The entire game, really, is fully worthwhile, a lean 20ish hours of gameplay with nary an ounce of gaming fat, or a moment you won’t enjoy. That’s the beauty of tight battling: It never gets old, always feels brilliant.
It all adds up to a terrific Mario game that offers boatloads of freedom. Whether you’re a creator, a gamer looking for the next great Mario level speed run, or just somebody who wants a little bit more Mario in their lives, there’s something here for you.
As a multiplayer game, the combat here is fun, but heading back to Fort Tarsis to grab the next quest becomes a chore; I found myself fast-forwarding as much dialogue as possible so I could get back into battle. There are likable characters in Anthem if you pay attention, and Bioware’s depth of story does shine if you’re interested. You won’t always be interested, though.
But it’s hard to feel as if you’re truly affecting the world when there are no NPCs to express satisfaction or disdain, or to be directly influenced by your actions. Even killing feels hollow. Some of my best battles in Fallout 4 came when I stumbled across an outpost and found there a raider in there; he’d yell and scream at me as we were facing off. The Scorched, while armed, feel like nothing more than zombies.
Red Dead Redemption 2’s missteps are few. The autosaving system is a little bit cruel, leading you to replay failed missions not from a pivotal point, but often from the very beginning of the mission or the section; the game should have taken cues from Ubisoft’s Far Cry and implemented far more friendly checkpoint saves. And while horseback riding in this game is largely fantastic, it’s odd to spend so much time tapping a button just to create your horse’s pace. This is intuitive -- but it feels unnecessary at times, too. The entire Red Dead experience, though, feels fantastic overall.
Director Stefano Sollima, who cut his teeth on Italian TV mob dramas, is good at building suspense. He fills the screen with striking images, too -- night-vision raids, heat-signature tracking, eye-in-the-sky surveillance.