My Favourite Games of 2017: Day Five

It’s that time again. When we as a collective come together to write, read and argue about our favourite games of the year. Not wanting to break from tradition, I proudly present to you, my favourite games of 2017.

Now instead of boring you with a traditional list, I thought I’d ‘spice’ it up a little by writing a post about each game. Don’t worry, this won’t take long. I’m a busy man and let’s be honest, you guys have read enough about PUBG and why Hellblade is amaze-balls on this blog already.

 

Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds

 PC – PUBG Corp

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I think I’ve finally found my forever game. Yes, I’ve said this before with games like Rocket League, Destiny and Overwatch, but this time I think it’s going to stick. Because even after nearly 250 hours of this ugly, buggy and at times downright infuriating mess of a video game……I can’t stop playing.

PUBG isn’t the prettiest game. It’s far from the most feature complete and it certainly won’t win any awards for polish. However its core concept is so perfect in its execution that it doesn’t matter. It’s proof that above all else, gameplay wins through.

The idea is simple: 100 people jump out of a plane armed with nothing but pants. The last person alive wins. It’s so simple that I can’t believe it’s taken as long has it has done to truly take off outside of the occasional in-game mod.

As simple as it is, don’t be fooled for thinking it’s short on depth. Far from it. Solo play delivers a genuinely nerve-wracking experience that is unmatched in the competitive online space; it’s a horror game masquerading as a shooter, and whilst it’s not the first to try this type of thing, it’s certainly the most effective.

Duo’s and Squads takes the game in a much different direction. Less tension inducing horror and more tactical squad combat. It’s a subtle difference but one that allows the game to offer two distinct types of play experiences without changing the games basic concept.

PUBG is going to change what online shooters are for the next decade. In much the same way that Modern Warfare changed how we play the FPS, Battlegrounds will surely have a similar effect on the games we’re playing over the next 8-10 years. And that’s a testament to just how utterly successful this game is at what it tries to do.

There will undoubtedly come ‘PUBG clones’. Many of them will look, run and feel better than Battlegrounds does, and I cannot wait for them. Because what PUBG gets right, it gets so right that I may never need to play another shooter again.

And so I’m pleased to say that not only is Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds my new ‘forever’ game, it’s also my favourite game of the year.

Surprise.

 

 

 

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My Favourite Games of 2017: Day Four

It’s that time again. When we as a collective come together to write, read and argue about our favourite games of the year. Not wanting to break from tradition, I proudly present to you, my favourite games of 2017.

Now instead of boring you with a traditional list, I thought I’d ‘spice’ it up a little by writing a post about each game. Don’t worry, this won’t take long. I’m a busy man and let’s be honest, you guys have read enough about PUBG and why Hellblade is amaze-balls on this blog already.

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Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

 PC/PS4 – Ninja Theory

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Here’s the thing about Hellblade. For all its technical achievements, incredible moments and it’s emotional weight, the moment to moment gameplay isn’t all that rewarding.

The combat for example, is a ho-hum affair. It’s not overly difficult, and at times it feels like it was added to give the player something to do whilst traversing the world; something to keep you interested whilst you move onto the next easy to solve puzzle or set piece. And you know what? When the rest of your video game is as good as Hellblade is, that’s okay.

As much as I enjoyed Hellblade, it isn’t a game I hear too many people talking about. In a year dominated by 100 person shooters and Robots with feelings, it fell through the cracks. And whilst it’s recently done well at the Video Game Awards, I think more people should give this game a look.

Why? Because in 2017 video games are slowly marching into a world where shorter, more digestible narratives are becoming a thing of the past. Hellblade is one of those games and it deserves your undivided attention. Not only for what it tries to do but also for what it actually achieves.

Hellblade isn’t perfect, and many would take issue with how it handles its core themes and conflicts, but in terms of putting you inside the head of a character dealing with the things she’s dealing with, no game has ever done it better. Traumatizing and deeply disturbing, Hellblade is a game that doesn’t flinch from its darkness. It doesn’t ask its player to watch as Senua’s world falls apart, it pulls them into her world and helps her re-build it.

Hellblade isn’t my favourite game of 2017, but it may well be the one that sticks with me the longest.

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I Played some PUBG with my brother and oh boy: A Guide

Lewis. Callum. Welcome.

First things first, don’t be alarmed. I know it seems crazy that you’re suddenly falling to earth with nothing but a parachute and a (hopefully) Utility Belt to your name. I know you’re confused by the fact that there seems to be 98 other people doing the exact same thing. However fear not. For below you’ll find six delicious nuggets of information that will allow you to survive for a short time. Maybe.

I’ll begin from the top. Or the bottom? Whatevs.

Helmets.

Callum. I love the attitude man. Who needs a helmet when you’re so good a shot that you’re going to be dropping fools before they even get a chance to fire one-off at you. Positive attitude, fantastic.

However. For the love of unholy god wear a helmet. It’ll protect you from direct head shots (for a while) and will probably grant you enough time to react and hide/fire that incredible, gif-worthy return volley.

As per everything in PUBG, level 3 is best but even level 1 is better than nothing.

I can’t emphasis this enough. If you see a helmet and don’t have one equipped…grab it.

Cars.

Cars are fun. With their horns, their engines and speed and windows and awful physics. They allow you to move quickly, run people over and even provide some mobile cover if you’re stuck between a rock and a giant-flat-field of death.

However they’re not without their problems. As we found out on Saturday morning.

I cannot emphasis this enough. DO-NOT-POKE-YOUR-HEAD-OUT-WHEN-WE’RE-BEING-SHOT-AT. You will die. It’ll be traumatic, and probably cost your partner their life as they desperately try to reverse to where they think your dying body lays in the wide open field below Pochinki.

I get the temptation, I do. Who wouldn’t want to get a kill whilst driving through the grass? The problem though, is that it’s incredible easy to miss everything whilst shooting from inside the car. And as such, it’s just not worth the risk.

Remember kid bro’s. Keep your Hands and Feet and Heads inside the vehicle at all times. Although if you see a guy and he’s sort-of-maybe-ish in your driving path then you should totally try to run him over for the lulz.

Pan Me.

You see those Pans you keep ignoring? Grab one. It’ll save your life one day. If you only pick up one thing behind a gun and body armor, make sure it’s the pan. It’ll deflect shots off your ass.

It’s an ass helmet. And it’s your best friend when you’re being shot from behind.

Hassmet.

HEALER!

Right fellas let me tell you about something called Healing. It’s a revolutionary new method of not-dying. And as such, you should try to do it at all times.

Hiding in a house? Heal. About to run out of that house? Heal. Driving in a car? Stop and Heal. You get the picture. Heal.

If you’ve got some spare items, and you’re not about to be murdered right this very second, check your health, and if necessary, heal.

Have you healed yourself yet?

Scope Em.

I get it. The shooting on the controller is kinda-difficult. However, if you see a scope (especially the 2x which is my favourite) then you’ve got to get that thing attached to your assault rifle ASAP).

I know it sometimes makes shooting more difficult, but trust me, in the long run, you’ll learn to love those things like your own children.

This isn’t COD.

There’s not many games that make killing your enemy feel as good as PUBG does. However, that doesn’t mean you have to engage with any and everyone you come across. In fact, sometimes letting them pass is the best way to ultimately get the kill.

Use your brain, and just as importantly, the environment around you. Open doors mean the house has been looted. Closed doors mean it’s either never been looted….or there’s someone inside who wants you to think that.

Be the person in the house not the one running into it with nothing but a pistol equipped.

 

 

 

The VGA’s

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m short on time. However, I do have enough of it spare right now to sit down and take a moment to talk about The Video Game awards that took place on Thursday.

As with any award show, it was chock full of badly scripted interviews, the odd awkward moment and um…lots of advertising. That being said though, I think the core concept of the VGA’s is one we can get behind: that those making the games we love be celebrated for their successes.

There’s a longer article in my head about the various ways in which the VGA’s could be improved, but as I’m a little pressed for time I’ll just stick to a few winners that I was invested in.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – Winner: Games for Impact / Best Audio Design / Best Performance for Melina Juergens

Hellblade is a truly interesting game. In an industry that’s dominated by franchises and reboots, it’s rare to see a game of Hellblade’s quality come along and say something; anything even.

With its interesting, unique and ultimately challenging look at mental illness, it truly deserves to walk away with the award in Games for Impact. It doesn’t land all of its punches, but it does things in a mainstream game that you rarely see, and that deserves to be rewarded.

The same goes for its audio work. Now, I’m no audio designer, but Hellblade wouldn’t be the game it is; the game that took home the impact award without its incredible audio design. Play this game with headphones and allow yourself to become one with its lead character. I promise you.

Speaking of that lead character. Melina Juergens nailed it. From moment one you feel her anguish, her suffering. With every facial expression, every frightened look, and every hushed scream, she stitched the final, perhaps most important part of Hellblade’s delicate tapestry together.

Hellblade is an amazing game. And as you can no doubt tell, I’m really pleased it finally got its due.

What Remains of Edith Finch – Winner: Best Narrative

Ideally, Edith Finch would have walked away with a few more awards, but it’s a testament to just how an incredible year we’re having that it only took home Best Narrative.

I don’t really have much to say on this one, just that it’s probably going to end up as one of my favourite games of the year. Based entirely on its incredibly heartfelt narrative.

Much like Hellblade, Edith Finch tackles some incredibly difficult moments. Unlike Hellblade however, Finch chooses to handle the subject matter with a lighthearted, almost humorous bent. That’s not to say it’s not incredibly touching or even emotionally devastating though, because believe me, bring the tissues.

Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds – Winner: Best Multiplayer

What more can I possibly say about Battlegrounds that hasn’t already been said by myself, or someone else on the internet already? 2017’s most talked about multiplayer is a lot of things. It’s buggy, it’s full of cheats and it runs like shit. And yet, with all of those problems, it’s one of the most incredibly enjoyable gaming experiences I’ve ever had.

 

 

On Winning in Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds.

 

There’s 15 of us left now. I’m well placed in the middle of the increasingly cramped map. I go prone, because being crouched at this point would be suicide; an invitation for someone to blow my brain out of my nose.

I begin my slow crawl forward, hoping to remain unseen. To my astonishment, there’s someone running next to me. He’s closer to me than I am to my keyboard but…he doesn’t see me. I guess I’ve got Autorun to thank for this minor miracle. With a short press on my mouse, he’s dead. 10 left. 9 Left. 8 Left….

There’s 5 of us now. I can see one guy on the hill directly in front of me. He’s hiding behind a tree. He doesn’t see me. I’m way too nervy to hit him from this range so I hold fire. And then it begins, the shoot-out to end all shoot-outs. Gun fire from all directions; I’m waiting for death. It doesn’t come. 3 left.

I take aim at the poor bastard hiding behind a tree on the hill ahead, he still doesn’t see me. More gunfire. This time however I see it. A shot hits the poor bastard but doesn’t end him. He fires back. Still 3 left. Poor bastard is holding his own, the new guy has him pinned. Neither see’s me. I crawl some more.

I see my chance to end it. And in classic Dan Holt fashion…I blow it. I miss Poor Bastard completely, but thankfully New Guy takes him out for me. The only problem, New Guy knows my position because of my wet fart of a shot.

I’ve fucked it at the final hurdle once again. Of course I have. This is why I can’t have nice things. Why I’m working a shitty  job and why I’ll never be happy. I’m a loser, a failure…a nobody.

And yet……………he hasn’t fired yet. Why hasn’t he fired yet?

No. Surely not. He’s got me in his sights right? He’s going to end me as #2 for the second time in my PUGB career right?

Why hasn’t he fired yet?

Maybe….Could he be the loser, the failure…? The one who’s about to blow it all? Still no shot.

I stay still. I’m in the zone. Safe. I aim down my sights and take a shot. I hit him, but as is the way in this game, I don’t kill him. That’ll have to come later.

He knows now where his end will come from. He’s trying desperately to evade my shots. He jumps, runs, dodges; anything to delay what looks to be inevitable. I’m still shooting wildly; desperate to bring him down. This is my moment. I will not be denied.

And then the screen went dark; the game over.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner. I’d won.

And I was granted my favourite moment in video games…. ever. I threw my hands into the air, turned to my significant other whilst shouting ‘Yesssssssss’ and watched as her eyes grew as wide as my own.

I’m the fucking Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds Champion. Come at me.

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The thing about winning in Battlegrounds is this. As much as it meant to me, It was just one round of the game. 5 minutes after I’d done patting myself on the back I was once again jumping out of a plane, searching for the perfect landing spot. For all my excitement and my new-found sense of ‘getting it’, I died pretty quickly. Another top 50 finish for me.

And who knows, maybe I’ll never win another round again, maybe I’ll win the next one I play. It doesn’t really matter, because now I know that no matter how average I am going forward, I’ve got this one in my back pocket. And as cheesy as it is to say, they can’t take it away from me.

 

 

Watching and Waiting: The Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds Experience.

It’s quiet. I’ve been hiding in an abandoned farmhouse for 20 minutes, crouched between a wall, a shelving unit and what feels like the worlds largest, shiniest, most inconspicuous window in existance. I’m waiting for someone. Perhaps I’ll hear the distant sounds of a muzzle blast, or the slow rumble of a car driving over a hill a mile away. Or maybe I’ll hear nothing. I wait some more.

I like this house. I picked it out as I ejected from the crashing plane that kicks off each PUBG match. It’s got good viewing angles, its got one door in and out, it’s got two levels and lots of noisy doors. If anyone approaches, I’ll see them. If anyone creeps through the weeds out back and gets in, I’ll hear them. It’s my house. It’s my safe place. And so I wait some more.

After what feels like an eternity of staring down the barrel of my scoped rifle, I see him. One lone wolf running directly across the field in front of me. I pause. If I shoot and miss I’ll have given up my number 1 asset: my position. If I let him pass maybe he’ll work his way around back and get me before I get him. I’ve got 2 seconds to decide. I bring up my scope, and pull the trigger.

Headshot. One less person to worry about. I sit and wait.

The map is getting smaller now. The playable area constricting ever inwards, forcing its players into a smaller and smaller zone. I check my map; I’m still okay. I wait. I’m scanning the horizon once again, checking to see what’s out there. It’s clear. I should probably go and loot the guy I’ve just killed. I talk myself out of it; it’s not worth the risk.

The funny thing about Battlegrounds, and what I think it does better than almost any other competitive game I’ve ever played, is that my moment of triumph would ultimately be my undoing. In a game of survival, engaging the enemy is fraught with danger, even if you aren’t aware of that danger yet. Maybe if I had let lone-wolf continue on his way it wouldn’t have happened. Maybe if I’d have repositioned after my kill I’d be safe? Maybe the bastard had already clocked me and had decided ten minutes ago to do what they were going to do.

Suddenly and without warning, I’m dead. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know who killed me, or what direction the bullet came from. I’m just dead. All of that watching and waiting; all of it for naught. I spent the best part of half an hour hiding, and still someone saw me.

I don’t know how long they’d been watching me, but chances are they saw my gunfire a moment earlier. You think you’re safe, you think you’ve ‘got this’. Wrong. You’re dead. It’s brutal, it’s surgical, and it’s absolutely one of my favourite experiences of the year so far.

 

 

You Should Play: Player Unknown’s Battleground’s

Player Unknown’s Battleground’s isn’t the sort of game I’d usually be interested in. Firstly, it’s an online shooter. Secondly, it’s a PC exclusive online shooter. And thirdly, it’s a PC exclusive online shooter that is far from finished. And yet the game is dominating my thoughts in ways that few games do. Why is that?

So, what is Battleground’s? It’s a last-man-standing shooter where you’re tasked with surviving on an island with 100 other people also trying to do just that. With Guns. Because it’d be a shit shooter without guns. 

It’s that simple. Ish. You see Battleground’s has one or two tricks up its khaki sleeve that turn the game from a fairly ho-hum milletary shooter into something more unique. And that’s the games huge map, or more specifically how the game pushes its players closer together. Forcing the interaction that many of them would rather avoid.

To stop players from simple hiding in a building and waiting for everyone to die/log off, the map slowly contracts. If you get caught outside the newly defined play-area, you’ll quickly start to lose health. Obviously that won’t do, and so this one simply trick forces players into a smaller and smaller area of the map until finally the last remaining players are within spitting distance of one another.

In forcing players to move forever inward, the player are asked to decide between hunkering down in the safety of a building or doing the perhaps more intelligent thing of advancing towards the eventual centre of the games map. 

It all makes the game incredibly intense, and that is ultimately why Battleground’s is doing as well as it is. From the moment you leave the plane you’re on a constant state of alert. Is there anyone falling in your vicinity? Has anyone landed in the same place as you? Where the fuck are all the guns? Was that a door opening behind me? Can I hear a vehicle approaching? What the fuck am I going to do with a frying pan? It’s a game of constant vigilance. If you drop your guard for one second, there’s a good chance you’ll be gunned down, and then you’re faced with another nerve-wracking jump from the plane. Rinse and repeat.

Battleground’s is an Early Access game. So don’t expect a perfectly refined experience. There are bugs, there’s some optimisation to be done and sometimes the games frame rate drops out entirely. Hopefully going forward the vast majority of these will be ironed out. And even with those issues I still think there’s so much to love here that they’re almost part of the charm.

I think Player Unknowns Battleground’s is a hell of a thing. What’s more, I think that even with the Early Access tag attached to it, it’s very much worth purchasing. If they don’t improve the game further it’ll suck, but I don’t think it’d make this a bad purchase; the core game is so rewarding and fun and tense and generally addictive that I’d be totally okay if this was it.