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2017 Round-up Ben Cowles's video games of the year

THE past 12 months have been some of the best for video game nerds such as myself. Yet, looking back on all those I've played this year, I realise I’ve barely scratched the surface. Here are the three video games that had the most impact on me.

I’ve never played a game quite like Ninja Theory’s Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. On the surface, the game looks like any another action-adventure game, but its fascinating protagonist, acted with such intensity by Melina Juergens, and unsettling yet undoubtedly beautiful level and sound design, fully immerse players into Helheim, the hideous Norse realm of the dead.

 

Senua is not like most characters. She suffers from a psychosis which causes her to hear voices and experience intense and often horrific hallucinations and delusions. Hellblade allows players to empathise with what this condition must be like as, throughout the game, she's bombarded by a host of disembodied voices that berate, mock, confuse, distract and scare her.

 

When battling with Helheim’s monsters, these voices that scream at and insult her, laugh when she’s hit and tell her that she’ll never defeat them caused my palms to sweat and my heart to race.

 

Each time Senua dies and is revived, a darkness grows up her sword arm. The game tells players that, if this reaches her head, their progress will be deleted and they’ll have to restart the game, so combat in the latter parts of the game, when the darkness has reached the base of Senua’s neck, is bum-clenchingly tense.

 

I suspect you’re wondering how any of this is enjoyable to anyone but the most unhinged masochists, but it is. In most video games, no matter how poorly you play, you’re going to win as long as you stick with them. And this ease can render a video game as nothing more than a meaningless time sink.

 

Yes, video games are entertainment and you don’t always want a gruelling challenge each time you play, but a game should make you feel something, even if that is uncomfortable, and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice certainly plays with the emotions.

 

Including this next game gives me a twinge of guilt, but I can’t deny how much fun I’ve had with Ubisoft’s action-adventure game Assassin’s Creed Origins this year.

 

The ninth game in the series take place in ancient Egypt during the Ptolemaic dynasty and the rise of Cleopatra. Gamers are cast as Bayek, a medjay (sheriff) of the kingdom and founder of a secret order of Assassins, a faction opposed to the Templars and their machinations bent on world domination.

 

The story doesn’t make much sense, but, praise be to the king of the gods Amun, the ridiculous sci-fi meta narrative of the Assassin’s Creed games can be almost completely ignored.

 

The voice acting is off and the game has plenty of bugs, but that’s OK because running around ancient Egypt, sneaking into enemy bases, scrambling up the pyramids, raiding pharaonic tombs, charging about on a camel, swimming frantically away from ravenous crocodiles, duking it out in gladiatorial arenas, sailing down the Nile and getting involved with Cleopatra, Julius Caesar and other figures of historical significance is ridiculous fun.

 

As a fan of both left-wing politics and video games, Games for the Many’s Corbyn Run stood out as an example of the potential video games have to create societal change.

 

The endless runner casts players as the leader of the Labour Party as he runs through the streets of England, avoiding bankers, Bullingdon boys, Boris Johnson, the ghost of Margaret Thatcher and potholes caused by seven years of austerity policies.

As Corbyn makes it through the game, players unlock popular manifesto policies that defeat the Tories and build a crowd behind him.

 

The game, beautifully sincere, taps into the feeling that a Corbyn-led Labour government will change this country for the better, but what excites me more about Game for the Many is its plan to develop a nationwide community of political games that will engage gamers with socialist ideals.

 

 

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