Ultimately, Halo Infinite's multiplayer is a victim to its progression system, that stands in the way of the excellently refined core of the game. It's certain to be a mainstay for years as the developers work out the kinks and factor in the fan feedback. Their work still paid off though, because the gameplay of Halo Infinite is the best of any multiplayer shooter from recent memory. It's just sullied by the egregious implementation of artificial hurdles to that gameplay, which knocks a point or two off the score. Without this abhorrent progression? Halo Infinite would be one of the best multiplayer shooters of the last 10 years.
Nonetheless, if you are tired of mindless co-op shooters and are on the hunt for something more engaging, there is nothing currently better than Rainbow Six Extraction. It loses some of its appeal when played solo or with a random voiceless squad, but with a full squad of friends, Extraction will have you screaming and commanding your way into a functioning unit. It is hardcore, deliberate, tactile, and tense, and if that isn't Rainbow Six, I don't know what is.
Back when Skyrim launched in 2011, a fake mock-up of a Blastoise emerging from behind some trees in glorious 3D did the rounds on the internet. Pokemon fans everywhere, myself included, salivated at the thought of such a game coming to fruition. Pokemon Legends Arceus is the closest thing we've had to that dream yet and while performance issues and lack of graphical fidelity do throw a spanner in the works, not to mention the often lonely open world with lack of meaningful landmarks, this shake-up of the formula is a return to form for Game Freak.
All of this boils down to one of the best King of Fighters games ever made. The series has abandoned many of its traditions and embraced modernity, meaning it has found its look and feel in a 3D space, and will be a solid base for all future entries. This is the KoF game of the future thanks to being flush with features and cutting-edge online technology, so the future looks bright. Right now, King of Fighters XV has absolutely found itself rubbing shoulders with the other giants of the genre.
As much as I adore Total War: Warhammer 3, the graphical and performance issues I faced took the shine off what was a near-perfect experience otherwise. The difficulty spikes also seemed a little unfair and could lead to a campaign being sent back two or three saves to correct the smallest issue. Despite this, Total War: Warhammer 3 is a fantastic overall package that rounds out a trilogy in an honourable fashion. Fans of the source material will have plenty to sink their teeth into and new players will find themselves with a friendly pathway into a whole new world of fantasy.
TUNIC is a type of game that feels increasingly less common in this industry, and its dedication to upholding a mystery that it lets the player figure out themselves is commendable. It has an enchanting world that's well worth exploring for yourself, and the way it asks you to use the instruction manual is a breath of fresh air for engaging with a game. While it doesn't fully stick the landing thanks to some later combat sections that sour the experience, it's an undeniable gem of wondrous action-adventure.
There is a lot to do in Rune Factory 5, and players have the freedom to live out their ideal fantasy life at their own pace. Although there are a hefty amount of performance issues, Rune Factory 5 is still a charming experience that can be taken with you on the go, and is worth the wait for fans of the series. If you’re looking for a game to settle down with in the evenings, then Rune Factory 5 might be worth the investment.
The console version is geared toward a new audience for the franchise and for them, there will be few games that offer just as much replayability as Crusader Kings 3, which is as true now as it will likely be when this console generation is long over.
Weird West really is a wonderfully wild experience. Its mysterious and fantastical take on the American West is a unique change-up for a typically overdone setting, and the elements of black humour help to bear its bleakness. Many of the immersive sim elements gel well with the CRPG design to produce a living and reactive world, shaped by your gameplay and narrative choices. Some of its systems don't quite feel worked out yet, and it doesn't always stay consistent across its five episodes, but Weird West is a grand debut from WolfEye that understands the core of what it is to be an immersive sim.
With a post-game this rich and a roster of characters this bizarre, LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is the galactic sandbox we've been waiting for. Quirks aside, this game is the one that TT Games were always destined to make, and the benchmark for each of their titles going forward. And if the rumoured LEGO Doctor Who game is actually in the works, and will be following suit, we need not worry, because it'll be in safe hands.
Instead, the folks at Cellar Door Games focused on making the best sequel they could for the game that Rogue Legacy is. They have absolutely catered to fans of the original, without leaving new players behind. They have not been intimidated by advancements in the genre of roguelites into making a totally different game, which is especially admirable. The only thing Rogue Legacy 2 wants to be is the most fun version of Rogue Legacy it can be, and it absolutely succeeds in that endeavour.
Trek to Yomi presents its world through the lens of classic Japanese cinema, reinforcing its thematic exploration of self-reflection and overcoming failure with masterful presentation and design to form a captivating experience. Combat presents a satisfying learning curve that rewards carefully studying your opponents and mastering the moves in your arsenal, and while overall it can falter at times due to uneven pacing, it's well worth undertaking the trek yourself.
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodhunt has a unique selling point in its presentation and universe that can, and should, carry it forward. The game is more than good enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with the titans of the genre, which is fortunate because that puts them right in line with all their necks.
The redeeming aspect about Halo Infinite is that underneath the unnecessary open world format and cookie cutter story missions, the core gameplay is Halo at its best. While it's much faster paced than the Bungie-era, Infinite improves tenfold upon the disappointing 343 releases so far. The story is nothing to write home about but engaging in a full blown scrap with a squad of Banished feels brilliant. This is largely down to the new tools at Master Chief's disposal, along with the added weapon variants. Few things are as satisfying as grappling a grunt and electrocuting all the surrounding enemies, then finishing them off with a sweep of a Sentinel Beam or perfectly placed Mangler shots. The downside is how this is surrounded by bloat, in a new direction for Halo that doesn't quite land on its first outing, despite being incredibly polished and excellent from one skirmish to the next.
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.
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.
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.