2020 was a terrible year and so far 2021 hasn’t been much better. What better way to take everyone’s mind off it than picking my game of the year! With Cyberpunk 2077 being a broken rushed mess and the chances of getting your hands on a new generation console this year all but impossible…..I think it’s time to focus on positives. Enter SuckerPunch with an unforgettable Samurai experience that will most likely mark the start of an iconic franchise. Let’s get into it!
Jaw Dropping Visuals
Within the first moments of playing Ghost, it’s clear that SuckerPunch has outdone itself in the visuals and art design. This is truly gorgeous, dripping with layer upon layer of artistic visual flourishes. Borrowing heavily from the visual styles of Kurosawa films, the game is breathtakingly stunning. It consistently had moments that made me stop to admire the visuals on displays. Glorious vistas with incredible draw distances and a sheer confidence that I haven’t seen before. Regularly I would be engrossed in exploration when the camera knowingly pans outwards to show off the amazing visuals. I am not one for photo mode in any other game but I couldn’t resist here. Put simply, this is art! My ps4 is now filled with amazing in-game snaps that wouldn’t look out of place hanging on the wall.
Visuals are one thing but a game can live or die by it’s gaming mechanics. Thankfully swordplay is very satisfying in Ghost. Stances, parries, timing, defense breaks and weapon abilities add layer upon layer to the fighting here. Tough to master but when your moves come together, the fights flow and make you feel incredibly powerful and unstoppable. On the flip side, if you’re timing is slightly off, you can have your ass handed to you after just a couple of mistakes. This difficulty can be challenging but it’s also oddly satisfying as it’s never unfair. If you die, it’ll be because you weren’t good enough, simple. The animations, hit boxes and style are as sharp as your blade which also helps.
As mentioned, the art direction on display is unparalleled but it doesn’t just end at long draw distances and pretty graphics. SuckerPunch have gone to great lengths to keep you immersed in their beautiful artwork. Checkpoints and visual beacons are down to a minimum while in game. No cluttered hood and a swipe on the motion pad causes a gust of wind to visually guide you where to go. A simple technique that I’m sure will be heavily borrowed by other game developers in the future as it helps to keep you immersed. Also the stand-off option when rocking up to a group or the start to every boss battle run you through a cinema like intro that truly has to be experienced. Visually so cool and even after the 100th time of seeing it, I found it never grew stale.
If I had some downsides to mention then there are three that stick out a little for me. Our main protagonist isn’t very interesting as a character. His character arc is definitely interesting but his measured personality doesn’t allow him to go off the rails. His samurai upbringing restricting him and even the voice acting feels a little stifled. Second gripe for me is the forced stealth missions later in the game. They suited the narrative and I understood their inclusion but after leveling up this fearsome warrior, it felt dull and uninspired to be playing these sorts of missions so late in the game. Last gripe is the stealth itself. Ghost surpasses so many of the games it borrows from with it’s visuals and combat system that I’m disappointed to say that it’s stealth is very basic and quite dull to play. A shame when they polished every other aspect of the game and made so many game mechanics feel fresh that the stealth is just meh! If it had been better I think those forced stealth missions probably wouldn’t have bothered me as much.
No spoilers obviously but I do have to mention how strong the ending of this game is. It really does hit you hard in the feels and takes no prisoners. In the final mission I died many times and had to replay and I think a small part of me was okay with not succeeding each time as I did not want this game or this story to end. A high compliment indeed.
I’ve only scratched the surface here as I want as many people to go out and play this game! It deserves to be experienced by everyone. The stunning visuals are only the jumping off point here as well. In depth combat mechanics, compelling side mission stories, complex character arcs, effective progression systems, free multiplayer DLC and an emotionally soulful soundtrack all add up to create a wonderful memorable experience. SuckerPunch helped launch the Ps4 with Infamous:Second Son, it seems fitting that they get to bookend the console’s life cycle with such an impressive title. It’ll be hard even for the beefy Ps5 to topple such an amazing experience.
What was your game of the year? Are you more into saki than Sakai? Do you want to see how good a sequel might look on next gen? Let me know in the comments below.