My Top 5 Games of 2017

If 2017 was a tough slog through the real world, the virtual world has more than compensated. From the satirical, self-reflective sting of Resident Evil 7 in January through to the pastoral thrills of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 in December, we’ve seen multiple GOTY contenders on an almost monthly basis.

My backlog is pretty extensive, and includes a number of serious GOTY noms elsewhere. With no Horizon, Nier, What Remains of Edith Finch or Persona 5 to choose from, here are my personal top 5 games of 2017 – and one title I’d rather not have got around to.


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La Resistance

I’ve been out the whole weekend while events were unfolding in Paris, trying to push the news to the periphery of my mind so as not to ruin another party (it’s a preoccupation). I imagine the cacophony of opinions has got a bit wearisome, and I probably don’t need to tell any of you not to be arseholes or not to vote for them. I just felt compelled to write something.

It is a gut-wrenching tragedy, and one made more potent by its proximity to us. I think that’s natural. It’s intended to make you question attending a gig, using public transport; to seep into your anxieties and colour your opinions with a sad sense of pragmatism. More than a few people have already submitted themselves to a new era of overreaching laws and fresh conflicts, to the death of liberalism and the permissive European society, all before politicians have even tried to dupe them into it.

We don’t live in a vacuum, and this isn’t a problem that will be solved by physical or cultural isolation. Be mindful that hundreds of people died a couple of weeks ago in an incident of apparent terrorism, on one of the safest forms of public transportation in the ‘post 9/11’ world. Consider that a bare minimum of 200,000 people have died in Syria under a four year regime of permanent terror; of cluster bombings and mustard gas, routine kidnappings and militant religious doctrine as dictated by power-hungry zealots. Look to the US, and remember that terrorism is not just the proviso of radical Islam. Doctrines can be stemmed, but killers can’t be profiled.

When a little boy died in the Mediterranean and was plastered across newspapers, the nation and its media temporarily found a conscience. Now that it’s a reality for northern Europe, our reaction should be a more permanent empathy. Hundreds of thousands of people have already been resettled across the continent without incident and with endless gratitude. Hundreds of thousands more remain in flux. Having glimpsed their fear for one horrifying evening, how can anyone continue to question it?

Court Jezter

It’s been a remarkable day for British politics, if you care about that sort of thing. Jeremy Corbyn’s victory has seemed likely for some weeks now, but today’s result was overwhelming. Even accounting for any Tory saboteurs who slipped through the cracks, 60% in the first round is extraordinary. It’s an indisputable public mandate. In the face of party calls for a more centrist response, a Labour base who were seemingly unsure about the party’s last choice in ‘Red Ed’ have rallied unanimously around an even more radical candidate. Continue reading Court Jezter

dead man writin’

A 350 word review of House of the Dead 3, which I did for a thing.

Recent complaints about short games ring a little hollow in the presence of 2003’s The House of the Dead 3. Arcade conversions have a proud history of failing to mask their meagre content, but this lesser exclusive in Sega’s original Xbox partnership really took the biscuit. At a generous half an hour to completion, the full console and light gun package would have set you back £12 every minute.

The prices might have dropped a bit, but you still get that sense of decadence. HOTD3 looks more than its year ahead of Halo, with detailed models and fluid animation streets ahead of the Xbox launch crop. The Sniper Scope accessory is just as opulent: the only person who could miss with this gun is the sucker with the bread to buy it. If you’ve still got a CRT to hand it’s a solid arcade replica, with linear kickback and squeaky pump action reloads. Titan Concepts’ creation is also suitably massive: at nearly three feet long with all attachments primed, it’s either the most ludicrous peripheral ever devised, or the most stringent adherent to minimum viewing distances.

The 30 minutes we get is a masterpiece of operatic silliness. You play as either Lisa Rogan – daughter of missing HOTD protagonist Thomas – or his erstwhile partner G, as they explore another derelict facility. Without the trademark ducking and dodging of sister series Time Crisis, gameplay is a finger-aching barrage of zombie archetypes brought to life with surprising character. Bosses are a treat, ranging from a creative spin on the ever-present plant monster to a mutated, body-farming sloth. The port does also unlock HOTD2 upon completion, tacking on a good hour of a frankly better game.

It’s all camp of the highest order, and not the disarming Resi 1 kind. Mandatory auto-reload puts pay to any lingering tension, and cheap deaths will have you raising the continue limit to beat the final boss. But HOTD3 is extraordinarily overwrought fun of a sort we’re unlikely to see again. Unwieldy plastic tat and £40 shooting galleries, or indies and Kinect? It’s a bit of a no-brainer.


It was a science fiction RTS, of that much I’m certain. An opening mission on a rocky outcrop, and laser fences, those were important. The marines were stout staples of Warhammer design, comically chunky in that way early polygonal games often were; the watchtowers hulking and triangular. Yet every unit would glide along, and the buildings were almost crystalline, like squat Burj Khalifas. I don’t think Dubai was a playable faction, but I wouldn’t put it past myself to forget.

Was there really a base commander unit, marking out holographic construction areas? Were there even aliens? The designs were vivid enough that I sketched them endlessly, to the extent you can sketch with finicky fingers and a case of felt tip pens. School had a BBC Micro and Granny’s Garden; my uncle’s house hosted intergalactic warfare. Fifteen years later and I can barely summon the husk of a spaceship’s hull. The details have merged to form a police e-fit of a game: a bit of Dune here, some Tiberian Sun there, and a dash of Earth 2150 for good measure.

It’s often said – and just as often ignored – that history is a games writer’s greatest asset.  The ability to spot a reference, to pick out scavenged systems and recycled character tropes. One wry observation that Super Mario 64 beat CoD: Ghosts to dynamic fish AI can bag a million hits. And there’s a lot to be said for that. There’s a reason I’ve amassed so many Steam games. There’s also a reason that I haven’t played half of them. Gaming already has a proud and lengthy history, but it’s always been uniquely, relentlessly forward thinking. Keep your copy of DOSBox, but don’t wallow in wanton nostalgia. Gaming is going places, whether the gamers want it to or not.

Rooney, and the death of the Man United midfield

A ‘statement of intent’. That’s how both Wayne Rooney’s contract extension and Juan Mata’s arrival have been touted: a sign that Manchester United can continue to attract the big players with more than Europa League aspirations.

As I write this, Fellaini has just given the ball away against Crystal Palace. Wilfried Zaha has just been on the end of a 0-4 thumping in Cardiff, and Shinji Kagawa is contemplating a final season at the club without scoring a single goal.

It is a strange league and a strange media climate in which the managers on Merseyside are praised for canny acquisitions, yet Arsenal and United investing obscene amounts into well stocked positions is a magic tonic for success. Our big heaired Belgian was a panic buy, and whatever belief Ozil invested in the Arsenal squad seems to have dissipated as he fails to perform with any consistency.

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