GEARS 5Xbox One
Gears 5 is the accomplished third-person shooter that wants to show you it can be more. It doesn’t always pan out – the open sections are barren, and intriguing plot points have a tendency to peter out – but those incidental interactions between characters on the battlefield are terrific, as is Jack’s influence on the action. And Christ, the detail in its world. Gears 5 is the ultimate showcase for the series; I’m already looking forward to Super Gears of War 2.
Control is Remedy at its best: pulpy, weird, and immensely satisfying to play. Its setting is a potent concoction of '60s brutalist style and wacky sci-fi. Performance issues hamper the shootouts, and the characters are a little cold, but it's the setting and atmosphere that win the day.
Layers of Fear 2Xbox One
Layers of Fear 2 is crammed with cryptic messages about acting method: ‘You build one character. You destroy the other. There’s no other way,’ one voice croons early on. But I couldn’t help thinking that, in making a new game, you don’t have to destroy the other. There is another way.
SEKIRO: Shadows Die TwicePS4
Is this Miyazaki’s most enchanting world? You could argue that falling back on the natural beauty of Japan is cheating; then again, the landscape lends itself particularly well to Sekiro – the plated sweep of a temple roof that starts to resemble armour, and the canes of a bamboo forest, rattling like raised spears. No other developer makes places that feel like this, and you realise what FromSoftware must be to other studios around the world: a shadow that keeps coming back.