The best games of 2017 (so far)

Great games are coming hot and heavy this year, and it's only going to get more hectic when the Nintendo Switch hits and brings a ton of exciting titles with it. But whether you make time for them now or eventually get around to them later, February's standout games shouldn't get lost in the shuffle. On top of our two Game of the Month picks, you ought to check out Team Ninja's grueling Dark Souls-with-samurai adventure Nioh, the slow-mo, bone-shattering, groin-obliterating longshot executions in Sniper Elite 4, and the solid (if a bit straightforward) RTS action of Halo Wars 2.

At the end of every month, we comb through all our recent reviews to find the two games that qualify as must-plays. Consider these games to be the highlights of the year thus far - and if you're looking for something to play while you wait for all the new games of 2017, you really can't go wrong with these standout titles.

Game of the Month Feb. (Runner-up) - For Honor

Formats: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Live by the sword, die by the sword, repeat with fervid excitement. For Honor has perfected the art of weighty melee combat, pitting history's most distinguished warriors - Knights, Vikings, and Samurai - against each other in large- and small-scale conflicts. Its team-based and one-on-one duels match the depth of a full-on fighting game, where mastering your favorite class and learning their best combos and matchups is essential to your PvP success. You might need a little while to come to grips with the somewhat overwhelming UI, gear system, and online metagame, but it's all worth it when you're savagely executing a foe you've handily slashed to ribbons. Competitive multiplayer is absolutely For Honor's focus, but its single-player campaign boasts some awe-inspiring battles and actually tells a halfway decent story. If melee duels are your thing, be they honorable clashes or comically chaotic scraps, For Honor was made just for you. Lucas Sullivan        

Game of the Month Feb. (Winner) - Horizon: Zero Dawn

Format: PS4

Somehow when I’m playing Horizon: Zero Dawn, I don’t mind getting ripped to shreds by a giant robotic crocodile. Its white scales shimmering in the sun, light glinting off the solar panels jutting out from its back, the fluid animation taken straight from nature documentaries - its careful, considered design is the perfect metaphor for Horizon’s impeccable world. Saturated with lore, quests, and (above all) robots, there’s plenty to keep you busy. Try your hand at some detective work using your Focus by taking Aloy into settlements, uncovering how humans are surprisingly familiar despite the time gap. If the sight of those mechanical animals gets your arrow-hand itching, timed hunting challenges await in the wilderness. There you can pick apart each machine using tactics you’ve learnt over your travels, turning the previously chaotic scramble for survival into a strategic dismemberment. A must-own for anyone with a PS4 and a strong incentive to buy the console, Horizon is gobsmackingly good. Buy it. Play it. Love it. Zoe Delahunty-Light

Game of the Month Jan. (Runner-up) - Yakuza 0

Formats: PS4

Like the economic boom of 1980s Japan, Yakuza 0 is absolutely overflowing with riches. It's a massive game, filled with so many different things to see and do. Digital recreations of actual Japanese cities burst at the seams with crowds and gaudy neon lights. Citizens provide a variety of highly entertaining and completely off-the-wall side quests. Arcades provide emulated versions of Sega classics. Entire businesses can be managed to provide you with additional wealth. It's also as strange as it is massive, wearing its cultural origins on its sleeve as a badge of pride, but at its heart lies a truly gripping and emotional crime drama that explores the origins of the series' two most popular characters. If you've heard tales of Yakuza's intoxicating brew of absurdist humor and melodrama and haven't taken the plunge yet, there's no better place to start than Yakuza 0. David Roberts

Game of the Month Jan. (Winner) - Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Formats: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Even without that Resident Evil name attached, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a great game. Alone that should be recommendation enough. It's a fantastic piece of gaming horror, with a perfect blend of gore and scares, troubling quiet and all the screaming. Not only does it use its first person perspective to great, claustrophobic effect, making every corner a nightmare-inducing ordeal, it's a great change of pace tonally from the previous game's over the top action - focusing instead on smaller spaces and a more intimate cast as you explore the Bakers’ house in search of your missing wife. With its less extravagant scale, it exudes character as you avoid Jack, Marguerite and Lucas' unwanted attention and creep through rotting corridors. It still feels like Resident Evil as you juggle your inventory, or back away from hideous shuffling abominations, but modern films and games like PT have clearly made their mark on the series. It's also amazing in PSVR if you can stomach it, using virtual reality to unleash a whole new kind of terror only the brave will see through to the end. Leon Hurley

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