Friday the 13th: The Game
While lacking the claustrophobia and vice-grip tension of Dead by Daylight (whose console port also dropped this year), Gun Media’s Friday the 13th: The Game makes the best use of its asymmetric concept. Counselors are easily digestible archetypes, complete with tailored stats; capable enough to allow for a hard-won survival, but squishy enough to make (the far more likely) grisly death not only feel like an earned outcome, but even a little enjoyable. The various permutations of Jason, however, are where the game finds its fun: brutish, indestructible, capable of rending bodies apart, forever urged by Mommy to kill. You prowl, biding time until your abilities power up, then strike down fleeing counselors when they tire themselves out. The graphics might be shoddy, the maps limited and kinda plain, but it captures both the goofy sadism and the rinky dink, knockoff quality Friday the 13th has cultivated since 1980.
Atlus’ most mainstream Shin Megami Tensei yet, but also its most grim. Where the PS2 cycle represented in Persona 3 and 4 tempered their angst and psychosexuality with clear-cut morality, Persona 5 presents a world having gone insane. Administrators overlook student-diddling psychopaths and the cops and prosecutors are in the pocket of elitist cabals jockeying for power. To the teenage anti-heroes, the entirely human evil takes on cosmic horror dimensions suited to the series’ aesthetic. This formula twist pervades the game, with dungeons built around infiltration and heist film theatrics juggling multiple realities. To further your picaresque activities, you build up a healthy social life of fellow outcasts, each confronting their own inner demons, to get the tools and skills needed to set about your impossible task.
Both a reset and complete overhaul, RE7 (particularly its opening hours) sings. Initial impressions of Capcom coat-tailing P.T., Amnesia, and other, trendy first-person horror games fall away when the game hits you with themed locks, deathtrap puzzles, and claustrophobic encounters with shambling monstrosities. Soon enough, you’re backtracking across a dilapidated mansion to test out new equipment and keys. Players are invited to re-examine the survival horror genre’s (and specifically, the Resident Evil franchise’s) core tenets through an HD prism, fixated on sweaty flesh and toxic mold. Simultaneously, they are put through enough subversions of every gaming impulse and shorthand solution built up across console generations, making every step forward nerve-wracking.
Also Liked: Yakuza 0, XCOM 2: War of the Chosen, Cosmic Star Heroine, Dead by Daylight, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite