Have a quick think back to the best games of the past three years. Keep in mind, that’s the shelf life of the current generation of video game consoles. Of all the releases that we’ve played across those three years, how many were you genuinely pleased with? How many surprised you? And how many actually reached the heights and the excitement levels you placed upon it before launch?
Got a game in your head? You’re probably thinking, maybe The Last of Us? Uncharted 4? Metal Gear Solid V? The Witcher 3 or GTA V maybe? All worthy of praise, all of which surpassed many expectations and laid the foundation for the new generation. Having said that, few of those released in the same year, let alone within a week of each other, and two on the list above were remasters of their previous generation counterparts.
In amongst all of those releases, there were a butt ton of other games that did their best to hit the heights, but of late we seem to have hit a bit of a snag. Many games that seem to have the best intentions and the right studio behind them, with massive levels of hype surrounding their release … but for whatever reason, whether it’s quality control or a lack of development, they fail to reach those lofty goals set for them.
There’s quite a few games I can think of that sit within that description. The Division, Destiny, No Man’s Sky, The Last Guardian, Halo 5, Gears of War 4, Mafia 3, Fallout 4, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare … all great games in their own right, but just lacking that extra level of polish in key areas that ultimately let them down. Fans came in their droves in many instances, but left just as quickly once that initial hype died off. Not too uncommon, when you think about it, but given the levels of expectations heaped on so many of those bit budget titles, we just expected that little bit more.
Let’s face it, as much as there have been plenty of hits, there have been just as many misses. We still love these games for what they are, but there’s that little nagging sensation reminding you that something still doesn’t feel quite right (of course, it doesn’t help if the game has a massive day one patch or server issues from the get go either). But then, maybe we’ve come to expect so many of these titles to miss the mark on occasion, given how much bigger they have become over the years, some biting off a little more than they can chew.
Which leads me to the title of this article. We’re not even half way through the month of March, but the quality has already risen to absurd levels, to the point where many consider 2017 to be a standout year, even more so than ever before. Why?
Well, it’s kinda obvious. Within a week of each other, Horizon Zero Dawn and Zelda: Breath of the Wild have led all comers, taking the open world genre to exciting heights that, while not evolving the genre in entirely new ways, have tightened existing ideas and smoothed out the edges that many before them have tried and failed to achieve. In many ways, Horizon and Zelda have come mighty close to perfecting that genre … and yet, there’s still a few titles on the way that could go even further than that.
2017 has so far delivered in plenty of other areas. Capcom proved its decision to change up Resident Evil was the right one, let alone creating one of the best VR experiences that isn’t just a quick arcade shooter or puzzle game. Tecmo Koei proved they still have the talent to pull off a major release in the somewhat surprise hit Nioh, whilst Platinum Games have arguably released their best in a few years through NeiR Automata. Then, of course, there’s Nintendo’s Switch launch, which so far has garnered plenty of positivity.
Even games we in some ways expected not to be as good as we thought have proven us wrong. Halo Wars 2 appeased those suggesting an RTS can’t work on consoles, For Honor created a little niche for itself in its focus on hand-to-hand combat and, despite a few hiccups during its open beta, Ghost Recon Wildlands has revived the franchise somewhat back from the dead. Sure, there are still a few disappointments (there always will) … but it does feel like we’ve hit the mother load this year, doesn’t it? Everything has delivered on its potential in various ways, more so than most. Perhaps its a sign that studios are keen to prove their worth, that the dedication to quality is starting to pay off. Or maybe we’re just really, really lucky.
To think, we’ve only just scratched the surface of the content heading our way over the next few months. Just think what might happen if this pattern of high quality content continues? There’s a very big possibility that 2017 might turn out to be a standout year for this generation, let alone any previous era. In many eyes, the Game of the Year contenders are rather clear cut, but there’s a genuine chance that one in ten or even fifteen different releases this year could be in the running for that prize. And we still don’t even know anything about Red Dead Redemption 2, either.
As both a player, a retailer and a journalist, so far I can honestly say I haven’t been this excited about the year ahead in a long time, nor have I had a list of potential must play games this big. I consider my buying habits to be both a mix of what I’m keen to try, or what I hear from other players, so I do try out what I can of any new releases. But few do I get giddy over, that I have to play as soon as I get it home. I’ve already had two games this year that have met that lofty criteria, and there’s at least a dozen more that could match it. Dear God, if Mass Effect turns out as good as Zelda or Horizon, I don’t know what I’m going to do!
Do you agree? Has 2017 delivered on its lofty promises more than any year so far? Have any of these releases surprised or disappointed you? Let us know in the comments.