Weekend Hot Topic, part 1: Readers’ Top 20 of 2019

a still from Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 2 – readers’ choice (pic: Capcom)

GameCentral readers vote on their favourite games of last year, from Wreckfest to Outer Wilds.

This week saw the annual GameCentral Readers’ Top 20, where everyone gets to vote for their three favourite games and offer their own commentary on the year just gone.

Resident Evil 2 earned itself a comfortable win, with it and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice well ahead of the rest of the pack. That seemed to tally with most people’s opinion that 2019 had been a good but not great year for games, with few being too upset about it but none describing it as a classic.

Readers’ Top 20 – 2019

1. Resident Evil 2 (XO/PS4/PC)
2. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (XO/PS4/PC)
3. Devil May Cry 5 (XO/PS4/PC)
4. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (XO/PS4/PC)
5. The Outer Worlds (XO/PS4/PC)
6. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare (XO/PS4/PC)
7. Luigi’s Mansion 3 (NS)
8. Wreckfest (XO/PS4/PC)
9. Outer Wilds (XO/PS4/PC)
10. Control (XO/PS4/PC)
11. Borderlands 3 (XO/PS4/PC)
12. Death Stranding (PS4)
13. Apex Legends (XO/PS4/PC)
14. Untitled Goose Game (XO/PS4/NS/PC)
15. Gears 5 (XO/PC)
16. Metro Exodus (XO/PS4/PC)
17. A Plague Tale: Innocence (XO/PS4/PC)
18. Kingdom Hearts 3 (XO/PS4)
19. Blood & Truth (PSVR)
20. Pokémon Sword/Shield (NS)

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Evil choice
For me this is an obvious pick: Resident Evil 2 remake was my favourite game of last year and one of my favourite games of he generation. It had everything: nostalgia, excitement, great graphics, and, importantly to me, respect for my time. Splitting up the story into separate campaigns, none of which took that long to beat was a great way of doing things and I ended up playing more of the game simply because I knew I would have the time to beat it and wouldn’t end up worrying about wasting my time halfway through and just giving up.

Nothing else I played last year impressed me nearly as much, although Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was a decent attempt at Dark Souls with Star Wars and I really enjoyed Untitled Goose Game. Overall, I guess it was an average year – not good and not bad. But overall I was happy with it, if only for Resi.
Notts

Proud fan
I’m not ashamed to admit it but I enjoyed Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare the most. It’s a really good game, with a great story campaign and excellent multiplayer. As another reader pointed out recently it’s great value for money and they’ve actually got rid of all the worst microtransactions elements. I suppose you could argue the cosmetics are still preying on the easily addicted but I have such trouble grasping their appeal I don’t feel fit to comment.

My other favourites would be Borderlands 3, which was not as good as I was expecting but still fun in co-op, and Apex Legends, which I enjoy much more than Fortnite.
Okley31a

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Not bad
Looking back at the releases for 2019 I think it’s fair to say that it wasn’t a bad year for gaming really, I wouldn’t say that it was a particularly standout year but there were definitely plenty of solid games (although there does seem to be a hell of a lot of sequels, remasters, and reboots). Of those releases I think I tallied that I’d played around 18, so more than one per month (I’m happy that I’m doing my bit to support the games industry at least) my top three are as follows:

3. Luigi’s Mansion 3 (Nintendo Switch)
I remember playing the original Luigi’s Mansion on the GameCube and loving it, I then missed Luigi’s Mansion 2 but spurred on by the praise that I saw for it I went ahead and picked up a copy that I have been playing through for the past month or so (I’m picking it up periodically here and there, but I am near the end). As is standard with any Nintendo game the visuals are great and the way that the game evolved over its length and the invention used to exploit new abilities is brilliant, not the most difficult of games I’ll admit, but it is still a great game.

2. Blood & Truth (PlayStation VR)
I get the feeling that this might end up being overlooked, but for me it has been the most complete VR experience that I have played so far and it has definitely been the most fun. Criminally I haven’t actually finished the game due to starting it while my partner was heavily pregnant and not having gone back to it or PlayStation VR at all since our son was born in June!

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1. Resident Evil 2 (PlayStation 4)
looking at the list of games I’d played in 2019 there were a few that were in contention for my game of the year, but when it came to the crunch there was no winner other than Resident Evil 2. The original was my favourite game, I literally must have spent hundreds of hours playing it and completed it multiple times, so I was always going to be a fan of the remake. But my god did it not disappoint. The locations, scenarios, and characters were changed enough for them to feel fresh, but with exactly the right amount of nostalgia to satisfy my love for the original. I also loved Resident Evil Nemesis so I’m already assuming that Resident Evil 3 is the game to beat for 2020 too (if anything ever gets released in 2020 that is!)

Honourable mentions go to Grid, which despite being light on content was one of the best arcade racing games that I have played in a long time. Also, Need For Speed Heat, which again was a great arcade racer and something of a return to form for the series. And finally Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, which could easily have ended up as my game of the year.

As a lifelong fan of Star Wars I am pretty sure that I played through the entire game with a massive grin on my face. Its tone was excellent, the attention to detail was excellent, the characters were excellent, but the reason why it’s only an honourable mention and not in my top three is because in terms of the gameplay it became quite repetitive quite quickly and the lack of fast travel made traversing the maps to reach new sections more arduous than it really needed to be.
Rickandrolla (PSN ID)

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Giving it a pass
2019 has been an extremely good gaming year and I’ve wrestled with my final top three.

1. Control

I’ve always liked the look of Remedy’s games but never really taken the time to play any. Max Payne was well received and looked a lot of fun. Alan Wake gave me nostalgia bumps with its depiction of strange goings on in rural America that felt like many Stephen King or Dean Koontz horror novels I’d devoured. Just never got around to playing them and after the lukewarm reception of Quantum Break, with its attempt to intertwine strong story elements by inserting a TV show into the game through cut scenes, I got in the mindset Remedy where a bit pompous and lumped them in with wannabe frustrated film directors like David Cage.

I was very wrong as Control is awesome. The shooting and abilities are a joy to use, much better than the still very good Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. The story element is also the right side of weird and it’s an absolute joy investigating The Oldest House. The graphics are extremely polished and are a bit of a struggle for my PS4 Pro to be honest. I really like the art direction too, The Oldest House has a lot of character, even when it’s just the parts that are office space. As such I’m really excited to see what Remedy’s next game is. I’m also going to give Quantum Break a go as it’s on Game Pass.

2. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

I can’t wait to see what From Software do with an open world with Elden Ring. Soulsbourne games aren’t fully open world, they’re mostly linear with a few branching paths and explorable sections. But I’m expecting great things as Sekiro showed how capable they are when they want to change it up.

I don’t think I’ve played a more exhilarating game than Sekiro. I found the game a struggle to begin with but once I’d got used to the parry and unblockable mechanics it clicked and all the fights became like a glorious dance. Traversal with the grapple hook is an absolute blast and the Shinobi prosthetic tools adds a lot of fun experimenting in how they can be used. From’s peerless world design and building is in full attendance too.

I still think Bloodborne is my favourite From game due to its atmosphere, lore, and sense of mystery. But if it was just for the combat alone Sekiro would win hands down.

3. Game Pass

OK, so the third game is actually The Outer Worlds. But that game is when Game Pass hit a critical mass of must play games and I traded in my Xbox One S for an X to enjoy all the amazing games on Game Pass. I will happily pick up an Xbox Series X and Game Pass. Even at full price Game Pass Ultimate (Game Pass and Gold) is incredible value and will leave enough of my yearly gaming budget, around £300, to buy other games.

The Outer Worlds was exactly the Fallout-like game I’d hoped for. Obsidian Entertainment is a great purchase for Microsoft and I can’t wait for their next Western role-playing game.
Simundo

Easy win
My top three games for 2019 were:

1. Slay The Spire
2. Dragon Quest Builders 2
3. Audica

Number one was easy. Slay The Spire consumed a huge number of hours of my life last year, across PlayStation 4, Switch, and PC. That and Skyrim VR dominated my gaming time in 2019. I got the PlayStation 4 version first, then Switch (to play on holiday), and then PC when I bought a laptop. I wanted to test my daily scores against the big boys on PC and quickly ran away with my tail between my legs. I often finish top 20 on PlayStation 4, but my best on PC is around 350. My ego said ouch. Can’t wait for the fourth character to come to consoles.

The other two were more difficult, but I do remember enjoying Dragon Quest Builders 2 a lot, despite some niggles I had with the structure of the game. Collecting resources and building things is such a great gaming loop. However, some of the later missions collecting several hundred marble, for example, became a little tedious when all I wanted to do was get back to my main island and upgrade my toilets.

Audica seemed to appear from nowhere and then disappear almost as quickly, even amongst the VR faithful. I prefer this to Beat Saber personally, with better music and more nuanced gameplay. Although it may just be the fact I can play it seated. Some of the later levels look so difficult the first time you try, only to become second nature a few tries later. The euphoric feeling you get when this happens is pure gaming gold.
Petersmiler

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Premium choices
I spent a great deal of last year clearing the backlog and with time and finances at something of a premium had to choose carefully which games to invest in. Thankfully it was a recommendation on Metro which determined my picks for 2019:

The Outer Worlds (PS4)
I saw this somewhere in the ether and dismissed it based largely on the studio, I enjoyed Fallout: New Vegas but it shared a lot of the same faults and issues as its peer. Thankfully, this was a really solid and competent title, full of choices and decisions that had tangible consequences to observe and ponder. Easily my top game of the year.

Death Stranding (PS4)
Somewhat of a sleeper title for me, I had heard mixed reports about it, a digital equivalency of Costner’s The Postman the most scathing. But it was and is just an enjoyable ‘post happiness’ title and world to explore, stunningly made, perhaps a little empty and lonely to explore on your own but certainly Kojima at his most unleashed.

Baldur’s Gate 2 (PS4)
Another version of this amazing game to add to my collection. I’ve played this across multiple platforms since its original release on my blueberry iMac in 2002. It’s incredible to consider its still being released on modern platforms but still an amazing game, tweaked to work perhaps not ideally on a console format but still great fun to play.
ATBonfire (Facebook/WordPress/Twitter)/around.the.bonfire (Instagram)

Catch up on every previous Games Inbox here

From From with love
My letter is long enough (sorry) so no big intro here. In descending order:

3) Resident Evil 2
Arguably the most beloved entry that used the original Resident Evil model but updated with a lot of what was learned from Resident Evil 4 (and with the dual analogue controls of 5 onwards).

One of the great things about this game is how it functions as a reminder on multiple levels. Naturally, it reminds us of what made the original so supposedly great (I never played it myself) but also, in a climate dominated by extremely long single-player games or never-ending online services, that there’s merit in having a relatively short, sub-10 hour experience in a triple-A game. Especially as you can still get a good 40+ hours out of it by replaying multiple times for better results and different outcomes. It’s a shame there aren’t more games like this nowadays but this proved how well they work, and hopefully how commercially successful they can be.

If I hadn’t been allowed Resident Evil 2 (or maybe if I’d even played the first one) my alternative choice would be Dragon’s Quest Builders 2.

2) Outer Wilds
An entire mini solar system existing seamlessly in real-time with a compelling and rewarding story and enjoyable but tricky flight mechanics.

While it takes a cue from Zelda: Majora’s Mask in terms of time travel and repetition, the routines are less about characters and more about physical events affecting the different worlds.

At times it also felt like exploring the Chozo ruins for journal entries in Metroid Prime or a more interesting, interactive and sensibly digestible version of The Witness.

Mixed into the sense of discovery is the educational element of theoretical physics, as you experiment with black holes and time dilation and it makes things really interesting.

The mandatory inclusion of solid state drives in next gen machines makes me wonder if it’ll be possible to have properly designed worlds like this on a much bigger scale, with no notable loading times. For now this game deserves all the recognition it can get.

1) Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
I’ve been a big fan of From Software games since Dark Souls (any news on Elden Ring would be a highlight of 2020 for me) but the risk with Sekiro was always that it would just be another Souls game with a new veneer. From has once again demonstrated its peerless talents, though, by making a game that’s right up there with the best but is different enough from its predecessors to distinguish itself.

It’s not the setting, the new approach to inventory or the grappling hook abilities but the combat, which might be the best I’ve ever experienced in a game.

Sekiro doesn’t rely so much on set combos as on perfect timing and Batman: Arkham style micro quick time counters that can be tough to pull off (and very risky) but are massively satisfying if you do. When a rock hard enemy lunges at you and you step heavily onto his giant spear to hold it down and punish him to the tune of half his health, it feels really, really good.

When you’re on the fourth phase of one the hardest final bosses in a From game and you bring everything together with perfect blocks, dodges and counters, even deflecting his own lightning strikes onto him, you suddenly realise how much you’ve learned and what all those hours of wax-on, wax-off ‘lessons’ had been for. It feels like From has displaced a traditional game experience system from the character onto the player and you’re finally seeing the lines of code within the Matrix.

I played through the game four times in a row but when I got the platinum trophy and saw my save file at over 125 hours, I was a bit surprised as it hadn’t felt anything like that long.
Panda

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The small print
New Inbox updates appear twice daily, every weekday morning and afternoon. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word 4Player viewer features at any time, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

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