9 big games of 2017 that you’re not hyped enough about

I need a quick word about 2017. Because while 2016 was a stand-out year for games, if anything, this year looks like it could be even better. Whatever your tastes, whatever your platform, there’s already a honking great train of incoming good stuff, of every scale, looking set to make you and your console very happy indeed over the next 12 months.

But here’s the thing. We ran a poll just before Christmas asking which games you’re particularly excited about. We included a lot of options, and a few thousand of you responded. But upon viewing the results, it seems that unless a game is called Mass Effect, Red Dead Redemption, or The Last of Us, it’s currently having trouble grabbing much traction. And while the strong showings for those games is entirely right and understandable, the seeming lack of love for the rest makes me a bit sad. Apart from Knack 2. I don’t mind anyone skipping Knack 2. So I thought it time for a round-up of the underdogs. A focused look at the games with only simmering hype with I think are nevertheless going to be a big deal this year. So scroll down, read on, and check out the best of the rest. Trust me, this time next year, you’re going to be very glad you did.

Prey

Why you’re probably not paying too much attention to it right now:

Because, name aside, it’s a brand new game with pioneering level of experimental design that’s really hard to grasp unless you’ve seen a lot of it in action. Which, until Bethesda finally released the 2016 Quakecon reveal footage to the public, months after the fact, not a lot of people had.

Also, for some reason, a subsection of the internet has decided to be angry about this one just because it isn’t a direct sequel to the 2006 Prey. Which, er, really doesn’t matter in the great scheme of things. 

Why you should be hyped:

It’s the evolution of BioShock from the makers of Dishonored. A free-flowing, player-driven, nonsensically creative action-RPG, in which the path to progress involves reworking and re-envisioning the world around you in ways that often sound quite impossible. 

Using a glue-hose to effectively 3D-print new routes through environments? Yep. Dropping inverse gravity wells to boost yourself, important objects, and rampaging enemies through the air all over the place? Check. Transforming into a coffee cup, or a golf ball, or a trashcan, to hide in plain sight, and scuttle through tiny spaces? You can do that too. And you can combine all of the above abilities to do even weirder stuff. And you can do plenty more things we haven’t even seen yet. Playing Prey often looks as much like hacking the game as actually, you know, playing it.

God of War

Why you’re probably not paying too much attention to it right now:

Because you either hated the maelstrom of rage, tits, and gore that the old God of War represented, and are put off by the series’ planet-crackingly adolescent past, or you really like the rage, tits, and gore maelstrom, and are sad that Sony Santa Monica seems to have got rid of it.  Also, E3 reveal aside, no-one knows much about it beyond what we’ve been able to decipher for ourselves.

Why you should be hyped:

Because the new God of War could be the bravest and most exciting franchise refresh since Resident Evil 4. Dropping the old GoW’s loose, rangey, often-bettered melee combat for a more intimate, meaty iteration with echoes of Dark Souls, the new game also uses that close-up camera to effect a much greater, more detailed sense of place and immersion. And that’s important. Because this is a far more mature, emotive, thoughtful take than we’ve had from God of War before, one that sees Kratos taking stock of his previous, rage-fuelled failings just as the gam itself seems to take stock of the series’ previously juvenile persona. And with Kratos’ new son bringing child-rearing-as-gameplay-mechanic into the mix – admittedly by way of combat training – this could be the first God of War where other characters are a genuinely affecting driving force rather than a mere hindrance to the ongoing, bloody vengeance.

Yooka-Laylee

Why you’re probably not paying too much attention to it right now:

Because it’s a bright, breezy, 3D platformer starring animal mascot characters, and no-one likes those any more, except for the huge number of you who’ve been screaming yourselves bloody for a new one for the best part of a decade. Make your minds up.

Why you should be hyped: 

Because it’s pretty damn marvellous, going off what we’ve played so far. An instant reminder of why the best of the genre was always such a beloved, engaging experience, Yooka-Laylee is exactly as responsive, tactile, characterful, and enticingly explorable as you remember the highlights of the 64/32-bit heyday being. Except it’s actually far moreso, because your nostalgic mind is a stupid liar.

Contained but expansive, immediately comprehensible but packed with densely layered, gleefully unravelling secrets, Yooka-Laylee’s level design feels like a masterclass in How To Do This Right. Not only that, but the game overall is notably sharper and more witty than you’re probably expecting, Rare’s ‘90s love of sly innuendo exploded to borderline, full-blown filth by descendent developer Playtonic. This is a studio that knows that its audience has grown up, and is seemingly on a mission to mature its favourite genre in step.

Outlast 2

Why you’re probably not paying too much attention to it right now:

Because it’s another first-person horror game with another grainy video filter and another barrage of hiding under another set of bloody desks. And Resident Evil 7 is on the way.

Why you should be hyped:

Because the first Outlast is flat-out terrifying. While not on the level of something like the still-peerless Alien: Isolation, it’s a solid-as-hell survival horror mystery with more than enough knowledge of scare-crafting sleight of hand to remain ruinously troubling throughout. The sequel, built on that foundation, should be horrendous in the best possible way, Leon already vouches that the 10-minute demo is “terrifying”, and the move from claustrophobic, abandoned asylum to a darker-than-dark rural murderscape of corn fields and Satanic psychopaths should definitely keep that up.

Sea of Thieves

Why you’re probably not paying too much attention to it right now:

Because it’s that weird, vaguely-explained, cartoon pirate game from Rare, that Microsoft seemed to announce some time around the Industrial Revolution, and which doesn’t look much further along now.

Why you should be hyped:

Because whatever it turns out to be, Sea of Thieves looks like it’s focusing on fun. At our last demo, at Gamescom 2016, SoT looked like a set of good systems in search of an overarching game – and Rare was, in fact, cheerily open about this fact – but there are two important points to note. Firstly, those systems look to be a ship-crewing, grog-swilling, accordion-playing, cannon-firing, island-looting hoot. Secondly, Rare is working out the structure of the game by focusing purely on where the fun is coming from.

The studio is running constant playtests of its sandbox, multiplayer plundering sim, and simply watching what players do, noting which activities attract their attention, and flagging what sort of dynamic events and gameplay they come up with for themselves. Once a clear enough picture has been built from that, Rare will (hopefully) know exactly how to shape the game overall. That might make for a protracted and confusing dev process, but it might also make for a great, and decidedly pure, bout of online pirate hilarity.

Spider-Man

Why you’re probably not paying too much attention to it right now:

Because it’s a Spider-Man game, and there hasn’t been a good one since Spider-Man 2 in 2004.

Why you should be hyped:

Two words: Arkham Asylum. A comic book-licensed game no longer has to be crap. You just have to put a respectable dev team on it, remove any of the pressure associated with movie tie-in deadlines, fund it properly, and otherwise just treat it like Any Other Proper Video Game That You Want To Be Good. And that’s what’s happening here.

Attempting to do for its games what it did for its movies with the MCU, Marvel is starting a new initiative of taking its characters to talented creators who’ll give them the creative respect they deserve. Thus, it has taken Spider-Man to Sony, to develop as a first-party exclusive, working with Ratchet & Clank studio Insomniac. With that developer’s storied sense of fun and imagination coupled with the same tech that powered the kinetic and colourful Sunset Overdrive - and Marvel standing close-by - this has everything in its favour in terms of delivering a game worthy of (let’s face it) probably the most video-game-worthy superhero of all.

Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition

Why you’re probably not paying too much attention to it right now:

It’s another remaster, this time of that weird, sweary shooter no-one bought. Also, Duke Nukem is in it now.

Why you should be hyped:

It’s a remaster of one of the best, most deceptively clever, most knowingly silly shooters no-one bought. And Duke Nukem is optional.

You see, on a pure design level, ignoring Bulletstorm’s self-aware goofiness and highly creative swearing – which is glorious, by the way – it’s systemically one of the smartest action games around. Peppering its fast, kinetic, immediately gratifying gunplay – driven by a none-more creative weapon-set fuelled by a ludicrous array of game-changing, Doom-style, secondary fire options – with the endlessly creative Skill-shot system (which awards extra points and ammo for building elaborate, multi-layered kills out of multiple weapon abilities and environmental opportunities), Bulletstorm is a constantly thoughtful, constantly demanding shooter, whose ethos is as intricate as it is extravagant.

Forget how dumb it appears to be. That’s entirely deliberate. That’s just Bulletstorm having some tongue-in-cheek fun. Because the fact is, the measure of true intelligence comes when you know you’re so smart that you don’t need to keep shouting about it.

Nier: Automata

Why you’re probably not paying too much attention to it right now:

Because it’s the obscure spin-off to an obscure spin-off to an obscure JRPG series. And at the moment, people seem more concerned as to whether the lead character has a visible bum-hole than they are about the actual game itself.

Why you should be hyped:

It’s a melee-action game by Platinum Games. Which is a stabbier equivalent of saying “It’s an animated film by Pixar”. Or “It’s almost anything with Vin Diesel in it”. With a captivating, poetically desolate, post-apocalyptic, far future setting as the canvas for the series’ latest, typically bleak story, and smooth, effervescent combat every bit as ebullient as its narrative won’t be, Nier: Automata might be that rare Platinum game that brings as much affecting, narrative heft as it does perfectly executed, combo purism. Our early hands-on experience has been great, and reaction to the demo has been very good indeed.

Sonic Mania

Why you’re probably not paying too much attention to it right now:

Because it’s a Sonic game. And in any other situation you’d be right to ignore that sort of thing.  

Why you should be hyped:

Because if any Sonic game is ever going to deliver that return to form that fans have been awaiting for the last two decades, it’s this one. Seriously, I mean it. And if it doesn’t achieve that, well, that’s it. We can finally forget all about Sonic, and move on with our lives. Either way, it will be worth keeping an eye on.

You see this time, Sega has handed the reigns to those who should know how to make a Sonic game better than anyone else. The fans. Chiefly, a fan named Christian Whitehead. Already given the (excellent) official Sonic CD mobile port after making a bloody excellent, amateur version as a proof of concept, Whitehead now has the license to build a whole new, 2D, 16-bit-looking, Sonic the Hedgehog sequel. And it looks like he is nailing it. The right balance of speed and explorative, precision platforming seems present and correct. The look and vibe of the game is peak Mega Drive/Genesis. And the all-important physics just feel right. It’s kill or cure for Sonic with this one, but there’s a good chance it might actually be the latter. Seriously.

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