End of Year 2019: Favorite Game Feel

Favorite Game Feel

Feel. An enigma when it comes to talking about games. We often struggle for the right language to describe it and rely on overused terms like ‘visceral’ and ‘clunky’, but it’s such an important part of the overall experience that it’d be irresponsible to not try to talk about it. When you grip a controller or place your hands on a keyboard, you’re getting a sense for how a game feels. How do we describe this sensation, and how do we quantify it?

The truth is, when a game feels good, you just know it. A game’s feel is the sum of several things, often barely noticed. It might be controls that feel tight and responsive, a button layout that feels natural, a difficulty curve that feels satisfying, animations and sounds that make your actions feel weighty and real, or a wide range of settings you can adjust that allow you to make the game feel just right for you.

Or perhaps it’s something greater - games that feel great can be the most immersive or captivating. The world melts away. We forget about ourselves, and are transported to a place where we can be who we want to be. Powerful, agile, intelligent, caring, with the agency to affect the world around us. The game becomes an extension of ourselves. The impact we have, and how that impact feels, are core to an experience that only games can deliver.

With all of that in mind, what were the games that had your favorite feel? And even though it may be difficult to explain, what is it about them that makes them feel so good?


Discussion Thread

This thread is all about discussing your favorites! The end of the year is always a great opportunity to look back and reflect on what we loved, but it’s also a great time to remind ourselves of what we missed and want to come back to next year. So give a recommendation, get a recommendation, and above all please be respectful and have a good time!

Be sure to check the Q&A section below if you have questions, otherwise feel free to reach out to one of us! We hope you enjoy this event and we’re excited to see what sorts of discussion each category inspires!

Please Note: We’re planning to write-up a summary thread at the end of the event and include various members’ quotes from the discussion threads, just like last year. The quotes that we select will be attributed to their authors and only posted on this forum (forum.waypoint.vice.com). If you would prefer to not be quoted in the summary thread, please indicate this in your posts.


Q&A

Q: End of Year? What's that?

A: I’m glad you asked! Just head over to our pinned topic if you need a catch up! You can also find details on the process for the event here.

Q: What can I discuss in this thread?

A: Anything that you think fits the topic! Feel free to share your favorite experiences of 2019, whether they occurred in media that released in 2019 or media from a previous year.

Q: Where are the nominations?

A: This year we’re structuring things a little differently: we’ll be posting discussion threads over the second half of December, and nominations won’t begin until January. This will give you a few more weeks to play more games before you’ll need to lock in your votes. We also hope that by focusing on open discussion threads, the event will be more inclusive of folks who haven’t been able to play many games from this year.

Credits

God, Destiny 2. Destiny 2 is so fucking meticulously designed to feel amazing while doing the most inane mmo junk. Every gun has its own unique sounds and animations, even for switching between weapons. The environments are phenomenal. The soundtrack, GOD, it’s so good! And it makes you feel like such a badass while going around clearing endless spawn areas filled with the same repeating enemies! And it’s all drip fed to you in such a way where you don’t ever feel stalled in your quest for better loot and progress, up to the point where you’re too invested to stop the serious grind. Bungie has done an incredible job making this game feel good. TOO GOOD. I can’t stop playing it! I can’t stop playing and I hate myself :sob:

4 Likes

I really liked Outer Wilds intentionally BAD (clunky) game feel. It’s one of the only games that gets movement in space right and actually makes you feel powerless outside of your ship. all the times I thought I was on course to orbit a planet, and just went slammed at full speed into the surface. Good stuff. There are so many destinys and call of dutys in the world that feel great to play and you can kind of just zone out while playing them, but Outer Wilds actually made me think about how I was moving in the space.

12 Likes

I agree that Outer Wilds deserves a place on this list. I also think that Sekiro is an easy contender: the combat’s a bear, but when it starts to click, you feel practically superhuman. Plus grappling from place to place seems like such an important evolution in movement for Fromsoft and makes the game feel so much less robotic and more fluid than earlier entries sometimes did for me.

Finally, Death Stranding. Kojima may be aggressively bad at storytelling, but damn if he hasn’t somehow made carrying things from place to place somehow one of the most compelling things ever. This game has made me as intimately familiar with and invested in the life of Sam Porter Bridges about as much as any video game character ever.

8 Likes

Sekiro whips a cavalry of asses, and exactly 100% of that is indebted to the brilliantly streamlined extension of the Soulsborne architecture. Sekiro is, like, the only game that makes getting caught in stealth not feel like you hit the “game is bad now” button, and if that’s wrong I DON’T WANNA BE RIGHT!

5 Likes

Hands down The Surge 2.

Ever since I got sucked into the genre with Dark Souls i’ve played as many soulslikes as I can find. But i’m always doing the same thing, hiding behind a shield or dodging backwards until I get an opening to attack. The Surge 2 got me out of that boring-ass cycle by adding a couple of quality of life UI tweaks that encouraged me to use the parry/riposte system.

Generally in these games I don’t know what attacks I can parry and so I just don’t try because blocking or dodging is a more reliable solution. Here though I got a handy on-screen prompt telling me when an attack was coming, the prompt telling me right out “you can parry this”. Generally in these games I have trouble with the parry timing because I have to learn every individual animation the enemies have for all their attacks. Here though the UI tells me this is an attack coming from the left, and I know this enemy’s left attack takes this long to do.

This minor change made me engage more with the full combat system than any other soulslike i’ve played. Every single fight felt amazing because here I was doing this cool-ass shit. Even when I whiffed entirely and got smacked in the face it wasn’t a big deal because I knew I simply got the timing wrong instead of possibly being completely incorrect and trying to parry an unparryable attack. I just try again until it works.

Going to other games that don’t have those systems will be a huge step backwards for me. This should be an option in everything from here forward.

1 Like

Gonna give a mention to Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey. The game was developed by ex-Assassins Creed 1 devs and you can definitely feel that… um… ancestry. You can tell in the first AC the devs have an interest in making a unique control system and that is amplified in Ancestors. There are two buttons dedicated to holding items and switching them between hands, and learning how to manipulate object between your hands is vital to improving at the game. The controls also account for how long actions take. Quick actions are just a button press, but for longer ones you have to hold a button down.

Additionally, everything in the game has a deliberate pace to it, but there’s never really an instance in the game where you need to react really fast. I played the game coming off of Sekiro and Hades and it was just nice to be able to breath a little, and have time to think over decisions.

This is not to say the game is accessible. It’s definitely not, and I’d like to see improvement in how they teach some vital systems (they seem aware of this thankfully). But it is nice to play an action game that’s less about “can you?” and more about “how do you?”

2 Likes

I’m attempted to agree about Destiny 2, but Control takes it for me. It’s a little rough around the middle, sure, but once you’ve got a full set of weapon forms and abilities it feels awesome to play. Launch is everything that made HL2’s Gravity Gun awesome but even more smoothly integrated into the shooting, and every Service Weapon form is like iconically Its Kind Of Gun in look, feel, and sound. And it’s all just so responsive. I love the feel of combat in that game.

1 Like

Sekiro made me not want to put it down, so much so that I got all the steam achievements for it couple of weeks ago after diving back into it.
It’s just a joy to play; everything from the snappy grapple-hook, to the quick and brutal death-blows, and the sparks flying off a successful parry. It brings the sounds, visuals, and responsive controls together to create one of the best feelings third person action games in a while.

I also thought Death Stranding had great game feel for different reasons; it’s kind of sluggish and bad when it asks you to play it like an action game, but it excels at giving weight and meticulous granularity to every bit of your avatar.
Hauling stacked up cargo the size of a small forklift on your back as you trek up a steep mountain, or even moving across uneven ground, you have to fight to keep your balance, and one wrong slip-up can send you and a mountain of fragile packages tumbling.
DS makes it interesting to just walk on open ground with how much consideration you have to put in porting your packages. Additionally it still has my favourite little Kojima games flourishes, like the satisfying clicks and clacks when picking up packages, climbing a ladder, or giving a player an extra like.

Much like Prey in 2017, Outer Wilds gave me really satisfying 0g movement, which translates seamlessly to the spaceship controls. The heavily physics based momentum makes it really satisfying to wrangle control over your ship against resisting forces or fling yourself across a planet’s surface with your jetpack, Kerbal style.

6 Likes

Wondering if this’ll be controversial because of its combat but I love how Control feels. The fights can be sucky but moving Jesse and throwing shit, all that good stuff, feels awesome. If the game had good encounters it’d be perfect.

I love holding the throw button and the doppler-effect whir that accompanies a new piece of trash in my hand that I can throw at some goon. I love flying. It’s so fuckin good. I loved flying and reaching secret areas! it was great!

2 Likes

Sekiro for me. I could write pages on what a masterpiece that game is in terms of feel. Every single action reinforces the theme in a way I honestly doubted could be possible. It also wins major points from me for the way it teaches mastery, and the way on my second play-through I felt unstoppable through sequences that I could barely approach when I started.

3 Likes

I think that because the series has been around for so long, we tend to forget how good Gears of War feels. And y’all, Gears 5 feels fantastic. From the kachunk of the active reload, to the thunk as you slam into cover, and of course, the squish of popping that perfect headshot, the game feels like gory nirvana. It’s certainly not pushing any boundaries, but Gears 5 deserves kudos for making the best feeling Gears yet.

I’ve gone back and forth between Death Stranding and Sekiro for my pick.

Sekiro has amazing game feel in the traditional sense in that playing the game well makes me feel good. Fully internalizing a bosses attack patterns or tearing your way through a level just feels great.

Ultimately I’m picking Death Stranding because it does a fantastic job of evoking the feeling of moving through a space in a way that I hadn’t really seen before. It does a lot of things well, but my favorite is the feeling of walking down a steep slope. I went for a hike right before I bought the game and I was really struck by how well it conveyed the feeling of having to hold yourself back slightly so you don’t pick up momentum, as well as how good (and slightly dangerous) it feels to give into the momentum and let yourself go fast.

Honorable mentions go to Outer Wilds for the feeling of getting blown off a comet by solar winds and fruitlessly trying to catch back up to it with my spacesuit jet-pack and to Ring Fit Adventure because doing Pilates feels quite good apparently.

6 Likes

Shout out to Control for having the best audio/visual design to enhance game feel. The way objects rocket to your side and the way the environment gets Torn The Fuck Up by a battle reminds me of the best moments in FEAR and Max Payne 3. Any game that makes tearing chunks out of walls feel good is going to win me over instantly.

1 Like

I’d throw Untitled Goose Game into the mix. If nothing else, House House has nailed what it might feel like to be a goose: the waddling, slightly swaying walk and slapping of the webbed feet on various surfaces, the agressive raising of the wings animation, the smooth slide into the water where the goose is king, and of course the glorious honking.

13 Likes

Death Stranding is up there for me but people more than have that covered already so I’m going to go with…

Daemon X Machina
Whether your mech is skidding across the ground like the worlds biggest heaviest ice skater, launching sparks everywhere or spinning through the air laser swords swinging in an X in front of it Daemon x Machina just feels fantastic to play. They’ve just really nailed the feel of piloting a mech and it’s damn fun.

2 Likes

I’m gonna give a shout out to Trials Rising here. This game is structured in a deeply annoying way, requiring an absurd grind in order to unlock later tracks. But the actual riding of those tracks is a ton of fun, and the in-game tutorial is very good at teaching you not just the basics but also the advanced techniques that had eluded me in past Trials games. Few things were as satisfying to me this year as getting the hang of a tough track after several tries.

1 Like

Tetris is always gonna feel like Tetris (except when it doesn’t; there’s actually a bunch of different Tetrises with different block behaviours), but when you’re being multi-targeted in Tetris 99 and you send out a bunch of sparks all over the place, that’s one of the best feelings in gaming to me.

For those who checked out the Waypoints™ last year, you might have seen that for Favorite Game Feel last year, I gushed about Beat Saber. I was a little dismayed initially that I wouldn’t be able to choose it once again, and that I’d be left scrambling for a pick. But then something came along to assuage my concerns, and whaddayaknow, it’s another VR rhythm game :joy:

So Audica is basically Beat Saber with guns. To some, this pitch might like I’m shortchanging it, not giving it its fair due, but to a lover of all games rhythm, that description is exactly what I needed to hear. The basic setup is you don a VR headset and wield two motion controllers (I’m using PSVR + Move controllers, but the game is available on PC VR platforms as well), represented in game as two futuristic space handguns. Targets appear on screen as one of two colors (corresponding to the color of your spaceguns), and you shoot them in time to the music that’s playing. As is standard fare in rhythm games, harder difficulties bring additional types of targets–requiring you to not just pull the trigger, but occasionally hold the trigger, rotate your gun 90°, hold and trace a pattern, etc. But, as is also standard fare in rhythm games, once you get the hang of Audica, it feels SO. FREAKING. SATISFYING. Like some kind of weird space orchestra conductor/gunslinger hybrid, the swift movement of your hands, combined with the exploding of targets, and pulsing beat of pop and electronic tracks, makes you feel like you’re both destroying and creating something beautiful all at once. Like most VR standout titles, it’s truly something you need to experience for yourself to properly appreciate, as words simply don’t do it justice.

Just like I pointed out last year with Beat Saber, I’ll caveat this by saying that with this game, it’s 100% guaranteed that when you’re playing well, you’ll feel a whole lot cooler than you actually look. But then again, this category isn’t Favorite Game Look, is it? :wink:

So one game I’m surprised I haven’t seen on here is definitely Remnant: From the Ashes. I’ve made some of my issues with this game plenty clear already, but goddamn, does this game feel good to play. It just hits its gameplay loop right on the head. Rolling, dodging, aiming, shooting. They all just feel snappy and crunchy. It’s hard to explain the way it hits me; it’s this visceral satisfaction. I feel it in my gut and chest.

3 Likes