The Last of Us Part II does an incredible job of letting you know the world is a lived one, where people exist, and animals and places have continued on with or without the protagonist. However, with all of these things going on in the background and the world, it ensures you know you are living every single moment of Ellie’s journey. You get to experience her meeting new people, learning to trust these people, and eventually love these people. You get to see her memorable moments with Joel, and how she managed to grow up into a young woman capable of doing the most perilous of tasks herself. You also get to see the slower side of her life, where she sits down and reflects, where she plays the most beautiful acoustic cover of Take on Me on the guitar, and how she sits on a balcony and stares out into the sunset. This is Ellie’s journey, and it is one of the most beautiful, aggravating, heart wrenching, entertaining, fun, and riveting stories I have ever played (and enjoyed). It may not be perfect for all types of gamers, especially those who might get irritated during sections where the combat will result in Ellie’s death; but it is perfect, beautiful, engrossing and gorgeous in every other way! Although a new decade has only just begun, The Last of Us Part II is already at the top of “absolute must play titles” for the decade ahead.
If you are hungry for a good 4X title, you need not look further than Sid Meier’s Civilization VI. Its namesake is the literal benchmark for 4X games for a reason, and Civilization VI only cemented this fact on PC, and now on console. Controls may take a bit to get used to, but other than that there are very few reasons you anyone to not to pick it up.
The original trilogy (staring Marcus Fenix as the protagonist) may have been the franchise at its height, but I can see Gears Tactics becoming a whole new beast of its own merit. From the excellent gameplay boiling down to cover-based movement and fast-paced actions, through to the progression and customisation systems put in place to ensure players always have a choice, it is evident that Gears Tactics is XCOM redefined, and it is exceptional.
It is very rare for a game to come along and hook me the way that Ori and the Will of the Wisps has. I love Metroidvania titles and have grown accustomed to the various little ways they force you to double back on yourself. In this regard, Ori and the Will of the Wisps kept reminding me of some of my favourite Metroidvanias (namely the later games in the Mega Man X series), and has rightfully earned a place as one of the best in the genre. Similarly, I love soulslike titles, which are basically Metroidvania titles where challenge and exploration take precedence over storytelling and mission structure. Ori and the Will of the Wisps peters on the fine line between Metroidvania and soulslike, which ultimately makes it a truly incredible and unforgettable adventure.
Kylotonn is an excellent studio and continues to release outstanding games. They recently reinvigorated WRC and brought it home to a whole new generation of gamers. Furthermore, they took what they learned with WRC 8, and put it into TT isle of Man 2. The result is a genuinely fun motorbike simulation that does not compromise on details. It is a robust, insanely involved, and a truly gorgeous game.
F1 2020 most definitely cements the fact that Codemasters have an unfaltering love for the sport and will go through many lengths to make sure the qualms of their F1 fanbase are heard loud and clear. The game builds on everything F1 2019 brought to the franchise, and then some. It looks phenomenal and proves its worth as the best franchise to invest in for F1 fans. Although F1 2020 comes in at the tail end of the console generation, it most definitely wins pole position thanks to exceptional gameplay and a whole lot of love and dedication from the developers.
Mortal Shell is to Dark Souls what Gears Tactics is to XCOM. It takes the tried and tested formula, wipes away all the years of hubris the original developers have grown accustomed to, and brings back the initial excitement of the first title. It works on those original premises and ideas and instead of replacing Dark Souls, it stands next to it as the new benchmark of the genre. In many ways Mortal Shell is as unpolished and raw as Demon Souls, but ultimately captures the heart and soul of what Dark Souls was, Dark Souls II wanted to be, and Dark Souls III only somewhat achieved. It is a beautiful homage to the original Soulslike titles and comes in strong as a competitor that will stand the test of time as the quintessential Soulslike game.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla takes inspiration from every single one of the franchise greats. From Assassin’s Creed II’s exceptional writing and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’s unlikely hero, Valhalla is both expertly written and has an unusual hero destined for greatness - one who has no real interest in the Hidden Ones, at least to start. From Assassin’s Creed Origins’ superb and intimate narrative and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s full-fledged role-playing game (RPG) mechanics, Valhalla doubles down on all facets to deliver one of the best gameplay experiences featured in any Assassin’s Creed title to date. Evior truly is a loveable protagonist that players fall in love with quickly. Their struggle is the player’s struggle, and that is the best compliment a game can ask for. However, there are so many additional aspects that make the game an even better experience: the exceptional soundtrack and sound design; World Events that do not repeat; settlement building, and so much more! Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is immensely fun and satisfying to play, and offers constant surprises that do not seem to stop or disappoint. It is, undoubtedly, the best Ubisoft has to offer at this stage in time, and will forever be regarded as one of the greats in the Assassin's Creed franchise.
Immortals Fenyx Rising is an incredible title. While the aesthetic might not be for everyone and its open-world nature will eventually become repetitive, the game is so chock-full of optional content and beautiful vistas that this eventuality will take a long time to reach. The story is wonderfully narrated and crafted to work incredibly well with the graphical design of the game too. Better still, the humorous approach to ancient Greek mythology alongside the bold and colourful aesthetic; all wonderfully complement each other in ways that only Legend of Zelda games have been capable of in the past. It is rare for any company, let alone Ubisoft, to bring out a brand-new Intellectual Property and for it to reign supreme right from the start. However, Immortal Fenyx Rising certainly manages this seemingly impossible feat with aplomb. Fenyx is a relatable character, and the incredible narration between Zeus and Prometheus are wonderfully nostalgic for any lover of Saturday Morning Cartoons. The gameplay constantly makes players want to come back for more, with countless secrets, puzzles and story elements to keep players engaged for hours and hours of enjoyment. Immortals Fenyx Rising is very near perfect, and ticks all the right boxes for a game that is gorgeous, enjoyable, addictive and highly entertaining.