By Lewis Empson and Marcus Yeatman-Crouch
In this seemingly endless year there’s been a massive amount of games released, including triple A blockbusters, sleeper hits and derailed hype train disasters. If you read last week’s article, you already saw our thoughts on the official Game Awards winners of this year, but we decided to do our own spin on the awards, with some different winners for some of the main categories while also throwing in a few of our own. Check out our choices here, and let us know on Twitter or Instagram what you think!
Star Wars: Battlefront II
Battlefront II had one of the most infamously bad launches in recent video game memory (only recently being upstaged by Cyberpunk 2077 – more on that later). EA was on prime money making form with this title, ladening it full of micro-transactions, cosmetic DLC and a progression system based on random loot boxes meaning that your in-game performance was dependent on how much you spent in game. However with 2020 seeing the final major update to Battlefront II, it can be safe to say the game has since been redeemed and is no longer a stain on the much beloved Battlefront name. With an overwhelming amount of free updates culminating on the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story inspired “Battle on Scarif Update” released in April, Battlefront II was unrecognisable from it initial state with a focus on fun and satisfying gameplay over money making, genuine love and respect for the source material and weekly gameplay events to keep players engaged. It’s safe to say that Battlefront II is one of the many Star Wars redemption stories worthy of the likes of Darth Vader’s or Kylo Ren’s.
Best Bang for your Buck
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
This game is huge. Overwhelmingly huge at first with hours upon hours of gameplay featuring a deep storyline laden in mythology and lore for you to research and an open world brimming with activities, loot and challenges. If you’re looking for a game worthy of the price tag and want to squeeze the most value from it as possible, AC Valhalla is the game to go for as its so full of content that you’ll never get bored. And if by some miracle you do hunt down everything in its sprawling open world, you have expansion packs coming next year to add to the mountain of content available at launch. So if you’re after a game to last you a while, then consider this viking brawling epic as it will definitely stand the test of time.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Miles Morales may not have been a full game like the first Spider-Man on PS4, but it definitely managed to fit a lot into its short story, including some incredible music. Much of it takes from the original Spider-Man’s heroic soundtrack, then mixes in some new beats that fit the character of Miles. That is what elevates this game above others when it comes to the soundtrack – the songs here are tailor-made for Miles Morales, his age group, and his neighbourhood of Harlem. The composers clearly took these environmental and cultural factors into account, and in doing so found a sound that kept things Spider-Man, but made it clear that there was a different personality under the mask.
Best Lockdown Game
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
The game that inspired the lockdown games craze and that kept as cosy and sane whilst the world was crumbling around us, Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the calm during the storm. During endless days devoid of structure and meaning, I would have ACNH ready to check in too with my villagers happy to strike up conversation and my town would be slowly growing and evolving into my perfect escape from the chaos of 2020. Its soothing soundtrack and comforting characters captured the hearts of gamers worldwide with Nintendo Switches selling out everywhere as it became the new go-to lockdown hobby to grow your desert island and switch off from the world around you. Every day felt refreshing as you’d unlock a new tool or recipe to help develop, explore and learn more about your new desert island home, the perfect sense of productivity in a time where everything felt on pause.
This may be a controversial choice as Final Fantasy VII Remake Part 1 was a well beloved and much anticipated remake that revolutionised the source material but in doing so it became its own new game in its own right which has forged a new storyline meaning that as much as it’s a remake, it’s also technically a new game as well. Demon’s Souls has been lovingly remade in the vision of the original for the PS5 with stunning new graphics, animations and gameplay upgrades all whilst staying faithful to the original. This has made it a more accessible to new players and fans of the original that may find it not as viable to play on the aging PS3 system as well as providing the perfect incentive for players considering hopping onto the next gen. If grueling difficulty and grotesquely gorgeous designs and graphics are your think, then Demon’s Souls is worth a try to test your mettle and its the perfect example of how to modernise a classic whilst remaining true to its roots.
It’s safe to say no game this year has failed as hard. Seven years of hype; possibly the most anticipated game of the decade; from a developer famous for The Witcher series – let’s be honest, Cyberpunk was doomed to fail. Not only is the game rife with bugs – many of which are game-breaking – it is also woefully bad to play on PS4 and Xbox One, the two consoles most people have, and while it may run well on next-gen and PC, the fact of the matter is that Cyberpunk just fails to deliver what it promised. The story is still great, and the environment fits the bill, but the life of the world, the combat, and the illusion of choice are all underwhelming. When you pile on the bugs (including a terrible, seizure-inducing one stuck in a required quest), you just have to think the game would have gone down better without almost a decade of hype following it. If that hasn’t convinced you like it has us, Sony have also removed Cyberpunk from its PlayStation Store and made an exception in their refunds policy specifically for this game, while developers CD Projekt Red desperately try to salvage their reputation. There is hope, with plenty of bug fixes and support incoming that could eventually make Cyberpunk 2077 a game worthy of the hype, but its failure on release will live long in the memory and taint a game with so much promise. Any other takers for this award? Didn’t think so.
Game of the Year
Ghost of Tsushima
As an open world game, Ghost of Tsushima was a real box ticker. Many thought it would just be an Assassin’s Creed set in Japan, but it’s absolutely not and achieves its own themes and style perfectly. The emotional and gripping story charts the transformation of a samurai who must betray his code to save his people, and the island of Tsushima provides a stunning open world to explore with little to no HUD features to allow for ultimate immersion. The fact the game has its own ‘Kurosawa mode’, a nod to the legendary director, shows just how much developers Sucker Punch pride themselves on creating a cinematic experience that is evident in every movement and gameplay mechanic. The stellar performance of Daisuke Tsuji as Jin Sakai is one of the best of this generation, giving players a deeply complex character whose evolution and path is shaped by story events and player choice, with voice acting and expressions guaranteed to keep you invested. Even after you storm through and get the Platinum trophy, the adventure doesn’t stop with the New Game+ update and an excellent co-op mode that delves even deeper into the Japanese culture and mythology the game thrives on. Considering there weren’t massive expectations from the public, and a quiet release around the same time as The Last of Us 2, Ghost of Tsushima was an absolutely fantastic new IP that provided a unique touch to the open world genre while delivering a beautiful, unforgettable experience. In the final year of the PS4 as the latest generation console, Ghost of Tsushima pushed it to its limit to deliver one of Sony’s best ever console exclusives.