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If you hadn't already guessed by my previous articles, I like video games. They've been a huge part of my life since my father first sat me down in front of a SEGA MegaDrive to play Sonic the Hedgehog all the way back in 1999. Ever since then, technology has improved tenfold and then some. The variety of both ways to play and genres of game have expanded in tandem too, there's something out there for pretty much anyone.
2017 was a knockout year for gamers, and while there were some truly fantastic releases in the last 12 months, they weren't all that I had fun with. Here's a small list of the video games I had the most fun with. This isn't for any Game of the Year list, it's what I've enjoyed most. Of course, this piece is all in my opinion.
Despite being released for free on the PlayStation Store back in the summer of 2015, Rocket League remains one of the games I have enjoyed the most more than two years on.
The premise is simple, you commandeer a remote control car and try to smack an oversized ball into your opponents net. While easy to pick up, it takes some serious skill to master this clever little physics-based sports game. Since release the game has gone from strength to strength, adding more cars, modes, customisation options, and the allure of competitive play.
Despite the barrage of content fans received during 2017, the game remains as fluid and accessible as ever. A game you simply must play with friends, it provides some truly hilarious moments where cars collide and go flying, and tears of joy as you bag a last-second winner against a tough opponent in Competitive Mode. It's the perfect pick-up-and-play masterpiece.
Developers Psyonix has created a truly unique experience that has only gotten better with age, like a fine wine. I expect to be putting even more hours into RL as 2018 progresses. It proves that you don't need top-of-the-range graphics and an Oscar-worthy story to have a great game. Sometimes you just need to have fun and enjoy your time in a game, and Rocket League in that respect is unparalleled.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered
While I certainly found some time to enjoy Infinite Warfare, I knew from day one that most of my time would be spent with its older brother, Modern Warfare Remastered. The undisputed king of the Call of Duty franchise had been given a fresh coat of paint, and boy, it looks stunning. Character models looked as good as any new release, the environments were retextured, they looked gorgeous and full of detail, and the explosions burned a bit hotter and flashed oh so much brighter.
The campaign remains the finest in the franchise, and in comparison to today's FPS releases, it felt remarkably straightforward and tight. It's almost baffling how a ten-year-old game came seem like a breath of fresh air. No overcomplicated plot-threads, the game, and by extension the characters, focus solely on the mission at hand.
The awe-filled moments such as the nuclear blast don't have the same impact they did way back when, but the matter-of-factness of it and how the story wasn't afraid to shock you on an emotional level that later games in the franchise struggle to match.
The majority of my time with this game, as you'd expect, was with the multiplayer. While it was clear the shortcomings of the maps had been glossed over by some nice rose-tinted glasses, the thrills and spills of the original COD4 remained. The loadout screen was as simple. You could only take pistols as secondary weapons, lethal grenades are always frags, and you can't pick and choose your killstreaks.
The inclusion of Weapon Sets allowed for more aesthetic customisation, it plays the same. It's clear the maps haven't aged well; they're sparse, uneven and have way too many camping spots and head-glitching spots. You may sometimes ask yourself whether the OG Modern Warfare really was as good as we once thought. But the answer is a resounding yes. The game we know and love is alive and kicking again, and it's got a substantial facelift. The more tactical modes are still really satisfying to play with friends, particularly in a full team where you can all give each other callouts; it's gaming bliss.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
You see, I like robots, and I also like dinosaurs. So before I even knew what Horizon was about, I knew I was going to buy it. It's a good thing it turned out to be a phenomenal game, isn't it?
I'm not typically a fan of RPGs like The Witcher or the Elder Scrolls series (don't hurt me, I'll get to them eventually), but there was something about Zero Dawn that just swept me up with it. The post-post-apocalypse setting was a brilliant idea. The lore and history of how our world ends and how the world of Horizon begins are so well thought-out and believable and it plays so well on current world issues. The story is great and while it wraps up a lot of loose ends to give a definitive ending, it's left wide open for a potential sequel.
As you slowly piece together how the world ended alongside main character Aloy's personal discovery to who she is, you travel across what is easily one of the most stunning open worlds in modern gaming. A lot of PS4 games now come with a "photo mode" which allows users to add filters, borders, and adjust camera angles to take some brilliant shots. Although you can eventually gather the materials to create fast travel kits to cut a lot of running/riding time, it'd be a major disservice to the pure beauty of everything around you.
The aforementioned ROBOT DINOSAURS are great to battle against. The combat is fluid and well-balanced, and each different species requires a different tactic and sets of tools to take it down the most efficiently. Each encounter is exhilarating, and never the same as the last. While the fights with human characters are a bit more straightforward, they offer enough variety to keep you on your toes.
Horizon: Zero Dawn is my personal game of the year. It's not perfect by any means, but in terms of the epic scale, story and sheer beauty found in the game, there's very few that could match it in 2017. An incredibly bold move by Guerrilla Games has paid off in spades. PlayStation has found another iconic mascot. I will most certainly be playing through again to experience The Frozen Wilds DLC.
HellBlade: Senua's Sacrifice
For those with prior knowledge of HellBlade, I can understand your confusion to why this would be included on a list that's based on "fun." But if you know me, you know I'm a weird and depressed individual, and I'm a glutton for punishment.
If the title wasn't a dead giveaway, HellBlade is a pretty uncomfortable, distressing game. It follows the titular Senua, a Celtic warrior, as she battles with psychosis and severe depression as she travels into the Norse Hell, in order to save the soul of her dead husband from the Goddess of Death, Hela.
I'm actually yet to finish the game, but it's by far the most unusual and fascinating game I've played in a long while. The game acts as a perfect metaphor for Senua's mental health issues and the sound design to help broaden the players' understanding of the issues is exemplary.
The game recommends you play it with headphones on and the sounds of the world around you and the voices in Senua's head that accompany you take full advantage of this. It feels like the voices all talk to you directly, it's unnerving at times, but they can be helpful. It's quite refreshing to see a game that takes mental health seriously, Team Ninja is able to shed some light on what sufferers are going through without stereotypically painting them as flat-out crazy people.
The gameplay itself is fairly straightforward. There's a lot of wandering around, solving puzzles in the environment, and fighting creepy enemies. The combat is simple and at times a little tiresome when one on one, but it gets much more interesting when Senua has to fight multiple people at once.
Considering Senua's Sacrifice was made by a team of 20 people, it's astounding. It goes to show that games don't need to have triple-A budgets to be good and successful. The real triumph is the care and respect gone into their research with regards to mental health, they've managed to craft an emotionally powerful, if very harrowing, video game that really opens up your eyes to what it is like to suffer from Psychosis.
FIFA 17/18 - Pro Clubs
While the majority of people's time with FIFA, myself included, is with the insanely popular Ultimate Team, the mode which gave me the most enjoyment was by far Pro Clubs—a fun, if now pretty forgotten mode which allows you to make your own team, a player and then take on the world in Divisions with friends.
The pure banter that flies around in just one game of Pro Clubs in my friendship group is enough to fill a lot of other people's nightly quota. We all have varying levels of skill when it comes to FIFA, but we know how to work together to grind out a good game. Sometimes. Occasionally. Pairing our Grade-Z humour with Pro Clubs' often frustrating gameplay can make for some remarkable exchanges of both football and abuse. There's nothing quite like it, really.
The only real issue is that the players that are generated by the computer are straight-up awful, and can barely string passing moves together, even with the more competent among your brethren at the helm. There isn't much of a sense of reward either. You unlock more points to improve your pro as you play more games, but that's about it.
It doesn't stop it from being an absolute laugh though. Well, that is, if you play with me because evidently, I'm really funny.
Fortnite: Battle Royale
The second free game to appear in this article, and it's one I wasn't sure I was going to like. But hey, it's free, right? I was the first among my friends to play it, and slowly but surely, I managed to get them all on the hype.
As part of the unstoppable onslaught of "Battle Royale" games being published, Fortnite opted for a more cartoonish look and gives players the ability to build all manner of fortifications from materials they've gathered from the map.
The great thing about Battle Royale as a game mode is that the sheer unpredictability of it means no two games are ever the same. Even those who have a set tactic for where they land etc can't always benefit from doing so, the ever-shrinking safe zone can be a cruel mistress.
Do you risk building a fortress for your friends to overlook an area from? What if the zone moves? What if others get the jump on you and wreck you all in seconds? These are questions you are constantly asking in Fortnite, and it makes it so incredibly fun to play. What's also refreshing is how open Epic Games are with their community, they're constantly rolling out soft patches and updates to balance and improve the game.
The number of ways you can just muck around in game can provide some great comedic moments, especially when it comes to destroying every major landmark the map has to offer.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy was another game I had a great time playing, it proved the Uncharted series can easily be continued without the main star, Nathan Drake. You can check out my thoughts in more detail in this review.
Another game I've had a blast playing is Wolfenstein: The New Order. I played The Old Blood ages ago and slowly worked my way through TNO. The story and characters are great and prove shooting Nazis is always fun. Very much looking forward to The New Colossus.