NHL 20 is an uneven experience. One minute I’d feel the high of setting up an awesome play and seeing the puck land in the back of the net, but then I’d slam my stick into the ice frustrated by disappointing aspects across its modes. Seeing similar issues continually bleed over year after year is getting harder to forgive the longer they go on, but it’s still the only way you can really experience the thrill of being on the ice, and at the very least, it captures that well.
World of Warcraft ClassicPC
WoW Classic is far more than a historical novelty, and the incredible design shines through even today. It may seem odd to play an MMO, a genre that hinges on the constant promise of an evolving future, with an ostensibly finite lifespan as updates take us to where WoW ended before the Burning Crusade, but WoW Classic proves that there’s so much to be experienced in that journey. With WoW Classic available to anyone with a WoW subscription, it’s an adventure worth taking – whether again or for the first time.
GreedFall’s stories, world, and wealth of choices are fun to explore and can legitimately be great at times, but the problematic combat, reliance on conversation for quests, and lack of polish over everything hold it back, but Spiders is on to something and isn’t far off from having its first truly notable RPG. Much like Bethesda’s early Elder Scrolls titles and CD Projekt Red’s first Witcher game, GreedFall feels like it’s the beginning of something great, but it just isn’t quite there.
eFootball PES 2020 Standard EditionPS4
When compared to the game’s similarities to last year it seems like minutia, but these are the things that elevate it from previous efforts and make PES 2020 look and feel correct. It’s a better game, even if it’s not evolved in every way. It’s like when a manager expresses how pleased they are of the team after a draw: You know they wanted the outright win, but they are also satisfied with the team’s overall performance. PES 2020 can be a familiar experience, but that shouldn’t blind you to its finer moments.
NASCAR Heat 4PS4
NASCAR Heat 4’s A.I. is a work in progress, the career mode is adequate, and the online suite is behind the times. Nevertheless, it’s the best offering to date even if it’s not totally dialed in, forcing you to get up on that steering wheel and dig deep for your spot on the track. The series' latest from developer Monster Games makes some tweaks to improve the on-the-track experience.
Borderlands 3 is a love letter to its fans and a celebration of the style of play it first popularized. Filled with characters from previous installments, and unapologetic in its silly humor and bombastic action, it’s an amusing ride that seems hesitant to innovate. If more of what you loved before is your chief desire, Gearbox has granted that wish through a game of impressive scope that charts some very safe territory.
River City GirlsSwitch
I’ve loved brawlers for years, and spent what seemed like a fortune on them when I was young. River City Girls feels like one of those games designed to eat your quarters, complete with the joys and frustrations that entails. I love pounding bad guys with an array of cool attacks and inventive weapons, even if I feel robbed by cheap tricks. River City Girls’ chaotic battles are entertaining, but they’re surrounded by an array of decisions that add more inconvenience than challenge.
GEARS 5Xbox One
Gears 5 is exactly what it needs to be. This old war vet still packs a punch. The open-world exploration has issues, but that isn’t enough to steal away the thunder The Coalition expertly deploys on the battlefield. The campaign is a fun ride that concludes with a shocker moment and a hell of a setup for a sequel. I’m already looking forward to that follow-up.
Monster Hunter: World - IcebornePS4
Capcom didn’t improve much for the expansion, like once again having a boring tower defense story mission and making you separately watch scenes solo before you can join up in co-op. Even so, surviving together to get that jackpot of materials for better gear hasn’t lost its allure, and Iceborne challenges you to be a better player and teammate with its arduous fights. The return trip is worth it, just don’t expect many upgrades to the experience.
Knights and BikesPS4
The gameplay may not always grab your attention, but the clever writing, fun character designs, and great sound effects, ensure that your exploits in Penfurzy are memorable. Drawing on source material like The Goonies and Stand By Me, Knights and Bikes strikes an endearing balance between normal and strange; the line between reality and imagination may be blurry throughout Nessa and Demelza’s quest, but at least you never have to sort it out alone.
Blair Witch ends on a high note, but you need to endure plenty of nonsense to get there. Navigating this world is more tiresome than frightening, especially once you realize that you’re not in peril most of the time. Instead, it’s more about how creepy you find wooden stick figures and walking around in the dark.
The video game market is filled with racing simulations, and it’s nice to see oddities like Wreckfest that deliver the exact opposite. Why race a clean path when you can race dirty? If that proposition sounds fun to you, you can’t go wrong with this aggressive racing experience.
Remnant: From the AshesPC
Strong systems and a satisfying gameplay loop give Remnant: From The Ashes a powerful foundation, even if the experience is mired by repetitive and uninteresting bosses and environments. The first 10 hours are challenging and intriguing, leaving you voracious for more loot, more bosses, and more traits. After that, some of the wonder vanishes as you relive past glories rather than continuing to forge new ones.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man Of MedanXbox One
Man of Medan isn’t the success that Until Dawn was, and it represents a big step back in terms of player interaction and storytelling, but it’s still a thrilling horror experience that made me scream, laugh, and want to jump right back in for a second or third playthrough to see if I could keep everyone alive.
Ancestors: the Humankind OdysseyPC
I was deeply frustrated by Ancestors, so it may seem strange for me to say that I found a lot of promise, complexity, and nuance here as well. The novel concept and grand scope are far more appealing than dozens of other action or survival games on the market. This is a deeply flawed but richly imagined effort, but like many ambitious gaming projects at launch in recent years, it can now either die off like the Neanderthals, or evolve into something better from here.
Platinum has created a wonderful new universe for players to dive into that I could see extending into anime, movies, and hopefully sequels. The dual-character gameplay is also brilliantly devised, and although not as difficult as PlatinumGames’ other titles, creates a duet that makes you feel like a powerful, unstoppable force. The story may be the weakest part of the experience, given just how much it changes trajectory, but it has some legitimately great moments, and a big twist I didn't see coming. All told, this is one hell of a game.
Despite a few drawn-out battles near the end, Control is a complete rush. With the power at Jesse’s fingertips, I walked into every room ready for an amazing fight. When I walked out, it often looked like a tornado had torn through the building. The Federal Bureau of Control is a fascinating place to explore, and I loved every bizarre encounter inside its creaking hallways.
No single flaw in Oninaki is damning, nor is any good quality redemptive. Some parts of the experience are genuinely fun and engaging, and others are baffling and frustrating. Like the real world and spirit realm in the game, the light and dark sides of Oninaki blend together as you move between them, resulting in a dull glow somewhere in the middle.
Once I discovered the answers to the central mystery, I didnât stop playing â I continued to find every bit of video content I could because I was enthralled by the people in this world. Attempting to understand the psychology behind each characterâs actions made me all the more invested and perplexed, because in Telling Lies, even the smallest fibs lead to the biggest discoveries.
The rogue-like is a difficult genre to nail as it relies on balancing challenging action and myriad random elements. The trick is making sure the frustration meter isn’t higher than the fun meter, and Rad generally walks that line well. I certainly had my attempts where I felt like the game was working against me, but when I had a good run with mutations that worked well with my playstyle, I enjoyed myself and was thoroughly proud of my accomplishments.
FINAL FANTASY XIV: ShadowbringersPC
Shadowbringers is the best expansion yet for Square Enix’s MMORPG, a world that comes alive in the player’s hands, with weight and gravitas moving you through every whimsical corner. Old-fashioned quest design and color-dodging combat add a dull tinge to a truly magical landscape, but those imperfections can’t keep down the scale and scope of excellent environments, grandiose bosses, and majestic music.
Ion Fury is everything that I’ve wanted from a modernized take on the arcadey shooters of the 90s. The pitch-perfect movement, the enemy variety, creative weaponry, and fantastic level design all add up to a superb shooter campaign. In a sea of retro shooters looking to channel the glory of the genre’s early days, Ion Fury emerges as the title that pushes those thrills into the present in an engaging way, deftly capturing their timelessness.
Age of Wonders: PlanetfallPC
Age of Wonders: Planetfall takes several turns to get moving, and newcomers might feel overwhelmed until they gain their bearings, but Triumph Studios’ newest strategy offering is full of fun, creative ideas and each faction is worth taking for a spin at least once. Building a sustainable empire and managing a happy populous takes some grunt work, but they are really just stepping stones to Age of Wonders: Planetfall’s epic firefights.
PICROSS LORD OF THE NAZARICKSwitch
Combining picross with a relatively obscure anime (and not even using the anime’s name in the title) is a weird choice, but if you’re looking for more picross, you can’t go wrong here. The quality-of-life improvements are good, the Color Picross mode is fun, and having a little bit of story is a nice change of pace, even if the plot doesn’t have much to it.