Weekend Hot Topic, part 1: The best games of 2020 so far

GameCentral readers give 2020 its half year report and discuss its best games, from Doom Eternal to The Last Of Us Part 2.

Since we’re now halfway through 2020 this week’s Hot Topic asked the same question it always asks at this time of year, even if the coronavirus has made a mess of the release schedules over the last six months.

We still wanted to know what your favourite games were though and there were actually more high-quality titles than you might first think, even if the front-runners were all very obvious…

Main contenders
I was going to say this question is usually a bit more difficult by this point in the year but actually it kind of still is if you’re just going for the number one. As far as I see it there are three main contenders: The Last Of Us Part 2, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Final Fantasy 7 Remake.

Animal Crossing is not for me, so I can’t comment, but I’d also say that The Last Of Us Part 2 is not really either. That immediately makes me feel fussy but if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a game that takes itself seriously and which seems to think that gameplay is some sort of intrusion to be avoid and downplayed as much as possible.

I enjoyed the original enough to give the sequel a try (mostly because there’s nothing else out) and so far it’s boring me to tears. Nothing about the game is fun to play and if there is a point to the story it’s taking a hell of a long time to get there.

So no, my favourite is Final Fantasy 7 Remake. As a remake with an impossible job I’m shocked that it turned out to be as fun, accessible, and uncomplicated as it was. I loved all the characters (well, not Wedge), the graphics were amazing, and the combat was really, really good. I didn’t expect any of that and if there was a bit too much padding I can forgive that.

Virtual winner
It’ll never win, I know, because most people haven’t got the hardware to play it but for me the obvious game of the year is Half-Life: Alyx. We’ve waited so long for a new Half-Life and this new game not only delivered but was the best VR game I’ve ever played.

The sense of immersion and attention to detail is mind-boggling. I literally felt I was playing a game from like 10 years in the future. I’m sure the controls will get better by then, and the headset lighter, but the game design, and the story, are already perfect in my view.

After all those years in the wilderness 2020 was the year that Valve went back to being a games developer and it was an absolute triumph.

More than a pass
My favourite game of the year so far is Ori And The Will of the Wisps. This is one of the reasons I love Game Pass, as I would never have bought Ori And The Blind Forest. I have never been a massive fan of side-scrollers even during the SNES era.

When it popped onto Game Pass it was the first game I tried and I loved it, more than I ever imagined I would. The sequel does everything the first game did but better! And I stand by it being the best-looking game of the generation, the Luma Pools area is jaw-droppingly beautiful. The game is challenging but I never felt it was unfair, and a touching narrative that puts other AAA games to shame.

Currently gunning for a close second is The Last Of Us Part 2, I haven’t completed it yet but so far I am loving the game. Hard to compare the two games together but I’d give the edge to Ori At The moment as I’m finding The Last Of Us Part 2 a little long-winded with a lot of filler, whereas Ori 2 was perfectly paced.

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Hellishly good
I guess the obvious one here is The Last Of Us Part 2 but I haven’t even started it yet, so I couldn’t say. Instead, my favourite so far, that I’ve actually played, is Doom Eternal. Loved the reboot and so felt very confident about buying the new game without waiting for reviews.

There were some things I wasn’t over the moon about, namely the increased platforming and weird story, but the combat is just fantastic and I just loved fighting the powers of Hell this way. Second-to-second it’s probably the best action of the whole generation for me.

That’s something that’s very important to me when so many other games put story above gameplay.

Positive message
This is an easy one for me, as it’s the only game released in 2020 that I’ve played, and still am playing: that’s right, it’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

The reason it’s the only game released in 2020 that I’ve played is that I have a decent backlog of games to get through and there hasn’t been anything else released this year that I’ve been interested in. Or that was true until The Last Of Us Part2I recently came out, and now Iron Man VR, Paper Mario: The Origami King, and Ghost of Tsushima are all being released this month.

Animal Crossing has been a real breath of fresh air this year. It’s a hit of pure positivity that I’ve been able to play for hours at a time or, more frequently, in short 10 to 30 minute bursts. The simple but enjoyable game mechanics of fishing, bug catching, and crafting furniture have really got me hooked (pun intended) to the point that I’m genuinely excited whenever I see a new bug in season.

I’ve also found Nintendo to be quite generous with the updates for the game, as the addition of the art collection in the museum and the new diving mechanics (due to go live at the time of writing this!) seem like they could’ve been paid-for DLC. Knowing there’s another update due next month will definitely keep me coming back to see what else will be added to the game, and what else I need to catch to fill up my critterpedia.

I’m sure a lot of other readers will comment along similar lines, but Animal Crossing really has been a welcomed reprieve from the fears and concerns this year has seen. Because of that, it’ll take an incredible game to dethrone Animal Crossing as my game of the year when 2020 closes out.

Short and sweet
I haven’t got much of a choice here because I’ve only bought one new game this year and that was Journey To The Savage Planet (I got it cheap). It is really good though and surprisingly funny for a video game.

As a bonus it wasn’t some 60 hour epic that I got bored of before getting a quarter of the way in. There’s a lot to be said for that in this day and age.

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Not a contender
I have not played many of this year’s titles.

I am probably just over halfway through The Last Of Us Part 2. My initial impression of the game was that it seemed to include a lot of minor annoyances, which in some instances made the game feel dated. As I have progressed that initial feeling has not gone away and I think these issues will prevent me from considering The Last Of Us Part 2 as a game of the year contender, even though it is still clearly a great game. Considering my admiration of the original at the time, this is very disappointing.

The other two major games from this year that I have played are Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. One is an extended reimagining of the start of an epic game and the other is a tidied-up version of an entire epic game, so neither is truly new.

When comparing these two Japanese role-players Final Fantasy 7 Remake is like a single beautiful rose that has been dried and pressed to be displayed from a specific angle, chosen to show it in its best light, whereas Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is an entire garden that you are free to explore. Xenoblade might not be as well framed and presented or as technically accomplished but it still manages to be beautiful in its own way and has a depth to it, whereas Final Fantasy 7 Remake feels almost superficial by comparison.

Given how little it has changed from the 10-year-old original it seems wrong to say that Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is the best game I have played from this year but it is and comfortably so. It is not only the best game of the year so far but the best Japanese role-playing game I have ever played.

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