Control is Remedy at the height of its abilities. Finally, the studio's expert handling of tone and story is met with gameplay that's just as engaging and refined. As an experiment in nonlinear world design, Control doesn't just stick with tried-and-true waypoints and forests. Its Oldest House is a brutalist masterpiece, and the characters inhabiting it are just as unforgettable. All told, it's going to be one of the most memorable games of the year.
All MachineGames and Arkane Studios needed to do was make a straightforward, cooperative Wolfenstein experience. Instead, Youngblood replaces the series' celebrated narrative twists and turns with humdrum XP grinding and a live-service model. It would be bad in most games, but the fact that it's in a Wolfenstein title makes it sting a little bit worse.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is at once a joyful and joyless recreation of a stone-cold classic. Packed to the gills with content, this drive down memory lane still contains a sense of the original's magic, and artfully decorates your favorite tracks and drivers with an impeccable attention to detail. But it's not immune to the modern era, and the looming threat of live-service DLC and nostalgia-grabbing looms heavy over the entire game.
Super Mario Maker 2 will please both dedicated level-builders and newcomers. Story Mode gives players a nice pu-pu platter of professionally made Mario levels, and the inclusion of 3D World’s suite of tools and moves offer even the most seasoned veterans more with which to experiment.
My Friend Pedro is an enthusiastic, stylish take on the shoot 'em up genre that's elevated by its complex level designs and clever puzzles. It combines so many mechanics from so many games that you might lose track, but these elements all come together to create a unified, singular experience. If you ever wondered what you'd get by crossing Hard Boiled and Super Mario Bros., it would look a lot like My Friend Pedro.
Between its compelling art direction, surprisingly complex strategic decisions, and inventive weaponry, there's a lot much to love in Void Bastards. Unfortunately, its overall structure and narrative will leave you feeling empty by the end. That's not to say you shouldn't let yourself enjoy all that this charming, stressful game has to offer. Just don't expect to feel totally satisfied once you escape to the right nebula.
Even after 8 years, the Rage series is still having an identity crisis. It has all the signifiers of an open-world game, but it lacks the overall narrative that makes the world compelling, and its best bits—that is, its gunfights—take places in either small, complexly designed arenas or in hallways, like a linear shooter. The greatest irony about Rage 2 is that it might have been an even better, more interesting game if it was more like the first game with a fresh coat of (pink) paint. What it is now is just a bunch of sound and fury, which can be fun for a while, but it's ultimately an empty experience.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice will try your patience. As you might expect given its developer, it's a devastatingly difficult game that will require your skill and concentration. It's beautifully designed, with a clever new combat system and some of the most cinematic action ever in a From game, and it will kill you over and over again. All told, it's the best game I've ever hated, and I never want to play it again.
ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove is a literal return-to-form for the series, and longtime fans should be happy about that. While it might not be a hardcore roguelike or fully integrate its more modern design choices, it does exactly what it sets out to do: give players a true sequel to the original Genesis classic. It's hard to say how far this formula could have come in 28 years if the series hadn't taken detours into other genres, but for now I'm just happy that it's gone back to its roots.
Crackdown 3 is just more Crackdown. For some players, that will be enough. But compared to what Crackdown 3 initially promised, what we ended up with seems lacking in depth and destruction. When it's good, like with its boss fights, there's nothing like it. Unfortunately, there's just too much filler, and with its most exciting feature demoted to a fairly minor multiplayer mode, Crackdown 3 just isn't the step forward that it could have been.