It… actually came out! We’re shocked too, but somehow, miraculously, Final Fantasy VII Remake was worth the wait. The nostalgic among us were chewed up and spat out as our childhood fantasies played out in front of us, whilst even newcomers were able to connect with the story, world, and tremendously well balanced gameplay. Combat is smooth and satisfying, and more rewarding the further you dig into how each character handles. Each character is brilliantly realized and well designed, with famous scenes playing out in spectacular fashion. Meanwhile, fringe characters from the original took the spotlight. Jessie and Don Corneo became real people we cared about and hated in equal measure, thanks to a script that deepened our understanding of Midgar in all the right ways. It even managed to surprise us, tying a bow on the experience while also leaving a delicious cliffhanger for the next instalment. Speaking of which, how many years do you figure we’ll have to wait for part two?
Ok, hold on. The game we gave a perfect score this year is slumming it at number 4? Yup. Don’t get us wrong, The Last of Us Part 2 is an astonishing game. Absolutely gorgeous, brilliantly constructed, and full of detail that could make an angel weep. Objectively speaking, it’s remarkable. The mechanics are polished to a mirror sheen, the world is fantastically designed, and it features the most realistic character models in history. But it was also really hard to play through. It was designed that way. Ellie and Abby’s journeys clashed in ways that challenged us to step back, consider, and forgive the unforgivable. It was really, really hard to do, and the split in the player base reflects that difficulty. But all things most worth doing are unexpected and sometimes unappreciated. In a different year, one where society was less protective of itself, we suspect The Last of Us Part 2 would have seen a less mixed response. Indeed, it’s likely to see greater appreciation over time, as the saltier among us start to mellow out. But in 2020, it was only our fourth favorite.
Hades caught a lot of attention, and a lot of people by surprise. We’re not entirely sure why, though. Supergiant games has an incredible track record. Transistor, Bastion, Pyre, they’re all outstanding, and Hades was in early access for ages. People already had a sense it would be good. What we didn’t understand, is just how good. We’re talking “best roguelite ever” levels. Game of the Year? No, not quite, but that doesn’t diminish this accomplishment. Hades is the gift that keeps on giving, dripping out mechanics for untold hours, even after “completing” the main story. The action is fast and ultra fluid, with more character builds than Zeus has illegitimate children. Seriously, you can do a completely different build with every run. The storytelling is surprisingly strong too, with excellent writing and top notch voice acting. Oh, it’s insanely stylish too. I mean, everything is really, really good in Hades, and you’re missing out on an absolute treasure if you haven’t given it a shot yet.
This is the best VR game ever, the best Half Life game ever, and almost our Game of the Year for 2020. Half Life Alyx does all the things Valve does well, but with the added benefit of utterly nailing the immersion required for an incredible VR experience. The level of detail applied to every single surface, item, character, and situation is staggering, and the experience of playing in VR is equally remarkable. The design of the world allows for meticulous exploration, but in a seamlessly guided way that avoids revealing any cracks in the facade. Creepy exploration and high octane gunfights are both well done, and the accessibility options mean even the VR squeamish are likely to find a comfortable setup. Most crucially, Valve’s superb storytelling makes the jump to VR well. Events and situations are happening directly to the player, not just around them as in past VR narratives. It’s a monumental VR achievement, but the barrier to entry is what holds it back from winning here. Not enough people have experienced Half Life Alyx. It’s a tragedy that increased access to VR tech will solve, and hopefully soon.
This was a no doubt pick. It garnered a landslide of points in our team voting, and despite being an imperfect experience, there’s no game we enjoyed more in 2020 than Ghost of Tsushima. Jin’s journey – his struggle to balance his heritage and his future – resonated with a lot of people, and fueled our quest to retake Tsushima from the Mongols. And who wouldn’t want to save the island? We reckon that this is the most fluid open world yet created. It invisibly funnels you from discovery to discovery using both the wind and visual design cues, and offers jaw dropping vistas every few seconds. Seriously, we’ve amassed thousands of photos via the excellent photo mode. It’s spectacular across the board. From endless fields of flowers to the sun setting over a mountain top shrine, the world design actively encourages players to step back and appreciate the quiet moments. It’s subtly done, but reinforces Jin’s connection to the Samurai way. Jin’s also an absolute bad ass, laying waste to legions of Mongols through the exceptionally well balanced combat. Parries and strikes all carry weight and purpose, coming to a head in the game’s many head to head duels. Ghost of Tsushima has redefined how to build an entirely open world as a guided experience, and is the measuring stick competitors will now have to adapt to. Ghost of Tsushima is the most fun we had in a year desperate for such things, and we proudly name it COGconnected’s Game of the Year for 2020.
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