Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 29th December.
THIS year has been jam-packed for gaming — with everything from triple-A titles to indie surprises. Then there has been the strong return of the good old single-player campaign after the rise of the battle royale in recent times. It was also the year when we saw the return of titles that many doubted would ever be released — like Death Stranding and Shenmue 3. And with 2020 promising all the thrills of a new generation of consoles, this was the final bow in many ways before term starts and a new set of kids arrive on the block — such as Cyberpunk 2077, The Last Of Us Part II and Doom Eternal. So I delve deep and produce my top 10 games of 2019 . . .
1. Control (Xbox One, PS4 and PC)
PICKING the top game was not easy this year — there were some outstanding titles. But Remedy have crafted something truly special with Control. Fans can see the studio bloodline running through it from the combat and the world to the Sam Lake tale. Nothing is as it seems in the Federal Bureau of Control as Jesse is thrust into the thick of it in the search for her lost brother. The ending won’t please everyone but this is more about the journey and Control takes you on a wild ride. For a game set in a grey office building there are some stunning set pieces and it features arguably one of the best levels ever in a game. The Ashtray Maze is a tour de force of game design. A full card of DLC is in the pipeline so the adventure is far from over and Remedy’s other series, Alan Wake, may be linked in. Full of twists and turns, and brilliant gunplay, Control is a must and is our Game of the Year 2019.
2. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (Xbox One, PS4 and PC)
IT’S safe to say that Star Wars is big business just now thanks to The Rise of Skywalker movie currently smashing it at the box office and The Mandalorian TV show proving a big hit. Fallen Order continues that success. Developed by Respawn, the studio behind Titanfall, it is their take on the FromSoftware formula but a bit more forgiving. Blocking and deflecting are key and lightsaber combat is king as Fallen Order tells the tale of Cal Kestis, a young Jedi in hiding. Highly polished and a tale with heart, Fallen Order is a must for Star Wars fans or those after a Dark Souls thrill.
3. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (Xbox One, PS4 and PC)
IT wouldn’t be a game of the year list without at least one Dark Souls-style game — and Sekiro comes from the minds behind the Souls series. You are the Wolf hunting down the samurai who kidnapped your lord. But this is a FromSoftware game so expect solid combat and to see the game overscreen a lot. But, like all their titles, it’s not because of poor controls or design but it’s down to you! They give you the tools, can you use them? Sekiro is a must for anyone looking for a real challenge to sink their teeth into. Are you up to it?
4. Void Bastards (Xbox One and PC)
ONE of the biggest surprises this year. The super- stylish roguelike has a killer sense of humour. You are tasked with trying to get a lost ship — the Void Ark — home but the kicker is that you’re a prisoner aboard the ship. To get home, you have to fight across the stars to find the bits needed to fix your ship. Combat, scavenging and crafting are the hooks as well as a bit of planning as you really get to choose your own path. You have control over how big a risk and reward you are really willing to take.
5. Resident Evil 2 (Xbox One, PS4 and PC)
ANOTHER Capcom hit but this remake was much more than just a slap of HD paint. This was a total rewiring. It meant a title that felt familiar but was also new at the same time. Some areas and levels were reworked and the overall game’s scripting was changed meaning there was something for newcomers and fans. It looks stunning and it has achieved that rare achievement of firing up the fan base to be so hungry that another game, Resident Evil 3, will get the same treatment next year.
6. Devil May Cry 5 (Xbox One, PS4 and PC)
STYLE and speed are at the core of this Capcom series and this return to form puts Dante and the gang back on top. Battling ghouls, demons and hell beasts has never looked so good across the 15-hour campaign which blends smooth voice acting with top-tier motion capture and solid writing to make a truly compelling tale. But, if you just want to beat seven bells out of things, the three main characters bring more than a few options to the table as you switch between Dante, Neon and V’s different playing styles. Throw in a rocking soundtrack and Devil May Cry is most definitely back to its best.
7. Trover Saves The Universe (PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC)
ON the VR front, this was leagues ahead of the pack. Knowing this came from the mind of the co-creator of Rick And Morty should be enough to set the stage for what awaits. This is a fun platformer that is raised up by the outstanding comedy writing. Your mission is to rescue your two dogs that have been kidnapped by a beaked lunatic who stuffed them into his eyeholes and is using their life essence to destroy the universe. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of a dark comedy romp with is a must for PSVR owners and fans of all things Rick And Morty.
8. Ape Out (Switch and PC)
DEVELOPER Gabe Cuzzillo crafted something truly special with Ape Out. On paper, it’s a run-of-the-mill beat ’em up, but in reality it is so much more. It blends top-down action with an epic jazz soundtrack as you control a huge ape who is trying to escape a number of different scenarios — from city high rises to oil tankers. At the same time he has beat his guards in the face and use them as shields. Striking visuals, solid gameplay and a catchy beat all come together to make Ape Out a real hidden gem of 2019 that you just have to play.
9. Borderlands 3 (Xbox One, PS4 and PC)
THE third entry in 2K’s much-loved looter-shooter series was a post-apocalyptic space tale that ramped up the core themes of the original to a hefty 11. Yes, it had a sticky launch with a few technical issues but they have been worked on and all patched up now. No, it isn’t really a 100 miles away from the past titles but sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Just give it a good polish. From the cast to locations, fans will get a kick out of it. If you just want to run around blasting anything that moves, then that works too. More guns, humour, shooting and, of course, looting.
10. DiRT Rally 2.0 (Xbox One, PS4 and PC)
WHEN it came to driving games in 2019 Codemasters was at the front of the grid. It was really a fight between F1 2019 and DiRT Rally 2.0. But DiRT just took the honours on this one as it served up a true challenge and has been called the Dark Souls of racing games because it was so tough. But those who stuck with it were rewarded with one of the most-satisfying feelings in gaming when you nail that extra-hard stage after falling it countless times. And that’s all before you headed online to really test your skill against the best in the world.
Time Flies When You’re Having Fun
TEN years is an age in gaming — think 2010 hits like Limbo and Mass Effect 2 to 2019’s Death Stranding and The Outer Worlds. No other media format is moving at the same speed. The Switch and PSVR were just pipedreams 10 years ago. So, with that in mind, we picked our top five games that have shaped our past decade.
1. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege
ONE of the most-thrilling multiplayer shooters ever. No title will have you on the edge of your seat like this if you’re the last man standing. Packed with maps, specialists and attacks, it’s never the same match twice. An online hit. Ubi are still supporting the game four years on, and it’s an eSports smash.
2. Forza Horizon 4
THE Horizon series is by far our favourite way to play Forza (sorry Motorsport) —its arcade thrill never fails to make you smile as you gun it around an open world in some revved-up dream machine. It was even better when that open world in Horizon 4 was our back garden, here in Scotland. What a thrill to bomb it down a rain- soaked Princes Street at midnight. It felt so good.
TAKE one super-fast shooter, add a rocking soundtrack and blend in the grandfather of FPS gaming and you’ll get 2016 Doom. This was a fresh look on how to make an addictive blaster where each battle feels like a puzzle at 100mph as you blast demons and rip and tear others apart for buffs and health. It was carnage. A shooter fan’s dream in motion.
4. Grand Theft Auto V
BRUTAL and beautiful in equal measure, Scots firm Rockstar games smashed it with GTA V. Gaming had never seen a game packed with so much opportunity — the world was a truly living and breathing beast down to the tiniest detail. It was all wrapped around a tale that could have been countless Hollywood blockbusters. Then there was the online side. What a bad boy.
5. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
NINTENDO needed a killer title to launch the Switch and Breath Of The Wild ticked all the boxes. A technical wonder with a stunning tale that you can play at home and on the move. Solving puzzles, slaying beasts and just trying to stay alive, Zelda showed that you can really teach an old dog new tricks.
I’ll be back next year with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…