A wise man once said, “In the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium, there is only war.” Warhammer 40,000: Gladius - Relics of War attempts to create a Civilization-like 4X game against that backdrop, but can’t seem to get away from the fact that war is really all there is to do in the 40K universe. Luckily, it does war pretty well.
Gladius puts you in command of one of four distinct factions: the elite Space Marines, the savage Orks, the creepy Necrons, and the dutiful troopers I’m told I’m supposed to call the Astra Militarum now, even though to me they’ll always be the Imperial Guard. Each has a unique and expansive unit roster that covers a lot of the bases from the tabletop, with everything from Space Marine Dreadnoughts to Necron Doomsday Arks. Almost every unit has a clear, straightforward combat role that can be played off of others to create potent combos.
In 2013, Super Mario 3D World’s ‘Adventures of Captain Toad’ challenges impressed Shigeru Miyamoto so much that he requested a full game be made out of them. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was released for Wii U a year later, comprising 68 intricate levels based on the Japanese tradition of hakoniwa, or miniature gardening. Here’s what we thought at the time:
“Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is one of the smartest, most charming puzzle games of 2014. I’d also call it one of the best platformers of the year, except these characters can’t jump. It speaks volumes about Treasure Tracker’s wit and environment design that it completely strips us of the mobility powers that we’ve come to expect from a game set in the Super Mario universe and still provides lots of interesting puzzle options.”
I didn’t expect much from Pokemon Quest when I first started playing it. This mobile spin-off has an adorable art style, but it seemed overwhelmingly simple on the surface. However, as I spent more time cultivating cubular Pokemon, Pokemon Quest’s infectious and astonishingly deep Pokemon customization compulsively hooked me -- but maybe not in the most fun way.
The combat in Pokemon Quest isn’t the draw of this free-to-play game, requiring little input and even offering an ‘auto’ button that effectively makes it play itself. It may not seem like it, but Pokemon Quest is closer to a puzzle game, challenging you to compose the perfect team for each expedition.
Last year’s Sonic Mania was a superb return to form for one of gaming’s most enduring icons, and Sega has now delivered even more Sonic in the form of Sonic Mania Plus, which you can get as either DLC – titled Encore – or a physical bundle that includes the main game, the DLC, and a 32-page art book. But before you get fanatical over the prospect of more Sonic Mania, temper your expectations: the new content isn’t all up to the same standard.
Sonic Mania Plus/Encore has a couple of major additions. The first involves a pair of vaguely familiar faces from an extremely obscure Japanese arcade game called Segasonic the Hedgehog: Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel. (Mighty was also in Knuckles’ Chaotix.) Like Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles, the duo comes with unique abilities: Mighty has a ground-pound that can shatter barriers and bypass certain enemy defenses like bumpers, and his shell renders him invulnerable to spikes while attacking, making some prickly levels and bosses a fair bit easier. Ray has a gliding ability that allows him to soar over long stretches of a stage. It’s a neat ability – but it’s only really useful in more open areas because using it in more cramped, hazard-laden levels like Metallic Madness and Chemical Plant can often be quite challenging.
All in all, Call of Duty: WW2’s United Front DLC feels experimental and exciting in some ways, while safer and dull in others. The changes to the Zombies mode dramatically shake up the formula and make it a high point worth visiting, but otherwise, the mostly underwhelming new maps aren’t breaking any new ground.
When I first played Call of Duty: WW2 at release, it felt like a bizarre omission to not visit Stalingrad as a multiplayer destination. Over the years I feel like I’ve fought battles on that field countless times, because as the largest conflict to take place in all of WW2, it’s always been a staple for shooters based on the war. United Front finally brings it back, and it’s the best of the three new maps.
In a lot of ways, The Crew 2 feels more like a reboot of the first game than it does a simple sequel. The dramatic shift in tone is perhaps the key reason for this, though the fact that it’s taken a second swing at recreating the entire continental USA for the setting is another. I welcome the lighter approach to the campaign mode and the fun mix of new vehicle types and racing disciplines here, but it’s still a little rough around the edges and missing some surprising features.
A large amount of content has been added to this open-world race ’em up; most notably, aircraft and boats, plus whole suites of events for each. A lot has been made of The Crew 2’s ‘Fast Fav’ system, which allows us to magically change between vehicles on the fly. It admittedly works really well and I can’t imagine playing without it. The novelty of flying miles above the Earth, turning into a boat and spearing into the ocean does wear off, but there’s no denying it’s tremendously conducive to moving around the world, exploring, and creating ridiculous emergent gameplay moments.
Donkey Kong Adventure is a full-fledged new world for Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle that puts an ape-flavored twist on its bouncy and colorful turn-based tactical gameplay. It gives up some flexibility to focus its levels so heavily on Donkey Kong's new powers, but in doing so it makes its battles more interesting than just more of the same.
I'm not going to try to explain the absurdist story that brings Beep-O and Rabbid Peach to Donkey Kong's world to battle a beefed-up Rabbid Kong. It's funny and well animated, but you kinda have to be there (and appreciate the Rabbids' goofy schtick).
When we first reviewed Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus we gave it a 9.1 for Amazing. Here’s what we said about it then:
“Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus is a fantastic single-player shooter, but what really got me invested was the brilliantly written characters and the performances of its cast. BJ and his crew are full of spirit and personality, and General Engel is as memorable a nemesis as you’re likely to find in games. Machine Games has once again turned the well-worn act of mowing down Nazis into something to get excited about." Read our original Wolfenstein 2 review.
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit may not be particularly adventurous, per se, but it has heart on its side. This free Life is Strange prequel episode centers on the relationship between a wonderfully imaginative boy and his emotionally withdrawn father, but for all the depth and humanity of its storytelling it lacks enough tough challenges or meaningful decisions to make participating feel exciting.
Dontnod’s two-hour game revolves around an innocently charming nine-year-old named Chris Erikson and his imaginary alter ego Captain Spirit as he copes with the death of his mother. The father-son dynamic is the emotional center of the story and certainly succeeded at moving me; Chris' father, Charles, clings to his basketball glory days and his beer and vents his sadness by yelling at Chris and leaving fist-sized dents in doors. (I happened to play Awesome Adventures soon after completing Detroit: Become Human, and the similar elements have me slightly concerned that “dads with substance abuse problems who scream at their children” is a troubling new gaming subgenre.) Though the story isn’t notably innovative, it’s engaging enough that I was never bored.
When we first reviewed Red Faction: Guerrilla in 2009, we gave it an 8.0, for Great. Here’s what we said about it back then:
If all you care about is blasting things to pieces, you're going to love Red Faction: Guerrilla. Seeing a tower topple to the ground in a seemingly realistic fashion after smacking away its support beams with a sledgehammer is really a thrill, and though it may lose its appeal as you continue through the lengthy campaign, it's still worth checking out, particularly after you unlock some of the better weapons. What's more disappointing about Volition's effort is the rocky mission design, bland artistic style, weak plot and anemic character development, which shifts too much focus to the element of destruction to maintain a level of excitement. Its enjoyable gunplay mechanics, along with the weapons and opportunity for tearing apart structures, carry over into the online space, where Volition has built an impressive multiplayer suite that includes stat tracking, unlocks, and a number of game modes that focus on flattening buildings. While the game may not do everything right, it's your best bet for free-form demolition and unpretentious entertainment. - Charles Onyett
It’s not hard to get lost in the deep, subterranean world of Hollow Knight – and I mean that in more ways than one. The expansive catacombs of Hallownest have countless paths to explore and secrets to find. But more than that, it’s rich with lore, history, and purpose that drew me into a 2D Metroidvania kingdom I wanted to uncover every inch of.
The deeper I went into Hollow Knight, the more I was surprised at just how much content and freedom it has to offer. I could wander in basically any direction and find bosses to fight, upgrades to collect, and secrets to uncover. But what’s truly captivating about the exploring this long-dead kingdom is its atmosphere. Art, music, color tone, sound, and a million other little details combine to give each area of the map a distinct sense of place, and those areas jigsaw together in a way that feels intentional and alive.
I’ve been dumped in the middle of a foreboding, eerily quiet wilderness – like you typically are in open-world first-person survival games. As I make my way to the nearest coast, I’m startled out of my foraging by a bestial grunt and prepare to defend myself. But the hunched and disheveled creature pursuing me stops several yards short of tearing my face off… and waits to see what I do. This was the moment I realize The Forest is going to spend the next 30ish hours cleverly and terrifyingly subverting my expectations.
The wooded, alpine peninsula that becomes your home is almost idyllic in its quiet splendor, made up of delightfully verdant woodlands and sparkling ponds. But it’s also inhabited by several tribes of feral, macabre cannibals who mark their territory with grotesque effigies of human skin and bone from their victims. From the moment I first came across one, the peaceful, easy feeling turned into a constant paranoia. Everything was always just a bit too quiet, and even twigs snapping from my own footsteps or a rabbit darting out of a bush could make me jump.
Playing a match in Mario Tennis Aces is like challenging someone to an arm wrestle and a staring contest simultaneously. Muscling your opponent around the court with clever shot selection and proper baseline positioning during a rally is as essential as ever, but it’s the layer of fighting game-inspired mechanics applied on top that adds unblinking tension and strategy to each and every point you play. As a result, Mario Tennis Aces serves up some of the most refined and rewarding gameplay in the series to date, but passes up the opportunity to make the most of it with an underdeveloped single-player mode and slight customisation options.
There’s a lot of appeal to the idea of a top-down action RPG that lets you blast your way through the Warhammer 40K universe as a power-armored behemoth, a deadly assassin, or a devastatingly powerful psychic. Unfortunately, Inquisitor - Martyr’s repetitive combat and bizarre itemization leave a lot of that potential squandered. It’s far from being a disaster, with a cool story and plenty of single- and multiplayer modes to be had, but manages to fall well short of most other contenders in the Diablo-like subgenre.
The story puts you into the morally questionable jackboots of an Inquisitor: an elite agent of the Imperium of Man whose job is to track down and eliminate cultists, heretics, and aliens who oppose the God-Emperor’s rule. Each of the three potential Inquisitors has a unique voice and personality brought to life by voice actors who aren’t afraid to ham it up in true 40K fashion, and seem to be having a good time doing it. Even the supporting cast has dialogue that's well-written and well-acted, even if they're a bit two-dimensional in terms of characterization.
If most single-player campaigns in online shooters are designed to get your feet wet before throwing you into the pool with other players, Splatoon 2’s Octo Expansion is designed to throw you into the intimidating deep end. Many of its cleverly designed levels are not afraid to ask for a certain level of skill as they test you in more than just combat scenarios; some demand precise platforming or evasion against overwhelming odds, while others tease your brain to manipulate the environment and guide vulnerable objects to a goal. The sheer variety and difficulty of challenges, encased in a somber and grimy take on Splatoon’s world, leads to a single-player experience that rarely pulls its punches.
I remember the first Unravel more for its adorable protagonist and lush setting than as a puzzle platformer. But Unravel 2 goes a long way to change that, tabling a more accomplished, and at times demanding, platforming experience with puzzles to match.
The most immediately-noticeable change is the addition of a second playable Yarny. The entire story mode can still be tackled solo, however, and I did so without ever feeling at a major disadvantage. When playing alone, Unravel Two allows you to quickly entwine both Yarnys to create a single multi-coloured character, meaning platforming sections only have to be tackled once, thankfully. It’s an elegant little mechanic that works well, even if the image of their spliced beings is ever so slightly harrowing. That said, there are a couple of sections that I can imagine being slightly easier or more elegant with a partner, but it never felt mandatory.
What could possibly go wrong when managing an island amusement park full of giant, man-eating monsters? Lots of things, though in this case they’re not the kind that lead to good gameplay. With so few interesting decisions and so much mundane busywork going on in Jurassic World Evolution, there is no need to, as Samuel L. Jackson once famously recommended, “hold onto your butts.”
Jeff Goldblum lends his recognizable-anywhere voice to some of the narration as Dr. Ian Malcolm, and he’s clearly having a lot of fun with the pronunciation of the islands’ names – just wait until you hear him say “Isla Matanceros” in the opening flyover cutscene – but otherwise it very much sounds like his first read-through of the script. Opposite him are a handful of Jurassic World actors, including Bryce Dallas Howard and B.D. Wong, and then there’s someone voicing Chris Pratt's character who doesn’t even seem to be making an attempt at impersonating him.
Agent 47 returns this November 13 for Hitman 2! No, not Hitman 2: Silent Assassin - the other Hitman 2. The one that's actually Hitman 7, if you count all the episodes of the previous game as one and not counting Hitman Go. (It's also not the second Hitman movie, Hitman: Agent 47.)
Confused yet? LOOK OUT BEHIND YOU! Assassins often attempt to confuse their prey to make them drop their guard and become easy targets. So when you really think about it, flipping through this slideshow of every IGN Hitman review is the only hope you have of warding off being murdered with a Dustbuster or something. It spans from 2000's Hitman: Codename 47 to 2016's Hitman Episode 6: Hokkaido, and contains the impressions of every reviewer when they were fresh off the kill in each game.
Take one look at the high-fantasy landscapes of Summerset and you might be fooled into thinking that all The Elder Scrolls Online’s newest expansion brings is simply “more of the same.” And it's true that in many ways, Zenimax Online Studios has stuck to what has helped make TESO into one of the better MMORPGs out today. Yet underneath the beauty of the High Elven island lies a darker side, one TESO doesn’t shy away from. As a result, Summerset is both familiar and foreign; full of grace yet surprisingly sinister.
One of the aspects that The Elder Scrolls Online excels at is that even though its story is tied into the larger plot, new players can pick up the expansion and start from Summerset with no knowledge of the events leading up to this point. Improving on the stories that came before it, Summerset picks up after the events of last year's excellent Morrowind expansion. The young and charismatic Queen Ayrenn of the High Elves has opened up the island of Summerset to outsiders, and most locals tend to look on newcomers such as yourself as so much chopped liver. This is felt not just in quest dialogue, but simply listening to the High Elves while passing by, such as an Altmer who was berating an Orc for not knowing the exact, proper way to challenge him to a duel. And Eight forbid you’re an Argonian, as you’ll be seen as nothing more than just barely...
Onrush is the racing game for people that don’t like traditional racing games. It’s the Super Smash Bros. of the racing genre, and after spending several hours slamming into my opponents I can say with confidence it scratches an itch I didn’t know I had.
In Onrush, you’re not competing to finish the course in the fastest time. There are no laps, no passing cars, and no placings at the end – just a winning team and a losing team. Instead, all of the cars during a match are mushed into what’s referred to as the “stampede,” a mob that careens throughout courses causing destruction and explosions with extreme frequency. This bizarre setup is a major shock to the system at first, but once I came to grips with Onrush’s unique flair, I realized that not all change is bad.