Gift guide: games for adults
Just a grown-up kid? Hoping to get a new game or two this Christmas? Hayley Tsukayama rounds up the top games on the market this festive season.
Halo 5: Guardians
Pro: Gorgeous graphics and fun multiplayer.
Con: The story is a little thin.
Microsoft's Halo series is one of the most recognizable and important in the gaming world today, and anticipation has been high for the latest installment, “Halo 5: Guardians.” It is a fun and visually stunning game. The title takes full advantage of the power of the Xbox One, Microsoft's latest gaming console, and players get dropped into rich, often chaotic scenes that give the game a sense of wholeness. New multiplayer modes also sketch out locations that feel enormous and make fighting with your fellow gamers a lot of fun, even if you can only do that online.
The story could use a little help, however. “Halo 5: Guardians” is essentially the middle of a trilogy that stars its most famous character, Master Chief. The game does a fairly good job of catching new players up to speed, but it's not exactly a plot-driven game. Still, if you like Halo's aesthetic and its space-marine play style, you'll find a lot to love.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III
Pro: Lots to love for Call of Duty fans.
Con: Can feel a bit disjointed.
It's not easy keeping a mega-franchise going, as the studios who work on Call of Duty can tell you. Things can get stale, and there's a rabid fan base to deal with. People who love these games really love them - the latest, “Call of Duty: Black Ops III” made $550 million in its first three days on sale.
And it deserved to. The new title strikes more or less the right balance between offering players what they love without changing too much about it. The story explores the tension between man and machine, though not too deeply. There's a mode in which you can fight zombies. And the real magic is in the mutiplayer, which has been updated and upgraded to let you use the world around you to get around in parkour-like ways. Even though the three modes don't feel all that connected, ultimately the game succeeds because it is fun to play and fun to watch. What more could you really ask for?
Assassin's Creed Syndicate
Pro: Breathes some new life into the Assassin's Creed franchise.
Con: Can still get a bit repetitive.
“Assassin's Creed Syndicate” is unique in a couple of key ways. For one, it doesn't have just one protagonist. Instead, players step into the shoes of the Frye twins, Jake and Evie. You play as both characters at different points throughout the game, and you have to adapt to their different personalities and play styles.
It also diverges a bit more from some of the more recent Assassin's Creed games, though the core elements are the same, by tightening its focus a bit and making it easier to follow the main game rather than running off to explore all the time. Which is not to say there's no exploration. The setting, Victorian-era London, is full of alleyways to explore, roofs to climb and plenty of famous people - Darwin! Dickens! Disraeli! - to aid. Yes, the gameplay can get a little repetitive, but it's still good stealthy fun.
Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection
Pro: Classics updated for new technology.
Con: They are old games, even if they are beloved.
“Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection” collects the three games of the Uncharted series into one package, so you get the whole classic series all at once. Think of it as the binge-watching equivalent of video games. The Indiana Jones-like protagonist, Nathan Drake, has had his adventures upgraded for the latest technology as he searches for treasure and gets into all kinds of trouble. Overall, the games have aged pretty well, even though the first game was released in 2007.
A PlayStation exclusive, this collection is really setting players up for “Uncharted 4: A Thief's End,” due out in spring 2016. But it's nice to revisit the old gems and see them with fresh eyes, or at least a fresh coat of paint. It gives fans a chance to revisit old friends and new players an easy way to get up to speed before the next chapter starts.
Star Wars: Battlefront
Pro: You get to fly ships from Star Wars.
Con: Carries the most appeal for Star Wars fans.
It's the year of “Star Wars,” and no list would be complete without a little bit of that galaxy far, far away. With “Star Wars: Battlefront,” players can decide to be soldiers for either the Rebel Alliance or the forces of the Empire. You also get the chance to play, sometimes, as key characters from the films, such as Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker.
Of course, you'll also be able to drive or pilot any number of in-universe vehicles such as speeder bikes or TIE Fighters. One highlight of the game is the online multiplayer mode, which lets up to 40 players join together in epic battle for control of planets from the Star Wars galaxy.
Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain
Pro: Super sneaky, super fun.
Con: Can drag a little.
Sneaking around has never been so fun. In “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain,” gamers play as Big Boss, mercenary extraordinaire. There's a lot of backstory, but here's the short version: You've been wronged, you're seeking revenge and you're building a mercenary army to do it. If you're a fan at all of the stealth genre, it's worth a play. Fair warning, though: There is a scantily clad and controversial female companion in it. If you can get past that, you'll find that the rest of details in the title are spot on. This game feels completely crafted, from stem to stern.
Another fun part is the ability to customize your home base, which is a huge oil rig in the ocean. You can staff it up by recruiting people from the bases you infiltrate. (Well, kidnapping, actually. With balloons. It makes sense, I promise.) Different people will have different skills, so you can be sure to pick exactly the ones you need, giving you even greater chance of success on your missions.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Pro: Lots of action-packed fun.
Con: An Xbox exclusive, for now.
Lara Croft is back in “Rise of the Tomb Raider,” kicking butt and handing out precious little in the way of mercy. This gritty game is full of action, puzzles and some more action, all the while revealing a little more about the backstory of one of the gaming world's most recognizable characters.
All of that is set in some truly remarkable scenery that players explore by themselves, as the whole game is a single-player title. That makes the whole thing feel more personal. Ultimately it's just you, as Lara, developing into the iconic character out in the wilderness. Many reviewers have noted there's nothing particularly shocking or groundbreaking in this action-packed title, except perhaps that some of its most outstanding moments are the quiet ones. The game is an Xbox One exclusive at launch, though it will eventually make its way to the PC and PlayStation 4.
Pro: Satisfying fun for adults and kids.
Con: Can get a little stale.
Nintendo's fun and family-friendly take on the shooter is “Splatoon,” a game in which your ammunition is nothing more than paint. Well, technically, it's ink. You play as an anthropomorphic, shape-shifting squid - hence, the ink - who competes against others for control, based on how much of the map you can cover in your own color. In one mode, you even play matches against other online players in an arena. All in all, it's good clean fun that works for the whole family. Yet while it'd be easy to dismiss it as a kids' game, it is complex enough to keep everyone happy.
In some ways, the weakness of “Splatoon” is that there isn't more of it. Once you really get into it, you find yourself wanting more: more maps, more varied ways to play and more content. Things can get a little stale after a while, though new updates from Nintendo over time may help.
Pro: There's so much for you to do.
Con: The apocalypse can get seriously depressing.
“Sprawling” may be the best word to describe “Fallout 4,” an open shooting game that gives you nearly free rein over a post-apocalyptic version of the United States. But, you know, one that's still fun. With its dark humor and numerous options how to play through the game, it's pretty hard to get bored with this title - at least not until you've played for longer than is probably healthy.
While running out on missions, killing bad guys and picking your own specialty is still at the heart of the game, the developers have added a new angle by letting you set a few settlements in the ruins of the world, too. It's pretty nice to be able to create your own little versions of Utopia. Because, believe it or not, the apocalypse is not exactly uplifting. While domestic bliss can be a part of the game, the combat is no less brutal or bleak than in previous titles, apart from a new ability to customize and craft weapons. The real beauty of this title is that, with a few exceptions, you can make your way through this massive world as you see fit.
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth – Rising Tide
Pro: Improved diplomacy adds a new element to the game.
Con: Not for casual play. You'll get sucked in.
“Civilization: Beyond Earth - Rising Tide” is the expansion to last year's title, which was the first to bring the society-building game off the planet Earth. Traditionally, Civilization games have featured prominent historical figures such as Napoleon or Gandhi. In “Beyond Earth,” the developers created new leaders from scratch to start cities and nations on the new planet. With “Rising Tide,” they've retooled the diplomacy in the game to set new guidelines for dealing with other leaders - letting you have deeper control over the world government. Plus, you can now build cities in the ocean. What's not to like about that?
“Rising Tide” is addictive. If you're looking for bite-size play, this is not it. But if you want to release your inner Alexander, there's oh so much world here for you to conquer. – Washington Post