2021 will be the first full year of ninth-generation consoles. At least in theory, because given the availability of Sony and Microsoft hardware in stores (not to mention the availability of GPUs), it's likely that the majority of video games released in 2021 will be cross-gen games available on both last- and current-gen consoles. Fortunately, even though we'll miss out on the graphical gimmicks, most of this year's games should be available on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
As usual, many of the most anticipated titles will be released in quarters 3 and 4 of 2021 (unless they're postponed), but a couple of bigger hits will also be released in the spring, and this year's beginning wasn't bad either. Now we're anxious to see what's the rest of the year going to be like. Meanwhile, we're launching this article, which will progressively get updated with the best games as they're released. We'll aggregate both the hits that will have met our expectations, and the nicest surprises that are certainly waiting ahead.
Note – the text will be updated throughout the year
As in previous years, our list of the best games already released in 2021 will be periodically updated with new items that receive high ratings or recognition from players. Now, we present you with the most interesting games we played in January and February.
Release: January 20
Platforms: Windows PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch
Our score: 9/10
Hitman 3 is the long-awaited culmination of the rebooted series focusing on the infamous assassin, and, doubtless, it's crowning achievement. Malicious ones might try to convince you that it's basically a pack of a few new maps, since there are practically no changes in the gameplay formula. On top of that, all three entries of this series, along with expansions, can be combined into a single product, launched through a single app and sharing menus, engine, and the entire technical aspect. Fans of Agent 47 have been expecting precisely that, and the locations we get in part three are some of the finest pieces of design to date.
The developers have provided large and diverse locations, ranging from a skyscraper in Dubai to an industrial techno club in Berlin, to streets of a Chinese metropolis pounded by monsoon rain. As always, some of the best ideas went into inventing unordinary methods of assassination that Hitman can use in specific places, and the icing on the cake in the whole trilogy is the British mansion level, where we become a detective investigating a murder case in the family, and it draws handfuls from the best detective stories by classics such as Agatha Christie. As far as the plot itself is concerned, there's not much improvement here, but we have to admit that the authors did their best to provide an unconventional and satisfying ending to the intrigue that has been developing for the past few years. Hitman said goodbye to us without a revolution, but with lots of class.
Despite the fact that the game necessarily repeats the pros and cons of the previous installments, thanks to these few details, Hitman 3 is the best set of new Agent 47 jobs and a worthy, satisfying conclusion to the entire trilogy.
Darius Matusiak – Hitman 3 review
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Premiere: January 28
Platforms: PC Windows, Xbox Series X/S
Our score: 9/10
The newest game of the Polish studio Bloober Team seemed intriguing from the first announcements: with its atmosphere, graphic design, next-gen quality and grandeur, the biggest and most expensive project of the studio seemed great. The end result strongly divided players and reviewers. Some were delighted, others a bit disappointed. It's definitely true that the slow and unengaging gameplay requires a fondness for the walking simulator genre and, sadly, simplistic adventure games, and the predefined camera angles further make the gameplay a bit clumsy.
On the other hand, The Medium evokes nostalgic memories of classic horror films created in this formula, such as Alone in the Dark, Resident Evil orSilent Hill. Mixed feelings about the heavily advertised (and somewhat underwhelming) "dual-world" mechanics are compensated by the game's sensational atmosphere, underlined by Beksinski's aesthetics and Akira Yamaoka's music (the former was a Polish abstract painter, the latter is the composer of the soundtrack to Silent Hill series. The grim, mature storyline is among the game's biggest advantages, with some great, realistic set-pieces from the Communist-era Poland. This is one of those games that you should try yourself to form your own opinion. If only the optimization was better...
This polarization was reflected in our own review of the game, written by Brittany Vincent, where she rightfully pointed out all the nasty gameplay shortcomings that ultimately were pretty harmful. Hence, while the score of the game might raise eyebrows, make no mistake: The Medium is a game that’s worth experiencing, even if it’s not a great game per se.
The Medium is a great-looking game with excellent voice acting, occasionally brilliant soundtrack (when Silent Hill-esque riffs from Akira Yamaoka appear), and a mechanic that sets it above its contemporaries. The problem is it has no idea how to implement this mechanic in a way that feels engaging or useful.
Brittany Vincent – The Medium review
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Release: February 2
Platform: PC Windows
Our rating: TBD
Valheim is one of the first surprises of 2021. The game, which hardly anyone was waiting for and which appeared in the controversial Early Access – and on top of that is as survival as it can get – turned out another hit on Steam. It has already sold 3 million copies in just three weeks, and player ratings never go below 90%. What was the recipe for success in this case?
The reasons for the warm reception are several. First of all, the authors have jumped on the bandwagon of the Viking world right after many players have either finished or skidded off the massive Assassin's Creed Valhalla. Early Access aside, the game launched in very good condition and the install file only takes up 1 GB, which seems quite a miracle these days. Hallelujah! The most important thing, however, seems to be that, as players point out, this is not just a simple clone of other survival games. Valheim has a concrete idea for itself – it combines survival mechanics with RPG elements, hack'n'slash, and even souls-like! And it is a supremely successful combination. Let's hope for more surprises like this in 2021.
I can, however, in good conscience recommend this title to every enthusiast of the genre, and what's more – it's an example of how "early access" releases should look like, because it doesn't feel like we're dealing with some kind of technological demo, but rather with a full-fledged game, whose QA tests were properly conducted before its release on Steam.
Cruiser – Valheim preview
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