Can you believe that just one week ago, we couldn’t catch Pokemon on Google Maps? And we didn’t know how badly we need a Blizzard tournament fighter? It was a world without Captain America: The Winter Soldier. A world where former Uncharted creative director Amy Hennig wasn’t yet attached to the next big Star Wars game. A world in which five-year-olds were widely believed (unjustly) to be unable to crack the security on an Xbox One. It was truly a time of darkness and ignorance.
Good thing we had these games to keep us warm at night.
Batman: Arkham City Game of the Year Edition
Developed by Rocksteady Games | Published by WB Interactive | PC | 2011
All the Batman talk around here reminded me that my copy of Arkham City never got the attention it deserved. Now that my PC is in the living room and a 360 controller is permanently grafted to it, the time seemed right… which I’m going to regret long term since other games will intrude on Batman time and I’ll inevitably drift away again. For now, though, I continue to be hugely impressed by Rocksteady’s ability to capture the sensation of “being” Batman. At this point the open world seems a little less open than I’d expected it to be, but that the beginning is a pretty linear path shouldn’t come as a surprise. As grim as the Caped Crusader often is, Arkham City has a brightness and fizzy excitement to it, something not present in the other games I’m playing right now. — Steerpike
Developed and Published by Blackpowder Games | PC | 2014
I bought Betrayer last year on Steam Early Access (before I decided I don’t like Early Access) and it languished in my games library. Now the final product is out, and I’ve been slowly working through this beautifully stylized semi-horror colonial ghost story. It is stark and stunning and you really have to see it moving to appreciate the three-color world Blackpowder built (you can turn all the colors on if you want, but you’re a tool if you do). Current reviews complain that it gets very repetitive very fast – something I’ve already seen hints of – but its broad-daylight horror is very well realized nonetheless. Well, broad-daylight horror except when it’s darkest-night horror, but that’s another story. — Steerpike
The Stanley Parable
Developed and Published by Galactic Cafe | PC | 2013
Wow. Well. I knew this game was highly regarded and very meta but I wasn’t prepared for just how far it would go; it didn’t just break the fourth wall so much as bulldoze the entire building. If you haven’t played The Stanley Parable, then I urge you to do so. As far as I’m concerned it’s required reading for any self-respecting gamer, and that goes for the demo too, which is an entirely separate experience but a gem in its own right. For me, The Stanley Parable is up there with Portal for its razor sharp wit and ingenuity, and given how highly I regard Portal that’s high praise indeed. I’d love to say more but it’s too delicious to spoil. — Gregg
Halo: Spartan Assault
Developed by 343 Industries & Vanguard Entertainment | Published by Microsoft Studios | PC | 2014
Halo: Spartan Assault is a small and budget-priced package that’s been around on the Xboxes for a few months, but only just hit Steam. Although it’s a top-down shooter, it bleeds Halo, from the look and feel of the interface, to the enemies and weapons, to the sound effects. It’s a fine, lightweight dose of Halo, lacking the epicness of the mainline titles but still clearly fitting into that universe. Missions are bite-size for brief play sessions and score chasing. It’s not terribly deep, and it lacks multiplayer – a feature that would definitely elevate it, I think – but for Halo fans it’s a nice diversion. —Dix
Infamous: Second Son
Developed by Sucker Punch Productions | Published by Sony Computer Entertainment | PS4 | 2014
Short of the Arkham series, I tend to think that Infamous is the best superhero game series around, and Second Son does not disappoint. The new protagonist, Delsin Rowe, is far more likeable than the late Cole McGrath, and his ability to collect new power types from other Conduits expands his arsenal to include several power sets that have to be balanced for the proper situation. The game also builds on the Conduit phenomenon, unveiling new and strange Conduit power sources, like smoke and video – conceptually and visually more interesting than Cole’s comparatively mundane electric powers. The game is still recognizably Infamous, but there’s some great tweaks to the formula. —Dix