Another year wasted playing video games. Life is good. The games however, often weren’t. While we saw comparatively few Rage Quits, the number of raging reviews was high; has gaming become samey? And what is going to get our Game in the Sales (G.i.t.S) Award this year? Last years’ GitS was SOMA, a game so good it deserves to be ruined by a Hollywood remake - so FBT says; TheMorty may have a different view … But SOMA is so last-year. What did we game this year? Let’s see what FBT and TheMorty got up to in 2019.
TheMorty – Not to start on a negative, but 2019 was a disappointing year for new releases, there wasn’t the siren’s-call of a new game pulling me away from the comfort of Gold and PSPlus where I unearth hidden gems, a freebie like ‘XCom’ launching you heart-first into a series you didn’t know existed. Instead of a seductive siren’s-call, what usually disturbed my retro-moments was FBT’s screeching about some new game; half the time I played it to shut him up. On the plus side, I didn’t have a foolish return to Mafia III – so every cloud, right?
FBT - TheMorty’s right, well about clouds anyway; Google’s Stadia is finally here, but it’s been more shaky than shake-up, and snapping at its heels is Microsoft’s xCloud Project. Rental has been here for a while on Consoles but it’s finally becoming big PC business; Microsoft extended Game Pass to PC and both EA’s Origin and Ubisoft’s UPlay stepped up; the best thing is, in order to create enticing libraries, platforms are digging up oldies; us PC’ers used to have only GOG.com, Abandonware sites or charity shops - plus the agony of a 'Client MFC Application error', but Wing Commander is on Origin for example, so who knows what forgotten games will reappear. Still, when you’re excited about renting a 30-year-old game, gaming is in trouble.
TM - PC players, the Boomers of gamers. This year Game Pass boasted over 100 ‘A-Grade’ titles. Shame most were crap but their ability to tap into trends was unparalleled – Witcher 3 was added the day before the Netflix series launched. Still, digital gaming hasn’t been without its fair share of frustrations. Streaming may save your hard-drive but unless you have NASA’s broadband, you’re in for a buggy experience; with games easily surpassing 100gb followed by a 50gb update you’re spending a couple of days for the games to download; it’s like waiting for LoveFilm to deliver the disc through the post. And they just can’t stop being greedy; you get the vanilla experience – with DLC offered at a paltry 10% off. Why would you purchase a season pass for a game you don’t own? Conned.
FBT - And it doesn’t help that nowadays new games are half-finished, half-baked, day-one-patch monstrosities; it’s no wonder gamers wait before buying, but that damages a franchise’s chances. It’s self-defeating, just release a considered, stable game! And what TF is Bethesda playing at? When they’re not ruining their own games - how did we get from Fallout 3 to Fallout ’76 - Rage 2 was demonstrably one of the worst games of the year. It was a pirate-dvd-bought-in-a-pub Borderlands. And they doubled-down with their other id abomination, Wolfenstein Youngblood. Produced by devs who did Dishonoured and Prey, set in the 80s? How do you f*k that up? I am worried for Elder Scrolls 6.
TM - Tell me about it… I was in and out of terrible titles all year. When I wasn’t messing around on ‘Goat Simulator’ or ‘The Escapists’, I was replaying all the old Arkham Games. My gaming-attention span was that of a gnat thanks to Game Pass, since it meant I didn’t shell out real money; it let me check out all those publishers ruining their own franchises, particularly Ubisoft. It took me 6 painstaking months to complete WatchDogs 2 as they took an emotive tech-heavy storyline and turned it into a glitch-ridden frat party.
FBT - That’s a fair point; when you’re just renting, you’re less inclined to grind through it; there’s many I would have given up on but soldiered through because it cost me real money. For example, I wish I’d rented Borderlands 3, but would I have even bothered reaching the end if I hadn’t spent out on it? The volume’s been turned down on the series now, it’s not exciting; it’s the norm. A far cry from when the original knocked us on our asses.
Anyway, that’s enough bitching about the future of gaming, we’re here for the past. Out of nowhere, I’m now a Gears fan. Not the first one, that still feels too dated to adore but Gears 4 and 5 are something else. G4 cleverly paid tribute to its forebears and featured Marcus as a sidekick which oddly worked, while Kait-led G5 opened the series up as a nonlinear bulletfest with a great story, characters and events. It was amazing. It was what Borderlands 3 should have been. Technically it’s allowed to be awarded a GitS since I played it free during a Game Pass trial but that goddamn out-of-nowhere moral-choice moment ruined it.
TM - A lot of my 2019 was spend arguing with FBT, particularly his new found love for Gears (something I’ve been screaming at him to play for 11 long years). It sparked an Agree to Disagree over the very first game where, of course, he was being his usual, grumpy self and wanted it to be a 4k version of Modern Warfare with aliens, whereas the fanboy in me saw it as an opportunity to have a love-in for Fenix, the Brock Lesnar of gaming protagonists.
FBT - I’m not sure what it says about me or TheMorty that he’s in love with Marcus and I want to be Kait. Thank god the two didn’t hook up in Gears 5. Still, TheMorty and I did agree the Assassin’s Creed series needed a replay. From Altair to the Misthios twins, it was a rollercoaster ride of incredible games and infuriating letdowns, confusing precursor nonsense, reboots and tangents, and an epic journey to find the best assassin, which led to a remarkable reveal - I decided the best assassin in the series was Desmond, and didn’t that put the assassin amongst the pigeons.
TM - Geez. I thought my 2018 playthrough of CM 01/02 was epic. FBT’s review of the originals got me nostalgic, and when Rogue popped up on Gold I dove into the icy waters and surfaced to argue for the most underrated game in the series. After the sheer expanse of Black Flag, the personal, linear narrative akin to Force Unleashed was a refreshing change. Of course, FBT’s considered response was that Shay is an annoying prick.
FBT - Of course TheMorty's favourite Assassin is the one who bursts into tears when he’s asked to assassinate someone, but one of the best of the series wasn’t even really an AC game; Odyssey. More an origin story than Origins, playing as an in-it-for-themselves mercenary pulled into a larger conspiracy made for an incredible, epic, lawless game. Malaka! I replayed the game+ as the male lead and it was even better the second time around, especially as he inherits his twin sister's wardrobe ... The Misthios cries too, so TheMorty should love it.
TM - While FBT was lost in the historical past, I was on a nostalgia trip. The cinematic finish to Final Fantasy XV was a year-high moment before I embarked on Hitman Chronicles (a.k.a. Hitman: Easy Mode). Just don’t get me started on my attempt to re-visit the Sims…
FBT - Nostalgia was in for 2019; classic 80s and 90s gaming consoles were re-released and Romero’s return to Doom with Sigil rode the wave of retro, led by New Blood Interactive; their Dusk was something special, as were many others, but 3DR’s Ion Fury came close to my GitS; built on memories and the bones of the Build engine, it was the game DNF should have been. But suspect comments by its devs on forums, and ‘jokes’ at the LGBT community’s expense rob it of game of the year. We didn’t need to throwback that far.
Despite the fact that a lot of modern games pissed us off, some classics didn’t hold up either. Kingpin was a huge disappointment, Elite Force II sucked, GTA III hasn’t aged well at all and upsettingly, the once mighty Driver is now unplayable.
TM - Kingpin… wasn’t that the game that basically ripped soundbites from Pulp Fiction for its cutscenes? Loved that game! It is what it is, and it’s 20 years old. And who the hell complains about GTAIII?! FBT is a harsh critic of age, ironic given how old he is. Me being a lot less judgemental (and a lot less old), one of my best successes of 2019 was my ‘Resident Evil 2’ playthrough in all its shot-for-shot re-make in sweet HD glory. This time with more terrifying zombies, a harder aiming system and an autosave function to remove those typewriter cartridges that used to infuriate us all. Almost my GitS – if it wasn’t essentially a gaming version of the ‘Star Wars Trilogy re-re-re-re-release now in Technicolor’ money-grub.
FBT - See, there goes TheMorty, missing the irony of loving a remake while bitching about me bitching about old games. Try the original, see if you’re still misty-eyed then. Okay, so Fresh Supply, the Blood remake won me over, but my point still stands ... Night Dive might be my favourite publisher, grinding old games into gear again. While I love that Fresh Supply kept the look, I was kinda sad not to see the Elvira calendar in 4K like nature intended.
TM - A warning; letting FBT lose in an RPG triggers his inner ‘teen-in-a-park-with-cider’. I on the other hand, immerse myself in an appropriate persona and explore the world. Therefore, after an idle discussion about RPG descended into name-calling, our different approaches could only be resolved in a free-roam battle. Since I’m not stupid enough to take on FB-Leeroy Jenkins-T in an Elder Scrolls game, the perfect setting was Fallout New Vegas, where he could indulge his more … extreme proclivities and I could enjoy my RPG love by bringing law and order to the wasteland.
We agreed to play it to the resolution of New Vegas, where we’d compare our experiences. The idea was to explore how much RPG really lets you role-play. The reality was FBT behaved like a total slut who made the place worse, and I went on a roadtrip with my BFF. Our separate paths provoked many a snide comment, but we did prove RPG is an intensely personal experience and the most original gaming genre out there; and for once, we came to the same conclusion - it was absolutely the last time we’d ever play FONV.
FBT - While TheMorty made the apocalypse homely for life-partner Brad (it’s Boone, FFS!) I was surprised by Call of Duty Modern Warfare - this prequel/reboot (preboot?) hits all the usual CoD marks, but Farah, the leader of the rebellion is the new bar in gaming characters. Playing her as a child trying to escape a genocide is horrifying and just one of the many, many standouts; that a CoD’s story is another standout is a real eye-opener; it can be done. CoDMW is my Triple-A of the year. Should have been Borderlands 3, but there you go.
TM - I hope Borderlands 3 tanks just so they stop making them and FBT stops talking about them. My Triple-A surprise was undoubtedly ‘Control’. After the disappointment of Quantum Break, I wasn’t expecting much from their Northlight Engine follow-up, but my God! Instead of re-hashing an interactive movie, they’ve created the supernatural shooter in their trademark 3rd person view, absorbing a multitude of powers that make Max Payne look like Neo on speed. It’s unquestionably my game of the year and I haven’t even finish playing it yet! Expect a fiery review of this cracker early in the new year.
FBT - While TheMorty awards a GitS to a game he’s not finished yet, I’m not awarding it to any game. I’m giving to the fans, those who recreated classics just for the love of the game. There was Morroblivion, an astonishing remake of the ageing Morrowind, and Black Mesa, a remake of Half Life that actually improved the original - surely sacrilege but it works. Their ‘reimagining’ of Xen is extraordinary; just have those guys make Half Life 3. But the big winner for me was The 13th Doll. Not a remake, but a fan-made sequel to The 7th Guest. A 15-year labour of love, complete with scrappy FMV and infuriating puzzles, it’s insane. And features two storylines! Modern games don’t give you that much value, or love; my GitS for 2019 goes to the fans, and if that’s not a comment on today’s gaming I don’t know what is.
TM - Well it’s hard to finish a game when you’ve got FBT shrieking like a school-girl at a 1D concert about every game he’s ever played; by the time I’ve downloaded one he’s wetting himself about another. SOMA though, his golden child of 2018, killed me. I finally got to experience the “bad port” annoyance that PC-gamers whinge about. It took me 2 hours to pass the tutorial level because I couldn’t pick objects up and put them down properly. I dropped some pills on the floor by mistake and spend at least 20 minutes trying to find them like an all-too real look into my (distant) future in a retirement home. Or a glimpse into the average day of FBT. No wonder he loved SOMA so much.
Without question, 2019 was a bad year for AAAs but a good year for PreviousWeapon. Ironically, Wolfenstein Youngblood was our most read review, and our second-most-hated game, Rage 2 was our second most-read review. 2019 had no shortage of bad games, but clearly they make for good reviews. Older games are where it’s at, who needs new games when you have a fridge of beers and a 30-year back catalogue?
2020 is looking good though. It’s dinos at dawn as TheMorty and FBT fall out over Jurassic World Evolution versus Jurassic Park Genesis, TheMorty indulges his God complex with a return to The Sims, FBT catches the Plague and a LucasArts Adventure era playthrough is in the offing. Happy New Year and Happy Old Gaming!