The Independent's Reviews
After the dust has settled and the credits have rolled, God of War Ragnarok is as strong a continuation as anyone could have hoped for, and a fitting end to Kratos’s latest chapter. Few game loops have been as engaging to experiment with and ultimately master than Kratos’s own brutality, but by adding new dimensions to an already intoxicating equation, the game successfully manages to deliver on the high expectations its predecessor laid bare at the altar. On its own merits, it’s difficult to fault but on the foundations of 2018’s God of War, it’s nothing short of a masterpiece.
Bayonetta 3 is an outrageous and fitting return to form for the umbra witch and her posse of occultish heavy hitters. Substantial improvements and additions to combat mean there are seemingly endless options for different styles of play, as well as making the prospect of revisiting each stage, verse and hidden objective more compelling than it ever has been, with the crowning jewel being Viola’s introduction into the franchise.
Both in scale and execution, A Plague Tale Requiem is an ambitious follow-up to Innocence that retools its core puzzle-and-stealth gameplay for a broader and more satisfying historical narrative adventure with fantasy elements. While puzzles are immediately intuitive and its action elements are much more rewarding, they rarely stretch the player’s brain enough to give much pause, making for a breezy, yet memorable adventure.
Return to Monkey Island is a thoughtful retread of a genre that was once the pinnacle of adventure games, yet now feels rarely revisited, despite its influence. A lot has changed since The Secret of Monkey Island debuted more than three decades ago, but now Return feels like a fitting conclusion to everything that spawned from the original. Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman’s own reflection on the series after the game’s conclusion is poignant in its perspective that only years away from the helm could bring.
Splatoon 3 is one of the most enjoyable and accessible multiplayer experiences currently available on the Switch. By sticking to its guns (or paint rollers), Nintendo has crafted a competitive shooter with near-universal appeal in both its presentation and simplistic take on team-based deathmatches. It’s strong competitive offering is only improved by the addition of its capable single-player and cooperative game modes, which means there is a well-served rotation of different options to try out. Fans of previous Splatoon games will enjoy the continuity this third instalment serves and newcomers looking for an online game with a twist will find plenty to wrap their tentacles around.
The Last of Us is (and always was) a masterpiece and Part I is unquestionably the best version of it yet, but that may not be enough for anyone hoping for a complete reinvention of the formula from the ground up. Part I adds just enough to warrant its remake for the latest hardware, which elevates it to the same level of The Last of Us Part II in smart design choices, flexibility and technical prowess even if it’s still the third time we’ve made this journey before. If Naughty Dog’s original PS3 version was the critically acclaimed theatrical release, then Part I is the Criterion 4K remaster complete with commentary and behind-the-scenes footage.
Between the ecstasy of nicking a top-10 finish, and the agony of being ploughed into a barrier – F1 Manager 22 is a faithful recreation of the motorsport. For better or worse. The game won’t convert people to the sport in the way Drive to Survive has, or in the way FIFA and Football Manager work magic, but there’s a serious simulation here and die-hards, above all, will appreciate it the most.
Despite all its flaws (and there are more than a few), Saints Row is undoubtedly fun and explosive in its over-the-top presentation. While its punctuated with memorable moments, they are often diminished by the repetitive nature of its side content, which makes up a significant portion of what Saints Row has to offer. If you’ve been a longtime fan of the series’s previous entries, you will find plenty to enjoy with this latest installment – just don’t expect much in the way of innovation.
From its action to its slick presentation, everything about Rollerdrome screams “effortlessly cool” from the moment it ramps off. Its breakneck pacing and unabating stages make each victory feel well earned, and revisiting each feels like a mastery that verges on transcendental. It’s endlessly replayable and while its gradual difficulty demands a lot from players, none of it ever feels unfair, even in the face of overwhelming odds. Rollerdrome is another crack shot hit from Roll7 that will demand every ounce of your attention.
While it never takes itself too seriously, Two Point Campus is an exceedingly complex game that gradually reveals itself through later scenarios – and, by the time the player gets there, is intuitive enough to never feel overwhelming in the amount of options available. The game does well to play the class clown, but its deceptive enough to hide plenty of A-grade material under its desk.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is the strongest entry into the series yet, while simultaneously managing to bridge the themes and mechanics of the first two games in a meaningful way. Even after the credits roll close to the 60-hour mark, each of the character’s personal journeys are fulfilling and memorable, while contending with heavier subject matter than the series has been known for.
Live a Live feels like a natural fit within Square Enix’s focus on bringing older titles to newer audiences. As the blueprint for other potential titles to come, it’s clear why the 1994 SNES title was chosen as the first remaster to receive the “HD-2D” treatment. Even with a shallow learning curve, there’s plenty to enjoy in this unique omnibus. Fans of classic JRPGs won’t want to miss this reimagining with plenty to enjoy for newcomers to role-playing games.
With Stray, BlueTwelve Studios and Annapurna Interactive have crafted a memorable experience that finishes just as it gets comfortable with its footing. But while it is short, it’s a testament to how the game looks, sounds and plays that it begs for more. Those who are curious to explore Stray’s world on Playstation can pick up a free copy with a PS Plus extra and/or premium subscription, making it a worthy addition to your digital library.
With exciting new developments in the sport F1 22 has done well to keep up with the rules and regulations as well as giving players plenty of options to play with off the grid. If you’re intimately familiar with some of the quality of life changes introduced in F1 21,then the latest addition will give existing players plenty to look forward to and newcomers can comfortably settle into the seat before taking on more complex maneuvers and adjustments in their own time.
With its large and well executed environments, Sniper Elite 5 is a strong follow up to 2017’s previous entry in the series, with a healthy balance of open-ended approaches and a clear direction. Maps are large enough to revisit and rediscover new areas as well as acting as an endless playground to perform trick shots and discover its secrets.
Trek to Yomi is a compelling enough story that makes strong use of cinematic techniques to tell a samurai tale in a novel way. Its approach could easily be imagined on the silver screen but its interactive medium makes for a compelling combat-heavy side scroller with enough mechanical depth to warrant multiple playthroughs.
Nintendo Switch Sports is a strong continuation of a tried and tested formula that will find near-universal appeal with anybody who remembers the glory days of the Nintendo Wii, or even younger audiences who will wonder what all the fuss was about 15 years ago. Playing the tennis and bowling game modes don’t exactly bring anything particularly new to the table, but it’s hard not to let muscle memory kick in after an extended period away. Volleyball and badminton also make for a grand entrance that are suitable additions to a bag filled with varied game modes. With the promise of even more gameplay being added at a later date, such as leg-strap support for standard football matches and golf coming later in the year, it’s certainly worth investing the time to work on your backhand and dust off the old skills.
Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a grand continuation of this process encompassing all three of the mainline trilogies with as much enthusiasm and heartfelt appreciation as could be expected from a studio working on their sixth tie-in of the sci-fi epic.
If the idea of yet another 50+ hour open-world game sounds exhausting, then Ghostwire: Tokyo might be for you. Even if you aren’t a fan of horror games, then don’t be dissuaded. While it leans heavily into the iconography and some of its enemy designs can be unsettling, it’s firmly rooted in the action genre and rarely deviates beyond the very occasional jump scare.