Another prime year in gaming is drawing to a close and so, naturally, we find ourselves looking back on the releases we each played and recall most fondly.
Chris | Forza Horizon 4
As someone who’s generally not a fan of racing games (despite having also plumped for one in last week’s feature), I was pleasantly surprised by how easy Forza Horizon 4 is to pick up and play.
Microsoft's chief racing title looks stunning, as one may expect, and has a satisfying amount of depth. Cars are weighty, yet responsive, and those looking to get the most out of their ride can spend forever upgrading them and tweaking a multitude of options, from gear ratios to tire pressure. If that's not your thing and your only desire is to tear around the British countryside in a vintage Aston Martin, you can opt to do just that, using the stock tuning or even another player’s custom settings.
Earning reputation and unlocking events is done simply by playing; whatever activity you prefer to partake in, whether it's creating your own street races, searching for huge jumps or carelessly drifting through fields of wheat, you'll soon be making a name for yourself and building an expanding collection of motors, from classic sports cars to modern supercars. New vehicles are awarded consistently and, coupled with changing seasons that mix up environmental aesthetics and car handling, there’s plenty of reason to keep coming back.
Liam | Battlefield V
As much as I enjoyed DICE’s First World War expedition, the decision to give Battlefield V a WW2 backdrop was a welcome one. It’s a choice that means the game manages to retain a historical setting whilst increasing the pace and intensity of its multiplayer, thanks to the more ‘advanced’ capabilities of 1940s tech.
Despite the hyperbole surrounding the launch build-up, and the fact that I’ve yet to meaningfully sample the single-player campaign, I can safely say this is easily the most fun I’ve had with the series since I first laid hands on Battlefield 3.
Not only does it look and play great, but it sounds superb. From the snap of incoming fire and the metallic (slightly terrifying) grinding sound an approaching tank, to the ominous silence preceding the impact of a V1 flying bomb, this is a game best enjoyed with a decent set of cans.
The total number of maps available at launch may be low, but more free content is on the way, including an obligatory Battle Royale mode. If a small opening salvo is the price paid for the removal of the community-splitting Premium Pass, then so be it.
Rob | Valkyria Chronicles 4
Those of you who read last week’s underappreciated games of 2018 feature may remember that yours truly has been rather occupied this year, failing to find the time to play too many games.
With that in noggin, I could easily have chosen charming platformer Yoku’s Island Express, Far Cry 5 and its lashings of murder, or the bald heads and daddy issues of God of War, but alas, tis none of those. Valkyria Chronicles 4, you’re up…
It’s no secret that I'm a massive Sega fan, who cries a little bit every time they release a good game (it doesn’t happen nearly enough these days), especially when it’s one that harks back to their glorious Dreamcast days.
Valk 4 boasts everything this girl wants in a video game: gorgeous art, superb sound, a triumphant blend of action and strategy, hours of glorious gameplay, and some of the most ridiculous characters and hair to come out of the silicone world.
If all that isn’t enough to get your gaming fluids flowing, then I don’t know what is.
James | The Spectrum Retreat
While it isn't the flashiest or most well-known game, The Spectrum Retreat’s expert handling of story and highly-polished finish place it amongst the greats of the oft overlooked first-person puzzle genre.
While Portal is a clear influence, the narrative and motivation built around the central puzzle mechanics make for an overall more compelling game in my mind (much like fellow indie offering QUBE 2, which also wrestled for 2018’s top honour).
The contrast in setting between the stark, futuristic puzzle rooms and the Art Deco hotel is extreme, and is particularly effective as the two worlds start to bleed together as the story unfolds, using the most effective deliberate screen tearing I've come across in games.
Not something which influenced it's acclaim here, but it helps that creator Dan Smith is a passionate and friendly chap, as I found out at the beginning of the year, and his painstaking piecing together of the title over five years shows in the deliberate nature of every nook and cranny.
Plus, the divergent ending had me happily replay the entire experience again, which isn't something many games can motivate me to do.
So, what's your personal Game of the Year for 2018? Agree or disagree with any of our picks? Let us know in the comments below.