GregHorrorShow’s Year In Gaming 2018

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It seemed 2018 was as good a time as any to mix up these end of year posts, mainly due to the way a lot of games are becoming sprawling services that span years of content as opposed to annual franchises. A lot of what I played this year wasn’t released in the calendar year but that seems to matter less and less as time goes on. I’ll list the release date next to anything not from 2018.

For anyone interested here is the non-gaming round up in case you missed it. For now though let’s delve into last year’s gaming…

hitman

I know Hitman 2 came out in 2018 but let me tell you about Hitman (2016). This was a game, like Life Is Strange, that really nailed the episodic format. It was a joy to jump into a new level (each with varying locations around the world) and spend a good chunk of time messing around, trying to find a stealthy way of taking out a target. Then I’d be happy to put the game back on the shelf and return to a new area in a few months. 2018 was the year I finally finished the last of Hitman’s content and I would definitely recommend giving it a shot.

I played A Way Out in full co-op with a friend and had a blast with the game. I’m not sure it would’ve been as much fun playing solo and while the story was fun it wasn’t the greatest narrative I’ve ever played through. This year I also played This War Of Mine: The Little Ones (2016), a title I’d been keen on for a while. It tasks you with scavenging to survive in a war torn country and really gives you a sense of how tough that kind of thing can be. The mental effects can completely change the game, if the characters become too scared or depressed you can lose control of them and they won’t respond to commands. It was tough watching my little group of survivors deteriorate until they fell apart, a rough but worthwhile gaming experience.

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VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action was a game I was super excited for and I really enjoyed taking on the role of a cyberpunk bartender, despite not being the best at remembering the drink combinations! Luckily there is a recipe book on hand to help. This is a visual novel on Vita so it’s a lot of reading, with a small gameplay element of mixing the drinks – giving customers different drinks can alter the storyline, which is cool. Hue was another Vita game that I put alot of time into, the puzzle solving was good fun and the use of colour was interesting.

Two games that took me an age to finish were Assassins Creed: Origins (2017) and Fallout 4 (2015). I wrapped up both this year and they were enjoyable for different reasons. Origins was a real high point for Assassins Creed, with a good story and lots of fun gameplay additions. I’d still rather they lost the current day set up as I find it really detracts from the main story but maybe there will be a payoff for that stuff at some stage? Fallout 4 left me in a frustrating spot so I didn’t ‘finish’ the game in terms of seeing the credits but felt I’d told my characters story to it’s conclusion, the game was exactly what I wanted from it and I look forward to playing the next numbered Fallout title when it arrives.

I also played through The Walking Dead: New Frontier (2016) and finished that a week or so before the sad news that the game studio behind it was shutting down. While the technical cracks were showing throughout the game I still enjoyed spending some more time with Clem and watching her grow over the course of the five episode arc. I didn’t play much of Gran Turismo Sport (2017) but the hours I put in were really enjoyable. I’m terrible at the game for the most part but as usual the joy of the game comes from heading to the car dealerships and picking up lots of different cars to race.

fortnite

In terms of online gaming its difficult to talk about 2018 without mentioning Fortnite. I’ve dropped off of the game in the last 3 or 4 months but I imagine I’ll be back at some stage to play some more. I enjoyed the tense, high stakes gameplay of solo the most, although it was definitely fun with friends as well. FIFA 19 is, finally, a more than cosmetic update of the yearly title. I think the changes they have made are certainly for the better although the issue of ‘rubber-banding’ (allowing slower defenders to catch up to attackers and tackle them) needs to be addressed as it can completely break the game flow and seems totally unrealistic. Another fun multiplayer game was Laser League (2017), which I picked up as part of PlayStation Plus. This is a futuristic sports game where you turn lasers to your colour on the playing field. If your colour laser touches an opponent they are taken out of play – it’s a really interesting idea that is well delivered.

My favourite online games from 2018 though were Battlefield V, Overwatch (2016) and Rainbow Six: Siege (2015). As a Battlefield veteran (from Bad Company on) I’ve enjoyed but not loved the recent titles in the series. I think Battlefield 4 was the last one I really put a lot of time into. Hardline was something different and Battlefield 1 was good but didn’t hold my attention. However something about Battlefield V just clicked with me – possibly it’s the heavy emphasise on squad play but this, for me is the best Battlefield since the Bad Company 2 days. It certainly has some issues but overall a really solid title. I absolutely love Overwatch. I still play regularly and have a great time with it – the updates with new maps and characters help keep the game fresh and with the newly launched Overwatch League, it seems the game is here to stay. That works for me.

siege

Having said that my pick for online game of 2018 is 2015’s Rainbow Six: Siege. The recovery of this game from a troubled launch is astounding. It has a vibrant esports scene and the continued release of maps and content (now stretching into the game’s fourth year!) makes sure the game is constantly evolving. It’s similar to Overwatch in that two small teams face off in a map with one objective and the teams take turns attacking and defending. Another familiar aspect is that a roster of characters each have different specialisations that can be used to gain an advantage or swing a fight. While Overwatch is like a bombastic, Saturday morning cartoon, Rainbow Six takes things a bit more seriously, although some cosmetic options allow you to lighten the mood a bit. The gameplay is finely balanced and it’s really unforgiving but definitely worth your time.

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In terms of single player games Detroit: Become Human was a highlight. While it was maybe heavy handed with its messaging I found the game itself to be enjoyable and the sheer amount of choice, in terms of the branching storyline, was hugely impressive. David Cage has done this before but each game genuinely improves on the last. The fact I can talk to other people who played it and we have very little in common in terms of the story of the game is actually quite astounding. One of my other favourites from this year was The Sexy Brutale (2017), a really clever puzzle game in which you relive the same day over and over, trying to stop a bunch of murders. It’s a touching, smart title with a great graphical style and some excellent music. A real joy to play through.

I’m still making progress through Persona 5 (2017) and loving that. The story is starting to build and I’m adding more characters to my roster of crime-fighters. The Persona games always have a lovely sense of style and this is no different – the music is as amazing as ever and graphically it looks brilliant. Another superb title I’m still finishing off is God Of War. This is one of those titles that really show off what a PS4 can do and also give a good reference point for non-gamers to see how games are progressing. It’s a tour de force really, while still maintaining a fragile father and son story that doesn’t feel melodramatic or forced. The script and voice acting help with that, it’s a game I can’t recommend enough.

rdr2

There is only one game that can be both my favourite thing from this year and also the best game I’ve played in years. Red Dead Redemption 2 arrived after a seven year wait but it was worth it. A prequel to the original title it tells the story of Arthur Morgan, a member of the same gang as the first game’s protagonist, John Marston. This is a huge game with so much content it’s likely I won’t experience much of it at all in the grand scheme of things. I’m about 25 hours in and still only midway through, I’ve spent a bunch of time just living in the game world, hunting, playing cards and fishing while completely ignoring missions. The world feels alive and there is always something going on just around the corner. I haven’t really touched the online beyond setting up a character but I’m also looking forward to getting more into that in the future. Red Dead Redemption 2 is my game of the year for 2018.

division 2

There was a lot I didn’t get around to playing that I want to try – Spider-man, Hitman 2, Iconoclasts and Life Is Strange 2 to name a few. As my backlog builds there is also plenty to look forward to in 2019. I think The Division 2 (above) is my most anticipated title, although if The Last Of Us II does get confirmed for this year that might just pip it. As well as games, it seems like another generation of new consoles are also on the horizon which should lead to some interesting announcements and game reveals.

Exciting times ahead in the world of gaming!

GregHorrorShow: Game Awards 2016

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So another stellar year done and a lot of games played, there have been some great releases and so many that I simply didn’t have time to get to them all. So apologies to Doom, Watch Dogs 2, Mafia III and Dishonored 2 (among others)… I will get around to playing you soon I promise!

Anyway, for 2016 – here we go:

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MISSED GEM OF 2015

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WINNER: Telltale’s ‘Tales From The Borderlands’

I’m seriously considering changing the name of this award to ‘Telltale’s Missed Gem’ because once again they take this with ‘Tales From The Borderlands’, an episodic adventure set in the Borderlands universe with a (mainly) new cast of characters. Telling the story of Rhys and Fiona from both viewpoints and with what can only be described as unreliable narration of both sides, it’s good fun. Great writing and some awesome set up in terms of vibe and atmosphere made this a whole lot better than I expected – heartily recommended.

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BEST DLC (CONTENT)

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WINNER: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate didn’t get the props it deserved in last year’s awards as I hadn’t finished it. So let the record state I thought it was the best AC game since Brotherhood. In addition to that we also got a great chunk of DLC based around the mythology of Jack The Ripper in which, playing as an older version of Evie, you have to track down London’s most notorious serial killer. Good fun and a rare chance to play as an older incarnation of a character, its well worth checking out. In terms of online DLC support both Uncharted 4 and Overwatch provided their players with free maps and new modes along with, in the case of the latter, new characters. Great stuff.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • Destiny
  • Overwatch

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THE JOE DANGER AWARD

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WINNER: Skullgirls – 2nd Encore

I put a whole host of, unexpected, time into Skullgirls upon it’s release for Vita in April. I had been looking for a fighter to get into and while I did consider the latest Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, in the end Skullgirls cartoon style won me over. What I wasn’t prepared for was how enjoyable the game would be to a newcomer. Playing through the character stories was great fun, though I did get repeatedly beaten online!

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MOST ANTICIPATED GAME OF 2017

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WINNER: Mass Effect Andromeda

This was a pretty close run thing, truth be told and Mass Effect ends up taking it by virtue of the fact I’m confident it’ll actually come out this year, unlike Red Dead Redemption 2! Both are highly desired though and I can’t wait to get my hands on them. I loved the original Gravity Rush so it makes sense the sequel is up there and Horizon: Zero Dawn looks set to be the most exciting new IP of 2017. I did want to put Persona 5 on here but I’m a bit nervous about it, just in terms of having had a connection with the characters of the previous game. New characters, new location… same magic? Fingers crossed.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Gravity Rush 2
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn

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BEST GAME TRAILER

WINNER: Red Dead Redemption 2

What can you say about Red Dead Redemption 2? Rockstar dropped a logo on Twitter and the world went crazy. When they dropped the trailer the gaming world pretty much unanimously stopped for 1 minute and 8 seconds. The piano, the graphics, the feel of the Wild West. It’s all there and showed us a brief glimpse of what might be on the horizon. Battlefield 1 dazzled us with amazing graphics and Gravity Rush 2 maintained the awesome style of the first game. Meanwhile Blizzard delivered a near Pixar-quality short as a trailer for Overwatch.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Battlefield 1
  • Overwatch
  • Gravity Rush 2

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BEST VITA GAME

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WINNER: Skullgirls – 2nd Encore

As noted above I hadn’t thought Skullgirls would grab me the way it did, especially as someone that doesn’t really play many fighting games. But it definitely did and the game does a great job of teaching you as much as you want to learn with a really in depth tutorial system. The characters and art style are cool and the music is fantastic. The Vita port is solid as well and the game controlled really well. I’d definitely say to pick this up if you’re interested in getting into a fighting game.

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BEST GRAPHICS

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WINNER: Battlefield 1

DICE have a history of nabbing this award with previous wins for Battlefield 3 (2013) and Star Wars: Battlefront (2015) and this year the competition was even fiercer with both Uncharted 4 and The Division delivering awe inspiring worlds and Overwatch bringing a stylised vibe to the party as well. Having said that, Battlefield 1 is a stunning looking game – one of those games you’ll show to people on the edge about buying a new console… ‘But look at this!’

RUNNERS UP:

  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • The Division
  • Overwatch

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BEST STORYLINE

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WINNER: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

I expect this one will come as no surprise to anyone as my love for Uncharted is well documented on these pages but after the departure of Amy Hennig I wasn’t entirely convinced that the heart of the game would still be there but thankfully Naughty Dog delivered everything we wanted story-wise. Sure, Nathan Drake now has a brother we’ve never heard about previously but the story here is well paced, enjoyable and uses the characters to great effect. Titanfall 2 has a claim on best level of 2016 with one mid level (pleasant) surprise and I thought the Infinite Warfare campaign was one of the best in Call Of Duty history. While Battlefield 1 tailed off in the last couple of story missions it started really strongly and Black Bess in particular was fantastic.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  • Titanfall 2
  • Battlefield 1

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BEST MUSIC (SCORE)

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WINNER: Overwatch

Skullgirls has a wonderful score that compliments it’s crazy outlandish aesthetic perfectly. Uncharted 4 and Battlefield 1 have amazing, soaring scores that do a great job to match the on-screen action throughout. But Overwatch… That theme when you load the game up, the swell as it reaches a crescendo. The ‘Play Of The Game’ theme is such a cool, heroic riff that does a super job of conveying that sense of heroism. Even the smaller parts like the music that accompanies the end of a round hit the mark. Really impressive stuff.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Battlefield 1
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • Skullgirls – 2nd Encore

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BEST MUSIC (LICENSED)

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WINNER: Gone Home

Despite some misgivings over the game itself there is no doubt that Gone Home had a killer soundtrack, with songs from Heavens to Betsy, Bratmobile and The Youngins (as GirlScout). With the game set in 1995 the developer did a great job of nailing that feel with the music. FIFA 17, as usual, delivered an eclectic mix of new artists for players to discover like Bishop Briggs and Barns Courtney alongside heavy hitters like Beck and Two Door Cinema Club. Special shout out to Tales From The Borderlands as well, I know it came out last year but as it wasn’t featured I felt a mention was in order for first class use of stuff like James Blake, The Rapture and First Aid Kit. Also apologies again to Watch Dogs 2 and Mafia III, who I suspect may have featured here if I’d played them.

RUNNERS UP:

  • FIFA 17
  • Tales From The Borderlands

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BEST VOICE ACTING

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WINNER: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Uncharted once againtakes home the best voice acting award – adding the irrepressible Troy Baker (Sam) and amazing Laura Bailey (Nadine) to the already stellar cast of Nolan North, Emily Rose and Richard McGonagle. The game itself is so full of graphical prowess and little touches that give the characters personality that it’s easy to forget the stunning job the cast of Uncharted consistently delivered. Unparalleled in gaming. I enjoyed the cast’s performance in Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare as well, with Ethan the robot shining alongside David Harewood as Sgt. Usef Omar. Camilla Luddington was spot on as Lara Croft in Rise Of The Tomb Raider and while I loved the voices in Overwatch I didn’t feel there was enough voiced content in the game for it to take the award.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Overwatch
  • Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  • Rise Of The Tomb Raider

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SINGLE PLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

What a way to round out the series! Uncharted 4 excels in so many areas it’s difficult to know where to start. Graphically it’s a powerhouse, with a great story and excellent voice acting. It controls really well and Naughty Dog also managed to keep a more gritty tone while retaining the original trilogy’s sense of swagger and humour. A fantastic achievement and a bench mark for single player campaigns. Rise Of The Tomb Raider continued the series high quality revival, expanding on several elements to give the player a host of customisation to their playthrough. Considering the original Titanfall didn’t have a campaign, it’s surprising that the sequel’s turned out so well. But it did and had lots of memorable moments that set you up nicely for the multiplayer. Hitman was a delight this year, split into episodic chunks that you could consume at leisure, basking in each level’s quirks and areas. Similarly to the excellent Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, I really felt like if I made a mistake in Hitman I had a chance to recover or at least try something different. A real triumph and I look forward to Season 2.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Rise Of The Tomb Raider
  • Titanfall 2
  • Hitman

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MULTIPLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: Overwatch

I put quite a bit of time into both The Division and Uncharted 4’s online components this year and really enjoyed both of them. The Division’s cooperative online set up meant it was fun to play with friends and I’ve always enjoyed Nathan Drake’s multiplayer adventures so Uncharted 4 was no different. Probably the best ever offering in my opinion and while I didn’t play as much Titanfall 2 I thought what I did play was great fun. Despite all that only one game captivated me since it’s release back in Spring, of course, it’s Overwatch! With so many characters and classes (and sub classes) on offer (23 at last count with more coming) there is something here for everyone. Not great at shooters? Go with a healer instead, or maybe a defender like Mei, who can pop up ice walls to block off the opposition. Coming across like the best Saturday morning kids show ever, Overwatch might be the best multiplayer game I’ve ever played, and that’s saying something!

RUNNERS UP:

  • The Division
  • Titanfall 2
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

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GAME OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: Overwatch

I was really looking forward to Overwatch, I thought the Beta was neat and wanted to get my hands on it. It wasn’t even mentioned in my most anticipated games last year but it was the first game in a long time that I actually hit the level cap for. As discussed above there simply isn’t another shooter, or game, like it. The team based nature of it and the positive feedback loop of having good things during the match being the focus of end game round ups is awesome. Add into that the gender, and race, diversity that flows through the cast of colourful characters and you have a winning formula. Yes it can be frustrating, especially in competitive mode, but to win a closely fought match is one of the best feelings in gaming.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • The Division
  • Hitman

So there we go, another year down and lots of amazing games on the horizon for 2017!

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