January was a ridiculous month for new releases—packed full of great new games, from Rise of the Tomb Raider to Pony Island. Amazingly, February was even bigger, with 10 new titles enjoying an 80+ score from PC Gamer. Plus, a few duds. (I’m looking at you, Bombshell.) If you’re struggling to keep abreast of it all, here’s your monthly digest of February’s best—a look at its most praiseworthy games, most revelatory news, and most insightful features.
The biggest game of the month also received the biggest score. XCOM 2 is that rarest, most glorious of sequels—fundamentally deconstructing its predecessor and rebuilding it in a way that turns weaknesses into strengths. Each moment-to-moment choice branches and branches again, creating a deep, broad tactical experience that Tom Senior awarded 94%. “We’ll play this forever,” he enthused. He could well be right.
A “strangely enjoyable simulator,” says Andy of American Truck Simulator. He’s right on the money: obeying the law across the roads of California and Nevada should be interminable, and yet, somehow, is ATS is one of the most compelling sim experiences around. Nevertheless, as noted in Andy’s 80% review, it’s perhaps a little too similar to its predecessor, Euro Truck Simulator 2. It also only launches with the two aforementioned states, although its landmass is set to be expanded over the coming months and years.
Andy continued his relaxation combo with Firewatch, Campo Santo’s Wyoming wilderness adventure. Set in the gorgeous Shoshone National Forest, it’s a game about escapism, tragedy, humour and a paunchy middle-aged man. In his 85% review, Andy praised the game’s central relationship and setting, even whilst being a touch disappointed in its conclusion. Such faults aside, it does feature some of the best, most natural sounding dialogue I’ve heard in a game for some time.
Dying Light didn’t used to have a car in it, but then Dying Light: The Following was released and it did have a car in it. Now you can play Dying Light, and drive the car that it has in it. That’s not all that’s notable about this expansion, which also features a new map and a bunch o’ new missions, activities and story stuff. It’s good, says Chris Livingston. Good to the tune of 80%. How much of that score is down to the fact that there’s a car in it? Definitely some of it.
This was a surprise: The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human, which James Davenport deemed to be 90% good (note: that is not how review scores work.) It’s a 2D pixelated Metroidvania, as most indie games are, but this one’s set underwater. You’re in a submarine, chucking harpoons at some wondrously huge, ridiculously challenging boss fights. Given the need to replay many of the bosses to learn and overcome their attack patterns, I’d like to congratulate James for not comparing TAAotLH to Dark Souls.
The month’s second good expansion: Cities: Skylines – Snowfall. Did you love Cities: Skylines, but hate the fact that it’s paints a world trapped in the unyielding hell of the endlessly temperate? Likely you didn’t think much about it, but nonetheless Snowfall allows you to experience a much chillier take on urban planning. “With Snowfall, Skylines is beginning to feel a touch closer the complex simulation many have wanted,” says Chris, in his 83% review. “I wouldn’t say it’s a complete game-changer, but it does add a few more frosty layers to your management challenges.”
A dialogue-heavy murder mystery about a mechanical bear who forces high school students to play a sick and deadly game? It’s Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, probably the weirdest of the month’s releases. Here’s what Andy had to say, while he was awarding it 86%: “Danganronpa is one of the best story-driven games on PC. The scarcity of interaction, vast quantities of text, and glacial pace will turn a lot of people off, but the story is so compelling that I barely noticed that all I was doing was clicking through lines of dialogue.”
Street Fighter V has proven something of a controversial release. For fighting game pros, like our reviewer Nathan Brown, it’s “a celebration of what makes fighting games tick, and what makes them exciting. It is a battle of wits, of psychology, conditioning your opponent into doing what you want them to do, and punishing them severely when they do it.” But for newbies and singleplayer fans, “it is as convoluted and baffling as ever, and miserably light on content.” A recommendation, then, but one that comes with a serious caveat.
SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPERHOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. SUPER. HOT. 84%.
Charming Harvest Moon-a-like Stardew Valley is, as Daniella noted in her 80% review, a bit rough around the edges. Nevertheless, “Its imperfections never damage that feeling of gentle escape to the countryside.” It offers a nice, gentle experience for those who want mundane escapism without the trucks. “I might be a long way off getting an actual farm,” concludes Daniella, “but Stardew Valley makes for a good start.”
On the next page: the best news and features of the month…