There's a moment in the beginning chapters of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End where series hero Nathan Drake and his wife Elena sit at home on their couch and eat dinner while talking ,as two normal people living normal lives in a normal house. The dissonance of this scene compared to the expected run and gun Indiana Jones-style action of the franchise is deafening, and yet this brief moment of routine sets a perfect tone for the rest of the game.
Many years ago today, Morrowind hit the shelves, giving us much more than a sequel. It gave us a content-packed living and open world that was set a standard even above those set before it and become the new bar by which all other games like it would be judged.
Hitman’s first episode took place in Paris, but it really didn’t show much of the actual city as most of the action took place indoors. Not that it had to, since just hearing the name Paris inspires all types of mental imagery and the fashion show featured in the first Hitman episode really captured that modern high-fashion feeling. This episode takes place in Sapienza, Italy and unless you’re familiar with some of the lesser known towns in Italy this name doesn’t evoke the same icons that Paris does. Despite that, this episode’s mission features a beautiful and more fully realized environment than its predecessor.
In 2007, the shift over to next generation consoles was in full swing. Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 had been on the market for some time and developers were getting comfortable working with the new and more powerful machines. Rockstar North in particular had still been running on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Liberty City Stories, and Vice City Stories in 2004, 2005 and 2006 respectively without a true foray into the then-next generation. Rockstar North wouldn’t stay quiet forever though and just a couple years later, it would come forth with one of the most substantial updates to the Grand Theft Auto formula since its transfer to 3D space with Grand Theft Auto 3. Today, we celebrate Grand Theft Auto IV’s arrival on shelves in North America and the standard it set for next-gen open world games going forward.
The Ratchet and Clank series has been around long enough to earn a number entries for the franchise. While most of them have been the third-person action platformers the series is known for, there have been outliers throughout the years. Games like Ratchet and Clank: All 4 one and Full Frontal Assault added things like drop-in drop-out co-op and tower defense elements to deviate from the formula. This year's revisiting of Ratchet and Clank attempts to take the series back to its roots, while also tying into the upcoming movie that retells the events of the first game. Ratchet and Clank isn’t a remaster or a direct remake of the original because of it. More than anything the changes made in this reboot have improved on what made the first game so memorable.
The Metal Gear series has been one of the premier franchises in gaming for nearly two decades, but it wasn’t always sitting on top of the industry. The late 1980s and early 1990s in particular were a confusing time for the budding franchise. One prime example of that was Snake’s Revenge, which arrived on United States shelves in 1990 today. The game wasn’t awful. In fact, it was quite a serviceable action title for the NES, but it’s somewhat shady production, combined with somewhat absurd publishing made for a game that would eventually drive Hideo Kojima to create a true sequel to the original Metal Gear.
It seems like only yesterday that Bloodborne came out. Indeed, it’s actually only been a little bit over a year since its initial launch and its last DLC came in late November 2015. Nonetheless, here we are at Dark Souls III, and despite that alarmingly short timeframe, this game doesn’t feel rushed in the least. In fact, it feels like a culmination of all of From Software’s experience brought in at the highest level. However, where Dark Souls II felt like a continuation and natural evolution of the original Dark Souls, Dark Souls III feels more like an extension of Dark Souls II mixed with a few fresh lessons learned from Bloodborne to create a richer and more powerful overall experience.
If you combined the hack-slash-evade combat mechanics from Dark Souls and simplified, top-down style Hotline Miami, and threw them into a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk world, you'd have Hyper Light Drifter. While it does borrow from those games, and others in smaller ways, this game is still a unique experience. Hyper Light Drifter’s sound and visual design do a great a job of building a world that feels surprisingly alive for being so empty. Narratively there are hints of a much larger story than what’s presented but without an actual payoff, you’re left wandering through an interesting and beautiful world that never really makes much sense. That’s only where the frustration begins with Hyper Light Drifter however thanks to some questionable design choices.
Dark Souls is supremely crafted, unique action RPG. Its difficulty, which is an amalgam of stamina and item management, patience during combat, and deciphering cryptic mechanics are things that are unique to this series of games. Playing through a Dark Souls game makes you feel like you accomplished something with your skill alone. Once you learn your move set with certain weapons or learn how to properly time your spells the game feels easy but not because you just mashed the correct attack button. It still feels satisfying because you learned how to beat those enemies. Boss fights in Dark Souls are an extension of that at a much larger scale though. Going up against a giant knight or Dragon and slaying them with just a sliver of health is exhilarating in a game that rewards skilled play and punishes impatience more than anything.
Some of gaming’s heaviest icons arrived early and have stayed late into the current day. Other companies attempted to field icons in hope of catching on like the Marios, Sonics, or Master Chiefs only to fade into obscurity. Kratos is an icon that arrived late to the party and made his presence known, riding to fame on the backs of dead Olympian Gods and Titans in his bloodthirsty quest for revenge. Since its release, God of War has spawned numerous sequels, spin-offs and media outside of video games. The games are regular fixtures in Top 10 lists and Game of the Year conversations and all of it began with the original release of God of War back in 2005.