The PCGamesN Awards 2019

Celebrating the best, worst, and weirdest moments of the year in PC gaming

G-Man voice actor

Merry Christmas! We hope you’re enjoying the holidays with your friends and family and have lots of awesome new games to play. Hopefully, in fact, some of the games on this list – we kicked off our 2019 wrap-up features yesterday with our Games of the Year, but now it’s time to recognise some of the year’s accomplishments in gaming in category-based format: these are the PCGamesN Awards (and alternate awards) 2019.

Rather than drag this out to a 10,000-word thesis on the year’s ‘best strategy game’, ‘best streaming personality’, ‘best remake of an up-to-ten-year-old game that only launched in one territory where my mum lived’ and all that (also known as ‘pulling a Keighley’), we’re focusing on a limited number of categories with a healthy number of entrants, so you’ll also see a few honourable mentions knocking around because we’re just that full of praise. We’ll limit the run-on sentences where possible, too.

As with the Games of the Year piece, our Awards this year demonstrate that 2019 has had a lot more fun and inventiveness where triple-A thrills and spills have possible been a bit lacking. An ample substitute.

THE PCGAMESN AWARDS 2019

These are the ‘proper’ awards, where we look to recognise some of the biggest achievements and coolest moments in PC gaming this year.

Jesse Faden exploring Oldest House

Best technical achievement: Control

The winner of the custodian of the year award goes to… Ahti, from the Federal Bureau of Control!

You see, both this and the technical achievement award are one and the same. If it weren’t for the FDC’s puzzling custodian meticulously waxing and sweeping the stone floors of the Oldest House, there would be far fewer reflections ripe for ray tracing.

Remedy Entertainment’s surreal supernatural romp is imbued with not one, not two, but five ray-traced effects – the full breakdown is available in our Control RTX performance review. A grand total of five ray tracing effects would usually be enough to even make an RTX 2080 Ti shudder – but less so in Control. Amicable to a span of today’s graphics cards, big and small, its granular RTX implementation operates like a well-oiled machine (Ahti’s handiwork once again).

Control’s temporal hallucinations are prime for ray tracing. From cleanroom corporate abode to physics-affonting Hiss incursions, the touch of realism strengthens the game’s discomfiting juxtaposition of human familiarity with supernatural malaise.

Honourable mention: Metro Exodus

Best narrative: Disco Elysium

You’re a man on a mission. But you don’t know who you are, nor what that mission is. So, as anyone would, you start from ground zero. The absolute basics. You paint afresh your emotional and mental landscapes, reconstruct your personality and values, according to your own preferences and curiosities, and in conversation with the fragments of your shattered psyche.

What other game has a premise like Disco Elysium's, or delivers on it like this?

What other game has a premise like this? And how it delivers on it. Despite the soured beauty of Disco Elysium’s painterly art style, your eyes are tugged to the right of the screen to read the story unfolding, and your potential responses to it. And the writing is exceptional – “among the very, very best” we’ve seen in games, according to our review. Few other games bring life to their characters and their struggles in such spellbinding fashion.

Disco Elysium wins the best narrative not because PCGamesN can’t stop gushing about it, but because of its ability to tackle both an interesting and in-depth story while making every syllable of every sentence sing.

Honourable mention: Control

Ongoing game of the year: Fortnite

This year, Fortnite broke Twitch and Twitter viewership records (again), but the highlight was surely The End – the final event of season ten, in which a black hole swallowed its entire map and left Twitch viewers staring at blank screens. Incredibly, over six million concurrent viewers tuned in to watch across YouTube and Twitch. A black hole and a blank screen became one of the most viewed gaming events ever, and left us all theorising on what could come next for two whole days.

It didn’t disappoint. Fortnite regularly updates with new challenges and events, and Epic’s communication with the community is constant. Even during the two-day hiatus, we knew Epic was preparing something special. This is a game that has crossover events with Avengers: Endgame and somehow manages to show exclusive clips from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and can grip millions of viewers by deleting its own map only to bring back something better. If 2018 was the year Fortnite exploded, 2019 was the year Epic tightened its grip on pop culture, and solidified its standing as a gaming phenomenon without precedent.

Honourable mention: Rainbow Six Siege

Best DLC: Final Fantasy xiv Shadowbringers

Shadowbringers may have burst onto screens this year, but plenty of what makes it great is rooted in the past. Square Enix crafts a story that taps into six years of world-building, character drama, and lore. When you consider that the studio was wiping the slate clean with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn back then, it’s a wonderful achievement.

Even if you aren’t among the game’s loyal players, the story is easy to follow moment-to-moment. It’s a classic tale of good vs. evil, though it’s the light that’s causing problems this time by plunging the world into an eternal day. What disasters might this bring about? Every new area you visit offers a different view on this unusual question.

Past the story, there are some welcome refinements to freshen up gameplay. Classes have been overhauled with new abilities, and the Gunbreaker and Dancer jobs add some variety for fans of tanks and ranged DPS classes.

Honourable mention: Anno 1800 The Passage

Surprise of the year: Apex Legends

February 4, 2019. On a cold, frosty winter’s day, the birds chirping and wind whipping trees, videogame land is quiet. And then, a cry goes out. Faint at first, but players everywhere raise their heads. A new battle royale? Oh ho! In the Titanfall universe? Shock, surprise, and glee rolls through forums, reviews, and streams.

Apex Legends was perhaps both the biggest and best surprise of the year. A good (like, actually good) battle royale, which for a brief period of time, surpassed the popularity of Fortnite – at least to judge by its Twitch audience. Hell, it even improved Fortnite by pioneering the ping system, which Epic (and PUBG) then adopted.

Apex Legends took many of the things beloved about the battle royale genre and made them its own. It, for a time, challenged the big players and although its surge in popularity hasn’t lasted, its impact at the beginning of the year was sensational.

Honourable mention: Surprise mechanics

Best protagonist: the Goose

HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK. Need we say more?

Ah. Our editor has just told us that we do, in fact, need to say more. Well then.

The Goose answers to no one. Respect the Goose.

The Goose is an enigma. You never know what The Goose is thinking. You don’t know who The Goose will chase next. It could even be you. Respect The Goose. Heed my advice or The Goose will not respect you.

The Goose is powerful – not like a ducking duck, for crying out loud. This is a proud animal. A strong animal. Respect The Goose.

Do not look at The Goose. Do not talk to The Goose. The Goose answers to no one. Respect The Goose.

The Goose chased Margaret Thatcher out of office. The Goose could do it again. The Goose will save us all.

Honourable mention: Harry Du Bois

Best antagonist: Dutch

For those that experienced Red Dead Redemption, and to those that know nothing of the Van der Linde gang in Red Dead Redemption 2, it’s no spoiler to say that the leader of the gang, Dutch, isn’t a good guy. And yet it still comes as a shock – even on the second playthrough, even after knowing and analysing his motives, mannerisms, and the affection he clearly has for his makeshift family. Every time he says he has a plan, even when we know he doesn’t – still, it’s Dutch, and he has a plan.

Dutch gets under your skin. It’s so easy to become enamored by his charm – even when we know better, there’s a part of us that can’t doubt him. Dutch’s true nature is hidden under layers of deceit, he’s chaotic while remaining calm. It’s only when he finally breaks that we all fall with him. Dutch is hellbent on preserving an outlaw way of life, and he has a plan to do it. But Dutch’s plan is as much a mystery as Dutch himself, and it’s not so much an outlaw way of life, as it is Dutch’s way of life.

Honourable mention: Blizzard

ALTERNATIVE AWARDS

…and these are the ‘other’ awards, inspired by some of 2019’s stranger, more off-colour moments.

Least Half-Life 3 award: Half-life – Alyx

We inaugurated this award last year for the first new Valve game in years, which turned out to be… Artefact. And gosh darn it but the cheeky scamps at Valve nearly pulled the wool over our eyes this year. Unlike last year’s winner, this one has first-person shooting, puzzles, and headcrabs. Heck, it even has ‘Half-Life’ in the name!

But Half-Life 3 it is not. It’s set before Half-Life 2, actually. Most egregiously of all, it has the cheek to be in VR. VR! As someone who wears glasses and struggles to put those binoculars on, this is particularly offensive. The protagonist, Alyx Vance, also doesn’t have any arms – only Ray Man can get away with that. It means we can’t even recreate that L.A. Noire video. Piss-take, Valve.

Honourable mention: the man who broke into Valve four times

Lawbreakers Failure to Launch Award: Anthem

A gaming site’s ‘alternative awards’ are really just a one-off chance to throw a little snark, and you never expect to see the same award repeated year-on-year. But after ‘Least Half-Life 3’ we’re bringing back another: this year’s Lawbreakers Failure to Launch Award, claimed last year by Radical Heights, goes to Anthem.

It’d perhaps be more accurate to rename the award ‘failure to cruise’ or something, because Anthem reportedly sold well at launch. But it didn’t take long to crash and burn shortly after take-off, despite, ironically enough, having the best Iron Man-style flight in games – a strength quickly smothered by a tedious campaign and a repetitive, content-light endgame.

Community frustration followed critical savaging, its Twitch following collapsed, and EA acknowledged the game was “not working” before Kotaku revealed plans for a total overhaul. Given its time in development and EA’s resources, Anthem’s failure is, in relative terms, much greater than Radical Heights.

Honourable mention: Google Stadia

borderlands-3-endgame

Best seven out of ten: Borderlands 3

We can tell you exactly how the conversation in the office to determine this year’s best seven out of ten game went: Silence. Cogs turning in the gaming library of our minds. Trying to remember the best game that was also just ‘fine’.

Borderlands 3 is a solid seven out of ten. It’s exactly what you expect. It's fine.

That is, of course, the point of this award. How can we remember the contenders for an award intended to recognise unmemorable games? We then went through games we’ve played in 2019 and Borderlands 3 cropped up. We like it, sure. It’s a fine game. Zany characters, check. Robust shooting, check. Over one billion guns, check. But, very much like its jokes which made us go ‘heh’, instead of ‘ha!’, Borderlands 3 is a solid seven out of ten. It’s exactly what you expect. Should you play it? Sure, if you’ve got a spare 30 hours. Will you have a good time? Well, you probably won’t have a bad one.

Honourable mention: also Borderlands 3

Can’t believe that came out this year: Apex Legends

Yes, you read that right – Apex Legends came out this year. As in the year 2019. The year we’re still, just about, in. Right?!

On February 4, Respawn and EA released a huge surprise – or, it would have been, if it hadn’t leaked the weekend before. Foregoing the traditional cycle of press previews, trailers, and demos, Apex Legends launched with barely any marketing whatsoever.

Launching a game without telling anyone was a risky strategy, but it paid off. Apex Legends attracted millions of players in a matter of hours, with 25 million playing in its first week and the most recent count showing at least 70 million registered players, all told. Respawn and EA didn’t just jump on the battle royale bandwagon, they created a new bandwagon. For a couple of months, everyone was playing Apex Legends.

It’s settled down a lot since then – analysts point to evidence on Twitchmetrics and Google Trends suggesting it was a bit of a bubble, but that bubble was big enough to cement Apex’s place as a genre staple behind forerunners PUBG and Fortnite. The fact it became part of the furniture so quickly is impressive – and makes it seem all the weirder that it came out this year.

Honourable mentions: The Division 2, Crackdown 3

Most macro microtransaction: League of legends’ Louis Vuitton promotion

Microtransactions. People love ’em and people hate ’em. One of those is true. But what is a macro microtransaction? Having just coined the term, we’re not really sure ourselves, but our working theory is they’re overpriced microtransactions. These are biggest, most extravagant ways to spend bucks in the games sphere.

No actual biker could wear the $5,650 Louis Vuitton biker jacket without vomiting in contempt

DLC might qualify if, in sum, it costs a hell of a lot – we did consider Train Simulator – and you’ll notice that our honourable mention goes to Star Citizen, which continues to raise breathtaking sums of money by selling ships that exist as little more than gleams in Chris Roberts’ eye. But the inaugural ‘Most Macro Microtransaction’ award goes to the League of Legends x Louis Vuitton collaboration.

Thing is, the Louis Vuitton in-game skins aren’t all that expensive. You access them by spending 1,650 RP – a little over $10 – on the 2019 Worlds Pass and then playing to earn tokens to buy the skins from an in-game shop. It’s the real-life clothing collection by Louis Vuitton, which includes a ridiculous ‘biker’ jacket that no actual biker could wear without vomiting in contempt for an equally ridiculous $5,650, that really takes the piss prize.

Honourable mention: Star Citizen

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