Game of the Year 2019

I know it’s later than usual and there are fewer “parts” but 2019 was a weird gaming year for me.

Most Disappointing Game 

Winner: The Outer Worlds

The Outer Worlds started strong. I enjoyed just about everything on that first planet. However, the more I played, the less enthused I was with pushing further. The visual style, dialog, quests, and combat all began to grate on me. It was a tighter and more compact take on Bethesda-style RPGs like Fallout but it was still one of those games and I think I’m officially exhausted by that style of game. 

Most Surprising Game

Winner: Ring Fit Adventure

That weird reveal trailer sold me on the idea of Ring Fit Adventure. I wanted it but I didn’t want to rush out and buy it for $100 just yet. I bided my time until a sale popped up and I pulled the trigger on what turned out to be my favorite fitness game. But it wasn’t just my favorite: my fiancée has been enjoying the hell out of it as well. She didn’t take to Wii Fit U but Ring Fit Adventure has her playing 5 out 7 days in a week.

Best Old Game

Winner: Red Dead Redemption 2 [X1] 

Red Dead Redemption 2 requires a commitment to the bit. The bit? Being a cowboy. You have to love being a cowboy and that doesn’t mean just cherry picking the shootouts and horseback riding. Red Dead Redemption 2 asks people to commit to the life of a cowboy including the mundane and hardships. I was willing to commit and I loved a vast majority of it. It’s one of the best games I played this year. It might be one of the best of the generation. 

Top 4 Games of 2020 

Winner: Apex Legends

  1. Ring Fit Adventure 
  2. Untitled Goose Game 
  3. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening 

Apex Legends is game of the year for 2019. According to PlayStation’s year end wrap up, I played over 400 hours of it. Completed 3 battle passes and I see no sign of slowing down in 2020. It clicked with me like Overwatch but without the need for a large cohesive unit. I effectively staved off the desire to get Call of Duty: Modern Warfare because of Apex Legends’ hold on me. It took a while, but Respawn Entertainment made a battle royale game that suited me.  

You would think all that time playing Apex Legends meant I didn’t have time to play other games but that wasn’t the case. A mixture of misfires and the desire to play older games resulted in a year where I didn’t have enough for a top 10 let alone I don’t even have enough for a top 5! 

Ring Fit Adventure was sneaky good courtesy of Nintendo’s ability to make just about anything fun. Gamifying exercise isn’t new but executing it this well is. It’s the best game of that genre to date and one that I can see myself “playing” for many years to come. 

Untitled Goose Game snuck in and won me over with its mischievous stealth puzzles. House House successfully created a charming stealth action game while minimizing the punishing frustrations of the genre. 

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was a solid Zelda title that was marred by technical performance issues. It’s a damn shame but I pushed passed it towards the end and ultimately enjoyed my time with it.  

Here’s to 2020!

There are many, many gaps including Resident Evil 2, Control, and The Outer Wilds but that was my 2019. I hope to address those omissions in 2020.

LTTP: Red Dead Redemption 2 (X1)

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I noticed a resemblance between Red Dead Redemption 2 and the Star Wars film prequels. Both were self-indulgent, meticulous, and comprehensive to a fault. Fortunately, unlike with George Lucas’ treatment of Star Wars, I felt Rockstar told their story remarkably well and stitched the two Red Dead games together in a compelling manner.

Exploring the events leading up to Dutch Van der Linde’s gang’s demise was worthwhile but I don’t know if they needed to tie up every loose end. They went out of their way to ensure every connective tissue between the two games were formed. They developed a few threads to the point where one could conceivably roll right into Red Dead Redemption without missing any pertinent information. They left very little to the imagination in those key areas.

Meticulous attention paid off for Rockstar’s world building. Fictitious 1898 America never looked better — on both macro and micro levels. These developers simulated the scent of living things for the sole purpose of a more realistic hunting experience for crying out loud. On top of a gorgeous weather and time of day systems, temperatures differed between areas of the map which required the game’s protagonists, Arthur Morgan and John Marston, to don the appropriate attire or face gameplay ramifications. They’re no longer content with including visible detail.

Differing aesthetics were one thing but different areas of the map yielded different populations, cultures, and languages. The sprawling city of St. Denis featured authentic and convincing Cantonese immigrants crossing paths with snooty French patrons looking to build more wealth in America.

Beyond cultural diversity, there were glimpses into the social and economical issues of the time. Racism, sexism, treatment of indigenous peoples, corporate manipulation, and climate change were just some of the topics and themes that permeated throughout. I didn’t feel they said anything radical for today’s standards but I imagine Dutch and Arthur’s progressive views were not so commonplace back then. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Dutch’s motives were not entirely selfless.

Arthur couldn’t afford to be entirely selfless either; he had to meet his own needs in order to survive. He had to hunt, cook, and eat so he wouldn’t waste away. He had to watch what he ate or he would find himself poisoned or overweight. Cigarettes, cigars, and bourbon helped restore the slow motion Dead Eye meter, but they were detrimental to his health. He had to manage his hygiene for the same reason. I could have left his hair and beard to grow into a shaggy mess but for amusing vanity reasons, I visited the barber and shaved often.

The cowboy simulation was just getting started.

On top of all of that, Arthur had to manage his horse’s grooming, dietary, mental, and emotional needs as well. I had to calm it down when it was spooked and show it love in order to develop a bond in order to pull off sick horse drifts. And if that wasn’t enough, I had to maintain my guns with gun oil or else risk wielding a weaker weapon.

Those were the more immediate needs that walked the line of tedium. There was also the semi-optional management of the gang’s camp. Thankfully, these were strictly optional and my neglect of those chores didn’t adversely affect the moment to moment gameplay. Since I was trying to steer Arthur Morgan towards the honorable side of life, I partook in some menial chores.

There was a lot to do in Red Dead Redemption 2 and that’s not counting the more entertaining aspects like the mini-games or theatrical shows. Dominoes? Poker? Silent films? French ladies doing the cancan? They were all there alongside the stranger missions.

I adored the stranger missions in Red Dead Redemption and I adored them just as much here. They brought interesting flavors to the world of Red Dead and I found myself beelining towards them before any other mission. Revisiting areas or choosing to avoid fast traveling often yielded something interesting. It took me a long, long time before I felt that I wrung out the fun from the world. Even now, I still have reasons to go back.

Rewarding exploration is tough to accomplish in itself but rewarding people watching and observation? Rockstar often ensured you got something from that too. There was a fair amount of optional fluff happening around Arthur’s life that wasn’t explicitly highlighted. Hanging out at the camp and checking in between missions provided morsels of entertainment. Stories and concerns of other gang members was shared with Arthur if he inquired. He would also witness altercations and conservations amongst the NPCs. All of these tidbits were optional and I respected that. I could safely ignore it all if I just cared about the shooty shooty bang bang part of this game.

I don’t know why any one would forgo all that world building in favor for the action though. Quite frankly, Red Dead Redemption 2’s moment to moment action wasn’t very good. It’s been years since I played Red Dead Redemption but I felt this prequel’s action was lifted from 2010 and polished up for 2018. It was serviceable then and it’s serviceable now. When the challenge came down to managing Dead Eye meter versus waves upon waves of cowpoke, I felt like I was just going through the motions. It was a noticeable step up from the chores around camp but still a bit of a chore.

Staying on main story mission scripts was the real challenge for me. I couldn’t looting everything — even during the “tense” shootout sequences. I often witnessed fellow NPC gang members die because I was looting. Considering how easily Arthur shrugged off bullets, it was really the only way to maintain urgency.

There were times when I kept to the heavily scripted missions. Towards the end, my dislike for Dutch and Micah grew to the point where I desperately wanted to shoot the two of them. I knew the game wasn’t going to allow me to create a time paradox but I gave it a desperate try. Like Arthur, I felt bound to script that didn’t make sense.

Sadie Adler was the highlight character of the game. She snuck onto the scene and became a driving force of action that I got behind. She followed her sense of justice and didn’t take gruff from anyone. She demonstrated a lot of emotional, mental, and physical strength that I admired.

I witnessed Dutch and Arthur evolve along with other minor characters throughout the game, but not of them were fleshed out as I hoped. Bill and Javier were loyal to Dutch until the very end but I couldn’t glean their motivations.

Fortunately, the common thread tying all the characters together were their superb performances. Rockstar Games were in their element here.

Technical performance concerns kept me waiting for the PC release ; I wanted to play this game at 60 FPS and I still do. With hindsight though, I’m glad I decided on the $20 Xbox One X version because I may have ended up capping the framerate at 30 FPS on the PC version regardless. My NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 with its measly Core i5 6600K would have felt short of my goals for the game. To my surprise, the Xbox One X performed admirably with a few unpleasant but tolerable spots. It was typically a smooth 30 FPS throughout the game with noticeable dips in taxing areas like St. Denis.

Even in the most ideal conditions, controlling Arthur was akin to moving a boat in water. It wasn’t unwieldy but it was certainly not meeting high benchmarks set by other third person shooters like Uncharted or Gears. In a game where you can offend people by bumping, let alone, with accidental punches to the face, these sluggish controls forced me to adapt to the game’s animation priority. Blitzing around a crowded St. Denis at full tilt required a high degree of finesse.

The music continued the Rockstar way of going full bore. Unlike with other areas, the music stood out unblemished in its execution. It was always there to set the mood without getting in the way. I didn’t notice how affecting it was until the back third of the game where things have begun to go awry.

Max Payne 3 showed what Rockstar Games can do in a confined space; an opulent game filled with spectacle, detail and ideas that few studios can even attempt. It took them a while, but Red Dead Redemption 2 finally reached that standard on an open world scale. That’s not easy. It’s not easy to reign in ambition and not overburden on details. While they and stumbled in some areas and obsessive in others, by and large, Red Dead Redemption 2 was a great experience.

Ratings Guide

I loved it

QSF5’s GOTY 2010 Day 2 of 3

goty-2010Day two of three is here and I’m recognizing the surprises and disappointments of 2010.

For the curious, day three will be on Sunday.

Most Disappointing Game of 2010

Winner: Gran Turismo 5


Here were my expectations for the fifth Gran Turismo.

  • Highest caliber tech engine
  • Highest quality car models for all my favorite cars
  • Satisfying driving physics and engine

Just three simple requirements and Gran Turismo 5 managed to only meet one of them; the driving. The tech is all over the place ranging from jaw dropping to down right embarrassing. And the whole business with premium cars vs standard cars left many of my favorites looking like “high” resolution PlayStation 2 models.

Note that I didn’t even mention a quality game experience. I knew going in that Gran Turismo 5 wasn’t going to match up to Forza Motorsport 3 in that department.

Even though I’m still going to investing time in Gran Turismo 5, I can’t help, but feel let down by it. Hopefully future patches improve it tremendously.

Runners ups: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, Call of Duty: Black Ops’ Multiplayer for PS3, Fallout: New Vegas

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Checkpoint: Red Dead Redemption Edition


I picked up Red Dead Redemption for Xbox 360 on Friday and started it immediately. As for Fallout: New Vegas? That can sit there.

I have a GOTY candidate to play.

And so far, It’s living up to expectations. I haven’t encountered any significant issues yet — in fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s the most polished open world game I’ve played this year.

I can’t help, but compare Red Dead Redemption to Fallout: New Vegas. They’re from different “genres”, but they both feature open worlds and both feature vast deserts. I think I’m going to try reviewing both at the same time — like a compare and contrast piece.

As for my late arrival to this Western party? I attribute it to my obsession for a good deal. The price just didn’t budge over the summer and fall seasons. To date, 8 million copies of Red Dead Redemption have been shipped to retailers which explains why the price stayed at $59.99 for so long. I was lucky to grab my $29.99 copy at GameStop on Friday.

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