In the last year of the decade—and the last before the launch of a brand-new console generation—game developers delivered a handful of truly memorable gems. These are our choices for the best of the best for 2019.
Who knew that one simple change could so vastly improve the sports game we’ve all come to take for granted? That one simple change, of course, is that players no longer break the huddle and jog to the line.
Once you select your play, the game cuts to everyone set at the line, the ball ready to be snapped. It kills a major dead zone in the heart of the game and is a huge enhancement to the pace. Now if they could just fix the online bug that prevents you from picking alternate unis…
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A return to basics we didn’t know we wanted or needed, but welcomed all the same. Gears 5—starting with its stripped-down title, dropping the “Gears of”—is streamlined from the narrative to the online play, giving longtime players the comfortable throwback feel of experiencing the original for the very first time.
Cover, fire, throw frags, chainsaw, scream “I’m hit!” and repeat… and repeat, and repeat, and smile.
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CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE
After far-flung adventures into space Infinite Warfare and a return to its roots WWII, the Call of Duty franchise dug into its recent history for a “soft” reboot of its most popular iterations. Where Modern Warfare 2019 differs from the original (2007) is that the meaning of the title has changed quite a bit in 12 years.
Fears of miniaturized nukes and elaborate Sept.11-style terror plots have given way to real-world anxiety over low-tech terrorism involving nothing more than a few automatic weapons in a public space.
Virtually experiencing such scenarios play out will hit too close to home for many players, but it’s a far more realistic representation of what our men and women in uniform are really up against.
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MORTAL KOMBAT 11
Netherealm studio head Ed Boon said in a recent interview that sequels were less about reinventing the original premise as they are about figuring out which dials to turn to create a new experience within a structure that works.
It’s fitting then that Mortal Kombat 11 is literally turned up to 11—from the bonkers story to the elaborate fatal blows to the always visceral/comical fatalities.
Online play is ridiculously competitive, but luckily there’s plenty for casual single players to enjoy.
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Zombie-like “Freakers” have taken over the world, and badass dude Deacon St. John has nothing but a motorcycle and a shotgun to take on the teeming hordes.
Smartly—a la “The Last of Us”—the human threats and resource management ground the proceedings and add a real sense of tension to the brutal and frenetic action.
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STAR WARS JEDI: FALLEN ORDER
With the exception of the OG Battlefront series, Star Wars fans haven’t had a whole hell of a lot to agree on since… oh, 1983. But after the fan backlash to the recent microtransaction-laden reboot of the Battlefront series, the third time is the charm for EA under its exclusivity deal on the property.
Developer Respawn (Titanfall 1 and 2) delivers with a story that takes place between episodes III and IV, with Jedi Cal Kestis having survived the infamous Order 66.
Mileage on that story will vary, but the action delivers as you lightsaber hack your way through storm troopers in the best-looking and best-playing Star Wars game in years.
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DEATH STRANDING – GAME OF THE YEAR
For the past 30 years, it’s been impossible to imagine what the future might hold for famed game developer Hideo Kojima without the Metal Gear series; they’re as inseparably related as Shigeru Miyamoto and Mario. But to the delight of gamers the world over, the future is incredibly bright for Kojima—and all of us.
Death Stranding is a gorgeous, thoughtful adventure that spares none of the idiosyncrasies the director is known for.
Norman Reedus’ porter—a delivery man working in an uncertain and frightening landscape—is one of the great video game characters of recent memory thanks to a performance teeming with unexpected nuance and emotion.