With COVID-19 restrictions still in effect around parts of the world, it isn’t a surprise that people turned to gaming for some solace. Like any other year, there were big launches, promising indie releases and bitter disappointments.
Let’s take a look at some of the headliners launched during the year.
The third entry in IO interactive's World of Assassination trilogy, which began in 2016 with Hitman, Hitman 3 ties all the loose ends up and refines the stealth gameplay introduced with first two games. Hitman 3 has some of the best levels of the trilogy, that are open and allow you to accomplish your goals in a variety of the different ways and beg you to explore its sandbox to find even more.
Like with the first two games, you can run through the game in a few hours but the real fun is replaying the missions and figuring out inventive methods to take out your targets.
It wasn't all good, the game's Epic Store exclusivity angered fans and the post-launch content has been less than stellar but IO still managed to craft an engaging trilogy.
Yuji Naka and Naoto Ohshima are gaming royalty. So when the creators of Sonic the Hedgehog announce a new project, there is bound to be interest. Balan Company was set up as a subsidiary of Square Enix to handle the project and for a little while, it looked like we were getting a brand new platformer to root for. Then the game released.
It turned out to be a huge disappointment that wasted everyone's time. It embarrassed Square Enix and Naka resigned from his role soon after. The game was unfinished and felt cobbled together with scraps of different ideas that never fit together in a cohesive whole. The game sold less than 2000 physical copies in Japan during the opening week and was a huge failure the world over.
Maybe Square Enix should have gone back and played through the newer Sonic games, would have saved them some time and money.
Returnal is a tough game to describe. It’s a rogue-like, third-person shooter with bullet hell elements. It also has a mysterious and well-constructed story that takes its time to slowly unravel.
Death in Returnal is punished heavily, you are sent back to the beginning of the game sans your equipment and weapons. The levels are also procedurally generated, meaning none of your runs will exactly be the same.
If you can accept this, then Returnal is a polished, unique experience that you are unlikely to forget. It's also not for everyone, as the completion rates suggest.
Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition
A lot of people grew up playing the classic Grand Theft Auto trilogy from the PS2/Xbox era. GTA III, Vice City and San Andreas are regarded as classics, helping establish the open-world formula that games still follow to this day.
When Rockstar announced it was remastering all three games and putting them in a nice little bundle, everyone lost their minds. That is until Rockstar launched the game.
I don't think anyone needs a refresher course in how broken this remaster is. Graphical glitches, technical issues, inconsistencies in presentation compared to the original and the list goes on. The title is a mess.
Things were so bad that Rockstar had to apologise for the quality of the release and even put the original trilogy back on sale again, as they work to sort this out. This felt like a soul less cash grab and it was surprising that Rockstar thought they could get away with selling this to fans who grew up playing the three games.
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy
After the way Square Enix handled Marvel's Avengers, you would be right in being sceptical about their second attempt with a Marvel franchise, but Guardians of the Galaxy is a very different game and a much, much better one than Avengers.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a vibrant joy-ride with interesting characters, incredible visuals and a soundtrack that puts a smile on your face. Drax, Star Lord, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Groot are all here and handled with care.
There is a unique combat system at play, some great visuals to take in and some great music to nod your head to. This made up for Avengers in spades.
After the incredibly harsh reception for Battlefield V, you would think DICE and EA would have learnt their lesson but 2042 proves they still have no idea what they are doing.
It turned out to be all smoke and mirrors. Wow the crowd with a hype announcement trailer, advertise the game as going back to its roots and then release an atrocious, half-baked, cash grab that is barely a game.
The fans still bought it, they still raged and the circle still continued. It was business as usual in Battlefield land, and disappointingly so. You really begin to wonder if this is the same DICE that released Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 2142.
Psychonauts 2 had everything going against it. It was a sequel to a 2005 cult classic that very few played, had financial complications with a crowdfunding campaign which began in 2015, was delayed again and again till finally, six years after it was first announced, Psychonauts 2 was released.
It was everything you wanted a sequel to be. It carried the original story forward, brought back the loveable characters from the first game, introduced several new ones and breathed new life into the franchise by tying to Xbox Game Pass, which means more people have an incentive to try it out.
If you haven't played it yet, give it a shot, it's one of the best platformers in recent years.
Far Cry 6
To be fair, Far Cry 6 is not a bad game. It is also not a broken game. It's also sometimes fun. For people getting their first taste of a Far Cry game, this is great. It’s an enjoyable, little romp that presents a fairly large open world to explore and outposts to capture.
If you have played the older Far Cry games, then you will realise how drawn out and tedious the formula has become. The same Ubisoft open world, filled with pointless collectibles and fetch quests. The same story beats that we have seen from other games in the series. A somewhat interesting villain and a decent looking location.
It's the same formula that the Far Cry series has been following since the third game and there is absolutely no attempt to innovate or try something new. It plays it so safe, it becomes bland. There is also no challenge this time around and only god knows what Ubisoft was thinking when they took out the difficulty options.
This series needs to take a break and come back with fresh ideas.Halo Infinite
It's impossible to describe how big of a phenomenon the Halo series was, when it first arrived on the scene. Halo and Halo 2 were blockbuster entertainment titles, that broke world records in sales and helped Xbox take on the PlayStation 2. Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST and Halo Reach all continued that momentum.
Halo was a cultural phenomenon that outsold films and books, filled with interesting lore, fun gameplay and a genuinely interesting story about humanity fighting to survive against impossible odds. Then Bungie left Microsoft to go do its own thing.
Halo 4 was the first game to be developed with a new studio at the helm, 343 industries, made up of fans and original team members of the earlier Halo games.
When Halo 4 came out, it won over critics but couldn't connect with fans. It also made a lot of changes to the gameplay sandbox that were not seen as positive.
Halo 5's campaign was universally hated as the worst in the series and the gameplay felt bland and uninspired. On the positive side, the multiplayer suite was much better than Halo 4 and Halo 5 brought back a lot of classic maps and Forge.
Feelings were mixed, when it was announced that Halo would be going open-world with Infinite. A live service game project that Microsoft planned on supporting for 10 years. It also seemed like it was stuck in development, with staff quitting and multiple delays. Expectations were at an all time low for a Halo title.
Halo Infinite fires on all cylinders from the start. It is quite possibly one of the best playing Halo games since reach and the main campaign is stellar. The open-world is fairly standard and run of the mill but somehow works in a Halo game because of the fun combat.
Infinite is a worthy edition to the Halo saga, and with more content on the way, it can only get better from here.