By Rick Warren / Gfn2112
This week I'll be counting down a list of games that really caught me by surprise. Whether it was because of similar games that came before failing to deliver, the unease that comes from a reboot or me simply jumping into a new series, all of these titles caught me off guard. These unexpected gems were experiences I'll remember forever, and I want to share this list of games because of that.
Let's get started!
5.) Wolfenstein: The New Order
Prior to The New Order, I had only played one Wolfenstein game: the decent-but-forgettable 2009 reboot. Thanks in part to that release, I didn't know if a Wolfenstein reboot could work in the modern gaming world. I understood the impact the original had on the first person shooter genre and the industry as a whole, but I began to feel like it was a product of its time. In 2014, Bethesda and Machinegames released their take on the Wolfenstein universe and it was excellent. The steampunk, alternate universe of a post-World War 2 Germany where the Nazis won led to so many awesome weapons and character models. The core mechanics of the original Wolfenstein made a return, and they fit in well with the gameplay advancements that define today's shooter.
Most surprising of all though, was just how well-done the game's story was. This is the part that really blew me away (and also the area I had the least confidence in when I started the game). The cutscenes that focus in on BJ Blazkowicz's inner dialogue add so much to his character, and make him feel like a human being fighting back against the most evil group of people to ever exist. Throughout the campaign, I found myself caring about all of the characters and the story that was being told. It's because of this that one of my most anticipated releases for the last bit of 2017 is Wolfenstein 2. I cannot wait to see the Wolfenstein version of America, but I'm even more excited to see the next chapter of BJ's story.
Spot #4 is a game that has and will continue to inspire superhero games for many years...
4.) Batman: Arkham Asylum
To be brutally honest... prior to this game every Batman game had been pretty awful. It was hard to have confidence in it when I had been so disappointed by the Batman games I had grown up with. Still, I gave it a chance because of how much I love the character. I'm thankful I did, because every superhero game I see today takes from the foundation Arkham Asylum laid out. The gameplay was absolutely amazing. Hand-to-hand combat was dominated by awesome counters, combos and takedowns that came with a quickness you'd expect from The Dark Knight. Stealth gameplay was great, and it was such a good feeling to scare the criminals I was about to beat down. It delivered on the feeling of being Batman.
My favorite part is that this game felt like a long episode of the Batman Animated Series that I grew up on. The villains had the same origins and similar costume designs. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill voiced Batman and Joker. Batman's great supporting cast was working to help him. If you're a Batman fan in any way, you owe it to yourself to play this great game and the others that came after. I promise, you won't regret it.
My #3 spot is one that took the world by storm, and launched for free with PlayStation Plus...
3.) Rocket League
I'm personally not a big fan of racing games or anything that heavily relies on driving mechanics. I've played some car-based games from time to time, but it's always been one of the few genres that aren't for me. Yeah... I suck at them. That's probably why it's so crazy to me that one of my favorite PlayStation Plus titles ever is one of those games. Rocket League, if you live under the largest rock in the history of rockhood, is essentially soccer with cars. It's one of the simplest games I've ever played, but it's so great at what it does. It doesn't try to be anything more, and frankly it doesn't need to be.
Rocket League is fast and fun for players of all types. Its multiplayer gameplay works perfectly, both as competitive showdowns and a casual way to kill time or goof around. Car customization is awesome, as is the game's soundtrack. Best of all though, it was free for all PlayStation players at launch. I'm so thankful for this decision as it's exactly why I love PlayStation Plus. This is likely a game I never would have played if it wasn't available for free, and I don't think it would have become the worldwide phenomenon that it did if the game didn't launch this way.
My #2 spot comes from a legendary series that I took far too long to get into...
2.) Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy was the one huge series I always felt I missed out on. By the time I was old enough to truly care, it seemed like too large of an undertaking. So many Final Fantasy games had been released, and the most beloved games in the series were outdated/on platforms I no longer had access to. When Final Fantasy XV was revealed and finally was given a release date, I decided it was time to change that. I spent a good chunk of my Summer in 2016 playing the Final Fantasy X remaster and I enjoyed it, but I was ready to see a modern Final Fantasy.
Final Fantasy XV delivered. The open world was gorgeous, the main group of friends worked and the villain was terrific. I fell in love with the great soundtrack, something I had always heard was one of Final Fantasy's strengths. The combat was fast and fun, and I loved taking down every creature I came across. When I reached the end of my 50+ hour journey, I was hit hard by the ending. Two awesome boss fights came back-to-back, followed by a chain of moving and touching scenes. Final Fantasy XV is a game that surprised me so much, and it's still one of my favorite games of the generation. What's most amazing about me loving this game so much is the fact that it shouldn't be as good as it is. After a decade in and out of development hell, crossing over to another console generation and essentially being remade from scratch, this is one of the most amazing successes in gaming history. I cannot wait to play more Final Fantasy games going forward.
This week's top spot is a game I recently had the pleasure of reviewing...
1.) Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
Hellblade gets the top spot on the list largely thanks to my own wrongdoing. I judged a book by its cover, and I'm glad to admit my mistake. Trailers left me uninterested to the point where I started looking at the game as nothing more than a boring and blander Heavenly Sword. The story, on the surface, seemed uninspired. The gameplay seemed ugly and unrefined. To be honest, I had dreaded reviewing this game for the website. I didn't want to be negative, but I felt that it would be hard to find something positive to say. Literally none of these things were true.
Hellblade is a great game. It is still the most fun I've had writing a review, probably because I never expected to like it, let alone love it. The story was excellent, as was the character of Senua. Focusing on mental illness was a huge task to take on, but Ninja Theory delivered in every way and brought an important topic into the eyes of many people who choose to look away. The gameplay was fast and intense, making perfect use of every one of the simple mechanics. Finally, Hellblade featured the best sound design I have ever experienced in a game. It's the only game that I've ever played that I would say requires playing with headphones on. If I've learned anything from games like Enslaved and Hellblade, it's that gamers should stop sleeping on Ninja Theory. They're a truly talented studio, and I can't wait to play whatever they make next.
That's all everyone. Feel free to check out the honorable mention down below, and let me know of a game that surprised you. In honor of the awesome Castlevania series, next week we'll be taking a look at 5 games that deserve a Netflix adaptation!