We are hitting that time of year again when I, and many others, decide to tell folk their favourite things of the year. Whether you care or not. To kick off this festive season here are my top 3 games. As usual, I haven’t played everything and it is all my opinion, so while you can feel free to tell me I’m wrong, don’t expect me to care about it.
Honourable Mentions: As always I have played some other things this year, a lot of which didn’t actually come out in the last 12 months. However, they are still worthy of a mention. As I always do, I have put more time into Football Manager than I would be willing to admit and Miles Jacobson and co continue to dominate the simulation genre. Elsewhere, I keep going back to Hearthstone and The Binding of Issac and finding as much to enjoy there as ever. In a slightly more modern sense, I haven’t yet finished Life is Strange but as a lover of coming of age films it ticks a lot of boxes. It is another one which rises nicely above its many faults. Finally, PS Plus has given me a lot of joy this year and games like Rogue Legacy, Grow Home and Broken Age have filled my time nicely.
Number 3 – Metal Gear Solid V
I’m going to be honest, I haven’t actually finished MGSV, although I have put well over thirty hours into it. While I plan on polishing it up, it doesn’t really bother me. Mainly, because I think the story is total pish. I don’t know if it’s due to my lack of experience with MGS games, this is the first one I’ve played, or it is just shit, but I have a feeling it is the later.
Yet despite this rather obvious flaw, it makes this list. Because quite frankly, it’s brilliant. With a handful of games every year looking to nail that mix of stealth and action, MGS has now set the bar so high that the likes of Far Cry may have to have a major rethink. Want to sneak in, silently killing and fultoning out those that you want to join your side? Go for it. Stand on a top of a hill and snipe from a distance, that’s fine too. Or fly in with your helicopter, ‘The Final Countdown’ blaring out the speakers as you rain death from above. Well, I’m sure you’ve figured out where this is going.
There are other problems. It is far too big for one thing and the whole base building mechanic element is bloated but somehow also lacking the depth necessary to make it interesting, while despite what Hideo Kojima might claim, Quiet’s outfit is a disgrace. Yet if you are looking for a pure gameplay experience. There is none better than this.
Number 2 – Batman Arkham Knight
Strangely, this is yet another game which has a central storyline that at times is lacking. The ‘mystery’ of the Arkham Knight was always going to struggle to live up to people’s expectations and alongside the much-maligned Batmobile, is the flaw in Arkham Knight. Yet once again, it rises above those problems. Mainly because Rocksteady knows what it takes to make a great Batman game.
Central to that is the combat, which they’ve perfected by changing as little as possible. The Arkham games flow beautifully and there are few moments I’ve enjoyed this year better than dropping into a group of thugs and dispatching them in one long combo. By keeping new additions on the gadget front to a minimum, they’ve kept that to the front and it’s as fun as it was in Asylum.
What really makes this game, though, is the side quests. While the Riddler’s Trophies have got ridiculous, everything else is wonderfully crafted. Even seemingly simple tasks like saving firemen have a satisfying twist in the narrative at the end while other short quest strands featuring iconic Batman villains nail their characterisation perfectly.
Arkham Knight looks all set to be the end of the Arkham series and it seems the perfect place to say goodbye. Any bigger and these games would become a bloated mess and as it stands it is going to be a long time until Batman is treated this well again.
Number 1 – Until Dawn
Whether it’s Quantic Dream or Telltale, no one has nailed the narrative game format as perfectly as Supermassive Games did with their first venture into the format. Dropping you into what appears to be a classic teen slasher film, it quickly begins to unpick the tropes of the genre and turns the player into the director of his very own horror experience.
As I’ve pointed to the other games on this list’s faults, it feels only fair to do the same here. It all but hobbles up to thirty frames per a second as it struggles to deal with the graphics on the screen, thankfully, this is easily forgiven. Acted out by proper talent (the likes of Hayden Panettiere and Rami Malek appear) Until Dawn features some of the best facial animation I’ve ever seen in a game. While the voice acting performances of those talent are a lot better than some films I’ve seen this year. It creates a group of teens that you may hate, but which very much feel alive.
Until Dawn can lay claim to being the first thing to really nail that mixture of film and game. You are the silent force, influencing decisions how you please. You can kill all of these nauseating teens or try desperately to get them out of there in one piece. It’s up to you. It’s not only my favourite game of the year, but you could make a claim that it may be one of the best horror films too.