2018 is pretty much in the books and therefore it is time to look back with varying degrees of fondness on the media that helped make sense of this often uncertain and trying year for us all. Over this Christmas week, we here at Set the Tape shall be giving that due attention towards the media that mattered for both the right and wrong reasons. The best TV, the best Music, the best and worst Movies… all shall be covered in varying fashions and subcategories over the coming days, and we hope you all will join us for the Listmas festivities! We are starting off this series, though, by turning our focus towards Video Games – unless you’re reading this out of order, in which case we as a site began our coverage with Video Games.
With Video Games being a particularly expensive and time-consuming hobby, one whose current existence is in constant evolution and whose sprawl only congregates around a few event releases that almost all self-professed gamers play each year, a big old combined list was out of the question. And whilst Brooker may be a gaming machine who could singlehandedly write an entire listicle based on what he himself played, we figured it’d be more fun to see what the members of the STT staff who do game enjoyed most from 2018’s spoils. Here, then, submitted for your approval/silently-judgemental-head-shaking, are the personal favourite games of the year by those staff members who actually played something new in 2018. – Callum Petch
What can you say about Hitman 2? It’s more Hitman, and that is by no means a bad thing at all. Picking up the story from where 2016’s game left off, we are again in the shoes of Agent 47 as he hunts, slashes, garrottes, shoots and bludgeons people in pursuit of his ultimate goal. The best thing about these games is the sheer variety on offer, each level a massive sandbox for you to explore. In one level I realised I had spent literally two hours just circling a single house, scoping out all the different ways I might be able to get inside and assassinate the target. Poison him with a muffin, spike his cigarettes with the poison from a deadly frog, sneak in disguised as his nurse and smother him with a pillow? The choice really is yours. I will confess, however, that my favourite weapon in the game is the humble brick. You can throw it quickly, in many levels they’re in plentiful supply, and they don’t kill, only knock out, so you don’t take any penalty to your score. Hitman 2 – For when you just have to hit someone in the face with a brick, accept no substitutes. – Shaun Rodger
Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!
When Pokémon Go was released on mobile phones it took the world by storm, quickly becoming one of the most downloaded apps of all time and brought many new fans into the world of Pokémon. This year saw the developers of Pokémon, Game Freak, recognising the popularity of the mobile spin-off by creating Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! for the Nintendo Switch. Remaking the classic Generation 1 games, but combining them with the catching mechanics of Pokémon Go and updating the presentation to delightful current generation graphics. The first Pokémon entry on the Switch, the Let’s Go games have wowed audiences and set the way for more great games to come. – Amy Walker
Star Trek: Fleet Command
A good Star Trek game is hard to find. So often you hope for a Judgment Rites and end up with the PS4 Star Trek game – not Bridge Crew, the other one which made steering the starship Enterprise feel like wrestling a bison. So, I’ll take what I can get these days. Hence the pleasant surprise that is Star Trek: Fleet Command, a mobile multiplayer game that is (whisper it) really quite good. I mean it’s fairly standard for anyone who plays these kind of things – missions, resources, mining, building, attempts to make you spend real money on literal fake money you can only spend in game – but there’s an attention to detail about the whole thing that belies the slight tackiness inherent in the mobile game. Set in the Kelvin timeline (aka the JJ Abrams films) around the time of Kirk & co, the depth of Alpha Quadrant exploration is vast, the mini-game stories fairly varied and interesting, and proceeding to build better ships & advance is challenging, especially if you don’t want to spend that actual money. Repeated exposure might give you a headache (it did me), but if you’re a Trekkie beware: this may get you hooked. – Tony Black
What makes Spider-Man appealing as a superhero – what has always made him so popular, and is also highlighted in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – is that Peter Parker could be anyone. He’s not a mega-rich philanthropist, he’s not an alien from beyond the stars and he’s not a God of Thunder. He’s just a kid from Brooklyn who deals with all the same daily stresses that the rest of us experience. Albeit he’s also super strong, can walk up walls and shoot webs from his wrists using a fancy gizmo he invented himself. The trick for any Spider-Man game is to make you feel like you, a normal, regular, everyday Joe/Jo, can be a superhero too. Marvel’s Spider-Man may be the first open-world game based on a comic book franchise since Arkham City that captures exactly what its protagonist is about and delivers on what fans want to experience.
The stunningly recreated world feels alive with activity; it never gets old having random NPCs react with astonishment at your presence. Unlike a lot of other sandbox environments, the side quests and completion targets complement the main story without feeling cumbersome, tacked on or relentlessly repetitive. There’s a combat system that actually works with some semi-customisable ways to suit your particular style of play. Prefer big melee brawls? There are suits to help with that. Want to sneak around and attack from afar? It’s got you covered with a variety of gadgets. There’s so much character in every aspect, from random thugs and familiar rogues, to Parker’s dialogue and the New York streets. Every second was a pleasure to play through – even when there were snipers on every rooftop – with a story that had a satisfying conclusion. – Owen Hughes
God of War
After one too many cynical, lacklustre re-releases and one terrible prequel, it would be understating it quite some amount that another God of War didn’t excite me. But, with a hand forced by a relatively quiet April and some stellar early reviews, a purchase was inevitable. Plucking our hero Kratos from Greek mythology, where he’d cut his way through a veritable pantheon of gods, into the untapped world of Norse legend gave the tired series a fresh, snow covered canvas to cover in blood. With deeper writing than the series has ever had, and character development that involved more than “Angry Man is angry,” Kratos commanded more respect and attention as a widower and struggling single father than ever before. We were handed a new world to explore, from the beautiful land of Midguard to the frozen land of the dead Helheim, new stories to uncover, and an uncountable number of new monsters and gods to admire up-close and personal. But all is not highbrow. With brutal and heavy combat that made you feel like a complete badass with every axe throw, every punch and every execution; God of War never lost what brought all its fans to the party. Developer Sony Santa Monica refreshed the upgrade system, giving it a more modern RPG feel and somehow improving Kratos’ abilities as a deity murdering machine. A must play for fans and newcomers alike, God of War is a perfect gaming experience. – Andrew Brooker
What were your favourite games of 2018? Let us know in the comments below and join us back here every day this week for more retrospectives on the year that was!