We might have been able to forgive Babylon's Fall if it, like the ancient empire it's named after, collapsed after many years of glory. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the first live service title from PlatinumGames as the game never really took off.
The generic dark fantasy design and muddled graphics gave a bad first impression, and the more we slogged through the linear corridors, the worse it got. The only aspect that somewhat lived up to the developers usual standards was the combat, but even that was nowhere near good enough to save the game.
When the publisher, Square Enix, saw that Babylon's Fall couldn't even amass more than 1.200 concurrent players around the release - a number that quickly dwindled to double digits - they decided to cut their losses and announced that the game's servers will be shut down in February next year. This means that Babylon's Fall, which was sold at a full retail price and is filled with microtransactions, doesn't even get to celebrate its 1-year anniversary. Truly shameful.
In terms of gameplay, Saints Row is a sorry affair. Weapons have all the punch and power of cheap water pistols, the open world is generisk and filled with mindless tasks, vehicles handle poorly, and on release the game probably had more bugs than the Amazon rainforest. But to be brutally honest many of the original games in the series weren't that much better.
Still, it was fun going on a destructive mayhem with Johnny Gat, Shaundi, Pierce and the other gang members, something that can't be said about the newest incarnation of The Saints. The reboot sorely lacks an overall concept to tie the experience together, and quickly degenerates into an incoherent mess. Especially glaring are the four main characters that act like they are in a bad sitcom while at the same time, seemingly with great pleasure, murders, mutilates and kill everything that dares cross their path.
But what really kills the experience - besides broken gameplay, bugs and terrible writing that is - is just how uninspired Saints Row is. You'll be hard pressed to find any new or original idea in this game, which makes its failure all the more disappointing.
It seemed like a good idea when Smilegate hired Remedy to create a single player campaign for the Western release of their first person shooter CrossfireX which is highly popular in China and their homeland of South Korea. With games like Max Payne and Control under their belt, Remedy is among the very best at crafting tight, intense single player experiences, and they have never really made a bad game. Until now that is.
The Finish studio chose to let their B team develop CrossfireX, and that was apparent from the very beginning of the soulless Call of Duty inspired campaign. Storywise the campaign was a huge mess, and the post-soviet setting, while providing a fittingly dreary battleground, was never really utilized properly. Having neither destructive set pieces or any tactical dimensions at all, CrossfireX felt like a creaky shooting range in an abandoned Bulgarian amusement park.
When Lego Brawls released for mobile in 2019 it was received quite positively. Here was a charming and simple Smash-clone with responsive touch controls, and it could even be played "for free" through the Apple Arcade subscription service. Fast forward three years and the same game is now being torn apart by players and critics alike.
This might seem surprising, but the explanation is actually simple: The developer Red Games Co. decided to throw a flyweight champion in the ring with the true heavyweighters (such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.), and with no new game modes or added graphical tricks the game suffered a quick first round knockout. With a price tag of 39,99€ this was a shabby display.
New Tales from the Borderlands
The original Tales from the Borderlands, which released episodically during 2014 and 2015, was Telltale Games at their very peak. Rhys and Fiona's thrilling adventure on the violent planet Pandora felt like a ten-hour rollercoaster ride, and you didn't even need a vomit bag, as the game had none of the exaggerated sentimentality of the later seasons of The Walking Dead: The Game.
Compared to this, New Tales from the Borderlands feels like ten hours stuck in an elevator. Gearbox, which this time have handled the spin off to their popular looter shooter themselves, infused the game with a huge dose of their forced and overgeared humor, and the result is a game that is rarely, if ever, the least bit funny.
We could probably have lived with this if the story or characters were at least halfway decent, but when the game commits the sin of letting eccentricity be a substitute for real personality, we end up with a boring and soulless tale that is sure to disappoint both fans of Borderlands and narrative adventures.
Kingdom Hearts Integrum Masterpiece (Nintendo Switch)
The Kingdom Hearts series has captured many hearts with its clever combination of Disney and Final Fantasy characters and a surprisingly deep story. So, on the surface at least, it seemed to be quite a treat when the whole series earlier this year was released on the family-friendly Nintendo Switch.
Yet, Kingdom Hearts on the Nintendo Switch was released as a so-called cloud version, which meant that players had to struggle through 15-20 years old PS2 and PSP games through an unstable connection to a remote server.
We might reluctantly accept a certain degree of input lag and an unstable frame rate when playing cloud versions of AAA games such as A Plague Tale: Requiem that might otherwise not be available on the Nintendo Switch. But when the console can run the game both natively and flawlessly, such as should be the case with Kingdom Hearts, there is simply no excuse for only making the game available through streaming. The beloved series deserved better.
Postal 4: No Regerts
The name of the latest chapter in the controversial and hyper violent series Postal is actually pretty clever. It perfectly encapsulates how the open world FPS game is willing to poke fun at everyone and generally be as offensive as possible, without making the slightest of excuses. Unfortunately the title itself is probably the best thing about the game.
Postal 4 unashamedly doesn't just break all the rules when it comes to decorum and political correctness, but also in terms of good game design. And while fundamentally broken systems can still lead to fun and memorable results as in Goat Simulator, the different systems in Postal 4, such as the shoddy shooting or broken AI, do not really work together in any way. There is still some fun to be had, but you'll be better advised sticking to its spiritual predecessor Postal 2 if you want extreme violence and offensive - some might say offensively bad - humour.