Now things are really starting to get good for gamers. In front of a line is a title that should be on every serious stealth gamer’s must-play list, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Series creator Hideo Kojima’s swan song with the philosophical meditation on the changing nature of war is a devastating experience in the best of ways. If you’ve got kids, or are just an unapologetical Star Wars freak, you probably won’t have much time for The Phantom Pain because you’ll be so wrapped up in Disney Infinity 3.0, which hurls itself into a galaxy far, far away. And not to be overlooked is a top-notch movie franchise adaptation in the form of rumbling, roaring Mad Max.
Reviews by Phil Villarreal. Phil is an author, blogger and Twitterer. Publishers provided review copies.
Disney Infinity 3.0
(Xbox One, PS4, Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360, $65, Everyone)
Buy Disney Infinity 3.0 on Amazon here
While the first two Disney Infinity games were slim excuses to collect toys and mess around in a virtual toy box, the third edition finally adds some meat to the bones. The result is a full-featured game with a dizzying array of modes that let you take on story missions, interact with beloved storylines and flex your creativity by building levels of your own. Multiplayer options are also hugely expanded, introducing online options while making it easier to drop in and out of games in couch co-op.
The long-awaited addition of Star Wars, combined with a starter pack price cut from $75 to $65, should be just what Disney Infinity needs to topple toys-to-games leading Skylanders franchise. The game comes bundled with the Clone Wars-themed Twilight of the Republic story mode, which is the most robust tale yet to hit the series. Several expansions are already available out of the gate, including Toy Box Takeover ($35), which lets you mix and match characters to take on a series of iconic villains. Several more expansions — and, of course, toys — are on the way, meaning you can expect to sink tons of money into the game. For the first time with Disney Infinity, it will be an investment that pays off in excellent gameplay.
(Xbox One PS4, $60, Mature)
Most movie adaptations, rushed out to release just as the movie hits theaters, are garbage. The developer behind Mad Max ignored the routine, letting the movie Mad Max: Fury Road go in and out of theaters, to take the time and dedication to get it right. The extra time granted by Warner Bros. pays off well, recreating a sprawling, post-apocalyptic wasteland that does justice to the movies. Land and vehicle-based combat is well-honed, echoing the ruthless beatdowns that made Warner’s Batman: Arkham Knight so irresistible.
The game also succeeds by avoiding the trap of trying to recreate iconic scenes from the movie. Instead, you create your own wild set pieces by attacking missions with a set of upgradeable tools and vehicles, using your mind just as much as your firepower. You might find yourself running over a gang of thugs, skidding into a watch tower, then bailing out of your vehicle to take on the leader in a shootout. The game matches the films in sheer brutality and dark, ugly material. This is a world with no rules or sympathy, and carnage is a currency just as valuable as bullets and gasoline. Mad Max manages to find beauty in all the corroded ugliness.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
(Xbox One, PS4, $60, Mature)
Buy Metal Gear Solid V on Amazon here
Visionary game developer Hideo Kojima has said before that he was done with the Metal Gear franchise, but now that he’s parted ways with Konami, it seems he’s telling the truth for once. If this is the final Kojima-led Metal Gear Solid, it’s a remarkable way to go out. He manages to top all his considerably amazing previous efforts with the most stunning, thought-provoking and accessible entry yet. Combining the series’ signature in-joke-filled stealth-action gameplay with an open world. You use your cunning, allied agents and a cadre of cleverly designed tools to infiltrate and take down a series of ever-shifting targets.
Past Metal Gear Solid games have been mired in agonizingly long cut scenes. Kojima nullifies that problem by keeping you involved in the gameplay. For instance, when you find yourself barely conscious in a hospital as characters deliver backstory, you can look around, nod and shift your body weight in a restless attempt to escape. Subtle touches like that, combined with brilliant, thought-provoking dialogue and a twist-filled story worthy of an HBO miniseries, keep the saga fascinating for dozens of hours. As you chip away at the main story, there’s also a concurrent side mode that tasks you to build up a base, using your influence to ease your objectives, raise funds and deploy resources to alter the world to your vision. An overhwelming achievement, The Phantom Pain is a high water mark for the series, as well as the stealth genre as a whole.