2017 was a big year for me on a personal level, and as a result I found my time and interest in gaming waning more than ever before. That’s probably a shame because we were treated to some of the finest releases we’ve seen from the AAA industry in some time. I really wanted to squeeze an indie title in here somewhere but honestly the big studios knocked it so out of the park this year it’s hard to really make any room for some of the smaller titles I played.
Here’s my unapologetic mainstream selections for GOTY:
Resident Evil VII: Biohazard (PC, PS4, XB1)
To be fair, Capcom has given me more than enough reasons to think that they would fuck up Resident Evil VII, I don’t think I was wrong to be skeptical. A transition to first person, an experience specifically crafted for VR, and a demo that pretty much felt like a bad P.T. knock off all combined to fill me with a strong sense of dread.
And yet, here we are. Resident Evil VII isn’t just a competent entry in the series, it’s the best installment since 2005 when we were graced with the impossible to trump Resident Evil IV. The game has been stripped down and streamlined to accommodate its VR aspirations but many of the concessions made lend themselves wonderfully to the survival horror genre.
Remember ammo management? Yeah, it’s back. The game throws a small amount of enemies your way, yet you’re constantly at risk of running low on supplies. This is quite possibly the simplest most straight-forward Resident Evil ever made and yet somehow its every bit as tense as the series’ best moments. If you were still on the fence with this one it’s time to pull the trigger.
Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)
You fight a rabbit who is wearing multiple hats stacked on one another.
What more do you fucking need?
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PS4)
I’m an unabashed Naughty Dog fan, it’s a bias I won’t apologize for. Nobody has published games I’ve enjoyed more in the last ten years, and if trailers are any indicator that’s not going to change any time soon.
The Lost Legacy closes with a chase sequence that is essentially a culmination of every trick the studio has learned in its ten years pumping out Uncharted games. It’s thrilling, and feels oddly open and free for what is essentially and entirely on rails sequence. While Chloe and Nadine don’t quite have the requisite charm to completely fill Nathan Drake’s shoes I did still have a great time watching their ever tumultuous relationship grow during the course of this (surprisingly lengthy) adventure.
Lost Legacy is short, effecient, and all the best parts of Uncharted served up to you rapid fire. I can certainly think of worse ways to spend eight hours.
NieR: Automata (PC, PS4)
NieR: Automata and I got off on the wrong foot. The game’s opening mission is completely devoid of checkpoints and closes up with a boss who can easily kill you in two blows. After a poorly executed first run I was frustrated by the idea of playing the entire opening sequence again, but regardless I pressed on and boy am I glad I did because NieR wound up being one of the most engaging titles I played this year.
I’m hesitant to detail the game’s big twist as its coolest feature is also probably the biggest spoiler possible. Instead I’ll say that it looks like Yoko Taro has finally found the right company to balance out his bizarre design sensibilities. Platinum Games has been on a bad game bender for the past few years, shitting out terrible licensed titles and generally doing whatever they can to sully their own good name, and so it’s nice to know that they’re still capable of greatness when given the right property.
The Legend Of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
The older I get the less time and patience I have for games. It used to be nothing for me to dump forty hours into a JRPG, nowadays a twenty five hour title feels far too long for my tastes. So you can imagine my surprise when I pulled up my profile on the Switch and saw my Breath of the Wild playthrough had exceeded fifty hours. “Fifty hours,” I said, “that can’t be right, I’m not even done with the last dungeon.” But it was right, fifty hours flew by in Breath of the Wild and I barely noticed. In fact looking at my friends list my eventual 64 hour runtime is nothing. I have some friends who have logged over 200 hours in the game and are still playing it every night.
It’s not that the game has sixty hours worth of content that makes it so special. It’s that it doesn’t feel like it has that much content. Time melts away when playing Breath of the Wild. The world’s design means you’re easily distracted and side-tracked. I can’t count the number of times I dropped a marker on the map only to wind up in a completely different place solving an unexpected puzzle. Almost any time I picked this game up I would end up closing it later than expected. I think getting lost in a game is a hallmark of quality, especially for me personally where it almost never happens anymore.
Since its release backlash has settled in. There’s a fair number of reasonable criticisms to be made against the game and an equal number of reactionaries tripping over themselves to let you know how much they dislike it, but for my money Breath of the Wild is still the most fun I had with a controller this year.