Top 5 Open World Games: Monthly Roundup February 2018

Please see here for previous Top 5 Round Ups from 2018:
January: Top 5 Rocket League Showroom Battle Cars

Open worlds have been a significant thing in gaming recently. The early part of 2017 had The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Horizon Zero Dawn going head-to-head in the spring. They were both grand adventures set in a sprawling and varied open world full of possibilities. I did a compare and contrast post about those two games here. Further games like Assassins Creed Origins and the recent Monster Hunter World have continued the theme.lozbotw4

Recently I picked up the Hot Wheels DLC for Forza Horizon 3 and one of the things I noticed about it is how it is less open-world that the main game I had played a year previously. The two key parts of an open world game are the ability to go where you want and do things in whatever order you want – all within reason, of course! So, it got me thinking about my favourite open world games and whether or not that aspect was what made the game great.05-02-2018_22-35-04

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (review here)
Was the open world what made it great: Yes
Hyrule is the undisputed star of this game. In fact this game in general is the absolute definition of an open world game done right. The world was so big and so varied and every single new area you came across had something interesting to do, fight or investigate. For sure, everything else was great – the characters, the story, the shrines, the boss battles – but it was just existing in the world and experiencing everything it had to offer that made Breath of the Wild so great.lozbotw2

Horizon Zero Dawn (review here)
Was the open world what made it great: No
The broken state of the world in Horizon Zero Dawn is a spectacular sight to see. It’s quite the most beautiful game I’ve ever played – see here for a post about that. But actually that’s not really what it’s all about here. Sure, you can go about things as you wish but actually the story line was so gripping and spectacular that I wanted to plough on directly through it. It’s a great achievement of a living and vibrant world, but it’s still only a backdrop for a fantastic narrative.Horizon Zero Dawn™_20170707221530

Forza Horizon 3 (review here)
Was the open world what made it great: Yes
The first Forza Horizon was a great racing game and it’s sequel opened up the world so that you weren’t tied to just the roads anymore. However, it was the 3rd edition that really got the combination right. Cars that were as fun to drive in a race as they were to just drive about the place and an absolute myriad of events and challenges to take part in dotted everywhere. This really was the definition of doing things in whatever order you want – there are always multiple options of what to do next and you can just fill your boots.08-02-2018_07-34-01

SSX3 (review here)
Was the open world what made it great: No
SSX3 took the somewhat on-rails gameplay of SSX Tricky and placed it all on three open mountains that you could descend as you wished, taking part in whatever events you liked. That was cool, and the long events that took you right from the very top to the very bottom were spectacular. However, that wasn’t the main draw – it was the spectacular tricks: doing uber tricks whilst grinding on a rail is something that has never been bettered in any extreme sports game.2018-02-08-03-35-28-1-e1518104985266.jpg

Minecraft (review here)
Was the open world what made it great: Yes
No round up of open worlds would be complete without Minecraft. Not only can go you wherever you want and do things in whatever order you want but you can even shape the world itself how you want! So, of course, the world itself is the key here. Whether it’s building your first tiny shelter, bravely venturing into the depths in search of resources or zinging about on a rollercoaster of your own creation, Minecraft is all about how you and the world interact.2017081613284700-773F9627E0AC611AA92DA55E307BD361

What about you? What are your favourite open world games? And was it the world that made them great, or something else? Let us know in the comments below!


Looking forward to 2018 – Top 5 Anticipated Games

So we find ourselves at the end of 2017. It was a great year (see here for my reflections on the year) but of course, we always look ahead to bigger and better things. So, just quickly to round out this year, here are the Top 5 games I am looking forward to for release in 2018.crackdown3

Crackdown 3 (Xbox One)
– the first Crackdown was a really enjoyable game early in the Xbox 360s life. The second was lacklustre so I’m really hoping this one can get back to what was great about the series – big jumps, big explosions etc. Bring on the chaos!
Yoshi (Switch)
– this looks like exactly the kind of charming fun that Nintendo does so well. I managed to miss Yoshi’s Wooly World so I’m looking to get back on the track with this one.
Kirby (Switch)
– this one is here for The Boy and how he always says ‘and Kirby‘ every time I mention that the Yoshi game is out soon. No doubt Nintendo will nail this one too and continue the to make the Switch such a success.
Detroit Become Human (PS4)
– various controversies aside, this game has a really intriguing set up and looks to be set in a fascinating world. It could go horribly wrong but it could also go so right!
Spiderman (PS4)
– has there ever been a good Spiderman game? Not that I remember, despite the fact that swinging around the place is inherently spectacular and should work in a game. Let’s try again for a good one in 2018.

Backlog Catchup in 2018

Ah, the backlog. I reckon everyone has got their little list somewhere of the stuff they are meaning to play but haven’t quite got around to. From retro stuff I’ve been meaning to catch up with, to the games from this year that I simply haven’t had time for yet – this list follows me around, seemingly never decreasing (although thankfully in recent times it has grown too much either). I’ll put the list here and then I aim to finish all of these games by the end of 2018 – although if next year turns out to have as many great games as this, that might be a struggle!26-10-2017_14-22-06.png

Currently playing:
Mass Effect: Andromeda – Xbox One (see my first impressions here)
Super Beat Sports – Switch (see my first impressions here)
Forza Motorsport 7 – Xbox One (see my first impressions here)
Rocket League – Switch (see my first impressions here)
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle – Switch
Cuphead – Xbox One

Retro backlog:
Super Mario Galaxy 2 – Wii
Rise of the Tomb Raider – Xbox One/PS4

2017 catchup:
Animal Crossing Pocket Camp – Android
RiME – Switch
Super Luckys Tale – Xbox One
Doom – Switch
MXGP3 – Switch
Gear Club Unlimited – Switch
Super Mario Odyssey – Switch

Reflections on 2017 – What an amazing year for gaming!

What an amazing year for gaming 2017 has been! There have been so many fantastic games released, across multiple platforms and genres. Early this year, when I began writing about the games The Boy and I were playing, I had no idea what a good time it was to start this blog! We’ve also been lucky with the retro games we’ve played, whether they were just catch up from 2016 or older games we’d never previously got around to. I have added more games to my All-Time Top Games List this year than any year before – 10 games have been good enough to get 5 stars here.lozbotw1

So here’s a roundup of the year, in reviews and awards. Please note that if your favourite game isn’t mentioned, just remember that I have probably just not caught up with it yet (Super Mario Odyssey, I’m looking at you). I’ll do a backlog catchup post later in the week to round up those.

2017 Reviews (by score and then chronologically)
Forza Horizon 3
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Old Man’s Journey
Horizon Zero Dawn
Super Mario Galaxy
Madden NFL 18
Gears of War 4
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

New Super Mario Bros 2
Puyo Puyo Tetris
Dirt 4
Fast RMX
Sonic Mania
FIFA 18 (Switch)

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
Super Bomberman R
NBA Playgrounds
Gone Home
Gran Turismo Sport

Magikarp Jump

2017 Awards:
Best Game: Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wildlozbotw2
It was my desire to write about how good Breath of the Wild was that originally sparked the idea to start some kind of blog. This game is just endlessly entertaining, I genuinely never wanted it to stop.
Runner Up: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
There have been many great Mario Kart games over the years but with 8 Deluxe, Nintendo have perfected the formula. And for local multiplayer, there’s no better thing.

Best Platform: Nintendo Switch
switchIt’s not hard to see why the Switch wins out here given the best game awards above! But in its first year it’s fair to give the console some bonus points for the genius of its design and the ability to play anywhere anyhow, as well.
Runner Up: Xbox One.
This was a close run thing as both Xbox One and PS4 had 2 great exclusives in 2017. The PS4 loses out because it also had the biggest disappointment of the year (see below).

Best Multiplayer Game: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe2017050713184900-16851BE00BC6068871FE49D98876D6C5
As mentioned above, there is nothing even close to this for local multiplayer – in years, in fact, not just this year. It is absolute fun and the great combination of punch-the-air wins and heartbreaking losses only gets better with friends.
Runner Up: NBA Playgrounds
With Mario Kart dominating local multiplayer this year I turn to online multiplayer for the runner up. When I found a likeminded opponent who also wanted to play spectacularly – rather than just win – these games were exciting and ridiculous.

Most Unexpectedly Great Game: Madden NFL 1807-10-2017_22-39-27
I fully expected this to be just another annual edition of Madden until I played the new Longshot story mode. It was absolutely brilliant and elevated a good game to great.
Runner Up: Minecraft
I’d been avoiding Minecraft for ages – wasn’t sure if would be ‘my kind of game’. I was wrong. It’s fantastic and I spent untold amounts of hours being creative in it.

Wooden Spoon – Worst Disappointment: Gran Turismo SportGran Turismo™SPORT_20171020214155
Never before has a game given me something so good – in this case, the car handling model – and then given me no reason at all to enjoy it. Very disappointing.
Runner Up: Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
After I really loved the first Mirror’s Edge I was looking forward to this. Sadly, whilst it maintained the enjoyable free running, it lost its heart and its storytelling.

Round-Up: Top 10 original Xbox games

The recent announcement that we will see some games from the original Xbox brought to Xbox One via backwards compatibility has got me thinking about which games I would want to see on there. I actually have an old Xbox in the house at the moment that I’m borrowing from someone because I fancied having a play through of the first Splinter Cell game again.

I have mainly enjoyed backwards compatibility of Xbox 360 games to mop up the ones I missed at the time (eg SSX) or to play through a game again before it’s sequel was released (eg Mirror’s Edge). So I don’t know if I actually would go back and play all my favourite original Xbox games if they came up on backwards compatibility but if I did, it would be the ones below. I remember very fondly that console and that time in my gaming life, here are some quick memories from my Top 10 games I played on it:

#1: Halo: Combat Evolved

First official halo screenshot.jpg
‘Shall we do The Silent Cartographer on Legendary?’ I never said no to that.

#2: Splinter Cell

Knocking out the light bulbs in a room and sneaking past all the NPCs without them ever knowing.

#3: Moto GP 2

MotoGP 2 Cover.jpg
However much I’ve enjoyed gaming there has rarely been anything special about my skills but for some reason I was unbeatable on a bike.

#4: Jet Set Radio Future

Just spending the entire game grinding on rails and it almost becoming a dance/rhythm game!

#5: Project Gotham Racing 2

Project Gotham Racing 2 Coverart.png

Throwing a Porsche Cayenne around roads at unreasonable speeds.

#6: Forza Motorsport

Forza Motorsport Coverart.png
I discovered Bathurst for the first time – what a track!

#7: NHL Hitz 20-03

NHL Hitz 20-03 (video game box art).jpg

Having more fun from the violence than the sport! And the crazy character customisation.

#8: Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Coverart.png

Best ever conversion of movie/tv show into a game. Felt like being in an episode!

#9: Sega GT 2002

Proper handling – even gave Gran Turismo a run for it’s realism-money.

#10: Colin McRae Rally 3

Being really closely matched in multiplayer with a friend of mine – great racing even when not technically on the same track. N.B. I know this photo isn’t from this game specifically, please forgive me, they are hard to find and I no longer have it myself!

What about you? What are your favourite memories of the original Xbox?