875 Published Reviews
MechWarrior 5: MercenariesPC
The passage of time has made MechWarrior 5 an interesting enough novelty that it can easily survive its flaws. Controlling a giant stompy robot should be the easiest thing in the world to make an entertaining video game about, but it almost never happens. And while MechWarrior 5 could never be described as instantly accessible, once you get past the initial barriers it does highlight what gaming has been missing out on for all these years, in terms of warring mechanoids.
DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS 2PC
Maybe Dragon Quest’s unique brand of whimsy just isn’t something Western gamers are ever going to get behind, but regardless of which franchise it’s a part of Dragon Quest Builders 2 is one of the best open world experiences of the year. The best Minecraft clone there’s ever been, whose storytelling and role-playing aspects build up into a very different kind of experience.
Shovel Knight: King of CardsSwitch
King Of Cards is easily the worst of the Shovel Knight expansions, which is a real shame because we were going to end this review by advising everyone get Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, which includes the original game and all the expansions (and Showdown) for £35.99. It’s still definitely worth it, for one of the best retro style platformers of the generation, but you should be warned that it starts better than it ends.
Rainbow Six Siege: Operation Shifting TidesPS4
And yet Rainbow Six Siege is now the best it has ever been, and Ubisoft has confirmed that it intends to support the game for as long as it possibly can, with no plans for a sequel in the immediate future. Siege is the closest thing to Counter-Strike on consoles and offers satisfying gunplay and an insane level of tactical depth – as long as you’re not looking to go it alone.
The creator of XCOM returns with some interesting new ideas, but without the budget or time to refine them Phoenix Point struggles to offer a viable alternative to its more established rival.
Life is Strange 2 - Episode 5PS4
Thankfully, Dontnod’s next game, a Microsoft exclusive called Tell Me Why, will release all its episodes within a much shorter time frame and only once they’re all finished. That alone is a very positive step forward and we look forward to it very much, even if we don’t expect to look back on Life Is Strange 2 with as much fondness as we’d hoped.
Alien: Isolation is a must-have for horror fans, even if it is infuriating to see it squander its full potential as the hours tick by and you realise the story is still not going anywhere. There are many lessons to learn from Alien: Isolation, from how to honour the source material when making a tie-in to the fact that sometimes less really is more, but you won’t be thinking about any of that while you’re actually playing; you’ll just be praying the alien hasn’t heard you and that that noise in the air ducts isn’t what you think it is.
One of the more meta questions posed by Gris is whether you think mediocre gameplay is worth putting up with for the glorious visuals and insightful storytelling. It’s not an easy question to answer and depends entirely on how you view video games and interactive storytelling. Whatever its flaws Gris has an emotional reach few other games can boast, and the beauty of its presentation is worth celebrating on any format.
Narcos: Rise of the CartelsPS4
Part of the problem is clearly the budget, with low-tech visuals and poor sound quality, but that would’ve been a lot easier to forgive if the gameplay had been stronger. It’s not awful, and is a reasonable gateway game into other, better games, but the obvious danger is that if you’re unimpressed by the flawed experience of Narcos you might be even less likely to try out XCOM. And since nobody really expected a game based on Narcos to be any good, that would be the real tragedy here.
There’s a little bit of lore to uncover via what are effectively audio logs hidden about the place, but other than that the plot is confined to an opening and closing cut scene, and winds up feeling more like the prelude to a bigger story than a satisfying tale in its own right. While there is certainly much to recommend about Golem, the maze-like city and evocative score in particular, its problems outweigh its pleasures.
Sid Meier's Civilization VIPS4
Another excellent PC to console port, with surprisingly intuitive controls and a wealth of content and options that make this one of the best strategy games ever.
For anyone else though this is a very hard sell. Shenmue 3 is more enjoyable than it sounds but at the same time it is glacially slow about getting nowhere in particular. Its flaws are indefensible, except on the grounds of nostalgia, and yet there’s still a strange, wistful charm to the whole experience. Shenmue was deeply flawed but strangely fascinating back in 2000 and Shenmue 3 is exactly the same now, and we don’t think anyone would have it any other way.
Bubble Bobble 4 FriendsSwitch
We’d love to say that Bubble Bobble 4 Friends is a full return to form for the series, but it doesn’t quite get there. The gameplay and controls are spot on, but the new skills system is underwhelming and the paucity of content (and lack of any kind of online options) is too serious a problem given the asking price. The developers at Taito have clearly still got the magic but this needed just a little more time in the oven. It’s certainly no disgrace to the legacy of the series though and that alone is a major achievement.
Doctor Who: The Edge Of TimePS4
Like so many VR games it’s also very short and while Doctor Who fans will probably feel they’ve had their money’s worth we’d love to travel forward in time to that imagined future moment when someone finally makes a genuinely great Doctor Who game.
STAR WARS Jedi: Fallen OrderPS4
The ending purposefully sets up the potential for sequels and given how close this comes to greatness we’d certainly like to see that happen. But the challenges of making both a good game and a good Star Wars experience are extreme and it’s unsurprising that so few games manage to balance both sides of the equation. Being a Jedi isn’t supposed to be easy, but we would’ve liked it to be a bit more fun than this.
If the game turns up cheap during Black Friday then it’s worth a few pounds for fans of the series, although we wonder how many of those are left after getting on for three decades of terrible sequels. The best thing that can be said about Resistance is that it proves a good Terminator can exist, but it is not that game itself and all it can do is try to play a part in saving the future of the franchise.
Football Manager 2020PC
Football Manager 2019 paved the way with a slew of notable changes but after two weeks with Football Manager 2020 we feel like another giant stride has been taken in the franchise. We know Football Manager owns this genre but to revolutionise year after year and create genuinely useful features, knowing that in reality people will buy the game anyway, is a testament to Sports Interactive.
Pokémon Sword and Shield doesn’t come close to offering that and while it is still a perfectly entertaining experience it’s impossible to play it without constantly thinking about what you’d wish had been done better. If Game Freak, Nintendo, and The Pokémon Company don’t buck their ideas up then it’s inevitable that someone else is going to come along with a better take on the same premise, because Pokémon is much too good an idea to be serviced only by underdeveloped games such as this.
With its low budget looks, dreadful mini-games, and edutainment-lite styling, Bee Simulator is neither fish nor fowl. It’s not realistic or informative enough to teach you about bees, but also fails as a game, making it a signally futile endeavour. That might be forgivable for £5, but at £35 it’s an active slap in the face, and one that you should avoid at all costs.
Need for Speed HeatPS4
There’s also the very obvious fact that Need For Speed Heat is trying its best to ape Forza Horizon (the new destruction effects, where anything smaller than your car instantly explodes into debris if you hit it, is especially familiar) and while it never embarrasses itself by the comparison it’s still far behind in second place. That will mean less to PlayStation owners but no matter how much better Heat is over its immediate predecessors we fear it won’t be quite enough to save the franchise.
Battlefield V Year 2 EditionPS4
Battlefield 5 is hardly alone in that when it comes to first person shooter sequels but by going back to the WWII setting yet again the problem is amplified. And yet, as it is now, Battlefield 5 is still a highly entertaining game and it’s a shame DICE didn’t get a chance to release it like this in the first place.
LAYTON’S MYSTERY JOURNEY: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy - Deluxe EditionSwitch
This is still a fun puzzle compilation that works particularly well on the Switch Lite. Whether it will help rejuvenate the series we don’t know but a new game starring the Professor is supposed to be underway and after this we’d certainly welcome him and his daughter back to the Switch. A welcome return for one of gaming’s greatest puzzle franchises, and while it’s not quite the best in the series it certainly has the most content.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020Switch
A serviceable mini-game compilation with some moderately interesting highlights, held back by peculiar design decisions and little replay value.
A work of unbridled ambition and imagination but also a pretentious, contrived, and frequently quite dull gameplay experience – Death Stranding is peak Hideo Kojima.
Some of the best dialogue of the year and an interestingly original portrayal of Hell overcome a slightly undercooked take on classic graphic adventures.