Well, it’s that time of the year again. Christmas is just around the corner. Here at GoombaStomp HQ we bloody love Christmas, and if you don’t, and you don’t have a great excuse like that girl in Gremlins, then frankly we don’t know what to say to you. It’s the one time of year in which it’s socially acceptable to be drunk at all hours of the day and to have a breakfast that consists of nothing but chocolate and miniature pretzels. It’s the season of mulled wine, pigs in blankets, good will to all men, and rewinding and rewatching that bit with the bricks in Home Alone 2 with tears in your eyes. Honestly, if Daniel Stern getting whacked on the head with bricks over and over again doesn’t get you in the Christmas spirit, then damn it, Jim, I don’t know what will.
Still, December isn’t all eggnog, mince pies, and arguments about whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie – which it obviously is. It’s also the season for hastily thrown together list articles and year in review pieces. And what a year it’s been. Mm-mhmmm. What a corker. One day in the far flung future, when Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un have obliterated the world in atomic fire over an argument about who has the stupidest hair, we’ll be looking back on 2017 with our radioactive mutant children, telling them all about what a great year for video games it was. Sure, everything else in the world might be well and truly fucked, but at least we got some kick ass games this year. And isn’t that what really matters? The answer, of course, is no.
PlayStation in particular has had an incredibly strong year in 2017. While just how well Sony has done this year might have flown under the radar for some since Nintendo and Microsoft had shiny new consoles coming out to steal a little thunder, it’s still been one of Sony’s greatest years ever. The array of games that have hit the PS4 in 2017 has been mind-boggling and wallet busting, while sales for the four year old system show absolutely no signs of slowing down. 2018 looks to be another winner with a plethora of exclusives scheduled to release for PS4 over the next 365 days, but for now, it’s the past we’re concerned about, not the future.
So let’s cast our minds back across the last twelve months and take a moment to remember the winners and losers for PlayStation in 2017.
WINNER: Persona 5 Is One Of The Best JRPGs Ever Made
When Persona 5 landed early in the year it somehow managed the semi-impossible task of living up to – and perhaps even exceeding – the ridiculous level of expectation placed upon it by fervent supporters of the long running JRPG series. If you’re not one of us dorks that has been playing these games since back when Hitler was in them, up until the fifth installment your only knowledge of the Persona series likely came from dorks like us constantly harping on about great it is. Well, our perseverance apparently paid off, because Persona 5 was regularly sold out shortly after release as demand for the title was beyond anything Atlus anticipated.
If you’ve managed to completely miss out on one of the year’s best games (or maybe even the best) then allow us to give you the elevator pitch: a bunch of Japanese high schoolers are granted the magical ability to enter the subconscious mind of evil doers in order to steal the malicious intent within, forcing them to confess their crimes. So it’s kinda like Inception in reverse. Only there’s also a talking cat in it.
Persona 5 is the slickest and most stylish game of 2017, with a killer cast, a compelling story, a fantastic battle system, a ludicrously catchy soundtrack, and a talking cat. The cat talks, people.
WINNER: Crash Bandicoot Is Back
Honestly, if I’d had to put a bet on before The N-Sane Trilogy released, I would have gambled my bollocks that Crash Bandicoot was going to crash and burn critically and commercially. Once again, I was spectacularly wrong. The remastered Crash Bandicoot trilogy was greeted with a warm reception from critics and settled at a “generally positive” 80 on Metacritic, but it sold like hot cakes, with the general public’s penchant for nostalgia helping to ensure that the Bandicoot will almost certainly live to fight another day, and all but guaranteeing there’ll be more games in the franchise coming sooner rather than later.
Crash Bandicoot’s return to PlayStation country wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, though. Millions of people around the globe slapped the N-Sane Trilogy into their consoles expecting to be treated to a wonderfully old school platforming experience, only to discover that old school platfomers were harder than a coffin nail, and Crash Bandicoot was absolutely punishing. Not only that, but thanks to the less angular design of the titular Bandicoot in the modern remake, it was actually harder to land some jumps than it was on the already controller-snappingly tough original. Ouch!
Crash Bandicoot’s 2017 return from the vault of forgotten heroes was a surprise hit, and the ludicrous amount of money that the orange marsupial has generated has already got Activision talking about which other dead and buried series’ they can try to resurrect next in order to milk your nostalgia udder dry. Until then, while you’re contemplating smashing your living room to pieces after falling off the bridge on The High Road for the 4,000th time, you can always take solace in the fact that I got the platinum trophy in Crash Bandicoot. Just sayin’.
LOSER: A Disappointing E3
It feels kinda nit-picky to even consider Sony’s E3 presser a negative, since it wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. But in the four years prior to E3 2017, Sony unleashed some of the best press conferences the gaming industry has ever seen, including one that is widely regarded as possibly the best of all time. Sony’s games games games mentality has been winning the hearts of gamers around the globe for the last couple of years, and so perhaps expectation for what E3 2017 would deliver was a little too high, and perhaps their own past successes worked against them, but it’s hard to look at this year’s conference as anything other than a disappointment.
The games they showed off looked great, but we already knew about practically all of them with them being announced at previous pressers. At their E3 shows in years gone by they’d made blockbuster announcements for games like the Final Fantasy VII remake, Shenmue III, and the aforementioned return of Crash Bandicoot, but this year was sadly missing the surprise factor, with only a remake of Shadow of the Colossus managing to raise a mildly astonished eyebrow.
The games we saw looked lovely, and 2018 bodes well for PlayStation with God of War, Detroit and Spider-Man all slated to make an appearance, but after a string of stellar press conferences, a merely decent one felt massively insufficient in 2017.
WINNER: PlayStation Sales Are Out of Control
PlayStation 4 is, again, the best selling console of the year – a statistic that comes with the caveat that the impressively selling Nintendo Switch has faced multiple stock shortages and didn’t release until March. While a lot of people have been gushing over how well the Switch is selling and others are wondering how the bumper-priced Xbox One X will do without much in the way of exclusives, the PS4 has stealthily had its best year since launch. Somehow, incredibly, the sales for the console are up year on year again, with the fourth PlayStation now clocking in at over 65 million units sold. For those of you keeping score, that means that at its current rate of sales it’ll probably overtake the total number of PS3 units sold sometime next year in roughly half the time on sale. Cha-ching!
Where it stops nobody knows. Depending on how long it is before Sony unveils the PlayStation 5, it seems likely that the PS4 will outsell practically every other console barring Sony’s own PlayStation 2, which we all got bored of counting sales for once it hit 150 million. There’s probably no touching that one. But it’s not just PS4 that’s allowing the Sony top brass to swim around in money like Scrooge McDuck. PlayStation VR is selling surprisingly well too, to the point that some at Sony have even begun to lament a lack of serious competition. While Vive and Oculus have the edge in terms of power, the more affordable and user friendly Sony future-goggles have had more mainstream appeal than team PlayStation anticipated, and PSVR now commands over 50% of the market share when it comes to virtual reality hardware. That’s a lot, by the way.
Virtual reality headsets have been adopted more readily than a lot of people imagined, which indicates that Sony were wise to hop aboard the VR train early. VR may very well be the future, and not just for video gaming, with daft goggles perhaps eventually providing those unable to travel because of disability or laziness an avenue to see sights they’d otherwise not be able to, to go to concerts half-way across the globe, and to be in the front row at Wrestlemania without running the risk of being hit by globules of sweat or spittle every time The Rock slaps someone. For now, though, just be content that you can live as an artisan cheesemonger in Skyrim VR if you so wish.
LOSER: Vita is dead. Forever.
While the PS4 and PSVR are doing very well for themselves in terms of sales, profits, and worthwhile games, the PlayStation Vita is, officially, deader than disco. Now, I love disco, and I love my PlayStation Vita, but while as a piece of hardware it’s one of the best handhelds ever made, as a gaming platform it’s a bit of a gigantic failure. A solid build and a gorgeous screen are all well and good, but if there’s sweet Fanny Addams to play on it then it’s just an incredibly good looking paperweight, isn’t it? Console gaming on the go was the initial promise, which obviously sounds like a stupid idea which is why nobody bough- hang on, the Switch is doing what, and is selling how many?
The fundamental problem with Vita – or, at least, one of them – was made abundantly clear to all and sundry the second that Nintendo Switch landed on our very shores. Console gaming on the go is a neat idea, but there actually needs to be console quality games that matter released for it in order for it to work. While Vita was getting Uncharted spin-offs that don’t really count, and appalling Call of Duty games that don’t play anything like their home console bigger brothers, Switch is getting mainline Zelda and Mario games. And sure, as a Switch owner, I think the games control like hot garbage when in handheld mode – although, perhaps that’s just my big sausage fingers – but it doesn’t matter. Those are the main entries in beloved series’, and not spin-offs shat out by third-tier studios. Half-arsing it isn’t good enough, and that is just one of the many reasons that Switch is a hit and Vita will be lucky to outsell the Wii U.
RIP, Vita. Now let’s have Persona 4 Golden ported to PS4 so I can fire my Vita out of a cannon and into the sea, to be forever lost to Davy Jones’ locker.
WINNER: The Lost Legacy Proves The Uncharted Series Can Live On
After the Uncharted series was officially finished forever way back in last year, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy came out this year to remind us that if something makes money it will never, ever die. The Lost Legacy started life as a DLC mission for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, but the project grew in scope and ambition until it was considered hefty enough to be released as a standalone game. The only problem is, how do you continue a series without it’s main protagonist, who’s story was wrapped up neatly in the last game? Well, apparently, you promote a couple of side characters to top billing status, and you blow a bunch of shit up real good.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a winner not just because it was another wonderful Uncharted adventure, but because it proves the long-term viability of the franchise even without its star, Nathan Drake. Uncharted is the sort of series that could go on forever, and likely will, as long as it keeps making money. There could be more adventures for Chloe and Nadine, or perhaps we’ll see some starring Sam and Sully. Maybe a future Drake will take over the reigns of the series, or perhaps we can go back into the past and see Sully in his early years fighting the good fight for fortune and glory.
The options are potentially limitless, but whatever they choose, as long as we get to hang out of the back of fast-moving vehicles, explode things dramatically, and occasionally offer a cheeky one liner, the future of Uncharted as a series is looking rosy.
LOSER: Cross-Platform Play PR Blunders
Sony decimated the competition at the beginning of this console generation thanks to a winning combination of listening to their fans, sterling PR work, and all of their competitors simultaneously, and repeatedly, shooting themselves in the foot. As far as console wars go, this one is long since over. Nintendo has already abandoned ship on the Wii U, and Microsoft is hiding sales figures because they *wink wink* don’t matter, and they’re definitely not *wink wink* just treading water until they think they can announce the Xbox Two without facing consumer backlash. Sony’s PR game has largely been strong this gen, but as their sales figures have been rising so have their egos, and they’ve mis-handled a couple of things this year.
Cross-platform play has been a bit of a hot button topic in 2017. Microsoft has said that they want Xbox players to be able to play online games with PlayStation players, because they’re always thinking of you, the gamer, and not because they’re getting obliterated in sales. Weird how they never mentioned any of this stuff back when the Xbox 360 was cleaning house and Sony was actually doing cross-platform play with Final Fantasy XIV. But hey, maybe I’m just being cynical.
Anyway, nefarious intentions or no, Sony’s handling of whether or not to adopt cross-platform play with Microsoft as well as PC has been pretty poor. The reason why they don’t want to makes perfect business sense – players who like online gaming are more likely to buy the console that’s sold more, an advantage that would be negated if you could play with your friends regardless of which console you bought – but for whatever reason they didn’t just say that. They offered numerous cack-handed half-answers that all sounded like bullshit because they were, well, bullshit. Let’s hope that these PR blunders aren’t indicative of a return to the mentality of the old, early PS3-era Sony who thought it was totally okay to tell you to just get a second job if you couldn’t afford their ludicrously overpriced console. Gaming doesn’t need that Sony. Nobody needs that Sony.
WINNER: Horizon Zero Dawn Has Robot Dinosaurs In It
Oh hey, did you hear that those guys who made Killzone are doing a post-apocalyptic open world game? You mean the guys behind the drabbest shooter in Christendom are mixing the most overexposed genre and the most overplayed setting imaginable? Oh, color me excited. But then you find out it’s got robot dinosaurs in it and suddenly the game sounds one billion times more exciting.
From the moment Horizon Zero Dawn was announced – and looked absolutely fucking incredible – it seemed poised to become Sony’s next, big, post-Uncharted franchise as long as Guerrilla could pull the trigger on the fantastic concept. Well, pull the trigger they did, repeatedly, Chow Yun Fat in Hard Boiled style, until everybody and their mothers knew that there was a new sheriff in town. Horizon wasn’t perfect – the combat against human enemies was dreadful, for instance – but it ticked enough of the right boxes to be a sure-fire hit, and to set more than solid foundations for an inevitable sequel or three.
The open world is beautiful, the characters are interesting, the protagonist goes on a compelling journey, and fighting robot dinosaurs is seriously fucking awesome. Horizon absolutely delivered, and if it hadn’t had the rotten luck of being released like four minutes before The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild it could perhaps have made an even bigger splash. As it is, it still wound up an indisputable winner for Sony in 2017, and the future for Aloy and her robot dinosaur buddies looks very bright.
Seriously, remember when Time magazine pulled this shit? Ridiculous as that was, if you’re a gamer in 2017 you really are a winner, unless you’ve got no money, in which case you’re like Charlie Bucket at the start of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, watching all of the other kids eating delicious candy bars with burning, murderous rage in his eyes. But let’s say you do have money, which means you’ve been treated to a bunch of amazing games this year. Congratulations, you. Sony’s 2017 line-up has been incredible. Most of the multiplatform games that came out this year will be covered in more detail in the Xbox year in review article presumably, or it’d be like three sentences long, so we’ll just skim past them all, and a couple more exclusives right here, shall we?
Nioh took the Dark Souls formula to feudal Japan, and was awesome no matter what features editor Mike Worby tries to tell you. What Remains of Edith Finch took the walking simulator genre to giddy new heights, while Nier Automata wowed critics and gamers alike with its unique approach to storytelling. The Stormblood expansion for Final Fantasy XIV further cemented its place as one of the best online RPGs on the market, Final Fantasy IX saw itself get a lick of paint and an absolutely awful trophy list as it made the jump to PS4, and Final Fantasy XII looked better than ever (and sold well, too) in the remastered Zodiac Age earlier in the year.
Resident Evil VII was one of the first games to offer players the option to play the entire campaign in virtual reality, while Skyrim VR breathed new life into the five year old RPG via the medium of PSVR. Wolfenstein II caused controversy by suggesting it’s totally okay to fuck up Nazis, which is more of a sad commentary on the state of the world in 2017 than it is of the gaming industry, while The Evil Within 2 improved on the solid foundations of the original game, resulting in a superior sequel. Pillars of Eternity made the jump from PC to PS4 with ease, giving us one of the best role playing games available on console this generation. There was also appearances from Everybody’s Golf, Nex Machina, Injustice 2, Undertale, Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza 0, Wipeout, Hatsuna Miku, Danganronpa, Superhot, Tekken 7, Hellblade, Assassin’s Creed, Rime, Gravity Rush 2, South Park, Zero Escape, FIFA, Life Is Strange, Telltale’s Batman, Call of Duty, and… breathe… it’s been a real good year.
LOSERS: The Dregs
Well, they can’t all be zingers, can they? For as good as the year has been in terms of quality games hitting the PS4 at a regular pace, there’s also been some bum notes that have left gamers a little upset. Gran Turismo Sport wasn’t savaged by critics upon release, but it didn’t result in the critical circle jerk that its predecessors did, while Knack II fared well critically, but absolutely bombed in the shops, proving itself to be the video game equivalent of an answer to a question that nobody asked.
Perhaps the biggest dud of the year was EA’s space shooter Mass Effect Andromeda, at least until EA’s space shooter Star Wars Battlefront II came out. The former was besieged by a tortured development cycle and the finished product felt like the husk of a Mass Effect game, gutted of practically everything that made people fall in love with the series in the first place, while the latter was a game ostensibly built as a Trojan Horse for the express purpose of tricking people into paying for micro-transactions on a biblical scale. The Internet booted off about both of them, and rightly so. The biggest disappointment for me personally was the remaster of PaRappa the Rapper – AKA the greatest game of all time – which wasn’t adjusted to take into account for the input lag that comes as standard with high definition television sets that weren’t available when the original game released, resulting in a rhythm game that can’t keep time.
Valkyria Revolution was an action spin-off to the tactical RPG Valkyria Chronicles series that was awful on every conceivable level, and it would have been my pick for the shittest game of the year, hands down, if it wasn’t for Road Rage. That’s a bike combat game like Road Rash, except it’s called Road Rage, and it’s absolutely fucking dreadful. Take my word for it, kids. It wouldn’t be worth playing if it was free. They should pay you to play it. And handsomely, too.
There were probably more rubbish games released in 2017, but let’s not dwell on the bad stuff. It’s been a great year for gaming, and one of the best years in PlayStation history. We hope you’ve got a bunch of these wonderful games sitting under your Christmas tree. Except for you, Kevin Spacey. You’re getting a copy of Road Rage.
How did you like 2017? Raise a glass of sherry in the comments below.