My personal Game of the Year deliberations were easy in 2015. I could've placed Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate in all my Top 5 spots and felt like I had made the right decision. It's fair to think that with the launch of Monster Hunter Generations in 2016 that I might favour the series once more, but this year had something that last’s didn't: good competition.
There are some clear favourites that emerged this year, and unfortunately for Capcom, their monster hunting series has been pushed from my list.
If BlazeRush had released on any other platform it would be a ho-hum top-down racer that would've earned itself a playing of the tutorial stages and little more. But the VR aspect, while merely sitting you alongside your toy-sized racer, meant that the game controlled and looked like you were racing fully weaponised RC cars. Being able to lean in and look around to ensure you knew what was ahead, meant that even the harder tracks were more about figuring out how to destroy your opponents than it was about navigating the course.
My experience with the Pokemon series has involved a rather lacklustre couple of hours with Pokemon Emerald (or was it Sapphire...) and being sucked into the Pokemon Go craze. If it wasn't for Pokemon Go and a rather entertaining series of videos by Polygon's Griffin McElroy I may not have given the Pokemon franchise another look. Instead I was starting to know some of the Pokemon and the web series showed me that the game had grown visually to a point where I was now interested.
Almost 80 hours later and I'm still trying to "Catch 'em all.” I've even started studying how to catch some of the rarer ones. Despite being aimed at a young audience, the game never felt patronising. The story was deep enough to hold my interest and it's great to see how much more there is to do after the credits roll. I may not end up with all 700+ Pokemon, but the fact that I'm aiming to complete the Alola Pokedex says a lot about how deep this game has me.
Despite having a rather confusing wrap-up, Alan Wake remains as one of my all-time favourite titles from the Xbox 360 era. Everything I had seen for Quantum Break looked decidedly average and I had some major doubts that the videogame/TV series hybrid would come close to satisfying me the way Alan Wake did.
And then I loaded it up.
The game hits you with how stunning it looks, with characters and environments being some of the best the Xbox One has to offer. The time-travel story and the way they tie up the paradoxes that usually occur are executed perfectly, and despite a hefty download to get the non-streaming episodes, there was little to complain about with the separate story the TV series was telling. The combat mechanics and the use of time powers mixed together beautifully too. Once everything was unlocked and the control system became second nature, I felt the way I would after perfecting a song on Guitar Hero.
This year my Game of the Year is number two on my list, and that'll make sense in a second. Inside is quite simply one of the most beautifully crafted titles I've played this year, if not ever.
Inside manages to take you on a small journey alongside a small boy that stumbles upon something bigger than he could ever imagine. There are some serious moments of fear and dread, moments designed to let you catch your breath, moments of wonderment, and moments of disgust. There are so many emotions at play throughout that I was torn as to whether I simply had to replay it right away, or if I could never play it again to ensure that moment couldn't be watered down.
Little can be said about what happens in Inside, as describing any moment would take that moment away from the player. It's a must-play title for anyone looking to feel *something*, whatever that emotion may be.
Okay, so this is kind of cheating, but it explains why Inside is sitting at number two while also being my Game of the Year..
While Virtual Reality has been in my life for over three years now, and the Vive controllers wowed me, it wasn't until Oculus' answer to VR motion controls hit that I finally felt like my hands were truly inside the games I was playing.
The first thing most people do in VR is look for their hands, or announce that it seems weird to not see them in-game. So it's satisfying, yet incredibly odd, to now be able to point at and interact with objects using what looks and feels like a working embodiment of your hands. Sure, there aren't too many games that utilise the Touch controllers yet, but those that do instantly stand out from any current VR experience. So much so that, despite having used them for hours and hours, I'm left feeling disassociated from my real hands for a good 15 minutes after stepping out of the Rift.
The Touch controllers are to VR what a controller is to console gaming. They are the best move forward in gaming this year.
Those were some of Reagan's favourites of 2016. What were yours? Sound off in the comments below!
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