Action of 2021 Year: Last Judgment, Monster Hunter Rise, Deathloop
2021 year turned out to be not much more productive previous one, but one thing is definitely impossible to complain about: we got a lot of good action games.
Brand new projects, continuations of famous series, exclusives, multiplatforms of all varieties and varieties — the choice is wide enough for everyone to find something to their taste. In this category we have collected the best action films of 2021.
Fifth place - Scarlet Nexus
Most gamers know Bandai Namco as the main publisher of FromSoftware studio games - from the Dark Souls trilogy to the upcoming Elden Ring - but the company's portfolio of projects does not end with just "Souls". Among other things, the publishing house is actively engaged in a variety of anime-style action games: both based on famous franchises (like One Piece or My Hero Academia) and its own IP. However, such Bandai Namco products usually do not find a noticeable response among the Western audience. A catchy anime visual, as a rule, covers a second-rate scenario and a rather mediocre gameplay that does not cause special emotions.
But it seems that the publisher has finally managed to reverse this annoying trend. Scarlet Nexus, despite the characteristic set of red flags, turned out to be a pleasant surprise. This is a dynamic, spectacular and extremely inventive action role-playing movie that is good not in spite of anime, but thanks to anime: in any other format, his creative ambitions would be too cramped. The magnificent combat mechanics of telekinesis, parallel narration on behalf of two heroes, a deeply developed universe and an ensemble of well-written characters do not let you get bored. Of course, at times Scarlet Nexus slightly overdoes the number of stamps, but this shortcoming is easy to forgive against the background of all the advantages - especially if you like anime action movies.
Fourth place - Returnal
Not so long ago, the Finnish studio Housemarque, responsible for Resogun, Nex Machina and Matterfall, officially vowed to return to the development of old-fashioned arcade action games, which the team has been engaged in in one form or another for as many as 25 years. They say, despite the brilliant reviews of players and the press, past projects have not brought significant profits, and the team cannot constantly work at a loss with all its desire. Well, Finns are unlikely to have to worry about money in the near future. Four years after that tragic surrender, Housemarque returned fully armed with the release of Returnal - perhaps one of the best works in her entire career.
In the cruel journey of astronaut Selena, stuck in a time loop on the mysterious planet Atropos, the firm hand of the masters of the genre is felt. The gameplay of Returnal is as old-fashioned as ever, but only in a good sense of the word: high complexity, mercilessly fast shootouts, a million special effects per second of screen time - you can't survive here without excellent reflexes and ingenuity. But everything related to the presentation, on the contrary, is done modernly and very expensive.
Sony's financial support finally allowed the studio's artists to turn around, so Returnal looks just amazing: the disgusting, but strikingly beautiful landscapes of a dead planet leave a strong impression. And thanks to the functionality of the PlayStation 5 gamepad, you can even feel the sound of raindrops on the heroine's spacesuit - it seems like a trifle, but it works great for the immersion effect. And although some of the developers' decisions turned out to be quite controversial, Returnal deservedly returns Housemarque to the highest echelon of the industry. Such a game could not be implemented by anyone but them.
Third place - Lost Judgment
In 2020, the Yakuza series, which for a long time delighted the audience with spectacular and savory bruising, was retrained into a step-by-step JRPG. Now her niche has been occupied by the Judgment cycle - a spin-off about the adventures of a private detective Yagami, who often intersects with representatives of the criminal world during investigations. Fortunately, Mr. Detective is proficient in martial arts: the powerful style of the tiger, the graceful and sweeping style of the crane, and in the new part - also the technical style of the snake. In battles, Yagami switches between them on the fly, intertwining destructive combos with deft pirouettes and counterattacks.
Of course, there is also an adventure component in Lost Judgment: the player, after all, plays the role of a detective. But detective puzzles are not nearly as important as action, which for sixteen years has been getting better with each subsequent release of the Yakuza franchise. Lost Judgment doesn't even really have competitors: you won't find another game with such quality graphics, staging and choreography of fights. Dealing with crowds of enemies and emerging victorious from difficult boss battles here is a real pleasure.
Second place - Monster Hunter Rise
Over the past few years, the Monster Hunter series has been seriously transformed in the eyes of the mass audience. If earlier monster hunting was considered frankly niche entertainment, now it's hard to find someone who hasn't even heard of the franchise: Monster Hunter World was released on PC three years ago, but online games on Steam still have thousands of people. However, many gamers are still asking one simple question: what is the point of spending so much time at the grind? It would be fine if Monster Hunter had a seasonal rating table or some other form of ranked multiplayer, but the game is almost entirely single. A network cooperative for four players is optional, and any monster (with proper skill) can be defeated by the forces of one hunter. There are no regular content patches with new challenges, opponents and equipment here either. What's the secret then?
It's simple: the secret is how well the gameplay is worked out. The Monster Hunter Rise combat system offers such a wide scope for self—expression and self-improvement that a seemingly monotonous occupation does not really bother for hundreds of hours - even in a single game, even in a cooperative. Each monster requires a special approach, and the mastery of different types of weapons can be honed for a very long time, constantly finding new tricks and non-obvious nuances. In addition, Rise additionally diversifies the traditional gameplay for the series with the help of acrobatics: hunting has never been so dynamic, spectacular and accessible before.
Worthy of mention
Well, before awarding the gold medalist of the editorial vote, we will honor those projects that could not make it to the list of leaders with a few words: each of them more than deserves attention.
Hitman 3 put a spectacular end to the new story of Agent 47 — everything that was good in the previous two parts turned out great here. Finally, you can take and go through all three chapters in a row, without waiting for the next one to come out!
Resident Evil: Village could have done a lot more interesting things with its gallery of colorful villains, but the first third of the game was definitely a success thanks to the acquaintance with Lady Alcina Dimitrescu. It's just a pity that the authors decided to retire the vampire so quickly: her charisma will be sorely missed in the next issues.
Severed Steel is a small indie shooter worthy of a place in the chamber of Weights and Measures. Fast, furious, insanely stylish and incredibly cinematic, as if John Woo took up shooting a cyberpunk adaptation of Hotline Miami.
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy I was pleased with the opportunity to scatter crowds of aliens to the accompaniment of hits of the eighties — and nothing else is needed for happiness, since the playlist of the Star Lord is still cool. A pleasant script and vividly written dialogues between your favorite characters are a bonus.
Metroid Dread, after twenty long years of waiting, has honed the basic mechanics of the series to perfection. The linear structure of the gameplay and monotonous hide-and-seek with killer robots spoil the fun somewhat, but otherwise Dread turned out to be a good two-dimensional part of the series.
First place - Deathloop
Arkane Studios has an inimitable talent for mocking its own audience. Each project by the authors of Dishonored and Prey invariably hands the player a large arsenal of all kinds of weapons, abilities, gadgets and other curious trinkets… But then he always finds some convenient excuse to forbid the player to use all this good for his own pleasure. In Dishonored, excessive cruelty increased the level of chaos, which eventually led to the worst ending of the story; in Prey, the abuse of alien psionics literally set the world against the protagonist. Yes, such moves have always been justified by the plot, but the script poorly hides their manipulative nature: Arkane Studios seems to be more important to create a moral conflict than to give the player real freedom of action.
In this sense, Deathloop is probably the most liberated work of the French studio. The crazy inhabitants of the Black Reef Island are doomed to live endlessly on the same day, celebrating the start of the time loop, and the memory-deprived Colt is forced to constantly kill arrogant scumbags in order to find a way out of the trap. That's just for the player it's not a trap at all, but rather a playground or a test site, where you don't have to worry about the consequences, morality and other philosophical matters that haunted the unfortunate Corvo Attano at every turn. Deathloop never denies the player the opportunity to take a barrel in both hands and commit a massacre, never threatens to punish innocent pranks with a bad ending — on the contrary, she always hints that Colt is capable of more. And each unsuccessful loop gives the player a chance to surpass himself, find alternative ways, come up with a more creative way to deal with the goal. If Dishonored warned that with great power comes great responsibility, then Deathloop offers to relax and make the music louder: the party on the Black Reef is remembered for a long time.
2021 can hardly be called a fruitful year for the gaming industry, but if we talk about action games, it definitely did not disappoint: there were a lot of high-quality projects, and in a variety of directions. However, 2022 promises to be even better — there are a lot of interesting things ahead of us.