This week in Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee recounts the best, worst, and blandest video games of 2019.
- And so ends the year 2019;
- What a cascade of failure and pain it has been.
- Out came the games to not that much cheer,
- But lots of hostility and yawning and sneers
- That made all the publishers recoil in fear
- And push back the games that looked good to next year.
- But no amount of pushback would have been enough
- To lift our poor industry out of the trough
- Of artless, -sploitational grind-a-thon guff,
- Of loot box, live service, and all of that stuff.
- But anyway, to close out 2019,
- The best, and the worst, and the blandest I've seen.
(drum roll, followed by a cymbal crash)
Remnant: From The Ashes' unique mix of co-op focus, Souls-like dungeon crawling, and over-the-shoulder shooting could very easily have been a sandwich of flavorless paste between two fiberboard ceiling tiles, but somehow, it clicked for me. I just wish these Souls-likes would take their own advice and "git gud" before the 10- to 15-hour mark.
(drum roll, followed by dry coughing)
At this time of year, it's important to remember the true meaning of "blandness". It's not just for repetitive live service games; if you try to put out an interactive thriller like Man of Medan, populated entirely with characters it's impossible to like, whose actions don't matter a gnat's twat, then maybe Blanda Claus will leave a little turd in your stocking, too.
(drum roll, followed by a belch)
It's true what they say, isn't it: you either die Spec Ops: The Line or you live long enough to see yourself become the Call of Duty. It turns out that there was officially about one-and-a-half good games in the Wolfenstein: New Order continuity, and all that's left is Wolfenstein: Youngblood, which came along, burst into tears, pissed itself, and ruined their attempt at an Aristocrats joke.
The RE2-make is RE2-fine; whatever. But I'm troubled by the announcement of the RE3-make; this is a can that can only be kicked down the road so many times, Capcom. Where does it end? Are you going to end up taking another crack at Resident Evil 6? That'd be like when Europe took another crack at the bubonic plague.
As I sort through my list of reviews from the past year, anything I struggle to remember specific things about is sorted straight into the "Bland" pile, and that's most definitely the case with Crackdown 3. It's only in fourth place 'cos I do pretty distinctly remember Terry Crews shouting at something. I forget what; the bleakness of the human condition, perhaps.
For a time, it seemed like movie tie-in games were starting to lose their stigma, but then Blair Witch got things back on track with its spooky-forest walking simulator of the type that has been overdone since before teenage girls were sacrificing each other to Slender Man. Still, what else can you do with the Blair Witch IP? A game about the rotting carcass of a horse being flogged by Lionsgate executives?
You know how sometimes there's a glitch in the Hollywood system and they accidentally make a sci-fi film that's subtle, engaging, and intelligent, like Moon or Arrival? That's what Observation made me think of; a bit too linear, but an interesting story uniquely told from the perspective of an A.I., one that might make you a little more understanding whenever your computer is taking too long to load PUBG.
Apocalypse, motorbikes, love triumphing through adversity, zombie hordes that poo on everything; it's weirdly impressive that Days Gone can have all of these things and still gravitate to total boredom like a compass needle to magnetic north. I blame the main character; you can dress Deacon St. John in a feather boa and fishnets and take him out seal-clubbing, and he'll just whinge the whole time about wanting to be in bed by 10.
A late entry into the "Worst Games" list; late as in, "the late Shenmue franchise", or indeed, "the late Sega Dreamcast", which died partly because Shenmue killed it. Its poor design and stiff characters made it funny once, but the laughter can't be sustained through its crushingly slow pace, so now it's just bad. If you don't stop giving Yu Suzuki money, Shenmue will kill again, especially if you're allergic to SHIT!
I was hesitant to reward Bloodstained just for being Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but it isn't that, really; what it is is exactly what I wanted: for Castlevania to stop pissing about and pack all the good ideas it's had into one game that we can finally call "good" without qualification. "Okay, but can I make the protagonist wear a silly hat?" Yes, Koji Igarashi, have all the silly hats you want. "I will!"
I hate to be predictable, but somehow, every fucking year, Ubisoft tops its previous record for mindless live service overly-monetized sandbox bullshit, this time with Ghost Recon Breakpoint. Apparently, its failure caused Ubisoft to push back all its upcoming games to reassess things, meaning that it officially sucked hard enough to suck entertainment value out of the future, as well.
Left Alive came to us from the place where war games, stealth games, and giant robot games meet, and apparently, all three of those genres were using that spot as a communal latrine. But amid a year of games that were mostly just depressing or disappointing, Left Alive's mismatched gameplay blend and atrocious A.I. was a rare and special kind of terrible that I call upon whenever something needs to be hastily dowsed in steaming piss.
Yeah, I said I wasn't going to make this my game of the year, but that was before the rest of the year's games plopped out like marbles from the nose of a remedial student. But why qualify it? Disco Elysium is great, because it embodies three things that the games industry desperately needs to embrace: intelligent writing, originality, and self-abuse.
Anthem is mind-numbing live service tosh, with fewer original ideas than a BBC daytime television commissioner, but that's not why it's topping my "Blandest" list. The real reason? Because while I was writing down the obvious candidates - Days Gone, Ghost Recon - I suddenly noticed Anthem on the list of 2019 releases and thought, "Huh... I completely forgot about that." And THAT, viewers, is what gives you the edge in a mediocrity contest.
I hate when publishers take the easy route by making cash-in live service looter games and slapping a familiar name onto it. Consider that for a moment: Contra: Rogue Corps was taking the easy route, AND THEY STILL FUCKED IT UP! It's sad that Konami turned evil; it's doubly sad that they're so fucking bad at it! Contra: Rogue Corps is boring, lazy, and generally awful, and its attempt to bring across a devil-may-care sense of humor just adds insult to injury, like being pursued by a monster clown that can't even be bothered to run fast or whip his dick out.
- Still muddling along: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Next year, a new event: my best, worst, and blandest climate disasters
- Prepare to feel old: Batman: Arkham Asylum came out an entire decade ago
Runners-Up and Rejects
- Just didn't quite click for me
- Maybe I'm racist
- Alright I guess
- (Sound of a flatlining heart monitor)
- Interesting enough
- In a "trapped in a conversation with the school weirdo" kind of way
- Both fine in their own way
- One may have copied the other's homework
- (Nothing; the words "Runners-Up and" have been crossed out, leaving only "Rejects")