Titanfall 2 – shooter of the generation? (pic: EA)
I’m afraid I was a bit of a johnny-come-lately to the outgoing generation. I scrimped and saved to pick up a Switch in slate 2016 and didn’t get myself a PS4 Pro until some way into 2017, after I managed to get myself a much better paid job after a prolonged lean spell, money-wise. Since then, I’ve developed an ‘eyes bigger than my belly’ approach to game procurement, resulting in an unprecedented-for-me gaming backlog in the 30s.
As a result, I’ve actually failed to play quite a few of the era’s supposed must-haves. In my ‘to do’ pile sit not only new stuff like Cyberpunk 2077, but also well-regarded big hitters such as Bloodborne, The Last Of Us Part 2, and the entire Metro series. I’ve also not really played such beloved AAA titles as The Witcher 3, Red Dead Redemption 2, or the Final Fantasy 7 Remake, as I’ve just never been particularly interested in or attached to any of those series.
However, I have played a lot of games. Especially in this last year, when, like a lot of people, I’ve suddenly found myself with an abundance of ‘free’ time and no one to spend it with. And broadly speaking, I’ve had a great time doing it. I’ve also played some of the best games I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. So to celebrate, and in no particular order, here are my 10(-ish) favourite games of the outgoing generation.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild
When Nintendo get it right, they get it right better than anyone else. They’ve never been the most prolific of developers, but when you’re capable of producing the goods to this standard, you’ve not got a licence to print money, you’ve got the power to make gold. Why rush something so miraculous?
I’ve sung the praises of both of these games to pretty much anyone I’ve ever had a conversation with about games since they came out. To me, they’re the most sublime distillation of their respective franchises to date and manage to be considerably more enjoyable than even the mightiest of their legendary forebears. Not to mention almost everything else that exists in gaming.
The sickening thing is, neither of them are perfect! Although, of the two, I’d argue Mario Kart 8 comes closest, since my quibbles with it amount to personal preferences regarding some of the retro tracks chosen for inclusion. Given how much I enjoyed them both, it’s impossible not to look forward to the inevitable sequels with a sense of pure wonder at how Nintendo could possibly improve them next. Without a doubt, Breath Of The Wild 2 is my most eagerly anticipated game going forward, but I’m more than happy to wait for as long as it takes for them to get it right.
Resident Evil 2 – remake of the generation (pic: Capcom)
Resident Evil 2 remake
Whilst I feel every possible credit is due to Resident Evil 7 for resurrecting the franchise after the dire sixth instalment, and for so effectively reinventing it as a pretty thrilling first person experience, it’s the remake of the original sequel that I have the fondest memories of.
For starters, from the opening cinematic it looks phenomenal, every frame dripping with more atmosphere than that trucker’s cheeseburger drips grease. Then there’s the fact that it plays like a (hideous, blood drenched) dream. Respectful to the original to the point of reverence but retooled with every possible modern survival horror game mechanic polished to perfection and beautifully engineered around the core experience of a vintage icon of the genre. Plus, finally we have a Resident Evil game where moving whilst shooting is not only possible, but also feels right!
It’s every bit as good as the sublime GameCube remake of the first game, and then some. It’s also one of the first games I can ever remember playing where my first action after finishing it was to immediately start again and play through everything as the second character.
Like a lot of people, I found the remake of 3 a little, how shall I say, ‘underwhelming’, but that was mostly just because of the short running time and comparative lack of replay value. However, on the strength of Capcom’s trinity of Resident Evil work this generation, my hopes for Resident Evil Village are very high indeed.
One of the first games I got around to playing on my PlayStation 4 quickly became, without a doubt, my favourite first person shooter in… a very long time. I’d heard it was good, but everything about it was so slick, well-paced, and beautifully put together I simply didn’t want it to end.
I’ve not played Doom Eternal, but I have completed both the Doom 2016 reboot and all of the modern day Wolfenstein games. Whilst I’d certainly never say any of them were bad in the slightest (the insanity of the ending to New Colossus alone was worth the price of admission for the entire series), I can’t help wishing that Titanfall 2 had been at least as lengthy as any of them. Titanfall 2 was just the epitome of a light that burnt twice as bright, but for half as long.
It’s one franchise I’m sad hasn’t become a major thing. I know Apex Legends is technically a continuation of the same universe, but I’m very much not an online shooter kind of guy and, as I understand it, there are no titans to pilot, so that’s half the fun out of the window right there. I loved the traversal mechanics, the feel of riding around in your titan, even the story was solid. I really hope there’s going to be a Titanfall 3 one day.
Life Is Strange/Before The Storm
I was very late to the Life Is Strange party, only getting around to playing them during the 2020 Summer of Lockdown. Thankfully I’d managed to avoid the majority of plot spoilers up until that point, so my journey into the twisted lives of Max, Chloe, and Rachel was still a revelation. Very much different games to the majority of action-oriented things I usually play, I quickly found myself drawn to the characters and their lives, as I fought to make sure I always did right by each of the poor souls I encountered in Arcadia Bay.
I found the slowly unravelling mystery of it all extremely compelling, especially as at no point did the games become overly preoccupied with the ‘how’ or ‘why’ of Max’s powers, only on the effects her use of them had on the lives of others. Before The Storm even went a considerable way to deepening my understanding of the otherwise often objectionable Chloe, and by the end of the final Farewell episode, all I wanted to do was reach into my TV and give the poor girl a hug.
Special mention to the soundtrack for managing to perfectly fit the action at every given point (Bamalam by Darren Leigh Purkiss is now absolutely one of my favourite things) and any game where one of the objectives is to take photos of squirrels gets a thumbs up from me.
I’ve not bought Life Is Strange 2 yet, partly because reviews have suggested it’s a less compelling story and can suffer from pacing issues, but I’m still interested and will probably pick it up if I can ever get my games backlog down to manageable levels.
God Of War and Horizon Zero Dawn
Sony’s homegrown studios have really upped their game this generation, producing some towering and truly memorable experiences along the way. Whilst I did enjoy both Uncharted 4 and it’s short-but-sweet spin-off Lost Legacy, it was the twin joys of Horizon and God Of War that really made me glad to have stuck with PlayStation this time around.
I was especially taken with the robotic creature design in Horizon, but both games created beautifully detailed worlds that I found fun and engaging to spend time in. Both also featured winning combinations of story and characters (and, certainly in God Of War’s case, character development, which was not exactly been something the series had been known for before), not to mention gameplay mechanics almost as polished as their production values.
From the simple pleasure of feeling Kratos catch his leviathan axe, or the awe of surveying the glorious landscapes of the Sacred Lands with Aloy, to the satisfaction of taking down the Valkyries and Thunderjaws as the respective heroes, I found both to be genuinely, and rarely less than epically, spectacular treats. I also got a kick out of every interaction with Sylens, given that one of the many other things I did during lockdown was watch The Wire from start to finish, and having Lieutenant Daniels repeatedly pop up as a post-apocalyptic techno-scavenger was pretty cool.
I’ve also managed to Platinum both, which is a very rare thing for me to bother with, even with titles I really like. Knowing that both have sequels under way is a major incentive to get into the new generation, even if they do somehow end up being cross-generation titles.
Star Wars: Squadrons VR/Battlefront X-Wing VR Mission
Alright, so technically they’re two different games, by two different developers, but they’re so similar and work so well, I’m lumping them together anyway. Anyone who can use VR without motion sickness setting in and who doesn’t get a kick out of engaging a Star Destroyer from behind the controls of a virtual X-wing just doesn’t have a sense of fun at all.
Watching your cockpit fill with smoke and seeing the ominous cracks appear in your starfighter canopy as you take fire is a tangibly alarming experience. After the drawn out and deflating slogs of the new era films, it’s been a real old school fanboy dream to experience something that feels like proper, authentic, visceral Star Wars in all its grotty, lived-in, nuts and bolts glory. Sure, the graphics and single-player mission design aren’t always top notch, but for a freebie DLC and a purposefully budget production the in the moment gameplay is pure AAA enjoyment.
I can’t urge everyone who is able to give Squadrons a go strongly enough, not least because the more successful it is, the more chance there is of the next gen, proper big budget version/sequel this franchise has been crying out for since the days of X-Wing Vs. TIE Fighter, and who wouldn’t want that?
Moss and Astro Bot: Rescue Mission
Moss was my very first PlayStation VR game. It’s effectively what I bought one to play. The first time I turned it on, peered around the library and turned the first page of the storybook I was sold on the technology. By the time little Quill appeared, mere moments later, I was in pretty much love with the game. The ambiance, the setting, the mechanics… I adored it all, but in Quill I had a protagonist I developed an instant protective connection with, in no small part thanks to how she reacts to your actions and head movements.
I felt genuinely upset the first time I inadvertently let her fall into water and she died. I had to fight the compulsion to try and reach out with my real-world hands to save her from drowning. Thankfully, thanks to the digital magic of no one ever really being gone, she’s still there and always ready for more wholesome and whimsical adventuring whenever I get the urge to visit her gorgeously realised forest home. Again, I felt it was a game that thoroughly deserves a sequel.
And again, here is a game that (albeit briefly) features a squirrel. An armour-plated war squirrel, no less. How can anyone not like that?
As for Astro Bot, what praises can be said that haven’t been heaped upon it already? Sure, it’s conceptually and aesthetically derivative of the Mario universe, but if you’re going to steal, steal from the best, right? And it’s more than respectful to the source material, given that it’s classic Nintendo levels of brilliance from start to finish, and doesn’t put a pixel wrong for any of it’s short, but jam-packed running time, as it turns the fun factor up to 11 right from the get go. The music is fashioned from pure ear worms and even the bonus unlockables are encased behind a fun mini-game. I can honestly say I enjoyed all of it more than any of Super Mario Odyssey or what little time I’ve spent with Super Mario 3D All-Stars.
Other notable mentions
At this stage, since I’m currently at the halfway point of my first New Game+ run, I feel I should also give an honourable shout out to Dark Souls Remastered, which has both frustrated and rewarded me in equal measure over the last two months. I know it’s technically now a two-generation old game, but still.
Sure, grinding for titanite for weapon upgrade trophies is a vile slog, despite what everyone says about it being firm but fair, sometimes it really just isn’t. And whoever designed and coded the titanite demons should be sent to a special place in Hell, but it hasn’t disappointed, even after a decade of hype and its near mythical status setting it up for a big fall. More than ever I’m looking forward to tackling both 2 and 3 at some point, not to mention the phenomenon that is Bloodborne. I just might have to play something less… challenging as a palette cleanser in between.
Alas, I also feel compelled to name and shame my biggest disappointment of the generation in Fallout 4. I nearly went with Batman: Arkham Knight, but even though I feel it’s the worst of the Rocksteady trilogy I still enjoyed bits of it a great deal. However, Fallout 4 was initially one of my primary draws to join the generation after how much I loved Fallout 3. I still pushed on through the whole thing, including all of the DLC, but unlike many of the other epics I’ve completed over the last three to four years, this one just left me feeling glad it was over. I found it lacklustre, charmless, and devoid of the morality and freedom of the previous entries.
The endless, repetitive ‘help the settlement’ quests, dull as ditch water base-building and constant scavenging for trash, coupled to those ugly, ugly graphics, and the series’ now ubiquitous glitches and bugs really didn’t help either. Overall, I just felt it was a sub-par effort from Bethesda and, after watching the Fallout 76 debacle unfold from afar, I’m left pondering just how hard Microsoft are going have to work to get that part of their $7.5billion Zenimax investment to pay off.
I really hope it does though. I’d love to see a next gen Fallout 5 be everything it can possibly be, because as so many games of the outgoing generation have definitely proved, when a developer gets it right, absolutely incredible things can happen.
By reader yourhomeisatrisk
The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
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