Eric Van Allen
- The World Ends With You
- Final Fantasy X
- Mass Effect 2
Yakuza 0’s overarching faithfulness to its time and place in history provides fascinating insight into the time, and its over-the-top cutscenes and climactic fights quickly endeared me to the series. A hefty batch of side-games and engaging, well-paced combat roped me in and sold me on my first ever Yakuza experience, but the vibrancy of its semi-fictional Japan will be what I remember most. Yakuza 0 doubles-down on series’ signature combination of hyperbolic action and self-aware comedy, while providing an honest window into a major period in recent Japanese history, and does so flawlessly.
There is no doubt Final Fantasy XV will be divisive, but in not playing it safe, the game earns a bit of my heart back with each errant monster hunt or one-off gameplay section. It's messy, but earnestly so, like that high-school mirror selfie. Recalling all the good and bad, the moments that make you cringe and a warmth that makes you smile, you know not everything was perfect. You can only say you're glad you chose to make the journey.
Stealthy disguises lead into explosive moments of improvisation. Best-laid plans come to fruition through opportunities, and carefully timed, critical moments mean the difference between a master stroke and a quick death. The 2016 Hitman offers the best of its kind, with an episodic structure that clicks, sandbox playgrounds to pick apart and brilliant design and presentation on all levels.
Eventually you have to let go of that life, like a mother bird watching her chick leave the next, and find a new frontier to conquer. I mastered my domain, but my clockwork castle will continue without me. Where Minecraft leaves you as Ozymandias, a lonely king overlooking an empty empire, Dragon Quest Builders finds joy in the journey, and provides all the right nudges and motivations to keep you moving on, to build a legacy that will outlast your presence in it.
Shadow Warrior 2 is a fast, gorgeous shooter with smart loot components, trapped inside a world and age that lost its luster ages ago. Where the core gameplay still feels fantastic, the story, world and mission structure gradually drag it down short of being a successor to the grandeur of its predecessor. An excellent shooter that could have used 99 percent less Wang.
But comfort breeds complacency, and I hope that as The Coalition gains confidence in their take on the franchise, they continue to push. Gears of War 4 reinvents my favorite game type, plays cheeky at the best times and gives me a cast I can get behind immediately, rather than gradually. This isn’t a grand departure, but it’s a start; for now, that’s enough to keep me coming back game after game, wave after wave for more of what only Gears can do.
It feels the need to address real-world issues, but in a way that's fast and cursory and only pretends at depth while trying hard not to make anybody unhappy. Deus Ex cares enough to sit on the sidelines and play topical for show before moving on to the next attraction. It's become more 24 than Blade Runner, and while it still entertains, it's also lost much of the luster that set the series apart from the serialized masses.
Yet I’m met with the same response, from the many church-goers who don’t want that. They want the same thing they’ve heard before, slightly repackaged, but wholly recognizable and safe. It’s that hushed reverence that creates games like I Am Setsuna, and ultimately holds them back from being anything more than last week’s sermon.
This Is The Police is a challenging portrayal of law enforcement that falters when it comes to meaningful commentary. While it constructs a good form and addresses topical concerns, it fails to say anything definitive. Starting a conversation is worthwhile, but that only carries the game so far before its menial nature drags it down.