Well, what a year 2016 has been. It started off with the passing of a musical icon, and ended with the passing of the United States as we know it. In between, there have been some highs and lows. Thankfully, they were mostly highs on the video game front.
Like 2016’s game releases, my backlog for the year has been delayed until 2017. But I did get a chance to play some quality games, and here are the five that I think topped the list.
There's something about the gates of Hell opening on a Mars base that just makes you want to murder all the demons, and DOOM makes all that murderin’ unbelievably cool.
The fast-paced action, eight weapons in your arsenal, Doomguy plushes – id Software’s reboot has it all. DOOM combines the frantic firefights and level design of the original with the new-school visuals and a power-up mechanic to make a game that surprised a lot of people.
Although I didn't give the multiplayer much of a look-in, the single player alone makes this one of the must-play first person shooters of this year.
Jumping into your ute and going for a hoon in ‘Straya has never been depicted in a video game until now, and thanks to Playground Games, our trans-Tasman neighbours can finally experience their digital backyard in glorious full HD.
Every aspect has been updated, with an emphasis on the sky. And that's where I often find myself looking, as I park in the edge of a cliff or atop a hill, pondering the meaning of life while gazing at the stars. But not for long, as there are plenty of races to win, tons of stunts to complete, and over three hundy cars begging to be driven.
There haven't been many driving games this year, but even if there were, it'd be hard to top what Forza Horizon 3 has done. I've always equated Forza Motorsport as the Hot Laps feature on Top Gear – I mean The Grand Tour – and the Horizon franchise as their road trip equivalent, where the hosts have fun and enjoy the ride.
Forza Horizon 3 has been the road trip of a lifetime.
Gears of War 4 is 2016’s Star Wars: Episode VII; The first of a new trilogy, with old, familiar faces returning, and a story centered on the next generation of Gears soldiers, the comparison is almost uncanny.
And both pay homage to their predecessors well. Gears 4 changes things up by introducing new mechanics, new weapons, and new foes to chainsaw.
The interplay with JD, Cait, Del and a grizzled Marcus is fun and entertaining, tinged with genuine care for each other. A brief cameo by Baird and Cole preludes the best part of gaming I've played this year.
Gears of War 4 spices things up just enough to make the game interesting, but not so much that it is unrecognizable from the original trilogy. I look forward to see what Coalition brings for the gang in the next entry.
Inside is artistically my game of the year. The bleak nature of the setting and the dystopian feel painted across my TV screen gave me chills. The ambiguous message the game tries to tell stays with you long after the game is finished. The final stanza of the game is my “WTF is going on?” moment of the year.
If completed without dying, Inside is one continuous shot, stretching across dense forest, a dam with moonlight reflected on the water, abandoned cityscapes, and industrial complexes. All of them are beautifully laid out, resulting in a game that's both mysterious and serene.
Playdead nailed Inside, and I prefer it more to their previous release, Limbo. If you only have a few hours spare, go play Inside. Its simple, ambiguously built narrative will make you think for days about what it is trying to tell us.
The Division wasn't a bad game on launch, but once you hit the end-game, there wasn't much incentive to play, apart from the chaos of the Dark Zone. But with the 1.4 update, I've hopped back on The Division hype train. Although there's not as much to do here than in Destiny, I still find myself doing daily missions, just to see what loot I can get. It's no longer a grind, and playing just a few hours will get you a decent selection of gear. The Division has definitely redeemed itself in the last month, and I look forward to Year 2. Maybe it'll do what Destiny Year 2 did.
Boy oh boy, does Dead Rising 4 make the holiday season more bearable. Its mechanic of mindlessly bashing zombies with crazier and crazier weapons has been the perfect night-cap to my day lately, and the fact that it is on my honourable mentions list even though I've been playing just a few days shows how much I've been entertained by it. Even when I pause the game, the tense atmospheric music turns into big-band Christmas ditties, making even a Christmas grinch like me excited for the holidays.
When Team Fortress 2 became free to play in 2011, it became my crack. In just under a year I dedicated nearly 1000 hours to it, with the threat of divorce as my cue to cut down.
Five years later, Overwatch had the same addictive effect on me, except for the divorce part - I know better. Its cast of unique, Pixar-like characters charms you to no end, and the easy to learn, hard to master gameplay just entices you to keep playing.
Overwatch also executes the idea of team play well, not showing everyone's K/D ratio for all to see, but instead focuses on playing the objective as the primary goal of every player. It's also the first game that makes me want to play support characters, because they are just as formidable as any offense heroes if played right (Mercy is life, Mercy is love).
Not many games encourage me to play every night, and then make me say “just one more game," but Overwatch did. It got its hooks into me like Roadhog, and I will play this long after all the seasonal and special events updates have been exhausted, just so I can try and master the ever-growing cast of characters.
Except Mei. She can go to hell.
So there you have it, my top 5 for 2016, with a couple of honourable mentions for good measure. Hope you all have a great Christmas, and look forward to more epic gaming in 2017.
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