Game(s) of the Year 2020
Its been a weird year eh? But gaming is still gaming - here are the team's selection of their Games of the Year, and not all of them are even from this year!!
Jody Fellows, Volunteer
After having played a lot of the most hyped AAA games released in 2020 (aside from Cyberpunk 2077), my game of the year is Doom Eternal. Don’t get me wrong, it has some questionable design choices. For one, the way it gets its lore across is a bit intrusive and inorganic and really why does Doom need lore anyway? But that aside, it’s clear the developers tried to build on the great foundations of Doom 2016 in virtually every way. Incredibly, the Doom Slayer has been made even more dangerous with the addition of a shoulder cannon and a grappling hook on his super shotgun.
Those of you who thought Doom 2016 was too easy by the end, Doom Eternal has a nasty surprise for you. There are more monsters and more monster variants, all of which have their aggression turned up to 11 from the start and IT NEVER COMES DOWN. You’ll be running, jumping, strafing, spraying and praying just to survive. Actually, no, you won’t be spraying because to keep the difficulty up the developers made it so you can’t carry much ammo at all. 8 shells. You can only carry 8 shotgun shells at the start. Then you’re out! It incentivises you to make liberal use of the chainsaw to get enemies to piñata more precious buckshot.
Truly, where Doom Eternal shines is in its frantic and stressful combat which, once you get the hang of, is incredibly rewarding. While the ending is a bit abrupt, the final boss battle is impressive and does a good job of bringing the game to a satisfying conclusion; it’s probably also my favourite boss battle of the year. This is definitely a game you should definitely try if you like first-person shooters and being stressed out to heavy metal, which I do apparently.
Tomos Jones, Events Committee
Seldom do I actually purchase a game when it is still new and being talked about, I usually promise myself to deal with my backlog of games ranging from my PC to my SNES mini. But after picking up the 2016 version of DOOM towards the end of last year on sale and loving it, I knew I needed another dose.
DOOM eternal adds a lot more movement options that the first game lacked, like the ability to dash in any direction, climb certain walls, and swing from horizontal bars. There is a big number of options in combat also, there is a chainsaw that will make enemies spurt weapons when killed this way, cinematic finishers that can have their trigger range and execution speed upgraded for a boost in health drops, a shoulder-mounted flamethrower that sets enemies ablaze and causes them to drop armour and 2 types of grenades for both explosive damage and freezing. Combined with the generous arsenal of weaponry each with 2 modifications that change how they dispatch demons, there is a lot of quick thinking involved in order to prioritise what actions you take against the current demonic roadblock.
This is my game of the year because it’s one I can easily pick up, play for a few minutes and put down ready to continue at any time, there is a plot, but it essentially boils down to RIP AND TEAR and you won’t find yourself lost after having an extended break from it.
Left 4 Dead 2
Kevin Ho, Events Committee
With the introduction of Slippi/Rollback during the pandemic and the rise of the community to #FreeMelee, I can honestly say that Super Smash Bros. Melee is my game of the year...but I’ve bored you all with my talk on the subject, so let’s talk about my second game of the year for 2020!
Now, I’m a man of multiplayer games and nostalgia and during this year, there’s no shortage of friends to play games with, so you want something simple, replayable and slightly full of chaos. As stated in one of the podcast episodes, I’ve been playing SO much Left 4 Dead 2. With the community update, mods and the procedural generation, it’s a game that never gets old and keeps giving you a frantic fun time. I mean, the game’s been out for 11 years so all that needs to be said has already been said, but here’s everything I love about it.
Playing the campaign through on Advanced introduces friendly fire to an introductory level and causes for some mayhem between friends, and then flipping it onto Expert both excites the players to actually work as a team and opens the game up to even more anarchy!
What if you have more than 4 players though? Well the Versus mode is always a great laugh when you have a full squad of players, but if you want to work all together, there are some finicky ways to get 8 people on a team in 1 campaign! You DO have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get this set up though, so unless you play this game a lot, I’d just recommend balancing the teams in Versus mode.
The game is just easy to pick up and play and with mods that allow the Tank to become Shrek, why wouldn’t you want to boot it up after all this time? The game grants you so many vanilla campaigns to keep you busy for weeks, and with such a loyal community, you’re also able to download a tonne of user made maps too. Who would have ever thought you’d be able to play through the Forest Temple for Ocarina of Time in Left 4 Dead?
I’m extremely excited to see where Back 4 Blood goes (the spiritual successor announced at the GotY awards), but for now to scratch that 4 player co-op vs zombie itch, I’ll be keeping my hands on Left 4 Dead 2.
Ghost of Tsushima
Thomas M Pritchard, Staff & Content Producer
Wake up Samurai?!
Nah that is absolutely not what we’re doing. As much as I wish I could throw my recommendation for Game of the Year at Cyberpunk 2077, the last couple of weeks have made it clear that that is not an option.
I mean the other Samurai.
A sizeable chunk of my PS3 memories hang on the fantastic inFamous series and I knew whatever the next big PS4 title from Sucker Punch games turned out to be, I was going to go all in. Ghost of Tsushima however, was not what I expected.
Riding gently through trees and across fields on the island of Tsushima was an absolutely fantastic experience, and it genuinely let me live those Kurosawa samurai movie moments in black and white (A feature that I stressed on The Arcade Vaults podcast was genuinely a creative achievement) in ways that I never thought Video Games would be able to give me.
Being guided to secrets by nature, a friendly fox leading you to a shrine on a mountain, an inquisitive little bird guiding you to a hot spring hidden in a forest or simply the elegant direction and guiding flow of the wind leading you to your next objective were all great. I could wander into a town overrun by Mongols and play the role of a wandering Samurai to perfection.It felt like the word would guide me from one adventure to the next naturally, organically, as opposed to with distracting prompts to take up the next generic side-quest or in world event that appeared.
Then they had the nerve, the gaul, the absolute audacity to add a multiplayer mode to this narrative driven, single player open-world western RPG…and it was brilliant. The fact that it was woven so perfectly into the weave and fabric of the game was perfect.
If you want my advice. Turn off the HUD. Turn on Kurosawa mode. Let the phenomenal Japanese voice cast take the wheel. Do these three things and I genuinely believe you will enjoy one of the most phenomenal experiences in gaming this year.
All in all, Ghost of Tsushima is a great story, in a beautiful world.
World of Warcraft - Shadowlands
Harry Loewendahl, Content Producer
WoW has now celebrated its 16th birthday this year, and it still manages to keep pressing the right buttons for me. Even though Shadowlands only came out in the last few months I've been playing again since lockdown for the first time in about 6 years. And I don't think I've been the only one, which has led lots of people to be replaying the old content to get all up to date.
This has made it all a really nice social experience, which is really what this game is all about.
The Shadowlands now add another area themed around the afterlife. With beautiful vistas and fun new abilities mixed in with an interesting story, it makes this new expansion one that deserves all the hype it was getting before launch.
I haven’t had a chance to try all the end game systems yet but I'm excited to play Torgast which adds a rougelike game within a game which looks like a blast to play. Blizzard has now introduced lots of catch up mechanics to get your characters ready for Shadowlands so if you've never played before or not in a long time this is a great time to visit Azeroth.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
Scott Turner, Events Committee
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is the latest first-person shooter video game developed by Treyarch and Raven Software. It is the sixth instalment in the Black Ops series, and the seventeenth instalment in the overall Call of Duty series.
This is a game that has easily become my game of the year for a number of reasons but the most important of which is it's timeless ease of play. Whether you are having a busy day at work and want a quick game on your lunch break or a relaxed day at home this game can be picked up and put down at will.
Whether Team Deathwatch, Hard point, Capture the Flag or Domination. It has multiple different game modes and maps for you!
My personal favourite is 24/7 Nuke Playground. This is a remake of a classic, specifically redrafted for the festive period 2020, that is close quarters, fast moving and unforgiving of mistakes style of map.
If you’ve not tried a CoD game before, try the game out for yourself and let me know!
The Last of Us: Part II
Will Johns, Staff
The Last of Us Part II continues Naughty Dogs’ run of excellent narrative focused, action-adventure games. The game continues Ellie & Joels’ story of survival through a post-apocalyptic world five years after the events of ‘The Last of Us (2013)’. It has a bold, emotionally driven and thought provoking story dealing with grief & hate and how it affects other people, which kept me gripped and in suspense for the game’s entire duration. The game excels with its engaging characters with fantastic performances by Ashley Johnson, Troy Baker and Laura Bailey as Ellie, Joel and Abby respectively.
The combat in this game is violent and intense (much like the story). I was enjoying the game more & more as I was unlocking player upgrades. I appreciated the detail & subtlety in the way your fighting styles & weapons change as you progress through the game. The Last of Us: Part II can be compared to any video game at a high standard when it comes to graphics, audio design, level design and motion capture. It’s a must-play for fans of the first game.
Kieran Williams, Volunteer
Every so often in life something awful happens to you where the mind-body connection comes into full view and you experience a physical reaction to it, often in the form of nausea. Whilst obviously incomparable to the loss of a real person living in the real world, the death of Joel within the first hour of The Last of Us: Part II was something I felt like a punch in the stomach.
I was shocked; shocked that the central character of the previous game had been taken away from us and shocked at the brutal manner in which antago-protagonist Abby snuffed out his life. Shocked...and angry, and ready for revenge. Therefore placing me firmly in the shoes of Ellie in a way that only a sequel with an established connection between characters and fans can achieve. It’s this varied emotional reaction, that I can’t say I’ve experienced in any other piece of art, that skyrockets the game into my game of the year spot, and that’s not even getting into the great stealth mechanics, amazing visuals, satisfying shooting, ‘holy sh*t!’ moments of violence and, of course, the way glass smashes.
Streets of Rage 4
Sarah Watkins, Volunteer
Streets of Rage 4 is my game of the year. I wouldn’t even say beat ‘em ups are my genre and Streets of Rage 4 is my game of the year. If you don’t agree then I can only assume you haven’t played it, and you should stop reading this now so that you can go play it and then come back and agree with me. It is by no means a perfect game. On certain difficulties the AI is an absolute cheat; the response delay to some of the move inputs will absolutely get you bottled in the face; and some enemies require such specific tactics that ‘beat ‘em up’ is less accurate than ‘think really hard ‘em up’ a lot of the time. But it is slick, and compelling, and absolutely beautifully drawn, and the boss fights are as enjoyable as the grind through street trash to get to them and my word does it make you feel like you actually could go out and punch your way through an entire city.
Usually a game has to work pretty hard to turn me into a completionist, but I am still steadily grinding my way through the exact same game on each difficulty like there’s nothing I’d rather be doing. The differences in how you have to handle enemies between each difficulty doesn’t just come down to the number of scumbags with their hands in their pockets who want to catch hands, but how they behave and how you have to respond, and it’s like playing a new game each time you jump difficulties.
But here’s the real question about Streets of Rage 4; have you heard it? The soundtrack is a masterpiece and you will absolutely feel like a mighty God even when Galsia turns up to cheap shot you with his pen knife. Streets of Rage 4 is my game soundtrack of the year without a doubt. And yes, I hear you saying Doom Eternal came out this year, but I don’t care. The Doom Eternal soundtrack is good but the Streets of Rage 4 soundtrack is a masterpiece of dragging you into the game’s world. Like you are a disillusioned cop with angry hands who can absolutely take all of these chumps. Go fight your way up Y Tower while Rising Up is playing, and then come and talk to me about Doom Eternal. Go fight your way up Y tower anyway, you will definitely not regret giving this game a shot.
7 Days to die
Gareth While, Events Committee
7 days to die is a game which originally was released on steam then later released on PlayStation and Xbox. It is a zombie survival/ crafting game where the player is put into an open world populated with buildings and of course…zombies.
I have played over 700 hours on this life sink.
Every 7 days in game (in the form of a “blood moon”) comes a massive horde of zombies who want nothing better to eat you alive, which progressively gets worse each time (the zombies and amount also scale to your level), it is then up to you to manage your skills, such as being able to gather more resources, get better with a particular weapon, or become better at looting abandoned buildings, all before the next blood moon.
The building method of the game is personally where I think it shines and probably why I have so many hours in the game, all items in the world are created within cubes and can be built or destroyed anyway you want (think Minecraft but with nice 3D models). This means you are able to create (if you want and have the time) a 1 to 1 scale of your house, famous building or starship.
The game was released in 2013 and sadly is still in early access (yes I know) so while they have been updating the game regularly and trying to implement their original vision, there are still some bugs, and the game is a bit dated visually. However if you like zombies and a crafting system that gives you a lot of freedom then I cannot recommend the game enough.
Jenna-Beth Loewendahl, Staff
My game of the year is Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. It is epitome of an “easy to pick up but hard to master” game. After work it is so nice to come home and just relax and play as a little bean who runs around doing obstacle courses with lit costumes and skins.
Since it came out in February we have had three seasons and lots of fun, and not so fun, new levels that have left me laughing, whooping, and swearing at my Playstation.
I look forward to seeing what new levels and skins come out in the future as each season has been more creative than the last, putting new twists on well known levels. Season 3’s Christmas season has been no exception. Punching boxing gloves have become a staple in the new levels as well as ideas from past levels merging together. The combination of hoops and an obstacle course could have only been created by a truly evil person. A super-villain from the campiest of old superhero films.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Chris Munasinha, Owner
Oooof, this was a close one for me this year. I think it was right down the middle for me between this (the amazing follow up to 2018s Spider-Man on the PS4) and The Last of Us: Part II. Ultimately two things swung it (geddit!?) the fact the I played Spider-Man more recently, and the emotional resonance I felt playing it.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales does have a few dark moments in the plot and there’s not doubt that the ending of the game could be looked on to be as gloomy as LoU 2. But let’s be honest, Spider-Man as a character, whichever incarnation you look at, is always positive despite the darkness that surrounds him. And that is what is stamped all over this game - positivity!
It is clearly also the same game but also not. The gameplay itself is a great evolution of the first game’s, which for a strange sort-of-sequel-but-not-a-full-priced-game, that also straddles console generations, is quite a feat. The story is moving, interesting and a great spin on a spidey tale. The fact that it’s only the second game I went back to get the Platinum trophy on (the first being the first game!) should say it all for me. Game. Of. The. Year.