The Dark Zone was easily the most memorable thing about Tom Clancy's The Division when it launched in 2016. Never knowing whether another squad of agents was going to leave you to enjoy your hard-earned PvE loot or kill you and take it for themselves was a constant source of tension - something no multiplayer game has quite managed to recreate since.
Let's take a loot.
State of the Union.
Last week I attended PAX Unplugged (which is operated by our new owners, ReedPOP). It was my first ever board game convention, and I had a great time - they keep the lights on and you can hear yourself talk and everything. Crucially, I also played loads of tabletop games - here are the five best things I played.
Before playing Life is Strange 2 for myself, I was as skeptical as I was hopeful. While I certainly liked the look of the characters and was intrigued by the game's premise, I had a number of questions as I sat down to play for the first time. Would the protagonists be relatable? Would Life is Strange 2 work as a road movie, rather than sticking to the same town? Could it capture the same sense of magic without fan favourites like Chloe and Max, and could Life is Strange 2 really touch on its chosen subjects such as racism and police brutality with meaning and sensitivity?
From Papers Please to Aviary Attorney, I am a sucker for narrative games involving quick thinking and paperwork. When I stumbled across We. The Revolution at this year's PAX West, then, I was keen to jump straight in. Afterward, I needed a good long sit down. Just as a heads-up for those who might find it upsetting, this article touches on topics such as sexual assault and religious persecution.
There is a single console running Spelunky 2 in the corner of Sony's booth at PAX West, and it is by far my favourite part of the show. The queue is surprisingly small, but it's alive with excited chatter as everyone waiting for their turn talks about the new stuff they can see popping up on screen. It makes for good conversation, too, because there is an awful lot of it. I am a distinctly average Spelunky player but, having spent a lot of time queueing and requeueing, I've now seen rather a lot of a sequel that's familiar but isn't resting on its laurels.
A demo for Anthem, Bioware's multiplayer shooter, will be released on the first of Februrary next year. The 'VIP' demo will come to Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. It will be open to EA Access subscribers and those who have preordered the game.
After a long period in which it was difficult to really define what Anthem really is - beyond it feeling like EA's answer to Destiny - Bioware's multiplayer shooter is finally starting to come into focus and it looks pretty decent.
Trailers are funny things - whether for a video game, a tv series or hell, even a soft drink or stair lift, they present an idealised version of a product that rarely proves equal to the slickly produced promise.
Two Point Hospital is a game that makes absolutely no bones about being a nostalgia trip for anybody who played Theme Hospital in the late 90s. I should know, since it's aimed squarely at me. When Theme Hospital launched, I was nine and my parents, a doctor and a nurse, thought it was hilarious. They were delighted by it; even now, in fact, my father occasionally refers to his work as a Consultant Parasitologist as 'doctor required in inflator room'. ]
Morphies Law is a team based objective shooter with a day of the dead themed aesthetic and a strong gimmick - namely that, when you shoot an enemy, you steal mass from that part of their body and add it to your own. Get a series of headshots, for example, and you'll be tottering around as a bobblehead. Rake someone's legs with bullets, meanwhile, and you'll start strutting around like Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
In many ways, playing Overcooked 2 is like returning to a favourite restaurant after a long absence and ordering what you always used to have. The comfort of familiar, nourishing food is hugely enjoyable, of course, but it's the sense of coming back to something that's truly special. When playing Overcooked 2 there's a lot more shouting and swearing, but the principle is the same - this sequel is strikingly similar to the first game, but a few well-chosen additions and refinements breathe new life into one of the best couch co-op experiences going.
Cyberpunk 2077's showing at this year's E3 was extremely strong. The 50-minute gameplay demo I saw left me hungry for more, but it also left me wondering - just how much of CD Projekt Red's game was pulled from Mike Pondsmith's pen-and-paper role-playing game? In other words: just how much Cyberpunk 2020 is there in Cyberpunk 2077?
If there's anything that can be said of Games Workshop of late, it's that it hasn't shied away from licensing video games - a trend that was lampooned far better than I could ever aspire to by this article.
So often DLC can feel a little forced, but every once in a while there comes something with a real sense of mischief - an expansion showing you that not only does the developer know why the initial release was a success, but that they aren't afraid to get really weird with the next instalment. By reflecting and riffing on the core experience, these bits of DLC elevate the base game while reminding players what made it great in the first place. The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine is a great example, and so too is Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle: Donkey Kong Adventure.
A sizeable new update for Warhammer: Vermintide 2 has been released by developer Fatshark, aimed at fixing a number of issues with the game's difficulty.
Back in 2016 Frontier Developments launched Planet Coaster, a very well-received simulator about building the best theme park you can and then making sure it runs as smoothly as possible, ironing out minor problems in design while making sure the guests are well catered for.
I've been playing a lot of Sea of Thieves this week and so far it feels very much like being in an exciting new relationship and not being able to work out why your friends aren't as happy for you as you thought they would be - a heady combination of being incredibly enthusiastic, with just a slight creeping sensation that you're making a fool of yourself. I'm not overly bothered, mind you - I'm still having a lovely time - but it did get me thinking about what exactly draws me in so strongly while putting others right off.
When it comes to tinkering with a game like Vermintide, it's very easy to muddle what made the original work - the video game equivalent of messing with the thermostat rather than putting another jumper on. I remember feeling that way when Left 4 Dead 2 launched; I loved the first game, but there was something about the sequel that felt off. I had issues with the pacing, chiefly, but there was something else about the experience that didn't quite work, like it had lost some essential part of what made it great along the way.
I've been playing a lot of Blades in the Dark recently - it might just be the best pen and paper role playing game I've ever encountered. Blades is an RPG in which the players form a fledgling criminal gang in the grimy industrial city of Duskvol, pulling off daring heists and trying to stay one step ahead of their enemies and the long arm of the law. What makes it truly special, however, are the mechanics aimed at making the experience as sleek and swift as possible, because if there's one thing from which pen and paper RPGs suffer, it's an overabundance of planning. No matter the size of an encounter, players love to try and concoct a plan to cover all bases - an irresistible exercise in frustration, as the best laid plans of mice and men and tabletop role players gang always agley.
I spent a couple of hours this week playing a preview build of the upcoming Assassin's Creed DLC, Curse of the Pharaohs - which, as the name suggests, is all about the ire of Egypt's rulers. Specifically, the dead ones. With some careless grave robbers helping themselves to powerful artefacts, the Pharaohs have grown restless and put a curse on the game's new region of Thebes.
Abandon Ship, a seafaring strategy game with more than a smattering of the occult, has dropped anchor in Steam early access and personally, I am very impressed with how it's looking so far. I made a video about it earlier this week. In fact, you can view it below.
If you're at all familiar with the Eurogamer video team, you know that there are two things we really enjoy - namely the spirit of competition and constant bickering. When we were given the opportunity to indulge both of these vices in front of a live audience at London's Vault Festival, then, we jumped at the chance.
In the music industry, people often refer to Second Album Syndrome - a phenomenon whereby a popular artist sets about making their sophomore record, only this time the stakes are considerably higher due to increased exposure and fan expectation. This sometimes leads to artists trying to reinvent themselves, or go bigger in order to keep up with demand. Middle-earth: Shadow of War is kind of like a difficult second album, only the band has hired a 90 piece orchestra and asked Matt Bellamy from Muse to do the lyrics. And he's turned up with 20 new effect pedals.
Assassin's Creed Origins will get a free update next year called Discovery Tour that effectively turns the game into an interactive museum.
Developer Fatshark has teased a sequel to its first person Skaven slaying game Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide.