The Rant's first annual Video Game Award Winners Announced
Forget the glitz and glamour of the major Game Awards show broadcast a few weeks ago; The Rant's Video Game Awards are here to present the real winners to the people.
Here, we don't give out awards for making a game ruthlessly difficult and having your hardcore nerd fanbase insist it's brilliant and rewarding when in fact if you strip it of its difficulty it's merely a decent action/adventure title. Nor do we revere a mind-numbingly dull game which is a glorified mail delivery simulator for 90% of its excessive runtime simply because it's made by the "genius" that is Hideo Kojima.
No, The Rant's Video Game Awards are all about the games that us normal people love to play.
A few disclaimers to note: first, only titles available on the Xbox One and/or PS4 are considered here (sorry Nintendo, but we all have to grow up sometime); second, as the winners are chosen by a single person, the awards (like all awards) are highly subjective and if your favourite game wasn't chosen that doesn't make your opinion any less valid; and third, winners don't receive a trophy or actual reward, other than some free publicity on this obscure website.
So without further ado, let's get to the best (and worst) of gaming in 2019.
Game of the Year
Remedy Entertainment/505 Games
2019 was filled with some surprisingly good games as developers worked overtime to squeeze every ounce of power from the aging hardware present in the current generation consoles. Though first party titles from Microsoft and Sony were few and far between as they gear up for their next console launches in 2020, third-party releases stole the show this year and none were better than Remedy's incredible Control.
A third-person action/adventure game with a heavy narrative focus, Remedy created one of the most interesting and carefully crafted worlds in gaming history inside the "Oldest House", the supernatural setting of Control. It's truly a marvel in game design with its gripping story unfolding at a brisk pace as you explore its incredible metroidvania-style levels that shift and evolve in front of your eyes.
The game plays like a dream with its combination of slick gunplay and paranormal powers in highly interactive environments that immerse you fully into the bizaare but oddly grounded world around you. Remedy asserted itself as one of the greatest storytellers and most creative studios in gaming with Control, and if you haven't played it yet, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy right now.
Runner-Up: Apex Legends
It's not every day that a free-to-play game is a genuine Game of the Year contender, nor that a single developer has two games nominated in the same year, but Respawn isn't one of the best developers in the business for no reason.
Apex Legends is the battle royale game for players who don't like other battle royale games - simplified and snappy looting, fast and satisfying FPS gunplay, squad-based combat with hero-shooter abilities and perks, balanced and surprisingly deep systems, and the revolutionary "Ping" communication system make Apex Legends one of the most fun multiplayer experiences you can find.
If you haven't played it yet, what are you waiting for? It's free.
Platform Exclusive of the Year
Winner: Gears 5
With a new console generation looming just beyond the horizon, many of the biggest first-party studios in Sony and Microsoft's stables are hard at work on titles for their next-gen consoles. Both Microsoft and Sony have thus had a pretty barren year when it comes to first-party releases.
Sony's biggest offerings have come in the form of Days Gone, a solid but unremarkable zombie action game, and the ridiculously hyped Death Stranding - while diehard Hideo Kojima fans will insist on its nuanced brilliance, in reality it's a painfully boring slog for the vast majority of its lengthy runtime and sports the kind of convoluted and silly storyline that you'd expect from Kojima (ie. it's overrated crap).
Microsoft didn't fare any better with Crackdown 3, a title that had been in development hell for many years and ended up delivering very little of what it had initially promised all the way back in its 2014 announcement trailer. It was not good, to say the least.
The return of one of Microsoft's flagship franchises, Gears of War, delivered in spades however.
Gears 5 delivered an exceptional campaign that even brought in semi-open world elements and side missions for the first time in Gears' history, harkening back to its horror roots and delivering an action-packed thrill ride. Its meaty multiplayer and co-op components meanwhile offer tons of content for series fans and newcomers alike.
Coupled with extremely polished and refined third-person shooting mechanics, stellar graphics and sound design, and a ridiculous amount of content, Gears 5 easily takes the crown of the best console exclusive of 2019, even if it didn't face much competition.
Shooter of the Year
Winner: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Now it may be a bit confusing to see the runner-up for the main award lose out on the top spot in its own category, but as a pure shooter, Modern Warfare is simply unmatched.
Though its multiplayer maps leave a lot to be desired and its Spec Ops mode is disappointing, Modern Warfare delivers one of (if not the) best campaigns in Call of Duty's history. In a return to form, Infinity Ward has crafted one of the smoothest, slickest first-person shooters ever and its story is an adrenaline rush from start to finish. The attention to detail (particularly with its weaponry) and the production values are simply astounding.
Its impressive multiplayer suite has something for everyone and will keep fans coming back for more well into the new year, especially given the regular content updates (including maps) which are all impressively free of charge. There is plenty to love for series fans and even players who abandoned ship thanks to the relentless churn of sequels have found themselves drawn back into the Call of Duty fold.
It's nice to see Infinity Ward back at the top of their game at long last.
Runner-Up: Apex Legends
Although it doesn't quite offer the variety and depth of content present in Activision's FPS juggernaut (it is a free-to-play game after all), Apex Legends is nonetheless a superb shooter in its own right.
The fast-paced and sleek shooting present in Titanfall is replicated to great effect in Respawn's battle royale (sans-Titans and wall-running) and its tactical squad-based gameplay expertly balances strategy, skill, and the luck of random loot drops into its skirmishes.
Perhaps Respawn's biggest triumph though is their revolutionary "Ping" system - it's an incredibly useful and effective yet simple to use mechanic that will hopefully be copied by every team-based shooter in the future.
Action/Adventure Game of the Year
Remedy Entertainment/505 Games
I really can't say enough good things about Control. Remedy has crafted a bonafide masterpiece and the less time you spend reading about it instead of playing it, the better.
The action feels superb and can often get chaotic, but the variety of paranormal powers at your disposal combined with your versatile service weapon give you all the tools you need to dispatch the diverse cast of enemies you'll encounter during your time in the Oldest House. Exploring the metroidvania-style environments and unlocking new sections of the Oldest House is also a blast, and there's tons of hidden areas and collectables to make it rewarding.
Excellent boss fights and a brilliant collection of mini-boss encounters further enhance the immersive experience and make Control the best and most memorable action/adventure game of the year.
Runner Up: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Respawn has definitely solidified itself as the best developer of 2019 by delivering not one, but two Game of the Year contenders in the same calendar year.
In its second offering of 2019, Respawn turned around the sinking ship that was EA's Star Wars license by releasing easily the best game of the last decade set in a galaxy far far away.
Combining elements from various popular adventure titles like Uncharted, Tomb Raider, and Dark Souls, Fallen Order lets fans experience a faithful Star Wars journey with a group of new characters including the game's hero Cal Kestis.
From the stellar combat to the exhilarating set-pieces to the emphasis on exploration and the surprisingly good storyline, Fallen Order delivers everything that Star Wars fans have been begging EA for since they first got the license. Hopefully EA can keep the momentum going in the new year.
Honourable Mentions: Devil May Cry 5, Gears 5
Multiplayer Game of the Year
Winner: Apex Legends
Apex Legends is simply put the best multiplayer game out there right now. Its simple premise is executed brilliantly with simplified looting and upgrade systems, excellent shooting mechanics, and a colourful cast of characters that boast an assortment of special abilities.
Strategy, skill, and a little bit of luck are the keys to success in Apex, and thanks to the brilliantly simple "Ping" system, even if you choose to play solo and are paired with two people without mics, communication is still a breeze.
Respawn has added plenty to keep players coming back for more, including three-month long seasons which have each added new playable Legends along with a slew of other new additions (including a gorgeous new map) and special limited-time events which offer different modes and variations of the two massive maps featured in the game. If you're looking for an addicting and engaging multiplayer thrill-ride, look no further.
Runner-Up: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Modern Warfare is a brilliant return to form for the Call of Duty franchise. Its silky smooth and responsive gunplay, brisk pace, and attention to detail make it one of the best-feeling shooters around.
The wealth of options for its multiplayer suite ensures there's something for everyone, from intense 2 vs. 2 standoffs to massive 32 vs. 32 battles complete with vehicles and squad-spawning.
While it does have a few issues with its initial batch of multiplayer maps (mainly the prevalence of camping and spawn-killing) the steady stream of new content being added free-of-charge is continuing to offer a remedy to that problem and should keep fans of the enduring franchise satisified for the months to come.
Honourable Mentions: Destiny 2: Shadowkeep, The Division 2
Role-Playing Game of the Year
Winner: The Outer Worlds
Obsidian Entertainment/Private Division
It wasn't exactly a banner year for role-playing games (unless you're into JRPGs and Pokemon) but The Outer Worlds is nevertheless fully deserving of the title of best RPG of 2019.
Obsidian took the formula they used while working on Fallout: New Vegas and applied it to a space-faring adventure, combining the first-person mechanics and upgrade systems of Fallout with the self-contained semi-open world sandboxes of Mass Effect.
The story is engaging and well-written throughout, sporting a particularly dark and dry humour alongside a memorable cast of characters. It's also very polished and surprisingly bug-free for a game of its kind, making it the perfect remedy for those still disappointed by last year's dismal Fallout 76.
Fighting Game of the Year
Winner: Mortal Kombat 11
NetherRealm Studios/Warner Bros. Interactive
Admittedly, Super Smash Bros. was a blast to play growing up and its newest incarnation has picked up a lot of awards for being the best fighting game of the year, and may very well be deserving. However, since these awards are limited to the Xbox One and PS4 consoles, Nintendo's brawler will have to be content with all of the other awards and nominations it's picked up.
As for the older gamers out there, Mortal Kombat 11 has got you covered for all of your hyper-violent button-mashing needs. A surprisingly fun story takes you through various past eras of the long-running franchise with an impressive roster of classic characters plus a few new faces, and of course the fighting itself is better than ever with plenty of new additions and fine-tuning to improve on the rock-solid foundation the last two entries have built on.
Customizing your character's loadouts and unlocking new content is surprisingly fun (though the Krypt is more than a little grinding) and getting your spine ripped out by vastly superior opposition online is always a blast. Now if only they could retroactively remove Ronda Rousey's horrific attempt at voice acting from the otherwise well-produced game.
Honourable Mentions: Dead or Alive 6, Samurai Shodown
Racing Game of the Year
Bugbear Entertainment/THQ Nordic
With the Forza franchise taking a year off (likely to make Forza Motorsport 8 a launch title for the next-gen Xbox), the racing game throne was left vacant in 2019. Other popular franchises like Need for Speed had a glowing opportunity to fill the void, but it was a brand new IP that stole the show for racing fans this year.
Wreckfest is a throwback to the demolition derby and destructive racing fads of the 90's and early 2000's. Bugbear (the developers behind the beloved Flatout and Flatout 2) delivered the surprise hit of the year (in the racing genre at least) with its classic formula of vehicular mayhem and carnage.
The vintage demolition derbies and circuit racing are brought to the modern era thanks to impressive graphics and stunning deformation systems that regularly see your car transform from a plain-old coupe to a crunched-up, broken hunk of metal on wheels by the end of a race. Its superb handling and excellent assortment of tracks make it a blast to play and secure its position at the top of the racing heap. At least until another Forza game comes out.
Runner-Up: Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
Crash Team Racing, and later Crash Nitro Kart, are beloved kart racers which took the iconic characters from the Crash Bandicoot games and put them in an arcade-style kart racing game a la Mario Kart. Not simply a copy of Nintendo's popular series though, CTR and its sequels found great success and became classics in their own right.
Fast forward to 2017, and the Crash Bandicoot franchise was brought back to the fore with the N. Sane Trilogy, a collection of the first three Crash titles rebuilt from the ground up for modern audiences. With its massive success, CTR and its sequels were a no-brainer for Activision to give a proper remaster treatment to next.
With Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, developer Beenox completely rebuilt the beloved classic CTR from the ground up, giving it great visuals, remastered audio (though a classic soundtrack option is available), and superb handling. In addition to all of the original characters and tracks, all of the content from Crash Nitro Kart and Crash Tag Team Racing is thrown in for good measure, alongside brand-new content created just for the new game.
It was a surprise hit that injects a dose of nostalgia and arcade-y fun to the racing genre that has gotten increasingly serious over the years.
Honourable Mentions: F1 2019, GRID
Best Story/Narrative Direction
Remedy Entertainment/505 Games
If you've read my review of the game, it should come as no surprise to see Control pick up this award, and it's really not even close.
Remedy has crafted a truly cinematic masterpiece with Control. If there are any people out there who still argue that videogames aren't an art form, make them play Control and see if their mind doesn't change.
The direction and writing puts the vast majority of Hollywood movies to shame let alone other games, and the way that Remedy is able to ground such an odd story in reality is truly remarkable. Remedy's ability to turn ordinary objects into memorable boss fights and actually have them make sense is both hilarious and brilliant - one of the game's fiercest foes is a killer fridge, and I'm not kidding.
It really has to be experienced first-hand to comprehend just how well-done Control's bizaare sci-fi world really is.
Runner-Up: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty is known for its emphasis on relentless action and its extensive multiplayer offerings, but the series has also delivered a fair amount of great FPS campaigns. After Black Ops 4 got rid of the campaign portion of the COD package entirely last year, Infinity Ward brought it back in a major way with its return to the fan-favourite modern setting.
In what is essentially a soft-reboot of the Modern Warfare sub-series, Infinity Ward's latest delivers a shockingly good story that touches on many issues surrounding modern conflicts, particularly the situation in Syria that has unfolded over the last few years.
Modern Warfare of course delivers tons of action and intense set-pieces over its 5-8 hour runtime, but its gritty approach is rooted in reality and often draws inspiration from real conflicts like the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound and Benghazi. It's easily the best COD campaign since Modern Warfare 2 and is well worth your time if you're an FPS gamer or a fan of modern war movies or series like 13 Hours and Jack Ryan.
Best New IP
Remedy Entertainment/505 Games
This one's an easy one - it's hard not to give the "Best New IP" award to the game that took home the year's top honours after all. If you haven't gotten the hint yet, Control is an amazing game worthy of any gamer's time, so go do yourself a favour and play it. And no, I'm not being paid to say that (though I wish I was).
The lovingly crafted world Remedy has created is uniquely bizaare yet startlingly grounded and just begs for more stories to be told about the FBC and its Objects of Power. Not only that, but Remedy's earlier work and a classic in its own right, Alan Wake, also ties into the Control universe.
Luckily, we won't have to wait too long for more of the series, as two story expansions for the game are primed for release in early 2020. Here's hoping a full-fledged sequel follows suit in the near future.
Runner Up: The Outer Worlds