502 Published Reviews
STAR WARS Jedi: Fallen OrderXbox One
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has its heart in the right place, delivering that Star Wars fantasy that is sure to please fans of the franchise. But putting aside the lightsabers and Wookiees, Fallen Order is too often unsuccessful in implementing ideas from better games, and ends up seeming like a pale imitation in comparison.
The first new-generation Pokémon game to release on a proper home console does not disappoint. New features like Dynamaxing and the Wild Area are fun additions that make the experience of becoming a Pokémon champion still feel fresh. It’s just a shame that Game Freak didn’t lean into the new features more than they did.
Call of Duty: Modern WarfarePS4
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare does a lot right from a gameplay standpointâat least as far as campaign and multiplayer are concerned. But a confused story that simultaneously has too much and too little to say about war makes it a poor successor to the legacy of Call of Duty 4.
In the end, Death Stranding’s biggest mystery isn’t any of the elements we’ve had teased in three-plus years of trailers—it’s what people are going to think of it. Even from a man known for making love-them-or-hate-them projects, this may end up being one of the most divisive games ever created. For me, it was an experience that I can truly say was unlike any other I remember. And, if nothing else, Death Stranding makes me respect Hideo Kojima for convincing Sony to invest millions into a game that’s about a man delivering packages to holograms.
Luigi's Mansion 3Switch
Luigi’s Mansion 3 is the biggest and best entry in a befuddling franchise, and a game that really makes a case for everyone’s favorite second fiddle to get more spin-off adventures. Developer Next Level Games has expanded on the Poltergust’s abilities in meaningful ways, adding more variety to the action and puzzles alike. Gooigi might seem a little shoehorned, but it’s a great excuse for cooperative multiplayer on a system built for it. A few minor annoyances aside, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a strange, charming, and generous sequel.
The Outer WorldsPS4
The Outer Worlds is an impressive spiritual successor to Obsidianâs work on Fallout: New Vegas, mixing familiar design elements and the same zany attitude with an imaginative new universe and even deeper role-playing. While you can breeze through the main questline a bit quicker than in similar games, this is the sort of RPG experience youâll want to play through multiple times, with multiple builds, to see all the systems and narrative paths on offer.
Concrete Genie’s painting tech impresses at first and its heart is certainly in the right place, but the game ultimately proves too aimless to support its already brief running time. Adorning the city in landscapes of your own creation quickly loses its luster as you realize that what you create lacks meaningful interactivity. Even the jarring addition of combat midway through doesn’t do much to counter the sense that Pixelopus couldn’t find a way to build out a full game around a simple gameplay idea.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon BreakpointXbox One
Looting for better gear is a trend that’s taken over gaming, but it’s never seemed as unnecessary and as cynical as it does in Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint. Turning the game into an amalgamation of Wildlands and The Division, Breakpoint’s gear system ruins any immersion you may have felt in pretending to be an elite spec ops soldier. If that was the game’s only issue, it might have still been salvageable, but its predictable story, graphical infidelity, and obnoxious open world make this a failed experiment at marrying two or three different properties from the same publisher.
There was a lot of potential for Code Vein to end up little more than a mediocre Dark Souls clone dressed in anime clothing, and yet, it’s actually kinda, sorta, pretty good. The game mixes some long-established gameplay qualities with a totally engrossing class system and a story that’s more enjoyable than it has any right to be. Code Vein won’t be for everyone, even if you’re a Souls fan, but if the overall idea sounds appealing, the execution might surprise you.
Borderlands 3Xbox One
Borderlands 3 has finally arrived, seven years after the last numbered game in the series. But in that time, while most of us were growing older and wiser, Borderlands has doubled-down on its most prefrontal cortex obsessions. There’s more loot than ever, and it’s more individualized, but there’s very little room for other areas of growth, like in story or character. As busy as Borderlands 3 can feel, and as much as this game expands the universe, you’ll still feel like all you’re doing is keeping your nose on the ground, sniffing out shiny, colorful guns.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's AwakeningSwitch
The remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is stuck between two places—the past and the present. Chances are that you’ve already made up your mind about whether or not to play it. It’s a classic Zelda game given a second chance with a striking visual language and evocative, haunting musical reinterpretations. Making the jump from the Game Boy to the Switch means that you’ll spend a lot less time changing items in the menu and much more time appreciating the meticulous clockwork of Koholint Island’s challenges.
GEARS 5Xbox One
Gears 5 makes major strides in the series’ approach to storytelling. This is the most heartfelt Delta Squad has ever been, and The Coalition backs up that emotion with genuine improvements to gameplay. While its new co-op mode, Escape, is generally underwhelming, Arcade mixes up the competitive meta enough to keep things interesting. All told, Gears 5 is more Gears, but it’s also a bold statement for why this series is still relevant.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of MedanPS4
While it feels like a not insignificant step down from the breakout hit Until Dawn, Supermassive Games’ latest attempt at interactive horror still serves up some compelling thrills and chills. The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan definitely gets better the deeper you get into its story, but traveling that path is fraught with technical issues and questionable narrative direction more often than it should be.
Astral Chain is loud, brash, exciting, and, in the end, a warning about the dangers of unquestioned loyalty. Its hyperkinetic action sequences and colorful characters might make the game seem like it isnât interested in offering more than intricately designed fights and a straightforward genre story, but stick around for its entirety and its cast of 2070s police officers show themselves to be more than just cartoon cut-outs of sci-fi cops.
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.
Telling Lies may borrow its core mechanic from Her Story, but shifting from monologues to two-sided conversations brilliantly expands the investigative gameplay, and a pivot from murder mystery to political thriller gives director Sam Barlow a much richer set of ideas to explore. A few storytelling hiccups and awkward edges do little to detract from a thought-provoking look at the modern surveillance state—delivered not through soapbox lecture but by forcing you, unsettlingly, to participate.
Wolfenstein: YoungbloodXbox One
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.
Bucking the trend of “bigger, badder, louder, faster,” Samurai Shodown is a return to the glory days of SNK’s beloved sword-slashing fighting franchise. The slower, more thoughtful combat style the franchise is known for is on full display here, challenging players not just to be better at fighting games, but also smarter. Wrapped in a beautiful overall package and given some interesting new roster additions, Samurai Shodown is probably the best new chapter we could have ever hoped for.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-FueledXbox One
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 2Switch
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. But in terms of pure scope and ambition, Super Mario Maker 2 more closely resembles the “Deluxe” Wii U rereleases that have become staples of the Switch’s library. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since the formula is so exhaustive already. Just don’t go in expecting a true evolution of the series—and get that Switch Online subscription ready.
My Friend PedroSwitch
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.
Making a spin-off to a beloved niche series that then drops its most popular character seemed like a crazy idea at first, but Judgment is a success beyond what I could have expected. Though it never quite escapes the shadow of its older siblings, this tale of a fallen lawyer and his refusal to let go of the truth provides an experience that has a lot to offer both Yakuza fans and newcomers alike.
Void BastardsXbox One
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.
A Plague Tale: InnocenceXbox One
A Plague Tale: Innocence is a perfect example of why I’m such a cheerleader for mid-tier games. Bigger in scope and production than most indie titles, but more daring and free to explore new ideas than costly triple-A projects, games such as these are where we see some of the most unique and compelling offers on the market. Even with my personal biases against two core parts of its gameplay, A Plague Tale completely won me over—and while it’s certainly not perfect, it’s pretty darn good.
RAGE 2Xbox One
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.