Steven T. Wright reached out to a number of freelancers to discuss their favorite games from 2018. These lists are being hosted in Into The Spine, and all credit belongs to the authors. Make sure to follow Will Partin’s work on Twitter.
Honestly, this entire remaster would have been a failure if they hadn’t managed to license ‘Paradise City’ again. But when you boot this motherfucker up and Slash comes through with the riff (you know the one), punctuated by a couple samples of hilariously oversold engine noises, Paradise lets you know exactly what you’re in for. (Not that you ever forgot, of course). There might be no other game that offers so much delirious, blatantly stupid joy for how little it asks of you in return. I literally cannot imagine every putting in the time to, say, figure out how to style on preteens in Fortnite. Burnout, though, takes us as we are, making Ninja-esque moves a matter of pressing WASD and shift, the keyboard’s equivalent of F&F’s hidden nitrous booster. One keystroke, and the world melts into streaks of Starburst Tropical Fruit Chews carried on orgastic roars of combustion engines.
(N.B. that Burnout: Paradise caused something of a media sensation when the 2008 Obama campaign purchased space on in-game billboards, one of the most well-documented examples of “real” organizations buying virtual real estate. No such ads can be found in the remastered edition. I wonder if that’s for the best. Burnout, at heart, is a game about making the complicated simple, putting the technocratic power to pull off monstrously cool stunts into the hands of every player. In a word, it’s populist. There’s no space to discourse on how populist politics get articulated to the Left/Right spectrum, but the politics of skill – and how Burnout subverts them, to what effect, etc. – is something for games writers to grapple with, given a widespread tendency to see the narrativist elements of games as where their “politics” reside, rather than the structuring systems that produce the conditions of possibility for we can be and feel in the (virtual) world. So, if you’re an editor reading this … )
Red Dead Redemption 2
Everyone is putting this one down, right? Cool, me too. Before I get called on it, I’ll just own some hypocrisy here – the one article I published about this game was about the whole ~labor~ Discourse, but I used my fee to pay for a PS4/Red Dead bundle. (Sue me.) I don’t have any special thoughts here, as we’re in the Red Dead take cycle’s refractory period and everyone needs a cold shower. It’s a gorgeous game, its only marginally coherent politics veer between passable and reinscribing-the-very-colonialist-ideals-the-game-at-other-points-attempts-to-subvert, and, like most Rockstar Games, RDR2 gets away with forcing you to do so much mundane shit that it reminds you of just how much Rockstar is feeling itself. And why not?
In an age where “games as service” is pretty much the basso profundo of AAA studios’ aesthetic sensibilities, it’s nice to see a game that is what it is, and not what it may someday become. Not that I’ll find out how much there is in that is – I quit playing after I accidentally shot my most beloved steed, the resultant trauma of which, all things considered, is a decent guarantor of quality.