Recent releases worth looking at

The past few months have seen the release, or in one case a re-release, of some pretty excellent games.Here’s just a few of them.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor:

PS4, Xbox One, PC Xbox 360, PS3

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My personal score: 85 Metacritic: 85

 

This one was an interesting experience. A game set in the familiar Middle Earth setting without having much of any of the characters from Lord of the Rings at all? Crazy.

The game has a pseudo-cannon story taking place between The Hobbit and the main trilogy about Talion, a Ranger of Gondor, and his quest for revenge against the legions of Mordor. The characters and voice work are very well done, especially Troy Baker as Talion. The voice actor for Gollum, Liam O’Brien, also does a fantastic job of emulating Andy Serkis’ standout performance.

Shadow of Mordor somehow blends Assassin’s Creed, the Arkham series, and Lord of the Rings into a satisfying blend that feels right without seeming like a clone. The combat system is very reminiscent of the Batman Arkham style, with flowing combos and counters that are flashy and devastating. Meanwhile, the stealth and traversal system feel at home in an Assassin’s Creed game. You climb and run around the large open world, and use bushes for cover and to lure enemies to their doom.

Overall, this game was a very satisfying jaunt through a beautiful rendition of Mordor. A game that I can recommend to anyone, and especially fans of Tolkien’s works.

Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition:

Xbox One, PS4, PC

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My personal score: 80 Metacritic: 75

 

One of the sleeper hits of the last generation, Sleeping Dogs makes a return on the next generation of consoles, as well as PC. This revamped version has improved visuals, and a collection of DLC as well, otherwise it is the same great game from the last generation.

A GTA-style open world game set in Hong Kong, with a brilliantly written story and realistic characters, Sleeping Dogs was almost a crime drama you could play. Your character,Wei Shen, is an undercover cop in the Chinese triads set on taking them down without being dragged down with them.

Sleeping Dogs has a focus on hand-to-hand combat, with a fun combo system that can be a bit buggy at times. also, the gunplay is a bit wonky, and driving feels more rigid compared to games like GTA.

This is not GTA-levels of polish, and it shouldn’t have to be. The game’s story and believable characters more than make up for any shortcomings, and if you missed this one earlier it’s definitely worth a look. However, if you played it already you may want to reconsider unless you are eager to do the exact same thing again.

Forza Horizon 2:

Xbox One, Xbox 360

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Personal score: 80 Metacritic: 86

 
The follow-up to the surprising Forza Horizon, this game ups the ante. A huge map, more cars, and impressive visual improvements are just a few of the developments added since the original.

You’re in Europe this time around, and the game does a very good job of replicating the beautiful vistas and winding roads of the European countryside. The familiar Forza feel is still here, with easy to learn controls and enough challenge for all skill levels, and a ton of cars for you to drive.

The game really wants you to get your friends involved, with a lot of emphasis on Clubs, and Road Trips with friends. If you don’t have a lot of Forza fans as friends, however, you’re in for a lonely time. The multiplayer options outside this aren’t as fun or accessible as co-op can be.

If you’re a casual racer, or a hardcore racing sim fan, there is something for everyone in Forza Horizon 2, unless you’re not a fan of the soundtrack, which is larger than Horizon 1, but is still a bit heavy on EDM and pop music that isn’t my taste.

Sunset Overdrive:

Xbox One

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My personal score: 95 Metacritic: 82

 
My personal bias as a big Insomniac fan aside, this game is a blast. Overdrive is an explosion of color and sound, with a bombastic attitude and a very self-aware sense of humor.

Traversing the huge map with skateboard-like techniques along rails and buildings while racking up the carnage with Insomniac’s trademark ridiculous arsenal of weapons is a joy, and the customization and freedom afforded to the player is refreshing.

There isn’t a huge narrative to be found here, but that’s OK. The game does a fine job of giving you objectives and missions, which can get a bit repetitive at times, but still offers you a reason to shoot exploding teddy bears at mutants, which is a plus.

The humor of this game may be a bit too “meta” for some. The 4th Wall is no object to this one, it knows it’s a game and is damn proud of it. The jokes are almost always hits, but there are the inevitable misses. Either way, the game is hilarious and is refreshing in this world of gritty dark toned games of late.

Sunset Overdrive is the best Xbox One exclusive I’ve played yet, and is a serious win for Insomniac. If you own an Xbox One, get this game. If you don’t own one, go buy the Xbox One bundle and play it!

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