Mattallica's Top 10 Games of 2019

This is my 8th year writing one of these lists and as always I’m gonna try and keep it brief. 2019 sure was a weird year for games. Not bad but also nowhere near the heights of recent years. I still played games throughout the whole year; but it wasn't until the last few months when the new releases I just HAD to play started to come out. I spent the early months going through my backlog and it was great. But now is the time to focus on new games.

Just a quick mention for games that I haven’t played yet but will very soon and I’m sure stood a chance at this list had I played them already. Luigi’s Mansion 3, Control, Link’s Awakening being the main 3 I still need to play then the likes of The Sinking City, Blair Witch and Disco Elysium also on my radar.

Perhaps my biggest omission this year is Super Mario Maker 2 which I really thought was gonna be my game of the year before release and it doesn’t crack the top 10. I enjoyed it but fell off so quickly and so many little things that irked me about this game. The problems people had with the original really were an issue for me this time; more notably not getting your levels played after putting in the hard work and also finding the best levels to play without having to constantly research online. A shame but I still love the original. Now for the list!

10. Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order

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Kicking off the list is the game I’m currently playing so my thoughts could change but I am fairly far into the game. It’s good. It takes from so many games I like (most notably Uncharted) and combines them into a very fun experience. I don’t care about the story or characters which is why this game isn’t higher and I do think it massively lacks the level of polish we’ve seen with other 3rd person action games recently like Spider-Man and God of War. It’s not on that level. But the bar for Star Wars games has been so low that even with it’s issues it’s still easily the best game EA have made since they acquired the license. It doesn’t do any one thing incredible; but all the parts are good enough for it to be an overall fun time.

9. Far Cry: New Dawn

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Far Cry is my gaming comfort food. It’s my favourite series to just play around in the world, take over areas and just the overall grind and reward system. I love it. And New Dawn is no exception. An unnecessary game? Absolutely. Especially so soon after the amazing Far Cry 5 but I really appreciated them creating a game set after the ending of 5 which I loved and I think they delivered on the premise. I really liked seeing certain characters stories continued and the new elements such as raids added a cool new dimension. This game isn’t anything crazy or something we’ve not seen before, nor is it remotely the best Far Cry game, but it’s still super fun and worth your time if you are a fan of the series like I am. I’m already ready for 6.

8. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

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Call of Duty games have always featured on my lists over the years so it’s no surprise we have another here. Though it is for different reasons that recent games. I began loving COD for its campaigns. But recently I’ve been way more of a fan of the multiplayer. Last year’s Black Ops 4 is still my fav COD to date for it’s insanely good multiplayer and epic Blackout mode. Whereas this year I completely fell off the multiplayer after a week or so. So why is this game here? That campaign was incredible. It made me realise I’ve been craving this for a long time. Not since Wolfenstein 2 have I loved a big budget shooter campaign as much as this one. I actually cared about the characters. The set pieces and mission variety was awesome. I loved it from start to finish. I’m sad that for now this isn’t a game I’ll be playing for months like previous games; but if the rumoured Battle Royale stuff is true and comes out before the craziness of 2020 is upon us then I’ll definitely be giving it a try again.

7. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

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This is a weird one for me. I like Sekiro. I really do. But I also think it’s nowhere near the level of previous From Software games. Yes, I shouldn’t compare as those are RPG’s and this is a character action game but there’s enough similarities elsewhere that of course it evokes the comparisons to the Soulsborne games. I really enjoyed the combat most of the time when it worked but actually found a lot of the bosses more cheeseable than any of their previous games which I feel like was the opposite of what they were going for. The enemy design and locations were super lacking and similarly the reason why I stopped playing Nioh after 40 hours before completion. I’m glad From Software tried something slightly different and I still enjoyed this game enough to get the Platinum trophy. But I can’t wait to see them go back to what they do better than anyone else. If Elden Ring is the natural evolution of the Soulsborne games that I hope it is; it’s gonna be something really special.

6. Tetris 99

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I mean it’s Tetris Battle Royale. That’s all you need to know. A simple idea done almost perfectly. The only problem I have with this game is the whole targeting system and selecting between the options of KO’s, attackers etc. I feel like we all just worked out what this was during the first week and haven’t bothered actually looking it up as the game doesn’t do a good job at all of explaining the differences and when you should use each one. Other than that though this idea is executed perfectly. Games load super quick. The gameplay is exactly how Tetris should feel. I spent over 80 hours on this free game. Once again, It’s Tetris Battle Royale. I’m just gonna go play it instead of talking about it anymore.

5. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order

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When it comes to new releases I always have a fair idea of what new games are coming out and which ones are on my radar that I want to play. This was not one of the games. I decided to pick it up as I was really in the mood for so brainless super hero action and while I did get that I also got so much more. I enjoyed the story as just a fun comic book arc played out on screen and really started to appreciate how the combat worked on harder levels. The infinity rifts is when this game really clicked for me as I really had to think about which heroes would be best suited for specific challenges. I couldn’t stop until I had done everything and after over 100 hours I had done just that. The DLC hasn’t grabbed me yet but I did buy the season pass so I’ll check it out once it’s all out. But this was probably the biggest surprise of 2019 for me as I’d never played the series before and had such a great time levelling up my favorite heroes and beating a million bad guys to a pulp. Just pure video game fun at it’s best.

4. Untitled Goose Game

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This is maybe the most charmed I’ve ever been by a game. Of course everyone has seen this game and has their opinion about it; I adore this game. What started as a joke in a trailer, and a good one at that, grew into a game that I couldn’t have ever imagined would give me so much joy. I think it’s the combination of everything coming together so well. The beautiful art style. The insanely original score. And the animations of the goose all combine so well to make something that’s honestly going to be one of the more memorable games I played all year. It didn’t outstay its welcome and it never went too far with the comedy. A perfect blend of an indie game. More of this please.

3. Return of the Obra Dinn

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Yes, it did come out in 2018 initially though it did get ported to Switch this year even though I played it back in January on the PC after seeing it on numerous list’s last year. I love anything that makes you feel like a detective, trying to piece together clues to solve a mystery. I think this is my favourite game of that genre I’ve ever played. Not since The Witness have I felt so rewarded with my own knowledge being used before. When you remember that key piece of information that you needed to tie everything together it feels incredible. I also loved the art style and weird soundtrack a bunch too. Maybe some more late game reveals about the boat would have been nice but this was still an insanely awesome game and one that I hope I can revisit one day if I ever forget the names and faces of the passengers of the Obra Dinn.

2. Resident Evil 2

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These last two games are head and shoulders above everything else I played this year and are the sole reason why I said 2019 was still a good year really. I hate to have this as my runner up as Resident Evil 7 also took that title in 2017 but that’s still a worthy place for this game. As a lifelong fan of this franchise it’s just been incredible to see this recent resurgence after some really dark times a few years ago. I’m so glad that more people have finally got to experience this wonderful game which has been overlooked for so long. As far as this remake goes; it’s pretty much exactly what I could have hoped. Is this the best Resident Evil game? In my opinion no. I’d still take 4, 7 and even 3 before this but this is comfortably the best gameplay RE has ever had. The sound design is flawless. Hearing Mr.X stalk you even when not on the same floor still scares me to this day. Once again the game is stunning as this current RE engine has probably some of my favourite character models and animations in all of video games. I think 2 does have it’s faults compared to other older RE games but this game mostly gets everything right about that game and has now made one of my favorite games from childhood viable again. And that’s awesome. And finally this game is the reason why Resident Evil 3 is firmly my most anticipated game of 2020; with Nemesis being my personal favorite PS1 era RE game. I cannot wait!

1. Death Stranding

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And then there was one. It just had to be Kojima. The fact that this game lived up to my expectations after over 4 years of waiting still blows my mind. I adored every second I had with this game. The world they created with it’s mysterious lore and interesting characters. A gameplay loop unlike anything I’ve ever played before. A perfect balancing act of a game where no one method of traveling around this vast world ever becomes the only method is an amazing achievement in itself. The usual Kojima cinematic tendency that makes this not only the best looking game of the year by far but also the most unique. Every single idea and concept is something that you don’t see anywhere else and it’s why I’ll always gravitate towards something that isn’t afraid to swing for the fences over just playing it safe like so much media these days. I feel a genuine sadness that I’ve done everything there is to do in Death Stranding and that I no longer have this game to look forward to anymore. But at least the game I had built up in my head all this time was the experience I was looking for. I just wish these types of experiences from true auteurs happened more often in this art form that I love so much. A true once in a lifetime experience and my game of the year for 2019.

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Mattallica's Top 10 Games of 2018

Gonna jump straight into this to try and keep it as short as possible. This is the 7th year running I’ve done a top 10 list and the first time I’m breaking my own self imposed rule of only games released this year are eligible. I spent so much of the first half of 2018 playing games from last year that I couldn’t ignore a few that I really enjoyed more than others that came out this year. So there are TWO 2017 games that snuck on this list so you’ll just have to deal with it. And honestly 2017 was, I still believe, the greatest ever year for games so let’s just continue to celebrate that.

A few honourable mentions for games I enjoyed but not enough to make the cut. Batman: The Enemy Within was a good continuation of the series but certainly didn’t leave a lasting impression like the previous season did. Episodes 1 & 5 were good but the middle dragged massively and the whole season definitely felt rushed. Also surreal to think this will be the last Telltale Games product I play after they’ve featured so much on these lists over the years.

Fortnite was a lot of fun for a couple of months at the start of 2018 and though I’ve got my fill of it now and doubt I’ll go back; I respect the hell out of how fun and how much work goes into constantly adapting a free game. They put a lot of developers to shame in that regard. Obviously helps being the biggest game in the world but still.

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Steep scratched an itch for extreme sports games I’ve had for a while and was way better than I was lead to believe from the general consensus. I didn't play this game like it was marketed as an open world game but merely used the menus to jump from challenge to challenge and getting gold medals before moving onto the next.

Super Mario Party is certainly one of the best entries in the franchise to date but it’s weird how quickly I’ve stopped playing it especially compared to how much I played Mario Party 10 which was a way worse game. Hopefully I will play more of it in the future.

And I started Guacamelee! 2 on PS4 and got distracted by other things and now it’s out on Switch and I’m really torn whether to preserve or just buy it again and play it on my preferred platform.

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Also I don’t want to talk about it lots but Red Dead Redemption 2 not being on my list still blows my mind. I’ve loved Rockstar Games my whole life, have tattoos dedicated to their games and Red Dead Redemption was my favourite game of last generation. I’m not writing this game off; I will play it more in the future but I got to chapter 3 and didn’t feel compelled to continue playing at all. Especially when so many other games at the time of release were providing me with way more fun. I liked a lot of what I played but also disliked a lot and it felt very pretentious in a lot of it’s design which is a first I can ever say for a Rockstar release. Who knows, maybe I’ll pick this game back up in the coming months when there’s less coming out and have an amazing time but for know this is firmly in the place of my most disappointing release of the current generation.

And finally (I told you I’d try and keep it short) here’s a list of 2018 games that I’m pretty sure I’d like and will hopefully get to at some point in 2019 but it just hasn’t happened yet. They may even feature on next year’s list. They include Hitman 2, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Tetris Effect, The Messenger, Celeste, Return of the Obra Dinn and Life is Strange 2.

Now let’s get onto the proper list shall we..

10. Octopath Traveler

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This is more of a placeholder spot in the list rather than a definitive position because I just haven't played enough of it yet. Being around 15 hours into a game that I know I’ll need to put at least another 40 into but from what I have played; I absolutely adored it. There’s very few JRPG’s that have caught my eye over the years as that’s not traditionally a genre I spend my time in too much but the word of mouth was strong enough for me to dive in and I’m really glad I did. The game is stunning and looks amazing both on handheld or TV. It has one of my favourite soundtracks of the year and the themes have really stayed with me even after taking a break from it. And the battle system is super fun and in depth enough but not too complicated that it walks the line between fun and a challenge. A great game that I will hopefully get back into in the new year.

9. Golf Story

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The first 2017 game making my list that I always knew I would love from the second I saw it. Golf is one of the things that I have zero interest in except when it comes to games and then I love it. Especially on handheld systems which is how I played all of this game. It had a fun enough story to keep me interested for it’s duration but I came for the 2D golf mechanics and they were fantastic. There hasn’t been many games like this on Switch so far so it really stood out and honestly was over too quick for my liking. The post game isn’t super well done which is a shame because I wanted an excuse to just keep playing rounds of golf long after the story was over. It also made me desperately crave a new Mario Golf for Switch. (The last one for 3DS was excellent)

8. God of War

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This may be quite low on my list compared to many people so bear with me whilst I justify its position. God of War is probably the most well crafted game I played all year. The direction, art style, voice acting, combat, story; all exceptional. I just don’t care about the God of War lore or characters at all. I’ve never played a second of the series before this because it never interested me and only played this months after release because of all the good things I heard. And I’m really glad I did because I had a lot of fun. The biggest compliment I can give this game is that made me give a shit about Kratos and the franchise for the first time to the point that I would absolutely play and be excited for a sequel. If this world and lore was something I previously cared about this would probably be one of my favourite games of all time because it’s an incredible achievement on every level. I’m still shocked I enjoyed playing a God of War game but this is that damn good. The combat in particular was insanely enjoyable.

7. Assassin’s Creed Origins

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The second and last 2017 game to feature on my list is one that really caught me off guard. Assassin’s Creed is another franchise that I don't have the best history with. Black Flag was the only one I’d say I really enjoyed; the rest I either didn’t care enough to try or actively disliked them. Origins changed that completely and pulled me in for 60+ hours in it’s beautiful world and wonderful game design. I could talk about a lot of things this game does well but honestly the main reason why I kept playing and why it’s on my list was purely the world they created.

As a huge Ancient Egypt fan this is kinda a dream come true in a lot of ways. Pretty much everything else in the game is good but not exceptional such as the combat, story and characters. But the world itself was just so damn fun to do stuff in and I honestly could’ve played it for another 60 hours and not got bored. I wonder if any AC game going forward will remotely attach itself to me like this one did because this was the one location I’ve always wanted from the franchise and they nailed it.

6. Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!

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Sometimes there are games that are exactly what you expect them to be and give you exactly what you want from them and this is one of them. It doesn’t reinvent the franchise and aside from a few really awesome new changes like the end of random encounters; it’s just a pretty Pokemon game. But I didn’t need it to be anything else. I had a wonderful time beating the story and collecting them all and if I feel the need to grind out some Pokemon this will be my game of choice. Until the inevitable next big Pokemon game comes to Switch; this was a fine reminder of what makes the series so great with a few new tweaks and the best looking game in the franchise to date.

5. Far Cry 5

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Like most people; Far Cry 3 was my first entry in the franchise and was a fantastic game at the time. Then Far Cry 4 came out and I stopped playing after a couple of hours because I felt I got what I needed from the previous game and it was too soon to play a game like this again. I skipped the numerous spin offs as well so when Far Cry 5 and it’s American setting was announced; I was all in. And this game completely delivered for me and is now my favourite entry so far. I really liked the way they handled the open world and that the were always making progress no matter what you were doing. I didn’t feel like there was a big distinction between main and side quests; it all just chipped away at the same goal which was liberating each area and fighting the next member of the family. I loved all the characters and boss fights with each of them and thought the cult dynamic was super well handled and way more multifaceted than most people expected (or wanted given some of the bizarre criticisms this game received). Joseph Seed was a fantastic villain and the ending was super unexpected and perfectly executed.

4. Detroit: Become Human

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I feel like at this point there are people that will just never like Quantic Dream games and people that do; and I’m firmly in the camp of people that do and this is their best game to date. Even though I liked Beyond: Two Souls; it was definitely a step down from Heavy Rain so I really hoped they could get back on track with this release and boy did they. This is my favourite narrative focused choice based game I’ve ever played. I’m super into rogue A.I and anything like that and this game evocates so many feelings that I love from this particular brand of Sci-Fi. The level of choices on display in this game is incredible and it’s best achievement is that every different choice seems valid. So many games have choices just for the sake of it; and that when you’re playing you can tell which path they really want you to take. In this game every choice is valid and all the different ways in which the story can play out and end all feel gratifying in their own ways. The world and characters were all super well written and performed and the when it was over I was sad that I’d have to wait many more years before we see something like this again.

3. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

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Not much to say about this one other than it’s my favourite Call of Duty game to date which iis why it deserves such a high place on my list. I’m a weird COD fan because I was always just a campaign guy from the Modern Warfare days but then when Black Ops came around, especially 2 & 3 is when I really started getting into the multiplayer. Obviously it was a bold choice to drop the campaign and focus on 3 modes but it clearly paid off. I will never touch Zombies but the other two modes have pretty much split my time between them so far. The multiplayer just feels so good and constantly brings me short bursts of fun when I want it. And Blackout is my battle royale experience of choice. The gun mechanics of COD have always been stellar so combining that with the BR model was a complete no brainer and just works exactly how you want it to. I’m sure I’ll be playing this game for a very long time.

2. Marvel’s Spider-Man

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I’ve gone back and forth between these last two games because I really can’t split them and at one point nearly had them tied first but screw that; so sorry Spidey but you get the runner up spot for now. This game doesn’t really need that much explaining if you’ve played it. The best gameplay experience of the year with the combat being insanely fun but also surprisingly deep with the way gadgets work that made for a more fun system than that of the Arkham games. Swinging around NYC was never not fun and I will continue to just switch the game on to do just that because it's so entertaining and boy is this game gorgeous. My only complaints are the moments when you’re not playing as Spider-Man which I wish weren’t in the game. You made being Spidey so god damn fun so why do I have to spend so much time in awful forced stealth sections playing as lesser characters? A strange choice but it didn’t stop this game from being one of my most fun experiences of the year and I have no doubt that inevitable sequel will cut the crap and double down on what made this game so great and deliver a near perfect experience.

1. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

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The last thing I expected was Smash to be my game of the year but here we are. As a lifelong Nintendo fanboy; Smash Bros should be my favourite franchise of all time. But it isn’t. I’ve always loved the hype of the character reveals, the amazing trailers and just the sheer amount of love and attention to the history of Nintendo that these games have. But then it comes to actually playing them and I don’t have a good time. The main reason this game is in the number one spot is because Ultimate is the first time it finally clicked and now has all come into place. I’ll never be an amazing Smash player, nor will I ever play this game online so I don't share the same problems as some players have had, but I actually feel like I know what I’m doing and I’m having so much fun playing it which is the most important thing for me.

Another big reason why this ended up here is the World of Light mode. I feel like this mode was invented for me because I’ve seen so much negativity surrounding it and I love it so much. A reason to play loads of single player smash, grinding towards an end goal and over 1000 references to classic games of the past? This right here is my dream game. I really like how each battle has its own modifiers to make who you are battling somewhat mimic the spirit you unlock. The strategy of picking different spirits and loadouts is really cool and the overworld you explore whilst playing is fanticaly designed; with a nice combination of fun little puzzles and exploration. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the game that finally made me fall in love with one of the few Nintendo franchises that wasn’t already on my most played list. Now excuse me while I go grind more spirits for many more hours.

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Mattallica's Top 10 Games of 2017

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. When we go back and celebrate all the best games released this year. And what an insane year it has been. This will be my 6th year writing a best of games list and in that brief time this has absolutely been the strongest year for games so far. So without wasting too much time in the intro; let’s get to the games!

A few caveats before I start (which are all weirdly linked to my 2014 list). I loved Destiny (No.3 in 2014) and its expansions; having put in over 800 hours into that game. It’s a great experience and I’m sure Destiny 2 would make this list had I played it but I just didn’t want to fall into that hole again and so made the conscious decision to not play it.

The Evil Within was my No.2 game in 2014 and I haven’t felt compelled to play the sequel yet. I want to be in the mood and it just hasn’t lined up yet but when I get to it hopefully it will be great. Even though everything I’ve seen looks like a major step down but we shall see.

And finally my GOTY 2014, South Park: The Stick of Truth, had a sequel released this year as well and I can’t believe I’m saying this but right now it doesn’t make my list. I’ve only played 6 hours but was so bored during it that I had to put it down and focus on the games at that time that grabbed me more. I’m definitely gonna give it another chance now that the releases are slowing down (October was CRAZY) but I’m so bummed out that it just didn’t tick any of the boxes the previous game did for me.

Also episodic games such as Life is Strange: Before the Storm and Batman: The Enemy Within are ongoing so I want both seasons to finish before judging them overall. But enough rambling! The list starts now…

10. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy

A fun one to kick off the list. Here is a game that arrived at the perfect time for what type of game it is. The original trilogy remade for the PS4 at a discounted price at a time where no new releases come out? It’s no surprise this game sold so well and really filled a nice gap in the year for myself and many others. Can you imagine if this had come out in October? Lots of publishers need to look at the success of this one and stop putting their games out to die in the busy periods of the year.

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This was certainly a fun collection that tickled the nostalgia nicely but also unfortunately reminded you of the game’s original problems on the PS1. The first game in particular does have massive difficulty problems for what is supposed to be a fun platformer and even though they are far from being fantastic games; Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy was an enjoyable experience earlier this year.

9. Horizon Zero Dawn

This will be surprisingly low compared to many people’s lists and whilst of course I enjoyed this game enough for it to be featured here; I did have many more concerns and problems than anyone else’s experience I’ve heard with this game. Let’s start with those concerns. I really didn’t like the intro to this game at all. Young Aloy wasn’t fun to play as and went on way too long. When the game did open up I still felt like it wasn’t the experience that I was so excited to play when the game was first announced. It wasn’t until I focused on the side content and started to unlock all the abilities that the game started to click for me.

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At around 15 hours in was when I was having the most fun with this game. I loved the Cauldron Dungeons and fighting all the crazy variety of enemies and creatures. This was when the game excelled for me. Just open world fun and crazy combat situations with amazing enemy design. The story itself wasn’t that intriguing to me. I felt everything that happened before the game was way more interesting than what was happening whilst I was playing it. The side mission formula of; talk to this person, go to this location, grab this item and bring it back reminded me of so many boring fetch quests that have become so repetitive in this genre.

For me, Horizon was a very good take on an open world formula that we’ve seen countless times in recent years. No new take or reinvention at all but a great version of what we’ve already seen. I still enjoyed my time enough to get the platinum trophy and will eventually play the DLC in due course. But it also pales in comparison to another open world game that I’ll get to later...

8. Splatoon 2

Another game that I don’t want to sound too negative on but if Splatoon 2 nailed the landing it would be a contender for the top spot. However it doesn’t and much like its predecessor it languishes towards the bottom of this list. At it’s core I love playing Splatoon 2. It’s an incredibly fun shooter, beautiful to look at and has some of the most unique takes I’ve seen on this genre. I love their focus on fashion over player upgrades so ultimately you aren’t taking an unfair advantage over other players onto the battlefield. Just clearly better style.

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Splatoon 2’s problems are almost identical to the original game. It’s on a better system so that’s a plus. The single player campaign is worst however so that’s a bummer. But ultimately this is a multiplayer driven game and once again Nintendo have completely bungled the online infrastructure for this game. It shouldn’t be almost impossible to play an online game with a friend and Splatoon 2 pretty much is. Any game where there’s a chance a group will be split up and put onto different teams at the start of a match is incredibly disappointing straight away. You can’t play your fav mode at any time; you have to wait till that mode is in rotation. Have a spare 30 minutes but the mode that’s available sucks? Unlucky. This goes completely against the jump in and out mentality that a game like Splatoon should have. Then there’s little things like the leaving games early penalty that just encourages people to idle which creates even worse games than if you just let people leave.

I love the heart and soul of Splatoon 2. Any time I hear it’s amazing soundtrack or see the wonderful art it makes me happy. The thought of just occasionally jumping in and playing a few rounds every week is very appealing. But when you start to remember all the issues that I’ve described; I really get annoyed once again at what could have been. Maybe Splatoon 3 will be the GOTY contender I want it to be.

7. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

Probably the game that would win best surprise of 2017 for me. I have never really cared for the Rabbids. Don’t hate them like many seem to do but also never felt compelled to play any of their games. When this got announced like many I wondered how on earth this could work and they pretty much pulled it off perfectly. The main gameplay (90% X-COM) is really fantastic. I love turn based strategy and think most of this game they nailed. All the characters have different, usable abilities so you don’t just use the same characters all the time. The enemies, except for a few, feel well designed and fair to beat. And the actual story was really well done.

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They mash two random things like Mario and Rabbids and really make it feel like they go together well. Some of the moments and reveals in the campaign were really fantastic and the whole experience was super enjoyable. However, it is too long. The final world is the worst of them all and the challenges you unlock post-game are stupid difficult to the point that they take all the fun away from playing it. But my main bulk of time spent with this game was a joy and it was the perfect summer Switch game before the heavy hitters of fall arrived.

6. Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus

The last addition to this list and boy am I glad I played it. I have a fairly good grasp of what games interest me and what I’m going to play. This game was not on that list and it wasn’t until I heard such overwhelmingly positive word of mouth that I decided to give it a go. Everyone was absolutely right. It’s one of the most fun FPS campaigns I’ve ever played and truly a breath of fresh air in a crowded genre.

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The fundamental gameplay is so damn fun to play it’s hard to describe to someone who is yet to try it. Similar to DOOM, the feeling of when you’re low on health running around an area, killing nazi’s and looting their bodies for ammo and health is such an exhilarating experience. Playing with headphones on; when the music starts to ramp up during crazy sequences I was genuinely worried about how quickly my heart started beating.

Outside of the incredible gunplay is the moments. I won’t possibly go into spoiling anything but the places this game goes and how it pulls off such mental ideas is truly a special sight to behold. Not since BioShock Infinite has a FPS floored me with it’s insane set pieces, fantastic setting and fascinating characters. I feel ashamed for not being excited for this game prior to release and am so glad I believed the hype.

5. What Remains of Edith Finch

However you want to describe this genre: walking simulator, narrative driven experience, whatever; I’m a fan of them. I enjoyed the likes of Firewatch, Virginia, Tacoma, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture etc but none of them truly resonated with me. Edith Finch completely grabbed me from the moment it started and didn’t let go until it’s dramatic conclusion.

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It’s hard to explain why something resonates with you more than others but something about this game is special. It has that special something. The concept of reliving the final moments on someone’s life multiple times as you learn about this cursed family is such a bizarre concept that shouldn’t be so great as it is. The switching up the gameplay is probably what kept me more intrigued than a lot of similar titles as each segment felt so different to the last. There are so many standout moments but the part where the story is told through an old horror comic is maybe the standout gaming moment of the year for me. It builds beautifully and ticks every box I have as a huge horror nerd.

The game also isn’t afraid to tackle super serious issues and topics you don’t see portrayed very often and it never feels tacky or unnecessary. Multiple times I feel awful having to play some really dark moments but the outcome was always justified and was never for shock value. Edith Finch is an amazing achievement; one that shouldn’t be overlooked in such a stacked year for games. Play it, feel it and prepare to think about it for a long time afterwards.

4. Cuphead

We are now at the point where any of these next 4 games could easily win my game of the year were it not such a strong year. From the moment Cuphead was first announced: I, like many people, fell in love with the look of this game. The waiting, delays and change to the structure of the game meant that I got quite worried about this game and when it did finally arrive if it could live up to the high expectations when it was first shown. The game completely did and achieved everything I wanted this game to be.

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Sure, the run and gun levels aren’t as good as the boss battles but they're so infrequent that it’s totally not an issue. The variety and creativity on display in these boss battles is truly a sight to behold and it’s really an unbelievable achievement from all who made it. The flying levels (which before playing I thought would be the worst) are some of the most fun I had in the entire game.

The game is insanely hard. At least for me it was. I don’t have a huge amount of experience with the genre but loved the look of this game enough to stick with it and really get into the mechanics of how this thing works and how to get good at it. The final bosses feel impossible when your first start but as you slowly get further on the line each try, you know the victory is within your grasp.The feeling when you do finally beat that pesky boss that’s been kicking your ass for 30 minutes straight is totally gratifying and worthwhile. Also the best soundtrack of 2017 for me. Just seeing a screenshot of Cuphead it’s easy to see why this game resonated with so many people but actually playing it was way better than I ever imagined it would be. Now the long wait for Cuphead 2

3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

It’s crazy to think that in my opinion maybe the greatest open world game ever made was released this year and it’s not my No.1 but here we are. Maybe that shows the amount of fatigue I personally feel with this genre; that it has to be a complete game changer to grab my attention and that’s exactly what this game is. To have a game that’s not riddled with icons and side quests from the get go and just lets you go out and explore seems like such a basic idea and yet we haven’t seen anyone pull it off this well before. From the first moment you are let out and see that beautiful landscape; your mind gets filled with all the potential of where and what to do/go.

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I loved how every time I saw something of interest I’d add a marker to my map and by the time I got to the thing I was trying to get to; I’d already have another 3-5 places waiting for me to explore when I was ready. Just genius open world design and something I’ve craved for so long after the formula of this genre has become so tried and tested at this point.

One small criticism is that in a lot of ways I would consider this the Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain of Zelda games. From a true gameplay perspective this completely destroys all of its predecessors. But it does lack some of the things I enjoy in a Zelda game. The story is quite non existent and didn’t make me compelled to find out what happens at all. To the point that I’d done all the Shrines and countless other non story objectives before finally taking the final fight to Ganon. The bosses are good but not as memorable as the past. And the lack of really in depth dungeons is certainly a shame but they do make up for their absence with the shrines.

Shrines certainly work better in a game that’s designed to be played in shorter bursts. Something to consider when many will play the game on the go. But a mix of some shorter shrines with the more traditional, deeper dungeons would be preferable to me. Still an amazing experience and the game I spent the most time playing in 2017 (150 hours and counting). If I take away my personal preference about the next two franchises on this list; Zelda is technically the best game I played in 2017.

2. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

My review of Resident Evil 7 does a better job of explaining how amazing this game is than I ever could briefly here. This was my game of the year for over 8 months so it kinda feels like it was robbed here but I have to go with my head on this one. This shouldn't have been remotely as good as it was. A first person, fully VR playable Resident Evil game that barely focuses on the main mythology and characters of the series. But this was exactly what the franchise needed after Resident Evil 6.

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Making Resident Evil an actual scary horror game again was the most important thing for me and they absolutely nailed that. Playing in VR made the scares are almost too much but playing the traditional way was still a dread filled ride through a crazy story that had me hooked for its entire duration. I adore how much it takes from 70’s US horror films and wouldn’t have expected that element to be so greatly translated by a Japanese developer. The structure and story was such a huge leap from what we’ve had since Resident Evil 4 and the overall package was just exactly what I wanted from Resident Evil as a lifelong fan.

The DLC so far has felt incredibly tacked on and pretty pointless but I don’t want that to detract from the amazing game they made. Any fans of either horror games or past Resident Evil titles needs to play this game because in my opinion they made easily the best horror game since Resident Evil 4. Who knows what the future holds for this franchise as it has had one of the craziest and biggest highs and lows for any in gaming history. (Seriously, is there another franchise that has bonafide classics as well as unplayable pieces of trash?) But for now; let’s just enjoy a modern horror masterpiece.

1. Super Mario Odyssey

It had to be Mario. The Nintendo Switch has had arguably the greatest first year of games that any console has ever had. However the big game lurking at the end of the year was always Mario and whether it could live up to the high expectations set by other Switch games. Super Mario Odyssey is potentially the greatest game I’ve ever played. If a game was judged solely on how much joy and happiness it brought me then it would win that discussion hands down.

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That’s the thing about this game. Around every corner is some little treat that is purely designed to make you happy. Whether it’s a platforming challenge, a clever use of Cappy, a retro 2D section or some of the other countless secrets I won’t go into; this game is brimming with creativity and fun to be had by the player. During my first playthrough I was having a great time with this game and liked the pacing of not spending too long in each area and overstaying your welcome before moving on. I was looking forward to revisiting each area and really diving into them and luckily the post-game makes this super satisfying and enjoyable.

The final moments of the story (and that’s a crazy thing to say about a Mario game; I cared about the story) and the way it builds to it’s finale is just breathtaking. Playing through the final moments I didn’t know whether to cry to just keep smiling like I had done through the other 99% of my time with this game. If you’ve played Mario games your whole life too; you will feel the nostalgia to the point that it feels like Nintendo is speaking directly to you and your love of these games. Especially if you have love for Super Mario 64 which I think was my favorite Mario before this one. The final moments and what happens after the credits has to be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding sections of any game I’ve played to date.

Super Mario Odyssey truly is that good. I’ve took a short break after getting to the 500 moons mark as I was genuinely worried about running out of things to do in this game. I want to play it forever and damn it you can’t stop me. 2017 has been a special year for games and Super Mario Odyssey was the perfect way to cap it off. Here’s to 2018; good luck topping this year!

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Welcome to the new standard in horror gaming

Getting Resident Evil back on track for the second time seemed like an almost impossible task. Resident Evil 6 took things in such a drastic direction which I despised that I wasn’t even sure I wanted a Resident Evil 7. However everything pre release sounded like they were on the right track. The demo was definitely a step in the right direction. All that was left was for the game to come out. And now that it has; they’ve done it again and made a truly special horror game.

Perhaps the biggest and most jarring change is the move to first person for the first time in a numbered Resident Evil game. It feels like a massive change until you play the game. Then you realize it really isn’t that big of a deal. All the hallmarks of classic Resident Evil are here; puzzles, ammo scarcity, claustrophobic environments. Except now in first person. And it works. Not only does it work it makes it way scarier than previous games.

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It can’t be understated just how creepy this game truly is. Even more so in PlayStation VR which I’ll talk about later on, but even playing the game the traditional way it really makes you feel unsettled while playing. The first time you wander around the house, not knowing when a member of the Baker family will show their ugly face, is so well done. The game does have lots of jumpscares and most of which are done well and not too over the top. It’s the constant feel of impending doom that the game pulls off so well. Perhaps the early atmosphere is lost slightly towards the end, but they still nail almost everything they are trying to achieve.

Story wise it’s perhaps the most trimmed down entry in the series so far. You are looking for your lost wife who has sent you a message from a mysterious place. That simple albeit familiar sounding concept really works as this feels like a more personal story once again. Gone are the saving the world tactics portrayed in the previous entry. Instead we just get a grounded story based on simple concepts. Find your wife. Escape the mansion. Sure there’s more to it as the game opens up and I would have liked more overt references to the series’ past. The series has been bogged down in the mythology for too long and without doing a complete reboot; this was the best way to handle it.

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The gameplay is something I was perhaps the most cautious about going in as the demo, for a great as it was, contained barely any. I like my horror to contain combat and not just rely on you to run and hide from enemies. It worked in Outlast but that’s not how I want to play a Resident Evil game. I was thrilled to find out while playing that the developer agree with this sentiment. The game features lots of gun combat as well as lots of melee combat which you’d expect from a first person game but perhaps not in a Resident Evil game. But again, it works. I still find myself surprised in how well they’ve modernized Resident Evil. It took massive cues from other recent horror games but without losing the identity of the series.

One thing that also stood out to me during my initial ten hour playthrough was the amount of references to American horror cinema. You wouldn’t think this was a Japanese developed game with not only obvious homages of classics such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Evil Dead but modern horror also. There are certain sequences that play out almost identical to a Rob Zombie film and even the Saw films. This game in many ways is a love letter to the Horror genre and perfectly matched the tone of a Grindhouse style film but as a videogame. Long time horror fans will get a massive kick from this game.

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Early on, it was great revisiting the sections from the demo but with slight changes. It felt familiar but strange and really made me feel uneasy exploring it. Like going back to a childhood home that’s changed over the years. However the game opens up a lot after the first few hours and I really liked the different environments that featured. Only one section felt a little under utilized. However I was surprised with how much variety there was given it’s all set in one location.

One thing the game does perhaps lack in is enemy variety. It certainly suits the tone of the game as every enemy is there for a reason and makes sense in a more stripped back horror game. Fighting a zombie dog for example would definitely feel out of place. But that still doesn’t excuse the fact that previous entries had such a wide array of enemies to destroy and it is slightly disappointing to only battle the same few things over and over again.

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Another interesting concept is the use of videotapes you find in the world and then play in a VCR you find and take control of the person you’re watching. We saw it in the demo as we see the ‘Sewer Gators’ entering the house and things going badly. These feature more in the game and are actually really well done. In particular the ‘Happy Birthday’ tape was a very memorable section of the game and something I wished they had explored more. It’s a shame there’s only a few and with the already announced season pass, it’s a shame we have to pay for something that probably should have been an unlockable bonus after you beat the game such as a Mercenaries mode.

I loved all the little nods to previous games. Not wanting to spoil anything but there’s certainly a few references that really brought a smile to my face. Crafting is basic but again it works. Having too much to focus on with upgrades or abilities can really get in the way so I like that the game takes a similar approach to The Last of Us. And the same with the puzzles. Sure they can be kinda simple but you really don’t want to get frustrated and have to replay the same parts multiple times as, quite frankly, you already have enough to worry about in this game.

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One major point is that the entire game is playable in PlayStation VR. Personally I played the first hour before removing the headset and playing the more traditional way. I was surprised how well VR worked. If it wasn’t for my own tolerance, only playing that way in limited sessions and wanting to play Resident Evil 7 till the end; I probably would have played the whole game that way. Visually the game does take a hit in VR and I preferred how the game looks normally. However the aiming certainly works better. Scary levels go from high to feels like I may have a heart attack at any time. It should be applauded for this as having an AAA game entirely optional in VR is a big step. Hopefully we see other franchises achieve something similar so we have more choices how we play games going forward.

Having beat the game multiple times as of writing I find myself with a very limited list of gripes. The enemy variety as I mentioned earlier being the biggest, but also a lack of memorable boss fights. I like the design and set up but the gameplay in these boss battles didn’t change in any meaningful way which made them feel just more like prolonged enemy encounters rather than traditional boss battles. I did want just a little bit more in regards to references to the franchise past; even though I’ll still argue less is more in favor of previous titles.

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Small niggles aside; this game ended up being something truly special. It would have been so easy for them to make a first person horror game that is purely about the jumpscares, made for the YouTube generation, slap the Resident Evil name on it and be on their way. But they didn’t. What they have made is one of the best first person horror games ever made. It sets a new standard for the genre going forward. Sure it may have took a lot of hooks of other recent horror games. However in most ways in takes those ideas and creates something way better than the things that inspired it. In a lot of ways, this is the successor to P.T we will never get.

But even with all the changes and the second reinvention of the franchise; Resident Evil 7: biohazard still feels very much a Resident Evil game. Walking down a dark corridor, trying to find a key to the next area, struggling for ammo, health bar flashing red. You can change the way the game is played but still feel exactly the same. The fact they pulled that off I have to commend the developers for what they have achieved. It’s almost impossible to judge this game next to previous entries (except to say it’s light years ahead of Resident Evil 5 & 6) but I will say it’s made Resident Evil scary again. It’s made Resident Evil relevant again. And I adore Resident Evil 7: biohazard.

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Mattallica's 5th Annual Top 10 Games of the Year

It’s that time of year again. Time to celebrate the best games I had the pleasure of playing this year. I must say there are some caveats. Of course I haven’t played everything but I mostly got a chance to play the games that caught my eye. A few notable exceptions of games that may have made the list had I played them yet include Watch Dogs 2, Mafia 3, Battlefield 1, The Last Guardian and Dead Rising 4. I also have barely touched Hitman. And finally I only just got PlayStation VR last week and don’t feel comfortable including anything I’ve played this late. However Headmaster is my absolute favorite experience so far. Love that game. Also games that I enjoyed but not enough to make the list include Quantum Break, Pony Island, Slayaway Camp & Unravel.

Right, let’s get straight to it!

10) Doom

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This is the only game on the list I haven’t either finished or put at least 50 hours into. I’m not sure what happened but I bought this game at launch. I played the first few levels and absolutely loved it, but then stopped playing for some reason. Something must have sidetracked me but even the little amount I did play was enough to warrant a place on this list. Had I played it more it could have even been higher but for now it opens the list.

I have very little experience with this series, but what grabbed me straight away was the speed. Most FPS games these days have a similar pace which I enjoy. This double speed compared to most and that frenetic pace was matched by the brutal gameplay. You probably know by now why this game is awesome and just thinking about it now reminds me I really must play it more. DOOM also has the best soundtrack of the year.

9) Batman: The Telltale Series

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Telltale seemed to be a very divisive company these days, but I am still a big fan of most of their work. I loved The Walking Dead Season One and The Wolf Among Us. Season Two of TWD was OK. I completely skipped Game of Thrones, Tales from the Borderlands and Minecraft Story Mode which I think was a good thing as I haven’t felt the fatigue that many feel from their output. This season I thought was really well done and nailed a lot of things I enjoy about the character. Having an awareness of many of the characters going in certainly helped and made choosing who I liked or disliked early on a fun experience.

They also mess around with a lot of different Batman mythology keeping things fresh throughout the season. When characters were presented a certain way I reacted based on prior knowledge and not how they were shown; as if I knew they’d eventually come round to what they usually do. But they really stuck by their guns and ultimately forced me to rethink how I viewed some of Gotham’s citizens. Being a detective was also fun and I really liked the story that was told as it wasn’t the run of the mill Batman story.

8) Inside

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Inside is easily my favorite short game experience of the year. I sat down and played it all in about two hours and doubt I’ll ever play it again. But within that two hours I was completely enamoured. I really like puzzle platformers as it is, and did enjoy Limbo but found it kinda frustrating at times. Inside struck a balance perfectly for me in terms of clever gameplay and puzzles without ever becoming too difficult. Everything felt intuitive and the natural progression of the mechanics built up perfectly to a wonderful end sequence.

The game looks amazing and has one of the more memorable tones of a game I’ve played all year. It is kinda basic which is why it doesn’t feature higher. While I had two fantastic hours with Inside, it’s hard to compare to the hours of fun I’ve had with others. But as I find myself having less time for games; to be able to fully enjoy a whole experience where everything felt perfectly put together in one sitting is just wonderful.

7) Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

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Once again I am super surprised that a Call of Duty game features in my top ten, but I really enjoyed Infinite Warfare’s campaign. To me it is my favorite since Modern Warfare. I wasn’t that looking forward to the leap to space, but I thought the setting worked wonders in the usual Call of Duty framework. There was a nice variety of missions, the gadgets felt cool, I really enjoyed a lot of the characters and the story was well done.

I totally get the fatigue with the franchise, but going in I was in the mood for a good COD campaign and it completely delivered. Also I haven’t really seen the over the top campaign style of a Call of Duty game applied in a sci-fi setting. It was great seeing the usual tropes play out in new ways. I haven’t really touched the other modes but for a campaign I got everything I wanted out of this game and then some.

6) Pokémon Go

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By far the hardest game to talk about is Pokémon Go because so much has been said already. What I will say is this game has done so many things right that I’ve never experienced before. Going around the real world and catching Pokémon is a concept that would have absolutely blown the mind of 9-year-old me back when the initial craze started. The level of nostalgia I get from playing this game is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. With all of that I’m still addicted to this day. When everyone stopped playing this game a long time ago, I’m still standing.

Sure this game has an insane amount of issues. Niantic seems like a fairly awful company and I don’t say that very lightly. It completely misses the mark on many aspects of what makes Pokémon great. But it does completely nail one thing which is catching Pokémon. It has become the first and still only mobile game that not only do I play but have to check whenever I’m out. Having a work commute also makes a massive difference to my enjoyment as I would have stopped long ago without it. Even with it’s flaws I hope they sort out the problems. Hopefully they bring a lot of people back because this game was way more fun when more people were playing it.

5) Life is Strange

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This game came out on disc this year and is where I played it which is why it's on the list. Obviously I’m a fan of decision based narrative games and this one might be the best one I’ve ever played. They really did out Telltale, Telltale. I shouldn’t have really cared about a female photography student the way I cared about Max but that is credit to how wonderfully written all the characters are. So many decisions have a real effect on me while playing this one and it’s something I thought about for a while after playing.

The time mechanic was the perfect twist on this genre and it finally gave you the power you wanted. To be able to see what both choices would give you and then choose accordingly. But of course it wouldn’t be that simple. The way the story twists and turns was fantastic (even if I totally called who the bad guy was from Episode 1) and made me feel like I really was the character I was playing as. If you are remotely into story based games then Life is Strange would be the first game I recommend to anyone going forward.

4) Gears of War 4

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This is still a weird one for me. Gears of War was absolutely my favorite franchise last generation. Gameplay first but also story; I adored the trilogy and after it was done felt completely happy with it closing on a high note. So going into Gears of War 4 I was curious but wouldn’t really say excited. Haven’t now played it I certainly feel higher on them continuing it than I did before.

The campaign was really great. I wish it didn’t feel so much like the start of a trilogy instead of a standalone game. So many obvious story threads were left unanswered which is frustrating. But I guess that’s just how these things work now. Story wise I thought they did some very clever thing to explain why we are still playing these games after ending so well in Gears of War 3. The general moment to moment gameplay is still just awesome which is why I’ll keep playing these games going forward. I liked the introduction of more scripted Uncharted-esque moments. For me; the sillier the better. The ending sequence I thought was just perfect and one of the best things I’ve played in the franchise.

3) Overwatch

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A competitive online multiplayer shooter is not something that should feature so highly on my list. But damn it Overwatch you are so bloody good. I don’t really know how Blizzard pulled this one off. To be able to take a competitive game but somehow make it seem accessible to a casual player like myself is remarkable. Usually within a couple of months of release, any online multiplayer become only playable to the people who only play that game. But still seven months after release I can jump into a game of Overwatch and really make a contribution to the team.

It’s certainly in the different mix of characters is where the magic happened. There really is so many ways to help the team win that doesn’t involve your shooting skills. Playing healer actually feels cool which again is something I never would’ve imagined and learning all the different moves is so rewarding and fun. I still really only play three or four characters for the most part (Mercy and D.Va for ever) but I really want to learn more and once I get bored with my current selection. There’s always plenty more to choose from. Overwatch is somehow a simple game and a complicated game at the same time and that is barely achieved by any games at all. I will hopefully still play Overwatch for a long time to come.

2) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

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Boy is Uncharted 4 good. I somehow wasn’t that excited for this game when it got to it’s release earlier this year. I had no doubt it would be good, but just thought that with two amazing Uncharted games already I didn’t think they could up the ante once again and make it feel exciting like the previous games. But was I wrong. Uncharted 4 may even be better than Uncharted 2.

The conclusion to the saga feels like the perfect time to end things for both the characters and the creators themselves. The ‘one last adventure’ vibe was the ideal setting for Drake’s last hurrah. Seeing all the old faces again was also a joy. I also thought gameplay wise it was the best Uncharted to date. I loved the new grappling hook too. The new somewhat open areas really added to the experience and made it feel just that bit more epic. The vistas are stunning and it was great to see Uncharted done on new hardware. Another series that really got the best ending it could have. It’s great to see franchises you love go out on top.

1) The Witness

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The Witness to me is puzzling perfection. The simple idea of line puzzles and that building upon that one idea to build an entire game is something that I find to be truly incredible. It made me feel like a genius and a fool. I wrote countless notes on pages and pages and when the next puzzle clicked; it felt like nothing else I experience all year. That feeling started to feel like an addiction to me as I couldn’t stop exploring the island in hopes of finding that next buzz. To be able to present a simple concept in some truly mind-blowing ways is just a really special thing to find in games.

That’s not even mentioning how amazing it is to explore this beautiful island and slowly piece together how each puzzle is linked to the next. The Witness is everything I love about games boiled down into something that I wish I could play again and again. I hope that I’ll forget most of the solutions so I’ll be able to play this game again soon. What I’d pay to have my memory wiped just to be able to experience it all again. A truly wonderful, unique experience that is my game of the year by a fairly big margin.

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So another year in the books. Definitely not one of the strongest years in recent memory, but certainly not the weakest either. If shooters were your thing then you definitely had a great year with so many to choose from. Also the first proper year of VR headsets on the market. After so many years of VR talk it’s great to see it finally out there. Hopefully it takes off in some interesting ways.

One thing I did feel was a disappointment this year was Nintendo. They obviously have lots coming soon, mainly with the release of the Nintendo Switch. But as a 3DS and Wii U owner, to not see any of their games make my top 10 I find to be absolutely crazy. Here’s hoping 2017 is their year. Anyway, same time next year eh?

Also if you enjoy horror films and want another podcast to check out; we just published our best of 2016 special. We have our top 10 films of the year as well as talking about our favorite games. So if that's something that interests you, you can find it HERE.

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The video game cross over you never knew you ever wanted...

During all the E3 madness there was also some games being released and not just talked about or announced. One of those games was Trials of the Blood Dragon; announced and then immediately released during Ubisoft’s annual conference. A rather unlikely mash up between Trials, the popular physics based motorcycle series and Blood Dragon, the spin off from Far Cry based around 80’s action movies. One of the strangest remixes in video game history but after seeing the reveal it kinda made sense. Having played it now it’s fairly well done that fans of both games will enjoy even if the experience has it’s flaws.

The basic Trials gameplay is something I’ve always been a big fan of and that really isn’t any different here. When it’s just you on a bike it’s such a fun experience that usually balances itself well between challenging and entertaining; even if this game is a bit on the easy side if you’re a Trials veteran. It did leave me wanting more however and the game is fairly short. I beat the all the levels in around four hours and was taking my time so this is definitely a shorter Trials experience rather than the main games that I can replay for hours on end.

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There is a lot more to this game than just the bike gameplay though. It varies in quality but it mostly just detracts from the experience for me. The grappling hook was by far my favorite addition as it really added to the bike gameplay in a fun and meaningful way. Doing a massive jump and comboing that into a perfectly timed swing before the next jump felt really cool and is something I’d like to see implemented more in the future. It controlled fairly well and bar one or two moments it was used effectively within the designed levels.

The other vehicles you control are fairly average. It’s the usual kinda craziness you’d expect without going into it too much. The RC car was probably the most fun but it’s mostly rather forgettable. Using a jetpack is something I never want to do in Trials again. The biggest change however is the introduction of platforming sections. Did you even know this game had platforming sections? Well it does. And it kinda sucks.

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It looks similar to games like Shadow Complex so picture that in terms of the jumping and shooting but without any of the good gameplay or fun that game had. The jumping just feels super strange and it’s weird to put into words. It’s incredibly floaty, more so than possibly any platformer I’ve played before. I guess it’s because they’ve modified the bike physics to be used here but it ends it being something that is kind of a mess. It bummed me out when playing the game you would be driving along in your bike, having a great time, when suddenly in the middle of a level you would be forced to do more platforming when all I wanted to do was ride my bike. Is that really too much to ask? Just let me ride guys!

Talking about the actual Blood Dragon crossover parts which is mostly the story and overall zany tone; it’s a very cool wrapper for a Trials game. Usually those games are all about the gameplay for me and replaying the levels to get the best scores so it was nice to have something different going on and driving the whole thing forward. The story is what it is. Super dumb and super tongue in cheek but it definitely works and the cartoon cut scenes I thought were nicely done indeed. The voice over is pretty fantastic also which is key to the Blood Dragon experience.

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Another key part would be the soundtrack which again I think they nailed. My favorite Trials soundtrack to date because as much as I liked the previous ones; just hearing hard rock/metal songs all the time can get repetitive for even a fan like myself. It’s cool to see more variety on display here with my favorites being the pop/electronic songs which come from the Hotline Miami inspired section of the game.

Speaking of that another thing this game does that was fun was the way it took on and almost parodied multiple different games and films under the Blood Dragon umbrella. For example there’s an Indiana Jones inspired level complete with rolling boulder. This is something I’d really like to see going forward with the franchise. Maybe even without Blood Dragon, just any dumb reason they can come up with so you are going to all these completely different places based on familiar games or films would definitely be worthwhile for a more substantial Trials game in the future.

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Overall the presentation of the game is what makes it a Blood Dragon game and that adds to the always fun Trials gameplay that usually lacks any kind of discernible personality. It’s the gameplay additions which are the game’s biggest flaws for the most part. I get that you don’t just wanna make a Trials game with some cool cutscenes but almost all the new stuff misses the mark and isn’t remotely on par with the core Trials gameplay. For what this is though I definitely had a good time and would recommend it for fans of either franchise. Mostly I just want a new Trials game now as this felt like more of an appetizer. A nice surprise which I didn’t see coming from Ubisoft that made E3 even more enjoyable.

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Remedy's latest isn't a knockout but certainly is worth the price of admission

Quantum Break is the biggest new IP to hit the Xbox One so far. It’s an ambitious project that tries to meld a tv show seamlessly with a videogame. You actions will have consequences and will shape the story. The game went through a rather rough development and many changes were clearly made with the biggest being the standalone tv show being put into the game as live action episodes. After numerous delays; Remedy’s newest adventure is finally here. While the game doesn’t deliver on every promise, it is a very fun game with some fantastic moments dotted throughout.

Anyone who has played any of Remedy’s previous games will know these guys know how to tell a story. Quantum Break deals with time travel which is one of my favorite topics in all of fiction. I won’t explain exactly what the story is as it would take a while and you can look up at synopsis elsewhere but it’s all relatively straightforward time travel stuff. A bad thing happens. You try and go back in time to prevent it etc. Ultimately the story never really progressed the way I wanted it to from the opening scenes.

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There are a few moments where it really becomes something quite interesting in the genre. One element I particularly like is when a character gets lost in a certain time period and has to wait to catch up with everything that’s going on. It’s something TV shows like Dr Who have been doing effectively for years and when Quantum Break did this I was excited. But then 10 minutes later it’s glossed over and isn’t mentioned again. I bring up this example as it best describes what I thought of the narrative overall. A few very cool moments and concepts but nothing is fully fleshed out into anything to make it feel special.

The live action component of the game (which plays out as a 25 minute episode of a show after every act) I actually really enjoyed for the most part. It was very well acted and shot, it didn’t feel cheap or like most live action stuff you see in games. It really felt like a real TV show which is the best compliment I can give it and I actually wish there was more of it that was available to watch outside of the game. It’s a shame the original plan of a TV show running alongside the game didn’t come to fruition.

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One of the positives however of the live action does also lead to a negative. I liked that it focused on the supporting cast more as it really fleshed out the characters better than any videogame has done in recent years. There were multiple characters which I knew their motivations and who they were and was interested in their involvement in the grand story. But unfortunately this meant I felt way closer and knew more about them then I did the main characters. It’s weird watching the show and learning lots about these characters you barely see while playing the game. And then playing the game and wanting to know more about the main group of characters you play as and see.

Also after each act is a Junction point, where you actually play as the antagonist and have to make a 50/50 choice which will ‘affect’ both the game and the show. You can to see the potential outcomes before making your choice and really I didn’t think this added anything to the game whatsoever. It’s weird playing as the bad guy because you don’t know if you should pick what’s best for them or what’s best for the main character. And none of the choices I made felt like it made much of a difference at all. This feature the most feels like something they had grand ambitions for and through many reasons ended up just feeling pretty half baked.

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The game does have some very odd pacing at times also. There’s very much 3 different types of gameplay. Shooting, platforming and walking around and listening/talking to people. I’ll dive into the first two more later on but the walking around parts seem to drag on quite a bit and are very frequent, especially at the start. You play as a guy who has awesome time manipulation powers and you really wanna use them; but then the game decides to make you slowly walk around an environment while someone drones on for a few minutes. It’s an odd design choice.

Let’s talk about the shooting. It’s mostly really good! Early on I wasn’t so convinced as it gives you all the powers straight away pretty much and you don’t really unlock anything or have to motivation to progress. You can unlock better abilities but it barely changes the gameplay at all. However the later I got into the game I actually really enjoyed the shooting parts a whole lot. I really like the choice of having each time power have it’s own cooldown instead of a overall time meter that gets drained as it really teaches you to switch up what you’re using which leads to a more fun experience.

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Early on there were some annoying sequences where the area felt way too tight so you can’t really zip around the enemies and take them out quickly. But once the game really opens up the powers tie together super nicely. Whether it’s freezing a time bubble around an enemy and filling it with bullets or freezing time to run up behind them and shotgun blast in the back; there were some really fun moments that are up there with any third person shooter I’ve played.

I played this game on PC and unfortunately there were many performance issues throughout. It’s been documented well already and Remedy have said they are working on fixes so hopefully the experience will be smoother in the future but I mostly experienced framerate issues the most. My PC is very new but by no means high end. However I do fit well above the minimum requirements so expect the game to run fine on medium settings. Sadly this wasn’t the case.

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I experienced the most slow down during the moments when the game switches between cutscenes and gameplay. It’s as if the engine is reloading the game world up again and lags very heavily. Luckily the game always ran fine during shooting sections which was really odd but fortunate as it would have made some sections unplayable if they ran as bad as some of the platforming parts that were made more difficult than they should have been. The game never crashed (except when I tried it on Ultra settings for a joke) and didn’t encounter any bugs or glitches so if they sort the framerate issues out it’ll be fine. Also the second half of the game ran way better than the first for what it’s worth.

Outside of running better; I did enjoy the latter parts of Quantum Break the most. Not only did it run well and as I mentioned earlier the combat really came together but the best character and story moments are also saved for last. Act 4 in particular was a high point and if the game had carried this standard throughout I would be raving about this game right now. The story overall ended pretty much as well as I expected and overall I’d say I was slightly disappointed. Mainly based on what Remedy have achieved and what I believe you can do within the time travel mold. But still a fun videogame narrative.

Even though I had a lot of gripes with Quantum Break I still had a great time with the game. I really found the shooting a joy to play and would gladly play it more. I was super into all of the character’s performances (my standout being Aidan Gillen) and was invested in the plot even if it wasn’t that unique. I found the effects and visuals very cool and time collapsing was represented well. I was maybe left wanting more when I finished my time with the game but that could be expecting too much. Part of me wants to see what Remedy can do on their own again without Microsoft seemingly putting pressure for a release but regardless of all these factors; Quantum Break is a very enjoyable experience.

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Why I love The Getaway

I love The Getaway. I really do. It’s one of my all time favorite games and I find myself thinking about this game and what the franchise could do in 2016 a lot. Let’s step back a little. The Getaway is a PlayStation 2 game released in 2002. It is a open world crime game set in London. Picture GTA but super realistic and gritty. Probably most aligned with GTA IV.

The game’s setup is made apparent almost immediately as soon as you start playing. Your wife is killed and your son is kidnapped. To save him, you have to do a series of jobs for the person holding your son captive. It’s a brutal and to the point way of starting a game and immediately thrusts you into a world of crime in the underbelly of the capital city.

What has always been one of my favorite parts of The Getaway is the fact that they made a fully functional open world modern day London. Of course graphically the game looks very old now, but at the time I was blown away and I still find myself super appreciating it as there really hasn’t been a game to do it better since. I can only imagine how amazing a new game on PlayStation 4 would look.

One thing that always stood out to me was how they kept so many unnecessary things out of the game that so many games of this genre has adopted. There is no health bar, no ammo or weapon slots, no GPS, no minimap, no objectives explaining where to go. All of these things are explained in the game itself. Hurt? Lean against a wall. Out of ammo? Pick up another weapon. Need to know where to travel? Follow the car indicators. This method creates a truly cinematic experience that I wish modern games would follow now. Imagine what GTA V would look like with zero UI and text on screen. Look at this screenshot from The Getaway;

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And now compare it to The Division;

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The Division is undoubtedly a better looking game, but I know which screenshot I find more appealing. The Getaway did a lot of things that were pretty unique in the genre at the time. There were so many GTA clones during this generation and some were really great. I really liked Driv3R and True Crime: Streets of LA, but nothing stood out as being as good as GTA or in some areas even better than The Getaway.

Ultimately the game underperformed for a variety of reasons. Going head to head with GTA Vice City, which many consider to be the best game ever of it’s genre, really didn’t help matters. As well as an almost non existent advertising campaign and a clear focus on the European audience when really it should be catering to everyone outside of Europe the same way GTA is massive outside of America, the franchise never got the start it deserves. A rushed sequel a mere two years later and since then the franchise has been pretty much dead.

I want to believe there’s still a small chance that The Getaway will see the resurgence it deserves. In a gaming world where everything that once had it’s day somehow rises again; I want to believe that Sony see how big an exclusive open world crime game could be for them if they released it right in between big Rockstar titles. However small that hope may be, for anyone who missed this game and can deal with very dated graphics and some bizarre control choices, check out The Getaway and see why it’s a game I will love for many more years to come.

You can also check out my video series that I just started, entitled The Getaway [Revisited]. The first episode is embedded at the top of this page and I will be continuing to play through the game on my YouTube channel. (link to this page here) It should be a lot of fun and I hope you enjoy seeing the game as much as I do.

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A beautiful platformer worth your time

At its most basic, Unravel is a puzzle platforming game. However you will learn there is a lot more to it when you play. Even though the game is around six hours long I felt very emotionally invested in what was happening and felt compelled to keep playing. I really felt like I was going on an adventure while playing and enjoyed myself every step of the way.

Let’s just say it right off the bat; Yarny is freaking adorable. I mean look at the guy. It’s pretty incredible how much emotion and involvement I felt with Yarny while playing Unravel as the character has no set up and doesn’t speak or have any distinct personality. This speak volumes about not only the character design but the animations for Yarny are amazing. When you fall, he slowly gets up and brushes himself off you feel compelled to not make the same mistake again for fear of hurting Yarny. The game is filled with moments like this and I’m still surprised with how much I cared about Yarny having now finished the game.

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The environments in this game are absolutely stunning. It ranges from woods, forest, farms, mountains, lakes; so many different areas to guide Yarny through. Each area is filled with beautiful art that you will only see once. At times I found myself walking very slowly just so I could take it all in. I really can not understate how good this game looks.

Let’s talk about the actual mechanics as this is a platformer after all. Yarny does feel slightly floaty and before you break down thinking this is a terrible thing to say about a platformer (it usually is); Unravel uses this to brilliant effect. First of all, Unravel is not a precision platformer like Super Mario that requires you making precise jumps. In Unravel you will mainly be lassoing edges with your yarn and pulling yourself up or creating bridges to walk along. It’s extremely rare that the game requires you to make a tricky jump as you always have the yarn to save you if needs be.

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This is where the floaty mechanics work in it’s favor. You are playing as a lump of yarn after all so things should be floaty as you traverse outside environments and get blown around by the wind. Also when lassoing certain edges or items the floatiness again helps in achieving this and ultimately makes it a tighter playing game than if Yarny controls like a Mario. It’s a design choice that I commend the team for as usually it would be suicidal choice but for this world and character; I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Accompanying this stunning game is an equally impressive soundtrack they really ties the whole thing together. Knowing when to ramp up the emotion and knowing when to just create an atmosphere perfectly; the orchestra creates a soothing background to the experience. At times when I was taking a break from the game I wouldn’t pause just so I could listen to the soundtrack. It’s one of my favorites in modern gaming.

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The soothing soundtrack, fantastic art and cute character creates an overall very soothing experience. These types of games can sometimes lead to frustration at times but Unravel created the opposite for me. I found myself very relaxed and happy when tackling the games many hazards and puzzles and was glad the difficulty was never raised to a level which would took the charm away from it all. Some may find it too easy but that’s not the point of Unravel and there’s always games like Super Meat Boy if that is what you want to play.

The game loosely tells a story and does a nice job of tying the levels together through photographs found in the house that acts like a hub world. It perhaps could have maybe done more, but I also like how I was left to enjoy my time with Yarny and not be interrupted by something I’m not interested in.

For me, ultimately Unravel tells a story of love and that love is most strongly portrayed from the people creating the game. It seeps through every pore of Unravel how much everyone who worked on the project was enjoying themselves. The way everything ties together so nicely from the music, to the visuals and of course the gameplay. Unravel is a stunningly well put together game and I feel happier having played it. During the credits, the studio thank the player for playing their game. Thank you Coldwood Interactive for a fantastic game.

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A puzzle game 7 years in the making; get ready for a brain teasing masterclass

The Witness is a unique and special videogame. It starts with the basic premise of line puzzles. You are also on a beautiful island all alone, but primarily you’re tasked with beating simple line puzzles. It’s from this simple premise that the game manages to build upon this formula over and over again and ultimately builds a game which can entertain you for 40+ hours. It may seem impossible until you actually play The Witness and then you discover how ingenious they make something so simple to begin with; it’s truly a remarkable achievement.

The Witness has zero tutorials or text on screen to explain how to use its mechanics for the line puzzles. You simply have to learn as you progress. This approach is very interesting and has many benefits but also some flaws. As you get deeper into the game, most of the time the actual solution to a puzzle isn’t the difficult part but just working out what the rules are to which you have to find the solution becomes the challenge.

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This approach can work wonders because just when you think you understand the mechanics of a puzzle, the game then throws something else into the mix which previously breaks what you thought was working and you have to rethink your strategy. This happens over and over and is incredible game design, constantly subverting your expectations and surprising you. It’s in these simple moments when you realize what ‘the thing’ is and you really get that perfect eureka moment that only games like this can give you.

Early on the game will show you puzzles that you will have no clue how to solve, but having gained more knowledge on the island later you can come back and tackle them easily. Almost like a Metroid game, you can go anywhere you want in The Witness, but certain areas will be ‘locked’ by your lack of knowledge regarding certain puzzle mechanics. This sense of freedom is mostly fantastic but did lead to the only really frustrating moment I had with the game.

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During my first play session, one area I stumbled into and it seemed like I got stuck and couldn’t leave without solving a certain puzzle. I couldn’t see a way out (there was but it required a mechanic I wouldn’t learn for hours after I had come to this area), but I searched for ages and got very annoyed that I couldn’t just leave and try a different puzzle like every other area. I later found out after beating the game and reading around that this is considered by many as the hardest section of the game, so maybe I just got very unlucky by going there early on, but I had to mention it as it did happen unfortunately.

For completionists this game will be tough, but walking away and trying something else is the smartest option to take. The longer you bang your head against a puzzle the further you will get from solving it. Try taking a photo of it and writing down where it was so if you do end up solving it after trying other puzzles you can easily go back to it and nail it.

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At times this game made me feel like a lunatic for writing down multiple crazy notes that if anyone saw wouldn’t be able to make any sense of and perhaps be concerned for my state of mind. But then when they help you find the solution, you feel like an unappreciated genius. This is the line that when The Witness is on point it walks perfectly and is an incredibly satisfying experience.

I briefly mentioned earlier, but it’s worth stating again how beautiful this game really is. It has a very unique style which isn’t very similar to most games I’ve played and for that it will stand out in my mind for a while. A screenshot is instantly recognizable as from this game and that is a great way to leave your mark on the player.

However, given how much this game totally nails both visual style and game play, I can’t help but feel like there was a missed opportunity with the soundtrack. Occasionally there is background noise but during many areas there simply was almost nothing to listen to. This is a shame as for a game that you will spend lots of time just standing in one place trying to solve a puzzle, it would make perfect sense for a fantastic, relaxing soundtrack to accompany it. I found myself frequently listening to music and podcasts whilst playing this game, something I usually only do while playing sports games, and feel like had this game had something similar to what Journey had it could have tied the experience together just that little bit more.

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The Witness doesn’t require you to beat every puzzle to finish it, which is a clever choice I think as forcing players to do everything could easily fatigued some who would like to see the endgame puzzles. I ‘triggered’ an ending for the purpose of this review but after seeing the end I backed up to a previous save and will enjoy finishing the rest of the islands puzzles and secrets.

Another small missed opportunity I feel is the story. I really like the minimalist approach here as it suits the tone of this game completely but even a little more would have felt like a step in the right direction. Having recently played The Talos Principle, which is also primarily a puzzle solving game, it did tell a very interesting story in the background via terminals and audio logs. Unfortunately The Witness has audio logs but they are merely pretentious, long monologues performed in a tone reminiscent of a college drama class.

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I may have mentioned a few things about The Witness that I feel didn’t totally hit the mark but it cannot be overstated enough just how good the puzzles are. After doing over 400 line puzzles you think I would be sick of them; but actually I want more. Some of the ways the game changes the formula feels like a natural progression, but then other times I was completely blown away with the ways they switched it up and kept asking more of me as a player.

A loop I kept experiencing would be that of delight after finishing a rather difficult puzzle and feeling really good about myself only to then see what the next puzzle was and be immediately dropped down to reality in the best way possible. Never before have I seen a game run with one concept for so long and continually keep it fresh and interesting to play.

Ultimately as a puzzle game, The Witness succeeds on nearly every level. It has quite simply created some of the best puzzles I have ever played in my life. As an overall experience that are a few small things that maybe could’ve been better but I still adored my time with the game and would love to have my memory wiped so I could do it all over again.

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