I wish I could say that Sea of Solitude excels in every way a game can. Though it offers an honest, raw depiction of how unfortunately disparate life can be and the toil that goes with that, it fires few shots as an interactive experience. A rather barren world and repetitive core loops only serve to mar what is an otherwise overwhelming sensory treat.
A Plague Tale, at times, feels like a missing early chapter of the Assassin's Creed catalogue. Its ability to bend a truly fascinating point in documented history into a fantastical, mythical story that keeps you invested from start to finish is remarkable. It's a cinematic journey that is uncomplicated in its delivery, managing to occupy gamers without distracting from the game's narrative and the bond that develops between the de Rune siblings which, in the end, is A Plague Tale's undoubted strength.
Bend has delivered on a largely enjoyable open-world game with Days Gone. It has its fair share of hang-ups and though most are forgivable, some are not. Their depiction of Oregon, while bleak, is truly breathtaking and strikes me as the ideal mould for open-traversal. Its map isn't as big as many in the genre, though it's densely populated by things to do.
Rising is without a doubt the best Trials game yet. The community this series has garnered over the span of two decades finally gets a little of the limelight and, quite frankly, serves as the lynchpin of this game. The gameplay is as tight as ever while the tracks themselves are scintillating, showcasing the developer's creativity which is, even at this late stage of the Trials saga, first-rate.
Metro Exodus shows some heart, and it's clear the developers have poured a lot into this third chapter of Artyom's story. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that keep the game from hitting the standard set by its predecessors. Pacing is hamstrung by the ambitious misfire of an 'open-world', while performance issues and glitches mar much of Exodus.
Just Cause is undoubtedly a fun series with a devoted following. When you embrace the chaos there can be a lot of fun to be had, but it's when you look deeper at the nuts and bolts it isn't a bustling sandbox you find. It's more of a litter tray, full of waste. If you expect the finest the genre has to offer you're bound for disappointment, though if you're after more of bedlam Just Cause is famous for then this fourth iteration is what the doctor ordered.
Tetris is like an old shoe, it's comfortable and familiar. It's hard to believe that three decades on, Tetris is still making the splash it is. It's an evergreen sensation that constantly renews itself and its latest iteration, Tetris Effect might be its euphoric best. Were this rock and roll, Tetris would be held in as high esteem as The Beatles and this particular game would be its 'Revolver'.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a triumph in world-building, character craft and downright skulduggery. Being bad has never felt so good as Rockstar toe the realism line while still keeping their sharp, trademark tongue in cheek. It's the keen attention to detail where Rockstar succeeds and this outlaw prequel comfortably outperforms their best works and in time, I believe, will be regarded as a once in a generation game.
Were it not for a lack of polish, Shadow of the Tomb Raider would stand right alongside the other action-adventure giants in truly defining the genre. It has a lot of heart, all of the pulsating set pieces that series has become known for and a primal Lara Croft at the height of her powers. As it stands, Shadow is still one of the best conclusions to a trilogy I've come across as it respects what it has always done best rather than muddy the waters with needless gimmicks.
It's hard to fault Marvel's Spider-Man as Insomniac has taken their game to the next level. As a developer, they have gone from strength to strength and Spider-Man is a culmination of their past hits. There's a stunning verticality that compliments the game's watertight mechanics and, despite the literal boundaries, still makes the city seem boundless. If you're a Marvel die-hard, there's enough fanfare here to sink a ship as Spider-Man emerges as the new gold standard. Spider-Man is, without question, the best superhero game ever.
After being revealed to a reasonable amount of fanfare, it's fair to say that We Happy Few is one of the year's biggest disappointments. Though there's a lot of the BioShock fingerprint evident here, this lineage isn't ever lived up to. The story, characters and the character of the world itself are positively to die for and exist as the game's few triumphs. It's a beautiful disaster of a game and was perhaps too ambitious for a developer so green as bugs, frustrating A.I. and a slipshod procedural generation robs We Happy Few of any chance it had to be great.
Octopath Traveler is truly a charming and wonderful J-RPG that has reminded me that there's still a place for old classics. Some might call it dated, I'd call it ageless and even peerless when held up against a recent generation of watered down, Westernised role-playing games. Square Enix delivers a nuanced, tactical game and an endearing cast to boot.
Despite its satisfying core loops and drip-feeding of loot slathered in mechanical jargon, it's hard to recommend The Crew 2 based on what many would consider to be its selling points. The world is barren despite being billed as a greatest hits of American landmarks and 'car feel' itself is frustratingly basic and holds your hand far too much. The interconnectivity did its best to compel me to stick with it but The Crew 2 is a sad case of wasted potential.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit sees Dontnod return to what they do best with a charming, quirky and, at times, hard on the soul adventure. I wouldn't exactly go so far as to call it 'awesome', it's more of an okay adventure set within an engrossing world that continues to go from strength to strength. As someone who values a game's plot, I was able to forgive some of Captain Spirit's inadequacies while I expect others might not be as magnanimous. I can say that the episode itself and its uplifting cliffhanger have left me wanting more of the indomitable Chris and his Captain Spirit.
Detroit: Become Human is without a shadow of a doubt, David Cage's best work. After almost a handful of failings, Detroit: Become Human showcases what David Cage is capable of as both a writer and a director. He isn't shy about tackling taboo topics, regardless of the backlash, and it pays off here in what is a stunning story of overcoming oppression.
On the heels of Brothers, Josef Fares has given us A Way Out, a rich and thoughtful independent darling that delivers on a story that respects its characters and remains grounded, hardly ever resorting to nonsense action just for the sake of it. Though we predicted the game's ending before it happened, the conclusion hit us like a truck. With its extremely reasonable pricing and share play, A Way Out is a must play from one of the industry's most talented small teams.
Burnout Paradise is unarguably a stellar racing game and it paved the way for the likes of Forza to do what it has done with its Horizon franchise, so for that there'll always be a place in my heart for it. It's a tough sell for returning veterans as the visual buffs are minimal and the game itself is unchanged. Though if you were too young and didn't get to play Paradise, there's enough here, especially with all of the extra content on-disc, to justify the price of admission.
Like Unravel before it, Fe is another triumph for the EA Originals program as Zoink don't hesitate to flex their creative muscle. Despite a few foibles, the core mechanics are sound enough. Though it's in its world-building and artistic direction that Fe truly shines, with a spacious map that sparks the kindling of exploration and ignites that love for adventure.
Celeste not only joins a long list of phenomenal platforming royalty, but it stands as a mighty pillar among the very best of them. Its message is clear albeit clumsy, though that doesn't detract from its very real and relatable cast of flawed characters. It's challenging in ways many games aren't while managing to maintain an endless supply of magic.