Weekly Penguin
February 3rd, 2021

Penguin DT's GOTYs 2020!

What am I working on right now?

After finally wrapping up the cut-scene I started last year – and taking a long asset-creation detour because of it – we are now officially half-way through in creation of the TAGAP 4 campaign! Considering this took a little over a year of actual map and cut-scene building, that's likely the fastest I've ever progressed through development. This is largely thanks to the extended pre-production phase.

Since then I've started the a new level – this one being a sort of a reimagining of one from TAGAP 1. The level has the same setting and visual tone, but in terms of gameplay it is completely different. So different, in fact, that I've had to implement some completely new engine trickery to achieve it, resulting something more than just a retread. I've just completed the first pass – the geometry and world functions – and will be diving into the gameplay pass next (enemies and combat).

But enough of that, let's talk about games that are already out!

Penguin DT's GOTYs 2020

GOTY 2020

Late to the party as usual on this one, huh? Still, it is time recall what we played the past year and what were the best gems among games. There's one particular game dominating this list this year and I'm sure you already knew this would happen.

This year, Timo is sitting the GOTY extravaganza out – he apparently stuck to his backlog the whole year. No worries, there's always 2021!
 

Best positive surprise:

Mad Rat Dead

(runner ups: DOOM Eternal, Maneater)

From the first reveal trailer, I had a hunch that I would like Mad Rat Dead, but I wasn't completely sure. However, after playing the demo, I was amazed how well practically everything in the game clicks, elevating the whole thing to something much more than the sum of its parts.

This could partially be explained by the gameplay loop; Mad Rat Dead is essentially a mash-up of a rhythm game and a platformer. You can move only when your heart beats – and it beats to the rhythm of the soundtrack. Top it all off with the great writing and creative characters Nippon Ichi is known for, we have a winner.

How darn well all this gels together is quite hard to showcase in trailers – let alone in a blog like this – so go grab that demo and prepare to be hooked!

Best soundtrack:

DOOM Eternal

(runner up: Mad Rat Dead)

For a moment, forget about all the behind-the-scenes drama that derailed the relationship between id Software and Mick Gordon. Mr. Gordon's latest score is a bloody masterpiece and much like the game itself, pushes into some really surprising directions. The use of the metal choir is a fascinating addition to the soundscape – whether we're talking about the cyber-throat-singing themes of the DOOM Hunter, the etheric atmosphere of Urdak or the brutally apocalyptic anthem of the Icon of Sin.

Here's hoping the relationship between the parties is mended, at least to the point the OST gets a proper big release down the line. Meanwhile, Andrew Hulshult and David Levy are carrying the torch splendidly with The Ancient Gods.

Best stress-relief:

Maneater

(runner up: Destroy All Humans!)

Let's face it, in 2020 everyone could use some chill gametime – and as much as I loved DOOM Eternal, it's anything but 'chill'. As someone who didn't have a Switch, the much-acclaimed Animal Crossing wasn't an option – but the bonkers Maneater fits the bill perfectly.

Imagine Jaws... but told as a parody of those obnoxiously cheesy American man-versus-nature 'reality' shows. Oh and it's an open-world action-RPG – and you play as the shark. Just sitting back, relaxing and chomping away some awful people never fails to bring a smile to my face. There's been some teases of more content swimming our way and I'm hyped to sink my virtual teeth to more sea-life.

Best of Backlog:

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown

(runner ups: DOOM VFR, Earth Defense Force 5, Darksiders III)

I've always loved the way the Ace Combat franchise manages to combine thought-provoking stories filled with character – and the intense supersonic gameplay backed by cinematic, symphonic rock. Ace Combat 7 has all that in spades and is one darned exciting romp. The PS VR mode is beyond exhilarating as well, though it is a bit of a shame that you can't play the whole campaign in VR.

I so wish Bandai Namco would re-release the franchise, preferably as an anthology. The complex, continuing story of this alternate world is filled with espionage, political power-plays great arcs, to the point it rivals Metal Gear... but only a handful of folks have had the change to experience it in full. After all, the series is spread across the decades and multiple non-compatible console cycles.

Petja's GOTY(s)

Final Fantasy VII Remake & The Last of Us Part II

I had to think this over hard. The Last of Us Part II left a lasting impression. The storytelling was well done and impressive. The gameplay was excellent to the end. The story itself was made of heavy yet human concepts. It'll be a while when I want to revisit the game though, considering the heaviness of it all.

On the other hand, Final Fantasy VII Remake was much lighter stuff. Story was familiar, yet brilliantly expanded. Gameplay was interesting and fluid, even though the game covers only a portion of the original story. I was aware of the remake covering only part of the story, so it didn't particularly bother me. This is a story I really want to experience again. And the game lasted for about 50 hours, so it's not short even for a modern RPG. Plenty of content there.

– Petja

Jouni's GOTY:

DOOM Eternal

(runner up: Mad Rat Dead)

DOOM as a franchise means hell-of-a-lot to me and after DOOM 2016, I had high hopes for Eternal. But I had no idea how madly I would fall in love with it.

To understand the difference between the two games, DOOM 2016 triumphed by solving the longest-running unsolvable problem of the genre – how you gain health – and thus was able to push the concept of a 'classic first-person-shooter' as far as it could possibly go.

DOOM Eternal takes that, throws genre definitions into the trash and finds almost every possible way to turn the intensity to 11. What results is less a 'classic first-person-shooter' and more like 'first-person-Devil-May-Cry', where zip around at an insane speed, rarely touching the ground and reaping bonuses from well-timed demon kills. And every time it feels like you've hit a wall, the solution is to experiment with your massive arsenal of attacks. This has resulted in a divide among DOOM community, but I love all of it!

I could go on for few books worth about the clever design choices in DOOM Eternal but I'll cut it here. Just play it already, will you? The fact that it's the best bang-for-buck I've seen in years for a single player game also warms my heart.

Honourable mentions

So many great games, so few awards. These games may have missed a 'trophy' above, but are every bit as worthy!

  • Mad Rat Dead (Nippon Ichi / NISA)

    I feel sorry for Mad Rat Dead, because most years it would've been my GOTY – but it had to go against what turned out to be my favourite game of all time. However, it is my official GOTY-TIDE (Game Of The Year That Isn't DOOM Eternal).

    The innovative genre-mashing gameplay, the irresistibly catchy soundtrack, in-your-face pop-punk visuals, the excellent story... it all oozes so much charm! It also happens to be a great mixture of super-cute and grotesque – and also features plenty of mind-bending plot twists. And hey, in case you hadn't noticed, I have a thing for tales about test animals escaping and rebelling against their fate! 😉

  • Destroy All Humans! (Black Forest Games / THQ Nordic)

    A shining benchmark for all future remake / remaster efforts. It is the same exact game as before, only given a modern sheen of polish and special effects. What results is a game that feels exactly like your rose-tinted nostalgia goggles remember it. Just brilliant! Hopefully this isn't the last we've heard of the face-lifted Crypto.

2020 games in the to-play cue

So many games, so little time! Several of this year's releases have sadly slipped into the backlog. Big part of the blame lays on DOOM. In anticipation for Eternal, I replayed every darn game in the franchise, complete with expansions, which took quite a chunk from my gaming hours.

These are the games I already own or I have on pre-order as a physical version. I look forward to sinking my teeth into 'em all, hopefully soon. Then again, as I'm absolutely no hurry to move to the 'next gen' due to the lack of 'killer apps', perhaps this is a good thing.

  • Chronos: Before the Ashes (going through Remnant as of writing this)
  • Darksiders Genesis
  • Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories
  • Ghostrunner
  • Empire of Sin
  • Prinny 1+2
  • Resident Evil 3
  • Streets of Rage 4
  • Void Bastards
  • Wonderful 101 Remastered

I'll also be getting Cyberpunk 2077... if it ever gets patched on consoles.

Most anticipated games of 2021

This list was harder to make than ever before. As I already mentioned, I'm in no hurry to move to the 'next-gen' and as such, I'm not really looking into new games that much at the moment.

  • DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part II (id Software / Zenimax)

    I mean obviously.

  • Biomutant (Experiment 101 / THQ Nordic)

    It is finally happening! I've been eagerly waiting for this post-apocalyptic kung-fu critter epoch since it was announced half a decade ago – and it will at last arrive this summer.

  • Disgaea 6 (Nippon Ichi / NISA)

    A new entry in the fantastic franchise – Prinnies might've brought me to it, but I stayed for all of it. As a depressing move, the game won't be available for PS4 in the West for some bizarre reason... so I went and got a Switch for it. It's sitting in a box in the closet, waiting for this one.

  • Poison Control (Nippon Ichi / NISA)

    Another Nippon Ichi title and also set in Hell – and even featuring a Prinny. Everything else is drastically different, mind, this being an action title about cleansing the souls from impurities. Action games set in Hell are kind of my thing – DOOM, Devil May Cry, Darksiders, etc. – and it is fascinating to see a take this fresh.

  • Anew: The Distant Light (Resonator Games)

    This has been on the list long enough and it seems we finally may get our hands on it in 2021. Every time we see more of the game, the better it looks! For those not-in-the-know, Anew is a Kickstarter backed sci-fi Metroidvania with absolutely gorgeous art and a fantastic, orchestral soundtrack.

  • Resident Evil VIII: The Village (Capcom)

    Possibly the most interesting take on Resident Evil in years, continuing with the magnificent first-person framework set by RE7. Though I likely won't be playing this on release due to the aforementioned reasons, it'll be one of the first games I tackle when/if I go 'next-gen'.


Thus ends our GOTY 2020 post, also known as 'in how many ways I can type DOOM Eternal rocks'.

Until next time,

Jouni Lahtinen, the head penguin