PlayStation 2018 Year in Review: God of War and Spider-Man turn heads, but nostalgia steals the show

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Put another log on the fire, warn up a mince pie or two, and settle in for a trip through the PS4's 2018 Year in Review. It was a year that saw us become obsessed with hunting monsters, swing through New York with giddy abandon, and some of us even felt the urge to grow beards and shout “Boy!”. At. Every. Opportunity. The only way it could have been better is if you’d won your weight in jelly or front row seats to watch Harry Redknapp old-man his way through I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. US readers: Google it, and pity us. 

So let’s wind back the year to where it all began, with an invasion of some of the best Japanese games since we all went back to school for Persona 5. New brawler Dragon Ball FighterZ took everyone by surprise; it was a Dragon Ball game that was very, very good. The visual craziness of Arc System’s brawler made us feel like kittens chasing a laser pointer, and we loved every sugary moment.

There was more cat-brained silliness in Monster Hunter World. This time we got to experience the weirdness with friends in one of the year’s, if not PS4’s best co-op games. Who’d have thought venturing into a world of pink powder-puff dragons with three pals and oversized bone-cutlery guided by a cat would ever be this good, or popular?

There were more catty-shenanigans in the JRPG Ni No Kuni 2, but it was a little dull so we’ll instead lurch towards the release of the remade Shadow of the Colossus

The success of Shadow of the Colossus took off where Crash Bandicoot left us in 2017. The lust for retro remakes was such that whenever a new one is announced the internet trawls over it like a pack of gulls outside McDonalds; it meant the return of Bubsy the Bobcat was greeted with affection rather than revulsion. And while I loved Shadow of the Colossus, the idea of Bubsy even being talked about in 2018 left a gull-shaped stain on all future retro remakes.

Big squeak 

“Quill is not just PlayStation’s newest heroine, but also the mascot PSVR’s been waiting for,” wrote Official PlayStation Magazine in its review of Moss. No, this wasn’t an ode to the 18th century’s best writing implement but a signal that 2018 was the year PSVR finally found its squeak.

Moss put us in the paws of an adorable little mouse as she fought, and puzzled, her way across a storybook world of dangerous beetles and bugs. All of Moss’ wonderful ideas were left behind, however, as we realised Quill’s health could be restored by tickling her chin and patting her head – in a world in which we’re one click away from finding out what Hideo Kojima had for lunch, we’re still obsessed with tickling virtual animals.

It was a trend that could be found in 2018’s other surprise hit, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life. When not battering rooms of gangsters or mournfully pondering the troubles of being dad in a violent world, often caused by himself, Kazuma Kiryu could visit his Cat Cafe and have a little stroke.

Of course, 2018’s real daddy issues were left to Kratos, returning to PlayStation in April from a five year hiatus with the simply titled God of War, which saw him grow a beard and pitch up his angst tent in Scandinavia. Not wanting the glowering Greek god bringing down the land that gave us fermented fish, because that’s bad enough, the gods turned on Kratos and all manner of things died. Along the way, however, we learned to bond with our polygonal son, Atreus, and discovered anything sounds good when Christopher Judge says it, even “pass the aged salty fish balls”.

Detroit detritus

As we coasted towards E3 like eager moths to a The Last of Us Part 2-shaped candle, Sony released Detroit: Become Human. The game caused as many divergent opinions as it had story paths. GamesRadar’s Andy Hartup praised it, writing: “it’s an ambitious, wonderfully executed piece of storytelling”. But others bemoaned its child abuse narrative, felt it prayed on the US civil rights movement for easy emotional depth, and the less said about the robot sex club the better. But, by year’s end it had sold two million copies, making it one of PS4’s best-sellers.

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Any noise David Cage’s opus made was quelled by the arrival of E3, and yes, The Last of Us Part 2 did bring all the feels – we got a lesbian kiss, teen angst, and Ellie knifing and stabbing her way through some nasty looking end of worlders. Provocative and exploitative? We’d not seen that in a game reveal since, well, the previous The Last of Us Part 2 trailer. It didn’t help matters that us journos were ushered into a bizarre circus tent to experience the event, surrounded by baying fanboys who’d happily arrow your face at the suggestion Naughty Dog had gone too far.

Despite Sony wowing us with more Spider-Man PS4, more Death Stranding, more Dreams, more Ghost of Tsushima, this E3 felt flat compared to previous years – could it be Sony’s last? Unthinkable, right?

Elsewhere at the show Id shacked up with Avalanche for Rage 2, EA stealth-launched Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and a man wore a denim shirt/jogging pants combo on the Ubisoft stage – the game he demoed was far less interesting than his fashion sense. 

The big surprise was CD Projekt Red, who quietly went about showing the world 90 minutes of gameplay from Cyberpunk 2077. There was no hype or controversy, just a passionate developer with a stunning game. The world was wowed, and then GamesRadar wondered: “What’s the point of carefully colour coordinating your mohawk and futuristic flak jacket?”

Our universal lust for wearing outfits only Bowie could pull off was only overshadowed by Capcom’s reveal of its Resident Evil 2 remake. So good it redefined what a retro remake should be, and somewhere in a parking lot outside E3 Bubsy was being put out of his misery. Our childhood memories are in safe hands with Capcom.

End game

With E3’s ballyhoo fading we entered the business end of the year and the race for Game of the Year took shape. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey introduced an actual wonder woman, Shadow of the Tomb Raider divided us, and Marvel’s Spider-Man was as good as we’d expected it would be – a love letter to Marvel’s comic book universe wrapped in a jaunty blend of web-swinging and Arkham gadgetry, this was a slice of blue sky fun on a disc. 

Marvel’s Spider-Man sold 3.3 million copies within the first three days of release, it broke pre-order records by racking up one million sales, and made almost twice as much as Sony’s other Spidey release, the MCU movie Spider-Man: Homecoming. Game of the Year, right?

Well, Rockstar wanted a say on that. Red Dead Redemption 2 loomed over the winter release schedule, snuffing out all before it. Red Dead Redemption 2 pushed PS4 Pro to its limits, my own Pro wheezed and whirred more than the poor horse I was racing across the West.

“If you only buy one game this year, it absolutely has to be this wondrous Wild West quest,” wrote GamesRadar’s David Meikleham. 

Ah, but what’s this? Tetris Effect? A game older than dirt but revitalised in PSVR by Lumine’s Tetsuya Mizuguchi. It was addictive, emotional, evocative, nuanced… perfect. Never underestimate the power of the human desire to tidy stuff up in an orderly way, to dance music. Tetris Effect was a close run for my PlayStation game of the year. It even nudged the amazing Astro Bot Rescue Mission off my headset.

Behind the scenes

2018 ends as it began, with a focus on retro gaming. The release of PlayStation Classic proved old is the new, new. The announcement of Crash Bandicoot Nitro-Fueled bringing back one of PS1’s greatest games shows the trend won’t abate in 2019 (somewhere Bubsy is getting resuscitated by a deluded marketing team).

The year should really end with a reflection on the interesting hardware and service developments we’ve seen this year. PSVR proved itself, not only over selling three million units but also delivering some of the year’s best experiences. Then we had big PS4 system updates, one beta offered us the chance to finally change our PSN ID – but really, what’s wrong with MissKittyFantastic74? 

The PS Plus games this year amounted to some of the best on the console, including Bloodborne, Destiny 2, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. In December alone Sony added 50 games to PS Now, its quietly brilliant streaming service, which also received a key update that enabled users to download games to their PS4s. The idea of a Netflix for games is getting closer, and could signal the direction for PS5. Oh shucks, I’ve managed to go a whole Year In review and not mentioned PS5 until the final hurdle… but that’ll be for 2019’s Year In Review.

Want to see how Microsoft's console stacked up? Here's our Xbox One Year in Review 2018