Shacknews - Asif Khan

It is easy to sweep the sports game genre under the rug as each year we get new entries of the same franchises. Most years the updates to FIFA, NBA 2K, and Madden NFL are iterative and leave gamers asking for more. On top of this, PC gamers have been left out in the cold when it comes to football games. There had been a void in our Steam libraries for too long, and Mutant Football League has finally scratched that itch we have felt since the days of NFL Blitz 2000. Gamers deserved an arcade-style football game, and Mutant Football League delivers. It is the spiritual successor to the old Mutant League Football game and is executed with a high attention to detail. It is our pleasure to award Mutant Football League the title of Shacknews Best Sports Game of 2017.

Mutant Football League offers gamers a way to play online or locally on Steam or Xbox Game Preview. The game was built on the Unity Engine and runs like a dream. MFL supports ultrawide monitor resolutions and has a robust season mode. The game is a breath of fresh air in the world of sports games that are dominated by ultimate team and virtual currency microtransactions. It is pure, unadulterated footbal with a mutant twist. Dirty Tricks like bribing the Ref, killing the opposing quarterback and others add another element of strategy to the arcade-style game. 

Full disclosure. I own a Mutant Football League team. Many Shackers have heard of the troubles I ran into as a Kickstarter backer of this game. I have always wanted to own the Cleveland Browns, so this $5000 Kickstarter tier appealed to me. We agreed that my team would be a parody of the Cleveland Browns named the Steamland Cleavers. Apparently this didn't end up working out due to some copyright concerns and the team was renamed Leaveland Burns. There is also a player on the team named Doit For Shacknews. Despite the issues we had with naming the team, I worked with lead developer Michael Mendheim to bring a Mutant Football team to the shores of Lake Eerie. 

Congratulations to the MFL team on successfully bringing a fun and engaging arcade-style football game to PC. We are pleased to award the the title of Shacknews Best Sports Game of 2017 to Mutant Football League. RIP, Steamland Cleavers.


Be sure to keep up with the rest of The Shacknews Awards as we celebrate the Year of the Games: 2017.

Shacknews - Asif Khan

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds has taken the PC gaming world by storm this year. While the game is a multiplayer juggernaut that is devoid of a campaign mode, gamers have used it as a tool to tell some amazing stories. PUBG remains one of the most watched games on Twitch streams and has been a kingmaker of sorts. Summit1g, Dr. DisRespect and a number of other streamers have gained followers, wealth, and attention because of the stories they have told with PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. PUBG's emergent gameplay has landed it the title of Shacknews Best Story (Non-Narrative) Game of 2017.

There have been countless threads on the Shacknews Chatty forum about a variety of stories about PUBG. The game is an amazing tool for storytelling and now has a great replay feature in version 1.0 to help with the content creation process. Gamers have seen all sorts of awesome videos on social media about amazing things that happen in PUBG. Stories about winning chicken dinner, evading death, funny accidents, and other ridiculous situations have landed PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds the title of Shacknews Best Story (Non-Narrative) Game of 2017.


Be sure to keep up with the rest of The Shacknews Awards as we celebrate the Year of the Games: 2017.

Shacknews - Kevin Tucker

Nintendo has previously promised that the 3DS would continue being supported through 2018 and beyond, but it's easy to see that the company's new Switch hardware is the way of the future. As such, many of the biggest 3DS properties are jumping ship, with Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon being the last generation of little pocket monsters planned to grace Big N's dual-screened system. And though the aforementioned titles were certainly in the running for our favorite 3DS game of the year, they simply lost out due to the rich and nostalgia-inducing flavor of our favorite reimagined title, the lovingly-crafted platformer known as Metroid: Samus Returns.

Nintendo 3DS Game of the Year 2017 - Metroid: Samus Returns

There was a huge response when Nintendo busted into this year's E3 to announce the return of Metroid Prime. Little did fans know that the big Metroid reveal would come immediately afterward, when Nintendo announced a partnership with developer MercurySteam to develop a fully-reworked version of Game Boy classic title Metroid 2. The new title was called Metroid: Samus Returns, and it represented a floor-to-ceiling overhaul of the fan favorite platformer custom-tailored to the 3DS hardware.

Beyond the hype, Samus Returns delivered gameplay in spades. The return of the famous bounty hunter did more than just remind us how good of a game Metroid 2 always was, it also proved that Samus is just as potent now as she ever was. The graphics were completely overhauled in side-scrolling 2D style, the controls were updated to include free-form aiming and melee attacks, several new power-ups were added, and crucial features like fast travel and abilities from later games in the series were also included.

On top of all this, Metroid: Samus Returns provided a return to the glory days of side-scrolling action, breaking through typical rose-tinted nostalgia and delivering a thoroughly modern game with distinct old-school feel. In looking at the future of portable Metroid games, Nintendo and MercurySteam not only managed to capture the best of the past, but also managed to pave Samus' path into future generations.


Honorable Mentions:

Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon

The Pokemon series has long been married to Nintendo portables, which makes the migration of the series over to the Nintendo Switch a little sad. However, before bowing out of the purely portable scene altogether, both Sun and Moon were reworked into Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. Both titles represent the best of what modern Pokemon games have to offer: they're stuffed to the brim with battles, characters, scenic vistas, and, naturally, collectible pocket monsters. As far as Pokemon games go, these two are as good as we've seen yet.

Bye-Bye BoxBoy

Sometimes we choose our favorite games based not on technical achievement, but rather on how they make us feel. Bye-Bye BoxBoy is just such a title: it's clean, it's fun, it's loaded with content, and it's a charming way to kill some time. Little Qbby is a rockstar in his own right, with impressive cube-spawning powers leading to the inexorable demise of countless brain-bending puzzles, and the entire series can be picked up cheaply and enjoyed by the whole family.


Be sure to keep up with the rest of The Shacknews Awards as we celebrate the Year of the Games: 2017.

Shacknews - Charles Singletary

Fortnite made a lot of noise in 2017, mostly when it turned out to be the most popular title emulating the match style that has grown wildly popular due to PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. While the development team's quick implementation of a sound copy of PUBG's Battle Royale mode is worth note, boxing Fortnite in as just a PUBG clone is ignoring the incredibly fun base game that has earned the title of Shacknews Best Early Access Game of 2017.

Save The World, Fortnite's base game mode, has a lot of elements that mimic practices seen in mobile games. Timed meta content, loot llamas, and other features all work to extend the life of Fortnite, but it's all built on an incredibly fun foundation. Some parts can be played solo, but the majority of Save The World involves exploring randomly generated maps with other players, completing various tasks, building up defenses for the major objectives, and using your various weapons or abilities to take on the hordes of undead creatures. You even have your own personal base that you will upgrade, add AI controlled defenders to, and have to defend from waves of attacks. 

While Fortnite is still officially in Early Access, it has been quite polished since its debut and players can stay abreast of the frequent updates with fairly regular blog and vlog updates. Seasonal events have kept the ball rolling, as well.

I don't have any particular insider information on the development of Save The World or the Battle Royale mode, but I certainly must tip my hat to the team. An added-on Battle Royale mode with a quarter of the content or effort of what was given to players would have done enough to capitalize on the mode's popularity and promote Fortnite, but the addition is free, impressive, and continues to improve almost weekly. It also beat PUBG to the mainstream gaming consoles, which is simply smart business.


Honorable Mentions:

SQUAD

Offworld Industries is crafting one of the most intense PvP experiences ever where cohesive and efficient teamwork from the 50 players on each side of the 100 player match is absolutely detrimental. SQUAD isn't for the faint of heart or undedicated, but anyone willing to put in the time will come away with a story unlike any they've experienced in other shooters. The development team needs to get things clicking quickly if they want to draw in more players before the next shiny thing comes along, but there will likely always be a dedicated community championing this FPS.

Dead Cells

When it comes to Early Access polish, Dead Cells may edge Fortnite out. It's a rogue-lite, Metroidvania created by Motion Twin and it has found a formula that makes losing exciting much like the Souls franchise. You could say its the Dark Souls of Ear...EDIT: Charles has been removed from the premises. Check Dead Cells out for yourself. It's bound to be part of many end of the year lists for 2018 once it launches into 1.0.


Be sure to keep up with the rest of The Shacknews Awards as we celebrate the Year of the Games: 2017.

Shacknews - Chris Jarrard

Nintendo had a rough time getting the public to buy in to its Wii U console. Coming off the heels of the insanely successful Wii console, Nintendo hoped that the follow up would share in the success. The Wii U launched in 2012 and by the time Nintendo discontinued production in early 2017, the console had sold less than 15 million units worldwide. The Big N went back to the drawing board and on March 3, 2017, Nintendo unleashed its newest creation, the Nintendo Switch. Now we're playing with power as the Nintendo Switch has won the title of Shacknews Best Hardware of 2017.

The Nintendo Switch is what the company refers to as a hybrid console. It offers a docked mode for use with televisions just like traditional consoles. It can also be removed from the dock and used as a portable device, much like Nintendo’s own 3DS. What’s different about the Nintendo Switch is that the handheld mode offers no compromises versus the docked mode. All games in its library function the same in either mode. For the first time, Nintendo made the home console experience portable.

The Nintendo Switch looks a bit like a tablet, sporting a 6.2 inch LCD screen that runs at 720p. It comes with a pair of controllers, dubbed Joy-Cons, that attach to the sides of the tablet. The Joy-Cons can be removed from the tablet and used just like Nintendo’s Wiimote controllers. The system offers a 4300 mAh battery and when playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, offers up to 3 hours of battery life. Graphics processing is handled by a custom NVIDIA Tegra-based CPU.

Right out of the gate, the Nintendo Switch was a hit with consumers. Nintendo announced that they had shipped just under 3 million Switches in the first month of availability. By December 12, 2017, the Switch had sold more than 10 million units worldwide. The company hopes that the buzz around the Switch continues and that they plan to sell 100 million units in its lifetime, something the company achieved with the original Wii console.

Nintendo Switch fever took over the Shacknews community and staff alike. Converts to Nintendo’s handheld are not bashful about heaping praise on the unit any chance they get. Any time a new game is announced, those folks only want to know when the Switch version will arrive. Expect the console to be the apple of our gaming eye all the way through 2018, but for now Nintendo can savor the title of Shacknews Best Hardware of 2017.


Be sure to keep up with the rest of The Shacknews Awards as we celebrate the Year of the Games: 2017.

Shacknews - Asif Khan

What makes a great mobile game? It isn't necessarily all about graphics and pushing smartphones to the limit. At their core great mobile games are efficient and fun ways to waste time. This truly was the year of the brickbreaker on mobile. Both the App Store and Google Play were flooded with countless games that were all trying to capture lightning in a bottle similar to Breakout or Arkanoid in the past. At the end of the year, Ballz stood above their competitors and it is our pleasure to award the mobile game our title of Shacknews Best Brickbreaker of 2017.

Ballz is exactly what I want in a mobile game. It allows for one-handed gameplay, you don't have to always be looking at the screen while you play it, it waits for you to take your next turn, the game is easily suspended, but at the same time players could end up playing on game for 40 minutes to an hour. The high score gameplay mechanic adds to the addiction as you will want to outdo your friends. Ballz has an attention to detail that shows up across the entire game. The sound design is excellent and the idea to increase the number of balls with pickups definitely adds to the game experience. The numbered blocks also create a much more challenging game. Ketchapp and the game's developer may not have invented these gameplay mechanics, but they truly shine in Ballz. It allow players to set and forget during turns once you get over a certain amount of balls. The game keeps you coming back for more. 

I love Ballz. I travel a lot for work and Ballz was my go to mobile game all year. My brother and I would keep sending screenshots of our high scores to each other and there were even threads about the game on our Shacknews Chatty forum. It is a delightful game that is worth honoring with the title of Shacknews Best Brickbreaker of 2017.


Be sure to keep up with the rest of The Shacknews Awards as we celebrate the Year of the Games: 2017.

Shacknews - Blake Morse

Warframe is a game that I've found myself coming back to time and again ever since I first got my PS4. Initially, I gave it a shot because frankly, there wasn't a lot to play back in those early console launch days. Still, its almost abstract, alien style and acrobatic third-person combat struck a chord with me that has kept me playing consistently. I've watched Warframe go through many changes both from a visual and gameplay standpoint, but this year the team at Digital Extremes really came up with something special by adding an open-world gameplay feature for players to explore. Their persistent effort has landed Warframe the title of Shacknews Most Improved Game of 2017.

For the last 5 years missions in Warframe have been pretty straightforward: you choose a mission, execute with your fireteam, then head back to your ship to run the cycle again. There's a healthy amount of variety as far as objectives are concerned, but you could consider it a lather, rinse, repeat process in many ways. With the release of this year's Plains of Eidolon expansion though, they took a formula that's worked for them and did something completely new.

Fans of Warframe were given an open-world hub, new abilities like being able to hunt and fish, a day/night cycle, new enemy threats and five square kilometers to explore. I can't personally recall an MMO ever pivoting so hard half a decade into its existence. Heck, it's noteworthy that a free-to-play even make it five years, let alone adds so many new features. If you had told me I'd be using my honed Tenno skills to catch fish when I first started playing Warframe, I would not have believed you. 

Plains of Eidolon isn't just an expansion, it's a whole new game within a game. It's a chance for players to have more choice over what kind of experience they want and gives old players, like myself a reason to return to the Warframe universe. To say that Warframe is the most improved game of 2017 is almost an understatement of the future greatness that potentially awaits this new path their content appears to be heading down. 


Be sure to keep up with the rest of The Shacknews Awards as we celebrate the Year of the Games: 2017.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

There have been a lot of rich stories across gaming throughout this year, but there's one story that will likely permeate beyond this year. That story is centered around a single, simple idea of resistance. Also, that Nazis are terrible people. We are proud to award Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus the title of Shacknews Best Narrative of 2017.

While Wolfenstein: The New Order was a fascinating tale of alternative history, The New Colossus takes the idea a step further. If The New Order was a story of a Nazi military victory, The New Colossus was a tale of a world in which the Nazis succeeded culturally. Nazism had become an element of everyday life. Blazkowicz isn't fighting a war anymore, because the war has already been lost. He isn't considered to be killing terrorists, he is considered the terrorist. He is now trying to resist against an unjust, but ultimately powerful, regime.

But the other thing that ultimately makes Wolfenstein II resonate so well as a story is how it highlights everything that makes America truly great. From the very beginning, with Blazkowicz overcoming personal adversity and rising above his paralysis to accomplish great feats. It's seen in the freedom fighters, all diverse and rich with their own experiences, philosophies, and outlooks on the Nazi occupation. It's in the spirited Grace Walker and the passionate Horton Boone. It's in those who have fallen, like Caroline Becker. Blazkowicz isn't fighting the war by himself and it's the bravery of the downtrodden that make this story particularly inspiring.

But at the end of the day, it's Blazkowicz who serves the symbol of hope. He's the one who pushes through with his journey, knowing his body would eventually give out on him. But even in the face of that, he carried on as a symbol of hope and inspiration for others brave enough to stand up to the Nazi regime.

While The New Colossus doesn't go to some of the far-out locations that The New Order did, it doens't make its story hit home any less. It's a classic story of American grit, perseverance, unity in a time of crisis, and the belief that the principles that made America truly great can stand against any bigotry and any tyranny. Just try not to crack a proud smile after this game's final minutes.


Be sure to keep up with the rest of The Shacknews Awards as we celebrate the Year of the Games: 2017.

Shacknews - Asif Khan

Some folks have said that virtual reality is dead on arrival, but Shacknews definitely views VR with a longer time horizon. Much like PC gaming in the early to mid 1990's, VR has not caught on at the scale of smartphones or even gaming consoles. There are some reasons to believe that VR is here to stay this time and HTC Vive Tracker is certainly a breakthrough in VR human interface devices. The Vive Tracker allows developers to turn any object into a VR input device. The product undeniably enhances the feelings of immersion and presence while in VR. The HTC Vive Tracker is cutting edge technology executed in an elegant and useful manner. We are happy to name the HTC Vive Tracker our Best Gaming Accessory of 2017.

Multiple accessories have already been created that use the Vive Tracker in very fun ways. The Hyper Blaster Set is a spirtual successor to the NES light gun and the Rack Sports Set is perfect for VR sports enthusiasts. 

Probably the most entertaining VR experience I had all year was at VR Zone in Shinjuku, Japan. It was a Dragon Ball Z made for VR game. I was asked to take my shoes off and put on a set of Crocs with Vive Trackers on them. I was also given a belt that had two VR trackers on it. Then instead of Vive Controllers, I was given two wrist straps with Vive Trackers placed on the inside of the wrists. It is hard to put into words how fun the experience was, so I will let Palmer Luckey take it from here. 

The Vive Tracker enables some incredibly immersive VR experiences. It is a well designed, beautifully executed, and innovative addition to the HTC Vive VR HMD ecosystem. This is clearly the early days for VR development, but breakthrough products like the Vive Tracker should not go unnoticed. It is our pleasure  to name the HTC Vive Tracker our Best Gaming Accessory of 2017.


Be sure to keep up with the rest of The Shacknews Awards as we celebrate the Year of the Games: 2017.

Shacknews - Blake Morse

To say that this was a good year for the multiplayer gamer would be an understatement. There was a plethora of great stuff both in the PvP and PvE arenas. When it comes to the co-op experience though, one game had the right mix of open-world action, tactical gameplay and just the right amount of roughness around the edges to creates the perfect 4-player co-op storm in 2017, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands. It may not have been the most polished apple in the basket, but that only seemed to endear it more to me and my fellow digital narco agents, and there was still plenty to love. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands snuck past all of the competition to win the award of Shacknews Best Co-Op Game of 2017.

Wildlands allowed you to execute your group stealth and attack strategies any way you saw fit. Features like player controlled drones, the ability to sync your headshot with other players and a palatable skill tree helped increase that depth of strategy. Or you could do what my squad did and jump out of helicopters while flying directly over enemy encampments and get into insane firefights. 

Obviously, there were plenty of times where our bravado got the best of us, and there were plenty of times when we would call an escape copter only to have it spawn in the middle of a palm tree leaving us doomed. Amusing blunders and figuring out ways around them actually made the overall experience more enjoyable though. 

Wildlands was just so vast and had so many various territories to explore that it felt like we were always discovering something new or sharing spots where we'd found some decent weapons or augments. We pretty much did anything and everything we could to the point where by the time we'd finished playing it we'd gone through every piece of DLC available and only had one or two trophies left to unlock. 

Now that they've gone and made new Predator Challenge DLC that just recently launched, it looks like we've got an excuse to be heading back the jungles and deserts of Bolivia for one last ride. Hopefully, my avatar will be Schwarzenegger enough to survive one last mission with the crew. It is with great pleasure that we award Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands the title of Shacknews Best Co-Op Game of 2017.


Honorable Mentions:

Snipperclips

Communication is key in any relationship. Especially in co-op puzzle-solving situations. No game seemed to understand this more than the Switch's sleeper hit, Snipperclips. Fitting the ever-changing body shapes of Snip and Clip together perfectly could be considered a metaphor for team building, but I just thought it was a fun way to think creatively with friends.

Divinity Original Sin II

Most RPG's can trace their roots back to pen and paper origins. So, it makes sense that Divinity Original Sin 2 was just as much fun to play with friends as a tabletop game of DnD would've been. Factor in the couch co-op and there's even more reason to call up old questing cohorts for one last digital quest. 


Be sure to keep up with the rest of The Shacknews Awards as we celebrate the Year of the Games: 2017.

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