13 Awesome Summer 2018 Video Games You Probably Missed
After the historic year for gaming that was 2017, 2018 has been a pretty stand-out year in its own right. There are so many quality titles releasing every month that, either due to money or time restrictions, it’s practically impossible to play everything that takes your fancy.
Though the “summer gaming drought” was a phenomenon of the industry’s past, where publishers tended to release less games in the summer due to, well, people going outside, that’s not really the case anymore.
With gaming becoming more socially acceptable over the last decade and players having more options to play portably than ever, the summer is no longer a commercial dead-zone, and it’s pretty much as active as any other part of the year.
Even so, if you’ve been on holiday over the summer or, yes, spent some time in the great outdoors, there’s nevertheless a good chance you’ve slept on some terrific games that are well worth your time.
With the days getting shorter once again and the temperature dropping, though, there’s certainly greater motivation in the coming months to seal yourself inside and get lost in a video game or five.
While the year-end AAA onslaught is due to begin imminently, if you can find time to squeeze any of these titles in-between the autumn’s biggest offerings, you absolutely should…
It sure isn’t easy to innovate in the racing genre, but Codemasters’ new vehicular combat game Onrush did just that.
A racer that shifts the focus away from traditional racing and instead towards team-based achievements and destroying other cars, Onrush is one of the year’s most pleasant surprises that almost nobody is playing.
Though the game’s player-base has sadly dwindled in the months since its release, there are still some committed stalwarts to compete against online, and even if not, playing with A.I. is plenty of fun itself.
The game’s scant marketing campaign led it to a dire commercial performance, resulting in considerable lay-offs at Codemasters, including Onrush’s director Paul Rustchynsky. It’s a depressing fate for a game that actually tried – and succeeded – in doing something different for one of the hardest-to-innovate-for game genres.
With its ludicrously addictive multiplayer modes, neat visuals and intuitive learning curve, Onrush had all the makings of a cult fave on paper, but gamers en masse have totally slept on it. What a waste.
12. Unravel Two
This sequel to 2016’s cute indie platformer Unravel was shadow-dropped during EA’s E3 press conference back in June, and a wonderful surprise though it was, the stealthy release also allowed it to slip through the cracks and be quickly forgotten about.
A solid improvement over its predecessor, Unravel Two takes onboard the most vocal player complaints about the first game – namely some infuriating puzzle elements – and streamlines the entire experience while smartly hurling co-op play into the mix.
Playing this game with a pal is an utter, giddy joy, requiring players to align their thinking together in order to progress. The level of difficulty feels just right, in that it won’t frustrate kids nor will it seem too easy for adults. And more to the point, it’s just a few hours long, making it a gentle, enjoyable palate cleanser between AAA romps.
Maybe once you’ve finished Spider-Man and before you start Shadow of the Tomb Raider, give this bite-sized blast a spin. It absolutely deserves your money.
11. Laser League
Laser League did itself absolutely no favours by picking a generic name that’s immediately going to earn it comparisons to Rocket League, even though the two games are incredibly different.
This is a team-based tech-sports game in which players attempt to switch on laser nodes which can obliterate the opposing team. Kill the entire team and you win the round. Simple.
Except Laser League isn’t really simple at all. It’s easy enough to get into, but with nifty power-ups and a deceptive amount of strategy involved in winning a game, it’s enormously rewarding to keep playing and realise just how complex it really is.
Boasting gorgeous, TRON-esque visuals and crisp sound design, Laser League should’ve distinguished itself in a crowded field, but alas, it’s largely been forgotten already. The scant player-base is all the more absurd as the game is even available as part of Xbox Game Pass.
10. Dead Cells
Though it received a significant PR boost following that unfortunate IGN review controversy, Dead Cells is still flying surprisingly low visibility-wise considering it’s one of the best-reviewed games of the year.
A gorgeous, tenaciously designed roguelike-metroidvania hybrid, Dead Cells sees the player controlling a body of cells which they can use to possess corpses in the hope of escaping a huge, sprawling dungeon. Yup.
It’s a deliciously twisted set-up for what could so easily be just another me-too dungeon-crawler, but thanks to addictive progression mechanics, diverse enemies and gameplay that consistently challenges the player, this is one of the genre’s best efforts in quite some time.
If you loathe repetition and permadeath there are better games for you, but if you’re a fan of the genre, this absolutely cannot be missed.
9. Guacamelee! 2
The long-awaited follow-up to 2013’s beloved action-platformer Guacamelee! was finally released at the end of August, but considering it released in a crowded period and doesn’t even have its own Wikipedia page (for some reason), you’d be forgiven for missing it completely.
Much like its predecessor, Guacamelee! 2 is a visually stunning, hilarious, charming as hell and, yes, ludicrously difficult action-platformer. Though you’ll find yourself swearing like a sailor when things don’t go your way, the satisfaction of traversing a hellish sequence successfully is incredibly rewarding, especially with the delightfully crunchy array of moves available to the player.
At the same time, this is a touch more forgiving than the most self-consciously difficult entries into the genre, thanks to well-placed checkpointing in particular. If you’re craving a challenge that plays fair and streamlines potentially frustrating repetition, Guacamelee! 2 is a must-play.
8. Two Point Hospital
On the totally opposite end of the difficulty spectrum, we have Two Point Hospital. While this could’ve easily just been a cynical, overly nostalgic spiritual successor to the legendary Theme Hospital, it’s thankfully a charming, addictive and wildly entertaining business sim in its own right.
This is the perfect game to play in-between tougher and more “substantial” titles, or on a Sunday afternoon when you just want to relax with a breezily enjoyable, undemanding video game.
If that sounds like back-handed criticism it isn’t, because while it stays true to the quirky – and yes, distinctly British – tone of Bullfrog’s 1997 original, it also opens up to become a surprisingly complex and value-filled proposition.
Considering how sim games often lose their lustre after a few hours, Two Point Hospital impressively sustains itself by constantly one-upping itself with increasingly outlandish twists on the core gameplay.
Whether you loved the original or you’re totally new to the series, this is a title that deserves your support.
7. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
While Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker technically isn’t a new game, it was played by so few people during its initial 2014 Wii U release that the recent Switch port feels like a justified inclusion on this list.
A delightfully charming puzzle-platformer starring everyone’s favourite sentient mushroom-person, Captain Toad makes ingenious use of perspective to make even its smallest, tightest levels feel like true wonders of exploration.
It doesn’t deviate much from the typical Nintendo platformer in terms of collect-a-thon objectives and laughably simple boss fights, but the slick visuals and creative platforming result in a game far smarter than you might expect.
If you’re a Toad fan, this is a slam dunk, really. Plus, the Switch version features some terrific bonus Super Mario Odyssey-themed levels well worth your time and money.
6. Forgotton Anne
Though some might be deterred by the game’s “anime bait” visual style, you really shouldn’t sleep on this utterly beautiful, transfixing puzzle-platformer.
Studio Ghibli fans in particular will love this intoxicatingly bizarre adventure game, which while lacking much difficulty and being fiercely linear for the most part, boasts delightful characters and an endearingly weird narrative.
If you’ve got a PC that can handle it, the game looks eye-wateringly spectacular when played at 4K resolution, and with a play-time of around 8-10 hours, it’s easy enough to casually blast through over a relaxing weekend.
If, like yours truly, you were left crushingly disappointed by Ni No Kuni II earlier in the year, Forgotton Anne delivers similarly eye-popping visuals along with a far more engaging narrative and characters. The less you read about the story going in, though, the better.
5. Firewall Zero Hour
PSVR owners haven’t exactly had a ton of AAA content to savour in 2018, and after Supermassive’s Bravo Team disappointed the hell out of everyone earlier in the year, it was reasonable to have tepid expectations for the similar-looking Firewall Zero Hour.
For the most part, Firewall lives up to the “it’s Rainbow Six in VR” hype, delivering an immersive, visually appealing 4v4 multiplayer experience that, like most multiplayer VR games, is elevated substantially by the built-in voice chat with your comrades.
Considering Aim controller owners have had precious little to do with their nifty peripheral this year, it’s a pleasure to report that Firewall’s tracking is stupendously good and among the very best of any PSVR game to date.
If there’s any black mark against the game, though, it’s the problem with almost all multiplayer VR games: its limited life-span.
Though filling out an 8-player lobby at launch was fine, VR player-bases tend to die off quickly, and a few months from now, there’s no guarantee it’ll still be thriving. This is doubly true as Firewall is a PSVR exclusive and therefore can’t merge lobbies with the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.
Basically, if you’re intrigued by this game, you’d best get on it in the very near future.
While it perhaps doesn’t feel quite as fresh and inventive as its predecessor, Runner3 is nevertheless one of the year’s most brilliantly, infuriatingly difficult games, a rhythm-platformer par excellence.
First things first: this is not a nice, relaxing game to chill out with despite the seemingly friendly, appealing art style. This is a tough, demanding title that punishes momentary lapses from the player and rewards split-second timing and pin-sharp reactions.
Though the sparse checkpoints and merely adequate graphics may deter some, there is a perversely addictive appeal to slogging your way to the end of a level, even if your blood pressure might temporarily spike to unhealthy levels on the way there.
Packed to the gills with content and insanely compulsive, Runner3 is sure to be a Marmite game – you’ll either hate it after five minutes or be hooked for days – but one well worth sampling either way.
3. Yakuza Kiwami 2
Though the Yakuza franchise has picked up considerable traction over the last 18 months in the west, the last few gaming weeks have been so damn busy – and expensive! – you’d be forgiven for not giving Yakuza Kiwami 2 a whirl yet. Releasing it just a week after the Shenmue HD Collection really wasn’t the smartest idea, was it?
While the rate of Yakuza releases in the west threatens to strike fans with “Yakuza fatigue” in the near-future, that hasn’t quite come about just yet. Kiwami 2, a remake of 2006’s Yakuza 2, reinvents the PS2 action classic in the series’ flashy new Dragon engine first used in Yakuza 6 earlier this year.
Everything you know and love about the franchise is here: the blunt, addictive combat, the self-consciously melodramatic main story, the INSANE side missions and, of course, the bada** characters. Following Yakuza 6’s lead, there’s also a greater emphasis on RPG-esque levelling mechanics this time, which makes the already moreish gameplay loop even more additive.
There may not be many big surprises or innovations here, but Yakuza Kiwami 2 is spectacularly-executed comfort food all the same. Carving a few weeks out of your life to get through it won’t be easy, but it needs to be played regardless.
2. Just Shapes & Beats
Though not quite as furniture-breakingly difficult as Runner3, Just Shapes and Beats presents unique challenges in its own right, as it serves up a delirious fusion of rhythm game and bullet hell retro shooter.
The player controls a small, coloured shape, and the aim of the game is simple: avoid getting hit by anything else that appears on screen, set to chiptune music, of course.
The music and visuals won’t be for everyone – especially in our current marketplace, saturated with retro homages as it is – but the central gameplay loop is a barmy hoot, creating a clever hybrid of two distinct yet weirdly complementary genres.
Plus, if you’re worried about the game being too difficult, it comes with a more permissive Casual Mode, so fear not.
If you’re in the market for a racing game more conventional than Onrush that still doesn’t take itself particularly seriously, the criminally under-appreciated Wreckfest deserves to be played.
Though it’s rarely a good sign when a game spends four years (!) in Early Access, Wreckfest has proven a rare exception to the rule, and as the title implies, trains a clear focus on smashing your racetrack rivals to smithereens.
With clear inspiration from the brilliant Destruction Derby series – which, bafflingly, hasn’t received a contemporary reboot yet – Wreckfest places an enormous amount of importance on vehicular damage, with shunts and bumps resulting in impressively detailed wreckage.
Though the suite of gameplay modes is pretty typical for the genre, Wreckfest’s commitment to carnage and solid collection of goodies makes it perhaps the year’s best unsung racer to date. Hopefully it’ll enjoy a resurgence when it launches for consoles on November 20th.