Mario Tennis: Ultra SmashWii U
Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash feels like an unfinished game. The shallow mechanics quickly grow tiresome, and this is further emphasized by the lack of game modes and creativity that we’d expect from a Mario sports game. It can be a fun diversion with a group of friends, but it loses its appeal within a day.
At launch, there's not as much on offer compared to other competitive shooters, but there's also never been a Star Wars game that's looked and felt this real before. Despite the lack of battlegrounds, characters, and a story-driven, campaign structure, Star Wars Battlefront is an epic, cinematic experience. If you've felt the force awakening in you this year, let it in.
For the last decade, Bethesda games have had similar issues, and it’s getting harder to forgive. Somehow, in spite of everything, Fallout 4 consumed us. When we’re not wandering the wastes, it overwhelms our thoughts as we ponder where to go, which faction to pursue, and what weapon to try next. Fallout 4 is flawed in very serious ways, but it’s also the only thing we want to do.
Rise of the Tomb RaiderXbox One
While the story and extras may not impress, the gameplay in Rise of the Tomb Raider holds up through a long and varied adventure. There are lots of tools to play with and utterly jaw-dropping locations to see, fleshed out with great level design. Rise of the Tomb Raider is right on par with the last game, so if you enjoyed Lara’s previous excursion, there’s plenty to look forward to here.
Call of Duty: Black Ops IIIPS4
This doesn’t feel like a conclusion to a trilogy. Black Ops III is its own game, and the most robust offering in the franchise this generation. All the new talents don’t feel like tricks to keep fans occupied until the next installment. They’re essential refinements that speed up combat and give players even more chances to show off. No matter which path you choose, you’re going to have a good time.
Need for SpeedPS4
2015’s Need for Speed is in many ways more grounded than other recent entries. You don’t throw spike strips at each other and you don’t jump off buildings. It’s more about the inherent excitement of dodging traffic and drifting down the side of a mountain. The customization features are a welcome return, and the five-layered career lets you play with different approaches to driving. Some aspects of Need for Speed could use more variety, but it’s a solid foundation to move the series forward.
WWE 2K16 strikes the perfect balance between technical wresting and Attitude Era brawling. Minor online issues hold it back, but the moment-to-moment flow of each match, the huge roster, and the stellar tribute to Stone Cold Steve Austin all combine to make this a must-play for anyone remotely interested in the WWE.
Tales of ZestiriaPS4
Yet when the credits rolled, we didn’t feel relief, but rather disappointment that the adventure was over. There’s a lot to criticize in Tales of Zestiria, but the combat and characters make it enjoyable regardless. Like many good role-playing games, it’s easy to get lost in, whether that means fine-tuning your strategies or watching the various character arcs unfold. At its best, Zestiria reminds us that the Tales series still has life left in it.
Halo 5: GuardiansXbox One
Halo 5: Guardians is a massive game that we intend to keep playing for the foreseeable future. There are parts that let us down, particularly the story, but it’s hard to feel too stung when there’s just so much fun to be had. Halo 5 has a lot to prove and it seems fully capable of doing just that. It’s a pleasure seeing the series in top form once again.
The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes3DS
Even for a multiplayer spin-off, Tri Force Heroes just doesn’t offer enough to justify its price tag, and it absolutely shouldn’t be played alone. If you’re a stalwart fan with a pair of dedicated friends, you will likely have a pleasant time with the game’s puzzles and combat, but it’s hard to recommend this game to anyone that hasn’t already sought the Triforce for a much more admirable purpose.
Assassin's Creed SyndicatePS4
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate makes some strides forward with more substantial side quests and interesting story missions, even if the plot itself doesn’t really go anywhere. Exploring this recreation of London is a marvel, but the repetitive cycle of taking territory and gathering pointless collectibles quickly wears thin, while gameplay pillars in stealth and combat still feel lacking.
Guitar Hero LivePS4
The Live in Guitar Hero Live means a lot of things. In one mode, you’re pretending to actually rock out in front of a packed arena, and in the other you’re constantly competing against the rest of the world online. Your band mates overact sometimes, and you don’t always get to pick the song you want to play in GHTV, but there’s always a ton of music to play. So much is new, from the stage perspective, to the streaming service, to the updated guitar, that it feels like a worthy revival.
Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black WaterWii U
Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is old-school survival horror. While the story can be convoluted and the controls make navigation harder than it should be, it's dark take on death and atmosphere make it a ghost hunt worth taking.
Yoshi's Woolly WorldWii U
Yoshi’s Woolly World doesn’t set a new bar for platformers, but it’s a beautiful game that showcases a constant stream of creative ideas. The yarn mechanics fit well with the classic Yoshi gameplay, and it’s a great choice to get all warm and fuzzy with someone this fall.
Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight BelowPS4
Above all Dragon Quest Heroes perfectly captures one of the most essential parts of the series—that it prides itself on joy. It’s a quality that overshadows its shortcomings. Too many JRPGs are overly serious affairs that shove the same tropes down your throat again and again. The levity and unabashed enthusiasm of Dragon Quest creates a childlike wonder that’s still enchanting more than 25 years after the original game.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Hearts of StonePC
Lasting ten to twelve hours with complex characters, diverse scenarios, stunning new locations, and memorable bosses, this ten dollar expansion stands out in a period when many DLC offerings feel like lackluster afterthoughts. Even though it’s an expansion that returns to familiar areas, Hearts of Stone doesn’t feel like it’s merely piggybacking on the main game, but has its own worthwhile tale to tell.
Disgaea 5: Alliance of VengeancePS4
Disgaea 5 is smart enough not to take itself too seriously, leading to genuinely charming and funny moments that go a long way in smoothing over any shortcomings with the storytelling. For every necessary and serious plot point, there are half a dozen bizarre curry jokes. So many strategy games bury players in stats and micromanagement, offering an impressive amount of depth but they’re presented with the same amount of lifelessness as an excel spreadsheet.
Rock Band 4PS4
It’s great that the instruments have been upgraded, but there’s room for a more robust campaign and other missing features with fates likely resting on how successful this reboot is. If you need to buy all of Rock Band 4 to get a band going, it’s a lot to pick up, but it’s a worthy investment if you’re in the market for a great party game. If you’re fortunate enough to already have compatible gear or pre-purchased music ready to download, there’s no reason not to rock again.
For such a short game the environments are reused far too frequently and some extra variety could have helped lessen the backtracking. When you are not fighting enemies, you are free to roam around the open environments in search of hidden collectables and loot chests. There are also side-missions which involve quickly racing between two points, or activating a series of switches. While there aren’t a lot of opportunities for exploration, it's nice how much Platinum has packed into the small areas without it ever feeling cluttered.
Visual Concepts has done a commendable job with just one year of development. NBA 2K16 boasts many on-court improvements over last year, most notably on defensive that help create a better flow during games. Although the microtransactions devalue certain aspects of the game, and Pro-AM has connection issues, the on-court changes and additions are worth checking out for basketball enthusiasts.
The campaign is full of some of our favorite LEGO moments, outshining the film and any of the previous games. Each brand’s open-world, along with any additional level packs you want to pick up, completes the package by giving you zones built just to explore and enjoy. If you’re a fan of any property inside LEGO Dimensions, you’ll appreciate their involvement in this grand venture, and you might walk away a fan of something new.
What Tearaway has in abundance is a sense of wonder. Traveling through its papery world continually presents exciting new areas and mechanics. You’ll cross over platforms that extend and retract in the breeze, enter a lively tavern packed with detail, and fly on a paper airplane over an impressive stormy sea. Even when you think you’ve seen it all, the game has a way of greeting you with new surprises, and the PS4 version has even more levels and areas to explore than the Vita original.
The mission was less profound for us because the game can be empty at times and not in a way that contributes to the solitude you’re supposed to feel. The story can only survive so long on loud, static-filled screams and somber diary entries. If you’re a fan of Frictional Games, you’ll find Soma equally spooky and thought-provoking. At times it was difficult for us to maintain our immersion in this nightmare under the sea.
Shovel Knight: Plague of ShadowsPC
Plague of Shadows is a great addition to an already wonderful game. There’s a lot to experience, and considering the asking price is absolutely nothing, it’s a generous offering. It’s so good in fact, that we’ve enjoyed Plague of Shadows more than most other DLC, which sometimes feel like you’re being charged a lot for little in return. With our love of shoveling rekindled, we hope to see more of this classically-inspired gem very soon.
Final Fantasy XIV: HeavenswardPS4
Even so, the vast majority of Heavensward is outstanding and it’s easy enough to endure the occasional slow patch. A Realm Reborn was an impressive revival when it launched in 2013, and Heavensward elevates the game to an even higher level. Rarely do expansions feel so fully formed. A Realm Reborn is no longer a grand apology, but instead a fantastic Final Fantasy game in its own right.