Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 lands with a quality combination featuring multiplayer, Zombies, and the new Blackout battle royale mode. It's a clean, polished package of multiplayer goodness all around. The lack of single-player campaign still hurts, but for some, it probably won't be missed.
The Messenger establishes itself as an excellent tribute to old-school platformers, then proceeds to rapidly up the ante with a series of outstanding gameplay twists. I'm deeply impressed by The Messenger's ambition and polish. It's a must-own for any retro enthusiast.
If you're a fan of Dragon Quest VIII, you'll find a lot to love about Dragon Quest XI. Its character-driven plot and skill system recall the series' breakout PlayStation 2 installment, though Dragon Quest XI's lively world and expressive monsters lend it a unique feeling and flavor. Some fans might feel let-down about Dragon Quest XI's lack of job system or other options that let you fine-tune every aspect of your party (what I wouldn't give to see Dragon Quest V's monster-friending system make a return), but if you're in the market for a turn-based RPG that feels nostalgic but doesn't force you to deal with old genre mechanics, you won't find a better quest.
Building upon the foundation established in Assassin's Creed Origins, Odyssey brings together that title's RPG adventure with the ship-bound exploration of Black Flag. Choice and consequence feature heavily in Odyssey, with the player guiding Alexios or Kassandra through a massive journey to reunite their family and kill a lot of people. Not every feature is perfect, with things like recruitment and Conquest Battles needing a bit of work, but overall Odyssey is a grand next step for the journey Origins started.
The field of indie roguelike Metroidvanias is littered with competition, but Dead Cells stands out by focusing on movement and combat. None of its peers feel as good in their moment-to-moment play. The controls are tight, the movement is fluid, and the combat has a real weight to it. Once you get into it, Dead Cells is about this unique state of combat flow, where you're moving, dodging, and killing your way to the end at high-speed. The progression system causes the game to stumble a little, since it's less than satisfying to upgrade a chance at better items dropping. But Dead Cells is a winner overall, especially if you're a player who's all about technique and execution.
You can debate the merits of some of this version's additions, but the same strong core that has pushed Forza Horizon to the top of the driving sim heap remains firmly in place here. It's an incredibly impressive graphical production that puts even its beautiful predecessor to shame, and it's a true pleasure when out on the road. Forza Horizon 4 is one of a handful of showcase games that truly ought to sell you on an Xbox One X and a 4K TV.
Hitman 2 may just be more Hitman, but it's somehow even better than before. The levels are all fantastic, the assassinations possible are all clever (and silly), the satirical writing is at its best. The assassination sandbox has never been more satisfying, and its slight technical hiccups and lackluster multiplayer do little to hold back the baldest assassin of them all. Even in your sixth or so time prancing through a map, you're bound to discover a new opportunity, or a new potentially-weaponized surprise, around the corner.
Monster Hunter has been in need of a big change for years, and this reboot-of-sorts could have easily gone wrong. Instead, Capcom took a careful look at Monster Hunter's design and cut all the fat while leaving the series trademark dense gameplay completely intact. All the changes, from the broad, sweeping ones to the granular alterations, only serve to improve an already winning formula. The next generation of Monster Hunter has finally begun, and, with Monster Hunter: World, it's off to an incredibly good start.
Platformers, especially those with a retro flair, come along often. But so rarely do they work as well as Celeste does. Celeste is an exercise of excellence in the well-trodden platforming genre. Whether it's the score that kicks up just as busily just as heroine Madeleine does, the mechanics that build and build with each new room you uncover, or its lushly pixelated landscapes: there's a lot to love in Celeste. It's the sort of game that makes you feel strong while playing it; if you can dash-jump through impossible holes between narrow icy spikes to climb that goddamn mountain, you can probably do anything.