Hang on, that actually came out this year?
2017 has been a banner year for games. It was packed end to end with big blockbuster releases, game of the year contenders, and a strong indie presence.
2017 also brought us fresh new ideas in the fledgling Battle Royale genre, and made players excited about new tech like HDR, and 4K. Almost every genre was catered to this year, with even something for the often neglected RTS fans. No matter what your budget or tastes, there was a lot to play and look forward to throughout the year.
As a result, 2017 was even harder for a lot of these less-than-stellar games, leaving many of them forgotten despite some being recent releases.
Every year, we do a round-up of games that were completely absent from end-of-year conversations. The type of games you have to look up to check whether they actually came out this year. This list doesn’t say anything about the quality of the games one way or another, just that everyone has forgotten about them.
You’ll note that some were even critically acclaimed on release, but were nonetheless overshadowed by other, more important games. In no particular order, these are the games that definitely came out in 2017, but that no one seems to talk about anymore.
The revival of Prey was one of the most anticipated events in games this year. The series always had a bit of mystery surrounding its every iteration. It changed hands and visions several times over the last few years, but it looked like 2017 is finally when Prey was about to make a triumphant return.
Developed by the immersive sim masters at Arkane, the new Prey was supposed to be a return to the days of System Shock, and BioShock – two series that, though successful and well-regarded, didn’t spawn tens of copycats. That’s because games that value player agency over everything else are difficult to make, and hard to market.
This was supposed to be a big reboot for the series, something Bethesda struggled to do for years. Things looked promising in pre-release coverage, and Bethesda managed to sell an interesting premise of an alternate history future. It was a decent pitch, but technical problems on consoles hurt it quite a bit at launch.
Though critics liked it, many didn’t believe it was quite as good as the classics that inspired it. The game just wasn't exciting, but only true immersive sim fans appreciated its depth.
Eventually, Prey faded away without anyone really batting an eyelid. What many believed would be a GOTY contender at release was left out of the discussion shortly after.
Knack 2 is a sequel nobody asked for, to a game nobody really liked. Sure, it was fun when you wanted something lighthearted to play with your kids, but the general gaming populace didn’t think much of it. So it was a bit shocking to see Sony announce a sequel a year ago at PSX 2016.
Unless you helped perpetuate the fake anticipation craze for Knack 2 on the Nintendo Miiverse, and in Spaltoon 2’s hub area, there was really nothing to look forward to beyond having fun with the meme. In fact, I would say that the coverage around this ironic, made-up excitement – and its relation to Nintendo games – garnered more coverage than Knack 2 itself.
Knack 2 only came out in September, by the way, because I am assuming you forgot. In some circles somewhere, Knack 2 is a big deal, but for the rest of us it came and went without anyone giving a damn.
Gravity Rush 2
Let’s face it, Gravity Rush was always a niche series, so the sequel wasn’t really ever going to set the world on fire. Its release in January also ensured that only hardcore fans will dare remember it came out this year, but even among those players, there’s hardly ever a mention of it.
The game wasn’t terrible, at least judging by the critical response, but it was more of a release for the fans than anything most PS4 owners would care about. A combination of the 30fps frame-rate, excessive motion blur, and the nature of its gravity-defying gameplay also made it hard to play for some.
At release it was common to see complaints from players about getting a headache after playing for a few minutes. Whether you bought Gravity Rush 2 at release, meant to pick it up at some point, or completely forgot it even existed, you can’t deny that it didn’t leave a mark.
Kat may be adorable, but even she is not enough to save it.
Dawn of War 3 and Halo Wars 2
I'm combining these two together because they are kind of the same thing but with different problems. I'm a sucker for the type of straightforward RTS games we don’t get anymore, and Halo Wars 2 looked like it was following in the right footsteps.
Dawn of War 3 was the sequel to one of my favourite RTS series of a different kind, and a lot was riding on it in our MOBA-dominated present. For a minute there, it was hard to believe we were actually getting two big-budget RTS games from two major developers and publishers.
Halo Wars 2’s failures were born from its controller-focused gameplay. Creative Assembly didn’t include core RTS features in the game, and ended up making things just a bit too simple. It was fun in short bursts, and I definitely enjoyed Blitz, but even that was a game mode built on collecting and levelling up cards and it quickly became frustrating when you got matched against players whose decks were far superior than yours.
The campaign wasn’t anything to write home about, but the most frustrating thing about Halo Wars 2 was that you could see faint echoes of the C&C vision in it, yet the game was either too afraid or uninterested to pursue these inspirations all the way through.
Dawn of War 3 was a letdown for different reasons. It was made to appeal to MOBA players with its single, MOBA-inspired multiplayer mode at launch. From the get-go, Relic seemed fine with alienating its core fans who come to Dawn of War for a very specific experience, while failing to impress the MOBA hardcore who typically don’t have time for clones of the games they play most.
All multiplayer resources were pumped into a Frankenstein mode that tried to please everybody, a big bet that made it seem like the developer was out of ideas. Relic didn’t even include fan-favourite Last Stand mode, and I was only left with the campaign as the only thing to care about.
In that regard, Dawn of War 3 delivered, but it’d be lying if I said it wasn’t disappointed with how the rest of the package turned out. Before launch, some expected Dawn of War 3 to go back to the roots and bring back pre-Dawn of War 2 mechanics and game modes. Others wanted Relic to continue with the tactical-based combat of the second game.
What we all ended up with was something nobody asked for, and the game was dead shortly afterwards. You’d think that a Dawn of War sequel would have had a longer-lasting buzz than this, but the game has sadly been forgotten.
Sniper Elite 4 and Sniper Ghost Warrior 3
Sniper Elite 4 came out in February and just didn't generate enough interest. It’s a shame, too, because by most accounts, this is the best one. The co-op mode is fleshed out, there’s a proper ranking system, and the open world of Italy generally made for some nice planning and payoff – all things previous instalments lacked or did poorly.
Somehow, though, you don’t hear a lot about it from shooter fans. Sniper Elite was never a blockbuster series of course, but it had a great following on PC for all those years. Perhaps it’s a sign that Sniper Elite fans are getting their kicks elsewhere. Maybe it's time Rebellion started creating something fresh.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 was a different beast facing different challenges. The game was delayed numerous times, and when it finally came out, it was a buggy mess on all platforms. A situation that lasted months, with some bugs still unfixed to this day on PC.
The game itself wasn’t anything special. A standard military white dude who goes to a foreign country to do military stuff. What it was, though, was ambitious. Ghost Warrior 3 essentially tried to replicate the Far Cry model in a sniper game, only with a fraction of the budget.
Ghost Warrior 3 features a decent open-world with not much to do, but lots of different ways to approach problems. It has an impressive array of weapons and gadgets, and the engaging sniping mechanics carry it more than any of its other components.
Ghost Warrior 3 existed for you to fulfil a specific fantasy: climb up to somewhere high, tag a bunch of enemies in a camp, and proceed to snipe them all from a distance without anyone noticing. That’s pretty much the only thing Ghost Warrior 3 was good at, and it did it fairly well, but it was never going to win any awards.
Drawn to Death
David Jaffe’s long-awaited next game, the project we heard little about over the years, finally came out in April. Drawn to Death was pitched as an arena shooter with a very specific art style. The game takes place in a student’s notebook, with a hand-drawn pencil aesthetic all the way through.
The look was definitely unique, like someone's scribbles had come to life. But the game’s “attitude” got me to uninstall it less than an hour after starting. I typically leave games on the hard drive until I need space, but I wanted nothing to do with this one as soon as I was done with my first match. It seemed very much like a game out of time, as if the world hadn't moved past the edgy days of the 90s, the era that gave birth to Twisted Metal.
It’s unfortunate for Jaffe - who’s a long-time PlayStation creator - and for fans of his previous work looking for his next big thing. Ultimately, Drawn to Death was talked about more for all the cussing than how it actually played or whether it was even fun.
Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition
The remaster of one of the most fondly-remembered shooters of the last generation seemed like a perfect fit for 2017. Doom and Wolfenstein have reignited the love for over-the-top arena shooters, and Bulletstorm looked like it could have a better chance at being appreciated in 2017 than it ever had before.
This all dissipated when Full Clip Edition launched, thanks to a collection of things that were mostly outside of developer People Can Fly’s control. The game was published by Gearbox, which, in case you missed it, are on the naughty list of many players after the disaster that was Battleborn.
This, coupled with Gearbox’s Randy Pitchford's antics, made the remaster less appealing. It was also Gearbox that decided to insert Duke Nukem into the game, something many felt was unnecessary. Regardless, when Full Clip came out, fans realised that even that bonus was only a pre-order one that went on sale separately the same day.
From the technical end the remaster is pretty good, modernising the game’s look without messing with what made it fun. But it's Duke’s implementation that was particularly poor. The developer just swapped the main character model for Duke, and asked actor John St. John to record a few lines for all of the cut-scenes. It felt like a hastily thrown together addition, like something a fan-made mod would do.
I had hoped Full Clip Edition would finally give Bulletstorm the proper exposure it deserved. Sadly, you’d be hard pressed to remember the remaster even came out this year.
As a longtime Souls fan, I was automatically excited about The Surge. The game is made by Deck 13, developers of Lords of the Fallen, a game that although deeply flawed, was enjoyable up to a point.
The Surge was supposed to be the studio’s claim to fame, a chance for the team to move away from copying Souls mechanics and into creating their own take on them. The Surge is a better game than Lords, and it successfully introduces interesting new mechanics to the Souls mould.
That said, it didn’t handle all of its new additions with the tact and finesse needed for them to unleash their true potential. It fell into many of the same traps Lords had, creating frustrating moments where there should be challenge.
It’s still worth playing, but I expected more from it than what we ended up getting. Souls-alikes are often talked about long after launch week, but you won’t find anyone going to bat for The Surge this year.
It’s been a pretty packed year for driving game fans. In 2017, we saw the release of a new Forza, and a new Gran Turismo. There was also Need for Speed: Payback, and let's not forget Project Cars 2.
But Dirt 4 also came out this year. Despite offering a completely different experience from all of these other games, Dirt 4 didn’t leave a mark. The game is pretty good, but having been announced shortly after Dirt: Rally left Early Access meant that fans never had anytime to anticipate it, or wonder what's next for the studio.
Dirt: Rally dominated the coverage of the rally sub-genre of racing games for a long time, throughout its time in Early Access and once again when it came to consoles. For Codemasters to quickly turn around and announce a new mainline Dirt, it had to have a more interesting sales pitch than just being a more accessible version of Dirt: Rally.
Codemasters knows how to make satisfying and fun racing games, and Dirt 4 is no exception. It was just a competent racing game coming out to an audience expecting a great one. There are often major changes in mainline Dirt games, so a big leap was expected.
Compared to Dirt 2 and 3, Dirt 4 feels like a budget sequel, good in all the right areas but lacking the pop and flash earlier games produced.
I was very much looking forward to Absolver, but I quickly realised after playing that it was definitely not made for me. Absolver is the first martial arts-focused fighting game where you chain real moves together to create combos.
It had no shortage of great ideas, like the ability to learn a new move by having someone use it on you a few times, or the school system where proficient players can custom-make their own combos and teach others how to execute them. The way fighting styles flowed together and the immense freedom it allowed players when it comes to creating their own techniques was another great thing about Absolver.
Unfortunately, except for fighting game fans, and the sort that enjoy Dark Souls PvP, Absolver just didn’t deliver. Its worlds were small yet easy to get lost in. The combat often emphasised fighting multiple players at the same time, something the game's systems didn’t play quite well with.
It was pretty hard to get into for casual players looking to throw some punches and kicks around and pretend they’re kung fu masters. Today, the game is only played by the most hardcore in the fighting game community. After a great performance out of the gate on Steam, and Twitch, population and interest quickly dwindled.
Absolver’s ideas and effect on the genre may not be felt and appreciated for some time, but right now, it’s mostly an exclusive club of technical players. For the rest of us, there’s the offline mode or other games with a more forgiving learning curve.
Agents of Mayhem
The writing was pretty much on the wall for Agents of Mayhem. If you’ve been following games at all this year, you’ll have noticed how little coverage the game received before launch. There was just no fanfare for it at all.
It’s a real shame, because Volition has always had a vision for open-world games that stood apart. After the studio’s success with Saints Row 3 and 4, many were hoping this would be the game to remind them why they fell in love with Volition’s worlds in the first place. Unfortunately, Agents of Mayhem had bigger problems than its poor marketing.
The game didn’t feature co-op, something many players assumed it would have. Agents of Mayhem is a game where you switch between multiple distinct characters on the fly, and it would have made perfect sense for you to be playing it with a friend.
Agents of Mayhem also suffered from performance problems on all platforms, and though many had fun with the gameplay, it just wasn’t good enough, leading to below-average reviews, and steep discounts shortly after launch.
Raiders of the Broken Planet
This may quite possibly be the first time you’re hearing about this game, which would make sense. Raiders of the Broken Planet is MercurySteam’s long-in-development next big project.
This co-op shooter featured some pretty interesting ideas, such as having one player spawn in as an antagonist to pick off four others alongside AI henchmen. This 1v4 setup is woven into a story of buccaneers, thieves, and mercenaries.
The art design was especially unique, particularly when it comes to characters and world designs. You'll never suspect you're looking at any other game once you see it in action.
The hype for Raiders was almost non-existent, though, and it continued all the way up to launch. Despite multiple betas, and a very generous prologue that’s completely free (and still available), there just wasn’t any interest. Raiders tried to blend shooting with hand-to-hand combat, PvE with PvP, but it didn't any of these especially well.
MercurySteam had a multi-year plan for it, too, with regular content releases and updates, so it's disappointing to see it all unrealised.