What a year! Feels like I just wrote the Raddest of 2019 post. A great year for binge gaming. I played a bunch of post-apocalyptic games that were fitting to the global pandemic situation. I bought a PS4 in 2019. It was the first console I’ve owned since the PS2. Before that purchase, I’ve done gaming on Mac laptops for years, which lead me to play lots of cross-platform indie games and awesome web games like the ones we have here on Radcade. With extensive time to kill during the 2020 Covid lockdown, I decided to take the plunge and catch up on some epic 80 hours plus triple-A console games I had missed.
Nier was my first modern, triple-A, open-world experience, and wow, what a mind boggle. This game is a masterpiece. It takes place in a post-post-apocalyptic setting far in the future after a global pandemic. The characters and storyline are surreal and sci-fi futurist. The director of Nier is Yoko Taro, an enigmatic individual who wears an elaborate costume mask to all public appearances. I had heard the buzz around Nier at its original launch but did not have the platforms to play it. I’ve always been a fan of SquareEnix’s work and had it in the back of my mind to binge this title once I had the equipment. If you have not played this title I highly recommend it. Nier shows the power of video games as an interactive art-form and storytelling experience. This game set the expectations for all the other open-world epic titles I played the rest of the year. That is a very high bar to set. I was sure I would be disappointed by anything I played after but luckily, I was wrong.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Horizon Zero Dawn is another game I had heard about at launch and was interested in, but wasn’t equipped to play until a later date. The main thing that intrigued me about Horizon Zero Dawn was the engine technology powering it. I saw game developer conference presentations about the Decima Engine while researching engine architecture for the development of my engine. The power of the Decima engine enables some truly unique game experiences. The environments in Horizon Zero Dawn are insanely detailed and realistic. There are incredible systems in the engine for real-time rendering and generation. Vegetation systems, realistic terrain generation, and body of water generation. The character models and animations are very realistic. This is the first game that I noticed that digitized actors and acting performances are now a critical consideration in modern games. This theme is continued in the following titles as well. The quality of this game and simulation is significantly ‘next level’. The Decima engine is so good that it prompted me to check out another game that uses it in this list.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake
I’ll start by saying Final Fantasy 6 ( 3 in the US ) is hands down my favorite game of all time. And critically one of the best of all time. That said, I have mixed emotions about Final Fantasy 7 because I did not play it during its heyday. I never owned a PS one. My family was in the one console per generation income bracket. I was a Nintendo baby, Nintendo power subscriber, and stayed loyal to Nintendo with the N64 instead of switching to PlayStation. I regret this move as The PlayStation had the superior catalog of games. But who knows where I’d be if I was addicted to PlayStation during those formative years. I instead turned to PC games and learned how to program.
What I loved about (S)NES-era Nintendo was the partnerships with publishers like SquareSoft. I didn’t understand the corporate politics in my youth to realize I would not be playing the next Final Fantasy because I owned an N64 and Square partnered with PlayStation. My Final Fantasy bias starts in 7th grade junior high. I remember seeing the marketing campaign for FF7 on mainstream MTV and being a bit confused. I had been playing Final Fantasy 3 on my SNES. Did they release 3 other games I hadn’t played and now 7 had arrived? I then heard all about Final Fantasy 7 from kids I shared a lunch table with. They would give daily lunch updates as they progressed through the game and talk about new mechanics and characters they’d unlocked. I would chime in with how the same mechanics were in Final Fantasy 3 and they’d look at me like an outcast because they’d never heard of FF3.
FF7 then proceeded to haunt me through life. Years later I tried to play it on PC when it had a legitimate PC release, unfortunately, the PC release would consistently crash on my family’s under spec PC. More years later I eventually played FF7 on a PSX emulator. I think this was about 2009. At this point, I was fully aware of the game and had most details spoiled for me. I had a PS2 and gaming PC that I had been playing open-world games like Shadow of the Colossus and Gothic 3 on. So my expectations were much higher. I binge played through FF7 on an emulator to bring closure. It was a mediocre experience. The early 3d, low poly graphics did not hold up and were ugly compared to the high-quality 2D sprite work of the earlier FF games. It was not a memorable experience and I didn’t see why it was so hyped and beloved, to begin with.
I was in the minority with my negative bias and people loved this game so much they had to remake it. I now consider 2020’s Final Fantasy 7 Remake to be my first Final Fantasy 7 play-through. Let me tell you, I am glad that I didn’t have the pre-existing emotional attachment to the original FF7 because I came in fresh and I loved this shit. I’ll admit I am now a Final Fantasy 7 poser. If any one asks I’ve always loved FF7. I loved the story, the characters, and the environment. The FF7 universe was all recreated in beautiful modern GPU pumping high-res detail. This is part 1 of a supposedly 3 part “Remake” series. I can’t wait for the other installments
Death Stranding is director Hideo Kojima‘s first independent venture after departing Konami, where he built a legacy on the Metal Gear Solid franchise. Another disclaimer of bias, I have not played any of the Metal Gear Solid series. Death Stranding was my first Kojima title. I was decided to play Death Stranding after learning that it used the same Decima Engine discussed above in Horizon Zero Dawn. Death Stranding also uses the systems of the Decima engine to great effect. Death Stranding has an excellent cast of digitized real-world actors that play out its great story-line.
Death Stranding is the perfect 2020 game. It takes place in post-apocalyptic United states in which the US government has failed and citizens are isolated to underground bunkers and communicate through a digital network. The main character, played by Norman Reedus, is tasked with traveling across America, delivering supplies to the quarantined citizens, and reconnecting citizens to the network to re-establish The United States. This is the tip of the iceberg, there’s terrorism and ghosts that try to stop you. Death stranding has a novel multiplayer experience in which players can build structures to help them travel the US and share them with other players. The theme of Death Stranding is all about building connections through times of isolation which couldn’t be more relevant to the 2020 covid situation. Death Stranding launched in 2019 and people are asking if Hideo Kojima can predict the future.
Death Stranding launched to huge amounts of hype. All the trailers Kojima dropped for Death Stranding were next level cinematic experiences. Death Stranding took some huge creative risks and was met with mixed reviews. Death Stranding haters were disappointed because they were expecting a new action-packed open-world Metal Gear solid installment. Death Stranding is a uniquely slow, meditative, and punishing experience. Players coming to death stranding looking for a high-speed action-packed shooter game were left disappointed. Death Stranding was picked as PC Gamers 2020 game of the year and they do an incredible job of further detailing why it is the perfect game for 2020.
Hades is another perfect 2020 game because you play in an endless cycle trying to escape from hell. The game-play sessions blend as the quarantine days fly by. This may sound bad but the genius of Hades is it has enough variety of buttery smooth game-play, which is rewarding to you keep coming back for more in an endless addictive blur. This game hit me right in the blind spot. It was not on my radar at all. Slowly I started hearing buzz online. The first couple of times I heard about it I immediately got it confused for Supergiant’s other game Pyre that I had heard mixed reviews of. Eventually, a coworker of mine also mentioned it and streamed a live session. I decided to check it out.
At first, I thought hades was going to be some modern Diablo clone and got incredibly hyped. However, that’s, not the case. Hades is not loot oriented like Diablo. Part dungeon crawler roguelike and part dating-sim, Hades is full of lovable characters set in a Greek mythology environment that keeps you coming back for more. Hades has received praise as the 2020 game of the year.
What a shit show. CyberPunk 2077 is the perfect slop bucket mess of a game to end sloppy 2020 on. CyberPunk 2077 was announced in 2012 and has been pumping the hype train non-stop since. Word is, developer CD Projekt Red did not start actual development on the project until 2016. At the time of writing this, CyberPunk is about 4 weeks post-launch. It launched without many promised features and with many bugs. I played it on PS4 which was probably the worst experience possible. It would regularly crash and throw game-breaking bugs that would require a revert to the previous save state. In an unprecedented move, Sony delisted CyberPunk from the PlayStation store and offered refunds for all buyers!
With all that said CyberPunk 2077 was still an enjoyable experience. The story-line and acting made up for all the bugs and quirks. Keanu Reeves plays a lead role as Johnny Silverhand, a former punk rocker turned terrorist bent on destroying mega-corporations.
CyberPunk still seems like it has potential. I am hoping that CyberPunk developer CD Projekt Red keeps pushing patches to improve the experience. I will be checking back in the future and maybe replaying on a gaming PC to get the full experience. Here’s hoping for a more rad CyberPunk and a totally rad year next year!.