A lot changed in my gaming habits in 2020 thanks to the lockdowns and social isolation. The biggest one was probably the frequency of my game time daily which jumped up considerably to the previous year. Surprisingly it didn’t result in me playing more games but rather focusing more time on ones that I felt rewarded me for that greater commitment. I can’t necessarily the say I was playing better games as a result of that more rather I was playing the right games for me at this time, if that makes sense! So this list may not fully represent 2020’s games but more like what games I needed to get the best out of 2020.
My Best (also Late) Game
Though it was a late 2019 game Call of Duty Modern Warfare easily topped my list purely from the enormous number of hours (500+) I have put into it this year. Rebooting characters and scenarios from 2007’s highly influential game (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare) might have been risky and could have backfired spectacularly but developer Infinity Ward succeeded in crafting a future template for keeping the franchise on top in the FPS genre. I think it may have pushed Battlefield into the background once more due to how well it turned out. Call of Duty always succeeded when it gave you big action set pieces backed up by hard hitting weapons and I certainly got my money’s worth out of it.
It’s by no means perfect though with a constant supply of cheats and exploits littering the game which contradicts a level of audio visual polish that is hard to beat. Lots to love and just as much to hate I suppose! But ultimately it’s a game where I caught up with a lot of friends during the lockdown months and it succeeded brilliantly in bringing everyone together and keeping all of us relatively sane.
Games that Surprised
Taking a punt on Coffee Talk gave me one of the most pleasant times I’ve had this year. Set in a fictional coffee shop that caters for a variety of fantasy themed patrons, not only did the story keep me going from start to finish but the game filled another void in a year where gatherings over a drink (or coffee) have been far less frequent than I’m used to. It might have been conversations over virtual lives and loves in this game but in a year that’s been stranger than fiction it was a much needed dose of “reality” that won me over. I’ve downloaded another recommendation in VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action which landed on PC Game Pass and offers a similar experience so hoping to dive in on that in the new year now that “Cyberpunking” is part of my current gaming focus!
Another game that helped many in lockdown was Microsoft Flight Simulator in that it gave people a chance to fly home when they couldn’t. So I think it truly arrived at the time when it was most needed and it reinvigorated the genre in the process. Probably also helped a lot of new graphics cards get sold in the latter half of the year! Kudos to developer Asobo and Microsoft for taking one of the oldest game franchises around and making such a massive leap forward in technical innovation. I really need to play this more and can’t wait for the Series X/S version to arrive next year as being a couch pilot fits me much better than a desk pilot. 😉
A couple of higher profile games have surprised me too. Star Wars Squadrons is a game that exceeded expectations and delivered something that called back to the classic sims of old but combined with modern multiplayer trappings. It may come across as a little bare bones compared to some of the other franchise siblings from EA’s stable but it delivers on what fans had been waiting a long time to see. Making a genre switch for an established franchise has worked out well for Gears Tactics and I’ve enjoyed being able to step back from the series traditional third person view to manage a while squad from above. It’s been a game I can play in small doses thanks to the average mission length being about 10-20 minutes at most which is appreciated.
Games that Disappointed
I’m sure there’s a lot of people who’d have Cyberpunk 2077 here but this year I’d put Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War above it. Both are buggy for sure but Cold War continues to crash on my Series X – it’s no longer full console shutdown type crashes thankfully but it’s still frequent enough to frustrate. My time with Cyberpunk has been fine on Series X which handles the game well (and improved a lot with the recent patches) but if I could compare player’s experience on base Xbox Ones and PlayStation 4s with Cyberpunk and it is anything like what I’ve experienced with Cold War I’d understand the negative reaction. But I’d also like to know why Sony didn’t take Cold War off the PlayStation store (like Cyberpunk) seeing it’s been reported to be this unstable on PlayStation 5 too… oh yeah… money!
Despite my negativity I really do like Cold War‘s campaign and multiplayer and it’ll likely become part of my regular games rotation next year but the bugs really bring it down. Maybe I should be used to it after Modern Warfare still not being entirely stable but it shouldn’t be accepted as being the norm for these games either. Right now it’s buggier than a termite infested anthill inside a butterfly enclosure at a grasshopper farm.
Best Games I Should Be Playing
As mentioned earlier VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action is sitting on my PC ready to go so that’s the one of the first for me to get into. I wish there was an Xbox version so I could play from a comfy chair but if that’s not coming I may just dig out my Steam box and stream it to the television that way. 🙂
Another on my list is Control. I’m a big fan of Remedy’s games and still feel that their previous game Quantum Break was underappreciated. With an enhanced version for consoles coming in February I’ll hang out until then to play my copy. I also grabbed Civilization VI and Borderlands 3 at the same time when they were all on sale so my pile of shame grows again!
I’ll also continue to play Cyberpunk 2077 into the new year as I try to dedicate at least one evening each week to playing a chunk of the game as it’s not really something for playing in small doses. It was the same approach I used when playing through The Witcher 3 so think it’ll work here too.
Expectations for 2021
With life in 2020 being impacted globally, as well as a lot of deadlines, I wonder if we may see a lot of developers catching up so we may see a lot of games coming out in the new year. It does of course depend on if the situation gets brought under control otherwise I can imagine we see release dates for future games get stretched out further as teams continue to adapt to new ways of working. Enforcing crunch on developers may become more difficult if there are not needing to work in a central office anymore. I also wonder if the people in testing and quality assurance get impacted more from this… we may unfortunately see a few more buggy games come and go during this period.
The first game I’m looking forward to seeing is Elite Dangerous Odyssey which will finally let player characters step out of their ships and stomp around stations and planets. It’s been a long time coming and I honestly wasn’t sure if we’d ever see it but I’m curious to find out. I’ve been casually flying my own ship back home after my long haul trip but now realised I need to get a move on and start playing it again! Hopefully Microsoft Flight Simulator doesn’t arrive around the same time too as I’m hoping to spend some time there on Xbox too and jump into a few flights with the regulars.
The wait for Halo Infinite continues and though I may not get hyped for it as much as past games in the franchise (they haven’t pushed it hard like they did for Halo 5: Guardians) I still have a soft spot for them. If this can deliver I may have another shooter in my regular rotation. If they mess it up though I wonder if we may see 343 Industries undergo some drastic changes as their handling of Halo hasn’t been ideal over the years.
It’s really been a year that’s hard to forget for all the wrong reasons so fingers crossed 2021 will take a more positive turn and a better “normality” arrives for us all. Hopefully a lot of cool games get played too. 🙂