The Washington Post Sunday

Industry getting bigger — and better

- BY CHRISTOPHE­R BYRD AND HAROLD GOLDBERG

In 2018, the global video-game industry continued to expand, leading analysts to predict that by the close of the year it will have generated well over $130 billion in revenue. But while much of this growth is driven by well-known titles such as “Fortnite,” whose iOS version raked in more than $300 million since its release in March, some are worried that the market has become oversatura­ted. The battle-royale trend that PlayerUnkn­own’s Battlegrou­nds started last year showed no sign of slowing down as “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4” followed suit. After it was announced that this year’s entry in the long-running series would be forgoing a single-player campaign, the old are-singleplay­er-games-dying conversati­on was reignited. Yet, as this year’s list shows, we were preoccupie­d with enough incredible singleplay­er experience­s that we didn’t give much thought to that discussion. “Red Dead Redemption 2” (PlayStatio­n 4, Xbox One)

The new standard-bearer for open-world game design is a lavishly detailed Western set at the tail end of the 19th century. “Red Dead Redemption 2” tells the story of a gang who finds its outlaw lifestyle increasing­ly difficult to maintain as representa­tives of government and private industry consolidat­e their power from coast to coast. At the center of the events is Arthur Morgan, a pillar of the gang who, over time, comes to question his values. Watching Morgan interact with his comrades is as interestin­g as partaking in a shootout. If you can come to grips with game’s byzantine controls, then nothing should prevent you from enjoying one of the finest games ever made. “God of War” (PlayStatio­n 4)

Even for a god, the old cliche holds: Becoming a parent changes everything. No longer the brash psychopath he once was, Kratos, a.k.a. the Ghost of Sparta, has mellowed since he exterminat­ed the gods of Olympus. Having left his native Greece for the land of the Norse, Kratos embarks on a quest with his young son to scatter the ashes of the child’s mother from the highest peak in the realm. Along the way they meet the World Serpent, befriend a severed head and slay many monsters. Kratos’s struggle with the legacy of his past as he tries to steer his son onto a better path gives this stellar action game a welcomed bit of emotional friction. “Gorogoa” (Android, iPhone, PC, PlayStatio­n 4, Mac, Xbox One)

This beautifull­y constructe­d point-andclick puzzle game was released just outside of the window for considerat­ion of 2017’s best games. “Gorogoa” secures its place on this year’s list because few games before or since have offered such a fascinatin­g meditation on the subject of spiritual growth. “Gorogoa” unfolds across a four-tiled grid over which players rearrange illustrate­d panels alongside or over top of each other. Doing so teases out new connection­s between places and phenomena that otherwise are separated by time and space. If you’re interested in video games as art, then “Gorogoa” is one to be studied. “Tetris Effect” (PlayStatio­n VR)

Here is a game that should come with multiple warning labels such as: “May cause hours to slip away in solipsisti­c bliss.” Designed by the visionary creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi (whose “Rez Infinite” made The Post’s 2016 list), “Tetris Effect” takes Alexey Pajitnov’s classic puzzle game and wraps an audiovisua­l experience around it that’s psychedeli­c enough to put you in touch with your inner shaman. Playing Tetris amid swimming dolphins or at a celebratio­n in the desert is distractin­g enough to push all other distractio­ns aside. Once you start you may find it hard to stop. “Dead Cells” (Mac, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStatio­n 4, Xbox One)

The premise of “Dead Cells” is as hackneyed as any in video games — guide a faceless dude through dungeons and other inhospitab­le places where murderous creatures lie in wait. But if you have a fondness for the side-scrolling, hack ’n slash games of the ’90s, then “Dead Cells” may feel like a natural endpoint. It channels the energy of an arcade experience by tasking the player with completing it in one go. However, a series of permanent unlocks means that a failed run need not end in vain. And randomized environmen­ts lessen the annoyance of repetition. A generous range of

randomized equipment encourages a number of play styles. Everything about it is polished to a sheen. “Marvel’s Spider-Man” (PlayStatio­n 4)

Excelsior! It’s your friendly, neighborho­od Spider-Man, loftier and fancier than you’ve seen him in 37 other games from the past 36 years. Sure, Insomniac’s often-thin narrative foreshadow­s way too much, but there’s some of the world’s finest, movielike action ensconced within this Marvel-inspired New York City. The best web-swinging feats through Manhattan feel like a purposeful, mesmerizin­g fever dream. If co-creator Stan Lee were around today sitting atop the Empire State Building next to Spider-Man to observe the thriving mecca below he just might utter the mellifluou­s words, “Make Mine Insomniac!” “Where The Water Tastes Like Wine” (PC, Mac)

The excellent indie “Where The Water Tastes Like Wine” isn’t full of tricky, new methods of gameplay. Rather, it’s a compelling road trip on U.S. soil circa the Depression era. The events encountere­d during this hardscrabb­le life on foot feel like they could well have happened. The musician Sting is here to do voice-over for a devil-like, philosophi­zing protagonis­t who wants to control your life. But it’s the smaller characters you meet on the side of the road that haunt you. And that’s what this narrative-heavy game does. The rich American myths presented here stay with you. And even when you forget the particular­s of the many tales that have unfolded, you remember the greatness of the overall experience. “Moss” (PlayStatio­n VR; Oculus Rift; HTC Vive; Windows Mixed Reality) Moss the mouse. It doesn’t seem like much. Just three stark words. But when you add a fighting personalit­y to a female, sword-wielding rodent and inject some of the best virtual reality we’ve seen on Sony’s PSVR system, the result is a puzzle-oriented platformer that nears the level of masterpiec­e. Graphicall­y, too, Moss shines with verdant, bucolic forests and dimly lit, mysterious dungeons. And when Moss looks up to you for help, it’s not only sweet and touching. You happily become this strong, female warrior. “Florence” (Android, Mac, iOS)

Forget the very idea of angst. This short, emotion-filled experience made for mobile phones presents the ideal picture of a young relationsh­ip circa 2018. Everything here is a cut above. The mundane nature of the everyday (the crowded train ride to work, the toiling over spreadshee­ts) gives way to the floating feeling of attraction when Florence first hears the cello played by what will become the object of her affections. The music tugs at your heart without becoming cloying. It’s a game that’s the perfect digital stocking stuffer for the cynical friend in your life. If it doesn’t move the person who gets the gift of “Florence,” maybe it’s time to move on. “Monster Hunter: World” (PC, PlayStatio­n 4, Xbox One)

This is for the core gamer. If you haven’t logged at least 100 hours in “Monster Hunter: World,” you haven’t really played this lush, action-oriented role-playing game. Yes, you kill or trap dragons of various species. Yes, you’re on a mission to save everyone’s very existence by vanquishin­g the awe-inspiring dragon Zorah Magdaros. But the world is so varied it’s difficult to stop playing, especially since Capcom has added events that include heroes and enemies from other games such as Aloy from “Horizon Zero Dawn,” MegaMan costumes and the evil King Behemoth from “Final Fantasy XIV.” So, set aside some serious blocks of time. This monster of a game is very much worth the indulgence.

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 ?? MOTION TWIN ?? TOP: A mellower Kratos, a.k.a. the Ghost of Sparta, in “God of War,” who struggles with the legacy of his past as he tries to steer his son onto a better path. ABOVE: The highly polished “Dead Cells” appeals to fans of the side-scrolling, hack ’n slash games of the ’90s.
MOTION TWIN TOP: A mellower Kratos, a.k.a. the Ghost of Sparta, in “God of War,” who struggles with the legacy of his past as he tries to steer his son onto a better path. ABOVE: The highly polished “Dead Cells” appeals to fans of the side-scrolling, hack ’n slash games of the ’90s.
 ?? SONY COMPUTER ENTERTAINM­ENT ??
SONY COMPUTER ENTERTAINM­ENT
 ?? ENHANCE INC. ?? TOP: “Red Dead Redemption 2,” one of the finest games ever made, is the new standard-bearer for open-world design. ABOVE: “Tetris Effect” will have you wondering where the hours have gone.
ENHANCE INC. TOP: “Red Dead Redemption 2,” one of the finest games ever made, is the new standard-bearer for open-world design. ABOVE: “Tetris Effect” will have you wondering where the hours have gone.
 ?? TAKE TWO-INTERACTIV­E ??
TAKE TWO-INTERACTIV­E

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