Game of the year… wait, what? 2017 is nearly over??
This has been a tremendous year for gaming. All the consoles have had a great selection of new games, Nintendo’s Switch came along and lit us up, the SNES mini made the world go crazy for a few minutes. Here are some thoughts on the highs and lows of gaming in 2017, fresh from the ram’s mouth.
Forza Motorsport 7 (Xbox One) – This year brought the latest in the fantastic Forza Motorsport series, and finally reason enough for me to invest in an Xbox One S (now the price has dropped significantly, and GT Sport let me down – see below). Having tried Forza 6 and being impressed by the gameplay, but not so much about the career structure, I went into 7 not sure what to expect. Luckily it seems they have returned to the cup-based structure we all enjoyed in Forza 4, giving a real sense of progression from slow street cars and on. The physics, graphics, and sound are top notch, and the wonderful rumble triggers on the Xbox One controller add an element of immersion that a DualShock 4 can’t bring.
Horizon Zero Dawn (PlayStation 4) – I nearly missed this one, until I saw it at a low low price pre-owned and figured I’d give it a go. What luck that I did – this game is tremendous! An action RPG, with fantasy and sci-fi elements tied together in a post-apocalyptic world, you control Aloy as she seeks the truth about her ancestry. Robotic animals stalk the world, driven mad by a mysterious event and provide the main challenge to you. The game is beautiful, runs smoothly, and has one of the best stories I’ve lived through in gaming. The only possible complaint is that it goes on a bit too long, but there is a sense of progression throughout, even if it slows towards the end. Absolutely a contender for my game of 2017, if only the next game hadn’t been published in the same year…
Nioh (PlayStation 4) – How many games get compared to Dark Souls, as soon as they show a hint of difficulty or inaccessibility. Perhaps though, in this case it is well-deserved. The parallels are clear – tough enemies, a focus on well-timed fighting, and far-spread checkpoints remind of the Souls series. The setting couldn’t be much more different though, with the story set in feudal Japan and full of Yokoi demons and samurai-alikes. It is graphically superior to Dark Souls, with much more colour too. Progression is a little more linear, with levels selected from a map screen, and combat is perhaps a little more forgiving and the bosses less insanely difficult, but overall the effect is very similar – and Nioh just does it so well. Combat is focussed on three different stances, which grant you a differing balance between power and defence, and whilst long range weapons are available, ammo is scarce, and the main focus is on swordplay. It was difficult to choose a favourite game of this year, but this is it. It’s just so satisfying.
Slime-San (Switch – also PS4, Xbox One, Windows, Mac, Linux) – My Switch doesn’t get a lot of use, as I’m not interested in it for games that are on other systems. Slime-Chan, however, was purchased from a hotel room as I drove across Germany, and sought entertainment on the handheld console. It’s a great game, reminiscent of a past favourite of mine – Super Meat Boy. Each stage takes up a single screen, which you must navigate with a series of jumps, dashes and melting through walls. Difficulty ramps up smoothly, and the presentation is spot on.
Everybody’s Golf (PlayStation 4) – My first experience with this title was on PSP. I signed up to a new mobile phone contract at The Link in Watford, and because I chose a Sony Ericsson phone I received a free PSP and a choice of games – of course, I chose this one. I played many hours of it back then in the mid-00s, and so when I saw a new game on PS4 I felt inclined to give it a go. It’s full of charm and character, a solid golf engine, and some well-designed courses. Well recommended for genre fans.
And now I’d like to take a little time to discuss some disappointments. Games that I expected to be great, that weren’t – these games weren’t necessarily BAD, just not as good as I’d hoped they would be. This is where people may get upset, so be warned – there are some opinions here that are contrary to the zeitgeist. If you are sensitive to such things, don’t read on.
Gran Turismo Sport (PlayStation 4) – I’m not alone in this thought, I think. GT Sport was an exciting release, being the first of the fantastic series on Sony’s latest console, however it simply wasn’t a satisfying game at all. The graphics are fantastic, the physics are great, it sure looks like a modern AAA game, but the lack of content is a problem. I should have guessed from the name that it would be short on cars (I wouldn’t expect to be driving a Nissan Micra in a game subtitled Sport) but the main complaint I have concerns the single player game – there basically isn’t one. There’s a driving school, as is standard for the Gran Turismo games, and arcade mode which grants you a medal for winning each race in easy, intermediate and hard modes, and the rest is online. Against real people. Some of us don’t care for this, but I gave it a go. I joined a session, saw the race would begin in 12 minutes, and got to qualifying. I didn’t qualify high, but I didn’t really care, and in time the race loaded and started. It’s funny to watch, but basically playing a racing game against real humans means you’re going to spend your time being rammed off the track, whilst watching everyone else fly off every corner. And you get to wait through up to 15 minutes of qualifying for the privilege for every race. No thanks.
Super Mario Odyssey (Switch) – Oh my. If anyone read this blog, if I had the slightest influence in the world of video game journalism, things would be getting pretty heated right now. Quite simply, I found this game boring. Accuse me of being a contrarian if you like, but let me state that I love the Super Mario series. It was my first introduction to Nintendo in the 80s, and my first ever video game console was a SNES with Super Mario All Stars, and I’ve followed the games ever since. Super Mario Galaxy and World are two of my very favourite games of all time, and I can’t think of a main series game I haven’t enjoyed very much. But this one seemed like such an empty experience – one I slogged through until the end just because I thought I should. The first half of the game is incredibly empty; right up until New Donk City there was nothing much going on, barely any enemies, and the “point” of the game was eluding me. The ending of New Donk City contains one of the most triumphant examples of fan service ever seen, and from there the imagination and fun grow significantly, but never to the point of wonder that came in previous titles. Coupling this game with Breath of the Wild (which I was going to mention here fully, but I can’t be bothered) I have come to that conclusion that Nintendo are incapable of creating an open world that comes anywhere close to as magical as their more linear offerings.
So what do you think? What are your favourite and least favourite games of this year? I’m sure that at least one of the above might meet some different opinions, but they are my opinions after all. Feel free to share yours with me on Twitter, or in the comments below!