Rage 2 contains some of the best shooting of any game in 2019. Taking numerous cues from Doom, the familiar gunplay is loosed upon a more open environment. Shredding bandits and mutants never gets old, regardless of if you have a campaign-only focus or you are pushing past the 20th hour on a completionist run. The achievement set by the gunplay reveals how far below it other areas sit. The open world isn’t utilized to its fullest potential, characters (including Walker) are as forgettable as the story, and driving leaves much to be desired. Rage 2 may be considered a one-trick pony, but that single aspect is so gratifying that it carries the lesser parts on its back to the finish line.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is From Software at its best (so far). The developer has beautifully married the demanding nature of their Souls games to a narrative-driven action game. The swordplay is engaging, requiring quick learning and quicker reflexes. All in all, Sekiro is top of its class, offering one of the most memorable experiences of 2019.
Far Cry New Dawn hardly reinvents its core formula, for better or worse. The expected bits are all there, peppered with a few low-impact RPG elements. This isn’t an evolution of the franchise, but rather a more favorable pairing of gameplay and setting than past releases. New Dawn sure feels familiar, but it definitely knows how to have a good time.
Metro Exodus emerges from the underground to explore a world far more colorful than the Moscow railways. Exodus does a fine job of injecting larger spaces with familiar gameplay, even if the two don’t always compliment each other. The refocused survival aspects are welcome additions and add to the hopelessness of the post-apocalyptic setting. The game goes off the rails a bit due to abundant technical issues and restrictive movement that reveal the lack of AAA polish. Even with its lesser parts, Metro Exodus takes the franchise forward with an experience worth seeing through to the end.
All in all, Insurgency: Sandstorm is a competent, exhilarating tactical shooter. Even after countless hours of capturing objectives and eliminating aggressive AI, each battle maintains its high level of tension. The weapon behavior and audio work beautifully in tandem to provide an offering that is difficult to find elsewhere currently. The small flaws that crop up occasionally do little to detract from the overall experience, although they don’t go completely unnoticed. New World Interactive has crafted a quality FPS that builds emergent war stories in every battle. Here’s hoping they someday release the cancelled single player/co-op story mode. One could only imagine what their advanced grasp of sound design could do in a structured, nail-biting narrative.
Battlefield V is very much a work in progress. The core experience is thrilling and comes together beautifully with the right players. It’s a multiplayer offering that DICE could no doubt expand upon in the coming months with meaningful updates to put it more in line with community expectations. Once the balancing issues and technical problems become a thing of the past, Battlefield V will stand as one of the most engaging multiplayer experiences on the market.
Destiny 2 has been trudging along, kept alive by the weekly log ins of its most faithful Guardians. Forsaken makes Destiny 2 fun again, giving more meaning to those log ins. The Tangled Shore and Dreaming City are visual treats and the Barons make for deserving recipients of those new Supers, but it may be the hefty collection of smaller changes that accompany Forsaken that make it feel all the better. The weapon slot revisions, return of random perk rolls, and other back-end modifications bring Destiny 2 closer in line with what it was expected to be from the start.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the culmination of the greatest parts of the franchise. Utilizing Yakuza 6: The Song of Life’s Dragon Engine and physics-enabled combat pairs beautifully with the high stakes tale born on the PlayStation 2 over a decade ago. I might even go as far to say that this recreation could be an even more fitting send-off for Kiryu before the series embraces its new protagonist. Simply put, Kiwami 2 is the peak of Yakuza.
We Happy Few is a brilliant concept in a world I’m dying to explore. However, the game’s mechanics and performance problems work against that which Compulsion Games have spent so much time crafting. The run-of-the-mill survival mechanics bog down the flow of the campaign and make uncovering the narrative’s answers feel like a chore. Still, underneath it all, it is hard not to find something lovable. Given time, tweaks, and patches, We Happy Few could rise above and become the game it was always meant to be, one that would not require a Joy pill to cover its blemishes.
Onrush takes an established genre and drives it down a new path. It creates an experience that is distinctly its own, but that includes a number of flaws. The Burnout-lite experience blends class-based gameplay in a handful of modes, and does so semi-successfully. Onrush has a strong premise at its core. If it adapts over time to focus more on its strengths, it may catch up to the competitive titles it set out to challenge.
State of Decay 2 is a moderate upgrade from its predecessor, providing an expanded environment and the heavily-requested cooperative play. What begins as a genuine care for the community of unique individuals assembled under an ever-developing roof quickly becomes a tedious venture to endure glitches that are more frightening than the undead wandering the streets. Staying one step ahead of the game’s issues becomes more of a focal point than actually enjoying what the game set out to do. After some much needed tender loving care from Undead Labs, State of Decay 2 may eventually become a zombie apocalypse simulator worth your time.
Onebitbeyond has crafted something special here. It rips one of the early 90’s most iconic titles and brings it into the modern era with meaningful additions to the beloved formula. The world is rife with an intoxicating personality and entertaining adventure, beautifully wrapped in eye-catching imagery. The Swords of Ditto does require commitment and acceptance of failure to see through to the end, but it is worth the investment.
Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition brings the renowned installment to the PC in stunning detail. The all-inclusive offering is easily the definitive version of the title, stepping above the console counterparts with its platform-specific enhancements. The game has evolved not only the series, but also itself since release thanks to added content and cutscenes that help the narrative feel more cohesive. Because of this more realized form, there has never been a better time to experience Final Fantasy XV.
Don’t think that Past Cure will become the next cult classic, like Deadly Premonition. This is a whole different level of bad. Past Cure attempts to be too many things at once. The developer’s ambition outweighs their ability to execute it effectively. The game’s lofty aspirations are commendable and, at the very least, it is playable. Still, it is a shame that Past Cure doesn’t amount to the titles from which it poorly borrows so many of its ideas.
Sea of Thieves lays the groundwork for a gameplay experience unlike anything else, which could have lived up to Rare’s legacy, but it fails to fully achieve its ambitions. As it stands, the game is an empty pirate adventure that sports brief moments of delight. Sadly, these instances are fleeting and the player is quickly returned to the monotonous and repetitive quest design to pad out their pirate’s life. Sea of Thieves might one day grow into the game we all hoped for, but for now it is a far cry from its targeted experience.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life brings Kazuma Kiryu's long-running tale to an end and does so on a high note. This is the wacky-yet-serious Yakuza vision fully realized, or at least it is damn close to it. Newcomers and established fans alike will find plenty to love in this father figure's quest for answers and revenge in a world where everything can be resolved with shirtless brawls. This powerful conclusion to the Dragon of Dojima's story must not be missed.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance strips away the fantasy from RPG and replaces it with something infinitely more dirty and relatable. This is one role-playing experience that is spilling over with ambition at every turn, even if it gets in its own way from time to time. The hardcore, survivalist, tactical players out there will likely have a field day with everything on offer in spite of the flaws present, while the rest may find themselves turned away by the cumbersome systems connecting it all.
Crossing Souls is teeming with personality, even if it all isn’t originally its own. It expertly weaves the nostalgic tones of 80s media, covering its lesser parts to an extent. The crew may not be as lively as the environments they find themselves in, but utilizing them for general platforming and combat is enjoyable enough. Crossing Souls will no doubt pique the interest of those currently enveloped in this re-emerging stylized culture.
Wulverblade is a solid beat ’em up arcade title that is beautifully wrapped in pleasing aesthetics. It covers a well-trodden path seen in numerous games before, but it manages to deliver an experience that is still its own. The combat is satisfying, especially in terms of sound, but it is held back from being a more rewarding experience due to limiting control factors. Furthermore, the entertaining cooperative play completely forgoes online connectivity, meaning two people will have to play on one machine. Still, hindrances and all, there’s something enjoyable about Wulverblade’s loop that helps carry it through the somewhat short campaign.
The Red Strings Club manages to craft a point-and-click adventure that can, at times, be edge-of-your-seat engrossing. The game’s simplistic presentation gives way to deeper systems at play, creating tension in creative ways. Given that most of the game develops in a static bar location, with only a handful of departures from the setting to explore snippets of a well-realized world, it is a testament to the developer’s skill at keeping the player engaged through an endless barrage of text boxes broken up by entertaining bouts as a charming information broker with a knack for mixology. The questions laid before the player will stick around long after the credits roll, which will sadly happen long before you are ready to part with the game. The Red Strings Club rarely fails to impress, but given the brief runtime those short-lived areas may be felt more than they should. Still, this is a notable success from Deconstructeam.