10 – Subsurface Circular
It’s Mike Bithell, go play it then play Quarantine Circular right after. Set in on subterranean subway system that transports Teks (androids) to their various human assigned jobs. You play a detective Tek trying to investigate a recent spat of crimes against their species. The way you weave your way in and out of an expertly created dialogue system makes you feel extremely clever but really it’s Bithell that’s the genius gently nudging you along the way.
9 – Sea of Thieves
I’ve never had a bad time playing Sea of Thieves, every time I’ve played there have been laugh out loud moments caused by the hijinks of manning a pirate ship in the vast open seas. Despite this there is a sense that something is missing the “make your own fun” mantra that was shown via the beta and at numerous press events isn’t enough to keep the game going as an ongoing concern, the lack of content means you’ll be finding yourself having a quick 1 or 2 hour stint with friends and then putting the game down for something else. It being a Game Pass title certainly helps to justify both the game and service existing as you can dip in and out when there are content updates.
8 – Red Dead Redemption 2
I need to play more of this but what I’ve played it’s the most immersive world ever. I’m a huge fan of Westworld and the power fantasy this game evokes. It can’t get any higher on my list though due to somewhat slow pace that feels like it drags down proceedings, there’s also a level of bugs that I’d not expect from a Rockstar game. I’m not really a fan of the bounty system, there are also a bunch of other mechanics working in the background that you’re not given enough information about and whether they have any meaningful impact upon the world. As beautiful as the world is I also can’t help but feel like there is a ton of padding in missions making you travel longer distances than should be required, it get frustrating when you consider all the busy work you may encounter along the way in the form of strangers etc… Despite this feeling like a game I’m hating on I still do love it and will be making sure I finish Arthur Dent’s wild west adventure.
7 – Dead Cells
Dead Cells is by far the best rogue like I’ve ever played. I’ll usually go pretty hard on a new rogue like and then drop off when I hit a brick wall. That has not been the case with Dead Cells, the smooth well animated player movement the 16 bit evocative graphics and an insanely rewarding combat system have kept me gripped and playing run after run. I’m pretty determined it will join the Binding of Isaac as a Rogue like I’ve beaten.
6 – Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII
I don’t play CoD. I haven’t played one in anger since Modern Warfare 2. Black Ops 4 appealed to me as a “fan” of PUBG who felt it was far too unpolished on consoles for me to stick with it. However Black Ops 4’s Blackout mode is a much pacier less buggy version of the same battle royale game mode and I bloody love. Still chasing that Number 1 ranking to go with my Fortnite Victory Royale. I’ve dabbled in some regular multiplayer and it’s as slick as I remember, the perks system seems to have been worked over time to not be completely skewed in favour of the best players with enough options if you are struggling a bit. I’ve not tried Zombies yet but I will in the new year for sure.
5 – Laser League
Laser League is brilliant and it would be higher on my list if not for the fact that it’s dead online. At time of writing Steam Charts reports an average of 3.4 players having played the game in the last month not great for a game that requires 6 per match.Along with this it’s on Microsoft’s Game Pass and I’ve consistently struggled to find a game on Xbox since about 3 weeks after launch BUT it is brilliant. A top down class based 3 on 3 laser arena combat game is the best way to describe the game. Each player runs around trying to activate deadly laser lines in a variety of patterns depending on the arena, you win the round if your team wipes out the opposing team by forcing them to cross the laser lines. What really sets the game apart is the classes as these can be used in a variety of ways take out players; stunning them then activating a nearby rotating laser, shunting players across the arena or using a deadly one hit kill blade that leaves you open to attack if you fail. All of this is set to a great soundtrack with voice overs and atmosphere to match.
4 – Starlink: Battle for Atlas
There aren’t many arcade-y space shooters out there these days, go on steam and there are plenty of sims along with a smattering of mobile ports. Starlink solves that problem, initially envisioned as a toys to life game a quick course redirection allows you to buy the game digitally and not be tired to plastic tat (no offence to those who like it, yes the Arwing is bloody cool). Once in that game you’ll get a pretty solid space shooter in the vein of a Starfox/Rogue Squadron with a nice smattering of No Mans Sky style open world (space?) to explore. I picked this up on Switch and as a result got the Star Fox content instantly making this the best entry in that franchise since Star Fox 64 (again for clarity sake I enjoyed Starfox Adventures but let’s be honest it’s not a proper Star Fox game!), whilst Fox’s presence in the main adventure of the Battle for Atlas feels tacked on, the chance to go toe to toe with Star Wolf once again in exclusive missions is just too good to turn down.
3 – Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
This only just came out it’s truly ultimate, every fighter from the history of the series plus a few newbies. The world of light mode has a ton more characters in the form of spirits which act as modifiers but look like every classic Nintendo or associated franchise ever imaginable. If you don’t like Smash’s brand of platformer fighters I ain’t going to convince you otherwise so I’ll stop writing here…
2 – Hitman 2
It’s more the same of my game of the year 2016. Hitman 2 brings several quality of life additions be it the concealing system showing a ring when you’re covered by either foliage or crowds, the new mini cams showing guards investigating or the return of the briefcase system for sneaking items in. Along with this the level settings and design is a step above that found in the original game making that puzzle element of getting all the moving pieces to align how you want it feel better than ever before.
1 – Forza Horizon 4
If you’d have told me at the beginning of the year that Forza Horizon 4 would have been in my top ten I’d have scoffed, and yet here it is, my Game of the Year. I’ve found each iteration of the Horizon sub franchise perfectly serviceable and couldn’t fault them. The slightly more arcade-y feel has always appealed to me over the more sim orientated Motorsport, however I found Horizon 3’s Australian setting a bit of a bore. The heavily Northern influenced topography of this game was much more appealing, it could well be my expat status and affinity to Yorkshire is the soul reason behind this increased enjoyment. Driving through dry stone walls never gets boring. There are also actual gameplay improvements; the cadence of the unlock and rewards system has been vastly improved you level up at a decent rate and get to spin that prize wheel after every few races; which is great.