Game of the Year 2020

This is a very late post, but it’s been a very weird year. I played a lot of games since the pandemic started, but it’s been primarily older titles. Titles that I probably would not have revisited if it were a normal year. They were not great though, I ended up not liking many of the games I played and, upon reflection, wondered if that was the best course of action. 

On the other hand, I played some fantastic games that released in 2020 — one of them was even a PlayStation 5 exclusive.

Best Old Game

Winner: The Last of Us Remastered

I played over half a dozen older titles from Final Fantasy VI on the Super NES Classic to Call of Duty: World at War on the PlayStation 3. I even decided to play Call of Duty: WW2 and Super Mario 64. I ended up not liking or loving many of those old titles. In fact, the only old game I found myself enjoying was my replay of The Last of Us by way the Remastered edition. 

I chose to replay it as a refresher before The Last of Us Part II and found it largely held up. I’m ready to embark on the sequel, but I own a PlayStation 5 now and there may be a chance that PS5 upgrade/update will be released so now I’m just sitting on my copy.

Runner-up: Hitman (2016)

Top 5 Games of 2020

Winner: Hades

2. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
3. Final Fantasy VII Remake
4. Astro’s Playroom
5. Animal Crossing New Horizons

Hades is so good! I would love to play some more Hades, but my PC died and instead of repairing for just myself, I salvaged some old parts and built my fiancée a brand new PC. 

Ori and the Will of the Wisps would have been my outright favorite game of 2020 if Hades didn’t enter the fray. A wonderful sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest that may not seem like a huge step up, but when you look back, the changes are substantial.

I don’t love Final Fantasy VII, but I do enjoy the peripheral additions like Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII and even that Final Fantasy VII CG movie, Advent Children. Final Fantasy VII super fans may find Remake unfaithful, but I loved what Square Enix did with it. A faithful remake wouldn’t have been interesting, but weaving in and out of established events made for a more interesting game. 

I’m at the point where I will play anything Team Asobi touches. They’re so good at that novel yet simple fun that is very reminiscent of Nintendo. Astro’s Playroom was the perfect inclusion for the PlayStation 5. A celebration of everything PlayStation — old and new. 

We played a lot of Animal Crossing New Horizons during the pandemic, but we then dropped it like a stone like my last Animal Crossing game. It drew my fiancee in so much that she flirted with the idea of picking up her own Switch before realizing that she was outpacing the game’s drip feed of content. We had our goals and achieved 75% of it before eventually losing interest. I extracted a solid 3 or 4 months of Animal Crossing fun during a very locked down period of the pandemic. 

LTTP: The Last of Us Remastered

posted in: Reviews 0

The Last of Us: Part II released weeks ago, but I’m not repeating the same “mistake” that I made back in 2013 with The Last of Us; I’m waiting for the PlayStation 5 and its inevitable enhanced version. To pass the time, I decided to revisit The Last of Us via its PlayStation 4 remaster and finally play the Left Behind expansion. 

7 years is a long time in games and despite the remastering effort and the PlayStation 4 Pro enhancements, this game shows its age. What was once a graphical powerhouse is now a dated, but respectable rendition on a PlayStation 3 classic. After consulting the experts at Digital Foundry, I played it with the 4K 60FPS mode. 

While I didn’t have complaints with the performance or picture quality, I did find one glaring distraction; the reflections. It wasn’t the textures or animations that stood out to me, it was the reflections in puddles and other reflective surfaces which I found to be pristine to the point of distraction. It’s a silly thing to get hung up on, but when we’re deep in the hype cycle of a new generation of consoles and its ray traced reflections, it’s hard to ignore.

It was also difficult to ignore the bugs. Fire effects went missing a couple of times and Joel’s character model inexplicably warped randomly during a few transitions from cinematic to game. I’ve always had good luck with Naughty Dog’s games; they were near flawless experiences for me. With that in mind and the fact that remasters tend not to falter, experiencing an imperfect walk through memory lane was a bit of a downer.

The opening of the game is still one of the more powerful openers in video games. It sets the tone so well and continued to resonate in 2020. Playing this game during a pandemic was a bit cathartic. Things could be a whole lot worse and desperate for us; human stupidity can quickly transition to human cruelty and the latter is not something I want to experience first hand.

I replayed the game at the hard difficulty. It took a bit of time to get used to the flow of the game again. I had to convince myself not to take out everything in sight via stealth because it just wasn’t fun that way. The instant-death Clicker grabs were especially annoying until I allowed myself the use of guns, Molotovs, and other weapons. Active foraging and exploration ensured I had the tools to solve the combat scenarios, I placed my trust in the game to not screw me over. As long as I wasn’t too liberal with my use of those tools, I made it through with plenty of resources at my disposal.

Revisiting The Last of Us was just as impactful as my initial play through — I would even say it was more impactful the second time around. I disagreed with Joel’s decision the first time, but I really developed a disdain for him leading up to that selfish act in the end. On the flip side, I grew to like Ellie more after playing the Left Behind DLC where I got to see how life was for a teenager who was born into life in the quarantine zone. 

Bugs and dated aspects aside, I found that The Last of Us Remastered held up in 2020. There have been refinements in game developments since its debut in 2013, but its core qualities still resonate today. I’m ready for The Last of Us: Part II. I’m ready to see what happens with Ellie and Joel. I’m curious if she discovers the truth and what she does with that knowledge. I’m ready for the inevitable departure of Joel and I’m ready to discover what the bottom pit of humanity looks like.

Verdict:
I liked it

Ratings Guide

Checkpoint: Remastered Edition

Checkpoint - Remastered Edition

We’re in the middle of “Remastered” fever. Here are just a handful of Remasters that are heading to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

  • Aug. 26: Metro: Redux
  • Oct 10: Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition
  • Nov 11: Halo: The Master Chief Collection
  • Q4 2014: Grand Theft Auto V
  • 2015: Resident Evil Remake HD

And now for notable ones that were just released:

  • Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
  • The Last of Us: Remastered

We’re no stranger to HD collections and Remasters; many of us welcomed them during the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 era. But seeing these Remasters pop up so quickly this early in the new console generation is a bit concerning. Buying new $400 consoles to play better running versions of games that you may have played in the last couple of years isn’t an attractive proposition.

On the flip side, these HD remasters allow developers to quickly familiarize themselves with the latest console hardware without having to worry about designing a game. They already know how the game should play, they just need to worry about the technical side of things.

I’ve pre-ordered Grand Theft Auto V because I haven’t played it yet. I intend to pick up The Last of Us: Remastered to play the single player DLC and Metro: Redux to play Last Light but I’ll pick those up once they hit the $30 or $20 price range.

It’s been a tough week of listlessness but I’m coming out of this funk with the aid of Battlefield 4 multiplayer, a bit of Mario Kart 8 and mobile stuff. I’m still working through Layton & The Miracle Mask and revisiting Plants vs Zombies 2 to do dailies.

But my go to thing to distract me is watching GiantBomb content. I’ve gone back and watched old Unprofessional Fridays, Quick Looks and other GiantBomb content that I missed the first time around. It’s been immensely helpful and entertaining.

Devs: Please embrace 1080p60

posted in: Game News 0

The Last of Us Remastered

In the perfect world, every PlayStation 4 and Xbox One title will run at 1080p60. Unfortunately that’s not the case. Many games debuted at 1080p resolution for the PlayStation 4 but run at 30 frames per second. Developers who favor visual fidelity over responsiveness tend to run at lower framerates which is fine. Not every title needs to run at 60 FPS but I’m glad to see developers like Naughty Dog try to achieve 1080p60 and recognize the benefits of clear picture and fast framerate.

“It was a toss-up before; people were saying that you lose quality and graphics and what not,” Gregory said when asked why Naughty Dog feels that it’s such an important component for the game. “But being able to compare apples to apples like we have now with The Last of Us, going back and playing the 30 Hz version feels, to quote some people in the office, ‘broken.’ There’s something that can’t be captured in screenshots and playing an adventure game where you just walk around and experience the world at the smooth 60 Hz.

I hope more developers get on board with this and stay with it. Some of the most popular and top selling games run at 60FPS including Call of Duty, Gran Turismo and the Mario games. It just feels right and will likely hold up better in the long run.

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