue certain aspects of the game, and Pro-AM has connection issues, the on-court changes and additions are worth checking out for basketball enthusiasts.
While the controls can be a little awkward at times, Tearaway Unfolded is a delightful package overall. Its distinctive look is matched by equally creative gameplay that has you interacting with the world and leaving your mark in ways quite unlike anything else. If you missed it the first time, don't let it slip by again.
Plague of Shadows is a great addition to an already wonderful game. There's a lot to experience, and considering the asking price is absolutely nothing, it's a generous offering. It's so good in fact, that we've enjoyed Plague of Shadows more than most other DLC, which sometimes feel like you're being charged a lot for little in return. With our love of shoveling rekindled, we hope to see more of this classically-inspired gem very soon.
Even so, the vast majority of Heavensward is outstanding and it's easy enough to endure the occasional slow patch. A Realm Reborn was an impressive revival when it launched in 2013, and Heavensward elevates the game to an even higher level. Rarely do expansions feel so fully formed. A Realm Reborn is no longer a grand apology, but instead a fantastic Final Fantasy game in its own right.
It's evident Bungie has been listening to fan feedback this last year and has worked hard to reinvent Destiny. The story is presented better than ever, the new subclasses offer different playstyles and draw players together, and the grind is alleviated thanks to a plethora of post-game missions and the Dreadnaught patrol zone.
NHL 16 not only makes strides ahead for fans of the video game adaptations, but for fans of the game of hockey as a whole. A middle ground has been reached between realism and fun that is wholly surprising. NHL 16 isn't just a step in the right direction, it's the game hockey fans have been waiting for.