Friday, 5 January 2018

TOP 10 GAMES OF 2017


With a website almost solely about retro video games, you'd think there'd be little room to play any modern titles. In actuality, I played a fair few (though not as many as I'd like). Some of them to completion (though not as many as I'd like). Read on to hear my thoughts on my favourite games of 2017...

This was a very transitional year for gaming and it's triple-A developers that will mostly be feeling the consequences of that. Their money-grabbing tactics have long since put me off such titles but this was the year that consumers pushed back. Middle Earth: Shadow of War suffered poor sales after the award-winning original. Forza 7 proved that there's still little reason to own an XBox One. Battlefront II continued to sully EA's already damaged name. and it's all down to the scourge of all gamers: loot boxes. Thankfully, it's looking like this greedy pay-to-win tactic will be added to gambling laws so we might not have to put up with them much longer. Even so, the fact that they were seriously implemented to begin with shows how greedy developers can be.

That's not to say good things didn't happen. Nintendo finally got their act together with the release of the Switch. Sony continued to dominate the console market with some interesting exclusive content scattered between a slew of well-made re-releases and remakes. Indie developers continued to do interesting things that rival big-budget developers.  And to top it off, I would say some of the best games of recent memory came out this year. So much so that I battled far too much over what would take the top spot.

The good thankfully far outweighed the bad to a point that not only did I not have time to even look at some really great games (I must get to Persona 5, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Divinity: Original Sin 2...), I had somehow managed to stay clear of the loot box blighted games and not play enough games to make a worst-of list. With that in mind, here's personal my Top 10 games of 2017. As ever, if you want to buy them, click on the image to head on over and do so.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01LTI9IE0/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=thecollcham-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B01LTI9IE0&linkId=16a63d558682129afca7b8884ae61628
10
I'm a sucker for remakes and remasters if they're done well that it. When WipEout: The Omega Collection was announced I was hoping it would be an update of the original trilogy on the PlayStation. I grew up with them and became pretty good damn for such a notoriously difficult series. Alas, it's the PSP games - Pure & Pulse - yet again. They're not bad by any means but they've already seen an HD reissue with the PS3's HD Fury release. That alone can put it in my top 10 but the Omega Collection also brings across WipEout 2048 making the Vita that little bit more obsolete than it already was. One of the doomed handheld's killer-apps is now playable on the big screen with vastly superior graphics. In fact, all games have been remade for the 4K revolution and it look stunning.

https://www.gog.com/game/full_throttle_remastered
9
Double Fine's re-releases are becoming something of a yearly tradition. Their HD remastering of LucasArt's back catalogue keep everything that was in the original - warts n' all -  but with the kind of quality they were putting out in the 90s each and every one of them are fully worth it. Full Throttle isn't perhaps as classic as last years Day of the Tentacle, but this tale of biker gangs and corporate espionage in the near future is incredibly fun throughtout its brief playthrough.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01N1081RO/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=thecollcham-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B01N1081RO&linkId=e8e69c65086485fb614e6d0122881e25

8
I missed out on the Wii-U the last generation. Despite my love of Nintendo, there just weren't as many must-have games throughout its lifespan to differentiate itself. Plus, for me to pony up £150 (a price it still doesn't go below that often) it's a hell of an investment for a couple of retreads, sequels and the odd quirky title. For twice that price, I got the Switch during the Black Friday sales which included three games. One of them was Mario Kart 8, and the wait was worth it. Everyone knows Mario Kart, but if you missed the eighth installment, it is perhaps the best in the series.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01MY9CL4W/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=thecollcham-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B01MY9CL4W&linkId=999a86bd519e2a52927e8735b78e465e
7
Little Nightmares is a cinematic platformer in the vein of Inside or Limbo. Like those two classics, it tells a visual story as you play and it does so effortlessly and effectively. You are a yellow raincoat wearing child who, armed with only a cigarette lighter, has to escape a rocking cruise ship filled with terrifying peril. Those nightmares are genuinely unsettling too. The lumbering antagonists are grotesque to look at and intense to overcome. Whether you're dodging the spindly arms of a blind janitor, avoiding the chop of a knife-wielding obese chef or the clamouring away from a cascade of hungry visitors. A fantastic, if short, experience.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01MZ94DLA/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=thecollcham-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B01MZ94DLA&linkId=f293fec78bf2e42298eaf3e87c4a4c31
6
The most recent game in my collection adds to my Switch library with a sequel to one of the Wii's best games. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 looks stunning, with huge lands to explore that all take place of the back of living creatures called Titans. The characters, who mostly have regional British accents, are perhaps a little generic in their design and I'm still not too keen on the semi-automated fight system but that doesn't take away from an epic game. I've only played it for a couple of hours and it already gives off the same vibes as a PlayStation era SquareSoft game. Highly recommended.

https://www.gog.com/game/thimbleweed_park
5
Created by Ron Gilbert of Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island fame, Thimbleweed Park is a throwback to the classic LucasArts adventures in the best possible way. Most retro-inspired adventures eschew the verb list for a simplified context-sensitive control scheme, but not in Thimbleweed. From the verb list, the inventory icons, the pixel art and the character designs; everything about it evokes Maniac Mansion. What's surprising is how well it plays. The archaic control scheme doesn't feel old or clunky and, coupled with the humourous wall-breaking story, it reminds you why you loved the now niche genre in the first place.

https://www.gog.com/game/hellblade_senuas_sacrifice
4
Never has a game relied so heavily on character as Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. As the Celtic warrior travels towards a Viking hell inspired by Nordic mythology in order to save the soul of her lover, she also has to struggle with the voices inside her head. Senua is schizophrenic and her psychosis is presented in such a way that it's perhaps the best representation of it in any visual medium. It is even integral to the game mechanics itself, with almost all obstacles on her journey questioned. The fight system is visceral and satisfyingly complex though, with a lack of enemy variety and some wistful puzzle design, it can get repetitive. What puts it so high on this list is Senua herself - a marvellously flawed character not seen before in such a game. With the underrated Heavenly Sword and Enslaved in their back catalogue, Ninja Theory's latest keeps their trademark skill at storytelling in one of the most heartfelt games of the year.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01GVN0CQ6/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=thecollcham-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B01GVN0CQ6&linkId=e191b52cc7c340c824f86145d2bd6d45
3
It's been a while since Resident Evil was scary. In the past few iterations, the main series has been pre-occupied with bombastic action that left me rather cold. Resident Evil VII is both a return to form and a revelation. Played in the first person, the influence from games such as Outlast and the cancelled Silent Hills is what keeps the game looking fresh, but the same types of puzzles that made up the older games make a welcome return with a vengeance. I would say that in spite of how the looks have changed, it feels the most Resident Evil-y than it has for ages. The well made set pieces and jump scares make me a little anxious to play it in VR mode though.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01N1083WZ/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=thecollcham-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B01N1083WZ&linkId=f679d0d444e78496f6c60e8b4d9351d3
2
"The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is not at number 1?" I hear you ask. Well, we're this a list made a couple of months ago, I'd be as surprised as you are. When I first played the new Zelda, I was sure it would be top of the list. Granted, I played my Wii-U copy on a PC emulator which wasn't ideal but it worked surprisingly well enough for me to put over 10 hours into it. I've since bought it with my spanking new Switch of which I can find little difference between the two (beyond the obvious emulation glitches). Replaying the opening few hours, I realised how mundane the game can actually be. Many tasks need to be repeated ad-nauseam to get anywhere with them  - I quickly got bored with the cooking mechanic but needed to repeat it time and again if I wanted good health items. The breakable weapons got tedious too, though I did enjoy collecting them all. I would also say that I didn't like that your heart and stamina meters could only be increased by finding and completing shrines. Both times it took me far too long to get to a point where the strongest enemies in a given area won't kill me in one hit.

That's not to say I didn't like the game. The world of Hyrule is full of wondrous sights and exciting secrets. The melancholy story is one of the best the series has to offer. It's just that in most of my time spent with it I felt I went nowhere. It's simply too big and too epic and there's simply too little time to play it all. That's why, for me, it sits at number 2.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01MUA0D2A/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=thecollcham-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B01MUA0D2A&linkId=e398bfe5b070cdd273def00805a4e594
1
Super Mario is back on form. I couldn't put Odyssey down until I had completed it and once I had, I immediately went back and collected all of the remaining moons (with the occasional help from my nephew). The new possession mechanics feel so in keeping with Mario's skill set that it's like his character was designed for this ability right from the off. The levels are fun to explore and don't overstay their welcome like another throwback to the 3D platformer that came out this year (Yooka-Laylee, I'm looking at you). Nintendo is riding on a high with their new console and I can't wait to see what they have in store in the year to come.


HONORABLE MENTIONS

I didn't play so many new games this year, but even so, here are some honourable mentions.

Crash Bandicoot: N-Sane Trilogy
Another remake that's well done. This takes all three Naughty Dog games, updates the graphics and controls, and reminds you why the 3D platformer was once king. Surely the genre's due a resurgence?

The Evil Within 2
A great sequel to the psychological survival horror. I've not gone too far, but I'm definitely enjoying it more than the original.

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
2017 really was the year of the remake. We may be awash with Final Fantasy games at the moment (there are 6 games on the PS4 alone, plus a plethora on PC, 3DS and Mobile) but the twelfth instalment of the numbered series was so underrated when it came out late in the PS2's lifespan, I don't mind this remastered port. Much better than those that came after it.

Gran Turismo: Sport
I saw this cheap and decided to pick it up only to be reminded why racing sims are not my bag. The graphics are absolutely stunning but the realistic controls don't do it for me. It's not a bad game but I prefer my racers a lot more arcadey.

Micro Machines: World Series
Micro Machines brings back many good memories. It's a shame the most recent attempt to revive the franchise is so dull it will leave no memories at all. The closest I played to a bad game this year.

Rime
Breath of the Wild but much, much smaller. I liked the look and feel of the game but while the new Zelda overwhelms with the amount of stuff to do, Rime has very little. I liked it while it lasted though.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole
The long-awaited sequel to The Stick of Truth is also indistinguishable from the crude TV show in look and feel. Now riffing on superheroes instead of fantasy tropes, the RPG elements are oddly less action-packed than that shift would have you expect. They've included strategy elements. Where the first game had Paper Mario's deceptively simple battle mechanic, this adds a small Strategy RPG style grid to the fighting area. It's still much more easy to understand than most other games in the sub-genre (see Front Mission or Vandal Hearts), but for this series, I prefer the simplicity of the original.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
What was once supposed to be DLC is now a stand-alone episode of the stellar treasure-hunting series. The low price reflects the short length of the game, and the lack of Nathon Drake's smart-mouthed protagonist does disappoint but it's nevertheless a quality experience.

Yakuza: Kiwami
The last remake of 2017 I'll mention is from the criminally underrated Yakuza series. This is a remake of the first Japanese gangster tale on the PS2 which was originally marketed as a spiritual successor to Shenmue. It's more action-packed than that classic franchise, but both this and the original are well worth playthrough.

Yooka-Laylee
I don't think Yooka Laylee is the disaster some people are claiming it to be, but after backing it on Kickstarter, it sure was a disappointment. After a stellar first level, the game gradually devolves into some terrible game design that I can only think was down to a lack of budget and time for tweaking and playtesting. The further you progress, the worse it gets to the point where some levels look incomplete. It's a shame as the character design is there with a move-set becoming of such a game and it looks great when it wants to. The only solace I have is that it sold pretty well, perhaps enough for an improved sequel to be greenlit.


That's it for 2017. Want more, then check out my Top 10 movies of the year.




2 comments:

  1. Everyone talk about Thimbleweed Park... but no one about Paradigm which is absolutely superior... better humor, better graphics and better history... try Paradigm!...thank me later ;)))

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    Replies
    1. That one completely passed me by. I'll definitely check it out.

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