As E3 approaches (or whatever you call the sequence of livestreams that are replacing it), the gaming landscape tends to become a little flat. And so it is with May 2022, which hasn’t got a single new game that you could confidently call AAA. But hold your horses, because May just looks downright fun.
There are so many games here that tickle in a multitude of ways, from blowing zombies apart with boomsticks in Evil Dead: The Game, to headshotting soldiers in Sniper Elite 5, or just gobbling your enemies up in Pac-Man Museum+. While there’s no guaranteed purchase here, we’re pretty confident that you will at least be having a chuckle or two.
Evil Dead: The Game
The multiplayer horror tie-in seems to be a thing now. Following Friday the 13th and any of the Dead By Daylight DLCs, there’s nothing that players like more than getting chased down by beasties from the movies. Add Evil Dead: The Game to that list, arriving in May from Saber Interactive, who – as it happens – also brought us World War Z.
What makes us so excited for Evil Dead: The Game, is that it’s bringing the series’ trademark humour to the horror game. This isn’t just a co-operative or PvP asymmetrical survival game; it’s a laugh-out-loud riot, as you can play many versions of Ash from the movies – all three movies and Ash vs The Evil Dead are referenced here – and they react to each other in exactly the confused manner that you hope they would. Better still, Evil Dead: The Game has the blessing, likenesses and voice of the Greatest Chin of All Time, Bruce Campbell. Come get some.
Now here’s an interesting one: part Dead Space, part – um – Godfall, Dolmen is an action RPG that has AAA aspirations. It casts you as a kind of interstellar miner (Isaac Clarke in a motorcycle helmet), looking to acquire the titular Dolmen: a mineral that allows interaction between realities – something essential for space travel. But as with the best things in life, it’s defended by tentacled beasties.
What follows is a shooter-melee-looter hybrid, and – honestly – it could go any way, really. We might be looking at the next Returnal, or the next Too Human. But there’s something about the lone adventurer on an alien planet that tickles our gizzards, so we’re excited by this one.
Having had the privilege of previewing Eternal Threads, we immediately shunted it high up the Up Next ranking. It’s not because of any graphical quality or AAA pretensions – this is actually quite a rickety looking game when it comes to its characters – but it has an absolutely killer premise, and the sheer number of narrative twists and levers make it utterly compelling.
You are a kind of time-travelling problem-solver, sent from the future to a house fire in northern England. Your job is to save the lives of six housemates by poking and tweaking at the events leading up to the fire, encouraging them to make different decisions and watching the butterfly effect as those changes have new consequences. The mind-boggling number of branches that can come from a single moment means that, even just as a toy or experiment, it’s fascinating to play around with, and we can’t wait to give this one a full review.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong
Also toying with narrative twists and turns is Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong. The latest game to sink its fangs into the popular world of Vampire: The Masquerade, it’s a story told from three vampiric perspectives. Each of the vampires you play is hundreds of years old and lives in the city of Boston, where a new Prince of the Camarilla has been inducted in, and they are looking to re-assert the Masquerade: the vampiric law designed to keep humans from learning about vampires.
This is primarily a narrative game, offering you choices and paths through dialogue and exploration that wind towards multiple different endings. Do you choose seduction, intimidation or stealth? There are multiple paths to take, and every choice will have an impact on your three vamps.
Sniper Elite 5
Quietly accumulating sequels and building a passionate, fun-loving fanbase, is Rebellion’s Sniper Elite series. This month fires the fifth one through your cerebral cortex, and we’re all for it.
Grabbing the headlines has been the enhanced killcam in Sniper Elite 5, which makes you worry for the artists that had to create it. Heads explode in glorious x-ray technicolour, and it’s not just sniper rifles that will trigger it. SMGs and pistols can now send you on a journey through an enemy’s eye socket.
It’s a journey through 1944 France, as you play series staple Karl Fairburne. You can partner up with a friend – should you want – and snipe through some real-world locations.
Also in the mix is ‘Invasion Mode’, a drop-in function that allows you to suddenly appear in a player’s game and pop off a few shots. That’s not going to get irritating, oh no.
We’ve had more Pac-Man reissues on the Xbox than we can count, but this one is the grandaddy of them all. We’re talking fourteen (14) games from Pac-Man’s history, specifically chosen for either their quality or utter weirdness, packaged together in an ‘optimised for Series X|S’ wrapper and accessible from an ingame arcade.
There are a few that we’ve never heard of, let alone played, and it shows just what happens when you let your main character go wandering into other genres without quality control. Take these as examples: Pac-Motos is a puzzle-battle game set on a tabletop, with Pac-Man looking to bonk opponents onto the floor, while Pac ‘n’ Roll seems to be a Super Monkey Ball clone, but with bananas swapped out for pills. It’s great to see a studio embrace the weird cousins of their IP and we’re well up for trying them out.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising
You know a JRPG means business when it steals the Final Fantasy font for its logo. That’s when you know it has ambition!
Think of Eiyuden Chronicle as the first in a two-part story. This JRPG introduces you to a cast of characters that returns in Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, and your progress carries over to that second game that will be coming in 2023.
Why are we wheeling this adventure out in front of you for an Up Next? One word: Suikoden. This is the brain-child of Yoshitaka Murayama, creator of that classic series, and if it even captures a single gram of the joy that came from that series, we are in for something special. But where Suikoden focused on collecting hundreds of heroes to form your party, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is focused instead on rebuilding your home town.
We’re down with that: Dark Cloud and Dark Chronicle showed exactly how satisfying ‘buildings as loot’ can be.
Wildcat Gun Machine
There’s a lot of narrative and chatting in May’s Up Next, so let’s turn 180 and go in a completely different direction. Wildcat Gun Machine is about the most overblown and ludicrous shooter that you’ll find on the market. It’s found the dial on the side of Enter the Gungeon, and whacked it right up to eleven.
Aside from the cat-theming, the reason to pay attention to Wildcat Gun Machine is that it knows that bigger means better. Bosses fill the screen, making the bullet-hell even more hellish. But you can give them a taste of your own medicine, jumping into a mech that is at least as big as they are. We’re not sure how anyone is going to be able to move.
Trek to Yomi
From Leonard Menchiari, the mind behind RIOT and The Eternal Castle, comes a collaboration with Flying Wild Hog and Devolver. It’s a black-and-white samurai opus, told as a 2D action-adventure game. Think Ghost of Tsushima retold as a Streets of Rage-style action game, and you’re not even halfway there.
We like this one because it’s drenched in atmosphere and period detail, with a campaign that likes to drop the pacing and let you do some chatting with the locals, before returning to spill some claret. As you would hope with a samurai-focused game, a single hit can mean death, so you’re going to have to take your time with this one.
Best Month Ever!
And now for the curveball. It wouldn’t be an Up Next without a game that is more about the ideas than it is the marketing budget.
Best Month Ever! imagines what it would be like to have one month left to live, giving you the control and choice over how that month is used. The only complication is that you have a child with you; although, whether they’re your child or not is unclear from the trailer.
So, you’re torn between responsibility for that child and giving in to your vices. Do you bring them on a drunken bender? Do they tag along on your crime spree? The choice, it seems, is yours. This is a narrative game with branching choices (May seems to have a few of those), and the long-term damage you do to the poor child really is down to you.
And so we come to the end of this smorgasbord of gaming. Hopefully May’s buffet offered you something that you fancy nibbling on.
In terms of June, information is a little thin on the ground – blame the replacement E3 livestreams for hoarding all of the announcements – but we DO know that you can expect Sonic Origins, the return of the Shadowrun series of games with a number of remasters, and Supermassive’s The Quarry. We expect plenty more to be added to the pile.