The Golden Barrel Awards 2018

Thank you to everyone and anyone involved in the video game industry, as you entertain, beguile and astound us with your products every year. This year has been no exception, with some truly fantastic titles dropping – from completely new and unique titles to reinventions of old ones. Similar to previous years, we would like to use our Golden Barrel Awards to shine a spotlight on some titles that we feel you should not sleep on.

Winners were decided by a vote, with each member of staff being asked to list their five favourite games. Then, the results were collated with appropriate weightings based on the position of the staff member’s preference (first choice was five points, second choice was four, etc.). Once the list of games was put together, we ended up with 18 different titles. Narrowly missing the list were some excellent choices, including Dark Souls: Remastered, Yoku’s Island ExpressSuper Smash Bros. UltimateInto the BreachJurassic World: EvolutionPillars of Eternity II: DeadfirePokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Hades.

That being said, here is the final list of Team BRB’s favourite games from 2018:


 

10. Tetris Effect (Tim)

Tetris Effect was my Game of the Show at last year’s EGX. The marriage of Tetris and the musical mind of Mizguchi is one that enticed me on its announcement, excited me during its early previews and enthralled me once it arrived.

There were many people that seemed surprised to see a Tetris game launch at £34.99, but I noted that complaints I saw of that nature were almost exclusively made by those that had yet to play it — and those that had were too busy using the new Zone mechanic to build another 20 line Ultimatris to care.

 

09. Forza Horizon 4 (Josh)

Firstly, let’s address the most pressing point: what other games on this list have got me thinking in the radio announcer’s voice?

Everyone has raced against a car, but have you ever raced through a forest against a group of motocross bikes? Blasted through a speed trap at over 250 mph? Or performed doughnut’s outside Edinburgh Castle to a cheering crowd? For those of you without any driving violations, the Horizon festival is back with its open world playground to speed, show off and explore to your heart’s content. However, for that small percentage that has done all of the above – How about racing a Pelican Dropship through an old English village?

Forza Horizon 4 is definitely the loudest and most ambitious addition to the series. It’s all year round weather and seasonal events have kept me coming back week-on-week to see what’s in store. The wealth of cars available is staggering and the attention to detail is incredible. Aside from a few audio dropouts and a few issues connecting to friends online. It’s still been the most beautiful driving event that I’ve ever experienced.

And with the recent release of Fortune Island, it looks like we’re just getting started.

 

08. Astro Bot Rescue Mission (Tim)

Having had the chance to play Astro Bot Rescue Mission at EGX, I knew what I was getting into at launch. And yet, this adorable little robot’s adventures still managed to leave me awestruck. Moss may have already proved to me the value of VR platforming but Astro Bot Rescue Mission polishes up to a shiny new PlayStation VR standard that wraps its world around you.

Not only does it set a new benchmark for PlayStation VR games but it also manages to be (fairly) compared to a “Nintendo level of quality.” Perhaps it is a little hyperbolic to say it is VRs equivalent of Mario 64, but it is not far from the truth. A new mascot is born… or assembled!

 

07. Destiny 2: Forsaken (PacManPolarBear)

Ever since the first Destiny launched back in 2014, players have maintained a love/hate relationship with the series. Fans love to complain and point out its shortcoming even as they pump hundreds of hours into it (713 for me). Destiny 2 launched with something Destiny 1 lacked; more story and a more personal connection to the world and its characters, but did not have a lot of the quality of life elements that players enjoyed in Destiny 1, most notably random rolls on gear and weapons. Both games had a rocky first year and it seemed as though Destiny 2 was destined (haha) to follow the same boom and bust pattern its predecessor suffered from. New content dropping, players returning to play it, then burning out and leaving the game – rinse and repeat; just an endless cycle of highs and lows.

That is until Destiny 2: Forsaken was released. It’s easily the strongest expansion the series has ever received. Rather than one giant content dump, Forsaken changed the game by turning it into a long term adventure that played out over months instead of a few weeks. Despite releasing in September 2018, Forsaken‘s tendrils are still showing up in the form of new cut-scenes and story elements with the promise of even more interesting discoveries to come. Released alongside the return of random rolls, a great new raid, new enemies, new quests, new weapons, new gear, the expansion also saw a host of quality of life improvements be introduced and the fantastic new PVE/PVP game-mode Gambit be added. After dropping in and out of Destiny 2 since launch, I have not felt the urge to step away or felt the burnout that I usually felt this long after a major expansion. I returned to the game in August to prepare for Forsaken and it remains a daily driver for me. One strong enough to keep me coming back even as I step away for short spurts to play some of the other amazing games released in the latter half of 2018. I’m happy to say Cayde-6 did not die in vain.

 

06. Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII (Diarmuid)

It still feels like madness to me that I am about to tell why Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII is a Game of the Year contender, even though I have only played one mode within the game. There are countless reviews available to you if you would like to know what the core Multiplayer mode is like or how changes to the Zombies mode have improved it (or not). However, all I can tell you is that Blackout, Call of Duty‘s battle royale mode, is supremely fun to play and has taken over as my de facto BR game of choice – it was originally PUBG before I migrated to Fortnite.

Unsurprisingly, the budget of a COD game allows this mode to be one of the most polished BR games available but the smart decisions they have made in terms of core game-play, map design and inventory management are the key reasons I have found myself returning to it again and again. They have managed to incorporate enough COD staples, like perks, zombies and gadgets to make Blackout truly unique. Whether you wing-suit your way into the mode on your own or in a group, the game is incredibly intuitive, especially on console. They are also regularly rebalancing the game’s guns as well as adding new vehicles and map elements. All in all, I can see myself playing this mode regularly for the foreseeable future.

 

05. Monster Hunter World (Coleman)

Monster Hunter went from being one of Capcom’s biggest franchises to their best seller of all time thanks to some much-needed changes to make things a bit easier for newcomers… although, it probably didn’t hurt to launch exclusively for the most popular console on the market too. Gone are the days were maps need to be picked up before a mission or flint being a consumable item and instead you can just jump into the world and hunt some flippin’ big monsters.

Of course, Monster Hunter World isn’t without its faults – getting online or setting up a guild is a pain and not being able to play through the full story with your friends (thanks to a weird requirement to watch cutscenes first) is especially frustrating. These restrictions – coupled with the game’s learning curve suddenly becoming a brick wall – are probably the reason this is still a title for the hardcore fanbase but there is enjoyment still to be had by all. Taking down the largest beastie you can find, then crafting weapons or armour to show off to other hunters in your party is incredibly satisfying and that’s good as you’ll be doing that for about 92% of the game. When you get past the initial teething problems with online to join up with friends, travelling in a pack is just great fun as you mow down small creatures before working your way up to larger pray together.

There’s a lot to love about Monster Hunter World and certainly a fair bit to hate but it’s certainly a step in the right direction for the series.

 

04. Detroit: Become Human (Jo)

Detroit: Become Human may very well be the most divisive game on this list. Some will struggle to connect with the whole concept, and if you weren’t a fan of previous Quantic Dream titles Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls then this perhaps isn’t a game for you. For those of us who relish the particular brand of narrative experience that we’ve come to expect from director David Cage, however, Detroit represents a high point in his oeuvre.

Cage is one of the few true video game auteurs, and with this, he is clearly telling a story that has been at the forefront of his mind for many years. Sure, it can often be about as subtle as a brick with its handling of allegory and exposition, and its occasionally heavy-handed approach to storytelling will grate for some. But if you can connect with its melodrama, you will be richly rewarded with a moving narrative experience, where your choices really do make a difference. So many choice-based games claim that your decisions will change the story in meaningful ways. Detroit is one of the few to actually back up that claim and to offer an interactive narrative experience that is second to none in terms of the player’s involvement in the story. Whatever choices you make, and however your story unfolds, just please make sure that you save the fish.

 

03. Red Dead Redemption 2 (Coleman)

When you talk about the most anticipated games to release in 2018, Red Dead Redemption 2 has to be in the top of that list. Serving as a prequel to 2010’s release (that’s weirdly got a sequel’s name), players take control of Arthur Morgan – an outlaw that acts as the right-hand man to the charismatic gang leader, Dutch van der Linde. Left desperate and on the run from the law following a job gone wrong, you must build your gang back up to its former glory while trying to survive the danger of the wild west.

Outside of the well-crafted story, there is a gorgeous open world that’s filled with side animals to hunt, trains to hold up and many other side quests that will keep you off the beaten track to extend your enjoyment. The result is a game that demands you take your time with it to absorb everything it has to throw at you and after diving in for myself, proved itself to be one of the enthralling and visually stunning games that I’ve ever had the good fortune of playing. If you’re going to follow in the excellent footsteps of John Marston… Mr Morgan seems to full his cowboy boots rather well.

 

02. God of War (Jo)

What is there to say about God of War that hasn’t been said already? What can possibly be added that would be any more than a drop in the Lake of Nine-sized ocean of reviews and end-of-year lists ready to pile universal acclaim onto Kratos’ latest adventure? The game is nothing short of perfection, a culmination of meticulously designed game mechanics, combined with stunning world design and a narrative that serves its characters while remaining gripping until the last.

One of the most critically acclaimed games of all time, as well as being one of the most commercially successful PlayStation 4 titles ever, God of War rejuvenates the series while keeping a tight hold of the beating heart that drives the series. From a personal point of view, God of War is easily my favourite game of 2018, and quite possibly of this entire generation, as the many hours I put into achieving the platinum trophy will attest. I lost count of the number of times I threw and recalled Kratos’ Leviathan Axe, it must have crept into the thousands. What I do know for sure is that it felt incredible. Every. Single. Time.

 

01. Marvel’s Spider-Man (Rik)

Although Marvel’s Spider-Man doesn’t really bring anything new to the table in regards to its game-play (read any review to find a whole laundry list of comparisons with other games), it refines established mechanics to near perfection. Mastering its gadgets and counter-based combat is insanely satisfying, and swinging around Manhattan alone is some of the most cathartic traversal I have experienced in a generation.

Where Spider-Man stands out from the crowd is in its story and characters. The world crafted in-game by Insomniac is one of the best alternate versions of the Spider-Man universe. Fan favourites are given tweaked (and in some cases, improved) origin stories, and A-list villains take a back seat to give C-lister, Mister Negative, the spotlight to great effect. The powerful and emotional performances of Yuri Lowenthal’s Peter Parker and William Salyers’ Otto Octavius absolutely blew me away. Marvel’s Spider-Man is, in my opinion, the best game of 2018.

 


Do you agree with our list? Of course not, that’s not how this works! Let us know in the comments what you would pick.

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