Image from Parksidetraceapartments
2018 was a good year to play a video game, especially if you had a PS4 or a Nintendo Switch. The Nintendo fans got the latest and reportedly greatest Super Smash Bros. in Ultimate and unlike the sorry state of exclusives for Microsoft’s Xbox One, Sony’s PS4 had a graphical remake of Shadow of the Colossus and the original Spyro the Dragon trilogy( that trilogy was available for Xbox One, however). The exclusives were on Sony’s side and again, last year proved I bet on the winning horse of the eighth console generation. Will that be the case for the steadily approaching ninth? I don’t know, but here are my honest thoughts on the best I ‘ve played.
I’m excluding Shadow of the Colossus and Spyro’s Reignited Trilogy in that they are faithful graphical recreations of games that have been around for decades at this point and are not different enough in presentation and game-play to count as a new experience save visually, like 2019’s Resident Evil 2 remake. I’m also excluding Hitman 2 as I have barely played any of Agent 47’s latest set of contracts due to playing and replaying Red Dead Redemption II, Spyro and Overwatch.
Fourth best: Spider-Man PS4
Image owned by Sony, Insomniac and from GameRevolution
Just swinging and jumping through New York as the most photo-realistic webhead so far is one of the most accomplished components of Insomniac’s franchise revival for Marvel’s most marketable superhero. The story interwoven with the superheroics on offer for the player is competent, on occasion masterful in understanding the specifics needed to make a Spider-story work, like the unglamorous and miserable side of Peter Parker’s normal life. Add in some actually great story beats involving Otto Octavius and Miles Morales and you got yourself a virtual superhero playground that is just begging to be built up further in the much anticipated sequels. As overplayed as the activities become, especially for the completionist in most of us, it’s hard to ignore where Insomniac’s efforts successes overshadow their failings. Keep the full experience from feeling like a chore too often and their is indeed a challenger on the horizon for Rocksteady’s beloved Batman Arkham saga.
Third Best: Far Cry 5
Image owned by Ubisoft and from Wired
Let’s not beat around the bush here, in many respects I care about in a game, especially a game made in 2018, Far Cry 5 is very flawed. The story and themes of a large Montana county taken hostage by a militant, Christian cult is not the best realized or executed nor does having an inexplicably and entirely silent protagonist to challenge that cult help matters. The game’s notorious canon ending also made the entire, engrossing experience of liberating Hope County feel all for naught. To be fair, Ubisoft is actually addressing that needlessly nihilistic conclusion by having a full blown sequel this year set in the (spoilers) post-apocalyptic world that occurred, suggesting it wasn’t entirely fruitless. That being said, FC5 is a beautiful and chaotic world to explore, shoot, ride, sail, fly and fish in, with colorful characters, beautiful vistas and a whole bunch of creativity in how you go about,theoretically, saving the county from the Seed family. If you can’t get enough of what I think is Ubisoft’s best franchise, then stop worrying and hint hint, love the bomb.
Second best: God of War 2018
Image owned by Sony and Santa Monica Studios and from OtakuKart
If ever there was a playable villain in gaming’s past, it was Kratos of Sparta. A man whose desire for power had him accidentally slay his family and go on a six-game quest to eventually topple the authority of Olympus himself, including his daddy Zeus. You liked playing Kratos, you probably didn’t like him. Not so in his Norse soft reboot, where he still hates the Gods, especially since he’s one himself. He wants to make his son Atreus not like him, no cat in the cradle. Yes, the gameplay is fresh, invigorating, and ramps up appropriately for those who really want to challenge themselves while father and son journey through the nine realms, all so they can spread a mother’s ashes at the right place. Like the game of the year up ahead, there is nothing necessarily groundbreaking about God of War, even though Kratos can actually break the ground while in combat. It is the consistent scope and narrative flair which takes advantage of a sort-of aging system to really impress as an epic should. Despite how absolutely varied the combat is, the greatest trick in making God of War worthy of Valhalla is that camera. which never enters a loading screen or transitions into a per-rendered cutscene. You are always watching from Kratos’ perspective and you are never disengaged from a story that is more engaging than anything in our anti-hero’s Greek days.
Game of the Year: Red Dead Redemption II
Image owned by Rockstar Games and from IGN Nordic
Let’s get this out of the way first. RDR II is not perfect, even if in presentation it can make you think otherwise. The pacing and lack of variety, especially in the third act, can be a real drag, especially as the emotional weight of outlaw Arthur Morgan’s story nearing its end grips you. Rockstar have cultivated an “end of an era” parable that is no less effective than the acclaimed predecessor from 2010. Even as the story missions probably hold your hand a bit too much, especially for a gorgeous and obsessively detailed open world, just begging to be experimented on more creatively than it ultimately was. Rockstar’s vision of a sandbox period piece adventure, however paradoxically restrictive as it may occasionally be, is their own and they, shall I say, stand unshaken in how they think things shall be done in the here and now. I would ask for them to be shaken a bit in the real world though , so perhaps they don’t overwork the employees as has recently been revealed.
There is so much in Red Dead Redemption II to make it deserving of the highest honor anyway, from its well crafted spaghetti Western tale to its large amount of meaningful side content. Just the sheer amount of opportunities to break the law, uphold the law, hunt, fish and discover various points of interest make it a world which really feels like yet another breakthrough in creating real virtual lands. That’s a contradiction, of course, but you really stop caring after awhile. Even when the game bugs out, the results are,for the most part, too entertaining to get mad at. A game exists in its own right to see how many different ways you can make Arthur trip, fall, crash and get killed in general. Rockstar, in this senses, wants you to run wild with your imagination. Considering the length of development and the less than ideal conditions employees were put under, I feel like a jackass to dare say this could’ve been improved. Well, they’re areas for my best game of 2018 to have been improved in. Where it counts is where it works generally and like or hate the overall end product, Red Dead Redemption II is an interactive, flawed masterpiece that demands you don’t forget it anytime soon, if ever. Besides, there’s still room to further improve, and whether it finally be Bully 2 or GTA 6, Rockstar sees little reason to stop reaching for the sky.