Best of 2019 – Day One: Story, Soundtrack, Performance, Graphics, Design

Over the next eight days, Hardcore Gamer will be revealing its Best of 2019 Awards leading up to our Game of the Year. Today we present you with the Best of Story, Soundtrack, Performance, Technical Graphics and Artistic Design.

Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers

When you think of an MMORPG, you probably don’t think of an award-winning story. You might think of grinding enemies or raiding being a main focus, and while Shadowbringers has that, it has also defied all odds and comes with the best story of 2019. There was worry that this fifty-hour expansion would be a side adventure to the Garlean plight in Eorzea, but lo and behold it was actually a significant plot advancement that establishes the motives of the true enemies of the Ascians. Better yet, it somehow makes players sympathize with the Ascians and all they’ve been through, despite their operations still consisting of horrendous acts of violence and genocide. You get to learn about a brand new world and its horrific condition as 90% of the globe has been engulfed in deadly light and anyone infected turns into monstrous beings. It turns the idea of dark and light on its head, where you must give up your title of Warrior of Light and take on the darkness. It sounds more anime than it actually is, and is incredibly well written and delves into each of the former Scion’s emotional investment into the new world. In the end, it will make you laugh, cry and want more of this quality of storytelling in your Final Fantasy.

Runner-Ups
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III Fire Emblem: Three Houses A Plague Tale: Innocence The Outer Worlds

Sayonara Wild Hearts

This was certainly the least surprising win when it came to this year’s awards. Granted, the other nominees weren’t any slouches when it came to producing amazing music, but when you’re up against a game that’s actually billing itself as a full-fledged pop album to go along with its rhythm-infused gameplay, it’s pretty clear that you’re likely not taking home the gold. It’s made even more clear when you listen to the songs that make up the soundtrack to Sayonara Wild Hearts, which can easily rival anything on the charts right now as some of the most catchy, sublimely-crafted pop music out there. Daniel Olsén and Jonathan Eng deliver amazing, synth-infused tunes that not only work alongside some equally vibrant and intense action, but that also sound good on their own. Any game where you barge into a neon furry rave on a motorcycle at 200 MPH and wind up escalating the whole thing into a giant mech battle needs unique, fast and fun music to match something that enjoyably insane, and that’s what Sayonara Wild Hearts provides in spades.

Runner-Ups
Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers Fire Emblem: Three Houses Devil May Cry 5 Astral Chain

Death Stranding

Like the rest of the world, we at Hardcore Gamer are very split on Death Stranding as a game and as an experience, but one aspect we’re all in agreement on is the performances. Kojima Productions enlisted Hollywood talent, and while the track record of doing so has been a bit spotty in the past, they deliver some of the most groundbreaking and emotional scenes. Sure, the dialogue can be a little silly at times, but there are masterful performances by Mads Mikkelson and Tommie Earl Jenkins, not to mention the rest of the star-studded cast. It’s a narrative that would not be as good as it is without these performances, and they excel in capturing every scene in the best way possible. Whenever there’s a cutscene playing, you will truly be invested in what’s going on, as the actors take on the roles perfectly, creating a plot that, while is in form of Kojima’s typical convolution, is wholly entertaining and immersive. It’s a rare game in this regard and truly makes us wish there were even more storytelling scenes spread throughout the forty-hour experience.

Runner-Ups
Control Afterparty A Plague Tale: Innocence The Outer Worlds

Resident Evil 2

2020 marks the start of a new generation, which means next year should feature a huge bump in graphical fidelity. That’s not to say 2019 was a slouch, however. Developers continue to get quite a bit of juice out of the PS4 Pro, Xbox One X and PC, and nowhere was that more apparent than with Resident Evil 2. From hair to clothing to environmental detail, Resident Evil 2 is a stunning-looking game that truly uses the power available to deliver a visual feast for the eyes. It’s the detail on the enemies that’s most impressive, though. The RE Engine has always been able to deliver solid visuals, but Resident Evil 2 takes it one step further. With detailed muscle tissue, realistic body deformation and some of the most visually impressive — and disgusting — mutation effects in a game, Resident Evil 2 sets itself apart from the competition. 2019 was filled with some great-looking games and Resident Evil 2 is the best looking of the bunch.

Runner-Ups
Metro Exodus Gears 5 Death Stranding Judgment

Control

Sometimes, less can be more when it comes to crafting striking visuals. Case in point, the brutalist architectural style seen in Control, as compared to the more colorful and ornate settings in our other nominees. The Oldest House is clean, slick, sharp and immaculately designed, which immediately makes it stand out…especially when things get twisted around. The world of Control involves a massive government structure that’s ever-shifting, ever-changing and finds itself filled with investigations into bizarre paranormal phenomena that come from the most mundane of places. The end result is a look at a typical office building being warped around in tons of imaginative ways, from shifting geometry to optical illusions and the aftermaths of escaped experiments. Even the little details like the variety of anachronistic equipment required by the Oldest House all play their part in giving it a unique look, one that catches the eye and makes for one of the year’s best-looking games that knows how to bring its world to life.

Runner-Ups
The Outer Worlds Concrete Genie Sayonara Wild Hearts Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Continue to Day 2 →