Games of 2020

List items

  • This game fucking rules. Yes there are parts that are too stretched out, yes it feels a little dated in structure and in side quests, but the combat, the art, and the characters all feel so perfectly refined and updated to make sense in a modern format.

    I never wanted it to end. If there's anything I really wish it did better it's the post-game content, which feels as quickly thrown together as I could imagine it being. The fact they couldn't even throw you back in the world and let you fight a few new bosses and harder enemies is kind of a bummer.

    I absolutely cannot wait to see how they build out the other party member's combat styles and how they handle the more open structure of the rest of the original game (please just throw me in a huge open world/overworld structure with these mechanics, I'd play that for a hundred hours, seriously).

  • Okay so I really love this game but holy fucking shit it's so long. Like, easily the longest game I've played in I don't know how long. Maybe ever, just for pure time to finish? Like, not an open world game or a multiplayer game where you just can kind of fuck around for hours doing nothing. Purely just for the story, this game took me 150 hours to finish.

    And it's insane, but even then in a lot of ways I didn't want it to end. I loved the characters, the story, the world, the style, everything.

    I don't think the characters here top Persona 4's, but damn this team is great at building a world and characters you just want to hang out with, and that's something I think more games could take to heart. Great, fleshed out characters can carry a game well past its technological limitations, and I wish there were more games comfortable enough and confident enough in their writing to let us just chill with characters and really get to know them.

    I constantly feel like it's insane how you can play a 50+ hour game and barely feel like you know the characters beyond 2-hour-movie level plot points and character development. The benefit of story in games should be allowing the player to do whatever they want with those characters, not just move the main plot forward, and I love these games for that.

  • What is there to say about this game? It's great and could not have come out at a more perfect time. Had a ton of fun playing, but even moreso visiting my girlfriend and friends' islands (who played for way longer than I did, and I have around 70 hours in the game) and seeing their creations.

    I really only fell off the game because, honestly, I didn't want to turn my island into a city. I liked the feeling of living on a deserted island with just enough personality to say it's mine. I liked having no fences, I liked keeping large parts of the island natural, and the more shops and villagers and whatever got added, the less I wanted to keep going on the progression. And once you decide that, there just isn't that much left to do in the game besides fishing and looking for fossils, which, hey, if you're really into that more power to you, but once I caught my 300th bass I didn't really want to spend my time that way either. But I do love making shirt designs and hats and stuff, so maybe I'll get back into that at some point.

  • Probably the most instantly enjoyable fighting game I've ever played on every level. It's beautiful, the character designs are all fun and distinct from each other, and there aren't so many that you feel instantly overwhelmed with character matchups and where to start learning. Just pick up and play, mash out some combos, and you can start to feel confident in what you're doing in minutes, while also building a solid base to start learning more complicated combos and tactics from there. So great.

    Only disappointment was the story mode, which from seeing some brief video seemed much more promising than it ended up being. If they'd built full scrolling, beat-em-up style stages, had some more unique enemies, and made some cutscenes, this thing could really have been something. Maybe someday we'll get a fighting game that actually has an interesting single-player that does more than stitch together fights with cutscenes, but until then this is the closest we've gotten, I'd say, so that's something.

  • Fuck, I need to finish this game.

  • If I had to boil down my thoughts on this game to three words, they'd be "I get it". It's a meditation on violence. I got it two hours into the game. Hell, I got this from the first game, Uncharted 4, and half of every violent video game story in the last decade. There was no need to make us play this for 30 hours. I was so sick of playing by the end I didn't even care what happened to the characters anymore. Just wanted them to cut the last 3-4 hours into a long cutscene and call it a day. I was done.

    You're Naughty Dog, one of the most acclaimed studios in the world, could've done anything. Why choose to make this for 7 years? Why choose to make people play this for 30 hours?

    And even after all this, judging by the number of gif accounts I see on twitter making super cool looking John Wick-esque clips of Ellie murdering dozens of people forces me to believe they weren't even successful in what they seemed to be trying to do: make you feel bad for doing the things the game gives you no choice but to do. Which, increasingly, I feel like might just be impossible to do in a big-budget game. Barring any feelings they might want to illicit in you through giving every enemy in the game a name, or making people scream extra long when you shoot them, or making them blow up into chunks even more realistically this time, at the end of the day, the game has to be fun to play or people won't like it.

    By the time I was half way through the game, I was done, then Abby's part starts, and, even despite the insanely obvious emotional manipulation that part goes through, I was pulled back in because, shocker, there was actually a plot beyond "murder more people".

    But even after you finish that part it just. Keeps. Going. For. So. Long. And, worse, suddenly, the characters, factions, locations, everything go from painstakingly rendered over hours and hours of in-game documents and sheer time spent with members of all sides to paper cutouts and ridiculous, Zack Snyder-esque settings that are too perfect to be believable in the world they created up to this point. After doing a fantastic (if overly long and unnecessary in spots) job of rendering all factions involved in the story in Seattle, we're left with the Santa Barbera faction who are shown to just be bad, so it's totally cool to cut through them. They spent dramatically more time making you feel bad for killing the WLF's dogs than they do even talking to a single one of the characters here.

    Side note, hoo boy the dog parts were silly. Are you really that worried people wouldn't feel bad about murdering dogs?? No one didn't feel bad about murdering the dogs, and if they do they're not gonna get the message by playing fetch with the dog once or like THREE SEPARATE TIMES. It just made me alternate between sighing, rolling my eyes, and actively laughing at the absurdity of trying to make the player feel bad for doing things they actually have no choice in. And don't even get me started on trying to give the same 5ish enemy character models different names that the other enemies will yell every time you kill one of them to make you feel bad there, too.

    They abandon Dina's character completely, suddenly turning her into a simple housewife for Ellie to leave because she couldn't understand. This completely goes against everything we've seen of her up to this point, a badass who's seen just as much of how awful the world is as Ellie, if not more.

    This all doesn't even get into how continuing to flesh out the end of the first game does no favors for it or this game. The end of the first game only works well in the moment and without knowing all the facts. The second you stop to think about why the Fireflies wouldn't even wait a split second to talk to Ellie about whether or not she wanted to do this was silly when you don't know anything about them, let alone when the game tells you they were good people! Look at what a good dad the doctor is, he'd definitely not even wait a second to talk to the innocent, similarly-aged-to-his-daughter girl he's about to murder! And that's not even getting into how dumb it is they'd have to kill Ellie immediately to get the cure. No tests, no biopsies to confirm the cure would work, nothing. Of course Joel would say fuck that! Just an all around dumb ending that only gets worse the longer you make us think about it.

    Also worth noting, the only two Black characters in this game are murdered within about an hour of each other, one being the very angry and one of the only characters who isn't shown to have any redeeming characteristics, Isaac, the head of the WLF, who is shot and forgotten about instantly, and one being a huge, unspeaking Black man who Abby brutally murders over the course of 5 minutes or so. And I get it, nearly everyone dies in this game, and in other ways they do try to show minority and lgbtq characters, but it doesn't change that.

    Also also, they use the Black Angels' "Young Men Dead" to punctuate the rampage Ellie goes on through the Santa Barbera campsite, and, man, I love me some Black Angels, but c'mon guys, 1. that song's so overused in media like this, and 2. you're not gonna top how True Detective used it. At least pick a different Black Angels song, they're a good band!

    All this and I haven't even gotten into the gameplay, because it's fine. Just the most utterly fine stealth action/3rd person shooter I've ever played. Not really remarkable in any way, didn't really feel any desire to get better at it, just wanted to be good enough to make it through these encounters and not have to think about it too much. Other games have done everything they're trying to do here better, but that doesn't make it bad.

    I will say though, the "take random 20-year-old pills you found marinating in a blood filled drawer to learn how to make smoke bombs" level up system just gets more comical as time goes on and these games try harder and harder to be completely realistic.

  • Pretty disappointing after the absolutely incredible RE2 remake, but still fun enough to keep me going through the (blessedly short) runtime. It's just fun to shoot zombies and explore some very well crafted creepy police stations and hospitals.

    It's definitely RE falling back into the same ridiculously over the top tropes that led them to go back to the drawing board with RE7, but at the end of the day that can still be fun, and there's definitely still more of the spirit of the series in this game than even RE4, which makes for a light, but not-completely-brainless romp.

  • Extremely cool, but can't shake the feeling that anyone spending their time mastering the tools here could just take a slight step further and learn Unity or something that'd let them own their end product in a real way. The most I hope for with this game is that it'll inspire some people who wouldn't have had the confidence to get into game development through traditional means will get their start here and go on to make something truly incredible on their own, or be able to "get their name out there" using the platform here and move on to bigger and better things.

    The most time I spent playing this was the original game made by the devs, which really is special. I just wish the original intentions of the devs were followed through on and people were able to export their finished product and sell them. Without that, the whole "free expression" theme of the game feels a little tainted.

  • Love to see beautifully animated 2D games still being made in 2020. The combat feels great, has enough depth to the combo system to make you want to try out more characters while still feeling fun enough to just button mash through.

    I have to agree with Jeff, the music here is just nothing to write home about compared to the greatness of the old games, and it just doesn't have the polish it needs to make a real impact.

    Really hope the devs get another chance to build out a bigger, more modern take on the beat-em-up from this, but I'm not really sure how well this game did, so I'm left just wishing they'd been able to take more time building out this one.

  • In case you ever wondered if id actually understood why DOOM 2016 was so good, here comes DOOM Eternal to make it crystal clear they didn't.

    DOOM 2016 worked because it was so straightforward in every way, from the premise to the gameplay to the story, and it makes 100% sure you know what it's about right from the fantastic opening scene. Eternal adds too much of everything. Too much attempted character development of the Doomslayer. Too many new mechanics and weapons you absolutely have no choice but to cycle through. Too many jumping puzzles (which are just bad, so too much in this case is any).

    The thing that made me stop playing was the Marauder enemy. It's been said elsewhere, but this boss comes out of absolutely nowhere and completely breaks the flow of the game. Suddenly none of your weapons work whatsoever and your flow is completely broken. You know, the flow? The thing this game is supposed to be good at? The thing that makes you feel like a badass demon killing machine? Yeah, not anymore. The game barely, BARELY maintained that up to this point with how you have be swapping weapons to get armor and health and ammo back constantly, and this enemy was just the last straw. With how easy it is to get completely shredded even by the weakest enemies, the Doomslayer ends up feeling like a less competent murderer than Ellie in Last of Us Part 2, and that's a problem, at least in my eyes.

  • Played this again because it was rereleased on PS4 and I was so frustrated with DOOM Eternal and how overcomplicated and up its own ass it is with its mechanics. I needed a simple, fun, dumb shooter that actually provides the power fantasy that DOOM should have been. Man this game's so good. Give it a sequel!

  • Finally got around to playing this this year. Something I realized while re-downloading it is I really think the box/launch screen art is a huge part of why I never got into this game originally. Generic knight guy standing awkwardly against a piss-colored sky didn't really make me excited to get back to it. God, video game box art is so bad.