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My GOTY and The Game Awards 2018

With 2018 coming to the end, I have to say that this year was one of the strongest years for videos games this console generation. With highly anticipated games, such as God of War, Marvel's Spiderman, and Red Dead Redemption 2, this year games delivered on the hype. I had an opportunity to play and fully enjoy these titles while also catching up on games I missed from years prior.

In this post, I wanted to discuss The Game Awards, how it has evolved over the years, and my pick for the game of the year. As a medium video game has trailed movies in creating an award show that recognizes the excellence and talent behind those involved. While filmmaking have the SAG awards, Oscars, Golden Globes, and more, Video games are still in its infancy trying to be recognized as a respectable medium. I grew up watching G4/TechTV and awards shows like Spike TV's Videogame Awards, and even back then felt games deserved a more respectable and professional show or organization that wasn't filled with cringe-worthy moments, biased treatment, and blatant product placement or advertisement mess.

While The Game Awards is still young, host Geoff Keighley brings that professionalism, knowledge of games, and connections to big game developers that make this award show stand out from the rest. While there is an element of Teen's Choice awards thrown in there, to engage their audience, the award categories, nominees and winners were all deserving. Compared to the Game Developers Choice Awards, given out after GDC each year, The Game Awards feels like it strikes a good balance of looking at games through a technical lens while also having a pulse on the popular opinion. While I could have done without Ninja and anything Fortnight related, the show was enjoyable to watch.

This leads me into my thoughts of the game of the year.

While I haven't been able to play all the games nominated, the games I predicted it would come down to were Spiderman, God of War, and Red Dead. Having played all three of these games for close to 100 hours each, and getting a platinum trophy for both Spiderman and God of War, I love all three of these games. With that said I have to disagree with the Game Awards because in my opinion Red Dead Redemption 2 is hands down the best game of this year, the best game of this console generation, and as a whole one of the best games ever created.

I say as a whole because there were certain aspects that were not the best. For example, while the action is a blast and fast-paced, the controls during firefights in tight spaces still reminded me of Grand Theft Auto 4, that first utilized the cover based mechanic. God of War's 3rd person perspective and combat felt fresh, and any doubts about the change to combat from the original series were gone after getting my hands on it. But other than that I can't say I can find many faults with RDR2 otherwise. I don't understand the criticism that the game is slow to start or drags on in spots. Maybe this applies if you are cramming the game trying to finish in a week or a few days for a review, but each mission added to the story or character development that made the payoff at the end more worthwhile.

My favorite games are story based single player games and I have a preference toward RPGs. So comparing the two games, I would say that the story, dialogue, and characters were better in Red Dead Redemption 2 compared to God of War. Both games did a fantastic job of building onto the existing lore of their previous installments, while improving and refining aspects that made them popular in the first place. I loved the story set up in God of War and look forward to see where the developers take the relationship between Kratos and Atreus, but I got to give it to RDR2 for telling a complete story which had me more invested and was able to conclude in an extremely satisfying way. I wanted to immediately replay the original RDR, and I applaud Rockstar Games for taking the risk of a game set before the original game.

What the developers nailed was creating an engrossing world that truly gave the player freedom of choice. Not the simple good/bad decisions during the story, but the option to play the game your way and respecting (while also rewarding) the player's curiosity with its game design. While the game introduces you to the mechanics, you can go through the entire game not returning to a vendor to buy supplies, doing side quests, bounties, interacting with members of your gang, crafting, customizing your clothing, and the list goes on. After beating the game, I felt like I only scratched the surface of what the game has to offer. For example, hunting, completing challenges, finding collectibles, filling out the compendium are all things that encourage you to explore what the world has to offer apart from the main story or after you "finish" the game. It boggles my mind that so many people and developers worked on parts of the game, like caves, that most players would not even encounter or experience. Not to mention RDR2 online that gives players more content to play with for free. Unlike other developers, they didn't incorporate frustrating microtransactions or loot boxes that affect the single-player experience, which is saying a lot.

Another thing that Red Dead Redemption 2 nailed was character progression. While your character's attributes, health, stamina, and dead eye, improve over time there was never a point that the game became easy. For God of War I set the difficulty to the hardest option to make sure it was always a challenge, but RDR2 difficulty is flexible just like it's overall experience. You can turn off the assisted aiming in the options, choose to stock up on equipment before missions, use dead eye as much or little as you want. The game also gives you the option to restart at checkpoints, or restart the entire mission over if you die. One complaint that I have with newer games is that they reduces the challenge by having a checkpoint features that make the game too easy. However, this game solves that issue by giving the players that option.

While I loved God of War and would have agreed it would have won the game of the year before RDR2 released, Red Dead Redemption 2 is on a whole different level. Even if Sony Santa Monica released the sequel(s) and the story delivers on all fronts, I'm still not sure if it could win out over RDR2, with the sheer amount of content it already has. While I would rank the new God of War above any Grand Theft Auto game, RDR2 was a perfect mix of action, humor, music and deep gameplay mechanics that surpassed all my expectations. Both are sequels to games loved when I was younger, so it's satisfying to see them be so good. I understand why many players would prefer God of War for the game of the year, but I would have given it to RDR2. Maybe they were hoping the controversy/upset would bring The Game Awards more attention.

Let me know what you guys think in the comments below. Which game did you like better RDR2 or God of War? What was your favorite thing about the Video Game Awards?

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