Hey what's up losers I heard you like lists, so I thought we'd do some lists of things we like. Some video games were released in 2018, and some of them were really good, and boy do I have some words to write about the ones I liked.
Here's the giant, shameful list of the waaaay too many games I played this year, helpfully sorted into the three categories that matter:
The ones that were a load of rubbish:
Ni no Kuni 2
Kirby Star Allies
Mario Tennis Aces
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise
The ones that were pretty OK, I can't really complain but also I didn't really love them, also look at how many of these are remakes:
That remake of Shadow of the Colossus
Far Cry 5
Dark Souls Remastered
Shenmue 1 and 2 remasters
Detroit: Become Human
Pokemon Let's Go Eevee
The really good ones I liked a lot, oh god they're all AAA blockbusters I'm such a capitalist pig:
God of War
Assassin's Creed Odyssey
Red Dead Redemption 2:
Red Dead Redemption 2
Yeah, I don't really know how to categorise RDR yet, but I'll muddle my way through to an opinion after I write about 2,000 words about it! Stay tuned for waffling!
(And also please feel free to talk about your own favourite games this year so I haven't just made yet another topic where I talk to myself )
OK, let's get into this, and let's start with Red Dead Redemption 2, because after a solid month of playing this game I've finally finished it, and then finished it again, and then finished it some more. The PS4 version doesn't come with a "time played" stat tracker, unfortunately, but I'm pretty sure I'd be near a hundred hours at this point. This is a game of extremes, and I both hate it and love it in possibly equal measures. It defies quantification by any normal metrics of criticism. It is, at the same time, a masterpiece that will define this generation of video games, and an absolute garbo dinosaur from like two generations ago. Rockstar plays by different rules to everyone else.
Before I say anything else, I want to make it clear that you have to play this game. You've just gotta do it. Nobody else has ever made a game like this, and I don't imagine anyone ever will until Rockstar releases their next juggernaut in six to eight years. This is probably the most expensive video game that's ever been made, and that money positively drips out of your TV screen at all times. Seemingly every mission has a unique musical composition to perfectly set the tone. It is perhaps the best-looking game ever made, with some kind of custom-made technology that gives the air itself a sense of thickness that I've never seen before. There are over 500 animals in the game, each with their own AI routines, sounds, and 3D models so detailed that you can watch their carcasses skinned in real-time. This game comes on two discs, takes two hours to install all ONE HUNDRED GIGABYTES of data to your hard drive, has perhaps the most-detailed open world you'll ever see and then hides a cheeky little surprise for you once you pass a certain point in the story. The main story alone is 60+ hours long, with six chapters, an epilogue, and then an EPILOGUE PART TWO.
And while I'll get into the flaws in a little bit, when this game is good it is incredible. This is the best story Rockstar has ever written, and Arthur Morgan is one of my favourite leads in this entire medium. His character arc here is equal parts heartbreaking and life-affirming, a long journey from one man to another, and much like The Last of Us it's an exploration of a man who is not fundamentally good. Arthur isn't a player analogue, he's his own man, and the game puts you in his shoes to experience his thought process, not act upon this world through him. There are a few choices here and there, but this is not an RPG; you're going to be Arthur through the good and the bad, and it's a wonderful trip to go on. The writing is superb, the voice acting excellent. The characters are so strongly established, with such distinct voices that I could name and describe every single one of the two-dozen strong members of the Van Der Linde Gang. This game is something else.
Alright, let's get to the "BUT", though: Rockstar's game design hasn't evolved at all since GTA IV. Every mission in that game was a shootout in a warehouse or a scripted, unwinnable car chase, and every mission in RDR2 is a ten minute horse ride followed by a shootout. Worse, the missions here are so heavily scripted that any attempt to stray from the very clear instructions laid out to you by the magic white text at the bottom of the screen will result in an instant Game Over. When the white text tells you to do something, you do it, often because the game has literally turned off all your buttons and only allowed you to walk in the direction it wants you to go anyway. You will walk to the highlighted area, you will perform the required task, and any deviation from the script will not be permitted. I've had the game magic an entirely different gun into my holster to the one I normally use, because the script says "Arthur uses a revolver here". And this design persists all the way through the entire game; I literally failed the final encounter of Epilogue Part Two because I dared to shoot before I was supposed to. While other video games in the genre have pushed towards greater player agency, Red Dead Redemption 2 actively punishes the player for taking any kind of initiative. If you're going to play this game, you're going to play it on Rockstar's terms.
And this might not be so bad if the all-powerful script called for some interesting gameplay, but this is a game where you can walk, ride horses or shoot people, and there are only so many ways you can spin those three gameplay verbs. There are over a hundred missions in this game, and maaaaybe ten of them stick out as being something different, but the rest are just this vast, dull morass of riding that horse and shooting those guys. And with movement controls this sluggish, and aiming controls so plainly bad, you're not going to find your stimulation in the rote monotony of crouching behind rocks lock-on shooting hordes of cowpokes. I think of my personal game of the generation, The Witcher 3, also a game noted for repetitive "pop Witcher senses and follow a trail to things that need to be killed" mission design, but I think the difference there is in the aforementioned player agency. While your moment-to-moment gameplay in W3 isn't exactly electrifying, it's all in service of a story that bends to your choices, with quests that have multiple outcomes and far-reaching consequences and dialogue you get to be involved with. In comparison, RDR2's story is entirely locked-down and non-interactive, which is fine, but its gameplay is, too. It gives this feeling that your presence as the player is barely even necessary, because you're only allowed to watch and follow orders.
Also, just briefly and without spoiling anything, Chapter 5 of this game is absolutely dreadful and 99% of it should have ended up on the cutting room floor. The whole chapter. A confluence of the worst gameplay tropes and a bizarre, pointless detour for the story that does nothing worthwhile. It's followed up by an absolute masterpiece of storytelling in Chapter 6, but boy oh boy it's really bad.
So, that's Red Dead Redemption 2. Nobody but Rockstar makes video games like this, for better and worse. This is the dumpster-fire masterpiece of a company that operates with an essentially infinite budget and refuses to take any cues from its competitors because, well, maybe it doesn't actually have competitors. Those Houser brothers shamed their employees into hundred-hour work weeks for eight years, spent God knows how many hundreds of millions of dollars, and here we are with a game I hated but will also never forget as long as I live. How do you even fit something like that onto a GOTY list?
I just wanted to make a special category here for...
A Series of Video Games I Really Enjoyed Catching Up on in 2017:
I spent a couple of months this year playing all nine mainline entries in the Resident Evil series, after only ever having played 4 and 5 before now, and I had a lot of fun doing it. Not only was it nice to learn that the modcons of video games in our modern era haven't totally ruined my ability to go back and play games from the mesozoic era of the late '90s, but it was also nice to see how the series progressed over the years. And they were mostly just great, fun games in their own right, too. Except Code Veronica. I hated that one.
(Technically I also played through the entire Shenmue series, but I don't know that that counts because there are only two of those and I did it on a PS4.)