2017 is over. Dead. Fully cremated. It's ashes are swirling in the breeze, getting in our eyes and blinding us. It has been quite a year to say the least. I, for example, bought a new cardigan. It's been mental. But when I haven't been ducking nuclear fire or tattooing 'Strong & Stable' on to various body parts I just about found time to play some video games. So, despite overwhelming public indifference, here is the Official Bottomless Hole Video Game Awards 2018:
Yes, technically speaking 'Hitman', was released last year. However as it got a psychical release in January 2017 I decided to include it in this list. Got a problem with that? What you gonna do? Dress up as a chef and poison my food? Attach explosives to my prized set of golf balls? Don the attire of my masseuse and snap my neck mid-massage? Do your worst.
Agent 47 is a bastard. Sure you could argue the people he kills deserve to die, but he clearly gets a sick kick out murdering his targets in the most darkly comic fashion possible. Like a sadistic Benny Hill. Maybe he is lashing out because of deep seated anger issues relating to his chronic alopecia and stupid neck barcode. I suppose if I looked like a waxed sex doll maybe I would want drop lighting rigs on top of people. Regardless of his hair situation, Agent 47 is a bastard. A glorious, glorious bastard.
Remember Prey? Remember when it was teased at E3 as some form of hairy-armed-man-drinking-coffee simulator? Remember when it looked vaguely intriguing? Unfortunately when 'Prey' released it became apparent quite quickly this was another standard 'choose how you play' semi-open world faux-rpg stealth shooter. A classic genre. The problem these games always have is creating levels and enemies that compliment multiple sets of play-styles and not making the player feel like they are being punished by the way they have chosen to play. If you want to see this done well then look no further than last year's Dishonored 2.
Prey fails on this level. My only vague memories of the games is a blur of spanner flailing while trying to hit endless amounts of spiders. Whichever style you play as, the game just isn't fun or engaging on a mechanical level. The combat is too cumbersome for it to work as a shooter, the environments are too narrow and cramped for it to work as stealth game and the hacking...well nobody ever actually plays these games with a hacking build anyway. All in all, no.
Ah 'Dark Souls', the main reason for my inevitable crippling RSI. This year saw the release of the final piece of DLC for the final game in the 'Dark Souls' series. The 'Demon Prince' isn't the best or even the hardest in the game, but it still made me angry enough to flay a live kitten.
Taking place halfway through the 'Ringed City DLC', you drop into a large arena to be greeted by an earth-shattering scream. Two health bars appear before you, one for the 'Demon of the Deep' and one for the 'Demon in Pain'. This pair, who sound like they were named after the two halves of 80's heavy metal double album, are pretty difficult to begin with, working in tandem with their wide-ranging attacks. But of course, 'Dark Souls' being 'Dark Souls', once they have both been slain their remnant transform into the 'Demon Prince'. Complete with fire breath, mouth lasers and stabby claws, this guy is an absolute prick. Swipe left.
Mario...in the real world...
There were a lot of weird goings on in 2017 gaming. The excellent 'Little Nightmares' concocted some suitable nightmarish creations including the twisted tv-loving Janitor and the gluttonous Chefs. The bizarre fates of the Finch family in 'What Remains Of Edith Finch' are both harrowing, heartbreaking and hilarious. However, these pale in comparison of the horror of Super Mario meeting regular human beings.
In the New Donk City level of 'Super Mario Odyssey' our titular Euro-plumber takes a break from turtle genocide to bounce and fling himself around Nintendo's version of New York City. Seeing Mario next to anatomically correct human beings is just...wrong. Any rational person upon seeing this mustachioed monstrosity would scream until their lungs exploded. In the real America it would take approximately 2.6 seconds before he was shot to death by the police. Trump would enact an Italian ban.
Luckily this fact is slightly negated by the fact that this level, much like the rest of the game, is excellent fun. It also means that in the Mario universe there is proud British county called Donkshire. I for one would like to live there.
Our cultural obsession with nostalgia reached a peak this year as a large section of the Western got all misty-eyed about the Nazis and decided that much like Jumanji they needed a 21st Century reboot. It's a sad indictment of our political discourse that making a game about murdering hoardes of Nazis is considered even remotely controversial. But here we are.
'Wolfenstein 2: New Colossus' is fairly run of the mill first-person shooter. It doesn't feature any dramatic twists to the formula that last year's 'Doom', 'Titanfall 2' & 'Overwatch' had. The shooting is satisfying, the stealth system is bare-bones but efficient, and the writing is surprisingly good. But that doesn't matter. In these traumatic times sometimes you need to channel your anger thoughtlessly plough-through hordes of fascists. Just like your Mum does. That is a sex joke. So if you want to do your bit for society and destroy and racing-hating oligarchy from the comfort of your own home this is the perfect solution. Sharpen your hatchets and charge up your laser beams it's Nazi hunting time.
So much for the tolerant left eh?
There absolutely no alternative option here. If you see any publication giving their GOTY to anything other than 'Breath Of The Wild' then you can perform a citizen's arrest on them as they are committing a hate crime. This is the pinnacle of open world gaming, a game so good I'm really going to struggle to make snide joke about it.
If you want a full break-through of why the game is so special you can find my previously blog entry on the subject. What I will say though is that the open-world is so fully and brilliantly realised that I haven't been able to bring myself to play another open-world game since. What's the point? Nothing will be as good. For me, this is the sign of a special game, and one which should studied like an artifact from history. It is up there with the Turin Shroud as one the holiest relics in human civilisation.
Hands down 'Breath Of The Wild' is the best game of the year. In fact, 'Breath Of The Wild' is not just the best game of 2017, it is the best thing of 2017. Better than the shock election result, better than Martin Shkreli getting sent to jail, better than when that kid flounced into their Dad's office while he was giving an interview about North Korea to BBC News. I didn't think I was capable of love until this game came along. I want to distill the game's essence and inject it into my veins. You could murder me now and I would mind because I realised that my life peaked the second that I had slain Calamity Ganon. It's good, that's my point.