By Alex Wakeford
As 2019 comes to a close, we at Universally Speaking wanted to sign off by looking back at our top five most memorable moments and experiences in gaming this year.Last week, we began our look at the first five of ten of gaming’s most unforgettable moments in 2019.
From the esoteric and unexpected boss battles that take place inside of fridge interiors in Control, to playing beer pong with Satan in Night School Studios’s Afterparty, it became clear that the final stretch of this generation has seen a lot of incredible new IPs come to the fore this year.
Now, we begin our final countdown – for the decade, and for 2019’s top gaming moments and experiences.
5) Starting and finishing the decade with Halo: Reach
In 2001, Microsoft launched the Xbox with Halo: Combat Evolved, developed by Bungie (Marathon, Oni, Myth), and gaming was never quite the same after that.
For a decade, Bungie held the mantle of responsibility for Halo as it grew into one of gaming’s biggest franchises, encompassing not just a great series of games but transmedia too.
During this time, only Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 were ported to PC platforms (in 2003 and 2007 respectively). Neither the conclusion to the original trilogy, nor its mainline successors, would find their way to PC.
Only those with an Xbox have been able to finish the fight.
In April this year, 343 Industries announced that Halo: The Master Chief Collection would find its way onto Steam and the Windows store, starting with Halo: Reach which released in September 2010.
Keen to get the release of the MCC right for PC, 343 took the time to figure out exactly what it would mean to bring a flagship console franchise to this new platform.
What additional functionality needs to be added and how do those things affect the ‘base’ experience?
“It’s been more challenging than we initially thought, and it’s taken longer than we expected. But it is important that we don’t cut corners.” [Brian Jarrard, ‘The Halo CE PC beta will start “after the holiday”’ (20/11/19)]
Halo has had a relaunch renaissance on PC, opening the floodgates to series newcomers and returning players who only got to enjoy the first two games when they were ported.
This will be a test of timelessness for the series, and thus far it is looking extremely positive.
According to Aaron Greenberg, Xbox Games Marketing General Manager, Halo: Reach has been a monumental launch on PC.
Fans viewed nearly 3 million hours of Halo streams during launch week; there were approximately 3 million players on PC and Xbox One during launch week; it became the #1 top-selling game on Steam during launch week and the highest-ranking debut for an Xbox Game Studios title on Steam, AND it was the #1 most-watched game on Twitch during launch day.
Here we are, nine years later, still Remembering Reach.
4) Falling over in Death Stranding
In many ways, gaming is a unifying experience. There are countless stories of how people from across the world have been brought closer together through games – whether it’s family playing couch co-op together or friends being made through random online matches and communities.
Hideo Kojima’s latest game is one which carries this idea at its heart, based on his own experiences in building Kojima Productions following his split with Konami.
After much hype and anticipation, Death Stranding released last month to critical acclaim and much debate.
Indeed, Kojima himself has stated his intent that this would pioneer a new kind of genre, which he referred to on Twitter as a “Social Strand System, or simply Strand Game.”
And it’s hard to argue that Death Stranding doesn’t unite us in a lot of ways that truly matter.
We’re all enraptured by how our progression through the game rewarded us with more scenes of Mads Mikkelson (including, per Kojima’s specification, includes “Mads covered in blood, Mads tied, smoking Mads, variations with Mads’ eyes, Mads with glasses… Singing Mads & Mads in battledress”), of course…
But there’s one thing that has unified players across the world with Death Stranding, a shared pain and suffering that everybody who picked this game up has experienced.
Falling down. Tumbling. Collapsing. Toppling – indeed, keeling – over. Taking a spill. Tripping up. Plummeting. Capsizing.
And getting back up again.
Death Stranding is available on PlayStation 4 and will be coming to PC in Summer 2020.
3) Getting devoured by rats in A Plague Tale: Innocence
One of the best new games of the year was undoubtedly Asobo Studio’s A Plague Tale: Innocence, a ‘getting devoured by hordes of rats’ simulator.
Set in 1348, you play as fifteen-year-old Amicia de Rune – a young noble girl who lives in rural Aquitaine, which is currently being invaded by the British Army (‘currently’ as in 1348, not now!)
Amicia and her younger brother Hugo flee their home where they discover that hordes of ravenous rats are not only devouring everything in their path but are also spreading the plague.
Meanwhile, the Inquisition are trying to kidnap Hugo, believing him to be the key to solving that rat problem people seem to be having.
In general, bad times are being had by all.
As Amicia, you must stealthily avoid hostile encounters with a variety of enemies, failure resulting in an assured instant death, and so you must use more creative means to progress through the game. Amicia’s sling can throw rocks for a variety of effects – from stunning guards (so they can be attacked by rats), causing distractions (rats), breaking chains, and so on.
It’s an intense, terrifying survival experience that makes incredible use of the vulnerability of Amicia and Hugo in a world that feels entirely against them.
Friends are hard to come by, made all the more difficult by killer rats that swarm out of the group and eat a large majority of the people you encounter – and at no point in this entire story is it ever anything less than horrifying every time it happens.
It’s a grim, gritty, skin-crawling experience that has to be played. You just don’t get that ‘NOPE’ feeling in quite the same way seeing the sea of hundreds of rats unless the controller or (heh!) mouse is in your hand and the onus is on you to navigate past them.
With talks of a sequel being in the works following this title’s immense success, there’s nothing more merry you could spend your time playing than A Plague Tale: Innocence and getting devoured by rats!
2) Being pursued, pummelled, and otherwise pestered by Mr X in Resident Evil 2
First we gonna ROCK, Then we gonna ROLL
Then we let it POP, GO LET IT GO
X gon give it to ya
He gon give it to ya
X gon give it to ya
He gon give it to ya
1) Terrorising a small English village as a horrible goose
Whenever I play choice-based RPGs, I find that I am driven to play as varying incarnations of Jesus. Beyond that, I have experienced many power fantasies in video games…
But Untitled Goose Game waddled into my life and made me hang up the power armour for my genetically-augmented supersoldier and indulge in what I really wanted out of a game.
To be a horrible goose.
House House masterfully sell everybody and anybody on the premise of this creative indie title with three revolutionary features:
- A horrible goose (that’s you)
- A town full of people just trying to get on with their day (you hate them)
- A dedicated honk button (!!!)
Metal Goose Solid is a ‘slapstick-stealth-sandbox’ game, letting your inner-goose loose on a village full of shops an back gardens and ponds where you can set up a variety of pranks – from ending up on television, to chasing children into phone boxes, to stealing every item in the game and dunking them in the water…
Truly, this is the Goose Souls of its genre! Given its immense success and how it has honked its way into the gaming community as a whole, we may yet see a variety of waterfowl-centric titles.
In fact, even The Muppets did a sketch featuring the Goose at last week’s showing of The Game Awards! Even my girlfriend, who has been getting into backseat gaming with me over the last few months, has asked for me to hand over the controller when it releases on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 tomorrow!
Our shared delight over this awful creature with whom we can live out our deepest fantasies of generally being a flapping, honking inconvenience has been the true highlight of the year of our Goose two thousand and nineteen.
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