Even though I may have an affinity for stealth gameplay and the first Dishonored still sits in my list of all-time favourite games, I do not want to leave Blackreef. I wish DEATHLOOP had more Colt-content for me to explore, perhaps another district or two and a few more visionaries to hunt down, because the core gunplay and traversal is so enjoyable. From the We Happy Few-esque masks to some of the quirky interactions - shoutout to 2-BIT - and simply how polished the game is, it's impossible not to recommend. It embodies replay value and even when things don't go your way, you're left wanting to try again rather than walking away frustrated.
PixPil deserve to have a stellar career ahead of them following the release of this game, and as long as they can keep releasing games that have even half of Eastward’s visual individuality, compelling narrative and satisfying pan-smacking action, then the studio will be without a doubt one to keep an eye on. The apocalypse might be old news now, but Eastward shows other games exactly how it's done when it comes to presenting dystopia in a charming, fascinating light-hearted way.
Are video games art? In the case of Sable, I think it’s foolish to claim otherwise. It has been an honour to play and review this magnificent experience, with its jaw-dropping vistas, witty, personified dialogue, and genuinely unique world that offers something unmatched in video games. Sable will likely fly under the radar for a lot of people and were it not for the plethora of technical issues, this would be close to a score of the highest order. As it stands, the bugs do detract from the experience a little, but even so this is an absolute must-play title... I just wish there were more of it.
Diablo 2: Resurrected is the perfect trip down memory lane for those looking to revisit the original experience, or for anyone who felt Diablo 3 was a little on the easy side. Thanks to the graphics overhaul, this title has been fully modernised 21 years on from the original, so it's also much more accessible for newcomers to the franchise. The lack of a ladder system at launch is certainly an odd choice but one that will inevitably be rectified soon enough. Diablo 2 Resurrected doesn't quite fill the aching hole in our hearts for Diablo 4, but it does help tide us over for the time being.
In Sound Mind is an ambitious project that seeks to depict dark subject matter and does so successfully with a narrative about overcoming our mental fears. The experience is dragged down by a frustrating inclusion of combat, and an approximately 12-hour length that isn’t justified, at a detriment to the story. It’s not conventionally scary - though it has its hair-raising moments - but it’s disturbing and at times uncomfortable due to a sometimes grounded and sometimes surreal delve into the effects of mental illness on the mind. On the plus side, there is an uncanny valley companion cat - that you can pet - which is instantly a redeeming factor.
That’s perhaps the biggest takeaway from FIFA 22 this year; on the surface, pretty much nothing has changed, but when you pick up the controller and resume where you left off from 21, you notice how different it feels. It is more than a roster update, but it’s not quite enough to warrant being a must-buy. The only problem is that for a football fix, you have no other choice this year given eFootball’s poor reception. A very middle of the road experience and the football video game equivalent of Man City winning the league - exciting for those that love it, but very “meh, who cares” for those who aren’t die-hard fans.
It’s fair to say New World hasn’t been a total failure so far for Amazon. The servers are constantly full and nearly one million concurrent Steam players is a mark of success for any game. However, on a mechanical level there are many things lacking, that detract from the whole experience. A lack of any meaningful quest content, combat that isn’t fun for over half the game and an apparent drought of endgame content make it a game that might be worth skipping over until a few content updates or expansions. Plus when the most fun aspect of your game is picking flowers as opposed to slaying beasts or completing quests, maybe some of the game needs a rework.
You might be able to stick around for long enough to choose your own main (mine’s Oblina, just FYI), but once you’ve done that, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl will have nothing else for you. Even playing with friends can’t manage to make the game exciting or engaging, and chances are, it’ll end up at the bottom of your gaming pile before you can say “smashing!”.
Back 4 Blood isn’t Left 4 Dead 3, but it is so evidently an evolution of the genre. When things go right and you have a deck that works for your build, plus the Game Director doesn’t screw you over with the corruption cards, then the game feels amazing to play. Far more often than not however, you’ll be left frustrated and tilted because too many enemies have spawned so there was literally nothing you could do. Back 4 Blood is the best multiplayer zombie game on the market right now, but the competition is weak and if you’re a solo player, steer well clear.
YouTuber’s Life 2 is quite evidently a step up from the previous game, most notably with the glossy open world map and unique characters. Unfortunately, the drawbacks in the form of poor tutorials and questionable mechanics such as the energy system left me trying to grapple with the controls and understand the game more than anything else. These issues completely sapped my motivation to keep playing, and there’s no telling whether it will improve by increasing the subscriber count even more. Oh well, at least I got to hang out with Jeff Goldblum.
Echo Generation honestly feels like it could have been one of this year’s great indie games, but the developer's inspiration from 90s adventure games ended up being both a boon and a curse. It has a brilliantly refined style and atmosphere that provides a sense of nostalgia. It’s eclecticism in its music, art style, and enemy variety also worked to keep it fresh and engaging, but the frustrating balancing and dated puzzle implementation sullied its more immersive aspects, and can’t be overlooked.
Guardians of the Galaxy’s power really came to fruition as the credits rolled. This is a linear and completable experience that takes you on a memorable, fun, and often hilarious ride through the stars. It doesn’t do anything for the third-person action adventure genre, that you won’t find in an Uncharted or Tomb Raider, nor does it have much reason to revisit beyond collectibles and slight variations in its choice system. What it does do though is avoid the typical pitfalls of padding out content and begging its players to keep playing. Instead, you are treated to an emotional, exciting and riveting form of escapism. This is a game that not only respects your time, but respects the material. Simply put, Guardians of the Galaxy is a flarking good time.
Age of Empires 4 is an incredibly fun game that you can easily find yourself lost in for many hours as you take part in lengthy battles that can span over an hour or more. It's not vastly different from Age of Empires 3, instead slightly improving in most areas. This means that if you're a die hard Age of Empires fan then picking up Age of Empires 4 is a no-brainer, but don't rush out to play the game at full price if you own Game Pass because you can try it out for cheap.
Riders Republic counters many of the issues live service games of the past have faced. It doesn’t feel like an unfinished game, nor does it feel like one simply padded out with mundane content. The base structure remains but without that dullness it becomes an easy experience to get on board with. You may have to endure some awful narrative flare, but there is a lot of game here for those looking for it. What’s better is that there isn’t just plenty to be excited about now, but so much more to get excited about in the future, giving Riders Republic some serious potential to remain as a solid continuing sports franchise. Undoubtedly, it’ll have some growing pains to face, as all live service games do, because there is a particular need to make some of its modes more accessible to casual players. However, it doesn’t demand too much of those that are playing more vigorously, making it one of the most casual experiences Ubisoft has developed to date. Whether you are in it for the races, tricks or the odd bit of co-op fun, Riders Republic is a live service game that feels less like a chore, and more like a fun-filled take on the Ubisoft formula.
For fans of the Anthology, or for fans of horror in general, House of Ashes is definitely a must-play considering its relatively short playtime. Here’s to hoping that the next instalment in the series, The Devil In Me, brings along some characters that are a little more developed and likeable. The Until Dawn shaped hole inside me hasn’t been filled yet, but I have faith it will be soon.
Demon Turf should be remembered fondly in a few years time as a solid platforming experience. The core of the gameplay loop is close to perfection, with the combat tirades and checkpoint system letting it down. Movement mechanics are tight and satisfying, along with well-designed levels that challenge the skills the player will have built up over the course of a playthrough. It’s got a loveable presentation thanks to its melding of 2D and 3D art, bright music, and the majority of its art design and aesthetics. It doesn’t do much to shake up the platformer or collect-a-thon, but it nails the important aspects of each one to craft a deviously fun romp through the Demon World.
Forza Horizon 5 checks all of the boxes that it should, but it is let down by a lack of innovation. You are racing the same types of races, with the same types of cars, across a map that looks different but doesn’t feel different. Developer Playground Games has leaned on what it does best, and that makes for a fast and fun experience, however, wherever the series takes car-lovers off to next, it will have to look much further into the horizon for inspiration.
Football Manager 2021 was the best entry in the series for some time, and it’s safe to say that Football Manager 2022 continues that trend, by building upon the huge leaps it took last year. The improvements this time around aren’t quite as groundbreaking as last time because they’re a little more subtle and less on-the-nose, but they’re there nevertheless, meaning it is a brilliant time to be a Football Manager player. I just wish I didn’t play quite so much of the last instalment, because I’m not quite ready to start again after leaving behind my beloved Oxford United squad just a few weeks ago.
Call of Duty Vanguard is an exemplary multiplayer masterclass that bathes in chaos, creativity, and tactical prowess. It has all the making of a truly great esports title, backing the CDL and the competitive community, which will likely create a hugely entertaining season of gameplay emulated in the upcoming ranked playlists by their fans and aspiring talents – the omission of which is unforgiveable from an esports perspective. Whilst the foundations have been laid though, it comes as a year too soon for a full pathway between casual and competitive, although it’s the perfect stepping stone to be built upon. For a title with miniscule hope, Call of Duty Vanguard could go down as the game that revived esports, soon to be a game that we reflect upon as one of the greats.
There’s no denying that multiplayer is by far the biggest selling point for Call of Duty and the mode that makes Activision the most money through both sales and microtransactions - heck, Black Ops 4 launched without any single player offering whatsoever - but this showing is poor from Vanguard. It’s fun enough at surface level, but it fails to provide a captivating narrative or any stand-out moments that could attempt to elevate it as one of the greats. It’s also shockingly short with zero replay value, which means the Vanguard campaign only helps to stagnate the Call of Duty franchise. With that in mind, if we are to get Call of Duty Vanguard 2 a few years down the line, this has laid a solid foundation to build upon.