Dictator's Top 5 Games of 2017

 Looking back, 2017 was an interesting year for gaming. As I sat down and started thinking about my top 5 games for the year, I was surprised to find games that were not even on my radar at the end of 2016 had crept onto the list, while the game I originally believed would be my Game Of The Year was nowhere in sight (*cough* Mass Effect: Andromeda *cough*). So, without further ado, here are my Top 5 Games Of 2017, starting from the bottom and working up.

#5: Cuphead

Since it's unveiling at E3 2014, Cuphead's release date seemed to be annually updated to “Sometime next year”, but in 2017 it finally released after much anticipation. A beautiful homage to '30s style animation such as Felix The Cat, Popeye The Sailorman and Steamboat Willy, this side-scrolling run-n-gun also boasted brutal difficulty as well as local co-op, which made it an absolute riot to team up with a friend and tackle bosses. Although I enjoyed what I played of Cuphead, 2 things hold it back from making it my favorite game of the year. The first is that it the game was not what I would call innovative, being essentially a reskin (albeit a beautiful reskin) of existing games like Mega Man or Contra. The other is that its difficulty rapidly squeezed me out of relevance to where I felt like I was always being carried by my partner. But still, a great freshman release by StudioMDHR, and I can't wait to see what comes next.

#4: DiRT4

DiRT3 is still one of my all-time racing games, so 6 years later DiRT4 had a lot to live up to. Handing you the keys to number of iconic rally vehicles of every era, from the '60s classics to the widowmaker Group B monstrosities of the '80s to today's modern rally cars, along with a number of outliers like Rallycross cars, SCORE trucks and CrossKarts, the cars look and sound authentic and drive great. Along with the pleasingly difficult driving, DiRT4 also has surprising depth, requiring you to also manage your team. You have to hire and fire PR agents and mechanics, keep sponsors happy and upgrade your team's facilities, all to make your cars, crew and payouts better. I had just a few gripes with this game that held it back on the list. I missed the the Gymkhana-based events and showcases from DiRT3 that were a fun distraction from the racing. Also, for a series portraying rally racing, the lack of any World Rally Championship (one of the premier rally sanctioning bodies) content, such as cars or tracks, seems like a massive oversight. And finally, I preferred DiRT3's method of a championship involving you jumping in different cars and disciplines of racing, whereas each championship in DiRT4 was a large block of racing the same car, which could get a little monotonous. Still, while I don't believe Codemasters matched the previous numbered entry, it's still a fine addition to the series, and a game that I sunk a large chunk of time into.

#3: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

I previously reviewed RE7 when it first released, and having gone back and replayed 1, 4, 5 and 6, I still stand by what I said of the game then. Capcom took a number of risks with RE7, such as largely distancing themselves from the RE continuity and a move to first-person perspective, and they largely paid off, returning the game closer to the horror roots that were abandoned with the arrival of RE4. RE7 absolutely captivated me with it's twisting story, interesting characters, horrifying setting and genuine scares and thrills. Yes, it had a few issues, largely in that it's overall length was only about 10 hours, and that the story had a few holes (that will hopefully be answered in the upcoming Not A Hero and The End Of Zoe expansions). But when the credits rolled, I already felt anxious to see what Resident Evil 8 will bring to the table.

#2: Destiny 2

The original Destiny was definitely a love-it-or-hate-it kind of game, and with good reason. It's launch was very ugly and it was a flawed game, although Bungie did make attempts to listen to the community and the game definitely improved over its lifespan. When the sequel was announced, many were apprehensive over whether Bungie would apply the lessons learned in the original, or whether it would just be a repeat. Thankfully, Bungie fixed most of the issues of the first while not fooling with the high points of the series. The scenery is still gorgeous, the guns still feel and sound excellent and everything retained the Destiny-style pizzazz that is a hallmark of the series. Meanwhile, characters were better developed, the story was much more cohesive and better-conveyed and a number of small quality of life improvements were made. If you enjoyed the original Destiny, you're going to still enjoy 2. If you disliked the original Destiny, Destiny 2 is still worth taking for a spin.

#1: Prey

This is it, the game that I recommended to everyone that I knew this year. And really, the term “game” is a bit of a disservice to Arkane's masterpiece. It's more like one of those really expensive watches with the exposed jeweled mechanism. On top there is the excellent first-person gameplay that is a bit like a futuristic sci-fi Dishonored (zany powers and multiple paths to the same objective included), and the storyline dealing with an alien menace on a space station that has all sorts of brilliant twists that left me agape. But look below and there is the varied architectural styles that match the various eras of Talos-1 space station. And the haunting soundtrack that always matches what is going on. And the various little ambient storytelling, like the e-mails detailing the team of engineers and their Dungeons & Dragons characters and campaigns, or audio recordings of the turbulent relationship between Danielle Sho and Abigail Foy. It managed to effortlessly bound back and forth between humorousness (like making my character turn into a coffee mug to get through a jammed door), horror (when an alien would disguise itself as an ambient object and then jump you) and wonder (There are frequent tantalizing glimpses at what Talos-1 was before the outbreak) at almost every turn, while making you think outside the box and question everything that you thought you knew.  
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