Although 2017 was the year this console generation hit its stride, it’s time to stop reflecting and start looking towards the future. There’s still dozens of great games schedule to release in 2018, and it looks like we can look forward to another banner year for gaming. Who will be the shoe-in “Mario Odyssey”this year that expectedly sweeps players off their feet? Will another dark horse like Persona 5 that steals the hearts of millions? Will there be any major busts that will fall short of our wildly high expectations like The Last Guardian? I wanted to preview this year and place some bets, but in a way that’ll be a bit more interesting (albeit nonsensical).
As the NFL enters the 2018 Playoffs, scores of sports fans have penned their own brackets predicting who’ll win the playoff race. And as weekday sports talk shows deliver their hot takes on who’ll emerge victorious on the football field, video game fans ought to be discussing who’ll win this upcoming year of games just as feverishly. That’s why I constructed a 12-game fantasy playoff bracket consisting of this year’s best and brightest to determine who’s going to win, who’s going to lose, and which title is going home with Game of the Year.
The games are split into two conferences: Conference A consists of the tried and true reboots and sequels we’re already familiar with. While there might not be hard gameplay to go off of for these entries, past experience gives us a pretty good idea of how these games are going to shape up. Conference B is a bit wilder; these are either original IPs or games based on existing properties that have no proper predecessor.
From there, the first and second seeds get a first round bye, the highest seed will match with the lowest advancing seed, and so on.
(Seeding is based on the intangible, unscientific factors of general excitement levels, amount of gameplay footage, and likelihood of release this year)
(4) Monster Hunter World v. (5) Far Cry 5
When Far Cry 5 was first unveiled last summer, its unique setting and contemporary political overtones turned plenty of heads. It seemed like the right game at the right time, and many were curious if a AAA studio could pull off a nuanced, overt criticism of the of the far-right.
But the more information that comes out about this game, the more derivative it looks. The stereotypical Ubisoft gameplay loop of capturing camps, climbing towers and gathering meaningless collectibles appears to be in full effect, with only surface-level improvements from Far Cry 4. The leading villain Joseph Seed seems to be cut from the same cloth as Vaas and Pagan Min, all psychotic geniuses lacking real substance and depth. Perhaps most disappointingly, the fanatic cult you’ll be fighting feels less like a home-grown threat we can identify with and more like a distant other.
I see Far Cry 5 raking in mediocre reviews due to its hamfisted writing and tired gameplay formula. But on the complete opposite side of the spectrum, Monster Hunter World (a game we’ll dig deeper into later on in the bracket) feels like it’ll be a total revolution. Ultimately, I think Fry Cry’s going to bust big, giving Monster Hunter World the easy edge by default.
Winner: Monster Hunter World
(3) God of War v. (6) Crackdown 3
After the cancellation of Scalebound and the lackluster releases of Halo Wars 2 and Dead Rising 4, Crackdown 3 became one of Microsoft’s most important exclusives. As hard as they try to sell it, Microsoft seems almost embarrassed when it’s forced to show off this unfocused, developmentally troubled sequel as its flagship title.
It’s hard to nail what feels so off in these trailers, but I think what makes watching Crackdown 3 footage so dull is that it’s fundamentally fixated on the false preconception that all gamers care about are cool guns and explosions. There’s no innovative gameplay, no engaging plot, and no subtly. Just grab a controller and shoot people like a simpleton. That’s all we collectively care about, right?
Given Crackdown 3 barely made it into this contest due to its significance as an Xbox console exclusive, God of War wins this in a landslide, if for no other reason than that it at least treats its audience intelligently (and has a more realistic shot of releasing this year).
Winner: God of War
(3) Sea of Thieves v. (6) Detroit: Become Human
Both of these games have received a modest amount of flak from players and the media. Sea of Thieves has been criticized for being unappealingly simplistic, while Detroit is accused of being controversial for the sake of controversy every time it releases a new trailer.
In both cases, I think critics have been a little too harsh. While Sea of Thieves is certainly unsophisticated, Rare has created a fantastic laid-back playground for friends to just hang out and sail around. And even though David Cage isn’t known for being tactful, I don’t believe Detroit is as plain-faced tasteless as some have pegged it.
As for which one has the better chance of turning out great, I think if executed correctly, Sea of Thieves’ charm will win over the hearts of cynics. Additionally, while I’m more optimistic for Detroit than most, it seems like Quantic Dream’s games always fall short of the high artistic standard Cage sets for them.
Winner: Sea of Thieves
(4) Anthem vs. (5) A Way Out
Given both of these titles were formally announced at E3 last summer, this is a pretty fair match-up in terms of time of exposure. One is touted as the next game-changing classic from Bioware, while the other is a smaller, more personal co-op experience that caught E3 spectators by surprise. But despite Anthem’s high pedigree, it felt underwhelmingly familiar, while A Way Out’s linear, narrative focus felt like a breath of fresh air.
Codenamed “Project Dylan” during development, Anthem was pitched to be the “Bob Dylan” of video games, namely something that was so ahead of its time that it would be revered for years to come. But while what was shown off in the gameplay trailer was unique in certain aspects, it wasn’t anything so groundbreaking or thematically mature that it could be readily compared to Bob Dylan.
On the contrary, A Way Out felt like something truly refreshing. In an era where every game strives for an open-world games-as-service model, a linear cooperative adventure with a small intimate story seems like the perfect foil. A Way Out is one of my most anticipated games for this year, and given it already has the greatest hypeman in video games advocating for it, it’s an easy game to root for.
A Way Out gives us our first upset.
Winner: A Way Out