My own lack of emotional investment doesn’t negate what Observation does so well. No Code has created something truly unique. It defies easy “x meets y meets z” categorization. While there are recognizable component parts—the map of a ship-builder, the numerous small mechanics of a microgame collection, the rubberneckery of an immersive sim—I have never played anything quite like Observation. But, I’m guessing it would be awfully familiar to the AI in my pocket.
For all Rage 2‘s shortcomings, it’s worth stating again that whenever you find enemies, you find some of the best combat encounters in any modern shooter. It’s so good it makes the duller parts close to irrelevant. Would Rage 2 have been better off as a more linear shooter? Maybe, but I’d rather have seen a bit more refinement and polish to the open-world, and its driving, because by trying to be a bit of everything and not creating each aspect equally, Avalanche and Id has diluted a hi-octane shooter’s venomous sting with a beige paste of open-world busywork.
If you don't know the name Asobo Studio, you will after A Plague Tale. It clearly had a vision for what it wanted this game to be and despite the presumably lower budget than similar games, it rarely feels hamstrung by financial constraints. It's a game that looks, sounds, and plays great, and is all wrapped up in a story that unfolds irresistibly. For anyone who still longs for single-player games they can just sink their teeth into and enjoy, A Plague Tale should shoot to the top of your list. It's one of the year's best games.
Maybe the most damning thing I can say about Close to the Sun is that the main story it’s so interested in telling—the story that everything else on the Helios funnels you back toward—just isn’t the least bit surprising. All of it borrows pretty heavily from the BioShock playbook, and all of the plot points it trots out have been done better (and far more shockingly) elsewhere. The portrait of Tesla it presents seems conflicted—and I hoped Close to the Sun would attempt to close the distance between the egomania that would prompt a man to build statues of himself and the gentle humanity Tesla shows elsewhere — but the game doesn’t do anything to dig into those contradictions. That’s the consequence of all those chase sequences. Close to the Sun just doesn’t have the time to dig into anything. It’s got somewhere else to be.
Days Gone doesn't rip up the rulebook for open world games, brings very little new to the tired zombie genre, and while its story is enjoyable, it's far from compelling. Yet that doesn't mean you won't have a good time with it. While the riding and horde dynamics elevate the dependable, yet humdrum, nature of the rest of the game, just remember that patience is definitely required for the stretches of repetition between the more interesting parts.
Wastelands is a satisfying experience and an excellent step up in the story of Life Is Strange 2. Given the episode’s ending, I cannot imagine what will even come next. The Diaz brothers, along with the rest of the cast, make Wastelands the strongest chapter so far in the story, offering great emotion and characters.
Fade to Silence is nothing if not interesting, which helps keep the game afloat even with several short- and long-term issues. From a studio that has never done this sort of thing and comprised of just a few dozen developers, it’s clear its downfall is its own ambition as virtually all of Fade to Silence’s many systems need refinement. A lack of good tutorials will scare off genre newcomers, while half-baked elements like poor combat and controls will upset the veterans too. Still, the story drips out irresistibly and base-building is deep and engaging, which makes surviving the storm of problems worthwhile. Black Forest Games bit off more than they could chew with Fade to Silence, but they deserve some credit for taking the bite.
Mortal Kombat 11 is a great fighter, perhaps the best the series has been to date. It’s a visual spectacle filled with lots of ways to play for players of all skill levels, and features the most enjoyable fighting game story I’ve ever gone through. It also has some boring new characters, crippled further by the extensive customization suite, and a growing disconnect between the regular fighting and the fatalities. Small issues, but issues all the same. Still, you’ll probably be having too much fun to care.
What World War Z does well is provide straightforward co-op action that entertains and enthralls, even if it is just in the short term. It has plenty of rough edges, but developer Saber Interactive has been fairly clever about where it has allowed those edges to be. Being a zombie shooter in 2019 is probably the stalest kind of game to be, but World War Z proves that staleness needn’t matter if you ensure enjoyment is high on your list of priorities.
The Padre means well, trying to offer players the kind of Survival Horror experience that has been missing (for good reason in a lot of ways) for some time. It does sometimes capture the spirit of that well, but misses what made the games that it was inspired by into such beloved favorites. Whenever you’re dragged away from puzzling and exploring the mansion, things take a turn for the worse, with tedium and annoyance robbing the game of its atmosphere. The effort is appreciated, it just needs refining.
Learning to manage the game's many systems is the biggest potential stumbling block players will face. If you're the sort to revel in micromanagement and extreme challenge and enjoy the thrill of actually exploring and living in a place rather than wandering from objective to objective, then Outward could be something special for you from the get-go. It's a hard sell otherwise, with such overwhelming depth, occasionally misfiring combat, and rather grimy visuals. Then again, perhaps that might be the best way to deliver the purest form of Outward, a flawed, aggressive beast that requires time and patience. It would possibly lose something in being too refined. It makes adventuring into something different and intriguing, after all.
After over 70 hours I still want more of Sekiro, and happily, there is more to be done in this world after the natural end. Once the systems clicked, I was dragged deep into the game, and it filled my thoughts every time I was away from it. Sekiro is a beautiful, brutal ballet of butchery. It enthralls not only with its magnificent game world, but with a combat system that continually thrills as your understanding and mastery of it grows.
It’s easy to forgive Turok‘s shortcomings though because it’s still a pretty fun shooter, and its low-fi graphics are much more palatable in portable form. It’s not exactly an essential purchase for all, but as a playable piece of nostalgia, it’s been dragged into the modern era fairly successfully for fans to enjoy without many of its original frustrations and limitations.
Remarkably then, even through disappointing attempts at horror and puzzling, Conarium is just about compelling enough to warrant seeing through to the end. It’s not particularly mind-blowing from a narrative perspective, but it is engrossing and satisfying. If only it pushed harder for a sense of dread and terror, or even simply provided more of a challenge, then we’d be talking about something that truly stands out as a thoughtful, engaging horror game.
With Devil May Cry 5, Capcom tweaks the winning formula here and there to not only freshen up the most famous action hack n’ slash series around, but actually push it back to the top of the pile once again. Yes, it stumbles occasionally, and perhaps replay value isn’t quite as high as it could have been, but Devil May Cry 5 once again embraces the kinetic madness that made so many fall in love with Dante and his blood-spattered adventures in demon-slaying in the first place, and that’s truly what makes this a great game.
Devotion is a revelatory horror game, one that manages to remain unsettling and horrific through the mood and tone that’s imparted from the game’s design and storytelling. This is refreshing since rather than relying on unearned jump scares and unending chase-sequences, the thematic elements of the game bring the experience to life. Making this arguably the first great new horror title of 2019, and a must-play for any enthusiast of the genre.
My hope is that BioWare, too, will be able to overcome the ways that their game is broken. Since that demo, Anthem has steadily grown more stable. Some issues, though—like the repetitive mission structure—run deeper than glitchiness. But, Anthem’s core mechanics are satisfying, its world is enticing and its characters, by and large, are charming. With this review done, I will continue to play it. I want Anthem to get better, and I only hope that EA will give BioWare the time and resources to make this game as good as it can be. As it stands, it’s still worth a shot.
If you loved both 2033 and Last Light then you’ve likely boarded the hype train already and won’t be disappointed. Many will appreciate the continuation of Artyom’s story and 4A’s shift towards a freer, more immersive experience though Metro is still a couple of pegs below that top tier of first-person shooters. It feels rough around the edges and is let down by occasional bugs, sloppy AI, and a flimsy stealth system. That said, innovations elsewhere make some of these shortfalls easier to overlook.
Coming back to how Oniken plays, it is clearly trying to be a loving homage to 80’s side-scrollers, but it misses the point in how it uses its challenge. Rather than have proper structure and reliance on muscle memory as the games of that era did, Oniken often relies on cheap and nasty death traps that are very much designed to be ‘tough’ instead of challenging. Yes, you can ‘beat’ it and muddle through, but there’s little warmth or enjoyment to it. On the upside, playing it on the Switch’s handheld mode in bursts does alleviate some of the frustration. The only problem there being the Switch already has plenty of 8-bit games of higher quality both old and new to play. So, pretty or not, it’s hard to recommend Oniken to all but the most ardent retro gaming fan.
Observer puts another horror string in the Switch’s bow. It remains an effective and compelling sci-fi horror trip that isn’t afraid to take things at its own pace whilst sticking firmly to its own rules. That does mean that it’s not going to be to every horror fan’s tastes, but it’s admirable that it stands by its convictions to deliver an unsettling and evocative experience.