Plugged In

Counting down the top video games of 2017

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2017 wasn’t exactly a great year for yours truly. As the year began, I found myself mired in a rut and with zero desire to pick up a controller, something I wrote about in this space last summer. And as some of you may know, the year ended with the passing of my dad after a short battle with leukemia. The time in between? That frankly wasn’t much better.

While 2017 is, by and large, a year I would just as soon forget, it was a surprisingly good year for gaming — Nintendo recaptured its magic with the Switch, Sony struck gold with console exclusives and Microsoft brought the phenomenon known as “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” to the console market.

Before completely shifting the focus to what lies ahead in the new year, let’s take one last look back at 2017 as I count down my picks for the Top 10 games of the year:

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A look inside April’s ‘Quest’ Loot Crate

My sons are back again to unbox another Loot Crate, this time the April 2016 “Quest”-themed package.

This month’s box features items from Harry Potter, “Uncharted 4,” “Vikings” and a pretty sweet “Labyrinth” T-shirt that had my kids stumped — of course, considering the film came out roughly 18 years before they were born, it’s easy to see how that could happen. A 20-sided die ice mold and the obligatory collector’s pin, also featuring a 20-sided die, round out the box.

IMG_5078The highlight for me was definitely the Harry Potter socks, which feature the various horcruxes (horcruxi?) Harry must track down and destroy in order to stop Lord Voldemort. Yes, that was a pretty serious spoiler but if you haven’t read the books by now you have only yourself to blame.

The “Uncharted 4” poster was a little underwhelming but the Viking drinking horn will definitely look cool sitting on my desk at the office.

For more on Loot Crate, check out their website at www.lootcrate.com.

By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth, Marvel has finally given us our first look at Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange.

Set for release on November 4, “Doctor Strange” is certainly shaping up to be the most … unique film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I’m curious to see how casual fans will respond to the Sorcerer Supreme. Let’s face it — despite his prominent role within the pages of the Marvel Universe, Strange remains a far less recognizable character than any the publisher has brought to the big screen thus far.

Of course, one could argue that neither the Guardians of the Galaxy nor Ant-Man were household names and I seem to recall those films doing OK at the box office, so clearly Marvel knows what it’s doing. We’ll have to see if that magic continues this fall.

“Doctor Strange” is directed by Scott Derrickson and also stars Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Rachel McAdams.

 

Disney and LucasFilm today gave fans their first glimpse at the next feature film set in the “Star Wars” universe — “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” And it looks amazing.

“Rogue One” is set before the events of “A New Hope” and tells the story of a band of rebels who attempt to steal the plans for the first Death Star. The ensemble cast is led by Felicity Jones, who plays lead protagonist Jyn Esro. “Rogue One” also stars Forest Whitaker, Diego Luna and Donnie Yen, among others.

Directed by Gareth Edwards, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is set to open Dec. 16.

‘Layers of Fear’ looks terrifying

A room full of floating doll heads. What could possibly be scary about that?
A room full of floating doll heads. What could possibly be scary about that?

I’ve always been a huge fan of horror games. It’s an obsession that began with “Resident Evil” and continued through the likes of “Condemned” and “Outlast” and, most recently, the grossly underrated “Until Dawn.”

But if the screenshots I’ve seen (like the one above) are any indication, “Layers of Fear,” the upcoming release from Bloober Team, may well be the game that forces me to sleep with the lights on.

In “Layers of Fear,” you assume the role of an insane painter trying to desperately to finish his masterpiece from inside the confines of a spooky Victorian-era mansion. This descent into madness results in a constantly shifting and changing game world, one in which doors can vanish after you pass through them and paintings change with each look. It sounds like psychological horror at its best, which is something I’ve been craving ever since I walked down that hallway in “PT.”

After enjoying a successful run on Steam Early Access, “Layers of Fear” is set to be released to the masses on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 February 16.

Make no mistake about it — I love Ubisoft’s “Far Cry” franchise. And when the latest installment, “Far Cry Primal,” was announced last October, I was genuinely excited. “Far Cry” with perhaps a dash of “Apocalypto” and woolly mammoths? Sign me up.

What intrigues me most about “Primal” is its unique setting, and how the shift back in time should fundamentally change how you approach situations within the game. The “Far Cry” series helped define the open-world first-person shooter genre, but with “Primal” taking place during the Stone Age, this clearly isn’t going to be a typical FPS. And that opens up a world of possibilities.

I’m hoping to see a greater emphasis on crafting weapons from the materials you scavenge. I want to see more stealth options available since going into a fight with guns blazing isn’t exactly going to work in a world without guns. Fire has always played a key role in “Far Cry,” and I’m hoping to see it become an even more integral tool in “Primal.”

The ability to control animals is another feature that could be unbelievably cool — if implemented well. Taming predators and using them as weapons against your enemies? Again, the possibilities are seemingly endless. Hopefully there’s a honey badger roaming around somewhere to sic on unsuspecting foes, because those little guys were relentless in “Far Cry 4.”

If everything comes together, “Far Cry Primal” could become one of the year’s most exciting titles. After all, the struggle to remain at the top of the food chain isn’t something you find in most games. Luckily we won’t have to wait much longer to find out as the game launches Feb. 23 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.