Chris’ 2016 Games of the Year
It has been a particularly
shitty difficult year for the world. With that in mind, there has been a large demand for escapism. That demand has fostered some real competition for people’s time . Here are my three favorite interactive escapism releases of 2016. You may notice they aren’t numbered. Good eye. There is a reason for that. Awards are bullshit and nothing is perfect. Personally, I love each of these games in different ways for very different reasons.
• Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Naughty Dog managed to accomplish something pretty special with this series and A Thief’s End is no exception. After Drake’s Deception tied up its conclusion with such a neat little bow. I believed we had seen the last of Nathan Drake for a long time. It was so well done that I was actually okay with that. So much so that when the fourth game was initially teased, I found my usually overwhelming excitement tempered somewhat by the taint of uncertainty.
Uncertainty over whether or not we needed another adventure that would most likely disrupt the marital bliss I imagined DD had left Nathan and Elena in. Uncertainty over the inclusion of a brother character out of nowhere and his inevitable betrayal of our hero. Uncertainty over the altered art style of the more photorealistic Nate. These concerns did not survive the first few chapters of ATE. From the gorgeous rain effects of the speed boat sequence to the heartwarming, comfort of the Drake family home I was absolutely convinced that a fourth game was not only deserved, but more so needed. This game was a pleasure to play and will undoubtedly be a game I will revisit many times.
Titanfall is a series with a lot of baggage for only having two games to its name. Developed by Respawn Entertainment, the latest studio from Vince Zampella and Jason West, I knew it would at the very least be a quality experience. For those unaware, Zampella and West were the fellows behind 2015, the studio that created the critically acclaimed Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and Infinity Ward, the studio behind Call of Duty, COD2, COD4:MW, Modern Warfare 2, and MW3. Basically, they made the great ones. Although EA and Activision did eventually run both of those series into the ground, they were massively influential in the first person shooter genre as well as the industry as a whole. With this kind of prestige, you may wonder why their latest series isn’t a household name yet.
Well, here’s the baggage. After leaving Activision in 2010 due to
Bobby Kotick is a dick creative differences, they found a home back at EA with a blank check. By 2013, West had departed the company citing family issues. Although it really isn’t clear how much of an impact this had on the game, breaking up such a stellar team couldn’t have been without some consequence. The biggest detriment was the decision to commit to Xbox One exclusively. Prior to launch, it’s understandable why they would think this would be a good decision. However, nothing lasts forever and with PS4 dominating the market this generation, Respawn’s new ip was gimped from the start. The gameplay was loads of fun and there were hints at an enthralling world in there but it was trapped on a less popular system and lacked a single player campaign.
Thankfully, Titanfall 2 proved to be a vindication of all of the promises of greatness hinted at by the original. It is the tightest playing first person shooter available and is filled with some of the best set pieces I’ve seen since Half-Life 2. Beyond that, TF2 managed to surprise me. I expected the game to play great, but I wasn’t prepared to get so attached to my new best robobuddy, BT-7274. His inclusion turned what could’ve been just another near future fps into a can’t miss buddy cop adventure that took my breath away and cemented its place on my list of favorite games. To avoid spoilers I’m going to stop here, but please consider giving this game a try. It’s worth your time.
• Ratchet & Clank
I was hesitant to include this in my top 3. That is not a mark against the game’s quality. Insomniac Games produced something really impressive with this remake of Ratchet and Clank. My concern was primarily over whether or not a remake was fair competition for Game of The Year. In the end, I decided it was different enough from the original to keep it in the competition. This isn’t one of the dozens of quick, cash grab remasters that have flooded the industry this generation. This is a loving remake that was clearly handled with a great amount of care and passion.
Having played the original again very recently, the improvements are drastic. Not only visually, but in art style, universe cohesiveness, characterization, and perhaps most importantly gameplay. The handling in this remake feels natural and smooth. This is a stark contrast to the classic game which lacks the improvements developed and discovered over the last 14 years. Key components such as the ability to strafe and shoot that wasn’t introduced until the third game, “Up Your Arsenal.” The enemies are more varied and better balanced to provide a much more entertaining experience.
With this fresh take on the story, now told from Captain Quark’s perspective, the characterizations are much more in line with the versions seen in the Ratchet and Clank Future series. Gone is the angsty, selfish Ratchet the series began with. Purged in favor of the heroic, good guy Ratchet from later in the series. Some purists may prefer the slower pace of character development of the original, but I have to disagree. Maybe it’s just me but I wasn’t overly fond of playing as a selfish shithead who can’t see beyond what directly benefits himself for an entire game. Also I had trouble getting past how much of a dick he was to the good-natured Clank. Quark’s narration is great and provides for some strong humor throughout the game. I had a lot of fun here and would definitely recommend it. There’s something here for everyone and I’m thankful Insomniac put the time in to do it.
• Honorable Mentions
The games that just missed the list or I didn’t get enough time with to feel comfortable putting on the list.
Gears of War 4
Batman: The Telltale Series
Chris’ 2016 Biggest Letdown
No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky had a lot going for it and that was the problem. There isn’t a game out there that could live up to the hype that was built up prior to release. The developers, Hello Games, are not completely without fault. They came out there and showed off some really ambitious early builds, promising the universe, literally. However there were some outside factors that changed the course of events drastically. The largest of which in my eyes was Sony. When they got involved and began to really pump up the marketing, they put the game on a massive towering pedestal, making it’s toppling equally as drastic. Without this kind of attention, I believe No Man’s Sky would have been a fascinating, but niche galaxy sim with a moderately sized cult following. An ambitious project from the team whose previously biggest game was one of the Joe Danger games. Maybe it wouldn’t have been on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” but it would do well enough. Revered by it’s fans instead of the toxic level of disdain with which it is discussed today. I’ve heard there have been some important improvements made since launch, but it’s hard to overcome a bad first impression. Someday I’ll hop back in. It’s not a bad game. Just fundamentally misrepresented.
Hopefully 2017 proves to be better. With the Nintendo Switch, Super Mario Odyssey, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Horizon: Zero Dawn and Red Dead Redemption 2 coming this year, we will be covered entertainment wise if it sucks as hard as 2016 absolutely did.