With this week’s release of the zombie DLC for Far Cry 5, Ubisoft has fulfilled its commitment to folks who bought the season’s pass. So how did it all turn out? What did you get for your $30? This is not a good week to ask that question. The latest add-on, Dead Living Zombies, is unmitigated junk, and that’s especially clear if you’re playing Rebellion’s surprisingly smart Strange Brigade.
My first thought upon flipping through a volume of Jean-Michel Basquiat works from a 2005 exhibit in Brooklyn was, “This is Basquiat?” He has such an exotic and dignified name. I assumed someone with that name would paint idylls and classical portraits. I expected he would be famous because his creations were moving works of beauty. Someone named Basquiat might even be a French master.
My second thought was, “This looks like garbage.” Angry childish scrawls. Gerald Scarfe when he was in boarding school. The cover of a Butthole Surfers album. An unabashedly amateurish webcomic. The scene when the protagonist flips through another character’s journal and discovers that character is totally insane. I don’t like this stuff. This is not the sort of thing I even understand.
The year is only half over and it speaks volumes that when I sit down to make a list of my favorite ten games so far, there’s no room for Into the Breach, Subnautica, or Vermintide 2, all of which are brilliant in ways I haven’t fully explored yet. I mean, seriously, what kind of list doesn’t include any of those games?
There have been some terrible years in the modern age. 1939 can’t have been much fun. 1973 must have been a real bummer. 2001 was a sobering experience. But 2017 stands alone. It might be the worst year the world has yet seen.
I might have included on this list of top games some really great 2017 releases if they felt more like 2017 releases. Total War: Warhammer 2, Dominions 5, and Spintires: Mud Runners are all great, but they’re great because they’re iterations on great games. They don’t feel like separate releases. The fantastic Pinball FX3 adds new reasons to play tables in lots of different ways, but they’re the same tables I’ve already been playing. Superlative DLC for Guild Wars 2, XCOM 2, and Diablo III made all of those games more relevant than ever in 2017, but none of them are 2017 releases.
This is the first year that none of my ten favorite games were popular AAA titles from larger publishers (with the possible exception of my #9 pick). I liked plenty of popular AAA titles from larger publishers! Destiny 2, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Warhammer II, Middle Earth: Shadow of War, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Wolfenstein II, for instance. But there were at least ten games I liked better.
Finally, the usual disclaimer for the games I didn’t get to play: Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2, Hob, Hellblade, Persona 5, Heat Signature, What Happened to Edith Finch, Gravity Rush 2, and Logistical were all games I wanted to play. I also didn’t get to play any game that had the misfortune to be an Xbox/Windows Store exclusive. For instance, did you guys know there was a new Halo Wars this year?
Overrated is a loaded term. It looks good in a headline. It’s often used for no purpose other than to goad a reaction. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. When I call a game overrated, I don’t mean it’s bad, that the reviews were wrong, that the people who liked it were dopes, or even that I didn’t like it. It just means I’m surprised more people weren’t more critical, that the conversation wasn’t more often about ways the game could have been better.
So if the most disappointing category is a list of games that should have been better, the most surprising category is the opposite. These are games that were better than they should have been. Just as disappointing is about falling short of expectations, these surprising games exceeded expectations and, in some cases, were among the best games of the year.
Calling a game disappointing arguably has more to do with me than the game itself. Disappointment isn’t an inherent quality. It can’t exist without some sort of expectation in the first place. In many cases, these games are sequels, or the creations of developers with proven track records, or entries in established genres, or games with promising beginnings. But for various reasons, a central fact about these games is that I had personally hoped they would be better.
Back in 2011, I wrote an article detailing the five Pinball FX tables I’d like to see. They were Star Wars, a Western theme, splatter horror, the Cold War, and Bioshock. Zen Studios must have been paying attention, because nearly half of those tables came out shortly thereafter! You’re welcome, world.
Really, it’s more than half, since there are about twenty Star Wars tables. The Western themed table, Wild West Rampage, is one of my favorites. Although they aren’t technically splatter horror, the Alien, Aliens vs Predator, Doom, and Walking Dead tables are horror enough for me. Which leaves the Bioshock and Cold War tables yet to be realized, so maybe they’re still working on those. Since Zen has already worked with Bethesda, I’ll accept a Prey table instead of a Bioshock table.
At the halfway point through 2017, you don’t really need people to write articles about how they like Nier and Horizon Zero Dawn and Ghost Recon: Wildlands and that new Zelda game on the Nintendo Switch. Exactly no one will be surprised that we think some of these games are the bee’s knees. The more valuable public service is calling out the games you didn’t know about, but maybe you should. After all, you don’t want your 2017 games of the year list to look like an NPD sales chart, do you?
So for the next ten days, in no particular order, I’m going to tell you about ten different games that I think are the bee’s lesser known knees.
I don’t have a Switch, so I can’t get on the Breath of the Wild bandwagon. I’m not sure there’s room for anyone else on that thing anyway. And I haven’t cleared the six hours from my schedule to boot up Persona 5 and get to the actual game part. I’ve played enough of Torment: Tides of Numenera to know that I probably shouldn’t be writing this list yet.
In the tradition of renovating their games so that they’re almost unrecognizable (in a good way!), Stardock has pulled away the scaffolding from Galactic Civilization III to reveal the Crusade DLC, available May 4, for $20. If you don’t already have Galactic Civilization III, you can buy it bundled with the Crusade DLC for $40. Let me show you one of several reasons you’ll want it.
I can understand why Simon Parkin, one of the rare videogame critics worth reading, seems to be feeling some anxiety about his job. A lot of people feel must feel that way, whether they’re plumbers, doctors, or social workers. But Parkin implies his anxiety is unique. So he’s written an article about writing articles about videogames:
But no matter how scintillating the text, when the real world starts to tremble, when fascism begins to rise, when the bombs start to fall, when real lives and real rights are imperilled, the job of writing about [videogames] is further undercut. Why waste our time focused on fictional quests when so much of the real world is in need of repair?
Now maybe I’ve missed it, but I don’t see anyone writing these articles about books, movies, or music.
I can think of at least nine reasons this list might be lacking: Gears of War 4, Uncharted 4, Titanfall 2, Salt and Sanctuary, Kathy Rain, Virginia, Forza Down Under, Dead Rising 4, and The Last Guardian. All games I didn’t get to play this year. I’ll throw in Just Dance 2017 to make it an even ten.
But from among the games I did play this year, let me tell you about my ten favorites.
After the jump, okay, maybe I did play Just Dance 2017, but I’d like to keep that between us.Continue reading →