If Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash were a book, it would have the cover of an epic novel and the pages of a children’s book. What was billed as a fun and engaging Mario sports game is lacking in both, and instead presents a shallow game that takes all of twenty minutes to fully experience. In a year where Nintendo seemed to make massive strides, delivering a major new IP and finally showing some understanding of how DLC can make games better, Mario Tennis Ultra Smash serves as an unwanted reminder of how Nintendo used to work.
Battlefront is meant to be the Star Wars video game to get as the world awaits the theatrical release of The Force Awakens. While Battlefront doesn't particularly fall under the doomed movie-based video game curse, it certainly feels like one. As a few more months of development could've greatly helped players get more bang for their buck when it comes to this multiplayer frag-fest. Luckily, Star Wars Battlefront is meant to tap into both the success that the first-person shooter genre has gotten over the years with the likes of the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises and the overall boom in hype/merchandising leading into The Force Awakens. Battlefront certainly doesn't reinvent online multiplayer FPS gameplay or even have any lasting reasons to keep you coming back for more, but its presentation and nostalgic values are more than enough to keep casual gamers out there entertained.
The spectacle of sports entertainment is difficult to perfect in a three-hour Monday night time slot every week, let alone an interactive video game, but 2K Sports sets out every year to bring the professional wrestling experience to gaming consoles everywhere. WWE 2K16 is the studio's latest endeavor, and while there are a lot of improvements from last year's title, the game just can't get the job done.
The finale to Telltale's Game of Thrones first season has been a long time coming. For months, we've been lying in wait for the moment when the Forresters would be able to exact their revenge, and stake the true claim to Ironrath. It's been an tumultuous journey to get to this point, to be sure, but no one person's story in Game of Thrones ever goes quite the way it was envisioned. In the past year, we've done everything we could to try and make sure the Forresters didn't meet a horrible fate, and to ensure things worked out for the family struck with incredible tragedies. But we forgot one crucial thing--there are no happy endings in Westeros.
What began in 1998 as a space-themed variant on the sword-and-sorcery of Warcraft has become a gaming phenomenon, with a successful sequel and more expansion packs and gaming tournaments than you can shake a pylon at. Now, Legacy of the Void, the final expansion pack to Starcraft II, closes out the story which began nearly two decades ago, forcing players to push their actions-per-minute to the brink if they want to save the universe from the looming threat annihilating everything in its path (and pwn every Zerg-rushing noob this side of Korhal).
Activision's three-year cycle of development for the Call of Duty series continues with Treyarch's latest entry, Black Ops III. The former Tony Hawk Pro Skater studio known for Call of Duty: World at War are taking things to the future with their third Black Ops title. Continuing in the footsteps of Sledgehammer Games' release of Advanced Warfare last year, Black Ops III fully moves things even later into the future. Some of the more acrobatic moves and skills we saw in both Titanfall and Advanced Warfare are making a return here, which might underwhelm some fans hoping for a different experience.
Lara Croft's return to form in the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot was very well done, but it lacked a few key features that made the franchise as legendary as it is today. Her followup adventure, Rise of the Tomb Raider, tries to bring those elements back and infuse them with the upgrades already in place. The result is a fun return to classic Tomb Raider form that takes a big leap but can't stick the landing.
War never changes, but the console and gaming landscape has dramatically over the last seven years. In the time since Fallout 3's release, open-world games have evolved quite a bit thanks to that game's success. New platforms have also emerged, giving developers the resources to make larger, more detailed worlds for players to explore, while adding in the additional graphical benefits new hardware provides. While the rest of the world was moving on at an incredible pace, Bethesda was taking its time with Fallout 4. A proper fourth entry in the series needed to be bigger and better than before, but the wait was excruciating for fans. Though the franchise hasn't come quite as far in the last seven years as we'd hoped, but Fallout 4 is still an impressive piece of work that's not to be missed.
Simply titled Need for Speed, this racer marks the franchise's first current-gen exclusive, finally focusing on getting the most it can from modern consoles without having to worry about including last-gen tech. Fortunately, this helps NFS look absolutely gorgeous, which ultimately matters when you factor in the underwhelming graphics of Gran Turismo 6 compared to the fine polish of Forza Motorsport 6. Utilizing the full extent of the current-gen hardware, Need for Speed revs up into a promising experience that is all about underground and urban street racing, but that doesn't necessarily guarantee a smooth ride.
Koei Tecmo and Nintendo may have skipped out on taking the Wii's Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse out of Japan, but the House of Mario decided to cave to fans' demands and give Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water a digital release for Western audiences. As the Silent Hill and Resident Evil series have started to stray and stumble in maintaining survival horror, Maiden of Black Water ups the frights. This new Fatal Frame purposely maintains a slow burn in order to properly build up suspense, bringing back the ghostbusting gameplay of the Camera Obscura, which now utilizes the Wii U's GamePad to exorcise the dead. In an era when survival horror has skewed into action-oriented gameplay or defenseless first-person perspectives, Maiden of Black Water is a welcome, old school-style callback to survival horror's glory days. Unfortunately, Fatal Frame 5 suffers from simple control issues pertaining to its core gameplay that should've easily been ironed out. Despite its solid attempts at spirit photography, there are some basic parts of Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water that feel underdeveloped, which can ruin the overall shot.