You may be surprised at the outcome.
I think it’s safe to say 2016 has been a shit year. In every fucking sense of the word, it has been absolutely putrid horse shit. And that’s putting it lightly. Quite frankly, I’m happy to put 2016 in the middle of a field somewhere, shoot it and then set it on fire.
That’s how shit 2016 has been. It’s. Been. Awful. And needless to say, I think I speak for near enough everyone when I say it can get dey fuck in the bin. And even then, it’s more than it deserves.
But the one redeeming thing in 2016 – and it is literally the only redeeming thing it has given this year – is the amazing output that has come from the games industry. VR’s official push into the public conscience with the release of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR to the public, unique experiences, massive mainstream game reveals and the reveal of a new home (slash handheld) system from Nintendo.
So yes, 2016 has been fucking awful in many and numerous ways. But at least gaming has provided an amazing outlet to give us a sense of escapism during the bad times. And with 2017 shaping up to be just as awful if the past few months have been any indicator, it’s a good thing that 2017 has a just as great output to provide said escapism. Thank Christ Persona 5 and Mass Effect: Andromeda are all finally out then. Oh, and Nintendo Switch too.
With that said, I wrote some words on what were my top ten favourite games of 2016. You can find them below. You can also find links to previous GOTY lists I wrote on this blog at the bottom of the post.
2016, you may have been awful at literally everything else, but you’ve been alright in regards to gaming at least.
You can still burn in hell and get dey fuck in the sea, though, you absolute cunt.
10 – Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst
There was a lot of criticism aimed at the long-anticipated sequel. The open-world, the story, etc. And while there are aspects of said story that are worth criticising – and is a bit shit anyway – plus a bad final story level, for the most part, I really enjoyed Catalyst.
Mechanically, its free-running gameplay was as much a joy as the first game and I rather liked the open world of the game, albeit it could have been slightly more condensed.
I don’t know if we’ll get a sequel, but I’m keeping the Faith (huehuehuehuehuehuehuehuehuehuehuehue) we get one. There’s a really solid foundation built upon here for this reboot. I’d dig it.
9 – DOOM
I’d been waiting for the longest time for this to come down to around £20 as it felt like the perfect £20 shooter. Truth is after playing it, I would have been happy with it even paying £30 or £40 for it.
id Software came back strong after a few years out following the release of RAGE and years of dev hell with what was meant to be DOOM 4 (there’s an excellent documentary on it by Danny O’Dwyer that is absolutely worth checking that details what happened with D4 among other things). Fantastic level design, back-to-basics fast-paced gameplay and Mick Gordon’s immense soundtrack.
DOOM Next? I’m in day one.
8 – Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 1 had a story which was absolute shite with a main character that was better off being Killjoy McKilljoyson, but mechanically, its gameplay was in a good place for a sequel to build upon.
What Watch Dogs 2 did was not only build upon that, but also its story and characters in a great and diverse way whilst chucking out the way too serious and grim tone of Watch Dogs 1, lambasting at Trump and pharmaceutical fuckhead twat Martin Shkreli among others and taking more of a aim at parody on par with Grand Theft Auto.
Its lead set of characters are a breath of fresh air too. Marcus is an excellent lead character, Sitara is just rad, Josh is something of a unique character (for the better) and Wrench is straight up one of the best characters in a game this year. Not to mention, a fully realised San Francisco that was a joy to explore.
Watch Dogs 2 is a very good video game. In many ways, more so than its predecessor.
7 – Forza Horizon 3
The past two Horizon games have been stupendous. Horizon 3 is another example of the Horizon series being the best racing series in gaming today. The only reason it’s so low on this list compared to two years ago or even four years ago is an example of how much this year has been a standout year for games.
It’s mostly the same Horizon formula, but why fix what ain’t broken. In going to Australia, it put you in charge of the festival rather than be a competitor like in the past two games. Not to mention, the soundtrack is as top peak as it has been previously. Rob Da Bank, who curates these soundtracks, should get a bumper pay rise with each passing game.
Never has a series nailed a feeling of a music festival so well and added in a great racing game in turn.
6 – Titanfall 2
As someone who hasn’t played the multiplayer and is judging this solely on its single-player campaign, I’m going to go ahead and say Titanfall 2 is one of the best FPSes in the past decade, let along past five years.
It stepped up in a big way from the first game, which in itself was great but relied on it being online-only in terms of story. With Titanfall 2, not only was its story much better than its first, but also managed to find a robot be such a great central character in BT-7274.
Biggest of all, some of its gameplay and level design is on point big time. The game’s most influential level, Cause and Effect, is easily one of the best FPS levels in the past decade. Hell, I’d go as far to say it’s one of the best of all time. That in itself elevates Titanfall 2 to worthy status.
And even then, it was already a good game before it.
5 – Inside
Inside’s motif was as much a mystery as the game was for the two year period between its reveal trailer and its release. Shown only twice before its release in late June, Playdead’s follow-up to Limbo was bleak, dark and dystopian.
But even in after finishing the game and knowing the game’s major twist, there’s still an element of it that’s still mysterious and curious of it that doesn’t get explained.
Regardless, though, for the three-and-a-bit hours you play it for, Inside has you grabbed. Its atmosphere is incredible, a soundtrack that is just excellent and is straight up a worthy successor to Limbo in every possible way gameplay wise.
Honestly, it’s a worthy successor to Limbo outright.
4 – Rez Infinite
I don’t normally include remasters in my top ten. At best, it’s an honourable mention (you’ll even see a few of them below). Except Rez Infinite has three very good reasons for being here:
1 ) – It’s my list, I can do what I want with it anyway
2 ) – Besides a play of the game’s demo on both PS2 and the HD version on Xbox 360, I’ve never actually played the full game, so that in itself counts for it
3 ) – Area X and PlayStation VR
And it’s especially for that third point that Infinite is here. It is genuinely a VR killer app and is a good reason if you wanted to pick up a PlayStation VR anytime soon. Infinite does support non-VR play, but it does feel like Rez was built for VR and by giving it PSVR support, Infinite finally realises that vision.
And as great as the original game is in VR (true story, in finding and realising there was California Soul samples in the final act, I couldn’t stop grinning and have a big fucking smile playing it throughout), Area X truly feels like a unique new experience with a headset on and perhaps also a testing ground for what a new Rez would look like.
If so, going by Infinite, count me the fuck in.
3 – Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Nathan Drake’s farewell – or at least Naughty Dog’s farewell to him – was one of the most anticipated moments in gaming in 2016. And in ways I didn’t expect, how they handled it gave us one of the best endings in a game this year and of the past few years as well.
Uncharted 4 had a lot to live up to with the success of The Last of Us still fresh in the mind two years on, not to mention the departure from Naughty Dog of series creator Amy Hennig in 2014, who got a nod in the game’s credits for everything she did for the series.
What we got was something that the series’s legacy could be proud of with a heavier focus on storytelling, set-piecery that was on par with – and at times, even surpassed – its highest peak in Uncharted 2. Not to mention, an actual graphical showcase for the PlayStation 4. I said it at the time, but whatever the ICE Team is getting paid, it’s not nearly enough.
The end result is a combination of amazing story, gameplay, voice-acting, music and more to bring together Nathan Drake’s story to an end. And like I said in the way it does so provides one of the best endings in a game this year and of the past few years.
It may not have been Naughty Dog’s last Uncharted game after all with The Lost Legacy now coming as a standalone game rather than Uncharted 4 story DLC, but as its last Nathan Drake game, it left his story on a positive note.
2 – Overwatch
As someone who is not a big multiplayer guy in the slightest and prefers single-player all the time, Overwatch is the latest in the rare breed of games whose multiplayer I’ve enjoyed a lot on one hand (the others: the original Gears of War, Metal Gear Online 2, Splatoon).
Well, it’s a multiplayer-only game anyway, it’s not like there’s a single-player element anyway. But even then, in the same way you can apply such a thing to Nintendo’s games, there’s something uniquely Blizzard about their titles. Overwatch, the company’s first new and original IP since StarCraft in 1998, was a big bet for the company, coming as a meshing of other elements from the company’s cancelled MMO Titan, its successor to World of Warcraft and the company’s supposed big thing.
But in creating Overwatch, Blizzard found its next best thing from the ashes of what was Titan.
I’ve only gotten into Blizzard’s stuff this past decade, starting from StarCraft II in 2010, playing that, Diablo III and Hearthstone as well as Overwatch, but it’s Overwatch that has hooked me more than any other Blizzard game I’ve played.
Even in a multiplayer-only heroes shooter, it has a unique lore always fleshed out, uniquely designed characters with backstories, excellent level and art design and a whole ton more. On top of that, Blizzard’s first punt at a first-person shooter is an absolute success mechanically. It just works.
Another feather in Overwatch’s cap is how much mainstream success its had this past year. Plus, have you ever seen such widespread anticipation for a character reveal for a hero shooter or a character choice game as much as there was for Sombra, added with Blizzard’s ARG stuff around her? If you answered yes, you are not only wrong, but you are flat out lying.
I’m not playing Overwatch as much as I did over the summer – one day, I even spent from midnight to 8am playing it, near non-stop – but I’m starting to get back into it now as part of its Christmas promotional event, plus the addition of new modes, new maps, new heroes in Ana and Sombra and other minor things.
I don’t like my chances getting out unscathed again like I did this past summer. Then again, considering the quality of the game, is that such a bad thing?
1 – The Last Guardian
Finishing the game and when the credits were rolling, I had full on tears in my eyes and actually full on crying at how the game ended (it’s still a fresh game with it only being a week after its release as of publishing this, so no spoilers). But in the same way Uncharted 4 did, The Last Guardian had honestly one of the best endings in a game this year. Quite honestly, it also had one of the best endings in a game full stop.
When the credits were in mid-roll, I started crying again. Merely because after the longest wait – ten years since the release of Shadow of the Colossus in Europe, nearly ten years in itself since the game started development and seven-and-a-bit years since it was first shown to the world (unofficially as Project Trico, then a month later at E3 officially as The Last Guardian) and the intervening years since – it had all been worth it.
A lot has happened to the world in the seven years since the game was first announced, as well as to the team behind it. Team Ico as a collective is no more within Japan Studio in the same way Team Silent effectively broke up after Silent Hill 4, Fumito Ueda left Sony and founded his own studio in genDesign and the game transferred from its originally slated plan of a PlayStation 3 exclusive due for release in time for Christmas 2011 to being a PlayStation 4 exclusive released in time for Christmas 2016 because of hardware limitations and other things.
Yes, the game does at times show its age a bit to a degree and could be argued in some sense it’s a PS3 remaster for the PS4. But biggest of all yes, the camera and framerate do hamper the game, especially the latter towards the end of the game, at least on a base PS4 (PS4 Pro performance is apparently better, though I can’t confirm that).
But whereas with any other game which I would rightfully slaughter for with such bad camera and framerate issues – and is something still worth criticising here – with The Last Guardian, I didn’t care as much. Mainly because the experience over-rided any negative experience I had with the camera and framerate.
Playing the game, all I could do was just coo and caw at Trico as he pawed away at a barrel in the most adorable fashion, just laugh at how petrified he was of water before he’d have to jump in and make a massive splash and how at one point just be impressed at how he’d spear enemy soldiers proper Roman Reigns style at one point playing the game that he’d look out for you as the boy to that extent.
Look, I can talk to you about the game’s amazing art direction, utterly incredible score, its fantastic puzzles, and great setpieces – finally playing the section from E3 2015 when the game was reannounced was great, but there’s even better and more incredible setpieces after – but truly, the game’s star of the show is – and in hindsight, always has been – Trico.
There have been many games before that have raised the bar in AI companions and the stories you go through with them: the boy and Yorda of Ico, Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance of Half-Life 2 and its episodes, Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth Comstock of BioShock Infinite, Joel and Ellie of The Last of Us, to name a few. But – and while I realise what I’m about to say verges on hyperbole – I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a companion as real in a game as Trico until now.
His behaviorisms, both in dog and cat variety, the way he’ll look out for you after gaining his trust, you as the player to develop the patience of a saint to get him to follow your orders. Basically, he is the living embodiment of a pet realised in a game to an unreal impressive level in what should be – and is for me – an achievement in AI and character design in games. For me, Trico is what defines the experience of The Last Guardian for me.
Trico and the story the game took me through was enough to get me to overlook any major and minor quirk and flaw it had. Because it felt like something truly special, something unique. At this point, those things being trademarks and hallmarks of a Ueda game.
Credit to Fumito Ueda and the development team at Japan Studio as well as genDesign plus the Sony higher ups – including Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida – for keeping the faith in the game after so long when any other publisher would have cut their losses and bailed, even when the appetite was still there.
Because ten years since development started, in every possible sense, The Last Guardian was worth the wait.
Honourable Mentions: Gravity Rush Remastered, Valkyria Chronicles Remastered, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, F1 2016, Gears of War 4, Hitman, DriveClub VR, The Division and No Man’s Sky.
Games that came too late for the cut-off: Final Fantasy XV; Superhot; The Witness; Firewatch; That Dragon, Cancer; I Am Setsuna; Abzu; Virginia.