Well, 2017 was a strange year, wasn’t it? A reality TV star was sworn in as the President of the United States. Britain triggered Article 50, signalling the beginning of its exit from the European Union. Tensions rose between the United States and North Korea. Numerous famous men were outed as... problematic. Tensions rose between the United States and the rest of the world. There was a total eclipse. Thank god all that’s over, eh?
For some of the best guns in gaming, check out the making of Prey.
Fortunately, for every human involved, 2017 was an incredible year for escaping into virtual worlds. In fact, it was so good that you would be forgiven for forgetting Resident Evil 7 - the best game in the series since Resi 4 - released right at the start of it, kicking off an exceptional year of digital entertainment.
Since we are now charging headlong into 2018 facing the threat of global annihilation (and, worse, another series of Celebrity Big Brother), it seems like the perfect time to have a look back to see which games stood out from what may well turn out to be our last full year on this godforsaken globe. We have already highlighted our favourite games, of course, but how about the things you do in those games? We’ve got your back: here are the best game mechanics of 2017.
Nier: Automata’s chipset upgrades
Nier: Automata plonks you in the thigh-high boots of a mini-skirt-wearing android and asks you to wander around a desolate future Earth, battering robots and contemplating life, morality, death, and sacrifice as you go.
As you are a fleshy robot you can upgrade your abilities with plug-in chips. These allow you to boost defense, speed, attack power, and so forth. So far, so ordinary. The thing is, all your systems are governed by these chips, including your HUD - your map, health bar, damage numbers, and other seemingly important bits of information.
If you wish, you can sacrifice these for more power. In fact, you can even unplug your central processing unit, although that has the unfortunate side effect of making you dead.
Beating up animals underwater in Assassin’s Creed Origins
Diving underwater in games usually leaves you vulnerable. Assassin’s Creed Origins air assassinates that trend right in the temple(ar), letting you dive into the depths with a broadsword and shank a hippo - assuming it is not a high-level hippo. Some of these blubber balls are right hard gits.
It is not the smartest mechanic in this list, but can you think of another game that lets you dive into some water and stab an alligator in the eye with a flaming sword that is also completely submerged? Exactly. Checkmate, nerds.
Prey's Gloo Cannon
I have a Gloo house with a Gloo window. Gloo is the colour of all that I wear. Gloo are the streets and all the trees are, too. I have a girlfriend, and she is so Gloo. I'm Gloo da ba dee da ba die...etc.
Prey’s Gloo Cannon lets you spread your Gloo all around, gunking up aliens and art-deco furniture as the gooey stuff sputters out the end of your cannon. What makes the weapon such a genius bit of design is how it has multiple uses. Sure, you can use it to freeze aliens into place before smacking them upside their inky heads with a wrench, but you can also use it to block off leaking valves, to create platforms up to unreachable places, or to seal off doorways to stop incoming enemies.
Guns don’t have to be simply for killing things - you just need a bit of imagination and a lot of Gloo.
Hellblade's faux permadeath
Remember that time when everyone laid into Hellblade because it threatened to put you back to the start of the game if you died too often? It was actually a clever bluff.
Hellblade has no permadeath. Ninja Theory just wanted you to think it did. They wanted to put you on edge, to feel like any mistake you made could be your last. The threat of permadeath was intended to put you in the shoes of its psychosis-suffering hero, Senua.
Echo is a game built around a single mechanic: restraint. You explore a seemingly infinite palace floating in space. As you go deeper the palace begins to create clones of you. While the lights are on, these deadly doppelgangers learn from your actions - every opened door, every shot fired, every body of water crossed, every grape eaten - then they deploy these abilities against you (even the grape eating) the next time the lights come on.
It is very easy to die in Echo, so you are forced to think differently than you would in similar games - you are forced to practise restraint. You purposely try to make it through every room using as few abilities as possible, navigating each combat and stealth puzzle differently, so that your actions do not come back to bite you (or any grapes). While it is not without its flaws, Echo is a refreshing take on the third-person action genre - a game where bowls of fruit are a more powerful tool than your sidearm.
For Honor's combat
Get into a one-on-one sword fight in For Honor and the game lives up to its name: assuming one opponent does not dump the other unceremoniously from a high place, it feels honourable. Every move has a tell, and both opponents are equally equipped to deal with the onslaught of the other.
For Honor’s combat system is not unique in that regard, but the way it controls - with different stances signifying a direction, and the meticulous, weighty pace of each battle - makes it feel truly distinct.
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider's face theft
Death of the Outsider could have easily been like the DLC for the first Dishonored - more a refinement of current systems than an overhaul. Instead, Death of the Outsider gives you tools that transform Dishonored into a different game entirely: a first-person, supernatural take on Hitman.
A power called Semblance allows you to steal the identity of any other character in the game. Doing so will make characters react to you differently and even allow you to stroll in through the front door of guarded building whereas you would usually swim through the sewers or slip through a skylight. The twist is that the power’s effectiveness drains faster the quicker you move. This forces you to painfully stroll through areas full of guards, or even stand rooted to the spot - in which case it does not drain - as you plan your next move.
Playing as a corpse in Divinity: Original Sin 2
You have probably never played an RPG as a skeleton before. Fortunately, Divinity 2 allows you to do just that with Fane, a mysterious bag of bones with amnesia. I mean, you probably would have amnesia too if you had been rotting for centuries.
What makes playing as Fane special is how you have to conceal his identity from regular folk. People do not really like chatting with a skeleton, you see. Later in the game, you get the means to steal faces, which is rather handy, as Death of the Outsider also proved. Until that point, there is only one thing for it: you have to wear a bucket on your head. Bizarrely, people do not mind that as much.
Friday the 13th's teleporting Jason
In the Friday the 13th movies the hockey-mask-wearing killer, Jason, seemingly appears from nowhere. You never see him running, so he does not sprint into place when you are not looking and strike a pose for when you turn around. He is not Batman.
This was a problem the developers of asymmetric multiplayer game Friday the 13th had to figure out. Their solution? He teleports. When the survivors cannot see him, Jason can materialise in different spots across the map. Not only does this solve the visual issue, it adds to the paranoia for the non-Jason players.
Punching a dude in the nuts in L.A. Noire VR
A few big names have been porting games to VR in 2017, but nobody expected Rockstar to make a VR version of Team Bondi’s detective story, L.A. Noire. And yet:
"Men under 6ft ain't shit"
— Sajjaja (@Sajjaja) December 26, 2017
Grab your Oculus Touch or Vive controllers, do a squat, and watch those enemy fists fly right over your head. Fire back with a volley of genital jabs. Glorious.