In a year that has seen numerous releases that could be included in a wrong rose-tinted discussion about the greatest games ever made, my game of the year is a game constantly criticised by its players and regularly slammed by the games media. With loot boxes getting their fair share of "That's pretty bad, actually" in endless op-eds and angry forum posts, picking the posterboy for random reward chests might not be a smart move. In 2017 there was only one game I went back to night after night, playing until my eyes could barely see any more. I know it has some serious problems and that on balance PES 2018 is probably better, but FIFA 18 is my game of 2017.
Games as a Service is a term thrown around a lot and talked about as the future (and in reality, present) of gaming. FIFA 18 is a brilliant Game as a Service, packing in so many features, modes, and other ‘stuff’ that you could legitimately play nothing but this for a whole year—I expect some people do just that. The microtransaction wonderland that is Ultimate Team is just one component of this ridiculous package, and even that has become a sprawling suite of objectives, tournaments, leagues, competitions, and puzzles.
Each time I fire up FIFA 18 there’s always something to do, and importantly the time invested is rewarded. Ultimate Team is hardly a noble pursuit and it won’t improve me as a person (I could use my evenings to learn another language or finally make that game I’ve been thinking about for over a decade), but whatever you do, win or lose, you earn coins. I love coins.
During what I now refer to as ‘The Bad Time’ (about one month near the end of 2013) I spent about $20 on FIFA Points—it was £20 really, but I don’t want to bamboozle the USG audience with fancy symbols. The shame I felt for spending real money only to get a load of useless player cards put me off Ultimate Team for a couple of years and I swore I’d never dabble with FIFA Points again. Coins, while slow to acquire and quick to spend, give FIFA 18 a real purpose.
Of course, every single hard-earned coin I’ve gathered by playing FIFA 18 has been spent on card packs, none of which has given me a single exceptional player. Every time I confirm the exchange of coins for the chance of winning a Ronaldo I get a momentary thrill, before the pack opening theatrics kick in and I get another Phil Jones! This excitement followed by misery doesn’t appear to have been enough to stop me, and I keep coming back for more punishment.
Outside of Ultimate Team, FIFA 18 is equally well stocked. The Journey: Hunter Returns is even more entertaining than FIFA 17’s debut season, delivering a thoroughly engaging story over a long, hard-fought year. Whereas Madden 18's Longshot came and went in the blink of an eye, Hunter Returns provides weeks of casual play. Add in the excellent online functionality and an impossible to match official license, and FIFA 18 has everything I want in a football (sorry, soccer) sim. Even the web app is useful! FIFA 18 plays like FIFA, which for many is an instant turn-off, but for me the gameplay is plenty good enough to hold everything else together.
If I were 'normal,' I'd have spent the previous six paragraphs reminiscing about Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Both of these games helped propel the Nintendo Switch to incredible success, and both are superb, well made games. Sadly for me (get the violins out) my time playing them was devoted to writing thousands and thousands of words for game guides. Nothing quite senses emergent gameplay open world like pausing every two minutes to make notes and take screen grabs. Equally, discovering the wonder of Super Mario Odyssey is somewhat less magical when playing at a breakneck pace in order to write guides for every Kingdom before the game's first weekend on sale.
Also worthy of mention are Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and Resident Evil 7, two games which for me considerably bettered the titles that came before them. Lost Legacy is a stunning, lean adventure that somehow manages to feel huge—quite the achievement for a game that was billed as (and priced) as a smaller scale spin-off from Uncharted 4. Resident Evil 7 finally got the creepy scares back that have been missing in the series since Resident Evil 4, and jumps wholeheartedly into first-person so well it’s hard to imagine the series reverting back to any of its previous third-person styles. Both games suggest the developers have found winning formulas and I can't wait to see what comes next in each franchise.
So there are my favorite games of 2017. Let me know how much you disagree in the comments, and just be thankful that I haven’t played Football Manager 2018 yet.
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