It was easy to lose heart after the garbage fire that was Resident Evil 6. Thankfully, Capcom stepped up and delivered a brand new Resident Evil experience that is both brand new feeling and upholds the roots of what makes the series fun. Bringing the series into the first-person perspective was bold move, but it paid off with Resident Evil 7. Even though the point of view changed, everything about the gameplay like managing ammo, finding keys, carefully navigating corridors and even opening doors still felt uniquely like it belonged in the series. Playing the game in virtual reality is one of the most intense experiences I’ve done in gaming. Many parts of the game are very scary and being put into that world through a VR headset only makes it that much more terrifying. The story is self-contained enough that folks who are new to the series can easily join in now, with some sly easter eggs for series veterans. The characters, especially the Baker family, are interesting to learn about and the story goes to some cool places by the end. Many people have criticized the latter portion of the game for becoming more action heavy, but if you look at previous games in the series, it actually follows a similar pattern in that regard. I played through this game four times in 2017 alone and will likely go back for another round in 2018. In any other year, this would have been an easy top spot, but I reluctantly call Resident Evil 7: Biohazard the 2nd best game of 2017.
Shifting perspectives from a cramped insane asylum to the wide open spaces of a rural cult, Outlast 2 did not disappoint in the scare department. Despite the environments being a lot more open, Outlast 2 leaves you feeling even more vulnerable than the first game by often obscuring your view, as with the corn field, and forcing you to hide in water while holding your breath. The scenes where you are transported back to a traumatic event from your past added some interesting back story to the main character where there was little in the original game. In a year full of amazing games, it says a lot about Outlast 2 that I consider it to be number 10 on my list of the best games from 2017.
Profoundly spooky locations and dark foreboding design are often the landmark for an effective horror game. What could be more terrifying than running for your life in a dark forest or an abandoned insane asylum? Bendy and the Ink Machine takes this idea and flips it on its head by providing an incredibly scary experience, while using graphics straight out of a cartoon from the 1930s. The first two episodes, that have been released thus far, are very short, but they manage to instill a sense of dread even while invoking those classic cartoons and they look damn good while doing it.
Pressure can mean a few different things; It’s either force physically being exerted upon an object or a situation imparting emotional force to a person. Honor Code has expertly combined these two definitions into one game in Narcosis, a new horror game set deep beneath the sea. Not all of the gameplay hooks are executed as well as I’d like, but the care put into the atmosphere and overall sense of dread as you attempt to escape from the ocean floor very successfully makes Narcosis a narrative experience worth trying out.