The end of every year brings about a flurry of debates. One of the most hotly contested is what was the video game of the year. Battle lines are clearly drawn and sitting on the fence is not an option. When it comes to picking the Game of the Year, there is no room for uncertainty.
This year was another one filled with great choices. The PlayStation 4 exclusive Spider-Man, an entirely new setting for a fan favorite franchise in God of War, and the mammoth Red Dead Redemption 2 are the favorites to be named 2018’s Game is the Year. But if we were to be objective, the choice is obvious. The best game of this year is the same as last year. Persona 5 is 2018’s Game of the Year.
This is not to say 2018 was a bad year for video games. As a matter of fact, the best games of this year were memorable ones that gamers will talk about for years. This year had lots of down time, but the best games of the year were all time classics.
Spider-Man from Insomniac Games was released to near universal acclaim. The game did for Spidey in video gaming what Homecoming did on the big screen. It took a familiar franchise that had its moments but had been hindered by recent weak entries. Using fluid controls and fun game play, the game is an entertaining a ride that will impress anyone.
This is not to say it is not without its problems. The idea of playing as Miles Morales is fun, until you learn it is only in ways that would have been better served as cut scenes. The puzzles in Spider-Man can also be tedious. The biggest complaint for some may be the Quick Time Events, but this is a matter of preference. Whether it is a QTE button response or besting your opponent in a duel, video games are a matter of timing.
As great as Spider-Man is, God of War may even be better. Already the recipient of Game of the Year from various media outlets, GOW has been a critical darling since it was first released. A sequel that serves as a reboot, the game shows an older and wiser Kratos. The game looks beautiful, plays smoothly, and delivers a touching story. Basically, it has all the ingredients needed to be named GOTY.
The soundtrack for GOW serves its purpose. It is appropriately epic and also shows the newfound maturity in Kratos. The music amplifies each moment and adds to the game. However, there is nothing that stays with you once you turn off the game. This does not affect the quality of the game in any way, but it can be the deciding factor between great games.
It is impossible to discuss video games in 2018 without mentioning Red Dead Redemption 2. The Wild West epic from Rockstar Games is a juggernaut that deserves all the praise it has been given. It is beautiful with wonderful storytelling and great characters. It garners an emotional attachment to its cast after everything the story puts the gamer through. RDR2 is one of the greatest achievements of this console generation.
It also has heaps of content to it. Everything in the game is interesting and quick to draw the player away. This is not just busy boring work that you feel forced to do. RDR2 does such a great job of engaging the player that doing the side activities just seem like a part of your cowboy life. Not since Witcher 3 has a game done such a great job of making everything a natural part of the world.
Therein lies RDR2 biggest problem. There is so much to do that it interferes with the natural progression of the story. The writing for the main storyline is fantastic, but all the distractions take away from the gravity of what is happening. The hunting, incestous hillbillies, and strange rock carvings definitely add the the vast world, but ultimately much of it means nothing. All the content adds to the world while taking away from the story.
Persona 5 has none of the issues experienced by this year’s best games. The stealth is a well done and essential part of the game. The soundtrack is more than just memorable. It is good enough to spawn rhythm games and YouTube parodies. As for the size of Persona 5? While not as large as RDR2, it is comparable. The difference is, everything you do has meaning to it. This is not just about getting satchels and gun holsters. Persona 5 is about forming life building relationships. Graphically, it is just as impressive as the best games of the year. It is almost too stylish and its influence can already be seen in other games. (I can’t be the only one who sees the similarities between the pause menus for RDR2 and Persona 5.)
I know the detractors will say it does not work like that. After all, the same movie cannot win the Academy Award for Best Picture two years in a row. But video games are in a different realm. Games are more like a Super Bowl winning football team. They should be considered the defending champions until a different team wins the big game. There have been some amazing releases this year, but even the best of them are not in the same league as Persona 5.