1Our Personal Choices for GOTY 2018
As it comes round to the end of the year, we of course spend a lot of time thinking about our favourite gaming experiences of the last 12 months.
Some games are objectively great, no matter your personal tastes, but for most of us, that coveted “Game of the Year” is highly subjective. We all have our own, unique preferences. No one video game is made in “one size fits all”. And so, each member of the GameSpew team has picked their own personal GOTY of 2018. And, well – we can’t really fault any of them.
Here’s each of our Game of the Year 2018 picks, along with reasons why we’ve chosen that game. And if you’re yet to play any of these titles, what are you waiting for? Here’s to 2019 having just as many incredible titles.
2Rich: Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Released on 13th February by Warhorse Studios/Deep Silver. Available on PS4, Xbox One and PC
It’s really hard for me to choose a Game of the Year. 2018 has been packed full of great releases, many of which stand out in their own way. God of War surprised me by actually making Kratos quite likeable, and its combat was brilliant. Red Dead Redemption 2’s story had me gripped from beginning to end, and its open world is like no other. And then there’s Forza Horizon 4, which had me slack-jawed because of its sheer beauty and gameplay focussed on having fun. Other people have already given those games their spotlight in this list though, so I’m going to go with Kingdom Come: Deliverance.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance wasn’t perfect at launch, and nearly a year later, it still isn’t. It has bugs and inconsistencies, its save system is a pain in the arse, but it really tries to be different. For a start, your character is just a regular guy. He’s a bit dopey, but he throws himself at the task at hand after experiencing tragedy. It actually makes him quite endearing, as well the machinations happening around him more believable. Young Henry isn’t the centre of the world in Kingdom Come: Deliverance, he’s just a twerp trying to make a difference in any way he can.
I’ve spent hours upon hours enjoying Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s world. Getting lost in it, killing bandits in it, getting drunk in it; you’ve got so many options. It’s the people you encounter and how you interact with them that really make it what it is though – an open world RPG with a huge amount of choice and wonderfully unique combat system. If you enjoy the likes of The Elder Scrolls games and want something a bit more down to earth, give Kingdom Come: Deliverance a try if you haven’t already. Chances are you’ll absolutely love it. Warts and all.
3Kim: A Way Out
Released 23rd March by Hazelight Studios/EA. Available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
Usually, if co-op play is incorporated into a game, it feels more like an afterthought. Even games where playing together is the whole point, you’ll likely find yourself playing something over-simplistic, nothing more than an arcade or party game. Not so with A Way Out, a fully-fledged story-driven action game that can only be played by two people. I was dubious at first; being forced to play such a game with another player seemed like a tall ask. But being able to play A Way Out either locally, with a friend sat besides you, or with someone online, is genius. This isn’t a game that a computer-controlled AI could fill in a gap for you. It’s one all about teamwork, communication, and working together. And it’s unlike anything I’ve played before.
From Josef Fares, the director of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, he’s taken the concept of two characters who need to work together to a whole new level in A Way Out. Everything is a team effort, whether you’re directly working together or splitting up to achieve a common goal. It’s co-op like you’ve never seen before. That alone makes this game something special, but when you consider the game’s stellar graphics, storytelling and incredible characterisation, it makes it a game hard to forget. A Way Out‘s protagonists, Vincent and Leo, will have a profound impact on you, and their story – however you and your partner shape it with the decisions you make – will stick with you long after you’ve put the controller down.
4Becca: Marvel’s Spider-Man
Released 7th September by Insomniac Games. Exclusive to PlayStation 4
I wasn’t sure about Spider-Man when it was first announced. I’d barely played any of the other Spider-Man games, but with each reveal I got more and more excited. And the game delivered on the hype in every way. Travelling around the city as the web-slinging superhero is smooth, sleek and incredibly easy to learn. I’m still not sure why the fast travel mechanic was added, because no one in their right mind should want to fast travel when they can swing around the map as Spider-freaking-Man.
Along with the web travel, Spider-Man’s story is one of the best I’ve ever experienced. Three video games have made me sob like a baby: Heavy Rain, Telltale’s The Walking Dead, and now Marvel’s Spider Man. Sure, I’m an emotional wreck all the time, but Spider-Man left me a blubbering mess for days. I can’t wait to see where the story goes because it’s such an immersive world that feels like like it has dozens more stories to tell.
5Chris: Hitman 2
Released 13th November by IO Interactive/Warner Bros. Available on PS4, Xbox One and PC
Hitman 2 builds on the success of the previous title to deliver a superb stealth experience. Without the original’s episodic release schedule, it’s possible to rush through the levels, but you’ll be missing out on the sheer freedom the game’s huge arenas give you. I’ve spent hours just exploring the game’s Miami level, discovering something new each time. What really makes Hitman 2 special is that, 99% of the time, you can try something ridiculous and the game will let you get away with it.
True, the story does feel stretched out, but the Hitman games have never really been about narrative; they’re about letting you dispatch your targets in as creative a way possible and, in that respect, Hitman 2 delivers. I can see myself coming back to it again and again and again. Anyway, how can you go wrong with a game where you can murder someone with a didgeridoo?
6Stan: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Released 5th October by Ubisoft. Available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One
It was a breath of fresh sea air for the franchise. In my opinion, Origins struggled to redefine the series the way Ubisoft wanted, but Odyssey perfectly shows us what the Assassin’s Creed franchise is capable of.
The combat felt feels and fresh, but is much more challenging than the stale fighting seen in previous entries. And that is combined with an incredible story: one that is worthy of being titled an ‘Odyssey’. Playing as Kassandra, the kick-ass protagonist, her history becomes more and more significant as the plot unravelled, but there is always a clear goal. I love everything about Odyssey and will no doubt be getting back aboard the Adrestia on a frequent basis.
7Kyle: Forza Horizon 4
Released 2nd October by Playground Games/Microsoft Studios. Available on Xbox One and PC
It’s rare for a game to feel as exhilarating, diverse, and all-encompassing as Forza Horizon 4 without succumbing to endless hyperbole and exaggerations, though the Horizon series has been doing this for years now. There is, expectedly, a plethora of activities within Forza Horizon 4’s world that it can quickly become overwhelming. Everything from lengthy cross-country races to fast-paced drifting competitions are included, as are the more extravagant events that the Horizon series has made its name on. Racing sports cars against fighter jets, or off-road monsters versus military-grade hovercrafts, the stuff that makes your jaw drop and the sheer spectacle of it all. Forza Horizon 4 is a game that drops all pretenses about the racing genre’s obsession with vanity and prestige and instead merely begs you to have some damned fun.
And yet, it’s in what the game does on top of all of this that transforms Forza Horizon 4 from just another fun racing game to one of my most memorable experiences of the year. Its world, meticulously crafted, often gives you moments to bask in its beauty while, only seconds later, forces you to destroy everything in your path. Yet, as contradictory as it can be, its this juxtaposition that creates Forza Horizon 4’s most brilliant sensations. Drifting into a snow-covered corner and speeding down the road in a nearly 100-year-old racer are experiences that sit next to and on top of one another. The only difference is which one you want to do first. In a sense, it feels as though these sorts of experiences were the reason games were made, to begin with. Ones that, for all our praise, can speak just fine for themselves.
8Matt: Dead Cells
Released 6th August by Motion Twin. Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch
In the heavily saturated field roguelike and metroidvania games, it takes something truly special to stand out. Dead Cells does just that. There is nearly nothing wrong with any aspect of this game. Traversing the various levels is an engaging, exciting, and most importantly, rewarding experience. Hundreds of unlocks, various play styles, and tonnes of great power-ups and skills make for a roguelike experience that begs another run. The fantastic soundtrack follows you through the precise, seamless combat. Every action is well measured; every step you take is worth something. Dead Cells manages to punish your mistakes without removing your desire to try again. With seemingly endless ways to conquer your foes, you can truly craft a unique play style for yourself and tweak it to the finest detail.
I have not played a game this smooth and exhilarating in a very long time. When you take something simple and perfect it, you can still make something truly spectacular. Dead Cells exceeds on all levels of play. Various weapons, skills, traps, turrets and more allow for a combat system that tunes to what you want, not what the game wants. Difficulty ramps perfectly and boss battles are tense and exciting on all levels. The different pathways you can take through the game offer even more variability to each run, as you can find the areas that are easiest for you, offer you the most challenge, or have the aesthetic you want. Dead Cells is an emphatic exclamation mark on the gaming scene of 2018. The accolades and praise it has received are not misguided. Play it. Love it. Then play it again.
Available digitally on all formats
9Jack: God of War
Released 20th April by SIE Sony Santa Monica. Exclusive to PlayStation 4
I don’t think anyone really knew what to expect from God of War. It takes a pretty special single player game to not only have me play it practically all days for a week, and also to not want it to end. Its long take adds so much to Santa Monica Studios’ God of War; it effectively creates a feeling of intimacy and immediacy between the player and the titles’ two central characters.
Any of three or four titles could have been my Game of the Year, but God of War is really something else, both technically and visually. I look forward to going back to it and fawning even more on a PS4 Pro. The faith and passion put into God of War from the team to divert from the preceding titles and deliver something new with strong emotional themes should be lauded for years to come.
10Alec: Red Dead Redemption 2
Released on 26th October by Rockstar Games. Available on PS4 and Xbox One
Back at the start of 2018, it always seemed likely that Red Dead Redemption 2 would be the game of the year and, when it finally arrived, it more than lived up to its billing. It’s quite simply a dazzling showcase for Rockstar, a title that shows how the studio both continues to refine its strengths and work on its weaker areas. First of all, Red Dead Redemption 2 reminded everyone that no one makes open worlds as immersive, detailed, vibrant and distinctive as Rockstar. This is also a beautifully coherent game world, with every element sitting comfortably and only helping to suck you in, and one that, even hours and hours in, continues to surprise. Whenever you boot the game up, you never know quite what to expect and that is a beautiful feeling.
While there are some silly side-missions, the main story feels like the most grown-up, mature gaming narrative Rockstar has ever produced. And while some may roll their eyes at the idea of the studio becoming more serious, if you buy in, you’ll build a deeper, more human connection with Arthur Morgan than any of the developer’s previous protagonists. Mechanically, it’s the best game the studio has ever made. Whatever you’re doing, be it fishing, riding, engaging in gunfights or fistfights, it feels smooth, elegant and just works. The shooting in particular is a clear point of emphasis (a good thing too, as you’ll be doing a lot of it), and it has a satisfying, weighty feel, while the slow-mo kill shots add a lovely touch of cinematic flair. Finally, even on my base PS4, it looks utterly gorgeous, which doesn’t hurt either. A compelling adventure, a ridiculously detailed historical playground and a nuanced character study, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a stunning example of all that games can be.
Released on 6th September by Arbitrary Metric. Available on PC.
This haunting, Lynchian nightmare of a game is a work of distilled genius. Made by a tiny studio of indie developers, Arbitrary Metric, it is only 45 minutes of play-time at the outset, but has stayed with me for months. It is a combination of brilliant storytelling, a lo-fi aesthetic that is borderline impressionistic (a refreshing counter to the disturbing trends in games and films toward literalism), and masterfully orchestrated tension. The writing is consistently on point, bridging a gap between surreal and everyday. The characters feel real.
Small details make a game, and in Paratopic the attention to detail is incredibly high, so that even the seemingly simplest actions become wrought with anxiety. Drive through the dead of night and notice your stash of illicit video-tapes vanish from the seat next to you. Painstakingly load your revolver one bullet at a time as your hand shakes and you prepare to do bad things. Make choices that have startling and significant outcomes. There are more narrative and game-play innovations, and more fresh ideas, in this 45 minutes of game-play than in a whole raft of the triple-As combined, and it deserves to be Game of the Year for that reason alone.
Available digitally on Steam.