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I know it’s not for everyone, but I do love surprises, especially when it comes to the video game kind.
It seems that surprises are harder to come by these days, with social media, videos, streaming, and pre-release information basically laying out everything that you and I need to know about this or that. Thankfully, there are still a few games that, for better or worse, fly under the radar and then seemingly launch out of nowhere.
This list below is comprised of many games that did just that for me as well as a few that I kinda expected to hate but actually turned out better than I thought. In the end, these games not only completely flew past my expectations, but they made me a believer in them.
and the nominees are…
Red Dead Redemption 2
Okay, okay let’s hold on a second. I can see the look of confusion on your face. This is a game I’ve wanted to talk about for a while now, but to this day, I’m still having difficulty finding the right words. That’s a story for another day I think. So why is this here?
The biggest reason is that I had my doubt about it prior to launch, thoughts I’ve definitely discussed on here. Frankly, I was worried that it wouldn’t be able to live up to its predecessor. The biggest surprise for me is that the things I worried most about, actually aren’t that big of a deal. The world is meticulously detailed, the characters make me want to know more about them, and there’s simply nothing like riding your horse through the gorgeous landscapes of pre-20th century America. Sure, Red Dead Redemption 2 suffers from a few problems in my eyes, but for the most part, I’m enjoying the world Rockstar has put together. At the very least, much more than I figured.
Far Cry 5
Like Red Dead Redemption 2, it took me a long time to come around on this game. Having invested a lot of time in its predecessors, I felt like I was done with the franchise. I felt like it didn’t have anything new to show me and that I was tired of that experience. I was eventually won over and boy, I’m glad I jumped in.
Far Cry 5 shook up the traditional formula established by its immediate predecessors and presented a game that felt different besides its setting. More than just a setting swap, this fifth version really embraces the crazy. Inspired villains like the aptly named Father lead a cult who is taking over Hope County, Montana by force and utilizing doomsday type propaganda. You join up with the resistance movement in an effort to take back territory and eventually bring The Father down. Ubisoft did a lot of shake up the core gameplay loops such as removing Towers, which ultimately helped the game much fresher than Far Cry 4 did.
Monster Hunter: World
I know how popular this franchise is, but I’m someone that has never played any of the previous games. I wasn’t nearly as hyped for World as some people were, but after reading a lot about it and seeing the pre-release trailers, I was interested.
I’ll admit, entering this new world was a bit overwhelming at first, but once I found a weapon that fit my playstyle and got used to the controls, I found myself getting very immersed in this world (and if you missed it, I wrote my impressions up as a diary of sorts here, here, and here!). What I also really enjoyed about this experience outside of the constant content updates and new events was the fact that you could seamlessly join other players as well as call for help during a mission. It’s a fantastic way to tackle difficult missions, learn new strategies, or being an asset to others.
Pokemon Let’s Go
Even though I’ve played various games in the past, I kinda scoffed at Let’s Go once it was announced because I felt like it’s target audience was young kids or Pokemon Go players, two things I am clearly not. Still, the charm of the visuals, as well as a chance to relive part of my childhood, was too strong of a pull to ignore.
Returning to Kanto has been a blast so far. I particularly am enjoying getting the remastered themes of classic music stuff in my head again, seeing all these pocket monsters rendered in 3D, and even seeing battles actually happen. Some of the new mechanics, like no more random pokemon battles and the Go motion catching mechanics aren’t as bad as I thought they’d be. I’m having a great time going back through the original story, battling the classic gym leaders like Lt Surge, and doing my best to catch them all.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
I had left the Call of Duty franchise for dead, long ago. I was done with it and satisfied with that decision. Then Black Ops 4 comes around, reviewers are loving it and players are singing its praises. So, I RedBoxed it for a night to see what the hype was about and now I’m hooked. I never thought I’d be back in this position.
I can’t put my finger on why that is, perhaps I just missed the lightning fast gameplay loop of multiplayer, or perhaps some of the changes (like the class-like operators) agree with me more. Zombies have never been a draw for me, but I appreciate that it has matchmaking if I ever want to dip my toes in. Blackout is something I’ve been meaning to try, but after burning out on Fortnite, my motivation is low. Whatever it is, it works and I’m having a blast, even if my K/D is trash. That says something.
Now, this is a game that really snuck up on me. I can remember seeing a video on YouTube about the beta that had just taken place and the game described as MotorStorm meets Burnout. Naturally, that got my attention.
The MotorStorm description definitely fits mainly because OnRush is a game developed by the former members of Evolution Studios who created that franchise for Sony as well as other racing titles like Driveclub. Unlike other racing games, OnRush doesn’t care about position. Instead, two racing teams battle through objective-based modes like hold the zone, crash the enemy team, or increase your time by going through gates. The cars are more offroad types like bikes, buggies, and hummers. It’s fast, furious, and a ton of fun. It’s like Mad Max meets a nightclub meets Burnout. It may not have taken off like other racing games, but I’m really glad I gave it a chance.
and the winner is…
While there were many franchise redemption stories on this list, I ultimately had to go with OnRush because to me, it best embodied the category. I had never heard of the game until a few days before launch and I had no real concept of what I was getting into when I played it. At least with some of the other games on this list, I was already familiar with their franchises and past history. OnRush is a game that I still go back to from time to time and it’s a blisteringly fun and fresh take on the racing genre.