When Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts works, it works amazingly well. The process of spotting, planning, and sniping makes for a tense, engaging experience, especially given the expansive maps that almost always provide multiple vantage points and approaches. However, the game too often demands that players close the gap and suffers as a result. Although Seeker’s toolkit is filled with toys, too many rely on noise, and the enemies flock to the slightest sign of the player’s presence, making the game tougher than will likely be enjoyable for many. Add to that the bugs that, although not game-breaking, are annoying and a story that is not much of a story at all, and Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts falls short of its ambitions. Maybe next time, CI Games will have its scope calibrated properly.
The story is meant to be controversial, pulling on the heartstrings of the player to tell a story of why war today is so much more convoluted than it used to be. In the story, many characters go through challenging moments that make the player ask whether they can handle making the hard decisions. While the story gets dark with instances of torture and terrorist attacks, the game feels like it was scared to go all the way, holding back when situations should have pushed for more. Although the story has tropes and moments of gamification, the plot is still incredibly relevant and thought-provoking. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare may be the best in the series.
Despite everything written so far, Narcos: Rise of the Cartels does exactly what it aims to. The game is not an attempt to rewrite the strategy rulebook, but rather a gateway drug for anyone not familiar with the genre who is already hooked on Narcos. In that context, the title is solid: an entry-level strategy game that eases players in. The shallowness stems from the mass appeal and, as such, is a strength. However, those concessions will not spark joy for strategy veterans or anyone looking for a meaty, engaging experience.
Planet Zoo has some balancing issues and explains certain concepts poorly. Once the game is understood, however, it offers such loveable inhabitants and deep simulation that its shortcomings can be forgiven. The game shows how difficult running a zoo ethically can be, but also convinces the player how worthwhile that endeavour is by offering adorable animals at every turn. It is clever, complicated, and perfect for animal lovers.
Like its protagonist then, Woven is an odd beast. Alterego has succeeded in making something distinct—the game certainly stands out from the crowd. However, that uniqueness comes with concessions. Every charming feature is offset by a fumble: a fun premise by a non-existent story, a stunning aesthetic by burdensome exploration, solid puzzles by technical issues. Nevertheless, the game is fully functional and will certainly be worthwhile purchase for young children or anyone else who enjoys the simple pleasures.
RUNE II lacks the wow factor to be a serious contender in most Game of the Year lists, but that does not mean it should be overlooked. The game is solid and dependable, its faults never quite enough to sink it. Moreover, Human Head should be celebrated for daring to take a different approach to its open world. Where many games try to drive engagement through more quests, more distractions, more collectibles, more everything, RUNE II pares that drive back to its bare essentials. The result is a game that successfully walks the tightrope between appealing to the linearity-loving traditionalists, fans of sprawling RPGS, and the adherents of Minecraft’s make-your-own-adventure style of play.
Fans that have been following all things The Outer Worlds up until launch will not be disappointed here. Obsidian managed to produce a title that is completely carried and elevated by its world(s) and characters. With the amount of interesting interactions filled in each conversation, The Outer Worlds will always beg to be revisited. Sadly, The Outer Worlds shot for the moon and only landed among the stars, thanks to combat that feels like shooting a BB gun at walls of sponge. Lackluster combat is only one flaw, but when players are spending nearly half of their time taking part in the flaw, its problems are unavoidable. Still though, Obsidian has crafted something special that fits right up there with its contemporaries. The Outer Worlds completely succeeds in its mission to take players on an interplanetary adventure in ways that have not been seen in gaming for some time. Hopefully, other titles will follow in its footsteps when taking players to brand new worlds.
GRID has firmly nailed its place in the market as one of the best arcade racing series and will remain a ferocious competitor to the Forza and Gran Turismo franchises. The cars and tracks have been beautifully crafted with explicit detail, and when coupled with the delicate handling model, command-based communication, and the Nemesis system, all create a unique, thoroughly enjoyable racing experience. However, the game suffers from engagement issues, which could be improved by implementing a photo mode and racing soundtracks. The Nemesis system needs more reckless driving from the AI and greater rewards when beating Nemeses to the finish line, to stand out from other arcade racing sims.
Code Vein tries hard to overcome its flaws with anime style and flamboyance—and in many areas almost succeeds. The character creation and Code-based upgrade system are intriguing, but the combat and partner AI are too inconsistent to overcome the uneven pacing and difficulty. Code Vein has its positives, but is flawed as a single-player experience.