From blockbuster console exclusive games to innovative indies, there’s plenty of new game releases to try this month. Play as the hero of a fallen world in Alan Wake 2, untangle a witch’s tale in The 7th Guest VR, race at full speed in F1 2024 Touch and explore a strange dreamworld with Sonic Dream Team.
God of War
The God of War series is Sony’s flagship action adventure franchise that combines brutal combat with nuanced storytelling and some of the best graphics in gaming. It follows the story of a Spartan warrior who takes on multiple gods, monsters, and other deities across a variety of mythological settings.
This latest entry in the series marks a significant departure from previous games, moving away from Greek mythology and focusing on Norse mythology with a new protagonist. It centers on Kratos, a former rage-fueled Spartan warrior who has since settled in Scandinavia with his son Atreus and has begun to learn to let go of the Ghost of Sparta.
Cory Barlog, the game’s director, explains that the game is not simply a sequel to its predecessors, but a reboot of the franchise in many ways. It features a new over-the-shoulder camera, no sex mini-game, and fewer quick-time events. The ice Leviathan axe and the fiery Blades of Chaos are still weapons of choice, but this time Kratos can also use runic magic and Atreus’ arrows to take down enemies.
Fighting in God of War is less about mowing down hordes of enemies to reach the next boss and more tactical, careful approaches to groups of tougher opponents. It’s a much more mature take on the franchise, and it’s a welcome change of pace for players who were tired of seeing Kratos’ bloody face in the corner of their screen.
Another 2022 release, this massive multiplayer online RPG puts you in the role of a Viking named Freya as you battle against mythological creatures and a clash of cultures. The game was praised for its epic scale and massive world, but some players found that the combat could be monotonous and repetitive.
This PlayStation 4 exclusive is a third-person action-adventure that is set in the Norse realm of Midgard. It stars Kratos, a former Spartan warrior who now lives in Viking culture with his son Atreus and their dwarven companion Brokuro. It’s a fresh take on the genre that features Norse mythology and heroes like Odin, Thor, Loki, and Freya/Freyja.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
As part of the rebooted Tomb Raider series, this 2018 game takes Lara Croft to new locations and introduces more brutal violence. In a bid to keep an ancient artifact out of the hands of Trinity, the evil corporation that killed her father, she accidentally sets in motion several major catastrophic events, including a Mayan apocalypse. Trinity wants to acquire the artifacts to harness the power of Kukulkan and remake the world in their own image.
Aside from a more serious story, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is much like its predecessors, with a mix of exploration and puzzle-solving that is skewed less toward combat than ever before. The gameplay has more of a focus on stealth as well, which includes tricks such as using mud to camouflage and manipulating enemies into attacking each other. This is a welcome change from past games, which often relied on combat to push players through the action-packed paces of their levels.
In addition to a greater focus on exploration and puzzles, the level design is also more varied. Some of the tombs are more challenging than others, but all are interesting to explore. They range from straightforward challenge tombs that reward a player with a coveted skill relic, to more elaborate labyrinthine chambers where Lara must solve a sequence of complex and interconnected traps. The game is also packed with extra tombs and crypts to discover and complete.
The graphics have improved since the last entry in the franchise, with a more subdued color palette and use of shadowed areas. The lighting is also more nuanced, giving the game a more subdued feel while still being visually striking.
While Shadow of the Tomb Raider has a lot to offer, it isn’t without its shortcomings. The game suffers from a sometimes frustrating camera that can get in the way of navigating environments, and there are some clunky parts to the story. But overall, it is an entertaining adventure that fans of the franchise should enjoy.
This is the twelfth mainline Tomb Raider title, and it is being released as a Definitive Edition with a Season Pass included. It was developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix. The Definitive Edition features the base game along with all available downloadable content. It was released in September 2018.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 puts the franchise in new territory, while still delivering its core offerings. This year, Treyarch forgoes a campaign in favor of robust multiplayer and Blackout, the series’ first foray into battle royale. The latter mode feels far from a hacked-together afterthought, boasting excellent vehicle mechanics, smooth character movement and plenty of popular Black Ops map locations.
Multiplayer also raises the bar for the series, featuring gritty, grounded, fluid combat. The game’s Pick 10 customization system lets you change weapons attachments, grenades and equipment to create the perfect build for your playstyle. And the addition of perks allows you to passively boost stats like hearing or total health for added edge in combat.
Aside from the traditional modes, Black Ops 4 features the biggest Zombies offering in the franchise with three full undead adventures. The game also reveals the return of the Specialists, with each character bringing their own unique playstyle to the table. Players will be able to choose from seven specialists at launch, and four additional characters can be unlocked with Black Ops Pass.
While some fans have complained that the game lacks a campaign, it’s worth noting that this is the first Call of Duty to skip a single-player campaign. Treyarch’s decision to focus on multiplayer and a robust battle royale is a smart one that should appeal to fans of the genre.
In addition to the game’s multiplayer offerings, Blackout also reverses a recent trend that saw fewer maps launched with each Call of Duty title. This year’s edition launches with 14 maps, and a fifteenth, Nuketown, will be available for free in November.
Black Ops 4 is a worthy entry in the series and features some of the best multiplayer in the franchise’s history. But it’s not without its shortcomings, including some persisting technical issues and a number of stale multiplayer maps. And if you’re looking for a deeper experience, a handful of disappointing surprises could keep you from loving this shooter.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas
Starlink: Battle for Atlas is a bold step forward for the toys-to-life genre. Its universe is expansive, its characters are fun and accessible, and the gameplay is a satisfying mix of exploration and combat. But ultimately, it’s robbed of greatness by its inflexible progression system and an over-reliance on repetition.
Ubisoft has taken No Man’s Sky open world, resource management and space exploration and sprinkled it with Star Fox paint. This manifests most obviously in the modular toy system, where players can pop a ship or weapon into their custom Starlink controller and see it appear in-game instantly. Weapons fall into elemental categories — ice, fire, void and kinetic — and can be combined to create spectacular effects. For example, combining an ice weapon with a void one will cause enemies to freeze up.
The Starlink controllers themselves are a lot of fun to use, and the underlying technology is impressive. The controllers are also a big improvement over the older Nintendo Switch controllers, with better ergonomics and a more responsive button layout.
But the real standout in Starlink is its cast of anthropomorphic characters, courtesy of the venerable Star Fox franchise. While the story itself doesn’t rise above a mediocre Saturday Morning Cartoon-style plot, Fox, Slippy and company are an enormous amount of fun to play with and interact with.
Ultimately, though, the game’s most disappointing aspect is that it feels like a toy that’s been forced into service of a video game. Its gimmick is to sell the physical toys, and the rest of the experience lacks the prolonged thrill of the best toys — those that can offer multiple ways to change them.
Despite the limitations of its toy system, Starlink is an enjoyable experience and a promising debut for the toys-to-life format. Players will need to invest a fair bit of money in the Starlink toys to get the most out of the experience, but its clever combination of pilots and ships, imaginative alien planets and decent space opera story are enough to keep fans entertained while they work their way through its lengthy campaign.