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.
THIS IS A GAME I’M GOING TO RETURN TOTIME AND TIME AGAIN
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.