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Games of the Year 2019: The Good

Last year I said that 2018 was a strange year for video games because we didn't really see any groundbreaking releases. There were lots of good games don't get me wrong, but they all continued to iterate on what came before. Amazingly I think 2019 fits that exact same description again. We finally got confirmation that Holidays 2020 is when we will see the new console generation and a lot of developers seem to be in a holding pattern until then. 2019 did see some great games released (which I'll get to in a moment) but it really does feel like we are gearing up for all those next generation games that will launch in Fall 2020.

But until then let's go over the games I, Reid Main, played and enjoyed in 2019.

1. Resident Evil 2 Remake

This will be the second year in a row that a game released in January became my Game of the Year.

I was not prepared to like the Resident Evil 2 remake as much as I did. Even though I never played the original 21 years ago, I still understood the influence it had on games at the time. But even with that knowledge I didn't fully appreciate it until now.

Capcom did an absolutely astounding job at pulling Resident Evil 2 into the modern age while still keeping the soul of the original alive. Sure some of the cruft of the past does remain but the vast majority of the changes made are for the better and do not damage the spirit of the original.

I think Resident Evil 2 is a near perfect example of a "video game". Obviously everyone has different opinions on what is important in a video game but I think this remake showcases what is great about a game that focuses on pure gameplay. The story is nothing special and the graphics are stunning but neither of them are required to enjoy this game. They enhance the atmosphere of the game but don't really affect the gameplay. The core loop of exploring the police station, solving puzzles and fighting monsters is nearly perfect. Even small quality of life improvements as to how things are marked on the map really tighten up that core loop without giving away too much information. I can't imagine the needle Capcom had to thread when they were designing it.

Even speed running continued to be an important aspect of this game. If you wandered around the police station and soaked up every inch of the environment it would easily take you 10+ hours to beat. You can also blow through the entire thing in just under 1 hour. What is amazing is that you don't actually have to break the game to do so. You are simply being more efficient. I actually spent more time watching speedruns of this game than playing it and then went back and tried to replicate what I saw and it was extremely fun.

Obviously this game isn't going to be for everyone. It is a horror game which knocks out a lot of people and it is relatively slow paced. If you're a fast paced first person shooter fan who can't take jump scares this game probably isn't for you. But anyone who is a fan of video games in their purest form, I highly recommend you take a look at the Resident Evil 2 remake.

2. Devil May Cry 5

Devil May Cry 5 is one of, if not the best, hack and slash game of this console generation. It has been 11 years since Devil May Cry 4 and I was convinced that Capcom would try to "modernize" the franchise, but instead they just doubled down on what made the originals great.

With three playable characters, more than two dozen different weapons/equipment, and a plethora of moves and combos, the combat of Devil May Cry 5 never gets old. Combining it with banging music and corny one-liners means chasing that SSS rank has never been more fun. It was so much fun that not only did I beat the game, but I immediately went back and beat it a second time and then started hunting for achievements. That right there is the definition of the Reid Seal of Approval™.

3. Judgment

Judgment was my first foray into the Yakuza series and if this spin-off is any indicator as to the quality of the main series, I suddenly have a lot of older games that I need to play.

Set amongst the backdrop of Kamurocho (a fictionalized version of Kabukichō), this action-adventure game from Sega instantly transported me back to when I visited Tokyo myself. Every little detail was there from the small ramen shops to the plethora of conbini to the massive arcades. It really felt like I was running through Tokyo.

Based on everything I had heard about the Yakuza series I was expecting slapstick comedy and that certainly was there. I chased down a wig of a famous celebrity, beat up street punks using my Jackie Chan drunken master style, and tracked down a Peeping Tom who was stealing underwear using drones (seriously). But I was not prepared for how grim and well written the main story was, or how attached I would get to the numerous characters the game introduced. The level of storytelling in Judgment was something I would expect from Bioware, CD Projekt Red or SquareEnix but apparently I have been sleeping on the Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio.

Judgment isn't a game for everyone but if you are a Japanophile like myself and are looking for an engaging story with lots of comedy on the side I highly recommend it.

4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)

There really isn't much to say about the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare reboot. I loved the original Modern Warfare when I played it 13 years ago and Infinity Ward did a stellar job rebooting it for a new generation.

The graphics are off the charts, the multiplayer is solid and the campaign is probably the best since Advanced Warfare. I hate giving Activision praise, but whoever managed to convince the higher ups to greenlight the money for a Call of Duty campaign gets a tip of my cap. In this day and age where most publishers want games as a service that print money, I was shocked to see Activision take this sort of a risk.

If you have been sleeping on the Call of Duty franchise for a couple years I recommend you try getting back into it with the Modern Warfare reboot.

5. Pokémon Sword & Shield

Pokémon Sword & Shield is another satisfactory entry in the Pokémon franchise. Are we done? Can I move onto the next game in my list? No? I gotta give some reasoning for that remark first? OK fine.

I really like Pokémon Sword. I swear I do. It took me 35 hours to beat and in that time I ended up seeing 307 Pokémon while catching 179 of them. I even kept playing for six more hours and caught up to 220 Pokémon.

But it isn't a major step forward for the franchise. It feels like another cookie cutter entry in the series. And I'm not even that mad about the whole Dexit thing. It's that everything going on in Pokémon Sword & Shield feels like it could be done on a Nintendo 3DS with very little reduction in fidelity. None of the gameplay seems to need the power of the Nintendo Switch and I think that is an indefensible shortcoming. The Switch is all about connectivity and Pokémon Sword & Shield has even less ways for players to connect to one another than past games.

When you see games like Breath of the Wild, Witcher 3, Doom, Fortnite, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, and Super Mario Odyssey on the Switch, you can't help but look at Pokémon Sword and Shield and think that Game Freak could have and should have done better.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is a near perfect example of how to remaster a game. They kept the core of the game intact, changed the visuals to be something more in-tune with this day and age and made a couple of quality of life improvements to remove some of the frustrating elements.

I enjoyed the dozen hours I played it and I think most people will as well. It is a pretty steep price at $60 so maybe wait for a sale? But who are we kidding, this is Nintendo. They never put any of their core games on sale.

7. Tom Clancy's The Division 2

Tom Clancy's The Division 2 is better than Anthem although I guess that isn't saying much because a punch in the dick is better than Anthem. At least that pain fades after a few minutes.

The Division 2 is more of what you got from The Division so if you're in the mood for another looter shooter that is more about being a tactical third person shooter than a run in and blow shit up first person shooter this is probably your best option. It definitely doesn't have the amount of content a game like Destiny 2 has but personally I prefer the combat and gameplay of The Division.