2020 – Gaming Highlights and Lowlights – Part 1 – January – June

So, what is wrong with you all?

I was hoping to start 2021 refreshed, putting the events of 2020 behind me for obvious reasons, but here we are, looking back at a heck of a year, an absolute shocker really, as you guys have voted it as my opening piece of the year.  I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to revisit it, with so many bad moments, but then I realised, we all needed a way of escaping reality, and games played a massive part, with sales skyrocketing, along with other forms of media hitting record high views/streams etc.  So I guess I’ll forgive you (this one time!), let’s look back at my gaming moments of 2020.  I won’t be mentioning them all, and some will be mentioned more than others (i played 52 games, a total of 2111 hours – just an obsurd number), but I’ll do my best!

So, like most years, we start with January, and my first game of the year, and it was a belter – Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order.  I was so excited for it, finally a single-player Star Wars game, none of that online, loot-box BS that we’d be getting for the last few years (maybe one day we’ll get the Jedi Power Battles remake we all want!).  It was thoroughly entertaining, looked gorgeous, had fun and intense gameplay, massive planets to explore, and had all the Star Wars charm you’d hope, as well as THAT ending (up there with Rogue One).  It wasn’t perfect – some fiddly platforming and an AWFUL map, but all was forgiven when you could slice up a Stormtrooper like a nice ripe melon.  It was also my first Platinum of the year…..this year was going to be a good one! (*sigh*)

I also dipped into the Devil May Cry HD Collection, mainly as I’d seen how awesome DMC5 looked, and wanted to play it with a bit more context.  DMC1 is still cool, although it has dated somewhat (c’mon, it is nearly 20 years old at this point), and DMC2 also seemed good, although was missing that gothic atmosphere, and after a couple of hours I ended up putting it down….I just felt like I needed to play something I was more familiar with…..

….and that game was The Witcher 3 (this time with both DLCs – and I have the T-Rex to thank for that, with our Witcher Wednesday hangouts!).  I had already sunk around 100 hours into it when I played it on release, but I treated myself to the GOTY edition knowing it had a seperate trophy list, and that led to another 136 hours of pure fantasy escapism – it really is a phenomenal game, and a shame that CDPR’s next project hasn’t really worked out for them yet….

February came and went pretty quickly, thanks mostly to The Witcher, but also to Two Point Hospital, the spiritual successor to Theme Hospital, a game I had spent too many hours on in my teens.  It’s a shame that my save file corrupted after completing half a dozen levels, as I feel I would have been sucked in again to the world of dark humour, weird illnesses, and that sound of ‘Doctor required in GP’s office’ – you all know it!

March was a more experimental month – with the pandemic hitting it’s stride, and the general mood of the nation dropping, I turned to PS Now and PS Plus for my gaming-hits.  On PS Now I tried out Control, LEGO City Undercover, and Vikings: Wolves of Midgard.  The latter two were relatively fun couch-coop games, nothing too exciting, but Control was excellent!  I may have only spent around 5 hours with it (hit a bit of a difficulty spike), but it was so much fun – such a mysterious story that the game pretty much throws you balls-deep into, and then such a fascinating setting, and interesting protagonist, and some tough-but-fun combat encounters.  Maybe one day I’ll have another go (especially now it has come out on PS Plus with the DLCs), but it’s probably a way off yet – my backlog is immense – bigger than King Kong’s first dump of the day as Arnold Rimmer would say!

Speaking of ginormous beasts, Shadow of the Colossus was another game I tried out while taking advantage of Sony’s services – I had played the PS2 original back in the day, and the barmy control scheme was too much for me, I wasn’t even able to take down the first colossus, and he literally just stands there begging for you to stab his head!  I’m glad to report that the remake on PS4 had modernised the controls, and I was able to beat around 7 or 8 of the monsters before I decided to move onto something new.  I really do want to try and finish it at some point, but the problem with playing things so long after they come out, is that the element of surprise is no longer there – everyone knows the ending, no matter how good the journey is.

I also dusted off my PS Vita and decided to play Freedom Wars again (last played in 2014) – mainly because I wanted to try and get further and rack up a few more trophies to get that completion percentage up, but also because it resonated a bit more at that time – being locked up with no end in sight!  The game is fantastic – an amazing premise (carrying out missions for the state to work off a million year sentence), super fun gameplay (teams of 4 either taking down hulking mechs by targetting limbs, breaking off parts etc), and an online mode that I actually wanted to be a part of when my internet and Vita allowed it to work (players from different parts of the world fighting for their nation)!  It’s a shame there was never a port to consoles, as I really think it would have been a massive success, especially in 2020, just imagine everyone locked up at home, playing a dystopian game about people locked up…….all you’d need is an enemy mech called Carol Baskin and it would be the poster child of the year!

In April, lockdown was still in effect, and life was starting to crawl to a halt, and as much as I was worried about the pandemic, and keeping safe (working in retail meant I was having to be in the firing line every day), I was also wondering if one of the most anticipated games of the generation would see the light of day this year, that game being Final Fantasy 7 Remake.  I wasn’t able to secure a preorder on a number of sites as they were not operating due to lockdown, and I had pretty much accepted the fact I wouldn’t get to play it (I refuse to spend an extra £10 to buy digitally – screw you Sony) – and then out of nowhere, I’d managed to place an order – around a week before the game was due to be released, much to my delight.  And you can imagine my even greater delight when the game arrived 3 days before release date!  Crazy!  I played it solidly for 2 weeks, savouring every chapter, every battle, every conversation, and every boss fight (Air Buster alone is enough to make you grin like the Cheshire Cat – that music!), it was ridiculously good, it almost had no right to be as good as it was – the original is so beloved, and considered by many (not me) to be the best in the series, that any kind of remake would just not be able to match it, especially as this would only be the Midgar section of the game, but my god, its just an astonishing game.  To totally bring it into the current gen, but still keep the charm and identity of the original, is an amazing feat, and despite there being another fantastic game coming up in part 2 of this year, FF7 Remake is my absolute game of 2020 (and I plan to go into it deeper in a future piece).

After the epic events of April, May started with a calming period – a nice easy Platinum on a game called One Night Stand, a short narrative game about waking up in a girl’s room, and trying to piece together the events that led to that point, and also The Unfinished Swan, and charming puzzle game centred around a young boy and his family.  Playing these games felt like coming up for air after the previous 2 weeks spent submerged in Midgar, and they got me ready for my next adventure….

I have a tendency to be late to gaming parties these days – mainly due to financial reasons, I can’t afford to buy new games at £50 a pop every time, hence my increased use of PS Plus and PS Now recently, and it was the latter that allowed me to finally experience 2018’s Marvels Spider-man.  I knew it was critically acclaimed, and I knew that I needed to play it, but it just hadn’t happened yet, but as soon as I saw it was on PS Now, I wasn’t going to wait any longer!  It might be controversial to say that I didn’t think it was totally amazing, it is definitely very very good, and swinging around the city is some of the most fun I’ve had in a game, and the set pieces are great, but I just found the main missions a little lacklustre a lot of the time, and I wanted to just get through them so that I could start swinging again!  The collectables were pretty awesome, especially for fans, and definitely scratched my itch for getting 100% on whatever I can, and meant obtaining the Plat wasn’t a chore, but for me, the game doesn’t quite sit in my top 10 of the generation.  Can’t wait to get around to playing Mile Morales though!

Following Spider-man, I got into another long-overdue game, a whole generation in fact, and that was the Ghostbusters Video Game.  Ghostbusters is probably my favourite ever movie, such timeless humour, from some of the best comedic performers ever, full of one-liners, visual gags (what about the twinky?), plus the coolness of wanting to don the partical accelerator and destroy a ballroom…..well this game let you do that, as a new recruit working with the awesome foursome, essentially acting as the true sequel to Ghostbuster 2.  It’s not the longest game, clocking in at around 7 or 8 hours, but for what it is its perfect – revisiting locales from the movies, little easter eggs all over the place, especially in the firehouse, and solid gameplay mechanics for its age, I thoroughly enjoyed it!  Bring on the new movie too, looks like its going to be amazing (and also the Paul Feig Ghostbusters movies is excellent too – screw the haters!).

So now we arrive in June, mid-point of the year, and end of this part of my roundup, and for me it was a month of yet more catching up on those games that had passed me by for whatever reason.  The first of these was Bioshock, which was yet another PS Plus game (along with 2 and Infinite), and something I had always been reluctant to play.  Again, I knew all about the twist toward the end unfortunately, as well as most of the narrative (for better or worse I try to digest any gaming news/video/podcast so I just end up knowing a lot of things), plus it was a first-person shooter for the most part, and I straight up suck at them, so I always thought I wouldn’t enjoy it, but I can safely say its one of the best games I’ve played – the atmosphere and performances are so good that you kinda forget you’re even playing a game sometimes, you get well and truly sucked in and hours have passed before you realise where you are.  Fantastic.  I can’t speak for Bioshock 2 really, I spent a couple of hours with it, and even though it was pretty much more of the same, I just wasn’t feeling it, maybe it was just Rapture-burnout.

The final game I’m going to talk about is Batman Arkham Asylum, another game to check off from the many ‘games you must play before you die’ lists. I am a massive Batman fan, not necessarily in terms of knowledge of comic and whatnot, but in just that I think he’s an awesome character (I love heroes/anti-heroes who do not have super powers – The Punisher is another of my favs), it’s pretty grounded compared to many others (I’m looking at you Marvel) and he’s just so tragic, just a fascinating person. The game itself does a great job of giving you that Batman feeling, skulking in the shadows, with your gadgets, and just spreading fear amonst the goons, it nails it all. Much like Spider-man, I didn’t quite see all the hype surrounding it, but I still thought it was a great game, and was definitely pleased I’d played it.
And that about does it for part 1 of my gaming roundup……hopefully after reading this you’re still bothered about reading part 2 (there are some absolute belters in it), and hopefully you will be seeing it very soon. Feel free to contact me with your thoughts about any of these games, whether you agree or disagree, always like talking about them, so long as you talk like a normal person!

Take care guys, see you soon!

The Gibbon


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