Ten games to spend the holiday season with

From the usual suspects to quirky offshoots, here are ten games to try out next month.

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The holiday season is a time where everyone winds down at work, and what better time to take on a time suck in the form of a (series of) video games? Here are some of the newest releases this coming season that you should check out.

Godfall

A ‘looter-slasher’ might not sound epic as a PS5 launch title, but Godfall’s action is set against a backdrop of stunning textures that essentially give us a hint of what the next-generation hardware is capable of. Godfall is a skills-driven game that is paired with a loot system that augments your attacks. Fans of combat systems will have a field day here, because there’s a truckload of them for you to have to wrap your head around. But master them, and you will be rewarded with the most devastating attacks. You can wing it alone or with a team of three, which opens up more possibilities as you collectively try and find a set of skills and equipment that synergise well with each other.

TL;DR Part looter, part action RPG slasher, all stylish backgrounds. And hours upon hours of tuning your character builds

Platforms PS5 exclusive until 21st May 2021, Microsoft Windows

Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Effectively the sequel to The City That Never Sleeps DLC, the Miles Morales edition of the evergreen web-slinger gives a fresh perspective to the hero’s identity and motivations, creating a whole new experience although the game pretty much covers the same ground – it is Spiderman after all. While the whole ‘I can’t live up to the original hero’ schtick is a little well-worn, the PS5 variant of the game is technologically far superior to any old representations of Spiderman. This game is practically a showcase for the console’s ray tracing abilities while the advanced haptic feedback controllers add to immersion as the action unfolds on-screen. There’s nothing groundbreaking about the game but you have to admit that the prospect of swinging fluidly from building to building with the sun in your eyes does change the whole experience for the better.

TL; DR Mild Paracetamol for 2020 MCU withdrawal with a charming story and its fair share of action. Also good PS5 ray tracing demo

Platforms PS4, PS5

Demon's Souls

When Demon’s Souls was first released in 2009, it was met with middling reaction, but many loved its punishing difficulty; a refreshing throwback to gaming’s formative years where games like Ghosts n' Ghouls would ruin many a childhood. The game would then spawn highly successful spiritual successors in the form of Dark Souls series and Bloodborne, which in turn spawned critically acclaimed hits like Nioh and Sekiro. The long-awaited remaster to the OG is finally upon us and December is the perfect time to indulge in a little nostalgia or a history lesson. The remaster brings all the amenities and comforts of a modern title, like 4K graphics, the latest in haptic feedback tech, immersive 3D audio and a usable character creation screen. Which means it’s now worth spending the 3 hours trying to get your character looking right.

TL;DR You aren’t sick of ‘Soulsbourne’ games yet and December is always the perfect time to bathe in nostalgia

Platforms PS5

Yakuza: Like a Dragon

Fans of the cult action-adventure series will no doubt be anxious about the franchise’s first outing without the iconic Kazuma Kiryu as its protagonist. But don’t worry, he does make an appearance along with other familiar faces like Goro Majima in Like a Dragon. Short of a reboot, Like a Dragon is almost like an attempt at a fresh start, having shifted the setting from Tokyo to Yokohama, as well as changing the real-time beat ‘em-up style of gameplay to a turn-based RPG style, with character classes called Jobs. New lead Ichiban Kasuga certainly has very big shoes to fill, but if Japanese reaction is anything to go by (the Japanese version was released a year earlier on PS4), international fans will have a ball of a time with the new direction as an unlikely JRPG.

TL;DR Low-key reboot of a highly successful franchise that will surprise you in a good way

Platforms Windows, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS5 in March 2021

Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Modern-day protagonist Layla Hassan returns in the 12th instalment of the Assassin’s Creed series and she will be involved in the gameplay this time around. The latest venture lets us relive the memories of Eivor and her (or his, you get to choose the gender) clansmen, who have been forced out of their home to seek new pastures in jolly old pre-England. Unsurprisingly, King Aelfred of Wessex is having none of it and we’re then thrown into the good old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon warfare that we have come to expect when the word Vikings pop into mind. Ubisoft constantly evolves its game mechanics for the series and Valhalla is no different, with sieges as well as settlement building now becoming a key part of the mix. Although it’s not claiming historical accuracy, we appreciate that the type of weapon used also changes combat dynamics with enemies, which makes it a far more engaging experience.

TL;DR Less assassinating more settlement building and Vikings aren’t mindless barbarians.

Platforms PS4, PS5, Stadia, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Luna

Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War

In a classic art imitates life move, the new Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is set in the early 80s Cold War era, revisiting the classic USA vs USSR tensions and counterespionage tropes. CoD is essentially the seasonal sports franchise of first-person shooters, so you pretty much know what you are getting into. There’s good news if you’re a Warzone player, because content like weapons and skins from Cold War (and Modern Warfare) will be available in Warzone. While the core of the game remains the same across all platforms, PS5 users will get to play Zombies Onslaught – a two-player co-op mode – exclusively for a year till Nov 21, 2021, along with additional tier skips for the Battle Pass. So, if you’re up for a month of FPS frenzy, here’s one place to go.

TL;DR The FIFA/NBA2K/etc of FPS genre is a safe pick for those who live life by WASD and just want new content. Don’t get too annoyed by the seemingly P2W advantage that PlayStation users have…. yet.

Platforms Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4 and PS5 with content exclusives

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Breath of the Wild players will find the world of Age of Calamity familiar, but that’s because it is set in the same world, albeit 100 years earlier before the great Calamity. In essence, it is the prequel to Breath of the Wild, filling in the story leading up to that landmark game, but with the Dynasty Warriors Musou-style combat. So far from it being some cash grab spinoff, fans of the series will get to experience the tragedy that was to come, and essentially pick up the slack where BotW was lacking. While the concept of sweeping away masses of enemies feels too close to Koei’s addictive button masher, there are enough elements such the ability to cook and find koroks that will keep you perfectly grounded in Link’s world.

TL; DR Hyrule Warriors' seemingly questionable flirting with Dynasty Warriors makes perfect storytelling sense here. Sorry for having doubted you.

Platforms Switch

Cyberpunk 2077

The fact that several games changed their launch dates around Cyberpunk 2020’s release date says a lot about the hype surrounding this long-awaited title. Based on the tabletop RPG Cyberpunk, Cyberpunk 2077 is an open-world Action RPG that, much like the now-legendary Witcher 3, features stellar world-building with nary a dull moment, or so it seems so far. You can explore buildings, which greatly expands the Cyberpunk world, and your characters have selectable life paths, which adds another level of customisation for your character. CD Projekt Red’s remarkable attention to detail is near peak-meme levels of self-mockery, culminating in its insane character customisation options where you can even tweak your character’s genitals.

TL;DR It’s Cyberpunk 2077. But seriously, it looks like it has a lot of replay value thanks to the insane level of customisations.

Platforms releases on 10 December on Windows, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S

XIII (2020 Remake)

A remaster of a game you probably never heard of, based on a Belgian graphic novel you probably never heard of either. The original combined a cel-shaded, comic book art style with first-person shooter mechanics with stealth elements thrown in for good measure. Its obscurity is probably a good thing, though, because what you have is 34 levels of good old action storytelling that feels relatively fresh in a world where monetisation models take priority over well-written content. It even uses the original dialogue featuring David Duchovny as the titular protagonist who is searching for his past, as well as the irreplaceable Adam West as General Carrington.

TL;DR Jason Bourne-ish action thriller born in the 80s and given a fresh coat of paint today.

Platforms Windows, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Mac

Sackboy A Big Adventure

Sackboy is essentially a cloth puppet but I suppose that’s the point – it’s Sony’s way of low-key showing off how good its wool-like textures look. I don’t think this is a game for a modern hardcore gaming crowd though those who have a penchant for classic platformers or kids will appreciate the charm the Sackboy brings to the table. This sharp and polished 3D platformer, however, will not have two of its killer features at launch; creation mode was dropped while online multiplayer will be delayed till the end of the year. Fans of the franchise’s quirky British charm will probably not mind about either.

TL;DR Probably not the first game people will pick in a lineup. But this is quite an entertaining platformer, made prettier with new hardware.

Platforms PS4, PS5