1279 Published Reviews
As much as Hitman III was a pleasure to play, it left me longing for the mood of the old games—for that European concoction of sirens and splashing rain, drenched in Jesper Kyd’s cold scores. I’m as excited as anyone for Project 007, but I wonder how long we will be left looking for 47—a wraith in a red tie, who has proven elusive enough to slip IO’s grasp.
The scenes that have lodged most deeply in my memory are not those devoted to the chases, the shootouts, or the narrow squeaks, but those possessed of a quiet empathy.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold WarPS5
What I didn’t expect from the new Call of Duty was downtime, and the suggestion, at least in the first half, that guns, while great for going in blazing, can provide just as potent a thrill when holstered.
You wanted the sprite to win, and you welcomed the explosion of spring. By contrast, the creatures of The Pathless put up a good fight, but, once you’ve felled them, and the shadows leak away, you almost wish they would rage against the dawning of the light.
One reaction to seeing Sackboy dressed up as a yak—complete with plush horns, fur, and a flapping tongue—and pouncing his way through a level lined with spikes while Let’s Dance, by David Bowie, blasts forth would be to say, “It’s possible that I’m being manipulated here.” Another reaction would be to enjoy yourself.
For those already in thrall to Miyazaki, Bluepoint has paid the finest tribute: it has crafted a game that has, like one of his looping levels, deposited us back at the beginning, illuminating our route through the years.
At the end of Astro’s Playroom, it’s worth taking the time to survey the PlayStation Labo: the gleaming hub into which is herded the treasures of your efforts—the consoles, the peripherals, the discs—along with a trove of your own private recollections. Evidently, that is what Sony has done, too, taking stock of the chapters behind, and looking to what lies ahead.
The FalconeerXbox Series X
Far more than the combat—whose charm ebbs away on a tide of repetition after the first few hours—the draw of The Falconeer is its suggestion that, while we may be shaped by our stories, they don’t pin us down, that the mere act of living is to take flight from the past.
Assassin's Creed ValhallaPS4
Sadly, that string of hours, spent clambering up towers and defogging the map, bounding across the fields in a hopeful, happy loop, was the last of the fun on offer. Why should this be the case? Why do these games so often, these days, thicken and stale before their stories are done? I can put my finger on a couple of reasons.
Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles MoralesPS5
Whether or not you feel as though you have gotten your money’s worth will depend on how you measure that worth. Is it solely on length? If so, fair enough, but may I suggest a rejigging of the assessment. This is that rarest of things: the lean AAA release. And I for one wish to congratulate it for not bowing to the usual blockbuster diktat: Be Longer.
Yakuza: Like a DragonPS4
I thought to myself, Wait a minute, why would a has-been cop, a hostess, and a homeless man be bound up in the adventures of a currently unemployed ex-mobster on a mission of redemption? Then it hit me: it’s because he’s a hero, they are his party, and there is a quest to be carried out. We become like Kasuga, seeing the world in video game terms and finding it not only liberating but actually more coherent. Leave it to fantasy to crush the reality.
Watch Dogs LegionPS4
Where the action comes alive is in the leaving behind of bodies altogether. Most missions involve breaking and entering, and the thrill lies in the absence of any breaking.
In the earlier, sandy hours, that restlessness is a boon—the work of a developer surveying the drier sweeps of a genre and divining a bright pool of ideas. It’s essential playing for horror buffs. What about everyone else? If you’re hungry for frights, this will do the job, and much else besides. But if you want a story that stays grounded, and a mood that hones and hangs around? Forget it.
The Solitaire ConspiracyPC
Why, then, would I recommend The Solitaire Conspiracy? There are two reasons. The first is that it was clearly forged from a love of Solitaire, and even its failures feel like restless, riffled expressions of that love. They seem like an exploration of its opaque design, at perhaps too great a cost.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About TimePS4
Toys for Bob, on the other hand, has to contend with the now—an altogether wearier epoch, less wide-eyed—and its strategy is to strain for intricacy by heaping on the mechanics and the clutter, in the hope of stopping it all from rusting up. Whatever the antic designs of Dr. Tropy, there is a deeper story here, and it’s one that centres on a far sadder subject: it’s about time.
STAR WARS: SquadronsPS4
The art direction, led by Mike Yazijian, offers up a feast of backdrops. One fight unfolds just off the shore of a cracked moon, whose bone-white innards unspool into the void; another rages through a blood-red nebula, as though space were suffering a bout of eczema. Forget about the stale story. Leave the briefings behind. Get your head in your cockpit!
Mafia: Definitive EditionPS4
If you’re hoping for a sombre tale of lives brought low by the touch of darkness, my advice would be to go for a ride, take in the sights, and, in the encouraging words of one of Tommy’s fellow-crooks, “Just don’t think about it.”
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2PS4
As the Tony Hawk series rolled on, it amassed a muddy crust of gimmicks—storylines, peripheral hardware, Bam Margera—that jammed the clean, whirring wheels of its appeal. The new studios pay both respect and homage to the original releases by valuing their clarity above all else.
These gripes, I expect, won’t bother those gripped by the prospect of continuous Avenging, who will frantically anticipate the raft of new heroes being piped in via DLC. Power to them. There may well be the feeling of a missed opportunity here, but no matter. Almost worthy is still pretty good.
The more I played the less the goings-on of the narrative bothered me, and the more I relished the wavelike rhythm of the action: the roll and crash of sailing and breaking to alight for supplies.
Samurai Jack: Battle Through TimePC
What’s on offer here is a version of what would only have been available, back then, from a top-flight studio; a haven for those who crave a hit of Tartakovsky; and a hack-and-slash hardly ahead of the curve but happy to polish the past. In short, a place between time.
Blending both adventure and management sim, the player cares for these characters and wanders into the wonder of this world, which lights up with each new island discovered. It explores the role of both parties in death; is it the responsibility of the spirit or the Spiritfarer to sew together the uncomfortable threads of loss?
If you’re willing to devote a weekend to its mood of windbitten despondency (it’s only fifteen or so hours long), you will not emerge from Mortal Shell unrewarded. For one thing, you will have lunged and hacked your way through a carefully wrought, underwritten, but satisfying action game—one faithfully arranged in the patterns of From Software’s masterwork, with its shrines, its currency (lost, but recoverable, after death) and its difficulty (not as alpine as that of its inspiration).
The designs of Elizabeth’s family aren’t so much foreshadowed as foreshouted, and the plot soon wavers off-key and winds up shipwrecked. But something about it hangs around, like the hum of an unsettling tune.
Fight Crab shares a lot of similarities with the glorious gladiatorial battles of Ancient Rome, which were what made primary school history lessons actually fun. Though, like the sporting spectacle, it might not be everyone's cup of tea.