- 20 Dec 18
Pavel Barter casts his eye over the top video-game titles of 2018, including Rockstar's latest triumph, Red Dead Redemption 2.
In playgrounds, offices, and the front pages of tabloid rags, one game ruled 2018. Fortnite was the name on the lips of every gamer from Tipperary to Timbuktu. But Fortnite was far from the best title this year. In a pistol duel with Red Dead Redemption 2, this cartoonish battle royale leaves with its tail between its legs. Ride ‘em, cowboy.
1. Red Dead Redemption 2
PS4, Xbox One (Rockstar)
Get back in the saddle in a prequel to Rockstar’s triumphant 2010 western. You play Arthur Morgan, a renegade on the run with a gang of outlaws in 1899. Their nomadic, gun-slinging way of life is ending, but there’s still time for train robberies, bank heists, rescue missions and horseback shootouts, while staying one step ahead of the law. RDR 2 is cut from the same cloth as Clint Eastwood’s snarl. The story is helped along by great voice acting (including Irish talent such as Michael Mellamphy as a cocky thief). The immersive world of saloons, towns, homesteads, forests and valleys is depicted in sumptuous detail, as is your trusty steed. You can almost smell the whiskey on a vagabond’s breath (and the fetid deer carcass draped across your horse’s arse). Moments between the missions stand out the most: roaming the prairies, hunting bison, settling down for the night beneath the stars. RDR 2 is more than just a game – it feels like freedom. Giddy-up!
There have been many superheroes in the Marvel franchise, but the biggest of them all was Stan Lee. One of his greatest creations was Spider-Man, a relatable kid with extraordinary powers. Spider-Man, is an amazing send-off for Lee, who died last month. It’s the first game in which you truly feel like the webslinger, soaring from the tips of skyscrapers to the busy streets of New York. Crawl along the sides of buildings, then zip into a brawl, using a dextrous display of mechanics to web-up enemies or kick them into tomorrow. There’s a compelling story involving the rise of a new crime syndicate in NYC. The ability to spice up your suit and learn new skills ensures you’ll be wrapped in Spider-Man’s silky web for months to come.
3. God Of War
Traditionally, God Of War games were a button-bashing orchestra of guts and gore. Kratos, the grumpy Greek God of the series, lopped off medusa heads and stuck pitchforks into Cyclops’ eyes. Everything has changed in this series reboot. Kratos has moved to Scandinavia, where he’s living a quiet life with his son Atreus. He must have been chopping wood, or necking more steroids than Lance Armstrong, because he’s still built like a brick shithouse. When trouble comes calling, he whips out his boomerang axe and gets back to business. There’s a cast of weird and wonderful characters, epic fight scenes, and a heart-warming relationship between Kratos and his son. You really can teach an old God new tricks.
4. Starlink: Battle For Atlas
PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (Ubisoft)
Innovation of the Year award goes to Ubisoft, who brought a kid’s toy to life. Snap a series of peripherals – pilot, spaceship, weaponry – onto your controller. Hey presto, the plastic toy appears (as you made it) on the screen. The vehicle’s weapons shoot fire, ice, and everything in between. You can physically switch them around in real time. If you accidentally stick a gun backwards on the toy, it’ll shoot backwards in the game too. The toys look great and the gameplay has interplanetary scope. Starlink explores every inch of the gaming cosmos, juggling outer-space dog fights with planetary exploration - discover new life forms and harvest materials. In co-op mode, battle evil imps and bond with ETs. Out of this world.
5. Detroit: Becoming Human
Big questions are raised in this interactive drama. Should artificial intelligence be given equal rights? What happens when automation leads to mass unemployment? And should you get jiggy with a sex robot? The story takes place in the not-so-distant future, when robots are bought and sold like vacuum cleaners. Umemployment is high and resentment is mounting against robots, who travel in the back of the bus like African-Americans pre-civil rights. You play three different androids: a cyborg detective, tasked with finding rogue robots; another character who takes care of a disabled artist, until a traumatic event brings out his leadership abilities; and a third who acts as a surrogate mother. Your decisions change the course of this story of epic showpieces and surprising twists. Here’s a game that makes you question the very nature of humanity.
6. Fallout 76
PS4, Xbox One, PC (Bethesda)
Fallout games excel at creating immersive, funny and often terrifying post-apocalyptic worlds, mixing 1950s paranoia with futuristic dystopia. Fallout 76 opens like its predecessors. You wake up in an empty vault and prepare for your reintegration into the outside world. Only this time the world is inhabited by other real-world players. Some aspects of the gameplay remain the same. Players spend skill points to craft their character attributes, choose perks, and pause the gameplay during fire fights to target specific points on an enemy’s body. The game is set in Appalachia, a vast map inspired by West Virginia, where you can team up with pals to explore underground bunkers and battle mutated monsters. All of a sudden the apocalypse doesn’t seem so lonely.
7. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
PS4, Xbox One, PC (Activision)
Solo campaigns take a back seat in the latest Call Of Duty. This year’s barrage of bullets has no single-player story mode, but there are three games for the price of one. In traditional multiplayer, the action is ridiculously fast, and you’ll end up weeping in the ruins of a Moroccan courtyard while 14-year-olds pepper your canister with shrapnel. Call Of Duty’s unnatural obsession with the undead continues in Zombies mode, but our favourite mode is Blackout. Eighty-eight players parachute into a map and slug it out for supremacy in an ever-decreasing circle of space: Fortnite or PUBG with bigger guns.
8. Far Cry 5
PS4, PC, Xbox One (Ubisoft)
Far Cry has drunk the Kool Aid. A swarm of cult members have descended on the backwoods of Montana. You play a rookie cop, helicoptered in to arrest Joseph Seed, a David Koresh character with a talent for brainwashing. Seed and his crazy siblings are preparing for the end of days; you’re the fly in the ointment. Far Cry 5 dishes up a vast world where there are outposts to liberate, wild animals to hunt, and your own maps to create. A faithful canine adds an extra bite to the missions. Gun nuts and evangelicals: just another day in Trump’s America.
9. Forza Horizon 4
Xbox One (Microsoft)
From the highlands of Scotland, to the cottages of Cotswalds, to the murky bogs of Wales, this high-speed race game is a love letter to the British Isles. In these Brexity times, that sounds distasteful, but the affection Microsoft lavished on its open world race tracks makes it a dreamy prospect, even through Irish eyes. The game’s dynamic weather system is remarkable. A lake that is iced over during winter, ripples when the sun comes. There are bluebells in spring, roadside stalls selling flowers in summer, and leafless trees in autumn. The racing is equally sublime. Up to 72 players can inhabit the online world, tinkering with over 450 licensed cars. Brexit is a race to the bottom, but Forza Horizon 4 makes Britain great again.
10. FIFA 19
PS 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC (EA)
Purists and casual football fans alike will relish a kick-about in EA’s version of the beautiful game. Tweaked gameplay makes the on-pitch action more fluid than ever before. UEFA Champions League is on the menu with commentary from veterans Derek Rae and Lee Dixon. FIFA 19 sees the final chapter of The Journey, the story of a footballer’s progression from UK school pitches to LA penthouses. Sport is all about high-stakes drama and the start of this story, a 1970 league match featuring the hero’s grandpa, is terrific. Meanwhile, Hans Zimmer – iconic composer and Hollywood royalty – crafted the score. FIFA 19 has already won the cup.