2020 has been anything but a normal year, and for far more reasons than I could possibly list in a single editorial. However, for as bat-shit insane as this year has been for both national and international crisis’, it’s also been an amazing year for those in the gaming world. We saw the debut of new IP such as Ghost of Tsushima, Immortals: Fenyx Rising, and Hades, as well as the return of some major hitters like Animal Crossing, Crash Bandicoot, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. We even had the launch of two brand new consoles in the midst of intense shortages in manufacturing and financial uncertainty caused by COVID-19.
On top of that, PC gamers like myself saw the revival of CPU maker AMD retake the crown from Intel as the de facto standard in price/performance with the 3rd generation of their Ryzen chipset, and the release of their latest GPUs, the RTX 30xx series, which has seen an unprecedented level of performance increase from the previous generation, in same cases by over 80% at the same or in some cases, lower MSRP! It’s been an embarrassingly amazing year for gamers, but only one can win Game of the Year! Here at MegaDads, we decided that there was no way we could possibly agree on what games were the best, so we decided to take a personal approach. As the de facto “brains” of this operation, I present to you my personal best of 2020.
Well, let’s start this list off with a bang, shall we? This story came out of nowhere, and surprised just about everyone in the industry, especially those with previous knowledge of CD Projekt Red’s history of amazing customer service and gamer focused initiatives like DRM-free digital games, their entire DLC model for games like The Witcher 3, and general willingness to make things right when games don’t turn out quite right. In fact, speaking of The Witcher 3, those with a good enough memory might recall that on PC, the third game in the beloved series didn’t run all that well on PC (though not quite Cyberpunk 2077 bad). The difference here was that CDPR didn’t try to hide it from reviewers and gamers alike. The game came out, garnered nothing but praise for it’s gameplay, storytelling, and general amazingness, but was called out on its bugs and issues from platform to platform; which, afterwards, CDPR went on to fix and polish and turn into the 10/10 game that it is today.
Enter Cyberpunk 2077. The one-time most anticipated game of the year by nearly all of my closest gaming friends. Preview coverage looked great, the Nite City Wire video coverage showed off a game with a million and one interesting and unique systems that would combine to make one of the most comprehensive, massive, and enthralling open-world RPG the medium had ever seen. What we got, was far from that promise. I’m not going to go into all the detail and retell the tale of CDPR’s seemingly intentional deception of gamers and gaming media. The long and short of it is pretty simple. CDPR knew that the console versions of the game… ALL OF THE CONSOLE VERSIONS, weren’t up to snuff. They knew this and with that knowledge they embargoed and hid those versions from reviewers. In fact, it wasn’t until after the dust had settled that the collective light-bulb in the room went off and everyone realized that we had all been deceived. We learned as a community that at no point had CDPR ever shown off the base PS4 or Xbox One console versions of the game, and now we know why. Full of bugs, graphical inconsistency (sometimes just incomplete assets), crashes, and a completely unacceptable and unplayable framerate (sometimes in the mid-20s), the console versions were pushed out as an incomplete product, after having pre-sold over 4 million copies to consumers, or nearly 50% of all pre-orders for the game.
Here’s the real kick in the dick. On PC (the best platform😉), the game is fantastic! If not for the issues stated above, it might have been my actual game of the year. Not counting the performance issues and crashes, the game is stable and runs really well, and the ray-tracing implementation is truly a sight to behold, even on my first-generation RTX card. I can’t even imagine how good this game will look on the 40xx series RTX cards with its third-generation RT cores. There are other issues of course, such as the nearly non-existent AI, and the insane amount of side-quest content that gets thrown at the character just because he/she happens to traverse into a new territory. Seriously, it’s a little annoying to have a quest log with nearly 30 items in it just because I drove across town to get to my next story mission. That said, what’s here is really good, and under all the console issues (which will 100% get patched and fixed over the coming months), there is a truly remarkable game that deserves the attention of every gamer, just just those who can afford or choose to play on high-end PCs. If CDPR just chose to put this one back in the oven for another 6 or so months, I think this would have landed on virtually every Game of the Year list for 2021. Instead, it sits here. just on the outskirts of greatness.
I have no real memories of Final Fantasy 7. I know I played the game during my childhood, but I’m 90% positive in the fact that I never actually owned this classic and instead only played it while visiting friends houses, yet I’ve always held the title in high regard. With only sparse memories to work from, and odd messaging by Square Enix as to the true scope of the FF7 remake, I was blown away to learn that part one of this trilogy (maybe) took the 5 to 10 hours of Midgar from the original game, and extended it to well over 30 to 40 hours depending on how many side quests you decide to complete.
Not only did they expand upon the game play and character development, but they did so by making one of the most satisfying and visually stunning games I’ve ever played. The updated combat systems took me a while to figure out, but once it all clicked, swapping between characters on the fly and making the most out of the ATB system felt rewarding. I can’t tell you which parts of Remake are original and which parts were added or extended, but the character moments in this game all felt important, with no one character hogging too much spotlight over an other. In fact, my only real complaint from a character point of view was the “mispronunciation” of the word Mako. In my head and to that of all my colleges, that word has been pronounced as “May-ko”, but in remake it was pronounced “Mah-ko”, and it drove me a little crazy every time. I’m not saying that Square is wrong, but I am saying that they’re in this list, and not my actual GOTY list, and the two decisions may be connected.
GAME OF THE YEAR – THIRD PLACE
There are a myriad of reasons why a game can make someone’s GOTY list. A game can tell an interested or incredible story, a game can make someone feel joy or sadness, a game can be a cinematic masterpiece or a quiet walk through a zombie-infested house. And then, a game can be a 10-15 hour non-stop demon murdering adrenaline rush through literal hell on Earth. Doom Eternal makes this list for one very simple and obvious reason. Murdering Hell demons with an insane arsenal of bombastic weaponry while walking in the shoes of an unstoppable killing machine known only as “Doom Guy” is quite possibly the most fun time I’ve had with a game all year. Let’s not talk about how Doom Eternal capitalizes and improves upon Doom (2016) in nearly every conceivable way, but let’s talk about the sheer brilliance of the game design.
Like its predecessor, Doom Eternal emphasizes and rewards constant movement. More to the point, the game goes out of its way to punish you if you play like a whiny, scared, little bitch. There is no cover, no half-walls or overturned police cars to hide behind. This game is about movement and killing Hell demons as quickly and efficiently as possible. Doom Eternal expects its players to quickly learn this concept and puts them into monster arenas that require snap decisions as to enemy priority, as well as weapon priority. Got a fancy rocket launcher, I hope you don’t waste it on a demon that would be just as easily fell with a shotgun blast to the face, because as soon as you round that next corner you know damn well you’re gonna be face to face with a swarm of Cacodemon’s in need of a good rocket enema. Knowing when to kill an enemy at range, and when to go in for the spectacularly violent melee “glory kill” is a delicate balance of health and ammo replenishment and always ends with an internal squeal of happiness. Seriously, in my 15 hour run of the game, not once did I grow weary of Doom Guy’s blatant disregard for demon anatomy and bone structure as I watched him “rip and tear” enemies apart in a colorful explosion of blood and gore.
Doom Eternal is, simply put, one of the coolest video games released in a year full of great games. I loved Doom (2016), but I think ID Software improved in nearly every capacity. I am assuming and hoping that this is part two of a planned trilogy, and if so, I really can’t wait to see what they bring in the next one.
GAME OF THE YEAR – RUNNER UP
The original Half-Life was released way back in 1998, and at the time was widely praised for innovative scripted sequences that were influential on the FPS genre, and would go on to change how shooters were developed from that moment on. Up until that time, story beats were progressed strictly through the use of cut-scenes, but in Half-Life, the story progressed whenever the player triggered a sequence, and would continue whether the player stuck around to see it or not. It was truly revolutionary!
I never played this version of Half-Life, despite owning the sequel on Steam for the last 5 or so years. Thankfully, a studio named the Crowbar Collective took it upon themselves (with Valve’s blessing) to remake the original classic using Valve’s Source engine. They called it, Black Mesa, named after the complex in which the game takes place. The remake is a (mostly) faithful 1:1 remake of Half-Life with improved textures and animations of every single asset in the game. The developers did however, take the opportunity to improve upon the one section of the original that fans and critics alike lambasted for over a decade, the Xen chapters. In addition to reworking Xen from scratch, the Crowbar Collective realized that the game would more likely act as an entry for new players into the Half-Life series, and introduce designs and features that would be more appropriate in today’s modern shooters. They made combat more interesting by improving the enemy AI while creating combat areas with more cover and options for the player. The boss fights are intense, and difficult without bordering on unfair and forces players to use their knowledge of the game’s mechanics to survive each encounter.
While not as stunning as the Final Fantasy remake (considering this was done with a fraction of the budget by a small 30-person team), Black Mesa is an incredible remake of one of the most pivotal and influential games of all time. The completely remastered/remade Xen levels are among the best designed levels in any game of any genre, and the art direction of this alien landscape is at times, literally jaw-dropping. If you, like myself, missed out on Half-Life when it was new, you owe it to yourself to play Black Mesa.
GAME OF THE YEAR
There are game developers, and then there is Naughty Dog. There are video games, and then there is The Last of Us Part 2. I do not mean to disparage other developers, or claim that other games aren’t important or medium-changing, but what Naughty Dog did with The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part 2 encompass all the reasons that I love this hobby. I love turning on my PS4, Xbox, or PC and sitting down to bust out a few rounds of Mortal Kombat or get into my rocket-powered car and play car-soccer in Rocket League, but I play games to get lost in a world and enraptured by a story, and The Last of Us Part 2 exemplifies this to an intangible degree. While often hard to play, thanks in part to the gruesome subject matter, TLOU2 held me by the throat for its entire duration and never decided to let go. Even in its quiet moments of reflection and development, such as those found with Ellie and Dina, TLOU2 reminds the players that their journey is one of peril and survival.
In the world of The Last of Us Part 2, nothing is black and white. The game subverts expectations on numerous occasions and the story took players in completely unexpected directions. Through various twists and turns, players are forced to see the world how it truly is, and that those who may, at first appearance, seem like dishonorable enemy combatants deserving of all the pain you plan to put them through, are no more than survivors just trying to get by in the cold, dark world of terrors. On more than one occasion, the actions and emotions being depicted on screen caused me to have to put down the controller, and not just because of the gruesome nature of the violence, although that does exist in spades. The emotional response I received from this game is unlike anything I’ve experienced before, not counting the original game, which at the time received the same praise for similar reasons.
I can’t get into more details without spoiling major plot points, and it’s those plot points that sold me on this game being my game of the year. As a video game, TLOU2 doesn’t do too much new or exciting in the form of gameplay, but it’s not the moment to moment playing of the game that makes this a masterpiece, it’s the emotional resonance that Naughty Dog was able to deliver through a medium still in its infancy and often dismissed as a child’s toy. This game is at times, hard to watch and difficult to experience, but like all great works of art, it’s one that can and must be appreciated for what it is.