Volta is a significant addition to FIFA and while it doesn’t all hit the right notes, it’s a largely enjoyable way to play a wealth of content, including a story mode that’s more concise and engaging than The Journey. Elsewhere, improvements have been made to the core FIFA 20 experience, especially when it comes to defending, but overall controlling the ball feels less consistently fluid. For someone not attracted by the allure of Volta, the stilted pace, coupled with a neglect of offline modes such as Career, make it FIFA 20 an adequate but underwhelming entry into the series.
Sayonara Wild HeartsSwitch
Sayonara Wild Hearts plays more like an extended interactive music video than it does a traditional video game, but it’s still a wonderful time. It offers little in terms of challenge (if you aren’t hunting high scores) or substantial player input, but the stirring soundtrack and impressive art and animation all lead to a moving experience that culminates in a joyful finale.
WRC 8 is a rock-solid rally racer that’s now looming very large in the rearview mirror of current off-road kingpin Dirt Rally 2.0. It’s still not quite as beautiful or broad as the latter but the additions made on top of WRC 7 – particularly the dynamic weather and the vastly improved career mode – are real gamechangers.
I enjoyed myself just about every step of the way through GreedFall’s epic, morally complex tale of exploration and swashbuckling. The Technomancer was disappointing, but I still wanted to see other games try the ambitious things it was attempting with more success - and GreedFall delivers on that promise. There are still glitches, awkward character models, immersion-breaking re-use of assets, and a general bugginess that keep it from being unambiguously excellent, but I have a feeling this is going to be a crowd-pleaser.
Depending on the mode you like to play, NHL 20 is a winner or a loser. The on-ice action improves thanks to the reworked shooting system, and the World of Chel arcade modes gain a little more depth. However, the frustrating lack of changes for EASHL and Be A Pro undermine the popular modes.
Daemon X MachinaSwitch
Like a mech without a pilot, Daemon X Machina is a beautiful shell with not enough to fill it. It’s a frustrating thing - simultaneously proving that there’s life in this old genre, but failing to inject much of interest beyond the base level. I was thrilled enough by the opportunity to truly micro-manage a mech for the first time in a while, but there just wasn’t enough to do with my creation once I was done tinkering.
Gears 5’s veritable horde of multiplayer modes is the best package the series has delivered yet. The excitement of welcome additions like the new chaotic Arcade Versus and the unpredictable Escape maps mixes with timeless classic thrills like getting awesome Gnasher kills to take out enemy leaders in Versus and claiming close victories in Horde. It all refines and expands upon the series’ already diverse range of ways to play. And while there's a good level of depth to Gears 5's combat, even if you choose not to indulge fully in it you and your friends can still have a great time anyway.
NBA 2K continues its tradition of upping already tremendous gameplay, emulating the real-life sport in ways that didn’t seem possible just years ago. The inclusion of the WNBA may be this year’s biggest step forward, especially because it does an excellent job showcasing the many gameplay improvements from last year. MyCareer also continues to improve in small and noticeable ways, setting a new standard for story modes in sports games.
Being untethered from persistent servers and able to trade loot at will is a refreshing change of pace, but that’s hardly the only reason why this such an amazing co-op FPS. The sheer magnitude and diversity of its arsenal of fun and surprising weaponry is unmatched, and the striking amount of loving detail and variety packed into its energetic and replayable 30-hour campaign is what makes Borderlands 3 a high-point for the series – and the genre as a whole.
A creepy and unsettling action-platformer, Blasphemous has an eery atmosphere, gorgeous pixel art, and intricate animations that never fail to impress. The combat can be satisfying, but relies too heavily on memorization, which makes backtracking through its non-linear world eventually turn stale. And while the visual variety at least keeps things looking fresh, superfluous and poorly implemented upgrade mechanics keep Blasphemous from having the amount of depth seen in many other games across the genre. It’s still an enjoyable Metroidvania, just not an all that memorable one.
Catherine: Full BodyPS4
Catherine is a timeless classic, and Full Body does a great job of adding meaningful new content and plenty of small tweaks that breathe fresh life into it. It’s the perfect entry point for those who missed the 2011 original. It may be a little too familiar for those who already experienced everything Catherine had to offer eight years ago, but there’s still value to be had with Rin’s excellent story arc, remix mode, online multiplayer, and plethora of new puzzles.
Monster Hunter: World - IcebornePS4
A true beast of an expansion, Monster Hunter World: Iceborne adds a boatload of impressive new and returning monsters and improvements to an already incredible game. It’s almost big enough to be a sequel in terms of the sheer amount of content it adds – even if it leans a little bit too heavily on Subspecies and Variants of familiar monsters at times (though that’s an issue veteran fans may not be bothered by as much). Iceborne is exciting and creative throughout, reiterating Monster Hunter: World’s place as one of the very best games of this generation.
Gears of War may have initially thrived because it refined and helped revive the third-person cover shooter, but it has survived for a much less obvious reason: it has heart. From Dom’s search for his wife Maria in the first two games to the breaking of a bond in Gears of War 3 to the passing of the torch to a new generation of Gears the last time out, this series matters because its characters make you care. Gears 5 is no different, and the consequences from your actions here – along with its welcome gameplay improvements – will affect both this and future games in a way I’m eager to see.
Blair Witch is one of the most successfully terrifying horror games I’ve ever played. More so even than any of the Amnesia games, it made me feel like I’d been dragged feet-first through Hell by the end. Discovering Ellis’ troubled past and the often relatable demons it left him with grounded it all and made each eerie or excruciatingly frightful moment personal. Some small technical issues and poor feedback about progress on optional objectives aside, it’s excellently constructed from the tops of the trees to the depths of its madness.
Man of Medan lacks the campy charm of Until Dawn, but still offers an unnerving horror adventure with consequences that felt directly linked to my actions. If you can get through its slow beginning twice, playing through with a co-op partner is a blast as you both properly explore its many branching storylines.
Control is set in an engrossingly weird paranormal world that I couldn’t help but explore. Jesse’s versatile psychic skills and main weapon make for thrilling ranged combat. And thanks to a strong supporting cast, a well-written script, and plenty of intriguing breadcrumb trails, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my adventure through the shifting rooms of Oldest House. Jesse’s personal story feels like an afterthought next to that, but there’s enough to Control’s world that I remain invested in uncovering every secret, even though the story’s over.
Astral Chain is another excellent game from Platinum, and one of the best action games of this generation. Period. Fighting off alien invaders with a Legion robot by your side proves to be even more fun than it looks, which is saying a lot. Even outside of combat, the world and its characters brim with life – other than the main protagonist, that is. Excellent pacing artfully balances tense action with enticing exploration to create a deeply satisfying and charmingly quirky ride.
Ancestors: the Humankind OdysseyPC
Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey's greatest challenge is working out – or simply Googling – how its basic survival, crafting, and combat mechanics work. Once you understand them they become mostly trivial, and the main appeal becomes appreciating the exploration of the huge and lush prehistoric African map. Evolving your tribe’s abilities feels artificially drawn out, but it’s hard not to develop a soft spot for these disposable apes because of their authentic animations.
Oninaki is a gorgeous, distinctive, entertaining RPG that isn’t afraid to explore some heavy themes in novel and thought-provoking ways. It never rises above the fact that the combat feels like it’s not quite there. And at times, it can be overly wordy in the fashion that JRPGs often are. But its dark, beautiful world is a place I never tired of exploring, and the in-depth progression and customization systems provided plenty for my inner D&D nut to sink his teeth into.
Wreckfest is the long-overdue return of serious, high-quality destruction racing and, in that admittedly slim niche, it’s the king of the crop. It lacks a little spark off the track but out in the thick of it it’s some of the most frantic fun you can have on four wheels. I play plenty of serious racers, but sometimes it’s nice to toss the rulebook into the back seat and get out in the mud and trade some paint.
Telling Lies is a rich, deep story that keeps on giving, even after you’ve finished your first playthrough. Every one of its short video clips is packed with meaning, and working out where you should go next is rewarding because each subplot is gripping: once I’d started following a thread it was hard to stop, and the more you do the more you’ll find connections to the main plot. I sometimes felt like I was battling the UI, but it was worth it to watch this talented cast bring a complex story to life.
Remnant: From the AshesPC
Remnant: From the Ashes is a co-op action-RPG that's punishing and grotesque, but exciting and beautiful all at the same time. Despite the occasional difficulty spikes and slightly disappointing gear system, the thrill of finally beating a boss that’s had your number for hours is unmatched.
RAD is a lot deeper than it looks at first glance, and a lot more challenging too. Both are good things, and the procedurally generated layouts and mutations guarantee that variety will always be served. Sometimes you’ll play for minutes and other times for hours – I’m about eight hours deep so far – but the more time you spend with RAD, the more likely you are to click “New Run” when you finally die.