BEST OF 2017: GAMES Quality nearly matches quantity
While perhaps not a vintage, 2017 was certainly an interesting and entertaining year in the world of videogames. A clutch of fresh ideas, combined with a few beautifully crafted sequels and franchise follow-ups made sure the quality still floated to the surface of a genre that was, at times, saturated with distracting titles.
Let’s cut straight to the chase: as far as this reviewer is concerned, the game of the year goes to Sony’s PS4-exclusive Horizon Zero Dawn. An original title that took the mainstream by surprise, it tells the tale of a young girl growing up in a post-apocalyptic world where humans are an endangered primitive species and the land is overrun by mechanised beasts, a cross between robotic dinosaurs and a droid version of Animal Farm. Stunning to look at and great fun to play, with a decent story that underpins the visual spectacle, it stands as a fitting example of what a great game can achieve when all its moving parts are singing in unison.
The world’s most recognisable plumber’s return is benchmark stuff
Sony scored another big hit for its PlayStation 4 with the summer release of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. The first stand-alone adventure in the long-running Indiana Jones-style franchise is a story following treasure hunter Chloe Frazer on her journey to recover an ancient Indian artefact, keeping it out of the hands of a competing war profiteer. The gunplay, mêlée combat, stealth and acrobatics worked brilliantly. Equally, the rooftop chases, discovering hidden cities, exploring the terrain on jeeps – it all felt like you were taking part in a beautifully depicted, epic adventure.
Staying on the theme of beautifully depicted adventures, Nintendo pulled no punches with the make-or-break Zelda title that cemented the Switch console as a serious contender for the space under your TV. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (pictured below) was notable for both its ambition and scale as Link explored his first open-world adventure.
Touting versatile combat, a clever progression system, a never-ending gameworld with dozens of smaller dungeons to explore and stunning visuals, it is considered the must-have title for Nintendo’s latest console. But hot on its heels and a double whammy follow up for Nintendo is Super Mario Odyssey, arguably the best platform game of the year.
The world’s most recognisable plumber’s return is benchmark stuff, visiting some of Nintendo’s most beautifully recreated locales to date. Every pit stop on Mario's odyssey is packed with classic Nintendo-charged moments, from shapeshifitng into other characters to battles with giant rabbits on the moon. With limitless objectives, huge levels and more nods to fan fiction than the biggest Mario aficionado could ask for, Nintendo hit peak performance with the latest Mario outing. 2017 was a strong year for the Japanese giant that had to recover a lot of lost ground after the Wii U flop.
The two most hotly anticipated sequels went head to head in the autumn. Destiny 2, the big budget Xbox sci-fi RPG shooter did everything a follow-up should do. It was bigger, better-looking, had greater depth and more interesting objectives. The recently released downloadable content adds further meat to the digital bone, giving Destiny 2 the kind of lifespan that will stretch beyond 2018. In contrast, Star Wars Battlefront II failed to deliver on the expectations it carried; a mundane single-player campaign but the fun and ethos of the competitive multiplayer side was undermined by a poorly designed loot crate system and an ill-thought-out micro-transaction arrangement that caused so much controversy it gained attention from the international press. Oops…!
Finally, honourable mentions should go to Injustice 2, one of the finest superhero fighting games to ever grace a console and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, otherwise known as PUBG (pictured above), a multiplayer online battle royale game where up to 100 players parachute on to an island and do battle until just one remains. It sounds simple but is incredibly effective, selling millions of copies in a quicker time than Minecraft and rapidly becoming the most played PC multiplayer game. An Xbox version has just been released. It will, over time, undoubtedly spawn into one of the must-have multiplayer titles in 2018, a year that if the release schedule is anything to go by, promises to deliver even more games than 2017.