2017 was one of the first years I actually had difficulty keeping up with the steady stream of games.
I felt inundated with a deluge of appealing titles, more so than previous years. Sitting down and sifting through what caught my attention has taken no small amount of effort, but I’ve come up with a list that might uncover some hidden gems for you.
If you’re like me and missed out on some of 2017’s lesser-known stars, the holidays are the perfect opportunity to catch up. Pull up a chair, stoke the fire in the hearth, and kick back for a blast from the very recent past.
(Editor's note: Unlike previous lists, Harrison's list is presented in no certain order)
Inevitably, Stories Untold is going to draw comparisons to Netflix's Stranger Things. The ‘80s aesthetic, soundtrack, and title font all evoke the Netflix phenomenon. Stories Untold, however, is a far different animal. Inspired by text-based adventures of yesteryear, this short game traverses four episodes of psychological and atmospheric horror.
There are no jump-scares, per se, but Stories Untold can be a deeply unsettling experience. It gets under your skin without the usual guts and gore of your average horror game.
I won’t say more because I’d spoil what makes it special, but this is one title you’d be remiss to pass on.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
I will admit the recent political climate has been a mental drag. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is both the manifestation of and the antidote to my current anxieties; a bludgeoning gut-punch of a game that comes face-to-face with the worst aspects of human nature. Despite the depravity, however, hope remains a constant theme.
Even as you’re decapitating and dismembering baddies to make America Nazi-free again, Wolfenstein II pulls on the emotional chords more than I expected. I genuinely cared for the characters and rooted for this tiny insurgency to overthrow the horrors of Nazi tyranny.
Just as Wolfenstein II pulls no punches in its depictions of violence, so too does it delve into racism, domestic abuse, misogyny, and modern societal ailments. This game is bold, and in some ways, vital.
Call of Duty: WWII
Call of Duty has always been a meat-and-potatoes shooter. It’s the series that’s resisted franchise burnout time and again, despite the push and pull of the shooter market.
WWII represents a hearkening back to what made the series popular in the first place.
The campaign is more measured, the multiplayer pared back a bit, and the action as grimly visceral as ever. In some ways, Call of Duty is more formulaic than it’s ever been. In other ways, it feels like a new experience. You might not be impressed by Call of Duty’s return to form, but those who’ve longed for the series to return to its roots will be greatly pleased with Sledgehammer’s effort.
LEGO City Undercover
Telltale Games has made some serious bank off of comic book franchises and LEGO adaptations of popular movies. Few of their titles, however, scratched the itch for fun that LEGO City Undercover somehow reached. LEGO City technically came out a couple years ago for the WiiU (Editor's note: Would you believe it was actually four years ago?; it was one of Jason's Top 10 Games of 2013!), but I’d only recently gotten around to checking out the recent port on Nintendo Switch.
I wish I’d given this game a shot sooner because it’s a hilarious parody of Grand Theft Auto, detective noir, and every police film you can imagine.
One-liners and pop culture references back up an entertaining open-world playground, where players can zip around and stop criminal clowns in their tracks. It’s all light-hearted fun, and something more folks should give a chance.
Sports fans already know one simple fact; EA owns our souls. We pour out buckets of cash each year to the FIFA franchise, and subscribe to the silly trading card metagames that rob us of patience and money. For all my cynicism, it’s moot because FIFA 18 is such a darn good product. The presentation, tweaked gameplay, and breadth of content are top-class.
This is FIFA at its peak, and boy is that summit a blast.
The addition of Football Ultimate Team Squad Battles adds an additional strategic layer to building your dream football squad, incentivizing competition against rival players’ teams. The singleplayer story, 'The Journey', remains a well-written campaign for those tired of multiplayer. Whatever you’re looking for out of FIFA, you’ll find it here.
Space Hulk: Deathwing
Space Hulk technically came out last December, but it was kind of a mess. As you might expect, I withheld digging in until I felt the game was in an acceptable state. The developers at Streum On spent months patching it up and rebalancing the combat per player feedback. The result is a better optimized, fairer co-op shooter with big beefy tank-people.
Space Hulk is bloody good at conveying a sense of mass and impact, surrounding you with a literal army of xenos to cleanse.
Nothing like old-fashioned alien killin’ to get the blood pumping, eh?
I enjoyed kung-fu movies as a kid, so Redeemer is something of a guilty pleasure. It’s a gory, virulently-stupid splatterfest where every punch seems to send a geyser of red stuff shooting everywhere. Combat is fast, crunchy, and brutal. While ranged combat is something of a mixed bag, Redeemer absolutely nails the melee aspect to a T.
Those looking for subtlety need apply elsewhere. Redeemer is a face-punching simulator dialed to 11.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands
I have a hard time saying Ghost Recon: Wildlands is good. It isn’t. At least, not in the traditional sense.
It’s a big, goofy, occasionally-shoddy open-world shooter that’s best taken with a grain of salt. If you give in to its dumb premise and cut loose, Ghost Recon reveals itself to be a raucous time.
No, the plot doesn’t make a lick of sense. Yes, the writing can be way too serious at times. Yes, you should absolutely give it a try if you have a few friends who also own the game. Messing with the game’s open-ended combat arenas and muddling through some hilarious bugs adds to the charming mess that is Wildlands.