I’ll be 100% honest upfront, 2019 was an off year for me personally. Due to responsibilities at work and school piling up, and me being in an emotional funk for half of the year, I didn’t even feel up to the task of playing video games most days. So, unfortunately, while I did get my hands on a lot this year, I didn’t play many of them to completion, and even more of them I didn’t even get to touch, despite knowing I’d love them. Because of this, the way I’m listing my games will be a tad different this year.
Much like last year, I still have my top five games from this year and five honorable mentions, plus I’ll also list games from prior years that I enjoyed in 2019 as well. But I’m also gonna give some quick shoutouts to games that I’m very interested in playing, but just didn’t make time to play through within the year. Also, I’m sponsoring the Yesteryear category, because Titanfall 2, despite staying in constant rotation on my PS4 since 2016, this year saw me welcoming in thousands of new pilots thanks to the success of Apex Legends and it becoming free on PlayStation Plus. And with that disclaimer, let’s go through these games!
Favorite Games of Yesteryear (Sponsored by Titanfall 2)
5) Destiny 2: New Light
It’s no secret that I love Destiny 2. Thanks to getting a free copy of the game from PlayStation Plus, I played a lot of it with Drew and other What’s Good Guardians on PS4. But I’ve long fallen off in favor of playing newer releases. Now that Bungie has broken off from the Activision partnership, the game has had a lot of positive momentum behind it, and that kind of culminated in the game not only going Free to Play, but also coming to Steam on PC. This was all I needed to get back into the game, and my oh my, it’s been glorious.
Playing shooters at 60FPS has always felt like it should be the default thanks to my years of playing Call of Duty, so finally being able to do so with Destiny has been a revelation. Gameplay feels so much faster and more fluid than the 30FPS cap on consoles, and rediscovering my love for Gambit mode especially was a blast. Plus, the new battle pass and armor crafting systems have made the game not only more rewarding, but also more streamlined in it’s progression. It’s an amazing game that I hope to keep playing into 2020, I just want crossplay to come in addition to the cross save, because I really don’t wanna go back to that lower framerate to play with my PS4 pals.
4) Steamworld Dig 2
Steamworld Dig was one of the first games I fell in love with on the PlayStation Vita. It’s combination of Minecraft and Metroidvania was incredibly compelling, and I could have put another 20 hours into it easily. So, it’s embarrassing that it took me so long to play the sequel.
Steamworld Dig 2 is the perfect kind of direct sequel that provides a lot more of the same great gameplay of the first, but it adds additional traversal mechanics that finally make the game’s platforming just as fun as it’s exploration. It has a similar progression to some of my favorite games, because by the end of it, you can navigate effortlessly and take out nearly any enemy with ease and versatility. It was more than a perfect reason to whip of the Vita again in 2019, and I’m sure I’ll have a few more reasons to do so again in 2020.
3) Deep Rock Galactic
Now, I largely missed the phenomenon that was Left 4 Dead. I never owned a 360, and my PC couldn’t even run most games until 2013. And even now, gaming for me is more of a solitary hobby, so I rarely play games made for cooperation. But seeing gameplay of Deep Rock Galactic was instantly eye catching, so I was glad to have it be one of my exceptions to this rule.
This game is similar to Left 4 Dead, but with some big additions and changes. Instead of survivors shooting zombies, you play as Dwarven miners in space killing giant space bugs in mineral rich caves. Instead of every character being equally equipped, there are 4 classes of Dwarf, each with vastly different weapons, abilities, and equipment . And instead of just trying to survive until you reach a safe room, you’re actually trying to mine for different intergalactic minerals and deposit them in between these waves of alien insects.
It’s definitely an unorthodox mix of ideas, but it’s just so compelling. I’ve been playing exclusively with strangers online, but because you need each other for every basic action in the game, griefing is as much of a detriment to the griefer than to the victim. The Driller is great at tearing through cave walls, but his flamethrower can’t hit far away enemies. The Scout can pick off bugs from a distance with his rifles, but his flare gun can only light the way if a path has already been made for him though a cave wall. And the Gunner and Engineer classes also have similar synergies. This allowed for so many ways to contribute towards the goals of the squad, from killing swarms of bugs to simply just throwing down flares to light the path.
All of this paired with its incredible artstyle and lighting tech makes for a game that was endlessly fun for the hours I spent with it. This is another game I hope to come back to in 2020, and hopefully it’ll make the jump from Xbox and PC to PS4, as most of the friends I’d love to play this with are there.
2) Shadow Warrior 2
2019 was the year I was finally able to fill in a lot of my gaming gaps, as it was the year I picked up a Nintendo Switch, Xbox One X, and finally had a gaming PC built. Considering I’ve been building up my PC collection through Steam sales, Epic Store giveaways, and a Game Pass Ultimate subscription over the last few years, I had no shortage of games to kick start my serious foray into PC gaming. But thanks to GoG, I discovered I had claimed a free copy of Shadow Warrior 2. So, considering I loved the first game back when I first got my PS4, I knew it’d be a good time. That was an understatement.
In the years since the original, Flaming Wild Hog has done so much to not only polish everything from the original game, but deepen the gameplay substantially. It’s still an old-school FPS, with a big emphasis on mobility, but now it has gotten a healthy dosage of loot. To some, that might sound like an endless grind through RNG weapons and equipment like the Borderlands series can sometimes be; they were smart about it’s implementation.
Instead of billions of random weapons to find, there are only about 80 in total, and even then you’ll likely never use most of them in favor of sticking to your favorites. Instead, there are thousands of socketable gems you can use to enhance your weapons fire rate, reload speed, etc. or to add elemental effects like ice and fire damage. This eliminates the need to learn a new weapon every few minutes and instead feels more like your maintaining a relationship with every weapon as you continue to upgrade it in new and interesting ways.
And that’s not all, each of those weapons have a full skill tree with even more enhancements and the player character even has his own skill tree in which you can upgrade your health and one of you many supernatural abilities. Oh yea, I almost forgot, you have super powers, and much like Action Skills in Borderlands, they can provide a brief respite from gunplay when needed. Plus, while not necessarily a power, the improved dash and double jump of the original game makes movement effortless and it’s more detailed gore and environmental destruction makes combat even more satisfying and chaotic.
Needless to say, I adored this game. It captivated me for weeks on end, and despite it’s 4 player co-op being the focus, I had all my fun with it in single player. Even if the narrative didn’t stick much with me much, it’s gameplay was more than strong enough to make a huge impression. What a great introduction to PC gaming, especially considering the game would have ran at half the framerate on consoles.
1) Sunset Overdrive
Those who know me understand just how much I adore Insomniac Games. Spyro the Dragon was the first video game I ever played, Ratchet and Clank on PS4 is one of my favorite games of all time and I’ve always loved the series, Resistance 3 is one of my favorite shooters of all time, and Spider-Man immaculately depicted my favorite character in comics. But thanks to my Xbox-less childhood, I never got to play one of their wildest games yet: Sunset Overdrive. But with it’s PC port, I was finally able to do so.
God, I should have done so sooner. It combines my two favorite things in video games, flashy and fluid movement systems and ridiculous weapons, and it does so with a satisfyingly loud artstyle and a hilarious tone. It’s the best Looney Toons game we’ve ever had, despite being full of vulgar language and crude humor.
It’s such a clear predecessor to Spider-Man, down to even some of the wallrunning animations being similar, but that DNA is STRONG in it’s traversal mechanics. The grinds and bounce pads always kept the energy of every combat encounter up and made even the time between missions enjoyable. And of course, the weapons are easily the most creative weapons Insomniac has ever thought up. It’s the creativity of Ratchet and Clank, but with all the shackles of a E for Everyone rating taken off.
I feel like I don’t have to do much explaining here, we know the the types of games Insomniac excels at. But man, this game was so on brand for me. It was funny without being cynical, vibrant without being overbearing, fast without being unmanageable, and slapstick without breaking the fourth wall too much. It satisfies me in all ways I crave from video games, and even in other media, and it’s easily my favorite non-2019 game I played this year.
Games That I Own and Know I’ll Love, but Didn’t Make Time for in 2019
5) The Outer Wilds
I’ve seen all the talk about it. I’ve installed it on Xbox thanks to Game Pass, and I fully intend to give it a shot. It sounds like it plays with similar themes as Nier Automata, which I also loved when that came out. But It sounds like a game that demands it to be the only game in my head while playing it, & that’s just not how I’ve been playing games this past year. But I swear, I will play it in the new year!
4) A Plague Tale: Innocence
This is another game whose praises have been sung loudly to me on Twitter. I picked it up in a Steam sale near the end of the year, and fully intend on running through it. Short narrative experiences are my biggest craving nowadays since my time to game can often be limited. But I picked it up late in the year, and I just thought trying out Respawn Entertainment’s foray into character action games, Jedi: Fallen Order, was a higher priority for me. But I will definitely get around to it in the new year!
3) Ring Fit Adventure
Yet another game I didn’t get until late in the year, specifically because I got this one as a Christmas gift. And I’ve actually played a bit of it, and it’s certainly the most fun I’ve had during a workout in my entire life. The vibrant artstyle and the smart translation of traditional video game mechanics into motion and exercise movements have impressed me. But I’ve only played at most 2 hours of it, and therefore haven’t had the opportunity to see results outside of the game. So, I’ll be glad to report back once I’ve stuck with it for a few months, and who knows, it might be on my GOTY list next year!
2) Resident Evil 2
I know that, just last year, I fell in love with Resident Evil 4. So, I know that Resident Evil 2 should be my jam considering the entire game is built to emulate much of what that game did right. But alas, despite it literally coming bundled with my new PC, I have failed to play it within 2019. Maybe it’s because it looks way scarier than the others in the series I’ve played, or maybe it’s just because other games pulled me in more. But I played the demo, I know I will enjoy it once I do play it. So fret not Andrew, I will be checking it off the list very soon!
1) Metro Exodus
This is probably the biggest travesty of 2019 for me. This is a game I was heavily anticipating, but just didn’t have enough cash to pick up at launch. Plus, it came to Game Pass on PC very early in the year as well, so I easily could have gotten to it. But this was also the time I decided to try out the Gears of War series, so most of my time on Game Pass was spent playing through that franchise instead. I’m still a huge THQNordic fan, and I loved the first two Metro games, but beyond the opening chapter, I failed to put more time into the game. But it’s one of the first games I will playthrough in 2020, especially since Andrea Rene of What’s Good Games talked it up so much.
My Top 5 Honorable Mentions of 2019
5) A Short Hike
This was a last minute addition to the list, as it was the last game I completed in 2019. But thank God that Alex of OK Beast recommended it, because it was incredibly delightful. It’s super short, as I beat it in 90 minutes, and that’s including loads of additional exploration, but that just makes it more accessible to those, like me, not looking to sink dozens of hours into a title.
It’s an endearing blend of Animal Crossing and Celeste, two franchises I have barely enough experience with to make a comparison to. Your goal is to make it to the top of the mountain on an island to reach phone reception. But in order to both gain enough climbing endurance to get there and scout out the optimal path up, you have to do a lot of tasks for other NPCs.
Every character is an animal, but they all have different little tasks they give to the player character that rewards you for exploring the island more. And it’s a positive feedback loop, because completing those challenges gives you upgrades that allow you to traverse the island more easily. By the time I beat it, I had collected enough feathers, which determine how long you can climb or how many jumps you have, that I completed the primary goal of the game without breaking a sweat.
The characters were all endearing, and the narrative, while devoid of any real bombshells, was equally endearing. But what I really liked was just how distilled the entire experience was from a gameplay perspective. I loved not just how fast I gained my abilities, but how it all felt earned by the end of it. Plus, something I should have mentioned at the top, the artstyle is an incredibly inspired blend of bright, pixelated art and an isometric perspective. It’s a fantastic game and definitely worth running through in an afternoon.
4) Ape Out
This is one of the few games I didn’t actually get to complete, but after playing through half of the game, I feel I have enough experience with it to add it to the list. This game is difficult, with instantaneous death being possible at every turn. Plus, being a giant Ape up against hundreds of armed, and sometimes armored, guards isn’t really a fair fight. But they give you just enough ways to defend yourself and attack enemies that gameplay remains engaging while not losing its challenge.
This game fits perfectly between the “Video Games are Art” darlings like Journey and Gone Home and the “Video Games are violent trash” titles like Hotline Miami and Doom. This game is gruesome, with hundreds of dudes being reduced to red puddles and severed, throwable arms. But the artstyle and music make that violence undeniably beautiful in motion.
It’s incredibly minimalist, with art design that seems to take inspiration from title sequences of certain Hitchcock movies. But the music is a procedurally generated Jazz soundtrack that takes input from the player’s actions. This works perfectly for the game as the music reflects the improvisational nature of not only the frantic gameplay, but also jazz itself. As someone who has an appreciation for the genre thanks to it’s close cousin, hip hop, I was incredibly glad to see it translate that spirit into a game somehow. So, I’m glad to discuss it here as I know it’ll fly under the radar for many, and I hope those reading this give it a shot.
This game is another random title on Steam that just caught my eye and charmed my pants off. I knew nothing about it, and it’s trailer mostly just showed it’s vibrant and clean artstyle and it’s incredibly small open world. But after dipping my toes into the demo, I could see it was more of a Metroidvania game than I expected, and I totally ate it up.
This game’s combat is barely deeper than something like Minecraft, and a lot of the tasks you do are just simple fetch quests. But what really sticks out is the puzzle and platforming design. There were so many times while playing that I hit my head against a wall just to find the solution to a puzzle right in front of me all along. And even when I wasn’t trying to solve a puzzle, poking at the seams and corners of the world in different ways always yielded rewards.
It’s narrative is barebones, and it’s more memey humor didn’t really resonate with me much. But I couldn’t stop playing thanks to it’s brilliant puzzle and level design throughout. I actually haven’t completed this one either but with 8+ hours of playtime and over 50% of the achievements on Steam, I felt I could still speak to it. Hoping to wrap it up in 2020, and since it’s coming to Game Pass on Xbox and also coming to Switch, along with its future sequel, I’m hoping others get to play this wonderful little title as well.
This one was hard to place in my list. For as much as I talk up this game, I felt very conflicted about it once it came to Game of the Year rankings. It’s currently in early access, with a full release coming on Valentines Day this year. While I played so much of it earlier in the year, by the fall I had totally fallen off. But those first few weeks with it were still amazing. As a long time LittleBigPlanet fan, I’ve always enjoyed playing the creations of others more than making my own, and doing so in Dreams has been more breathtaking than any other game in human history with User Generated Content.
I’ve seen so many cool experiment in Dreams, including but not limited to: multiplayer boxing simulators, simple 3D platformers, hand drawn 2D platformers, music videos and full albums, short films with full dialogue, recreations of the Wipeout games, and even a full recreation of PT. Sure, compared to a full scale title, these creations are crude. But considering all of these are created by regular people with tools accessible to everyone playing makes these creations massive accomplishments in my eyes.
Honestly, Dreams is one of the most impressive games I have ever played, and it is easily a more impressive achievement than any other game I list in this article. But one of the reasons I buy Media Molecule games is for the single player campaign, and since the early access release didn’t include one, I didn’t mark the game quite as high. But I absolutely adored my time with it, and when the full game releases, I will be all over it on launch.
1) Blood and Truth
Sadly, this is one of the very few PSVR games I was able to play in 2019. But I’m glad that Blessing Jr. of OK Beast lit a fire under me to finally get to it. This game is incredibly cool, as it finally delivers an Uncharted-like linear adventure with the gunplay and polish synonymous with that franchise, but all in VR.
While I wasn’t terribly engrossed with the narrative, it’s gameplay was excellent. It solved a lot of the queasiness that I get ins some VR titles by restricting my movement and vision at times when my character moved. Because I didn’t ever get sick, I felt confident in my shooting ability. And they’ve done a lot to make using weapons in that game feel cool. Dual-wielding, aiming down fully rendered scopes, and the ability to trigger slow motion at any time made sure I always felt badass when taking out enemies.
But it’s more than just the gunplay, it’s the little touches, too. You can make different hand gestures at any time ingame with different button presses, including the ability to flick people off at will. There are a bunch of different smoking paraphernalia in the game, and hilariously, putting any of them up to you mouth and inhaling, in real life, into it will cause your character to smoke it. And even paying attention to NPC dialogue can let you bypass certain puzzles as a reward for your attentiveness.
The game was a blast, and while it has a relatively brief runtime, it may get me to return with all of the additional challenges and game modes. Sony London Studio deserves all the props for this game, and it feels like the first time we got a quality action game this expertly portrayed in console VR. Can’t wait to see what’s next for this team, and I hope more people get to play Blood and Truth even if the generation is beginning to wind down.
Top 5 Favorite Games of 2019
5) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
I’ve been playing Call of Duty every year since Modern Warfare 2, and I’ve even gon back to play the campaigns up until the original Modern Warfare that dropped in 2008. I’ve enjoyed all of the games to varying degrees, but last year’s Black Ops 4 didn’t quite do it for me. Treyarch already had one strike against them since I loathed the campaign of Black Ops 3, so when Black Ops 4 released without a story, I was just as bitter as I was relieved. Yet, despite puting many hours into the multiplayer, I never got into it’s battle royale mode, and therefore there wasn’t much there that stuck with me after leaving.
I was more than happy to see that Infinity Ward has come back to finally deliver the complete package that I craved last year. Now, I know in the eyes of most, their last game, Infinite Warfare, was a catastrophe. But I not only thought it’s campaign was the best in the entire series, but I also really liked the multiplayer. So, it was no surprise that they were able to deliver in almost every way with Modern Warfare.
The campaign was both an exhilarating thrill ride through different set pieces and a marathon of harrowing and difficult horrors of war. I knew what was coming due to my familiarity with their last game, but Infinity Ward really goes there with some of the scenes in this game, and some of it is quite upsetting. But I feel they handled these topics tastefully and I’d add this to the list of the best anti-war games ever made, right up there with Spec Ops: The Line.
But the multiplayer is what really has me hooked. Despite the return to grounded combat, gunplay seemes just as fast paced as it did when wallrunning was implemented. Kills come quick, and so do deaths, but the addition of mounting and reworked weapon mechanics have make the game a lot more satisfying to play. Even the audio design stands out, as gunshots from outdoors sound vastly different from gunshots indoors.
The progression has been changed as well, and some aspects hit me better than others. I love that the prestige system is gone, which means there’s no more repeatedly losing your entire arsenal of create-a-class items only to repeatedly re-earn them. But it’s replaced with a new battle pass system with is no longer XP based, but goes up primarily due to gameplay time, which is a more tedious system and also requires me to put money up to gain additional rewards that I still need to earn anyway.
Plus, the fact that the entirety of the Spec Ops co-op multiplayer is either broken or just not remotely fun makes it stray from from being the best game of the year. But ultimately, I still have a great time playing it to this day, and I gotta admit it’s the most fun I had online this year. I just hope they figure out long term progression and it’s cooperative mode within the coming months.
4) Devil May Cry V
This is a huge surprise to me personally. I’ve never played a Devil May Cry game before this, with exception of DmC, which I also liked a lot. But the characters, the environmental design, and most of all, that incredible combat system have all made playing DMC V this year some of the most fun I’ve had all 2019.
The game’s combat took me by surprise with how excellent it was. It doesn’t play like many other character action games I play, but they manage to make the combat satisfying across all three playable characters. Nero required strategy when deciding what arms to use when going into fights and when to use your arm-destroying super ability in combat. V rarely ever put himself in direct conflict, instead relying on his pets to do combat for him, which was a refreshing change of pace when playing his sections. And Dante’s multiple weapons and stances that I could switch between made for a baffling amount of combat options, almost all of which were effective. The combat design impresses not only because it remains fun and functional between characters, but the differences in each help add even more personality into each character.
Speaking of personality, this game had characters that were dripping with it. While the initial player character, Nero, didn’t stick much with me, and Trish, Lady, and Urizen were largely forgettable, I instantly fell in love with V, Dante and especially Nico. V was angstier than Hot Topic flavored Monster Energy, and I loved every minute that unreasonably luscious lipped dude was on screen. Plus, the fact that he’s effectively a beast master character who reads poetry instead of directly participating in combat was literally perfect. Dante felt like the hot dad who knows he’s got the juice and constantly flaunts it. The flamboyance with which he does every action in combat just tickled me pink throughout the entire game.
And Nico, good God, what is there left to say? She’s the biggest symbol of this game’s strange and horny energy. She’s got the body of a Victoria Secret model, the tattoos of the lesbian lead singer of a Paramore cover band, and the personality of a Reddit neckbeard with a heart of gold. All of that is to say, I am obsessed with that fictional woman. I mean, hey, I lost more than just my Devil May Cry virginity this year, so being exposed to something so trashy and horny at this time in my life left a massive impression on me.
The graphical fidelity repeatedly put my jaw on the floor. Even if I was playing on PC, never have I seen a game that looks that good and maintains a stable 60FPS with this many effects going on. Facial animations made these characters feel more like real people, and I never ran into any technical hitch of any sort, even when the game pulled in online elements during gameplay. This game is a tour de force over so many different aspects that I’m surprised it’s ridiculousness didn’t pull me in earlier in the franchise. But thank God I finally hopped onto this incredibly horny trash train.
3) Gears 5
The year 2019 for me was the year of Gears of War. Starting with Gears of War Ultimate Edition, which I played on PC in the summer thanks to Game Pass, I played through the entire mainline series this year to prepare for Gears 5. While the preview cycle had been strangely silent up to release, I had a feeling that The Coalition was gonna do something big for the five-quel, especially after the incredibly safe Gears 4. And indeed, I was right on the money.
Gears 5 takes a lot of pages from God of War 2018’s book, but it removes and changes many pages to make a game I enjoyed more consistently throughout. I’ve discussed my issues with God of War last year, but as I played it, I couldn’t help but notice all of the ways it pulls from that formula more successfully. Instead of traveling by boat incredibly slowly, it uses a much faster Skiff to get around, and throws in come jumps to increase the fun.
Every side mission you get in God of War is a long thread that isn’t fully unraveled until 2-3 hours later, sometimes requiring weapons or abilities that are only received later in the main story. All of the side content in Gears 5 is little more than a single combat encounter and get’s wrapped up within minutes. In fact, in the two open-world sections of Gears 5, there are only about 3-6 of these side encounters in each, and every trio of missions tie together to culminate in some bigger reward, upgrade, or narrative payoff.
Also, God of War reveals the vastness of its world fairly early into the game when you consider its much longer runtime. Gears 5 takes its entire first act to get you comfortable with the traditional linearity before blowing it all up right after a major plot point. And speaking of plot, as I back away from the God of War comparisons, the tale told in Gears 5 is outstanding as well.
I think this is an element that no other game on this list has: the fact I experienced every preceding game in its franchise very recently before jumping into it. So, every call back to the history of the series was not only picked up on my me, but appreciated. And I was able to compare the quality of the narrative more directly to the ones that came before, which I’m glad to say didn’t deteriorate my view of Gears 5 at all. In fact, I think the narrative is the best in the entire franchise overall, with some moments in Gears 2 and 3 only having a slight edge. The ending of Act 2 and the final choice given near the end of the game were the biggest highlights, especially considering this series had never had such a massive amount of player agency in the narrative as they give you in that final choice.
Honestly, I feel like you might already know everything else I can say about Gears 5. The gunplay feels even better with the addition of hitmarkers. It’s technically and artistically beautiful on both PC and Xbox One (which is somehow running at 4k 60FPS!). And even the multiplayer Versus and Escape modes have been a ton of fun during the relatively brief time that I’ve had with them. Overall, Gears 5 is the most compellingly complete package of 2019, and the fact it all comes free with Game Pass is still bonkers to me.
2) Risk of Rain 2
When talking about Sunset Overdrive earlier in this article, I discussed the fact that two of my favorite aspects of games are fluid traversal mechanics and a wide variety of unique weapons. I find these aspects satisfying in whatever game they show up because, once you have both and have fully upgraded them, you feel like you can conquer the world single handedly. The fun is found in progressing past that ineffective skillset at the start and eventually becoming an all powerful being once all of those skills are learned either through leveling up in the game or in real life. Hoppo Games has found the perfect way to distill that progression from weakling to God from dozens of hours to just one or two hours, and that feeling never dulls over multiple runs in Risk of Rain 2.
Risk of Rain 2 is one of the purest Rouge-likes I’ve ever played, in that there’s very little you’re carrying over from run to run. But despite walking away almost completely empty handed upon every death, I can’t help but come back for more every time. This is due to the fact that, no matter how many high level items I pick up in a run, if that run still ends in death, I feel like I can always be better. Sometimes my deaths are due to me just not paying attention to the weakness of the character I’m playing, or sometimes it’s due to the randomly generated items found on every map just not aiding me much. But every time I die, I genuinely feel like I can make it further the next time.
But before the death, there’s a whole ass game to play. This is yet another class based shooter, but unlike Deep Rock Galactic that I mentioned earlier, the only goal here is to stay alive ad the game’s difficulty steadily increases over time. This means the vastly different abilities of each character all revolve around two things: doing damage and preserving life. But the diversity of the characters is what floored me as I began to experiment outside of my main. I’m finding the viability of playing with nearly every character now but a lot of that joy comes from the items found in the randomly generated maps.
These items come in different rarities and have different levels of usefulness, much like the loot found in other similar games. But what makes these lootable items so great is how they start simple and very quickly get ridiculous. For example, let’s say your Commando with his dual pistols, and you need to do extra damage to keep up with the ever increasing difficulty of every run. Well, picking up Gasoline ignites enemies that are nearby any creatures you kill. But, you can stack that so that both the radius and burn damage increases, leading to a ridiculous amount of fire damage being doled out in a chain reaction of deaths. And you can stack most items in the game, which leads to incredibly fun broken character builds.
Find enough Crowbars, which deal 150% damage to any enemy above 90% health, and you can kill a lot of enemies in one hit. Find enough Hopoo Feathers, which give you an extra jump, and you can quadruple jump up to cliffsides in seconds. And you can even combine items to get incredible combinations. Find enough Aegises, which gives you a temporary shield when over healing, and Leeching Seeds, which heals you for every hit point of damage you do? Then you can potentially heal so much past your health bar that you can eat thousands of points of damage without even loosing any health. Find enough Energy Drinks, which boosts sprint speed 30%, and Soldier’s Syringes, which boost attack speed? Then, especially when playing Huntress, you can run circles around mobs of enemies while still doing ungodly high amounts of consistent damage.
The point I’m trying to make here is that for as punishing as it’s RNG can sometimes be, for as obscure or challenging its unlocks and lore can be, for as soul crushing it can be to get 90 minutes into a run only to discover you’re not powered up enough to beat the boss and progress, this game continues to bring me back like a junkie to the needle. But in this case, every hit is different than the last. Hell, I’m even thinking about buying it again on Switch just so I can shoot up…uuh..space bugs on the go. But considering I’m nearly at 50 hours played on Steam, only 26 hours shy of my total playtime in my favorite shooter of all time, Titanfall 2, maybe I should just keep my addiction where it can at least be contained somewhat.
You guys probably saw this one coming if you’ve been following my Twitter the last few weeks. I was morbidly curious about Control in the months leading up to release for two main reasons. Remedy, who makes games almost exclusively in my favorite genre, 3rd person shooters, is a developer who’s games I’ve often been interested in, but never played. Plus, this time around, the mix of supernatural powers and gunplay made the Saint’s Row IV and inFAMOUS loving kid in me stand at attention. That’s some high praise coming from me, since inFAMOUS 2 was my favorite game of all time for many years until Saints Row IV dethroned it. Despite some shaky preview impressions, the game ended up giving me that superpowered fantasy I was hoping for and served as an excellent introduction to Remedy’s games.
This game captivated me not by showing me a big flashy set piece to open the game, but by purposefully not giving me much to go off of at the top. It invites you in to pull on it’s threads and while the end of every thread doesn’t always yield an answer, nearly all of them provide some truly bizarre fiction on the way. It shows you some truly strange things, but it does so in way that is just barely out of the ordinary. It’s never completely off the wall like the wacky world of Sunset Overdrive I mentioned above, but it treats its absurdity with the utmost seriousness. While I’m not deeply familiar with art that can be described this way, I’m told it’s very Lynchian, which to me just means it’s the kind of weird shit that my Twin Peaks loving pal Andy likes. There are dozens of documents that discuss the normally absurd with the dryness of an income tax form. It’s a new kind of tongue-in-cheek humor(?) that I’ve rarely been exposed to, and I ate up all of it.
Speaking of eating, this game definitely ate me up and spat me right back out at parts. But it’s difficulty is only there to emphasize the use of the many powers Jessie Faden, the player character, has at her disposal. With her Mighty Morphin’ ™ Service Weapon and telekinesis, she does most of her damage, but her other abilities revolve around mitigating damage done to her, so ignoring them leads to swift and frequent deaths. Learning how to balance the cool downs of her weapons and her abilities was a blast, and steadily upgrading them throughout the game left me with that all powerful feeling I crave in games like this.
I even dug the quirkiness of many of the characters. The conflict between Jessie’s stoic exterior and awkward inner monologue was always fun to watch. Casper Darling’s progressively more unhinged video logs were always a highlight when I reached them. And Ahti has the charm of every kindly old man you’ve ever met, just with a much stranger potential core under that soft surface. From the plucky attitude of Emily Pope to the sleazy humor of Frederick Langston, nearly every character in The Oldest House had something to love about them.
But the thing that really first sticks out to me is the sense of style it has. Despite this game apparently being a budget title when compared to other Remedy games, it’s oozes personality in it’s visual design. From the foreboding colored lighting found all throughout the game to the screen filling text that greets you upon reaching a new area of The Oldest house, so much of this game was designed to be as eye-catching as possible with every frame. Even now, long after I’ve platinumed the game, I wanna hop back in to take advantage of the photo mode that is now there, just so I can take some action shots.
So, there you have it, Control is my favorite game of 2019, and it deserves it. For as much as other games captivated me with it’s gameplay, pulled me in with it’s story, or impressed me with it’s art design, Control was the only game to check all of those boxes and more. Can’t wait to jump into the Expeditions mode that is now out, and for the DLC that is coming later this year.
And that’s all I got! 2019 has been a surprisingly great year for games. Unlinke 2018 with God of War, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Spider-Man, choosing the best games of this year was more reliant on personal tastes than any other year of the generation. And to be honest, I loved that about this year. The discourse about games in 2019 has been so much more lively when it’s not centralized around 2-3 big titles, so despite many of the games I listed being shooters, I’ve been exposed to so many new types of games that I now have interest in trying out. From the Halo series, to the Yakuza Series, to genres entirely new to me in the case of Disco Elysium, there’s a lot of games I wanna try out in this new year and decade. Playing these classics might be hard in 2020, with titles as big as Doom Eternal, The Last of Us Part 2, and SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated hitting store shelves almost every 2-3 weeks. But that just makes for an even more exciting end of year discourse for all of us who love games, even more so as we head into a new console generation.
Cheers to everyone who made it through this whole thing, much appreciation to everyone who worked on any of the 20 games mentioned here, thanks for all the support in the last year, and I hope you all follow me and the rest of us here at VGU.TV into an exciting 2020!