There are few first-person shooters better than Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, as it stands as a high point of 2017. This is an action-heavy and character focused shooter that excels in nearly everything it sets out to do. There were so many moments where I sat there in disbelief to the very scenes that unfolded, the situations the characters found themselves in, and one of the most shocking twists I've seen since Metal Gear Solid.
My review for Wolfenstein 2 can be found here, and frankly, I'll possibly splice bits and pieces of that very review here as my thoughts on the game still stand. But, this article is not meant to be a fleshed out review and only serves as a way to recommend the game and make you aware of why it's in my top ten and most importantly, coming in at #4.
The New Colossus, first of all, is far difficult than most shooters, forcing me to drop it below normal to simply just survive. The series protagonist, B.J. Blazkowicz, doesn't soak up as much damage as he used to, and that element of vulnerability is actually written into the plot. Several events early on pits you up against Frau Engel, the main villain of the game and a face you will recognize from The New Order. As the Lieutenant General of the SS, she uses all available resources in the effort to capture you and your co-conspirators. Frau is a fantastic villain and frankly, one of the best antagonists I've seen in many years.
This strong characterization isn't just superb for its villain, it is also that good for much of its supporting cast. Everyone from Anya, Set, Grace, to Horton Boone, all have fantastic moments to shine and every single character is memorable. For a series that started with just B.J. and some Nazi's in pixelated rooms, the series has spawned some terrific characters and top-notch story-telling.
The game also allows you to save either Fergus or Wyatt during the opening moments and this can change several discussions during the game as to who survived. It doesn't fundamentally change the plot, but it does make another playthrough feel different in many ways, at least when it comes to several cutscenes and the special weapons each character can give you.
The level design is also a true highlight as it compliments many different ways to play, which is heightened even more later on when B.J. is given more abilities and tools to take advantage of. This allows you to take out or avoid the Nazi forces that can rush in on you in waves and drop your whole allotment of health in a heartbeat. While the abilities are rather fun to use, there is a "vehicle" mission available in the game right after you meet up with Horton Boone that was so fun it put a grin on my face for the whole duration. The core shooting mechanics feel satisfying and dual wielding is incredibly slick. There are so many different weapons that are really enjoyable to use and several interesting environments to do much of that killing.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus has so many great elements that come together to produce a near perfect game. The characters, the weapons, the humor, the action-packed set-pieces, especially that moment in the courthouse, all feel polished and hit all the right spots. It's easily the best shooter of the year and it doesn't even feature some tacked on multiplayer or cash-in loot boxes. Bethesda believes in strong single player games and Wolfenstein 2 is no exception.
I'd had heard time and time again that Ruiner was fantastic, difficult, but fantastic. Boy were they not wrong. Ruiner stands as not only one of the best games this year, but one of my all-time favorites. Gritty and lived-in sci-fi is probably one of my favorite genres and Ruiner has it in spades. Everything from the artwork to the music, to the interesting weapons and abilities, make Ruiner an instant classic and my #3 Game of the Year. For a more in-depth discussion of the game, check out my review here.
The game stars a mute and unnamed sociopath that is initially hacked to kill the Boss of resident MegaCorp, HEAVEN. It is during this assassination where he is saved by a mysterious hacker simply known as "Her". Also, as it turns out, his brother has also been captured and together, the two of you will track him down and put as many bullets in as many heads and slice and cut into all those who stand in your way.
Ruiner is part dungeon crawler, part bullet-hell; all mixed together into a twin-stick shooter. The controls and all systems related to combat and movement are flawless and never once fail you. You can hack, slash, shoot, or dash away at the precise second you need to and any death in the game clearly feels to be the result of your skill or rather the lack of, and not due to laggy or clunky controls. For as fast as Ruiner is, you always feel in control of every action your hero takes.
Apart from the basic melee weapons and the varied guns you can wield, you can equip various abilities. While there are many to choose from, I found comfort in the familiar; slowing down time, a bubble shield, a fast-acting dash, and an explosive grenade attack. What is very clever about the ability system is you can remove skill points in any ability and placed them in another, at any time. This allows you to change your hero on the fly to adapt to new enemies, encounters, or situations.
Simply put, Ruiner is a blast to play. Not once during my time with the game was I ever bored. Either the action was infectious, the boss encounters satisfying, or simple things like talking with the various NPC's in the town hub, Ruiner had my attention to the very end.
It's in both visuals and audio that Ruiner excels alongside its stellar gameplay. The black and red contrast sets the scene, but eventually, you start to get far more colors and the game starts to have a lot more balance. The isometric viewpoint works and it's perfect for the type of game it is. The Soundtrack is also incredibly impressive with tracks like "We move as one", "Quarrel", and "Rise" being some of the best songs I've heard this year. The soundtrack punctuates the action and mayhem in the game and gets your blood pumping before, during, and after each encounter.
The action, the visuals, and my word the music, all come together to produce an instant classic. Honestly, I can't stress how good this game is and apart from it being a tad short, It's a must own for anyone that wants a solid action game with fun enjoyable mechanics, and yes, a truly impressive soundtrack. Ruiner is a masterpiece.
Horizon Zero Dawn is quite frankly the best open world game I've ever played. It's a game set far into humanities future where robotic creatures roam the plains and the few survivors left have reverted back to a form of tribalism. You play as Aloy, an outcast of the Nora tribe and our window into learning how the current state of the world came to be.
The character of Aloy is fascinating and the delivery of Ashly Burch makes it even more so. The innocence and the naivety of the character are easily her strongest assets as she is learning about the people and the world right alongside us. Aloy might very well be the best-written video game character in years and it also helps that the supporting cast and NPC's you encounter have the same care and attention given to them. This is one of the few games where I actually wanted to listen to every syllable of every word an NPC was delivering as not only were their missions fun and engaging, but the dialogue was expertly written and wonderfully performed.
Horizon Zero Dawn isn't a very original game and that's fine, its inspirations are noticeable everywhere and the strength of the game comes from how it uses and acts on those inspirations. The open world here can feel somewhat similar to something like Far Cry Primal where you have this vast open lush world littered with various animals and tribes and the open world map can contain a lot of the same information. It is the people, the world, the robotic creatures, and the combat situations that truly make this game shine and have it break away from the stigma of it being a greatest hits of other game design ideas.
The premise of robotic dinosaurs sounds like something born out of a mind of a child and yet it works so well here you wonder why it hasn't really happened before at this level. There are many different animals that these robots come in but the large T-Rex shaped one is the focal point of much of its marketing. Each of the robots has various weak points or unique ways to take them down. This, combined with the various bows and weaponry you wield, can make for some interesting battles. I loved the arrow types that allow you to pin robots to the ground and certain robots can be remotely hacked to assist you in the fight. The crafting system is also extremely fluid to the point where you can craft more arrows directly in the heat of battle, without breaking a sweat.
Horizon Zero Dawn is easily the best looking game I've ever seen and something that was a vast departure for the studio, a team that was responsible for the very grey pallet of the Killzone franchise. This game is absolutely gorgeous and frankly, the inclusion of a screenshot system was pure genius as I spent countless hours finding locations and moments that would make excellent screen captures and then playing around with the settings to get the shot just right. The characters, the designs, and especially the robotic creatures you will struggle to take down are some of the most creative designs I've seen this year and makes this game truly stand out from a sea of sequels and mediocrity. Regardless of playing on a regular PS4 or the 4K capable PS4 Pro, Horizon Zero Dawn is hands down a visual and technical achievement.