Newly released games to play this October
Forza: Horizon 3. You might be surprised to hear this, but finding your ideal racing game can be surprisingly difficult. There's a variety and depth to racing video games that might not be obvious at first blush, but knowing how to navigate them is the difference between finding a good racing game and the perfect racing game. While no racing game can be all things to all people, Forza: Horizon 3 gets close, with an incredible variety of races and terrain and customization available to make things as loose or as hardcore as you like. Like previous games in the Horizon series, you play equal parts racer and festival chair, competing in and building out a suite of events and challenges of your choosing. You can win, purchase, and bid on cars, make changes both big and small—everything from spoilers to rear differentials can be modified. And while Horizon is designed to be an arcade-style racer focused on fun, you can tip the scales more towards simulation if you like.
The game takes place in Australia, with a map that's seamless and open for you to drive anywhere, roads or not, with the option to switch to online play with and against others online. Forza: Horizon 3 is a racing game that makes racing an adventure, and a damn pretty one at that.
Tomb Raider: 20th Anniversary Celebration. Rise of the Tomb Raider was one of 2015's best action-adventure games, effortlessly iterating on the 2013 reboot of one of video games' most recognizable franchises. This month, the Anniversary Celebration marks the franchise's 20-year milestone by bringing the game to Playstation 4 users (the game was previously a Microsoft exclusive) and bundling it with a whole mess of bonus content. It's all great stuff, but none of it would matter if the core game wasn't really damn good to begin with. Raiding tombs, solving puzzles, and taking dudes out with guns and arrows (mostly arrows) in the snowy wilderness doesn't get old, and if you missed Rise of the Tomb Raider during its year-long period of Xbox One exclusivity, now's the time to catch up.
Gears of War 4. Conventional wisdom warns of the dangers of tinkering too much with something that isn't broken, and the developers behind Gears of War 4 take that very seriously. Part of this is understandable—the latest entry in the Gears of War series of games is the first that Epic Games, the studio that created Gears, is not involved in—but that doesn't mean it can't be a drag. The plot of Gears of War 4 is pretty rote and boring stuff, primarily concerned with shifting the narrative to a new generation of more diverse characters and creating a firm foundation for the series to continue should Microsoft, its publisher, choose (it will).
The story of the game is, quite frankly, training wheels for the real reason you play Gears of War: The online part, where you either fight against others or with them in the series' distinctively violent and and aggressive brand of bloodsport. The series' signature variations of competitive play are all here, from Team Deathmatch to King of the Hill, and just as fine-tuned and responsive as ever. But the game shines in the one area it has tweaked most: Horde mode, wherein a team of players cooperate to fight off wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies. While the basic format is the same, everything around it—having players adopt individual roles, from sniper to engineer, and including a strange-yet-compelling card-based system of tweaks and perks to said roles—has seen some tweaking, and it's a lot of fun. It also highlights why you might want to play Gears: It is a game that, on its own, isn't terribly compelling, but with other people, it's a dependably great time.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Definitive Experience. Another re-release bundled with a bunch of extras, Metal Gear Solid V is quite possibly the finest stealth game ever released. While its story doesn't make a lick of sense and its ending is somewhere on the cutting room floor, the heart of the game—in which you, as the legendary soldier Snake, infiltrate your way across the deserts and mountains of Afghanistan and the Angola-Zaire border of Africa to overthrow a dangerous paramilitary outfit and build out your own—remains one of the most rock-solid experiences in video games. While it is unfortunate that the game's plot and rationale are as incoherent and bad as the actual gamey-ness is incredible, it's very unlikely that we'll get a game as good at making you feel like a master of battlefield espionage than Metal Gear Solid V.
Mafia III. Few games play against themselves as much as Mafia III. It is at times ballsy and relevant, electing to address head-on issues of race and racism during the late 1960s, at other times regressive and dull, adhering to tired loops of repetition that countless games chasing the success and style of Grand Theft Auto have long worn thin. It starts off okay though, introducing its story via a true crime documentary-style frame narrative that's actually kind of cool: Lincoln Clay is a mixed-race Vietnam War vet returning to the fictional New Orleans-inspired city of New Bordeaux, only his homecoming quickly turns sour. When Clay refuses to be complicit in certain underworld machinations, the Italian Mafia turns on Clay and leaves him for dead, thereby spurring his one-man war on the mob.
As Clay, you'll spend a lot of Mafia III driving around New Bordeaux causing as much damage to the Mob as you can, rounding up allies and causing enough of a ruckus to draw Made Men and Underbosses out into your crosshairs. Unfortunately, it's a game that doesn't know what it does well, asking players to cause carnage but strangely making said carnage feel like a chore with its lack of variety, having players drive around endlessly but not making that driving particularly fun, and a game with subversive and interesting things to say that isn't very assertive about any of them. It's not quite a success, but not quite a failure; it's an interesting and flawed game that's worth checking out for the things it tries—and make no mistake, few big-budget games even bother trying to make clear statements about anything, much less race—wrapped in a game that's just good enough for government work.
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