Mod­ern clas­sics go head-to-head.


Andy: I’m not gonna pre­tend Alien: Iso­la­tion is a game that had some huge im­pact, but what it did was take the idea of a hor­ror game and near enough per­fect it. I could write an es­say about why I love this game, but it boils down to that dy­namic and un­pre­dictable xenomorph. Shar­ing a space with that thing is ter­ri­fy­ing, be­cause you know it’s not fol­low­ing some pre­scribed pa­trol route: it’s hunt­ing you. I’m glad SEGA took a punt on it, be­cause it’s rare that you see a game this sub­ver­sive and in­ter­est­ing with these pro­duc­tion val­ues. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve fin­ished it, but ev­ery time I do it feels like a new ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause of the alien’s fiendish AI. Add to that one of the most faith­ful recre­ations of the look and feel of a film and I’m com­fort­able call­ing Iso­la­tion a mod­ern clas­sic.

Phil: While I recog­nise that Iso­la­tion

is good, I will never play it be­cause it shits me right up. Still, I re­viewed three of this era’s high­est rated games – I guess I’m an ex­citable guy? I should jus­tify some of those scores, es­pe­cially Ker­bal Space Pro­gram,

be­cause I gave it the Big 96. It’s… re­ally good, in a way that tran­scends the nuts-and-bolts of its de­sign. It’s ar­guably a bit janky in places, but this is a game that de­liv­ers on its emo­tive sub­ject – space! – by giv­ing you the free­dom to ex­per­i­ment and tin­ker, and ac­tu­ally work and it­er­ate to­wards a spe­cific goal of your mak­ing. I think a part of what makes a 96 game is it also re­wards what PC Gamer val­ues at any one time. With Ker­bal, it was the com­mit­ment to free­dom, to self-di­rected chal­lenge, to fos­ter­ing a com­mu­nity of mod­ders and mis­sion mak­ers. It’s a beau­ti­ful thing.

Pip: I’ll just ce­ment my off-list ex­is­tence and say that I’m vot­ing for ei­ther Pro­teus or Dota 2. Pro­teus is prob­a­bly my favourite game of all time and I re­turn to it over and over. It’s the clos­est gam­ing has come to recre­at­ing the won­der and beauty of a nice walk. Dota 2 is com­plex but its his­tory takes you on a tour of gam­ing and mod­ding over time, and Valve’s stew­ard­ship has seen it be­come a true phe­nom­e­non, both fi­nan­cial and in terms of the emo­tion it can pro­voke in play­ers and spec­ta­tors.

Phil: If this was a list of games I get ex­cited about for one week­end per sum­mer when The In­ter­na­tional is on, I’d vote for Dota 2. But it’s not. Also you’ve for­got­ten Dota was 2013.

Pip: Ac­tu­ally I just didn’t read which dates this seg­ment was about.

Samuel: I’ve played seven or eight of these, and I would nar­rowly give it to Dis­hon­ored 2 over Me­tal Gear Solid V. It sums up so much of what I love about that stealth ac­tion genre. It re­wards your cu­rios­ity and pro­vides so many ex­cit­ing ways to play with the world. I liked Alien: Iso­la­tion less after a sec­ond, ex­haust­ing playthrough, even though I think

ev­ery­one should still play it. The con­cept of In­fini­fac­tory scares me and it is a thing I do not un­der­stand.

As for Civ VI, I’m wait­ing un­til they get all the ex­pan­sions out there, then I’ll have a proper dad-style cam­paign. Although no change to the Civ for­mula has ever struck me as that dras­tic. Bay­o­netta I’ve fin­ished five times, but I’d rec­om­mend it to far fewer peo­ple than Dis­hon­ored 2.

Tom: I thought Civ VI was too bland and too safe. XCOM 2 and Into the Breach are go­ing for very dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences, but both show that strat­egy games can be more ex­cit­ing. I love XCOM 2 for its class de­sign, and its fo­cus on in­di­vid­ual sol­diers lev­el­ling up over the course of a gru­elling cam­paign. Into the Breach is bril­liant be­cause it’s small and pure and quick to play.

This era is the tough­est choice for me. I loved MGS’s gad­gets and sense of hu­mour, but hated the boss fights and got bored of all the desert. Ker­bal Space Pro­gram is just a splen­did tool­box, but I’d sooner re­turn to the ter­ri­fy­ing cor­ri­dors of Alien: Iso­la­tion to play hide-and-seek with that crea­ture – one of the most ad­vanced AI ex­per­i­ments of this pe­riod.

To be hon­est, I’m say­ing all this to talk my­self out of vot­ing for

Dis­hon­ored 2, and it’s not go­ing to work. I want to get right back into Kar­naca to play in those in­tri­cate spa­ces with Corvo and Emily’s fan­tas­tic abil­i­ties. When I think about what I love most about PC gam­ing, it’s evoca­tive worlds, and the ca­pac­ity to be cre­ative within those worlds. Dis­hon­ored 2 does both bet­ter than any­thing else on the list.

Andy: I know I’ve voted for

Alien: Iso­la­tion, but damn,

Me­tal Gear Solid V was good, wasn’t it? I’ve been a fan of the se­ries since the days of the PlaySta­tion, but I never ex­pected Ko­jima and co to make one of the best im­mer­sive sims on PC. The story el­e­ments left me to­tally cold, and in that re­spect it’s prob­a­bly one of the worst Me­tal Gear games. But in terms of pure stealth, it’s the best. The vol­ume of ways to fuck with ene­mies and cre­ate your own playstyle is dizzy­ing, and it’s ru­ined all stealth games for me for­ever.

Phil: It took me about two years to com­plete Me­tal Gear Solid V, and most of that was be­cause I didn’t want it to end. I dragged my heels through the story, let­ting my­self get dis­tracted by the ab­surd amount of

stuff that is packed into the game’s map. A sid­e­quest to kid­nap a bear? Yes, I think I will. I also dis­agree with a lot of Me­tal Gear fans in that I think the end­ing is fine; maybe even good. I was sat­is­fied with the res­o­lu­tion and how it fit into the in­creas­ingly elab­o­rate and in­cred­i­bly silly se­ries time­line.

This is a tough era to pick from. Bay­o­netta is the best hack-and-slash, with a com­bat sys­tem that is still yet to be bet­tered. Into the Breach is a fas­ci­nat­ing puz­zle box – tight, in­tri­cate and prac­ti­cally per­fect.

Nid­hogg, too, is ar­guably the best lo­cal mul­ti­player game – although that’s per­haps too spe­cific a niche to be worth con­sid­er­ing here.

With all that said, though, I think I’m go­ing agree with Tom and Samuel that Dis­hon­ored 2 is the best videogame. It’s gor­geous, re­ac­tive, and – un­like Deus Ex, Prey or any other im­mer­sive sim-style FPS – of­fers in­cred­i­bly fluid, ex­pres­sive com­bat. I spent hours ex­plor­ing each level, me­thod­i­cally work­ing through the puz­zles, se­crets and sto­ries. And the new pow­ers are a rev­e­la­tion, bring­ing el­e­ments of play­ful crowd con­trol that make paci­fism an ac­tu­ally en­joy­able way to play. This is a game I’m go­ing to re­turn to time and time again, and I ex­pect I’ll get some­thing new and worth­while out of it ev­ery sin­gle time.

Pip: Pro­teus it is.

Phil: I’m not fall­ing for this trick a sec­ond time.


TOP: Lit­tle ri­vals the ela­tion of a suc­cess­ful XCOM2 cam­paign.

ABOVE: Var­ied tools and a mas­sive world. Me­talGearSolidV was a de­light.LEFT: Alien:Iso­la­tion re­mains a favourite among the team.

LEFT: The best im­mer­sive sim around. Dis­hon­ored2 de­serves your at­ten­tion.

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