Has Bethesda’s Review Policy Been Successful?

Last October Bethesda announced that they would stop sending review copies to outlets, in a decision that caused an uproar not only in the media but with consumers as well. Deemed as an anti-consumer decision, it received criticism for alienating gamers, removing their ability to make an informed purchase, something that if we stop to think about, makes sense.

The rise of the popularity of YouTube created a scenario in which some gamers tend to rely less on video games websites and more on famous channels. And Bethesda saw that as an opportunity to free themselves from the need of sending review copies ahead of release, looking to decrease the power of reviews, a situation that would be a dream to any publisher.

We have seen a bigger focus of the company on creating extended demos, as a way to appease consumers, giving them a glimpse of the initial hours. We saw that happening with the release of Dishonored 2 and the Prey reboot, both from Arkane Studios, that provided big chunks of gameplay. Unlike Doom, that in spite of following the same decision was successful, Prey and Dishonored 2 have failed.

Prey

Whereas Doom was successful critically and commercially, the others didn’t manage to appeal to consumers. Dishonored 2 failed to reach the top 10 in the US in November, and Prey only reached no. 5 in a weak month of May. Begging us to think if their policy has worked negatively to Bethesda. Missing the biggest sales window, the first month of release, where games tend to make the bulk of their revenue.

Doom, a franchise with a lot of history, ended up being successful, recognized as one of the best games of last year, both by big outlets and gamers. But that didn’t carry on with the release of Dishonored 2 and Prey, franchises with a smaller market and a focus on stealth, a genre that has struggled to find an audience. They couldn’t capture the mindset of the market, attracting little attention, appearing to have a more positive reception from the media than from gamers.

Troubled PC versions didn’t really help change that situation, as both games wouldn’t run properly on that platform. A big number of refunds also helped to create a negative reception.

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The aftermath of both releases goes to show that only a few games can get away without receiving the review push of major outlets. Bethesda’s track record of releasing quality titles wasn’t enough to make gamers trust that both games could appeal to them. If Rockstar decided to do that, maybe they could be successful.

But no matter the review score they received, both Dishonored 2 and Prey felt like missed opportunities. The first received several game of the year nominations, the latter, a revival of a beloved franchise, that impressed by its world-building and unique style. To see that happening is a real shame, but it can work as a wake-up call to publishers, that can now see that gamers won’t buy their games without having enough information, as they have been burned by that before.

Mafia III was an example, selling more than 4 million copies in its first month following the same model. 2K didn’t send any review copies ahead of launch, and that back fired due to a mixed reception, with many negative reviews. From that moment on, they went on to sell only 500.000 copies since November, stagnating completely.

Wolfenstein the new colossus

Maybe Bethesda will continue with the policy and things will change, but from what we’ve seen, it has failed and damaged two projects of the company. We can only hope that it will change before Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus and The Evil Within 2’s release, before it can affect permanently their image and the goodwill they have. After all, great games deserve to be played by as many people as possible.

 

Are We Too Quick to Judge?

The video game industry is surrounded by a level of passion that is hard to be matched by any medium. Movies, books, music have passionate fans regarding franchises, bands, series, but few can accrue as much love or hate as the most prominent video game franchises.

And we have seen that with the yet unreleased Mass Effect Andromeda, the new entry in the beloved sci-fi franchise that became an icon in the industry. N7 jackets, cosplays, tattoos, regarding Commander Shepard and the world around him proliferate in conventions, and even in everyday life.

But like any major brand, as we see with Star Wars’ prequels, the same fans who adore the characters and the lore can feel betrayed, as what happened with the controversial ending of Mass Effect 3. And some of that hate has transferred against Mass Effect Andromeda, and I’m not defending the game, that is yet to be found out if it’s worthy of being considered as part of the franchise.

Yes, the animations truly look horrendous, sometimes worse than what we saw in the first entry, that came out in 2007, and far inferior to those in Dragon Age Inquisition, that came out in 2014, by the same studio. But it feels that everybody is going beyond that and considering the game a failure based on the impressions of the first few hours, that doesn’t give an amazing first impression, but neither did Mass Effect 1, and many other revered RPG’s.

With a game that has such a big scope, spanning through an entire galaxy, a new one, hundreds of characters, and dozens of hours of content, we can’t judge it based on its first hours. After all, a lot of story, character and gameplay developments will happen after that.

Hitman

Many other games were released with a negative impression, with problems that weren’t related to the visuals, but that was clouded by doubt and proved to be at least good games. Last year’s Hitman, was criticized by many for adopting the episodic business model and ended up becoming one of the biggest surprises of last year. It didn’t have an amazing story, but through brilliant level design and incredible replay value was voted by many as their game of the year.

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The outstanding Horizon Zero Dawn, that is a candidate for game of the year, previewed well but wasn’t deemed as an incredible game, with many journalists pointing to strange facial animations as a flaw, albeit they are not as bad as those in ME: A. And it had an amazing reception, being pointed as a new franchise for the PlayStation, possibly becoming a staple of the brand for the future.

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Final Fantasy XV also wasn’t unanimity among the media, with lackluster demos, characters that looked formulaic and uninteresting. All of that added to the morbid curiosity of seeing a project that took several years, and fundamental changes throughout the years to be released. And the final result proved to be positive, well-regarded by reviewers and fans alike, proving to also be a success when it comes to sales, that may never turn into a profit given the long development cycle and huge marketing effort behind it.

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And we can never forget, that looks may deceive, as we saw in The Order: 1886 and Mafia III. Both games were touted as possibly groundbreaking, due to its jaw dropping graphics in The Order and its story in Mafia III that tackled tough themes. Even though they managed to succeed in these areas, both were plagued by poor gameplay, and worlds that felt lifeless and underwhelming, being considered huge disappointments.

I’m not saying that Mass Effect Andromeda is going to be a great game, or that it shouldn’t be criticized based on its flaws. But at times we have judged a game before seeing the final product, and many times we were wrong. All I’m saying is that we should at least give it a chance to get a fair assessment, if indeed it really is a sub par entry, then it shall receive its share of reasonable criticism, but if it’s good then let’s all enjoy it.

 

The Game Awards 2016 Predictions

Now a tradition, The Game Awards, the biggest awards show in the gaming industry, is upon us, and we can expect some surprise announcements and an Overwatch/Uncharted domination. And this year, that felt a little bit underwhelming, with some of the biggest titles disappointing, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End with 8 nominations, is leading the pack.

Inside, Overwatch and Firewatch have 5 nominations each, with a total of 63 games being nominated overall. And here I’ll try to guess the winners, and in some cases, talk about my personal favorites.

PS: Some categories are not here because I don’t have enough knowledge of the candidates.

Here are the nominees:

GAME OF THE YEAR

For a game that delivers the absolute best experience across all creative and technical fields.

  • Doom (id Software/Bethesda)
  • Inside (Playdead)
  • Overwatch (Blizzard)
  • Titanfall 2 (Respawn/Electronic Arts)
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

If I had to guess

overwatch1280jpg-6daa73_1280w

Overwatch took the world by storm, destroyed the competition, and was critically acclaimed due to the successful combination of smooth gameplay, charismatic characters, great maps and a strong community. All of that with 1 game mode, being extremely addictive, with a foundation so firm that the lack of a single player campaign hasn’t affected the game, something that others like Titanfall, Star Wars Battlefront couldn’t. But if had to choose I’d vote for Uncharted 4, and I don’t understand what Doom is doing here.

BEST GAME DIRECTION

Recognizing a game studio for outstanding creative vision, game direction and design.

  • Blizzard (for Overwatch)
  • Dice (for Battlefield 1)
  • id Software (for Doom)
  • Naughty Dog (for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End)
  • Respawn (for Titanfall 2)

If I had to guess

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Again Overwatch is the probable winner again, giving Blizzard another award, mainly due to how all the elements work well, the design of the characters, which is just outstanding. The gameplay is spot on, being fast and easy to understand but hard to master, and the ability to create an addictive multiplayer-only game is something to be praised.

BEST NARRATIVE

For outstanding storytelling and narrative development in a game.

  • Firewatch (Campo Santo)
  • Inside (Playdead)
  • Mafia III (Hangar 13/2K)
  • Oxenfree (Night School Studio)
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Naughty Dog/SIE)

If I had to guess

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Inside from Playdead is one of those games that you just have to play, the way the complex story is told is simply amazing, without any words. All through smart design, with the world being responsible for it, allied to the use of imagery, being an example that a picture is worth a thousand words. My choice would be Mafia 3, given the importance of the plot especially nowadays, and for making it stand out despite the weak gameplay and repetitive missions.

BEST ART DIRECTION

For outstanding creative and technical achievement in artistic design and animation.

  • Abzu (Giant Squid/505)
  • Firewatch (Campo Santo)
  • Inside (Playdead)
  • Overwatch (Blizzard)
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Naughty Dog/SIE)

If I had to guess

uncharted-4-africa

A testament to the level of quality that Naughty Dog has achieved, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is breathtaking, with amazing vistas, varied locales. An attention to every single detail, every expression of Nate and Elena, they way they interact with objects, Uncharted 4 is a true example of masterful design. If Inside wins, it is fair, the way Playdead uses design is unique, as it’s an important part of storytelling.

BEST MUSIC/SOUND DESIGN

For outstanding audio, inclusive of score, original song, licensed soundtrack and sound design.

  • Battlefield 1 (DICE/EA)
  • Doom (id/Bethesda)
  • Inside (Playdead)
  • Rez Infinite (Enhance Games)
  • Thumper (Drool)

If I had to guess

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DICE created a Battlefield that has surpassed any expectations especially due to a meaningful campaign. And a significant part of that success came from an exquisite sound design, from the melancholic soundtrack that was simple yet beautiful, to the individual noise of every weapon, enhancing the experience of being in the battlefield. I missed seeing Mafia 3 here, after all, it had an incredible soundtrack, but you can’t get everything.

BEST PERFORMANCE

Awarded to an individual for voice-over acting, motion and/or performance capture.

  • Alex Hernandez as Lincoln Clay, Mafia III
  • Cissy Jones as Delilah, Firewatch
  • Emily Rose as Elena, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • Nolan North as Nathan Drake, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • Rich Summer as Henry, Firewatch
  • Troy Baker as Sam Drake, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

If I had to guess

uncharted-4

All actors in this category did a great job in their roles, with Uncharted 4’s standing out, mainly due to the “end” of the franchise. And Nolan North is expected to win, not only because it was his last time playing Nathan, but also because he did without ever sounding cheesy, bringing a lot of charisma and quality to one of the flagship characters of recent years.

BEST INDEPENDENT GAME

For outstanding achievement in a game made outside the traditional publisher system.

  • Firewatch (Campo Santo)
  • Hyper Light Drifter (Heart Machine)
  • Inside (Playdead)
  • Stardew Valley (ConcernedApe/Chucklefish Games)
  • The Witness (Thelka, Inc.)

If I had to guess

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In a year filled with indies that far surpassed the quality of many of the most expected AAA titles, Inside brought something unique to the market. An emotional, brutal, thought-provoking game that actually was far superior than anybody expected, especially working as a follow-up for Limbo. Despite The Witness’ superb gameplay ideas and innovations, it didn’t have the same impact as Inside did.

BEST ACTION GAME

For the best game experience focused around first or third person combat.

  • Battlefield 1 (DICE/EA)
  • Doom (id Software/Bethesda Softworks)
  • Gears of War 4 (The Coalition/Microsoft Studios)
  • Overwatch (Blizzard)
  • Titanfall 2 (Respawn/EA)

If I had to guess

titanfall-2

Given the nomination for game of the year, if Titanfall 2 doesn’t win this category it will sure be strange, especially since Overwatch might dominate the show. Bringing a revered campaign, that surprised critics and gamers alike, Titanfall 2 also brought new and creative situations in the tired FPS genre, unfortunately receiving less attention that it deserved because of a strange decision regarding the release date.

BEST ACTION/ADVENTURE GAME

For the best game experience that combines combat with traversal and puzzle solving.

  • Dishonored 2 (Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks)
  • Hitman (IO Interactive/Square-Enix)
  • Hyper Light Drifter (Heart Machine)
  • Ratchet & Clank (Insomniac Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

If I had to guess

dishonored-2

Even though my gut feeling says that Uncharted will win another category, my mind says that Dishonored 2 might steal it from Naughty Dog’s title. Reviews have been praising Dishonored for its world building, characters, story, with many considering it their game of the year. And despite Uncharted 4 quality, it definitely isn’t the best in the franchise, and its campaign had some issues.

BEST RPG

The best game designed for rich player character customization and progression, both offline and online, including massively multiplayer.

  • Dark Souls 3 (FromSoftware/Bandai Namco Entertainment)
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (Eidos Montreal/Square-Enix)
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — Blood and Wine (CD Projekt RED)
  • World of Warcraft: Legion (Blizzard)
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X (Monolith Soft/Nintendo)

If I had to guess

dark-souls-3

In a weak year for RPG’s, with an expansion (that really is incredible) being nominated, Dark Souls 3 was a beautiful finish to one of the most beloved franchises. More beautiful than ever, DS3 took advantage of the PS4 and XONE, to bring a more interesting world, and impressive bosses, maintaining the level of quality and ending this saga in a very satisfying manner.

BEST FAMILY GAME

Best game for family play, including toys-to-life, rhythm/music/dance, and other genres.

  • Dragon Quest Builders (Square Enix)
  • Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens (TT Fusion/WBIE)
  • Pokemon Go (Niantic)
  • Ratchet & Clank (Insomniac Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Skylanders: Imaginators (Toy for Bob/Activision)

If I had to guess

ratchet-and-clank-screenshot-02-psv-us-10jun15

An insanely beautiful game that worked as a reboot, Ratchet & Clank astonished everybody for its capacity to change the story whilst keeping its spirit. Breathtaking places, a funny and compelling cast, Imsoniac’s trademark arsenal of imaginative weapons, bringing color and fun to an industry filled with violence and grit, and being family friendly without being boring.

BEST SPORTS/RACING

For traditional and non-traditional sports and racing games.

  • FIFA 17 (EA Canada/EA Sports)
  • Forza Horizon 3 (Playground Games/Microsoft Studios)
  • MLB The Show 16 (SCE San Diego Studio/SIE)
  • NBA 2K17 (Visual Concepts/2K Sports)
  • Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 (PES Productions/Konami)

If I had to guess

Forza Horizon 3 City Skyline

I know NBA wins every year, and 2K17 is an amazing entry, but Forza Horizon 3 deserves to win this year. Playground Games’ recreation of Australia is just outstanding, allowing the player to cruise through the Outback, Surfer’s paradise in one of the most beautiful games of this generation. And the level of customization, from creating championships and challenges, to the visual of the cars, is unlike any other.

BEST MULTIPLAYER

For outstanding online multiplayer gameplay and design, including co-op and massively multiplayer experiences.

  • Battlefield 1 (DICE/EA)
  • Gears of War 4 (The Coalition/Microsoft Studios)
  • Overcooked (Ghost Town Games/Team 17)
  • Overwatch (Blizzard)
  • Titanfall 2 (Respawn/EA)
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)

If I had to guess

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I would love to see overcooked winning, it is one of those special games that reminds me of the days of couch co-op. But Gears 4 also manages to do that, with off and online co-op in the campaign, a great multiplayer, that feels like a greatest hits of the older Gears games, and a revamped Horde Mode that on its own deserves to win this category.

MOST ANTICIPATED GAME

An upcoming game that has shown significant ambition and promise in moving the gaming medium forward.

  • God of War (Santa Monica Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda (Bioware/EA)
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar Games)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo)

If I had to guess

red-dead-2

This one seems like the easiest one, given the sheer level of excitement that this picture caused. With commotion around the world, the announcement of Red Dead Redemption 2 was one of the biggest stories of the year, and despite the lackluster reveal trailer, there’s no doubt that this is the most anticipated game of 2017.

 

 

Expectations for Fall Season

Fall Season has arrived upon us with the release of the acclaimed Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Batman: The Telltale Series, amongst other games, the best time of the year has come to destroy our wallets and our savings, and warm our hearts, and I’ll talk about some of my personal expectations regarding some releases from September to December, a few major titles may not appear here, but after all it’s my most expected, so…

September

Recore

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To kick things off, a game that had an enticing reveal trailer that left gamers intrigued with the concept of a heroine being assisted by robots that could evolve, and the relationship dynamic around it, Recore, will be released on the 13th, with concerns surrounding the title due to a lack of a marketing push from Microsoft, mixed reception from previews, however the team behind it is composed of industry veterans, known for the Metroid Prime and Megaman series, and from what it has been shown that’s a title that may not have the most complex story or amazing graphics, but a fun and interesting gameplay.

Forza Horizon 3

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One of my favorite franchises, and one that has maintained a steady level of quality throughout its iterations, showing great and considerable improvements, Forza Horizon 3, out on the 27th, seems to elevate the level of the franchise, that will premiere on PC, and spin the story, from an unknown driver fighting for recognition, now you are the man or woman behind the Horizon Festival, organizing the events, hiring your friends and firing them if they don’t perform, all with one of the most beautiful settings anyone could ask, Australia, from the coast to jungles, with breathtaking vistas, and the stunning graphics and great gameplay we’ve come to expect from the franchise.

Destiny: Rise of Iron

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A game that has transformed a lot from the troubled release, with terrible reviews and expectations being shattered, to last year’s The Taken King expansion, that I have to admit I enjoyed a lot more that I’d expected, Destiny: Rise of Iron, out on the 20th, is a new promising expansion with new missions that will expand on the franchise’s lore and improve the story in meaningful ways, multiplayer changes, a raid, all while leaving last generation behind, what looks like a great move, bringing new gameplay and graphical possibilities, preparing the market for next year’s Destiny 2 expected release.

October

Mafia 3

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This is a surprise for me,  especially since I’ve never played any game of this franchise, Mafia 3, out on the 7th, has turned into my most expected for the entire year, with the promise of a grueling and mature story, of a former soldier, Lincoln Clay, coming back from war to find his family and city, New Bordeaux, torn apart by crime, displaying his climb through the ranks, tackling tough themes that we hardly see in any games, such as racism, prostitution, and the dark side of crime and America, all with a soundtrack that has everything to be one of the best ever and a concern on world-building that looks into enhancing the atmosphere of the US in the 60’s, that if done properly, can create a remarkable experience.

Titanfall 2

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The open multiplayer beta didn’t really help creating any hype, actually going on the opposite direction, tampering players expectations, mainly due to the pace, that is slower than Titanfall 1, and modes that didn’t feel right with the gameplay, Titanfall 2, out on the 28th, has the difficult task of bringing the franchise to a whole new level, with the a single player campaign that looks like a buddy story between the soldier and his titan, and I still can’t wrap my head around how they’ll be able to bring the multiplayer speed to the campaign, while telling a compelling story, but team behind it has professionals responsible for the revered COD: MW 1 campaign, so let’s give it a chance.

Battlefield 1

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After an entire generation of modern and future war games, the Battlefield franchise returns to historical wars, focusing on one that doesn’t have enough representation on video games, WWI that was the background for the excellent Valiant Hearts, with Battlefield 1, out on the 21st, displaying a combat focused on closer interactions, old airplanes, more rudimentary tanks, weapons that don’t have a lot of range, making the battle more intense, and less dependant on technology, and promising to present a single player that will tell different stories with varied POV’s.

The Last Guardian

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This one is more due to pure morbid curiosity, after approximately 10 years of an arduous development, the team behind the classics Ico and Shadow of the Colossus will finally release The Last Guardian, out on the 25th, being the spiritual successor of the aforementioned titles, with years and years of hype, being announced originally for the PS3, it will be released on PS4 with worries regarding the graphics that look outdated, and the problem of a project that’s been through a long development cycle, the possibility of a game that comes out feeling old, with gameplay systems that don’t belong in this generation, chances are that the hype was too big to achieve but maybe a new classic is upon us.

November

Final Fantasy XV

final-fantasy-xv_cover_2016

Speaking of morbid curiosity, I’ve never played a game of this franchise, a few hours of FF7 doesn’t count, Final Fantasy XV, out on the 29th, is another example of a game plagued by a long development cycle, will be released after several delays and name changes, being announced originally as FF Versus XIII in 2006, boosted by an aggressive marketing campaign that culminated in an event, called Uncovered, unveiling a multimedia strategy, with an anime series, a movie, Kingslaive, and demos, that brought the project back to the media in grand fashion, promising hours of a grandiose experience that will be fulfilling for novices as well as for veterans of the franchise, being influenced by western games such as Last of Us.

Watch Dogs 2

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The sequel of one of the most successful new IP’s of this generation, Watch Dogs 2, out on the 15th, aims to improve on the first title, that despite selling very well, failed to meet expectations, and had a release that tarnished Ubisoft’s brand due to the general feeling of deception, because of a downgrade and a final game that didn’t reflect the reveal trailer, however Watch Dogs 2 has been well received so far by the media, with previews presenting a sequel that heard the complaints and worked on them improving on every area, from driving to customization, and a new and beautiful setting, in San Francisco, with everybody expecting an improvement on the level of AC to AC2.

Dishonored 2

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After the rousing success of Dishonored, that despite being a new IP, had rave reviews being considered one of the best games of the year, Dishonored 2, out on the 11th, has 2 protagonists, Corvo, and his daughter Emily, both returning from the first game, with Emily being playable for the first time, presenting a world that will react to the player’s actions, with new possibilities of stealth, areas shifting physically, changing the perspective of the gameplay, new powers and a big focus on the story, that looks very interesting, with the city being an important part of it.

December

Steep

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Another surprise for me was Steep, out on the 2nd, that during the Ubisoft E3 press conference I was surprised they finished the presentation with this game, that looked so boring, and even though I’ve always loved extreme sports games, such as SSX and THPS, I couldn’t muster any excitement for Steep, but after watching a gameplay released during Gamescom, introducing the possibility to use 1st and 3rd person views, and embracing different styles like snowboard, ski, a sign of hope erupted that it may be an interesting game, not groundbreaking, but fun, and that’s why we play games.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole

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Talking about fun, this may be the most fun and one of the funniest games of the year, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, out on the 6th, is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Stick of Truth, and now they poke fun of the superhero genre, with the hilarious E3 trailer demonstrating how the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe and no DC Universe will be torn apart, with the characters leaving the RPG stereotypes from the previous entry to dress up as heroes creating their own Universe, and being a worthy addition to a genre that hasn’t exploded on games yet.

As we can see there’s a plethora of games to play for the rest of year with some that weren’t mentioned here, like Gravity Rush 2, Dead Rising 4 and Bioshock remasters, COD: Infinite Warfare, just to name a few, and Indie games like Cuphead, do you remember another game? Leave it in the comments