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Weekend Hot Topic, part 2: The best games of 2020 so far

GameCentral readers give 2020 its half year report and discuss its best games, from Half-Life: Alyx to Streets Of Rage 4.

Since we’re now halfway through 2020 this week’s Hot Topic asked the same question it always asks at this time of year, even if the coronavirus has made a mess of the release schedules over the last six months.

We still wanted to know what your favourite games were though and there were actually more high-quality titles than you might first think, even if the front-runners were all very obvious…

Happy times
Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been my favourite of the year so far. That’s not exactly up against much competition though as I never liked The Last Of Us or Uncharted and if I do pick up the sequel it will only be once it is much cheaper.

What put me off the most is how miserable the game was likely to be, far more than the first from what I can tell, I just don’t need that right now. By comparison Animal Crossing is so cheerful and laidback you literally don’t have to do anything and are still rewarded for it. I’ve been playing it almost every day, often with friends during lockdown, and it’s just wonderful charming and creative.

My second favourite would probably be Final Fantasy 7 Remake. An impossible task which should never have been attempted but managed to turn out better than I expected. It’s drawn out and still fails to add depth to many important characters despite having all the time in the world but I enjoyed it. I don’t know that I want to play another two or three games with the same gameplay but it’s certainly better than I expected it to be.

Raging success
The Last Of Us Part 2 is probably going to be my favourite game of the whole year but since I haven’t finished it yet I’m not sure I should really put it forward. So instead I’ll mention a game that will probably get forgotten by the time awards season comes round: Streets Of Rage 4.

I really enjoyed that game and I could not understand why some people were saying it was a disgrace to the series. I admit I’m not a super hardcore fan that remembers every frame of the original but I had tons of fun with the new game.

Okay, the soundtrack was a bit underwhelming after all the hype but the graphics were great and I loved playing it in co-op. I hope there’s more from the same developer, both of Streets Of Rage and other Sega games.

Only choice
It’s got to be The Last Of Us Part 2. I’ve never played a game like it this year or any year and for me it blows the original away, which I always thought was overrated. The sequel is too long, with a lot of unnecessary filler, but behind that it’s pretty much perfect.

As other readers have said, it is frustrating you can’t really discuss it in public but the way the two main characters are portrayed and how they have completely opposite trajectories is handled extremely well and while I can understand complaints about the story not being interactive it kind of have to be to ensure the characters are kept going the way they do.

If you were able to make decisions the game would end after five minutes or never come to an end at all. Naughty Dog are telling a story the way they want to tell it and on those terms I think they hit a blinder.

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Service of the year
Microsoft has had a pretty terrible generation but Ori And The Will Of The Wisps was a great way to go out. I regret backing them with the Xbox One, not least because it means I haven’t played The Last Of Us Part 2, which I imagine a lot of people are going to nominate this weekend. But there have been some highlights and the Ori games have definitely been up there.

I was surprised Microsoft didn’t buy Moon Studios (perhaps they tried to and they said no) but for me they’ve definitely been the best exclusives on the Xbox One. Really excellent Metroidvanias, with great gameplay, level design, and beautiful graphics.

I’d also like to say that Bleeding Edge is a lot better than many people seem to give credit for. I didn’t but it but played it for free on Game Pass and have really enjoyed it. Speaking of which, I’d say Game Pass was really the best ‘thing’ that has come out this year. Just fantastic value for money and if I ever did buy an Xbox console again that would be the reason, not any one specific game.

Dream video game
Half-Life: Alyx is going to get ignored a lot in the game of the year awards in December, for the obvious fact that it’s a VR game not many people will have had the chance to play. But I have played it and I think it was worth the wait for a new Half-Life game. Which given how long we’ve been waiting gives an idea of how great it is!

Amazing use of technology but also great game design that turns limitations into positives and had me constantly forgetting I was even holding controllers or that I was playing a game. That may sound crazy but it really does seem like an alternate reality, somewhere between a dream and a video game.

Of all the games this year, and obviously there haven’t been that many, it’s the one that makes me most optimistic about the future of gaming and makes it obvious we have a long, long way to go yet in terms of new ideas and new tech.

Half-year award
I’ll be honest, the only game I’ve bought this year, that came out this year, was 51 Worldwide Games. My girlfriend liked the sound of it and convinced me to get it for everyone to play, especially as we were in lockdown then and it wasn’t full price.

It’s a neat little game and a good way to get non-gamers interested in video games, but obvious it’s not game of the year material. Or even game of the half-year.

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Chapter One
I’d have thought the main Hot Topic would have been about Dr Disrespect and his permaban on Twitch! Oh, no one knows what I’m on about. In that case then: Final Fantasy 7 Remake!

To be honest, I have only just got the game recently, but it will have to go to being the best 2020 game I have played so far this year. I am currently mingling with the locals of Wall Market in the slums of Midgar, to get inside Don Corneo’s mansion! This was actually one of my favourite moments from the original, and knowing from some slight information being leaked, the dressing up of Cloud and a full-on dance segment to aim for is really thrilling me before even getting to Corneo’s mansion.

What I like about what they have done is the fact that the characters are so much more fleshed out, and even the antagonist Shinra executives are all having longer parts to play.

Stand out characters for me, either good or bad, are Heidegger, Jessie and co., and Reno. I can’t wait for future characters coming into it more, like Professor Hojo, Reeve, and the whole J.E.N.O.V.A. mystery, to be explained in a very deep and satisfactory way.

Graphics and gameplay are spot on to me. They managed to keep the classic stuff mixed in with the awesome new elements of gameplay and graphical design. The music is just ‘wow’, mind-blowing. The original tunes, but so masterfully remade, and just as good as the Secret Of Mana remake’s (Seiken Densetsu 2 on the SNES) music.

I know all of the game is set in Midgar, but it has so far got me excited for the next two in the series already. How long do we have to wait for them! As long as needs be to keep the series perfect with each part released. With some storyline changes and some big key moments possibly changing, I can safely say that I am slightly hyped for the next Final Fantasy 7 Remake chapter, which is definitely good in my book.

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The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

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