My Favourite Video Games of 2016
Listed below are my top five video games of 2016. Before we get started, I should point out that I only have a Playstation 4, so it’s not exactly an unbiased list with games from a broad range of platforms… Hey, I’m sorry, but not all of us are made of money and can afford every console.
The other caveat is there are some games that I feel could’ve made the list if I would’ve played more of them such as Dishonored 2 and The Last Guardian but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.
HITMAN – The episodic release structure that saw you buying one level at a time really focused your attention to the possibilities of each assassination. It resulted in the purest distillation of what makes the Hitman games great: Experimentation. You walk around each level figuring out what you can and can’t do, what you can and can’t use. It may look like a third person shooter, but these games have always been darkly comic third person puzzle games. That let you drown people in toilets. A true return to form for a great series.
STREET FIGHTER 5 – The lack of features on the bare bones release held this back in the eyes of many, but regardless, the game play itself is unquestionable. Street Fighter has always been the champion of the beat em ups, and the fifth entry in the series only reinforces that. The combat is deceptively in-depth, with the rock, paper, scissors style of gameplay the genre was built around. Block beats punch, punch beats throw, throw beats block. From this blueprint Capcom have put together a dazzling array of moves, that flow seamlessly into one another. For those of you that grew up shouting “Hadouken!” in the playground, this is one to cherish. Grab a second controller, invite a friend over, and swear at the TV a whole bunch. Why would you want more?
NO. 5 – FIREWATCH
Campo Santos Firewatch isn’t a particularly long game. It isn’t hugely exciting either. At times it is little more than a walking simulator. But when you are walking around environments as gorgeous as the ones in this game, and hanging out with Henry and Delilah, two of the most well written characters I’ve ever encountered, then a walking simulator is just fine. A touching character piece with a surprisingly compelling mystery at its centre, Firewatch is something of an overlooked gem. Its languid pace and focus on emotionally engaging character development over action may frustrate some players, but I found it enchanting.
NO. 4 – TITANFALL 2
Titanfall 2 is all about momentum. The game understands that nothing is as exciting as breaking into a run, taking down an enemy, rushing through an area, lunging over an obstacle, taking down another enemy mid air, and then landing to do it all again, but this time even faster. But no game can sustain that pace forever. And that is where Titanfall 2‘s true genius lays. You start the game as a pilot, running and gunning as fast as you can, and just as you are starting to have your fill with what that offers, it slows the pace and puts you in control of a Titan. A giant war machine. It replaces speed with power. Suddenly you are stomping upon enemies, blowing tens of them to smithereens with rockets, whilst simultaneously deflecting the projectiles of another Titan back at it. A touching bond quickly develops between pilot and Titan, strengthened by the game’s wry sense of humour. The Titan becomes your big brother, always having your back whenever you get the two of you into trouble. Throughout the game you switch between speedy finesse and brute force. That dichotomy remains exhilarating throughout the wonderful single player campaign, and results in frantic multiplayer battles online. There are plenty of customisation options for a number of Titans to cater to a number of play styles, complementing the fast paced blasting with sly strategy. An absolute pleasure of a game, both online and off.
NO. 3 – DARK SOULS 3
I have always preferred games I could pick up and play for twenty or so minutes, and then put back down. Anything longer than that seemed like too daunting of a task, too much of an investment. It takes a special game to make me want to really put some time into it. To sit down and truly get lost in its world. So when I tell you that I’ve put way over fifty hours into Dark Souls 3, and am currently watching a friend put another fifty of so hours in, I want you to understand how rare that is for me, and what an achievement this game truly is. Special doesn’t do Dark Souls justice. This game is epic in the true sense of the word. Lothric, the land this takes place in, is vast. The beings that inhabit it are colossal. The story being told spans hundreds, if not thousands of years. But this story is not told in cutscenes, or even through dialogue. It is told in every stone in every building, in the ruins this land is built upon, in the faces of the characters you meet, in every enemy you cut down. There is not one aspect of Dark Souls 3 that holds your hand and leads you through. The story is to be pieced together. Each area is to be explored. There is rarely a clear path to your destination. And the boss fights, the set pieces this series is built around, are overcome through trial and error. You die. And you die again. And you keep dying until you learn. These bosses are, without exception, all fantastic. Wonderfully designed creatures, ranging from a giant, rotten, sentient tree to a gelatinous, oozing creature in the midst of devouring a God. Their appearance tells their story, characterisation through art design. Many of these fights are brutal, but the sense of achievement that comes with beating a particularly tough bastard is like nothing else in gaming today. The combat is immensely satisfying, as any enemy, no matter how small, can end you. Timing is paramount, as a missed parry can mean your doom. Mistime a roll or dodge, death. Attack a split second too early, death. Go for that final blow instead of healing, death. It is terrifying. It is fantastic. Dark Souls is one of the most celebrated series in modern games, and this third entry continues that fine tradition. It is a reputation well earned, and if Dark Souls 3 is to be the last game, it’s a fitting conclusion.
NO. 2 – UNCHARTED 4
Nathan Drake might just be the most likable protagonist in all of games. Which is saying something considering he’s technically a mass murderer. But it is best to ignore that, as the game wisely does, choosing instead to focus on Nathan’s roguish charm. All of the characters in Uncharted are deeply human. We invest in their relationships, root for them to succeed. We care. This is not only down to the writing, which is excellent, but because of the performances. The technology is at a level now where the slightest of expressions can be fully captured. The character models are so expressive, every thought and feeling can be read as it flits across a face. Couple this with the best voice actors in the industry and you have three dimensional, believable characters you can emotionally engage with. Uncharted 4 is the end to Nathan Drake’s story, and he goes out with a bang. The set pieces are among the series’ best. The car chase in Madagascar as Nathan jumps from jeep to motorbike to jeep again is the most exciting sequence I played all year. The balance between action and puzzles is perfect, and neither are ever so difficult to dramatically impede your progress. This is not a game you want to be difficult, this is wish fulfillment at its finest. We all want to live out our Indiana Jones fantasies, rope swinging off cliff, straight into the action, then walking away with barely a scratch. Propulsion is key, and Uncharted 4 excels at it, throwing you into one ludicrously over the top sequence after the next. The game is deliriously fun, and nested in amongst all the action is a warm, beating heart with genuine affection for its characters. Plus, Crash Bandicoot makes a cameo, so, clearly the best game ever…
NO. 1 – OVERWATCH
The game I have played more than any other this year. So often I’ll turn it on for just one match, and three hours later I’m still playing. The objective is simple, one team of six attempts to capture a point, or defend a vehicle as it makes its way from A to B, whilst the other team of six has to stop them. That’s it. Simple and easy to understand. Where things get more complex is in the character abilities. There are 25 playable characters (23 at launch, the other great thing about this game is how regularly it updates) and each belongs to one of four classes: Offense, Defense, Tank, and Support. Within each class are a diverse array of characters, each with their own skills and weaknesses. Some fly, some can heal themselves, some heal others, some work better stationary, some better on the move. All are full of character, broad archetypes designed with a pop sensibility. And more importantly, all are a joy to play. Everyone has their favourite, mine is Mei, a Chinese scientist with an ice gun who can create large ice walls and freeze enemies. Every character counters another, and has a character that counters them. This leads to mid-game character changes as you react to the opposition’s strategy. They then react to your reaction, counters upon counters. Each round is ever evolving, and therefore never the same twice. The true joy is in mastering each character. When you play as someone for the first time, you don’t really know when and how to use their abilities. Then after a couple of rounds it all starts to make sense. You learn that the best time to use Zarya’s gravity bomb, for example, is when another player also has their special, such as Pharah’s rocket barrage. This in turn adds another layer of strategy, as you not only learn how to use one character, but how to use one character in conjunction with another one. The game play is endlessly entertaining and deceptively deep, and the world it takes place in is bright, bold, and colourful, which is such a refreshing change from the typical grim, dark, “adult” look of most modern first person shooters. An instant classic, masterful team based shooter that is without doubt my favourite game of 2016, and more than likely, 2017 and 18 too.