My Top 5 Games Of 2018

Christmas and New Year joy to all! Now that the end of 2018 is near, this is the ideal time to look back on video games and which games rose to the top for me. Obviously, I haven’t played all games this year, as much as I would like to have that much free time. So, you may have choices that aren’t present on the list either because I didn’t get round to them or they didn’t make the cut. Purely opinion based. So without further stalling, here’s my top 5 games of 2018.

5. Super Smash Bros Ultimate

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This game is a tricky one to gauge for me as it has only just come out. I haven’t put as much time into as other games on my list but I feel this fits comfortably at the number 5 spot. I was concerned that I’d outgrown Super Smash Bros as I hardly played the Wii U version after extensively playing the previous entries. But, so far I’ve put over 20 hours into the World of Light mode alone and I have no sign of stopping. The appeal of all characters and levels from past games being crammed into one package, plus more, is worth the price of admission alone. But, the amount of extra content and the creative ways Nintendo’s series lore is interwoven within the Smash battles is really something special. The game doesn’t need this much content but I fully appreciate the little nods to past series in the World of Light mode. And speaking as mainly a solo gamer, I really feel like the AI is a huge improvement from the last game. Fights are challenging and the AI utilise all tools and dodge roll and hop their way extensively across the stages. Sure, sometimes it seems like the AI is reading my inputs but I appreciate the challenge. Overall this is a great package and it plays great. You won’t come across another game with this much content and a game that also provides the ability to punch Mario into oblivion. I guarantee it.

4. Spider-Man

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I was so happy that this game exceeded the web-swinging from Spider-Man 2! The phrase ‘Captures how it feels to be Spided-Man’ or similar was repeated so much in reviews that it actually became sort of a meme. And I want to avoid saying that but I can’t. It really does capture the feeling of being Spider-Man or as best as I can imagine. The acrobatic swinging is on top form and the fighting is fast pace and fluid. The story is a real highlight for me. There’s a great balance of Spidey characters and villains without being too heavy with the references. I never felt like the story had too much or too little going for it and I genuinely cared for the heroes and main villain which is a great achievement. It ranks 4th because a few things hold the game back which I’d love to see improved in the sequel. I have an issue sometimes with the combat. It gets a bit cumbersome at times compared to the Batman Arkham series and it leads to me bumbling into walls and awkwardly jumping around the brawl. The Miles and Mary Jane missions also wore out their welcome quickly for me. I just didn’t find them fun, they weren’t always clear and they slowed the pacing right down. A change of pace when done right is a beautiful compliment to the previous or following scene but when done wrong it just makes you wish to get back to what you were doing. All moans aside though, I fully recommend this game even if you aren’t a Spider-Man fan.

3. Monster Hunter World

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The Monster Hunter series is one I’ve dabbled in from time to time. I play handhelds less than consoles and so I drop off the portable Monster Hunter’s quite quickly. By quickly I mean after 100 hours which is rookie numbers if you know Monster Hunter games. And so when World was announced I was pretty excited about playing it on the main screen again. It didn’t disappoint. World brings the Monster Hunter series to the big screen magnificently whilst improving the overall gameplay. A big issue I had in the past was how rigid my character felt at times but in World, your character feels sturdy yet mobile. It plays great and features an online system I really enjoy. I hardly use headsets and Monster Hunter World makes it easy to group up with strangers for monster hunting fun and communication emotes which while basic, offer enough variety to get the point across. And then you have the monster tracking system which really streamlines the experience and makes the series feel more focused than previous iterations where you mostly ran to new zones until you finally stumbled upon your sought after prey. Overall, just a great game to hop into for some slaying co-op fun.

2. Dead Cells

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Sometimes, I just want a basic game. A game that is stripped of a big plot and dialogue and loads of filler features and collectables I couldn’t care less about. Dead Cells represents that for me. You spawn as this weird glob thing that attaches itself to a corpse, you run through increasingly difficult levels while finding new weapons and tools and upgrading your stats. You fight through slogs of enemies and run though twisting pathways until you get to a boss or the next section. And you keep going until you make it to the end or you die. After which you respawn as the glob and set off again. If playing through similar corridors isn’t your thing then perhaps Dead Cells isn’t for you as even though the layout changes, there are still structural placements that stay the same. Games like The Binding of Isaac change more of their layouts than Dead Cells but Dead Cells is more about your own comprehension of the combat. You get rewarded for being fast and Dead Cells but you get punished for being sloppy and so you need to strike a fine balance between skill and rashness. I personally love how Dead Cells plays. It’s frantic but controllable. And when you have that control, you have this sense of power that I don’t feel in a lot of games. The way the character moves and how responsive it feels really accentuates that too. It’s a game where I can be effortlessly cutting down legions of enemies one second and then all of a sudden I’m way out of my depth and dodge rolling like an idiot. But it really is a game where the more you play, the more you see your progress through your actions.  To add to that, the more you play, the more permanent upgrades and access to weapons you unlock. Meaning you have more variety and pathways to explore. Dozens of hours in and I’m still unlocking stuff. It’s a game where you can pick up and play an hour of or spend all day trying make it to the end of a run. It’s a games game to me. Lacking in what we expect from most big AAA releases but making up for it in refined classic gaming. And Dead Cells is a masterclass in that regard.

1. God Of War

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This year, like last year with Persona 5, God Of War was my top choice easily. Not only do I believe this to be a well told and fun game to play. But, I really think this is a high point for how game studios should handle past projects. It’s easy to reboot something or to do a sequel a few years later but God Of War really feels like a proper evolution of a character. You could play this game on its own and have a fantastic experience with it but I believe this game is really elevated when you’ve played the past games. Kratos was fun to play as in past games but you would have hated to be his friend or related to him in any way. He was essentially a selfish jerk, fun to play as but basic in character. In 2018’s version of him it really feels like the studio looked at him as a whole and just challenged themselves on making this loud character and evolving him into his next progression. And not even just a small alteration, a big character change whilst also keeping his past nature and actions still present. You feel the weight on Kratos, this heavy burden that he tries to move on from. He reeks of remorse, maybe not about who he killed because let’s face it, a lot of those gods had it coming, but he regrets what he allowed himself to become. I’m going to stop talking about Kratos now as this is the Game Of The Year, not Character Of The Year. Gameplay wise, it’s fantastic. Originally I thought the combat felt more clunky but it feels right for what they’re going for. It’s more weighted than previous games in the series. The Leviathan Axe is a fun new weapon and offers some really creative fighting. The Norse world is a beautiful touch and really opens up a lot of future conflicts which I eagerly await. God Of War is just really focused. It wants to tell a personal story, it doesn’t have loads of filler and collectable, there are fewer characters than fingers of the average person and the game is better for it. A lot of games have end of the world scenarios and God Of War, at its most basic level, is a story of a father and son bond. Sure, events happen around them but we play this game to see their growth. I have to give big praise for the writing and acting from the two leads. The game is leagues above others and joins the ranks of The Last Of Us in terms of characters that I genuinely cared for and wanted the very best for. It takes great skill to achieve that and it deserves recognition for it. Overall this is just a phenomenal game and one of the best returns to a series I can think of. This is how a series continuation should be. You use the past games as a strong foundation, you don’t bury it or dismantle it. Take what you made and what you learned from them and improve upon it. As Kratos told Atreus, ‘Don’t be sorry. Be better.’.

Honourable Mention: Shadow Of The Colossus

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So, I’m cheating here. This is a top 5 but shhhh, I won’t tell if you won’t. Honestly though, this choice is the choice I struggled with the most and one that I’m going to need to think about for future lists. I’ve played this game on PS2, PS3 and now the remastered version on PS4. I love this game and the version that came out this year. If, I were to include this as a contender for this list, Smash Bros wouldn’t be talked about. This is one of the best games of all time to me, never mind of the year. But it’s a remaster! Does that entitle it to be included? I personally don’t think I can include it. If it was my first time when playing it then sure. But, it’s not an original game of 2018 and so it didn’t make the cut. So, I’m writing this for your opinion honestly. Let me know how you feel about situations like this? Also, I just really wanted to recommend this game in case a reader hasn’t played it.

Thank you for reading and feel free comment on what you think of the list or your games of the year. Hope you all had a great Christmas and have a Happy New Year!

Game Subtitles! Come Out To Plaaaaaaay!

You get home, brand new game in your bag. It was pre-ordered ages ago and you’ve been waiting all week for it. You excitedly put the disc in, wait for the now mandatory 1 hour update and install before playing. The game starts up, you enter your first cutscene and…….why is the person talking so quietly? Why aren’t the subtitles on!

You can’t hit the start button out of fear that you’ll skip the opening cutscene so you listen intently to what’s being said. This is usually important information. Now, some games start with an action packed sequence with lots of noise and exposition. And unless you have a good soundbar or are playing with headphones on, a lot of details can me mixed in the audio of a thin TV speaker. It can be difficult to parse the relevant information.

So how come, subtitles aren’t on by default? Most people I know always want the subtitles on. I would imagine that over 90% of gamers feel the same way. I completely understand that it can break your immersion seeing text on the screen but nothing breaks my immersion like leaning my ear to the TV to hear what Captain Exposition is trying to tell me. To me, I think subtitles should be on by default with the option to turn them off in the options. Subs on seems to be preferred.

Or do what some games do and subtitles as an option when starting a new game file. I always appreciate this option as 9 times out of 10 I forget to go into the options before I begin my first playthrough of a game. I thoroughly appreciated that this was available on the new Spider Man game. It is the correct way to do it in my belief. Best of both worlds for everyone.

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Another reason for subtitles to be on by default and this is more peace of mind is for streaming purposes. This is more for LP’s but how many times have you watched a Twitch stream or Let’s Play and the player(s) are talking over the dialogue? Or they’ve started the game and then realised that subtitles aren’t on during the cutscene and have to go into the options once gameplay starts? Again, I know this is minor stuff but streaming is more common now and it just benefits the viewer to have subtitles on by default.

But let’s imagine we’re playing a new game. Let’s imagine Red Dead Redemption 2 as that’s out soon. We’ve started the game up and after a lengthy opening scene we’re chucked into the gameplay. That was a long scene and cowboys sometimes have gruff voices so it wasn’t an easy listen but we got most of the dialogue. But we don’t want to miss anything so the first thing we tend to do is go into the options while the lack of subs is on our minds. Now we get to play, find the subtitles!

Is it under the Video category? That would make sense as it’s something we see. It’s not there? Well, it must be Audio then, as it’s spoken words put into text form. *Gasp* It’s not there either. Game? It’s in the Game options…..I guess that makes sense since it is a part of the game but so is audio and visual and they got their own sub-sections. Why the Game options?

There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to where the subtitles are placed! I’m very good at moaning as I’m sure you’ve noticed about me writing this article about such a small thing but if it’s something that is easily fixable, then shouldn’t it be fixed? Can we not just all decide together which section in the options, subtitles belongs to? Then have it implemented in all future games.

Anyway I’m going to stop my whinge there. I could talk all day about subtitles and if you want more on that try my previous post, A Game Sin That Needs To Die: Small Text. Let me know how you feel on this matter in the comments and if you prefer your subtitles to be on or off and why. Thanks for reading.

 

Spider-Man PS4 Review

Amazing? Spectacular? Even Superior? The answer is none of the above. Before you close this article, I did really enjoy this game. There are just a few things that hold it back that are substantial.  Firstly, this is a fun game. Since playing Spider-Man 2 over a decade ago, I’ve craved another game that provides the arachnid hero’s feel of mobility. Insomniac has done a tremendous job here of make traversal as Spider-Man, the highlight of the game. Swinging around New York is an absolute blast. Even when I had a way marker on the screen, rather than going the direct and quickest route, I would be frolicking all the way there. They nailed what it’s like to be Spider-Man.

But before I get ahead of myself, I should set the scene and talk about the story itself. So in Spider-Man on the PS4, you play as Wolverine. No wait that’s the wrong hero isn’t it? Obviously you play as the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man and Spider-Man doesn’t need to be explained, we all know his powers and who he is. Also, I’m getting sick of typing Spider-Man and when the main character is the titular title it becomes extra annoying so from now on, when I refer to Spider-Man himself it’s SM! SM is the main character, with a few occasions the player takes control of Peter’s ex Mary Jane and newcomer in Peter’s life, Miles. Without giving away too many story beats, I was really surprised by the narrative. It’s not a video game classic but the story is well told and full of nuance. There is a good story here and quite a mature one at that. It’s a classic, good vs evil story but there’s a lot of different threads which weave nicely into a cohesive, well told tale.

Not only does the cutscenes and dialogue fill us in on SM’s life but the oodles of side content help to characterise our hero. It weaves a world that feels lived in by SM/Peter Parker. This isn’t an origin story, in fact SM has been Spider-Man-ing for over half a decade. And through side content and collectables, a life of a web slinger is fleshed out. here is a plethora of backpacks, photo opportunities, combat scenarios and my favourite…….pigeon chases. Seriously a group of side missions have you yanking a pigeon out of the sky. Me thinks using a pigeon’s body weight as an anchor or pulling the pigeon to yourself at high speed would pulverise the winged critter but apparently they’re built to last in New York. Also, just to annoy you, try to get the Hanna Barbera song Stop the Pigeon out of your head next time you go for one of those bad boys in Spider-Man.

You’re welcome.

New York itself is a character and Insomniac has done a great job of creating a large playground. I would have liked there to be more unique buildings for fun traversal but what they’ve created is a very good emulation of the big apple. Which, brings me to the web swinging. I like the fighting of this game, I love the swinging. The way SM moves and flows through the air is something else. I don’t get bored with how it feels. Leaping of a web swing right at it’s highest point or dive bombing from a skyscraper just looks and feels the business. There’s fast travel in this game and I don’t think I’ll ever use it. The swinging is the best part of the game and it amplifies my enjoyment of the rest of the game. There is a ton of side content in this game and actually getting to that content is so much fun. A bit more variety in the side missions would be appreciated but the swinging saves the tedium. In other games I could barely care about finding a backpack or repetitive side missions where I swing through smoggy areas for samples. But most of the side missions involve more opportunities to sling webs and I want to indulge in that. Going to a funeral isn’t fun but if you got to drive a monster truck there then that’s a different thing. The combat is fantastic. It took me a while to get used to it as well as I did with Batman Arkham Asylum but once you get used to the controls it flows really well. It’s very similar to the Batman games but with Spider-Man charm. It’s a delight to watch SM’s acrobatic moves when dispatching thugs and the array or gadgets and suits keep the combat from getting stale. As a quick mention, the different suits in the games are a great addition and look amazing. The fact that most of them come with a unique power as well, it’s these little additions that show that Insomniac know how to make a character fun to play.

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Currently my favourite suit.

Which, brings me to which characters aren’t fun to play. And one of the main things that holds this game back for me. The Mary Jane and Miles missions. Not all of them. There’s 1 Miles mission I liked and I think 1 Mary Jane mission but that was because it involved SM and had a nice gimmick to it. But the other times, you have to play as these characters skulking around, looking for information or just trying to evade capture from enemies.  They are just not that fun and I don’t oppose to playing as side characters in games. It gives instances to show unique gameplay or story. But the scenarios they’re in and the tools at our disposal need to be interesting or fun. Most of the MJ or Miles parts can be summed up as *wait for guard to look in opposite direction before moving* or *make a noise to draw attention to a spot and then move towards objective*.  It’s a flow breaker after playing as a fast, capable character. You feel stilted and robbed of more SM time. I wouldn’t mind as much if it was one or two in a 15+ story but it seemed to be every 2-3 hours a slow mission reared its head. To the point where when dialogue started leading to a ‘I wonder what predicament Mary Jane has got herself into this time’, I would start mentally asking the game to just show me a cutscene of what happened to her. Please game, take the control from me and show a brief scene that gives me the exposition!  I was never bored when playing as Peter Parker because they were brief and interesting. Hell I would play as one of the pigeons! That’d be a great introduction to that side mission. Getting chased through Central Park by a man in red and blue spandex.

The game also doesn’t have enough ‘WOW that’s what it’s like to be a hero’ missions early on. The last 4 hours or so of the game are so so good. They have SM, a super hero, doing super hero level things. Saving citizens and stopping robberies is hero stuff but I feel like the grand scale missions were all mostly on the back end. It made for a great few hours but now I’m thinking on my new game plus that those first few hours are going to seem like a bit mundane in comparison. Like I said, the swinging and combat are both excellent so I’m sure it won’t be an issue but a few great missions with bigger scope peppered throughout the early hours would have been appreciated. Instead of the aforementioned Mary Jane and Miles missions. When all is said and done though, Spider-Man is a well crafted, fun game. It has a great story, looks beautiful, the music score is on point and overall it is a fun game. I would very much recommend this one and I just hope that Insomniac rethinks some of their mission choices for the sequel. A fantastic game let down by a few missteps but a fantastic game nevertheless.