GAMES OF THE YEAR
It was a year in which girls in games took the spotlight – and classic zombie franchise Resident Evil once again delivered the blood-splattered goods.
Pavel Barter looks back at 12 months of top gaming action.
If 2016 was a year of dead rock stars, then 2017 marked the slow demise of male chauvinism in the entertainment industry. A few years ago, a small yet vocal core of idiots took part in Gamergate, an internet campaign supposedly about ethics in games journalism, but in reality about sending death threats to outspoken women.
Misogyny in games – as in every other areas of the arts – just doesn’t wash anymore. Whereas women in games were once reduced to a pixelated mess of boobs and bum, over the last year we’ve seen plenty of nuanced female characters.
Life Is Strange: Before the Storm, a sequel to 2015’s adventure, sensitively explores a teen’s angst-filled life and LGBT romance.
Blackwood Crossing tells the story of a girl’s bond with her brother and the transition between childhood and adulthood. What
Remains Of Edith Finch is an existential drama through the eyes of a woman investigating her family history.
There were believable female protagonists in Uncharted: The
Lost Legacy and Horizon Zero Dawn, and girls called the shots in Gravity Rush 2, Nier Automata and Tacoma.
Gamergate morons haven’t gone away. Women still suffer abuse in online games and the industry should hire more females. In a time when a self-confessed groper holds the highest office on the planet, gaming culture needs to step up and shrug off gender imbalance.
1. Resident Evil 7
PS4, Xbox One, PC (Capcom)
The Resident Evil series was tiptoeing around mediocrity for so long that when the seventh edition was released, it felt like a hillbilly from a Louisiana swamp just punched you in the gut. From the moment you step into the filthy Baker shack, on a hunt for your missing missus, RE7 fills you with the kind of dread you’d get from a dentist appointment with Ted Bundy. Before long, you’re racing down corridors while maniacs lumber behind in pursuit.
It’s terrifying in regular mode, but with a PlayStation VR headset on your cranium, this is the stuff of heart attacks and empty bladders.
Resident Evil 7, one of the best reboots in gaming history, proves there’s still meat on the bones of a 20 year old zombie franchise.
2. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy PS4 (Sony)
As Nathan Drake, star of the
Uncharted series, enjoys an early retirement, it’s time for women to take us on a treasure hunt. The Lost
Legacy stars two of Drake’s former sidekicks, Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross: two women on a race to find an ancient Indian artefact before a warmongering villain beats them to it. Cue exploration, gun-fights, car chases, puzzles, and more action than Helmand Province.
The landscapes are picture-perfect exotic. Valleys to explore; towers to climb; cliffs to cling off. Best of all, we have two likeable female leads who frequently butt heads but are never anything short of badass. Combine the characters with a great script and an adventure to knock Indiana Jones’s socks off, and you’re onto a winner.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild
Nintendo Switch (Nintendo)
Nintendo’s pointy-eared hero returned this year in a game so vast it’s like Grand Theft Auto without the bank heists, car theft or drug dealing. Link, our long-suffering hero, is on another mission to rescue the perpetually kidnapped Zelda. This open-world exploration adventure has cloud-hugging mountains and monster-frequented dungeons. It’s about the size of Ulster and there’s an ocean of possibilities. Technically your task is to free four “divine beasts” to save the Princess. In reality, you’ll be busy collecting weapons, killing cartoon beasts and boss-level villains, cooking food, breaking wild horses, climbing every mountain (like Maria in The Sound of Music) and searching for sparkly loot. An old-fashioned, feel-good hit of the summer, Breath Of The Wild is a ray of light in dark times.
4. Little Nightmares PS4 (Namco Bandai)
A hooded kid is on a mission to escape subterranean slug-filled basements while evil chefs try to put him in the pot. This is Grimms’ Fairy
Tales crossed with Gordon Ramsay’s
Kitchen Nightmares. The action is old-fashioned side-scrolling, but the creepy characters – long-armed office clerks, obese feeders, etc. – guarantee nightmares (as promised in the title). Players traverse surreal environments, hiding from the monsters while trying to escape this hellhole. Where exactly are you? Who are you? The truth emerges as the story progresses. Little
Nightmares is the latest in a new wave of dystopian horror, pioneered by 2016’s indie hit Inside, crossing Tim Burton weirdness with Studio Ghibli’s darker moments.
5. FIFA 18 EA (PS4)
Get your coat, you’ve scored. FIFA is still holding Pro Evolution Soccer off the leader’s board on account of its massive licensed roster and updated game modes. Like last
year’s edition, FIFA 18 goes all Eastenders as we navigate the professional and personal life of Alex Hunter, a young footballer who travels through the leagues of Journey mode. Alex trains, competes, and you can direct conversations with friends and family, giving the beautiful sport an extra dollop of drama. What about the gameplay? A new “quick subs” feature lets you make predetermined substitutions during cut scenes, saving precious time during play. Career Mode brings the business of football to life as you attend mock press conferences. A transfer negotiation system lets you negotiate deals to buy new players. Money talks on the pitch.
6. Life Is Strange: Before The Storm Xbox One (Square Enix)
The sequel to Life Is Strange is only a couple of episodes in, so it might go down the drain the way of Lost or Dexter. Right now, though, it’s a delight to be back in the world of teenage angst and isolation. Before The Storm is a prequel to 2015’s critically acclaimed adventure in which you played tortured intellectual Max Caulfield. This time around, you play Max’s childhood buddy: Chloe Price, a pot-smoking, school-ditching misfit. Chloe is grieving the death of her father, hating her mother’s new boyfriend, and trying to understand her friendship with one of the coolest girls in her school. Search environments for clues and choose dialogue options to steer conversations. You don’t need to be a teenage girl to enjoy Life Is Strange’s coming of age story. It’s an emotional state that most of us can relate to.
7. Horizon Zero Dawn PS4 (Sony)
Following a cataclysmic event – no, not One Direction splitting up – the world has reverted to a Neanderthal civilisation where people wear animal skin and eat berries. This is an alternative idea of the future, as humans intermingle with robot dinosaurs. Not all of them friendly. You play Aloy, a red-haired warrior whose tribe has shunned her and her grumpy hipster father. Aloy is an Olympic archer and she enjoys sniping robots. Her arsenal includes the Tripcaster, which trips over robots and explosives. Felled mechanical beasts can be salvaged for resources and you can craft ammo, pouches and antidotes from their nuts and bolts. Horizon Dawn Zero sports a gorgeous open world environment, soaring music, stealth and action combat, and a heroine that launched a thousand cosplay outfits.
8. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands PS4 (Ubisoft)
Trump’s wall may no longer be required now that Ghost Recon has sent an elite squad of soldiers south of the border to teach drug lords a lesson. This is Grand Theft Auto South America style. The open world setting of Bolivia is massive: towns, mountains, villages, rivers, farm land. Within a few minutes of playing, we sent a drone into the air to scope out an enemy camp. Bad guys spotted our idiotic platoon, so we hopped into a beaten up van and they chased us along a canyon pass. After crashing into a river, we popped up in a field and stole a yokel’s helicopter, then parachuted out to take out more cartel dealers. In solo mode, organising your AI team mates is like shepherding primary school children on a day out. They rarely do what you want. Such is the nature of American foreign policy.
9. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus 25 :DQZ 1PG 2%| $GVJGUFC
We were hungry like the Wolfenstein following Bethesda’s 2014 reboot of a franchise that kick-started the first person genre back in the 1990s. The New Colossus picks up where the last game left off, taking place in an alternate history where the Nazis won WWII. William Blazkowicz, our chisel-jawed hero, is barely living following his close call with an explosive device. He’s not even back on his feet when duty calls again. You spend the first half-hour of the game shooting baddies from a wheelchair before slipping a super exo-skeleton suit around your battered limbs. The Nazis are so nasty they make Trump look like Paddington. The avalanches of gore are excessive, but great writing and characters give this B-movie a wry grin and a lot of soul. It’s tougher than a shoe sandwich, though, even in easy mode.
10. Star Trek: Bridge Crew PS4 (Ubisoft)
The jury is out on whether Virtual Reality is going to change the face of entertainment, or if it’s just another gimmick like 3D or Rubik’s Cubes. This Star Trek game showed us that VR can provide brilliant interactive experiences even if you do look like a reject from a Daft Punk tribute act, or a victim from the Saw movies, with that device on your head. Players take a front seat in the final frontier, guiding the Starship Enterprise on new adventures. Slip into the captain’s britches, commanding the crew to dim the lights and entertain you with anecdotes (not really). Alternatively, become the tactical officer, engineer, or helm officer, and blow up Klingons.
Idiots can conspire and co-operate in multiplayer mode, shouting commands to the soundtrack of Star Trek “pings”. Nausea is a common side effect of many VR games, but the game’s sedate pace means you’re unlikely to throw up over the Holodeck.