This wasn’t a particularly great year for sports or racing games. It wasn’t bad, either. It was just another 365 days in an era where both genres have been particularly weak. Normally, publications get around this fact by merging the two genres into one category. It doesn’t make perfect sense, but it is a convenient way to get the “games nerds don’t play much” out in one fell swoop.
We didn’t do that, however. Instead, we ginned up our own new category: Best Weapon or Sports Game 2018. Why? Nobody cares! Genres are a completely meaningless distinction in video games — where every Call of Duty game has had “RPG elements” for more than a decade. We thought this was a fun gag, so we rolled with it. Now follow us on this journey into madness!
Runner-up: Forza Horizon 4
As the lone sports game player in the office, I definitely thought this category would be my time to shine a light on Fire Pro Wrestling World (500 hours and counting between PC andPS4), the non-microtransactional parts of the otherwise stellar NBA 2K19, or this year’s Pro Evo Soccer entry.
Then the staff asked me about Forza Horizon 4: the first game I reviewed here at Fanbyte.
“Surely,” I thought, “you don’t think of Forza Horizon 4 as a sports game.” It’s open. It’s gorgeous. I don’t have to mess with rosters or commentary updates. It’s not even really about racing as much as driving through an English dream.
My hesitation stems from Horizon being a spin-off of the far more traditional sports series, Forza Motorsport. That franchise just had its seventh installment (with an eighth game certainly around the corner). There’s a dryness to Forza Motorsport that reminds me of my time with Gran Turismo 3. It’s not bad, per se, but makes no bones about what it is. You have fast car. You drive well. You make sure the car runs right.
Certainly, something as freeing and flexible as Horizon 4 isn’t a “motorsport” game, right? But the elements that make sports sports are still there in spades. Fine tuning for the different terrains, stiff competition, and cycling through menu after menu of fine details: it’s all there if you want it. It’s that choice that gave me pause.
But, Forza Horizon 4 is a sports game. It’s a wonderful sports games. In fact, I’d say it’s the finest sports game of the year.
-John Warren, Editor-in-Chief
Best Weapon or Sports Game 2018: The Leviathan Axe from God of War
Replacing the Blades of Chaos, Kratos’s iconic weapon from the original God of War games, seemed foolish to me. And I’m someone who frankly couldn’t care less about the earlier adventures of the angry Spartan.
When the new God of War was revealed, the absence of the chained blades piqued my interest. So did the somber, understated father-son narrative it presented.
What I failed to recognize until actually playing the game, however, is that the narrative goes three directions. One of those follows Kratos himself: the rage-filled former maniac hellbent on killing the gods no matter what. Another angle involves Atreus, a boy who lost his mother, and was forced to start an uneasy relationship with a father he didn’t understand. The last part is the Leviathan: the third central character of God of War.
The Leviathan is woven into the fabric of the game — from a mesmerizing, weighty combat mechanic, to always being there for you in a way that Kratos isn’t for his son. The Leviathan always comes back to you as a tool for Kratos’s destructive tendencies. It’s also the only tangible object father and son can bond over.
I felt so close to the Leviathan Axe that I felt a sense of loss when (spoilers) the Blades of Chaos found their way into the protagonist’s hands. But that was a choice! A good one. I felt the mindless past of Kratos meet the thoughtful present and longed for the latter.
No other weapon in a game this year had the same impact as the Leviathan. The fact that it completely changed my idea of how God of War can play was enough, but what it meant to the story being told pushed it way over the top.
-John Warren, Editor-in-Chief