Retrospective 2020: the strangest year

Retrospective 2020: the strangest year
2020 will be remembered as the year of the pandemic, of a scenario that we imagined impossible and which instead materialized within a few weeks, of new habits and social distancing that still forces us to dilute relationships with friends and relatives. br>
A difficult year for everyone, which if on the one hand has provided a substantial boost to home entertainment, for obvious reasons, on the other it has undermined those who produce that entertainment, revolutionizing the processing and creating obstacles that often and willingly resulted in painful postponements.

However, it was also a year of great videogame satisfactions, of games that have left their mark and which in these days are collecting important awards; as well as sensational successes sprung out of nowhere, often of an independent matrix.

A year of changes, with the generational shift from PS4 and Xbox One to PS5 and Xbox Series X | S establishing the parallel we have spoken in the retrospective dedicated to 2013; yet never so difficult, with stocks reduced to a minimum and a perennial sold-out that has prevented millions of users from buying a new console.

The Animal Crossing phenomenon and Dan's farewell Houser

The first quarter of 2020 opened with the COVID-19 issue, as anticipated at the beginning, and with the first international lockdown organized to try to limit the spread of the infection. However, the pandemic did not influence the publication of some highly anticipated games at this stage; such as Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, launched on January 17, which tried for the first time to translate the famous saga created by Akira Toriyama into the form of a spectacular action RPG.

January was also the month of Warcraft III: Reforged and the controversies that accompanied its debut, with a record of negative votes on Metacritic by users and even an automatic refund procedure initiated by Blizzard . However, several beautiful things have happened, see for example the release of Dreams in its final form, the remasters of Bayonetta and Vanquish as well as the umpteenth, very pleasant incarnation of Street Fighter V with the Champion Edition.

In March The battle royale genre has taken a major shock with the arrival of Call of Duty: Warzone, which has thrown its traditional gunplay into the fray by offering fans a deep free-to-play experience, anything but frivolous. The experiment has been rewarded in a big way, if we consider that in the space of two months the shooter produced by Activision has totaled the beauty of 60 million players, also strongly influencing the main series.

Speaking of shooters, Also in March, the extraordinary DOOM Eternal made its debut, capable of further refining the run & gun style gameplay of the previous chapter, and the innovative Half-Life: Alyx, which marked the return of an extremely famous brand in the field of a very solid and convincing virtual reality experience: a real killer application for VR viewers and in particular for Valve Index.

The first quarter closed with high-value productions such as Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Nioh 2 and Persona 5 Royal, which finally introduced an Italian localization for the title Atlus, but the great protagonist of this period was undoubtedly Animal Crossing: New Hori zons. The simulation for Nintendo Switch has conquered everyone, becoming a real lifeline for many people in the midst of the lockdown and grinding monstrous numbers: in five months it has exceeded 22 million copies sold.

As for instead the noteworthy events, in addition to the first consequences of the pandemic on fairs, with the GDC 2020 quickly transformed into a digital only event, in March we witnessed the farewell of Dan Houser, who left Rockstar Games after having contributed to found the company back in 1998 and to oversee the creation of some of its most important games, the latest of which was Red Dead Redemption 2.

PS5 and The Last of Us 2

The first quarter of 2020 ended with the publication of the official PS5 technical specifications, which sparked a lively discussion in the community regarding the power of the new Sony console compared to the Xbox Series X, which had already been presented at the end of 2019 complete with a reveal of the design. Users were divided between those who claimed that the characteristics of PlayStation 5 were actually the result of an overclock implemented to try to reduce the gap compared to the competition and those who bet on the goodness of the project, which however had not yet been shown to the public. .

In the midst of all these controversies, evidently exacerbated by the international situation, we have seen the release of several games of great interest: Resident Evil 3, which unfortunately disappointed the expectations not so much from a technical point of view as from the essentially, failing to repeat the success of the previous remake; Gears Tactics, which opened the way to turn-based strategy for the Microsoft franchise in an excellent way; and Streets of Rage 4, capable of demonstrating how much an obsolete genre such as that of scrolling fighting games was still able to engage and entertain players.

Naturally the most relevant events of the second quarter of 2020 were concentrated in the June, because if on the one hand we have all been orphaned by E3, canceled due to the pandemic and the impossibility of organizing a decent digital event with so little notice, during this month there was both the official reveal PS5 that the release of that masterpiece that responds to the name of The Last of Us Part II. A powerful combo, which has intertwined the future and the present of the Sony platform with truly exciting results.

On 11 June, as part of a special event organized by the Japanese company, we finally got to see the design of PlayStation 5. Nobody expected such a thing: in complete antithesis to the compact and minimal choices that guided the creation of the Xbox Series X, the new Sony console boasted an exuberant, provocative aesthetic, clearly inspired by neo-futurist architecture; as well as important dimensions, which, however, were officially defined only after several weeks, finally providing measures to those who wondered if that machine would enter the cabinet under the TV.

A few days later, as mentioned, it was the turn of The Last of Us 2. Victim of a sensational leak that had even revealed the final sequences and the most important moments of the campaign when there were still two months to go, the title of Naughty Dog shocked fans of the series with a terribly plot raw and mature, set a few years after the events of the first episode. A story of pure and simple revenge, which this time put us in the shoes of Ellie on a journey that would change the protagonist of the game forever.

Able to sell over 4 million copies in the first three days, The Last of Us 2 was decreed a true masterpiece by the international press, which welcomed it with stellar votes. Merit of the narrative sector and of the direction, of course, but also of an incredible technical realization, even more so considering that the title ran on a console now at the end of its life cycle, which in those months would have passed the baton to PS5 .

Xbox, cross and delight

The Last of Us 2 was not the last, great exclusive for PS4: the burden and the honor fell to Ghost of Tsushima, the ambitious project signed by Sucker Punch, team author of inFAMOUS, struggling this time with feudal Japan and in particular the Mongol invasion that took place against the island of Tsushima in 1274. The protagonist of the game, Jin Sakai, was first defeated and reduced to death by the invading soldiers, only to return as a Ghost to take revenge and free his land.

A few days later, on July 23, we attended the long-awaited event organized by Microsoft for the presentation of first party titles coming to Xbo x Series X | S, during which Halo Infinite gameplay was also presented for the first time. Well, the demo proposed by 343 Industries did not hit users positively, indeed highlighting a series of large technical gaps that soon monopolized the debate.

The controversy went on for weeks, until Microsoft in August has not decided to blatantly opt for the postponement of Halo Infinite to 2021, effectively removing the only exclusive first party from the launch line-up of its new console and entrusting its fate solely to third party productions and the well-known backwards compatibility. A bad moment for the Redmond company, which up to that point had conducted an impeccable promotional campaign.

August, however, will not be remembered only for the setback of Microsoft, but also for the unexpected clash between Epic Games, Apple and Google due to Fortnite. The famous battle royale in its mobile version had tried to overcome the limitations of the iOS and Android platforms, introducing external and non-standard payment systems, and being promptly removed from both ecosystems.

Epic Games has tried to bring an ideological battle goes on, complete with upside-down 1984-style commercials, but to date it seems not to have involved the many fans of the game that much. The basic question, in fact, was that they were still multimillion-dollar companies battling for more, not an independent reality that tried to impose new rules that would benefit everyone.

Always in August Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout made its debut, a colorful variant on the theme of battle royale, inspired by the Takeshi's Castle minigames, which immediately won millions of players thanks to the introduction in the free monthly line-up of PlayStation Plus A real phenomenon, which nevertheless lasted the time of a summer and then exhausted the bulk of its hold on the public.

September was the month of the incredible acquisition of Bethesda by Microsoft: an operation costing 7.5 billion dollars, but which has ensured the Redmond house a very large number of intellectual properties, which will in all likelihood become Xbox exclusives. Let's talk about brands like The Elder Scrolls, Starfield, Fallout, DOOM, Wolfenstein, RAGE, Prey and Dishonored: not exactly petty.

Some highly anticipated titles have also made their debut during the month: from Marvel's Avengers , which however largely disappointed expectations, to the extraordinary indie action RPG Hades, to get to the free-to-play Genshin Impact. There have also been unexpected events, such as Michel Ancel's farewell to the gaming industry: Rayman and Beyond Good & Evil's father has decided to completely change his life, while claiming that his projects are in good hands.

PS5 and Xbox Series X | S: latest announcements and launch

The last four months of 2020 are recent history, it is useless to go for too long. In September, we finally knew the Xbox Series X release date and witnessed the presentation of the Xbox Series S, the much talked about next-gen budget console that would also hit stores on November 10, but priced at just 299.99. euro against 499.99 of the older sister.

A new and interesting strategy, that of Microsoft, to which Sony has tried to counter by pricing the standard model and the Digital Edition of PS5 respectively at 499.99 euro and 399.99 euros, so as to cover practically all bands. In short, excellent strategies, which however broke against the problems and crowding at the opening of pre-orders, all due to the scarce availability of pieces.

Millions of users have had to accept the idea of ​​not be able to buy a next-gen console in time for day one or even for Christmas. However, this important factor has not prevented PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X | S from setting absolute sales records, surpassing the numbers totaled by the previous consoles of the two companies.

A picture made of lights and shadows, in short, which saw both platforms receive an excellent reception from critics and the public, despite the launch line-ups were substantially different: Sony has managed to offer some important exclusives such as Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles since day one Morales, Demon's Souls and Sackboy: A Big Adventure while Microsoft, as mentioned, has had to rely solely on third party productions.

The new cycle has just begun, but enthusiasm is already skyrocketing. The potential of both consoles is undoubted and the future appears full of extraordinary promises. Will they really materialize? Whatever happens, we'll be here to tell you about it.

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