By: Lucas Henkel | Arts & Entertainment Editor
May 11, 2018
Alright. This article is going to be a little weird. I’m going to hopefully start a little trend here for future years of newspaper to come. Unlikely, but I remain hopeful. This article is going to basically be a small guide from me that basically highlights the best video games that came out over the past year—although please note, I’m not going to be punctual about whether or not it a game was released within the past 12 months exactly.
The main reason why I’m writing is this is so I have an opportunity to talk about the things I’ve found good but never got the time to talk about it previously. Like, let’s be frank, in this modern day and age, a lot of us are probably gamers. So it genuinely surprises me to discover that no one reviewed video games previous to me apart from one article back in 2015. So because of this, I think we should pay a little respect to this branch of media.
Before we start, I just want to get this out of the way now: If you don’t agree with what I have to say, read the sub-header.
Now then. I will be doing this in the classic “Top Five” placement style since there’s been quite a handful of good content that came out over the period of time and it’d be a shame to mention only one game, especially since there have been a lot of good releases.
Top 5 Video Games of 2017 – 2018
5th Place: Cuphead
Cuphead is a classic run and gun action game heavily focused on boss battles. Inspired by cartoons of the 1930s, the visuals and audio are painstakingly created with the same techniques of the era, i.e. traditional hand drawn cel animation, watercolor backgrounds, and original jazz recordings.
Play as Cuphead or Mugman (in single player or local co-op) as you traverse strange worlds, acquire new weapons, learn powerful super moves, and discover hidden secrets while you try to pay your debt back to the devil!
Cuphead was probably the epitome of rage games up until the release Getting Over It–literally the following month. In fact, I can still recall the vivid image of seeing nothing but Cuphead videos in my subscriber list on YouTube; Almost all of which involved some popular let’s player losing their crap over it after dying right before the end of a boss battle.
So what was it that made this game so popular back when it first came out? Well, the answer is quite simple: Art-style. The reason why Cuphead was on everyone’s radars was its amazing art direction. In fact, looking back at its original Kickstarter page, the basic goal of the project was to create a game that paid homage to all of the classic cartoons from the 1930s. Of course, this goal may not seem difficult initially on paper… until you literally begin putting it on paper…
Every single frame of animation in Cuphead was painstakingly drawn by hand and then scanned into a digital art file. Think of it like this for a minute: A game typically aims to run at 60 frames per second. That means there are 60 frames of hand-drawn animation every second being displayed. Now, of course, many frames of animation were reused and recycled, but still, that’s a lot of drawing.
I have immense respect for the animators who worked on Cuphead, for they have accomplished an enormous task, and it clearly paid-off, however, this is about as much praise I can give to this game. Don’t get me wrong, I like the game, but I don’t really love it or anything excessively. As a normal platformer game, I’d say it’s a fun game to play through–especially if you’re one of those masochists who enjoy bullet-hells. However, apart from the art, Cuphead isn’t anything special really. I mean sure, the music is pretty decent with its jazzy tunes and all that, but there’s not really much to talk about here.
Cuphead is simply another platformer with great eye-candy, nothing more, nothing less.
4th Place: PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds
PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS is a battle royale shooter that pits 100 players against each other in a struggle for survival. Gather supplies and outwit your opponents to become the last person standing.
PLAYERUNKNOWN, aka Brendan Greene, is a pioneer of the battle royale genre and the creator of the battle royale game modes in the ARMA series and H1Z1: King of the Kill. At PUBG Corp., Greene is working with a veteran team of developers to make PUBG into the world’s premiere battle royale experience.
It’s a little weird talking about PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds nowadays ever since the wide-spread mainstream reception of Fortnite. If I had to put it simply, PUBG is kind of forgotten now. Now, of course, I don’t mean that in the sense that no one plays the game anymore, but odds are, you’re playing Fortnite right now instead of PUBG since. Like seriously, I have this vivid image from back when I was trying to present something in one of my classes, only to notice that the student sitting in front of me was blatantly playing Fortnite on his freaking phone.
Actually, can we be real here for a moment guys? Why is everyone addicted to playing either of these stupid games in-class nowadays? I mean I understand texting in-class, but the fact that there are some of you out there who completely ignore the teacher to simply see if you could get that chicken-dinner only to die in vain seriously makes me question why you’re even attending class. I mean, just save that crap for when you’re goofing off at home because at least then, it’d be a lot easier to actually play instead of having to maneuver with your massive thumbs that take up half the screen!
Anyways, sorry about that minor rant, I got side-tracked there. Anyways, back to PUBG. Although I can see the appeal in why people would prefer Fortnite over PUBG nowadays, we can’t forget the fact that it was PUBG that really kicked off the genre. Now I’m not going to be that idiot who’s going to praise the game for pioneering the Battle Royale genre, but I won’t deny the fact that it was this game that caught everyone’s attention.
At its core, PUBG is very simple: You’re dropped off on an island along with 99 other players with the goal of being the last player alive. If that doesn’t sound difficult to you then I’d like to see you try; The furthest I ever got was somewhere in the top 5 ranking. Not only are there some seriously sweaty try-hards out there who take this game way too seriously, making it difficult to even get anywhere if you’re new to the game, but the game is still an absolute cluster-eff when it comes to how it actually plays. Like seriously, what bozo looked at this game and thought it was complete, the game is still incredibly buggy, unoptimized and filled with hackers. What’s worse is that I play this game on PC, God help the console players…
Senior Nabil Shull agrees, stating “I believe that Fortnite is the better game here since you at least aren’t phasing through walls every other game.”
At this point, it may sound like I’m taking an absolute dump on PUBG and the truth is, the game is admittedly outdated now. With the number of mistakes the developers have made since their rise to stardom, I have no idea how they’ll be able to properly redeem themselves unless they take the time to actually fix the game so that it’s actually playable.
But, we cannot forget what the impact this title has made in the gaming industry since its release. That is the main reason why I’m putting this game on the list instead of Fortnite because, despite its flaws, I’m sure most of us still found some enjoyment from the game in the past. For better or worse, PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds was probably the most influential game title to have came out since last year.
3rd Place: Prey
In Prey, you awaken aboard Talos I, a space station orbiting the moon in the year 2032. You are the key subject of an experiment meant to alter humanity forever – but things have gone terribly wrong. The space station has been overrun by hostile aliens and you are now being hunted. As you dig into the dark secrets of Talos I and your own past, you must survive using the tools found on the station — your wits, weapons, and mind-bending abilities. The fate of the Talos I and everyone aboard is in your hands.
One of my all-time favorite games to have ever been made is an old cult classic by the name of System Shock 2. Despite having been released way back in 1999, I still find the game to be incredibly immersive and still surprisingly creepy. It is probably my single-most favorite survival horror game to have ever been created. But of course, the game’s not for everyone. In many ways, the game hasn’t aged all that well in certain areas, most notably in the graphics department, and its lack of hand-holding can make it hard for newer players to get into. One wrong decision, and bam, you’re pretty much handicapped for most of your time playing. Which brings me to the topic of Prey, which I consider being the modern spiritual successor to the System Shock series, and to me, that is amazing.
All I’ll reveal is that Prey basically takes the classic “space-station gone wrong” story we all know and love and then proceeds to squirt some lime juice over it to keep things fresh: Basically, you’re a scientist with alien super-powers. I know, I know, that sounds a little bit hokey but it’s quite interesting how the developers implemented this into the game. It’s basically done in such a way that it feels surprisingly believable, which is a good thing because, in Prey, immersion is key to its enjoyment.
Overall, the game is a very interesting survival horror game. The story is fairly well-written, the controls are smooth and non-contrived and it does a great job of keeping you sucked in. The game is noticeably stylized at times, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing because if you wanted a horror game with more realistic graphics, just go buy Resident Evil 7–which is also pretty good honestly. The game also has a pretty good soundtrack as well. Composed by Bethesda‘s go-to man Mick Gordon, the score is upbeat when it wants to be whilst remaining dark, minimal and ominous when it needs to be. Being honest, that’s actually something Prey does better than System Shock 2 apart from it being more intuitive at times.
But of course, you may be asking yourself a little bit why I keep comparing Prey to a nearly 20-year-old game, and well, that’s simply because that’s what Prey is trying to accomplish. Apart from the basic differences in story, the two are practically identical in many different ways. There’s the obvious space-station setting, the emphasis on inventory management, an intentional handicap on combat, etcetera, etcetera. I could go on for a long time as to why they’re basically the same, but that’s not the point my point in writing this.
The point in writing this is to state that Prey might be the ultimate survival-horror experience since Alien: Isolation. I’ve had a lot of fun playing through Prey, and being honest, I may actually end up playing it again sometime since it is also one of the more replayable games out there due to the many gameplay decisions you’ll end up making while playing.
Despite all my praise though, I really cannot recommend Prey for everyone. At times, the pacing is sluggish at best, but that’s not really a problem if you can grasp the fact that, sometimes, games are meant to be taken a bit more slowly. Call it boring all you want, I–and many others–think it’s good.
2nd Place: Dusk
DUSK reintroduces you to a world where butchery and bloodshed must be mastered if you’re to survive ’til dawn. Inspired by Quake, Blood, Heretic, Hexen, Half-Life, Redneck Rampage and all your ’90s favorites, and featuring a soundtrack by metal music mastermind Andrew Hulshult.
In THREE distinct campaign episodes hand-crafted from straight outta the ’90s, players battle through an onslaught of mystical backwater cultists, possessed militants and even darker forces and attempt to discover just what lurks beneath the Earth. Featuring a vast arsenal of badass weaponry including saw blades, dual-wielded shotguns from 1887 and an incredibly necessary grenade launcher, DUSK is unapologetic retro action from start to finish.
In addition to the main campaign, DUSK features an Endless Survival Mode, putting you front and center of wave after wave of enemies. For those looking for an extra challenge, DUSK also offers the chance to go head to head online to battle your friends in arena multiplayer, where darkness hosts the worst of humanity in surprising new ways.
I adore older shooters. Call me a hipster all you want, but if I had to choose between a shooter from the 1990s vs one from the 2000s and up, I would go with the one from the 90s in a heartbeat. I consider that period of time to be the golden age of first-person shooters. You have your classics, such as Doom, Quake, Half-Life, Duke Nukem 3D, the list goes on and on. Of course, that’s merely scratching the surface of it all. There are so many other games that came from that era that I love and respect, whether they’re more of a hidden-gem–EG: Powerslave–or more of an oddity–EG: Isle of the Dead. Whatever, the main thing I’m saying here is that I love just about every shooter that came out in the 90s for their sheer charm and difficulty–except Nerves of Steel, that game can go eff itself.
Although there have been many games over the past handful of years that attempt to recreate that style of FPS gaming, most notably Strafe, they all somehow managed to screw up in one department or another. The only–”recent”– games that fulfilled my cravings to blow the ever-living crap out of everything was the 2016 reboot of Doom, and the 2013 reboot of Shadow Warrior. So when I first heard that there was a retro-throwback shooter that actually succeeded in what it was trying to accomplish, I called bullpockey. Boy was I wrong.
Dusk is probably my single-most favorite shooter to have come out in recent years, it has literally everything you could ever want from a shooter apart from good graphics, in fact, if you despise the sight of low-resolution textures and low-poly models, you should probably shield your virgin eyes now. Dusk is a true-to-its-word homage to the classic shooters that helped shape the gaming industry to what we know today.
The game is fast, like, really fast–and that’s a good thing. Gone are the days of stamina bars and regenerating health, for you are… Duskman? Dusk Dude? Dusk Guy? Ah bugger it, you’re playing as some nameless person who can apparently run as fast as a cheetah and gets health by absorbing health packs; Pretty standard fare really. That was one of the beauties of those older games, you don’t really question how realistic or immersive for the most part. Instead, you should be focusing on the enemies beelining towards you!
Playing Dusk is simply a liberating experience. Not only is the combat fairly well polished, and challenging at times, the game itself manages to capture all of the cheekiness that the classics it was inspired by had. Not only is the game at times darkly humorous, but it is simply loaded to the brim with secrets and easter eggs that’ll have you keep guessing where that one hidden door is. Plus, the game also manages to instill a sense of unease due to its well-designed levels and audio direction.
I’m probably rambling at this point, so to keep things short and sweet, if you love playing first-person shooters, definitely give Dusk a try. I can assure you that it won’t disappoint–unless you’re one of those Call of Duty scrubs out there.
1st Place: Night in the Woods
College dropout Mae Borowski returns home to the crumbling former mining town of Possum Springs seeking to resume her aimless former life and reconnect with the friends she left behind. But things aren’t the same. Home seems different now and her friends have grown and changed. Leaves are falling and the wind is growing colder. Strange things are happening as the light fades.
And there’s something in the woods.
NIGHT IN THE WOODS is an adventure game focused on exploration, story, and character, featuring dozens of characters to meet and lots to do across a lush, vibrant world. After a successful Kickstarter it’s being made by Infinite Fall, a teamup of Alec Holowka (Aquaria), Scott Benson (Late Night Work Club), and Bethany Hockenberry.
Coming-of-age stories. You know the ones: The ones that were practically shoved down your throat at one point or another during your time at school, whether it’d be To Kill A Mockingbird or Catcher in the Rye. Now of course, what do these have to do with a video game of all things? Well, Sonny Jim, the answer is simple. Night In The Woods is essentially all of the actual good / redeemable qualities found in those books, only they’ve been basically improved by having the story suit the modern teenage audience–yeah that’s right, bite me English teachers.
In case you haven’t read the brief summary above, Night In The Woods tells the story of a college dropout returning home to help pick up the pieces of her former life. The only thing is, everyone has practically moved on, and Mae is stuck living in the past. I won’t say much about what occurs plot-wise since this game is best left spoiler-free, but what I will talk about is that the game is pure genius.
If I had to put it in a nutshell, picture a really good Telltale game only that it’s sidescrolling and stylized as though it was directed by Wes Anderson–but that’s probably a really crappy way of putting it. My point is, the game is charmingly quirky; Weird but in a good way. At times, it can really be evocative in ways I never expected it to. When I played this for the very first time, I didn’t what to expect really, but by the end of it all, I was thoroughly pleased with what the game had to offer. It’s simply a rollercoaster of emotions: One minute you’re having a giggle-fit over the sheer ridiculousness of some situations, and in the next, you’re sitting in your chair feeling extremely depressed after hearing one of the many sob stories this game has to offer. It’s quite amazing how well the game manages to juggle everything so well. If I had to describe it even further, I’d just end up reciting the seizure-inducing lines from the Clockwork Orange trailer.
Not only is the story-writing itself top-notch, but the audio and visuals are really well-made as well. The art style the game has is simplistic at times, and yet, it somehow ends up amazing me at how gorgeous it looks at times. Apparently, the art was done by an artist and animator by the name of Scott Benson; The guy even has his own website if you want to check out his other stuff, it’s all pretty sweet. As for the music, the game has an odd mishmash of tracks that can’t be properly categorized into a single genre. For a lack of a better description, like a weird combination of classical orchestra and progressive rock? Whatever it is, the results are still the same: The score is pretty unique, distinctive and most importantly, works with the game. Good thing the developers decided to release the game’s soundtrack for purchase because I truly do enjoy listening to tracks like “Die Anywhere Else” and “Astral Alley“.
Senior Ethan Partridge agrees, having told me that “I think Night In The Woods was the best game to have came out in 2017.” Ironically though, the quote reminds me of the fact that very few people have actually even heard of this game. It is such a shame that this game flies under many people’s radars despite it positive reception upon release, and I hope this article will compel people to at least Google it.
I will admit, the game is not for everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with that, it just means that only a niche audience would probably appreciate this game as much as I do. But now that the game’s been updated back several months ago to the “Weird Autumn Edition“, I highly implore each and every one of you to try the game out for yourself, whether you’re a student or teacher even–I ain’t judging whoever reads these.
No wait, in fact, let’s go out on a brief little tangent: I want to shout this game out to teachers in particular because Night In The Woods is probably going to be way more effective in conveying your themes and symbolism of maturity than Bless Me Ultima ever did–Christ, I don’t even remember anything about that book apart from the exorcism bit! Oh, what a world it would be where movies and video games would a more accepted teaching medium because if that were true, this game would be at the top of that list as a true modern classic. Heh, that’d be an interesting unit.
So what did you guys think of my top game picks?
Do you agree with any of them?
Please, write down what you think in the comments below, I’m curious to hear from you gamers out there.