That’s it! Another year gone, and boy what a year it’s been for gaming. On the one hand we’ve had some incredible games released, while on the other, some of the highest redundancies we’ve ever seen across the industry, plus we saw the biggest acquisition of all time go through as Microsoft finally paid up for Activision Blizzard.
Never mind all of that though, Game of the Year is all about celebrating the incredible gaming times we had this year, as we ask our team to try their hardest to pick just one title that stands above the rest for them.
What’s your personal Game of the Year? It might not be mentioned here, it might not be in any of the “official” nomination lists, it might not even have been released this year. Let us know in our Discord.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor and Spider-Man 2 | James Parry
Friends, I have failed. When trying to choose the gaming experience I’ve loved the most this year, it’s a total dead heat between Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi: Survivor and Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man 2, and I’m not even mad about it.
Both games are follow-ups to adventures I really enjoyed, both bring plenty of new fun to the table and both build on the magic of the first instalment.
For Survivor, the galaxy opens up to a wider variety of worlds and level styles, introducing different saber stances and lots and lots of new environmental puzzles to challenge you. The combat and core gameplay are solid, and the story carries you through the entire game, engaging and emotive from start to finish.
And, most importantly, BD-1 is still a dude.
While it’s still New York you’re swinging (or gliding) around as both Spideys in Spider-Man 2, the map has been expanded to include more of Queens, Harlem and Brooklyn as well as Manhattan, and there’s plenty of new side activities to try out here as well.
The story also takes centre stage throughout, and, like Survivor, it’s the characters and how much you care about them which really draws you into the world and begs you to explore and have a great time with them.
Traversing the city remains a grin-inducing activity, as you dash from one spontaneous side mission to the next, begging for the experience not to end. Combat builds on the foundations of the previous game here as well, giving you some fun new abilities to master, and some hard-as-nails baddies to bash up.
When both of these AAA experiences have been made with so much care and thought, and especially when they are tied to franchises I’m already invested in, how could I ever choose between them?
(Oh, and stay tuned for a full review of Spider-Man 2 soon, hopefully before the end of the year.)
Roboquest | Chris Brand
It was a tough decision this year and one I didn't make until the very last minute. Starfield was in my top spot for the longest time but numerous bugs, and other annoyances, slowly turned me away. Though it still has a place in my heart, and I'll likely revisit it in the future, I've got to go with RyseUp Studios' first-person shooter/roguelite hybrid, Roboquest.
It's been in preview for a while but the full release dropped last month with a ton of new content, bringing the total number of playable classes to six and adding more weapons, items, levels, bosses and probably more that I've missed. What started as a fun little distraction which I discovered through Game Pass, turned into one of the better shooters I've played, and not just this year. The developers under-promised and over-delivered, meaning my realistic expectations were surpassed.
The overall aesthetic is reminiscent of Borderlands, but the two play very differently. Roboquest is fast-paced and frantic and thrusts you forward with a punchy soundtrack and a timer indicating just how close you are to losing that precious S rank. It can seem rather unforgiving at first but progression feels steady and natural, as you acquire permanent upgrades, uncover different routes, and find hidden secrets. However, it's made more accessible by a difficulty setting which goes from the, almost too easy, Discovery, to the punishingly hard Guardian IV.
Gameplay itself is incredibly smooth. It quickly becomes second nature to slide and jump everywhere, with unlockable gadgets adding new layers to the movement and emphasizing the verticality of the levels. The random selection of weapons, items and perks available in each attempt keeps things fresh, as no two runs will be exactly the same.
If you're getting burnt out on huge, complex, single-player sagas, Roboquest is the perfect palate cleanser to finish the year off.
As we approach the end of the year, it’s time to start taking stock of what has been a phenomenal year for gaming. While our own picks for Game of the Year will come next month, the Golden Joystick Awards have returned to dish out all sorts of accolades to the hardworking souls who bring these experiences to life for us.
What stuck out in the award winners list for you? Did it make you think about playing something you wouldn’t have considered otherwise? Let us know in our Discord.
Out of all of this year's winners and nominees, I've only played a small handful. As such, I wasn't too invested in many of the categories but it was good to see a large variety of games on show, even if a lot of them were Baldur's Gate 3.
There was some strong competition for the Still Playing Award with No Man's Sky coming out on top. It's had a lot of content pumped into it since its initial release and still stands out as being fairly unique. Of course, there are other games that revolve around space exploration but few that offer the same sense of discovery in such a huge universe.
One of those exceptions is Starfield, winner of the Xbox Game of the Year award. Despite the numerous bugs I encountered during my (considerable) play time, it quickly became one of my favourite games. Each playthrough lead to new findings and a greater appreciation for the world. Though I think Craig Sechler should have been in with a shout for Best Supporting Performer for his work as the Adoring Fan.
Most Wanted Game teased some of the titles we can look forward to in the future, like Fable and some non-Fable games which aren't Fable. The last proper Fable released all the way back in 2010 and after 12 years of not-so-patiently waiting, it feels closer than it ever has. By the time it sees the light of day, the hype which I'm trying to create will have likely faded away and I can stop banging on about it.
I’ve already mentioned my keenness to play Baldur’s Gate 3, and the record-breaking seven wins is a fairly clear sign it’s more than just hype and I should definitely get in it before the end of the year.
The benefit of awards like this is that it can bring games to your attention that you’d dismissed because they had an odd name, didn’t look like your cup of tea, or maybe you just hadn’t heard about them at all.
This year the names that stick out are both Sea of Stars and Alan Wake II. Both games have been receiving praise all over my feeds for weeks and, interestingly, both couldn’t be more tonally contrasting to each other.
Elsewhere the fact that the PlayStation Game of the Year went to Resident Evil 4 is a surprise, given that it’s a remake and we had some very strong contenders in the category, including Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.
With so many releases, it’s hard to justify revisiting ongoing titles, though, like Liam, I’m tempted to give Cyperpunk 2077 another chance after being distracted and not diving into its world first time around.
Elsewhere in the very long Most Wanted category, the title that stood out for me is Star Wars: Outlaws, even though we don’t know too much about what it’s all about just yet.
Every gamer has a list of games they've been meaning to get to, and what better time than the spookiest time of year (and we're not talking about tax time) – Halloween.
This is your call to stop putting it off and dive into something new, whether you have time to or not. Imagine if that game you've been making excuses about suddenly disappeared tomorrow…like a ghost?
We've got a few suggestions, but there are no doubt countless more – 2023 has been very generous, as high a toll as it's taken on the developers, in some cases. Why not share your pick on our Discord?
Starlink: Battle for Atlas | Liam Andrews
My backlog comfortably extends into the previous generations of consoles (at least on Xbox and PS), but of all the titles I've been meaning to make time for it's Starlink on Switch.
My Switch backlog isn't actually too bad. I've recently polished off Metroid Prime Remastered, finished Skyward Sword and Pokémon Legends Arceus, and I'm making good progress on Super Mario Wonder.
Bought on a whim when the starter set was going for cheap (I think it cost me £11) back in 2019, the reason it's been neglected for so long is that I forget I own it.
Because of the starter kit's size, there's no space for it with my other stack of Switch games, so I had to stick it up high on top of a bookshelf where I occasionally spot Fox McCloud's Arwing model peering out at me through the plastic packaging.
Perhaps now I've put it in writing I'll finally remember to give the game a go sometime.
DOOM Eternal | Chris Brand
Though it may not be a traditional horror game, DOOM Eternal still pushes my tolerance for anything vaguely scary to its limit. Something I often indulge in around this time of year.
During combat, I feel like an unstoppable killing machine, ripping and tearing through hordes of demons without flinching. The unwavering enemies and intense soundtrack work in tandem to assault multiple senses, instilling a need to keep moving, always moving, away from whatever the hell that big ugly thing is and towards the small area which appears to have the lowest concentration of passing bullets. No time to think and barely a moment to react, just keep moving and keep shooting, until everything has stopped. Breathe.
It's in those quiet pauses between that the fear creeps in. Surrounded by unknown horrors, alone, low on shotgun shells and trapped in a nightmarish alien world, I suddenly feel very stoppable. Vulnerable, even. Every sound causes me to jump. I find myself walking slowly, as if my footsteps could alert something that was somehow unstirred by the cacophony of screams and gunfire that seems to follow me around. The brief respite somehow amplifies the tension and, eventually, the fear wins.
I'd say I got roughly half way through on my first attempt, which is a testament to just how much fun DOOM Eternal is, other horror titles tend to scare me away long before I can make any real progress.
It's that time again. Just like with the PS3 before it, PlayStation has decided the PS5 could stand to lose a bit of weight (and some height) in preparation for the festive season.
The new models hit a similar price point and come up 30% smaller than their parents, with the digital edition even having the option for a module upgrade to make it…no so digital.
Are you tempted to pick up the new model? Which are you pondering? Let us know on our Discord.
It was safe to assume that we'd have a slightly smaller, and slightly better, console before the inevitable mid-gen enhancements, but this seems solely intended for new customers, with very little reason for current owners to upgrade. Having more storage space is always welcome (or it would be, if external hard drives didn't provide more for less) though, in my opinion, this is cancelled out by having more real-estate to dust in the living room. Smaller isn't always better.
I do like the choice of going all-digital and buying a disc drive later down the line and I'm expecting other companies (both of them) to start promoting a similar option. As so many are hesitant to make the transition to digital, and with valid reasons, this could become the default. Having fully, and surprisingly, embraced digital gaming, I rarely lament the lack of a disc drive. However, collectors of fancy special editions could be saved from buyer's remorse.
For anyone who was just about to pull the trigger, it may be good timing, there's just not enough to entice me and I suspect many PS5 players may wait for the Pro version rather than forking out for a PlayStation 5.1.
The cynic in me believes that Sony has found a legitimate way of avoiding the Christmas price cut everyone was expecting. For the cost of the digital edition, I could get almost 4,000 "Finest Quality" meatballs (I'm pretty sure that's the brand name because it's certainly not a description). If I'm paying 4,000 meatballs for a PS5, I want as much of it as possible. I'll think about buying 30% less of your console when you knock 1,200 meatballs off my bill.
As much as I enjoy the convenience of a digital library, I would still opt for the PS5 bundle that includes the disc drive as it is cheaper than upgrading the all-digital console at a later date, which just seems unnecessarily unfair towards those who do initially go drive-less.
While I recognise that the console is 30% smaller and modular, I still don’t think it’s the best redesign. Some of the previous PlayStation slim models were sleek looking pieces of tech (especially the PS2 and PS3 models) and it was a bit disappointing to see the overall PS5 design hasn’t changed that much, and the ungainly driver bulge is still very much present.
I can appreciate that what a console looks like isn’t that important given its job is to sit under your TV and play games and play them well (and the PS5 does do that) but the whole thing seems like a bit of a missed opportunity.
For example, I have no need for a Series S considering I already own the more powerful Series X, but I still really want one because of its sleek and compact form factor and pure novelty value. The same can’t be said for the PS5 slim.
While playing the new Forza Motorsport, I found myself pondering what the game says about the series, and gaming in general. So this isn’t quite a review of Forza Motorsport, but hear me out.
You may already know the eighth game in the original Forza series takes things back-to-basics, rebooting the game for a new generation. In short, it’s an excellent racing experience filled with the best simulated vehicles and tracks you can find in the genre today, and yet something feels a little…off. The question is why.
Racing games as a genre haven’t always had to try so hard. Back in the day, we were happy with a sprite and the odd pixelated tree on the side of the track, now the push for photorealistic visuals, arguably achieved by Forza Motorsport 4 back in 2011, has led to players’ expectations soaring higher and higher.
Like games as an industry, we keep wanting, nay demanding, more.
Forza Motorsport 7, released back in 2017, hit a staggering 830 cars – once all the DLC was said and done – with 200 track configurations in 32 locations, so it’s no surprise it’s taken a while for developers Turn 10 to feel like they had something new to bring to the table.
But where do you go?
More fidelity? More tracks? More cars? The driving and handling experience itself was long-perfected by the time the Xbox One’s entry in the series, Forza Motorsport 5, rolled up in 2013, and you can only tie-in with so many TV shows and films before even that variety wears thin.
You could argue that motorsport itself hasn’t changed in decades, giving the team an uphill climb from the starting line, but enthusiasm for the sport has never been higher. Slightly different, sure, but Formula 1, for example, passed an average of million viewers per race last year.
Drift into a powerslide
There seems to be only one obvious solution – double down.
The tuning and car customisation options in the latest game are incredible, and it would be ridiculous to expect even more in that department, but perhaps make more of a game of it?
Not everyone has a detail-orientated approach to games, and introducing minigames which play on some of the extremes of what tuning is capable of, a cleverly disguised opportunity to educate, could bring the experience to life in a new way, and allow the player to bring the knowledge back into the main game’s driving journey.
Next, leave the drivers out of it entirely.
While it might seem like a bit of fun to watch them frantically change gear through the rear windscreen as you tear around the track, more than a cursory glance confirms that even in this latest instalment the animations are rigid and one-note. Far from adding to immersion it actually creates a distraction for those used to an exterior view of the car in their driving games.
Finally, a more clear line between the serious, buttoned-up sim experience and the more relaxed, even arcade-y side of the genre would avoid players who aren’t quite as into the realism angle have more fun with the game.
Introduce more extreme damage options as additional challenges, daring you to make it down the track with only a single hit or jolt between your car and a written-off mess.
The tracks could stand to have a little more flexibility and customisation too, letting you customise environmental effects and add hazards to remix existing tracks in fun new ways. Or even leverage Xbox’s vast back catalogue of franchises to have you explore exciting, even out-of-this-world locations.
There’s nothing wrong with Forza Motorsport, and the team at Turn 10 no doubt will have a lot of fun additions and improvements still to come after release, but if they want to really bring in new fans to this series, something has to change.
Forza Motorsport (2023) is available now on Xbox Game Pass. Code provided by Microsoft.
With the PTC favourite Sea of Thieves getting a new PVE-only mode – Safer Seas – we’ve been thinking about our favourite PVE experiences of all time and the multiplayer titles that could be improved with such a feature. It might be competitive or cooperative, but any game where you’re playing with others and there’s some enemy AI involved is fair game.
What would you choose?
Apex Legends | Liam Andrews
I enjoyed Apex Legends when it first came out, even managing a victory in which my team of randoms carried me to the win. But I didn’t stick with it and with five years of new features and a probably well-established community of players who know the game a lot better than I do, I’m afraid to jump back in.
Which is a shame, because I like the setting and characters, and Respawn knows how to make a shooter that looks and plays great (Titanfall 2). A PvE mode would be the perfect way to be reintroduced to the game, a place where I could familiarise myself with years of new content and characters without the stress of worrying about real (and much better) players blasting me away.
Apex Legends has had a PvE mode in the past, but it was a limited time event and I missed out on it. I would like to see a permanent PvE playlist added, even if it was just a simple wave defence mode where a team tries to defend a stronghold against enemy AI. There’s rumours Apex Legends could be getting a single player campaign spin-off, and while I’d be interested in such a product, I’d still like to see a PvE mode to scratch that multiplayer itch.
Left 4 Dead 2 | James Parry
I think Left 4 Dead 2 was the first game I played where I thought of the AI in the game as a character. Since it was a while ago, let’s recap - Left 4 Dead is a zombie survival series from Valve, built on the engine that powered the gold-standard classic that is Half-Life 2.
For the second game especially, the game had an element which reacted to the player. If you were doing well then the AI would generate different barriers in the level to make it more difficult. If you stay still for too long, you’d find a horde of zombies would spawn to punish you.
This variability made every playthrough of the game’s (originally) four campaigns more varied, unexpected and exciting.
On top of that, the scavenge multiplayer game mode remains one of the most fun cooperative multiplayer experiences of all time, constantly replayable and fun, and the gameplay still holds up today.
The variety of the enemy behaviour in the game also raised the bar. The special infected, now a trope shared by pretty much all zombie survival games, jump, explode and attack in unique and interesting ways – building on the blueprint set out by the first game. The development team found new types to introduce, which slot into the roster so effortlessly.
An also-ran which shouldn’t be overlooked here is the original Halo, which had the earliest example I can remember of enemy AI avoiding grenades, something which to this day makes some of those encounters foundational experiences in gaming.
The final one to mention is Titanfall 2, where there are AI grunts milling around, filling up the world, just to make your battles feel more epic.
With PC smash hit Baldur’s Gate 3 set for a PS5 release in the next few days, and Xbox Series X|S not far behind, we’re feeling like a bit of role-playing, losing ourselves in far-flung fantasy lands and bumping into outlandish characters.
Enter our favourite ever RPGs, which span the edges to deliver some of the most diverse gaming experiences ever imagined. And, best of all, you’re always at the heart of the action.
If you had to choose an RPG to fight for, what would it be? Let us know in our Discord.
Dragon Age: Inquisition | James Parry
While Mass Effect trilogy takes the top spot amongst my favourite games of all time, there’s always something a bit special about the more fantasy setting of the Dragon Age series when it comes to a pure RPG experience.
The classes might be archetypes, but they are far from worn out, and the flexibility of the game shows off some impressive opportunities for customisation, depending on what takes your fancy.
Just like in its sci-fi cousin’s universe, it’s the characters which grab you and pull you into the immersion. The inclusion of Dragon Age II’s champion Hawke (spoilers for an almost 10-year-old game) in a minor role was a great touch, but there’s a huge amount of joy in getting to know characters old and new here, and even taking control of them in combat for that extra chance to experiment.
The beauty of the combat system as a whole is that you could play it however you wanted. As a straight action romp, diving into the fray with some handy quick buttons or spells and abilities, or, alternatively, dig into the detail and play almost turn by turn using a series of well thought-out options to micromanage you and your entire team to maximise damage and effectiveness.
Better still, the turn after one of the early acts of the game upends the table and puts you in a totally new status quo, ready to build up your strength and build your world as you see fit.
Move over Skyrim, BioWare is still here, jostling with you for the high fantasy crown – let’s hope Dragon Age: Dreadwolf does eventually come out and we actually get to play it…
Kingdom Come Deliverance | Liam Andrews
The thing I enjoy most about Kingdom Come Deliverance is that you play as a regular person, Henry, rather than some super soldier or famous hero. Henry’s relatively low standing in medieval Bohemia is reflected in KCD’s gameplay and missions.
While you do end up working for/with the land’s nobility, you spend most of the time carrying out lesser tasks or doing smaller missions for them rather than making the big decisions. It’s quite a nice break from the high pressure, all-or-nothing stakes found in other RPGs.
For example, towards the end of the campaign, while higher ranked characters planned a siege, I spent the days leading up to the battle gathering herbs and brewing potions to ensure the garrison fought hangover free. Did it really help the siege? Who’s to say, but it was a nice stress-free mission.
I also enjoy KCD’s big battles, particularly when you’ve got friendly NPCs fighting with you, as it’s easy to bash distracted enemies over the head while they’re busy fighting your mates, or fire arrows at them from behind the cover of your allies. It’s not exactly heroic stuff, but your vulnerability/rubbishness at fighting (particularly in the early game) is in keeping with your character’s average status, and part of the game’s appeal.
The We Were Here series is back with more co-op puzzling for players to sink their teeth into. Join us as we take a look at the fourth and latest entry, We Were Here Forever.
Tell me about the puzzles.
For the most part, we found the puzzles to be fairly engaging. Being separated often means one player has access to information that can help the other, such as a book that contains the correct combination to a vault at the other player’s location, and there is certainly enjoyment to be had beating them this way, via a combination of teamwork and brain power.
However, there were times where puzzles felt a little lopsided, with one player having more to do than the other on occasion. Others featured unique symbols that had to be described to the other player, which wasn’t always as straightforward as it sounds given the vague nature of their shapes.
Would you recommend it?
If you’re a fan of the series then yes, certainly, although newcomers who have little or no investment in the story shouldn’t be put off as you’ll at least be getting the most premium entry in the series; WWHF is a more visually polished game than its predecessor, with lots of detail in the chunky stylized visuals, decent animations, and well-crafted atmospheric environments.
If you’re into puzzle games, especially co-operative ones with friends (online only, mind), then for the low entry cost it’s probably worth a shot.
Autumn! What a wonderful time of year. The leaves are turning a lovely reddish gold, the nights are drawing in, and Call of Duty is once again dominating the gaming landscape. Join us as we team up with the gravelly voiced crew of Ghost, Soap and Price for an action packed adventure in Modern Warfare 2.
Sounds good, but what about the multiplayer?
The main attraction for a lot of CoD fans, MW2’s multiplayer does not disappoint, building upon the excellent foundations laid by the 2019 MW reboot.
Weapons are even more customisable, with tons of attachments and upgrades to unlock, while new game modes have also been introduced to compliment the always enjoyable likes of TDM, Domination and Hardpoint.
What sort of new game modes?
Prisoner Rescue sees teams protecting or capturing a set of prisoners, with roles reversed at the end of each round. Players only have one life but can be revived by teammates if they’re quick.
Elsewhere, Invasion mode plays out like a giant version of Titanfall's Attrition, with teams racking up points by killing enemy players or AI.
Ground War itself isn’t new, but it’s been refined to the point where it can be considered a decent rival to Battlefield’s iconic Conquest mode.
So, would you recommend it?
Absolutely. Modern Warfare 2 is a substantial offering, with plenty of PvP and PvE multiplayer modes and an enjoyable, visually impressive campaign that introduces some fresh ideas to the series.
Expect the game to have quite a bit longevity as well, with a reported two-year’s worth of post-launch content and updates coming its way as opposed to the regular one-year cycle.
This week saw PlayStation unveil it's long-awaited response to Game Pass, in the form of new tiers to PS Plus, which brings in the current PS Now service.
In a nutshell, there are now three tiers – Essential, Extra and Premium. The first is just what we have now, even without a price rise. Extra includes a downloadable back catalogue of up to 400 PS4 and PS5 games.
Premium, as you'd expect, takes it a step further, adding another 340 games through streaming, mostly from PS3, but also including some from original PlayStation, PS2 and PSP.
We've got a few thoughts on the service, but what do you think? Let us know in the comments.
At first glance, it seems Game Pass offers more bang for your buck, with all of Microsoft's first-party titles being made available to subscribers on day one, but with over 700 games in the PlayStation Plus catalogue right from the off (at least with the highest tier) it's still a very attractive prospect. Of course, not all of those games will appeal to everyone but since the comparisons to Microsoft's service are unavoidable, it's worth mentioning that Game Pass has its fair share of filler titles too and was far less expansive in its infancy.
I suspect Sony's decision not to include those first-party games will draw the ire of many, though it's understandable from a business perspective. Whilst Xbox boasts a lot of multiplayer titles (such as the likes of Gears 5, Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5), PlayStation tends to focus on the single-player epics. This means Microsoft can pull in more money as time goes on, whether it's via battle passes, multiplayer expansions or even loot boxes, whereas Sony don't have that constant trickle of funding.
It's probably safe to assume that newer games will eventually release on PlayStation Plus, so those who are patient can wait a little while longer without having to fork out extra. Given the choice between PS Plus and Game Pass, Xbox may just have the edge but I don't think we can take anything away from PlayStation.
I was walking down the street with a friend the other day when someone passed me carrying a PS5. I was so flabbergasted to see one in the wild that I genuinely did a double take and interrupted the conversation to point it out.
As you might have guessed, I’ve still yet to acquire a PlayStation 5, but I do plan on getting one eventually. When I do, I think I will sign up for the middle of the new PS Plus tiers. This one seems to be targeted towards players like me, who have missed out on some of the platform’s biggest exclusives over the last couple of generations.
There doesn’t seem to be much info about specific titles just yet, but I think it’s safe to assume PS4 exclusives such as Spider-Man and Horizon Zero Dawn will be included, which is great for me as I’ve yet to play them. Although I could probably find reasonably priced physical copies these days, £10.99 a month doesn’t seem too steep for access to a digital library of classics.
However, the Premium package, at £13.49 a month, would be harder to justify, given that it doesn’t include day-one exclusive releases. But depending on the quality of the PS2 titles (one of my favourite generations), I could still be tempted.
What do you think of the new-look PS Plus? Let us know.