It is 2020, my dudes.
We managed *checks watch* about 48 hours of good times before this year went to shit. We’ve got the US assassinating government officials on foreign soil, the UK government has already undone a bunch of its election promises, and Australia is literally on fire. Not the best start to a year, in all honesty.
It does highlight how important video games can be as a form of escape, however. Who wouldn’t rather be living in Doom Eternal’s hellworld than a planet that’s lorded over by stupid, rich people? At least Doomslayer can do something about his predicament.
So let’s all swap out the lack of control we have in our own lives for virtual worlds where we’re at the core of it all, where our actions shape the world around us. Let’s get excited about the video games we’ll be hiding inside as the Earth continues to burn.
Here’s some information on how to donate to help with the Australian bush fires if you can afford it. If not, sharing the information is free.
Games chosen by Matt Martin (MM), Kirk McKeand (KM), James Billcliffe (JB), Lauren Aitken (LA), Sherif Saed (SS), Alex Donaldson (AD) and Emily Gera (EG).
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Yakuza has always been a great jumble of things that, on paper, don’t seem as though they should fit together. Its world is a painstakingly accurate recreation of certain Japanese streets and districts, and its story yo-yos between silly soap opera and gritty crime drama. Its combat is descended from another series on this list, Streets of Rage – the beat ‘em up, all over the top, slamming trash cans over people’s heads before picking up whatever’s inside (perhaps a dildo) and continuing to offer up a beating with that.
Except Yakuza: Like a Dragon is doing away with that last bit… sort of. Gone is the action combat, replaced with traditional turn-based Japanese RPG action. This is a disgustingly perfect fit, in the sense that nothing in Yakuza quite seems to fit together anyway. Over-the-top summon move still exist, for instance, except rather than calling in a magical demigod, in this you’ll dramatically dial a number on your phone in order to cause a horde of lobsters to drop from the sky and snip the enemy to pieces. What’s not to love? It’s absolutely bonkers, and should be brilliant as a result. – AD
Yakuza: Like a Dragon is out later this year in the UK and US.
A sprawling, futuristic city, multiple choices, the writing team behind one of the best RPGs ever made, and Keanu Reeves – what more could you want from a video game? Proper choice-based RPGs have been few and far between this generation, with developers opting to strip back on branching paths and complexity to deliver more streamlined experiences. Polish developer CD Projekt Red plans to knee-slide past that trend, katana in hand, and slice its Achilles tendon.
Set in the future world of Night City – a blend of LA, Tokyo, and other influences – you play as a street merc called V. Augmented by technology, you choose how your body evolves depending on what augmentations you purchase, and each mission is designed to be approached in multiple ways, not just in conversation but also in playstyle.
Want to be a stealthy hacker? You can. Want to be a speedy, violent ninja? That’s cool too. Want to sprout mantis blades from your arms and chop people up like a weird insect person? I’m not here to kink shame. It looks like a delicious blend between Deus Ex, GTA, and The Witcher 3, and it’s easily the most exciting new IP there’s been for a while. Inject it into my cornea so I can play it on the go. Augment me, Polish daddy. – KM
Jacking in on April 16, 2020.
Streets of Rage 4
I’ve already leaked my Blaze Fielding fantasies. Now I just sit here, gazing at the screen with heart eyes, naked from the waste down. Just one kick. Straight to the balls.
I’m pumped for Streets of Rage 4 because it takes me back to 1992, to happier times. A time when all my close friends were still alive. When we drank K cider and played video games until dawn and fucked at every opportunity. But not just 1992, to the early 2000s as well, when we couldn’t afford a PlayStation at college so we dabbed micrograms and played Megadrive classics until we had to turn in art college essays about Marshall McLuhan.
I’m clinging to the hope that the release of Streets of Rage 4 starts a new golden period of my life. A time where I don’t have to be responsible for children or others, where work is background and games are a true escape that I can climb inside to forget about this age of anxiety. I really want to kick endless goons in the head to the sound of thumping techno. And to get poleaxed in return. Again, Miss. Harder. – MM
Streets of Rage 4 is stomping on your nether regions at some point this year.
Crusader Kings 3
Crusader Kings 3 comes to PC later this year and while it’s no Vicky 3, I’m really looking forward to shagging and murdering my way to victory. Announced at Paradoxcon in 2019, CK3 has a shiny new interface that makes it more accessible for grand strategy noobs and veterans alike while remaining infuriatingly complex in nature.
It leans heavily on an overhauled RPG system that focuses on your lineage and lasting legacy as you shape the world around you using all manners of subterfuge to accelerate you to power. By completing Schemes, your leader earns more Perks that will shape your dynasty forever and you can cement yourself as the leader of the free world, or at least until you lose that Holy War you’ve been planning for years. – LA
Let your enemies take your children hostage later this year.
Resident Evil 3 Remake
I used to hate scary games. I’d flat out refuse to even watch anything with zombies, lest my tiny little mind shatter at the existential crisis of everything that makes a person who they are being stripped away by a hostile virus – their mortal husk reanimated by an insatiable hunger for flesh. That was until Kirk made me play the Resident Evil 2 remake through EIGHT times for walkthrough guides.
I tried turning the sound off, but getting surprised just made things spoopier. Before long though, as my spirit broke and the initial agonising terror subsided into abject dread, I made a startling discovery: I was enjoying myself.
Solving the Racoon City PD’s series of interconnected puzzles was just so satisfying, the power of your weaponry so perfectly pitched to make you vulnerable, but not helpless, the revamped visuals so gloriously horrible. I can’t wait to see if the remake of Resident Evil 3 can repeat the success. – JB
Resident Evil 3 Remake is out April 3, 2020.
You might not have heard too much about time-loop thriller 12 Minutes just yet but it is one of the games I’m most excited about this year. In development from indie dev Luis Antonio, 12 Minutes is a Kubrick-inspired adventure game set in a small apartment where the player is tasked with preventing a murder while reliving the same 12 minute loop.
The full game can take around eight hours to complete, which gives you an idea of just how many possible outcomes there are. This is my favourite kind of game design, where wild experimentation is encouraged and even required. – EG
Twelve Minutes is out later this year, which is longer than 12 minutes.
Rainbow Six Quarantine
I tried to get into Rainbow Six Siege more times than I care to count. I’ve since made peace with the fact that Siege just isn’t for me. The most fun I’ve had with the game, unsurprisingly, was the limited-time Outbreak event.
Outbreak forms the basis of Rainbow Six Quarantine, a now fully-fledged take that expands on the original’s incredibly promising concept. Siege’s core mechanics in gunplay, movement, and destruction were always what drew me in. Mixing these tactical shooter mechanics with science-fiction monsters makes for a sublime experience.
The horde sub-genre is full of bombastic experiences that push for scale, visuals, or innovation in class dynamics. It’s rare to see a game going the opposite direction, toning things down for the more intimate type of horror that relies on communication and precision. – SS
Rainbow Six Quarantine releases some time in 2020, just keep watching those corners.
The Last of Us: Part 2
A lot of people were asking: do we really need a sequel to a game that wraps up as well as The Last of Us? Is it really necessary? After getting some hands-on time with The Last of Us: Part 2 last year, I can answer that question for you: yes. Absolutely. Fuck yes. You need this game in your life.
The Last of Us is almost perfect, you’re right. But that was Joel’s story. Ellie is an incredible character and The Last of Us: Part 2 is her chance to shine in a story that’s entirely her own. Yes, Joel turns up, but Ellie is the main playable character here. She’s older and she’s stronger, but there’s still a semblance of that sweet, streetwise kid, even though the brutal post-apocalyptic world is threatening to strip that humanity away from her.
Let there be no mistake – this is one of the most unapologetically violent games I’ve played. Where the act of killing is mindless in most games, here Naughty Dog has made it harrowing. Fights are scrappy and nasty, and it might be best to try to avoid confrontation where you can.
One of the biggest complaints about the first game was how simple stealth was. That’s been improved here, with the ability to go prone at any time altering the feel. Like a snake in the grass, you can get the drop on enemies without the need for obvious shooting arenas full of waist-high cover. It also changes how it feels to be hunted by bands of survivors, with the prone position both empowering and making you feel more vulnerable – especially with the introduction of guard dogs. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be caught stood up if a dog came at me. Unless it was a Naughty Dog – they can do what they want to me, to be quite honest. Have a read of our The Last of Us: Part 2 preview for all the grisly details. – KM
The Last of Us: Part 2 is shivving you in the eye on May 29, 2020.
Gods and Monsters
Detractors look at Gods and Monsters, a “storybook” RPG based on ancient Greek mythology from the creators of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and think Ubsoft is just reusing a setting. I say: screw it – I liked ACO enough to spend another 100 hours playing the chibi version, and I’ll damn well enjoy it. If the loot cycle, world, and historical references are anything similar, I won’t be disappointed.
First shown off at E3 2019 with a February 2020 release date, Gods and Monsters has gone a bit dark since it was delayed to Ubisoft’s next fiscal year (which starts in April) along with Rainbow Six Quarantine and Watch Dogs Legion. Since Gods and Monsters was due out soonest, I live in hope we’ll see it this year too. – JB
Gods and Monsters is out this year, maybe.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake
Whatever happens, Final Fantasy 7 Remake is going to be a big deal. The fact that this is one of the most flat-out insane ideas a publisher has ever committed to means this will be one of gaming’s watercooler moments of 2020. The original FF7 isn’t just a sprawling, seminal RPG – it’s also a bizarre product of its times, quirky and strange in all manner of ways. Remaking it was always going to be a risky, difficult business – and so it’s no surprise that Square Enix is breaking the original game’s content into multiple full games for the remake. Even that decision enhances the excitement, though.
What will change? What will stay the same? What will be removed, and more importantly, what will be added? At this point, after an excellent hands-on, I’m pretty sure FF7 Remake is going to play in a very satisfying way indeed. But the questions that remain are juicy and exciting, like if those game systems can hold up over a lengthy RPG – or, indeed, if this remake, which covers around five hours of content in the original game, will actually live up to its full-length Final Fantasy claims. This is the mad thing about FF7 Remake – I’m looking forward to playing it, but I also can’t wait to dissect and discuss every aspect of it with fellow mega-nerd fans – and that may well define my 2020 in gaming. – AD
Final Fantasy 7 Remake is out March 3, 2020.
Spiritfarer is a game that combines two of my favourite pastimes: Resource management sims and contemplating the inevitability of death. Its Steam synopsis literally calls it “a cozy management game about dying.”
In Spiritfarer you are a ferrymaster for the recently departed, a role that turns out to be more quaint than it is depressing – think Starbound but on the river stix, with a tone that kind of reminds me of Spirited Away. The game is about building relationships with your spirit passengers, all of who are adorable humanoid animals, but ultimately it’s about resource management and building a lovely 2D boat of death. The perfect game. – EG
Sail to oblivion later this year.
Gears Tactics simultaneously feels like a fever dream and a very real and predictable off-shoot. The gameplay in Gears of War involves a lot of taking cover, stopping and popping. That is also what you mostly do in XCOM-style tactical games.
Even still, the massive monsters Gears is known for, and the general pace of combat, all lend themselves incredibly well to that style of game. It’s a mystery why it took this long for someone to connect the dots. Even before seeing a single second of footage, Gears Tactics already sounded like a winner. But now that we’ve seen it in action, I can’t wait to play it.
Gears Tactics takes its turn on April 28, 2020. – SS
While Halo 4 and 5 were pretty disappointing, I’m nonetheless convinced that Halo Infinite will be the series revival we’re all dreaming of. Details are thin on the ground but I can only hope that it gets rid of all the unnecessary bells and whistles from newer titles and returns to a simple but solid shooter with a decent storyline, a cracking soundtrack, and minimalist HUD.
There’s certainly an appetite for single-player FPS in the current market and as a flagship title for the Xbox Series X, it will presumably be successful regardless of whether it’s any good or not. Plus, it’ll look absolutely banging. – LA
Strap in for a 2020 release.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2
The original Bloodlines was one of the first role-playing games to push at the ideas we now call immersive sims. Games like Dishonored have quickly made that genre one of the most exciting to explore and play with, so it’ll be interesting to see how Bloodlines 2 reclaims or interprets what it started 15-plus years ago.
It sounds like there’s a lot to sink your teeth into; set in Seattle, it’s a living world exploring art versus commerce, of progression versus greed, of violence and redemption. If you play as a truly beastly character can you ever be humane? I suspect these ideas and stories will be more interesting than the basic gameplay that surrounds fighting and feeding, and the real reason to sit through more than one playthrough. – MM
Take a bite out of this at some point in 2020.