Master Chief and The Weapon AI character in Halo: Infinite.
Image Credit: Microsoft/GamesBeat
Join gaming leaders, alongside GamesBeat and Facebook Gaming, for their 2nd Annual GamesBeat & Facebook Gaming Summit | GamesBeat: Into the Metaverse 2 this upcoming January 25-27, 2022. Learn more about the event.
Almost two years into the pandemic, it’s hard to look back and see much good that happened this year. But as reality was horrible once again, games gave me a much-needed escape. And so I’m pleased to come up with my eight favorite games of 2021.
They let me maintain social distance while still connecting remotely with friends. I hope you are staying safe during the holidays with your family and friends, and let’s hope you can find the game to play and celebrate your gaming passions.
I spent a lot more time working on events such as our three GamesBeat Summit online events that we staged in 2021, and I also covered a lot of news related to the metaverse and nonfungible token (NFT) stories this year. I’m also still busy planning our next online events, the GamesBeat and Facebook Gaming Summit on January 25, and our GamesBeat Summit: Into the Metaverse 2 happening on January 26 and January 27.
Last year, I really enjoyed The Last of Us Part II, Call of Duty: Warzone, Ghost of Tsushima, Call of Duty: Black Ops — Cold War, and Doom Eternal. Warzone in particular took most of my free time, and I continue to play it and that’s why I put it on my list as my favorite ongoing game. Like other gamers, my gaming habits have changed to focus on online titles I can play over and over. That bodes well for future versions of the metaverse, where the goal is to keep you coming back every day.
I’m aware that playing Activision Blizzard games is controversial, as the company has been hit with sexual harassment and discrimination allegations. And that weighs on me, as it should for anyone who has to make a personal choice about buying such a game.
For comparison, here are my favorites from 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011. In each story below, the links go to our full reviews or major stories about the games. And be sure to check out the GamesBeat staff’s votes for Game of the Year and best individual favorites soon. (Note: This story has some minor spoilers.) Here’s the list in reverse order.
Best ongoing game: Call of Duty: Warzone
Above: Caldera’s views of the ocean.
Image Credit: Activision
Developer: Raven Software and Infinity Ward
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One, PS5, Xbox Series X/S
I spent an awful lot of time in Call of Duty: Warzone since it first debuted in March 2020. The pandemic conditions made it into a perfect escape vehicle for those of us who wanted to stay social with friends, forget about the world, and play a decent battle royale game. When I have some free time, Warzone has been my go-to game to play with friends or strangers.
The game got a restart with the recent launch of the Pacific theater map of Cadera after the launch of Call of Duty: Vanguard, and I’ve used my leveled up weapons to play some of it lately. The best thing about it remains the rewards of teamwork. If your squad of four communicates well, you can easily beat the teams that aren’t using their microphones at all. It’s still pretty rare for me to win in games with 150 rivals, but the thrill of winning against such odds is amazing.
It has some drawbacks. Communicating on Discord works better than talking in-game. And a lot of players aren’t happy that Caldera makes it highly rewarding to play with leveled up guns from Vanguard, which requires a premium purchase. One day, I hope this leads to a Call of Duty metaverse.
Above: A night battle in the Total War: Rome Remastered game.
Image Credit: Sega/Creative Assembly
Developer: Creative Assembly
I’m a sucker for most Total War games on the PC as I love real-time strategy and history. With Total War: Rome Remastered, I got to play a familiar game about the creation of the Roman empire. Total War games have a strategic “zoom,” where you can send your legions and expand your cities throughout the empire in a map that is akin to the one in the game of Risk, or you can fight tactical 3D real-time battles where the armies meet in the field. I enjoyed playing this again and growing my empire to the breaking point, where I dominated much of the Mediterranean but had trouble holding regions due to constant rebellions. It sends you a message that taking over the world through violent conquest is a bad idea.
I spent most of my time playing auto battles on the campaign map. But every now and then it’s a great reminder to play a tactical battle to appreciate the beautiful landscapes and attention to detail on individual soldiers.
Above: Jason tells his sergeant to pull himself together in The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes.
Image Credit: Supermassive/Bandai Namco
Developer: Supermassive Games
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Windows
I’ve been a fan of Supermassive Games horror titles ever since Until Dawn, which was my favorite game of 2015. And so I was eager to play the latest title from the developer, The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes. This is the third game in the choose-your-own-death adventure anthology, coming after 2019’s Man of Medan and 2020’s Little Hope.
This third installment takes us underneath the deserts of Iraq in 2003, just after the end of the initial hostilities of the Iraq War. Each game in the series is built around a legend or myth based on a real-life incident, like the ghost ship in Man of Medan and the Salem Witch Trials in Little Hope. This one revolves around the myths around the ancient Akkadian Empire.
In the gameplay, you have to mash buttons in between story episodes where you’re trying to escape from a creature that will eat you or worse. The other type of choice you make is to respond in dialogue at key points in the relationships between characters. These often involve ethical dilemmas, and they come back to haunt you because just about every choice has a consequence.
I liked the production values in this game and the writing was good. The theme of the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” resonated several times during the gameplay, and it made me think about who was worth saving and who I should jettison.
The title is good as a social game, where you can consult your friends about what decision to make. The stiff gameplay, where characters aren’t as interactive as you want them to be, is getting a bid old. But Supermassive did revamp the system so that 3D movement was much easier and the game characters and action moved faster than in the past.
Above: The Book of Love is a hilarious narrator in It Takes Two.
Image Credit: EA/Hazelight
Developer: Hazelight Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Windows
It Takes Two was a surprisingly good game in the under-used genre of romantic comedy. In the game, you play as a husband and wife who are planning on getting a divorce. Their daughter makes dolls of her parents and magically turns them into the dolls. The couple is trapped in the small world of the dolls, and they are forced to work together — as you are with a fellow human player in co-op play — in order to return to their human forms.
Josef “f*ck the Oscars” Fares came up with some compelling co-op game play yet again as he did with his previous title, A Way Out. To succeed in the game, you have to work together. And that’s not easy when you have a difference of opinion with your partner. It’s like you’re tied together, and your choices are bound by what you can convince the other player to do. You have to solve puzzles like how to beat a vacuum cleaner that has an ax to grind with you. The gameplay isn’t repetitive, and you have to move on from story elements to boss fights over and over.
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Call of Duty storylines are often a weak point. They’re like an excuse to stage a first-person shooter game in a new setting. But this year’s title had some good writing that gave the game good reasons to bounce from one strategic battle to another in a war that spanned the entire globe. We get a series of vignettes in four major theaters of war: the Middle East (with the Battle of El Alamein and more), the Pacific Ocean (with the Battle of Midway and fighting for Bougainville), Berlin, Stalingrad, and Normandy (in the lead up to the D-Day invasion).
These are fun settings on their own, but narrative elements tie them all together. The fictional story tracks the rise of the Special Forces at the end of World War II, and it brings together soldiers from different armies in Rainbow Six fashion. The story pulls elite soldiers like Polina Petrova, a Russian nurse who became a sniper fighting in Stalingrad.
She was modeled after real female soldiers who were the Soviet Union’s best snipers in the war. Petrova has to fight in unconventional ways, climbing the walls of buildings and running on the rooftops as they come under aerial attack. The Nazi villains are also well conceived, giving you just the right amount of motivation to wipe their forces off the planet.
I had occasional glitches playing on the PlayStation 5, but they were minor. The imagery is beautiful for a war game, with realistic environments, lifelike characters, and fast gameplay. The game really shines in multiplayer combat, particularly in modes like Patrol and Team Deathmatch. While it wasn’t the best in the series, I felt it was a well-balanced game across the vectors of historical interest, good gameplay, variety, great multiplayer, and a strong narrative.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Windows, Google Stadia
The Life Is Strange narrative games are celebrations of diversity, with interesting characters who are fleshed out with relationships and emotions. And Life Is Strange: True Colors, hit home for me as the first really high-quality video game where the lead characters are of Asian descent.
The title is a third-person adventure game where the lead character Alex Chen is always on screen. A character like this is validating. And even though the character is a woman, I felt good as the game reflected part of my own identity and culture. It was also nice to see that this representation in True Colors wasn’t stereotypical. Alex and her brother aren’t “model minorities.” They’re far from perfect, as products of a broken family.
As the game combines realistic modern narratives with the supernatural, Alex has the superpower of being able to detect the emotions of those near her. She has a built-in lie detector test when she is talking to people, but she was institutionalized for this ability for being delusional — when she in fact was the one who could see the mental state of others. She uses this power to solve a whodunit mystery in a small Colorado town full of interesting characters.
While this game has the challenge of not being interactive enough, just like House of Ashes, it makes up for it with a compelling story that featured some of the finest acting and writing I’ve seen in a video game.
The realistic nature of the series holds up with this installment. Life Is Strange as a franchise isn’t afraid to tackle controversial issues in its games, including teen suicide, immigration, racism, transphobia, alcoholism, and drug abuse. In this case, it focuses on the loss of family members, the travails of foster care, and standing up against a corporate monster.
2) Age of Empires IV
Developer: Relic Entertainment and World’s Edge
Publisher: Microsoft Xbox Game Studios
I was glad to see Age of Empires return after a hiatus that has lasted since 2005. And Microsoft took its time to get this right, as the developers worked on it since 2017. The result is a title that has a lot of polish for its single-player campaign and lot of fun with multiplayer as well.
Age of Empires and its sequels sold more than 20 million copies, but Microsoft shut down Ensemble Studios in 2009 during the Great Recession after attempts like Halo Wars met with limited success. This title is a successor to Age of Empires II, and the battlefield scenes in 4K HDR look pretty amazing.
Eight civilizations appear in Age of Empires IV. The single-player campaign starts out with the Norman conquest of England by William the Conquerer in 1066. I thought the starter campaign did a great job conveying history — a lot that I didn’t know about — in an interesting and visually appealing way. In attacking or defending fortresses, I constantly felt like the AI was surprising me and forcing me to choose what ground to hold and what ground to give up.
Each battle taught the rock-paper-scissors nature of medieval combat, where the spear soldiers did well against cavalry, which could easily take out archers, which could take out rows of infantry when properly shielded behind a line of sword infantry. Getting hands-on with history — without making it boring — was never so fun.
By the way, I would rate this title as a 5 out of 5.
1) Halo: Infinite
Developer: 343 Industries
Publisher: Microsoft Xbox Game Studios
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Halo: Infinite is a vast open world game that brings the Master Chief back in style. It’s a relief that this game turned out so well, from its stellar multiplayer to the long single-player campaign. The landscape of the new Halo ring is vast and beautiful. The story isn’t quite as twisted as past plots have been, and yet it is intriguing every step of the way. Cortana has been replaced by an AI character known only as The Weapon, and the unfolding of a new relationship between the Master Chief and The Weapon is compelling. This kind of story is why I keep coming back to Halo.
I just finished playing the campaign game on Heroic mode, and it was so satisfying. I played it for tens of hours, and I never got bored with any part of it. Halo: Infinite had so many tough bosses to fight, from the Gravity Hammer-wielding Bassus to the flying robots where you are exposed in a gondola.
I also had a hard time fighting Jega ‘Rdomnai, who wields a Duelist energy sword and can become invisible thanks to his stealth capability. You fight in a confined space and have to switch between your weapons, grapple hook, and threat sensor. Chak ‘Lok was also tough. Hell, they were all tough.
I won’t spoil details on other bosses here, but just when I thought I had gotten through a tough part, another difficult path lay ahead. I also loved the power fantasy of being in a Scorpion Tank and ripping the Banished enemies to shreds as if they were ants.
It game me a real sense of accomplishment when I finally finished. I consider this to be outstanding fan service that is so worth the long wait. I consider this game to be the most polished to date, and it’s also my favorite Halo for its all-around completeness. I rate it as a 5 out of 5.
On my honorable mention list is Electronic Arts’ Battlefield 2042. If EA’s DICE developers stamp out the bugs and keep refining the title, it could be very rewarding. The game has great joys like environmental destruction and a tornado that rips through the battlefield. So that game is worth keeping an eye on.
Meanwhile, I wish you a merry Christmas and happy holidays. However you celebrate the season, I hope you enjoy it and find time to play.
GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it.
How will you do that? Membership includes access to:
Newsletters, such as DeanBeat
The wonderful, educational, and fun speakers at our events
Special members-only interviews, chats, and “open office” events with GamesBeat staff
Chatting with community members, GamesBeat staff, and other guests in our Discord
If you’re looking for a new phone, a key consideration is always budget – you want to buy the best phone you can afford. But maybe, even if you’ve got the money for a premium device, you should still opt for a cheap phone.
“Wait,” you’re probably thinking, “are you asking me to spend less than I’m able on my new phone?” Yes, I am – you’re absolutely right.
You see, despite budget phones being weaker than premium ones in quite a few ways (obviously), there are a few departments in which they actually beat top-end models.
So we’re going to run through some different areas in which cheap phones actually trump their pricier rivals.
1. It costs less money
Okay, we’ve got to start with the really, really obvious point. A cheap phone is – you guessed it – cheaper than an expensive one.
If you spend less on your phone, you’ve got more to spend on the best power banks, phone cases, charging cables, and so on. Plus, you’ve got extra for non-smartphone things. Y’know: bills, food, transport, and so on.
Smartphones operate on the rule of diminishing returns: a $400 smartphone is not twice as good as a $200 one, and a $1,200 phone isn’t twice as good as a $600 version or four times better in any way than a $300 one.
So if you want the best bang for your buck, a budget mobile will get you there.
2. Much better battery life
Phones don’t have great battery life sometimes: when you factor in features like 5G, high refresh rates, top-end processors, and so on, a giant battery can get worn down incredibly quickly.
But you know what cheap phones don’t have? That’s right – any of those features. If a phone is 4G-only, has a low-res screen, and only runs with a middling chipset, it uses the battery at a much slower rate. All of the longest-lasting smartphones are budget ones.
That’s doubly the case when you consider that cheap phone makers like to use huge batteries in their phones – plenty have 5,000mAh power packs. Motorola has even used 6,000mAh ones in some phones, and certain Chinese rugged phone brands have gone even higher.
If you want a long-lasting phone, you’ve got to opt for a cheap handset with fewer features. It also makes such devices reliable for more extended periods.
3. Hardier designs
Glass has become one of the most commonly-used materials for smartphones – it adds to a premium-feeling build and looks good from all angles.
But you know what glass isn’t? Durable. It can easily smash from an impact like a drop. It’s also slippery, making glass phones harder to hold. Because of this, mid-range and premium phones are more susceptible to damage, even if brands slap silly marketing terms on them like ‘Gorilla Glass Victus’ or ‘Ceramic Shield’.
Cheap phone makers generally stay away from glass. This is mainly because of cost, but it’s beneficial for affordable phone fans because plastic is hardier.
A plastic phone is much more likely to survive a drop or hard knock, letting you avoid the experience of having to get your device repaired as often (or ever, hopefully).
4. Cooler chipsets
Cheap phones often have cooler chipsets. No, we don’t mean ‘sunglasses and Tommy Bahama shirt cool’ – we mean temperature-wise.
Premium phones get top-end chipsets, which provide loads of processing power for tasks like games. An annoying side-effect of loads of power, though, is that these chips can get incredibly hot if you use them for long periods.
Counter-intuitively, this means that mid-range chips can be better for gaming if you like playing for extended amounts of time, and don’t need the most top-end graphics available to you.
As you can imagine, budget phones often have weaker internals, so they generally don’t have overheating issues, and are fine for gaming. Plus, in this day and age, you rarely find phones that are slow, even in the lower-cost market.
5. A bigger range of fingerprint scanners
There’s a trend in the premium phone market towards in-screen fingerprint scanners, where the sensor for unlocking your phone is embedded under the display.
This is a fine way of unlocking your device for some, but if you prefer a back- or side-mounted scanner, you’re mostly out of luck at the top end of the market.
That’s not the case for cheap phones, though: you’ll find those digit sensors all over the place in the lower end of the market. Some phones have them in-screen, others have them on one or both sides of the phone, while plenty have the scanner on the back.
So if you like tapping the rear of your phone to unlock it, or caressing the side of the device, instead of just tapping the screen, budget devices are, in fact, the best phones for you.
Tom’s role in the TechRadar team is to specialize in phones and tablets, but he also takes on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK.
He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working in TechRadar freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. Outside of TechRadar he works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.
The clip starts by showing the premium Xbox Series X|S controller’s box. Next, we’re given a look at the controller itself, which wears a clean white-on-black coat.
All the usual Elite Controller bells and whistles are accounted for. That includes the carry case, swappable analog sticks and customizable back paddle buttons. It looks like the genuine article, though we’ve heard nothing from Microsoft to confirm if or when the pad will actually be released.
A sign of pads to come?
Leak: I think this is our first footage of the Xbox Elite Series 2 White Edition controller. A leaked image of the controller was shown by @IdleSloth84 back in March. Source: https://t.co/WfMCEk3FQv#Xbox #XboxOne #XboxSeriesX pic.twitter.com/t97qbaNPCuAugust 8, 2022
Okay, sure, the White Edition isn’t exactly the most daring design Microsoft could’ve chosen for its Elite pad. But it’s nonetheless eye-catching. I think that keeping certain parts of the controller black – like the sticks and grips – is a smart aesthetic choice. They contrast really nicely with the white center.
I hope that this new White Edition not only comes to market, but that it’s also a gateway for more ambitious designs for Xbox’s top pad. Seriously, a purple Elite pad would be an instant buy for me, and probably for many others, too.
Rhys is Hardware Writer for TechRadar Gaming, and while relatively fresh to the role, he’s been writing in a professional capacity for years. A Media, Writing and Production graduate, Rhys has prior experience creating written content for app developers, IT firms, toy sellers and the main TechRadar site. His true passions, though, lie in video games, TV, audio and home entertainment. When Rhys isn’t on the clock, you’ll usually find him logged into Final Fantasy 14, Halo Infinite or Sea of Thieves.
Kimberly, the spunky new ninja, and Juri, the sadistic thrill-seeker, join #StreetFighter6 when it arrives in 2023! Spray cans, a portable cassette player, and motorcyles have never looked more fresh. ️ pic.twitter.com/Lnw87p27aP
Student of Guy and successor to the bushinryu tradition, Kimberly is spunky and colorful with an affinity for spray painting her enemies midmatch. Though Kimberly is a teenager and Street Fighter 6 seems to be set in the current day, she’s enamored with all things ‘80s, carrying around a cassette player that some younger players probably won’t even recognize.
It’s like Capcom is aware that, in addition to its younger audience, there’s a certain subset of older Street Fighter players rising from their creaking knees and aching back looking at the ‘80s with fondness. In that way, Kimberly is a send-up, a reminder of simpler times. In other ways, she’s a very rude reminder that those happy days are so far behind us now that current teenagers are adopting the aesthetic because it’s quaintly “retro.” Thanks, Capcom, for reminding me I’m old.
Accompanying Kimberly in the character reveal is Juri, a character first introduced in Street Fighter IV. Juri arrives in flashy style with an homage to the Akira slide that’s been having a moment lately, as it was also used to awesome effect in Jordan Peele’s Nope. Juri seems a bit edgier than Kimberly, stomping all over her enemies in bare feet emphasized in ways that would make Bob Odenkirk click “like.” It’s always neat when companies seemingly embrace the thirst players have for its characters.
We’ll get the chance to see more of Juri and Kimberly’s stories when Street Fighter 6 launches on Xbox, PC, and PlayStation in 2023.
Analytical cookies are used to understand how visitors interact with the website. These cookies help provide information on metrics the number of visitors, bounce rate, traffic source, etc.
1 year 24 days
This cookie is set by Google and stored under the name dounleclick.com. This cookie is used to track how many times users see a particular advert which helps in measuring the success of the campaign and calculate the revenue generated by the campaign. These cookies can only be read from the domain that it is set on so it will not track any data while browsing through another sites.
This cookie is installed by Google Analytics. The cookie is used to calculate visitor, session, campaign data and keep track of site usage for the site's analytics report. The cookies store information anonymously and assign a randomly generated number to identify unique visitors.
This cookie is used by Google Analytics to understand user interaction with the website.
This cookie is installed by Google Analytics. The cookie is used to store information of how visitors use a website and helps in creating an analytics report of how the website is doing. The data collected including the number visitors, the source where they have come from, and the pages visted in an anonymous form.
Advertisement cookies are used to provide visitors with relevant ads and marketing campaigns. These cookies track visitors across websites and collect information to provide customized ads.
This domain of this cookie is owned by agkn. The cookie is used for targeting and advertising purposes.
The cookie is set by CasaleMedia. The cookie is used to collect information about the usage behavior for targeted advertising.
This cookie is set by Casalemedia and is used for targeted advertisement purposes.
This cookie is set by Casalemedia and is used for targeted advertisement purposes.
The cookie is set by CasaleMedia. The cookie is used to collect information about the usage behavior for targeted advertising.
1 year 24 days
Used by Google DoubleClick and stores information about how the user uses the website and any other advertisement before visiting the website. This is used to present users with ads that are relevant to them according to the user profile.
The cookie is set by pubmatic.com for identifying the visitors' website or device from which they visit PubMatic's partners' website.
This cookie is set by pubmatic.com for the purpose of checking if third-party cookies are enabled on the user's website.
1 year 1 month
This cookie is associated with Quantserve to track anonymously how a user interact with the website.
This cookie is set by doubleclick.net. The purpose of the cookie is to determine if the user's browser supports cookies.
5 months 27 days
This cookie is set by Youtube. Used to track the information of the embedded YouTube videos on a website.