Well done everybody, we made it through one messed up year! Evil governments and awful disasters aside, however, there have been some good things too. So let’s put the misery behind us as we trudge into 2020 and think back on the good things that happened in movies, gaming and whatnot. Below I have listed my favourite game, movie, series, album and book from last year, just for you, dear reader…
Resident Evil 2
Way back in 1998, when I was a smelly high schooler (well, I probably was smelly) we got a demo disc free with a copy of the Official PlayStation Magazine UK. One of the titles on there was Capcom’s survival horror sequel Resident Evil 2, in which we could steer zombie apocalypse survivor Claire Redfield (pretty sure it was Claire) through the burning streets of Raccoon City, dodging hordes of shuffling, deeply unpleasant zombos. It was a game changer that cemented those early Resident Evil titles in my favourites forever, up until 4 at least. I didn’t care for 4 at all.
So imagine my joyous surprise when Capcom announced that they were remaking the classic second entry in the series, applying modern technology and production values to it along the way. They had just come off the back of 2017’s Resident Evil 7, which was a wonderful mish mash of classic Resi values and modern horror gameplay. They would use the engine developed for this game to build the Remake and, oh boy, it was quite the result.
The Remake is a slick, pretty (in a grim sort of way) and, most importantly, terrifying piece of software, Capcom’s magnum opus indeed. Playing as college student Claire or rookie cop Leon, the player is tasked with surviving Raccoon City once more, finding a way out of the labyrinthine and spooky police station and finding out what lies beyond. On your way you’ll meet some truly horrible zombies, killer “Licker” monsters, zombified dogs and even plant monsters. But, perhaps best of all, you’ll also have hulking mutant Mr X on your case, a giant in a trench coat and hat that relentlessly stalks you as you solve puzzles and try to survive. I was also glad to see that the game’s (kind of) main villain, William Birkin, is not only still about but is now even more terrifying than he used to be, the mutated scientist making for some brilliant boss encounters.
Oh, and the voice acting is about 500 times better this time around!
Godzilla – King of the Monsters
I’m struggling to think of too many movies that I 100% enjoyed this year (I’ve not seen Star Wars yet) but the one that popped into my head first is Godzilla’s latest outing. I enjoyed the 2014 entry, the human story was fine and when the big guy showed up he was properly impressive, as were the insect-like Mutos which he fought against, trashing San Francisco in the process.
The sequel is different in tone to the 2014 entry, to put it lightly, but is still part of that movie’s narrative. Whilst the 2014 movie used muted colours and had quite a grounded, realistic tone to it, King of the Monsters goes more for the “batshit crazy” approach. Dour US soldiers are replaced with a colourful cast of scientists and warriors aboard an unfeasably big airplane (which hold even more planes inside it). This ragtag bunch includes Ken Watanabe’s reprised charcter, Dr. Sarazowa, whois still researching Godzilla. Things go a bit awry when a scientist who is supposed to researching the creatures goes rogue, taking her new Kaiju taming device over to a group of nasty terrorist types (led by the ever brilliant Charles Dance) who believe that the big guys should just be allowed to tear human civilisation to bits, on account of all the misery we have caused to the earth. Hard to disagree with his reasoning, though Kaiju-geddon might not be the answer.
The rogue scientist’s ex husband is drafted in to find her and, along with their daughter (played by Stranger Things actress Millie Bobby Brown) they are all caught up in a massive monster-off, caused by the awakening of Godzilla’s arch nemesis and owner of too many heads, King Ghidorah, who makes for a brilliant baddie. Joining them in the battle are all the other favourites such as Mothra (officially the cutest Kaiju) and big, fiery lad Rodan, among others.
If you like your blockbusters big, noisy and full of monsters you could do far worse than this movie.
Netflix, generally speaking, has landed some good series. Atypical, Orange is the New Black and Better Call Saul have all been very entertaining, well made series. So when rumours started to spread of a Henry Cavill fronted series based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher saga, I was very interested indeed. As a fan of the books and games, I figured I couldn’t really go wrong… And I was bloody right!
First thing I was glad to see is that Cavill’s take on the Witcher himself, Geralt, is pretty damn awesome. Gravelly voice: check. Badass looking: check. Ability to portray surly monster hunters: yep, that’s there too. But it’s not all about Geralt, the whole cast is excellent, the setting is really bought to life and it manages to bring the initial compilation of stories, The Last Wish, to the screen (more or less) perfectly. Whilst the timeline is a bit jumbled and could get confusing for those new to the Witcherverse, it is more than made up for the superb acting, special effects and atmosphere.
And don’t forget to toss a coin to your Witcher!
Resist – Within Temptation
This is my first stab at trying to review music, so let’s see how I get on!
I’ve enjoyed the work of Dutch symphonic metal outfit Within Temptation for a long time now, with pre-2019 standout albums being The Heart of Everything and The Unforgiving, the latter of which being an ambitious concept album that was jam packed with some brilliantly poppy metal songs. Their follow up album Hydra was, whilst very good, not quite as enjoyable for me, as whilst a few tracks really stood out, the rest of the album didn’t quite “do it” for me.
So then we have 2019’s Resist, a sci-fi themed album which has the same poppy energy of The Unforgiving whilst also embracing an almost synthwave like sound at the same time. Add to that some top drawer guest musicians (Papa Roach‘s Jacoby Shaddix is amazing in opening track The Reckoning. The standout track is, for me at least, the epic Supernova, a powerfully tragic song about somebody whose lover has been lost among the stars. I must have played that song about a million times this year and I’ll no doubt play it a million more yet!
If you enjoy bands like Nightwish or Epica then I highly recommend listening to Resist as an introduction to Within Temptation’s impressive discography.
Sword of Kings – Bernard Cornwell
Between starting a new job and getting married this year, my reading game has really taken a knock. I used to work away for days on end and as such read a lot, but now I come home too tired to read most of the time!
Anyway, enough complaining from me! My book of the year comes from my second favourite author, the ever amazing Bernard Cornwell, and continues the saga of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a Saxon warlord who raised by his Danish captors as a boy to be a Pagan in a country of Christians. Over the last eleven entries in the series we have seen Uhtred grow up to a grizzled and rather stubborn old man, though still very much capable of sailing ships, riding horses and knocking the tar out of his enemies, I imagine him to look a bit like Kratos from the recent God of War in fact.
In this entry we join Mr. Of Bebbanburg as he sails south to Kent to carry out an oath he made a long time ago, to kill his hated enemy Athelhelm and England’s tentative new king. Things go awry, however, and our man ends up instead trapped in a besieged London, where he must use all of his wiles to overcome impossible odds.
Much like Cornwell’s more famous Sharpe series, these stories never seem to get old or boring. Uhtred is a well written character, savage, unyielding but with a good soul, and the supporting cast of warriors, priests and ne’er-do-wells are also well written and have plenty of character. If you’re new to Cornwell or interested in Dark Ages era history then I’d recommend starting waaay back at the beginning with The Last Kingdom but if you’re up to speed you’ll definitely like this one.
And that’s it. My favourite game, movie, series, album and book from 2019. What were yours? Let me know in the comments, because I’m incredibly nosey and there’s no such thing as a wrong opinion on these things!