ANOTHER GOOD YEAR
In recent days I've seen a lot of people reflecting that in terms of games, 2019 wasn't as good a year as 2018, and it can be hard to argue with them. Last year we got Triple A blockbusters like God of War, Monster Hunter: World, Red Dead Redemption 2 and Spiderman. But we also got some amazing indies — the incredible platforming of Celeste, the imaginative strategy of Into the Breach, and the unforgettable Return of the Obra Dinn. I think for games, 2018 is one the best years we've had this decade, but I think in 2019 we've done pretty well for ourselves too. Hell, any year in which content creators are able to continue bringing their fresh and imaginative creations out into the world is always a good one. So to celebrate another good year, we at Hooked Gamers have banded together to sing the praises of our favourite PC games from 2019.
Control is the game I've been waiting for Remedy to make for a decade. Mixing their signature cinematic presentation with enthralling lore and creative shooting mechanics, Control hooked me from the moment I started and still hasn't let go.
The story starts off simply enough; Jesse, the player character, is tracking down a secretive government organization involved in the disappearance of her brother. From there, it get real weird, real fast, as information about the Federal Bureau of Control, their headquarters, and their current afflictions, spiral out into a tangled web of conspiracies, complex characters, and a badass arsenal of psychic powers.
Saying any more would spoil what makes the game great — it's twists, turns, and collection of bizarre objects. It's Men in Black meets the Southern Reach trilogy. It's the SCP foundation directed by David Lynch. In a year full of brilliant, creative games, Control stands out as the best. Buy it, play it, and discover for yourself just how deep the rabbit hole goes.
RESIDENT EVIL 2 (Johnathan)
Resident Evil 2 was definitely my favorite game to hit PC this year. A remake of the 1998 classic, CAPCOM has proven once again their skill at taking the old and making it new again. In nearly every way, the game was a fresh experience and it was a pretty intense one. Focusing on the events of the Raccoon City T-Virus outbreak, players control rookie police officer Leon S. Kennedy or tough-as-nails Claire Redfield as they try to navigate a maze-like police station within the city limits. What was once the last safe haven for survivors has fallen, but if the duo want to survive the night they’ll have to brave the dangers within.
The best part of the Resident Evil 2 remake are the new mechanics regarding Mr. X. In the original, due to hardware limitations at the time, the treading behemoth could only follow you in single room areas separated by loading screens. However, once he appears in the remake, he remains a near constant threat until certain conditions are met within the story. Considering the remake of Resident Evil 3 is coming next year and will feature a much more dangerous enemy utilizing the same premise, learning how to outsmart Mr. X in the remake is not only heart-pounding; it’s necessary.
Red Dead Redemption 2 (William)
It was a tough call for me between two shooters of varying styles, but in the end Red Dead Redemption 2 won the duel over Borderlands 3 (see what I did there), mainly because the latter was just more of the same from previous titles in the series. Red Dead Redemption 2 brought a freshness to the genre (on PC at least). The Western-themed shooter has everything a AAA game should have — mechanics that work, a story that flows as you play, and an immersive cinematic feast for the ears and eyes.
It's a game that can approached in a variety of different ways allowing gamers to play the role of Arthur Morgan however they see fit — moulding him through the choices they make throughout the game. The only thing that let Red Dead Redemption 2 down was the year I had to wait for it to be released on PC.
Slay the Spire (Joel)
2019 was stacked full of great releases, but there’s one game I keep returning to. Slay the Spire, after just over a year of Early Access, had its official launch on PC in January, with console versions following soon after. A perfect blend of deckbuilder and roguelike, Slay the Spire is easy to pick up but has an incredible amount of depth. Despite the time I've spent with the game, I’m still uncovering new strategies and interactions.
Developers Mega Crit are still putting out regular content updates, with a 4th character currently in beta testing on Steam, ‘the Watcher’ — a monk who relies on deftly switching stances to deliver maximum damage whilst protecting themselves from defeat. The core gameplay of Slay the Spire is so intuitive that although the Watcher brings with them a completely new playstyle and unique challenges, they feel like a natural extension of the base game. The developer’s commitment to free content updates shows a genuine connection with their players, and I can’t wait to see where they take this game next. If you haven’t already had the opportunity to try this fantastic game then it’s one to put on the priority list for 2020.
World of Warcraft Classic (Nathan)
I think it’s commendable that in 2019 Blizzard would release World of Warcraft Classic, what is essentially a de-mastered game rather than a re-master. While other larger companies are constantly re-releasing titles again and again, lauding improved UI, visuals and overall design into the ever-expanding digital aether, I think it was a risk on Blizzard’s behalf. I’m glad they took it.
MMO and RPG experiences have evolved significantly in the decade and a half since WoW’s original release. But that hasn’t dampened the yearning that players like myself and thousands of others have for the intensely authentic experiences and strong communities that only a place like Azeroth can offer. That’s what makes this title so special to me, the drive and determination from the fans who lobbied Blizzard, year after year, ever since the release of The Burning Crusade expansion for vanilla servers.
Their willingness to go as far as making private servers like the infamous Nostalrius realm, outside of Blizzard's T&C’s, paying out of their own pockets just to retain that experience. To me, World of Warcraft Classic’s release is a testament to the strong bonds that exist between gamers, forever chasing those worlds where we feel that we can truly belong.
For me, this has been a tough year to judge as I only bought myself a Gaming PC back in July and I haven’t played a lot of these games yet. However, I also made another major purchase by investing in an Oculus Rift S to go with my new PC and one game that’s really stuck out to me thus far is Boneworks. Developed by Stress Level Zero, the game is what they an “experimental physics VR adventure.”
It’s not a game for standard VR players, so those who have only played games like Beat Saber may not get on well here, though there is a test chamber which showcases the advanced physics involved here, as well as a history of Virtual Reality. Instead what we have is a more realistic depiction of physics. Items actually feel weighted when you pick them up, there’s a good degree of puzzle solving and a lot of methods for combat. It feels particularly satisfying and combined with the immersion of VR, it is definitely my game of the year.
Disco Elysium (Sean)
I find it funny that just as we were drawing towards the end of the year, and the end of the decade, an indie game slipped in which made a solid contender for the best of both. Disco Elysium is a miraculous accomplishment, a pen-and-paper inspired RPG which flips the formula on its head. You play as a detective who wakes up in a trashed hotel room with no memories of who he is, or what he's done. The next 40 hours or so are spent discovering this, but also defining who this detective is — through your interactions with the ideologies and politics at play in the city, through memories and impulses, and through a very complex murder investigation.
I think the reason why Disco Elysium stands out to me, is for achieving the most accurate depiction of human consciousness I've seen in a game. It accounts for the randomness and the absurdity of our thoughts, but also channels our mental faculties into a chorus of characters, who not only interject and talk of their own volition, but who actually influence dialogue. Disco Elysium is a mixed bag of sensations and experiences — humour, absurdity, despair, foreboding, and too many others to name. Just like the human brain, it evades description, because these things can't be described in only a few words. That might be why Disco Elysium also has such a massive amount of text and dialogue, which is a marvel of consistent writing, a literal novel in game form. I think the only way to really understand Disco Elysium is to feel it. To play it yourself, which I unequivocally recommend you do.
Happy New Year! Here's to a 2020 filled with excellent games!