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So 2016, that was some year right? In the world of video games, some surprised and caught my attention more. Others however did fail to rise up though (cough Street Fighter V cough). One popular genre broke out from the norm and we got a glimpse of the future with VR. Some would say 2016 is the best of year of gaming in a long time. And you know what I agree with that. I’m excited for what 2017 will bring, but let’s take one more look back with my top 10 games of 2016.
10) Ratchet & Clank (PS4)
I’m start off with surprisingly a remaster of a 2002 game. The Ratchet & Clank series were fun platformers/shooters in the PS2 era, but stayed their course on PS3. Going to this “reboot” because it came out alongside the not so successful movie, I only played the bite-sized Quest for Booty. 2016’s Ratchet and Clank reintroduces the dynamic duo in superb fashion for both fans and newcomers like me. There is just not many games like this today that mix in classic platforming and fun weapons to use. Despite the movie being a flop, hopefully Sony and Insomniac keeps the franchise going for the future. Oh did I mention how beautiful this game looks with the PS4 Pro? The Pixar-like quality makes it definitely one of the best looking console exclusive games of 2016.
Speaking of beautiful looking games, Abzu is quite a showpiece on either consoles or PC. Sure it didn’t break away too much from the Journey formula because Giant Squid consists of folks that previously worked on Journey. However Abzu being “underwater Journey” is enough for me. It has it’s breathtaking sequences such as the diver swimming with gigantic whales, the sections involving currents and the last level. Giant Squid did recently release this game on Xbox One, but when’s my VR support? That would be a sight to experience if that happens.
Continuing on the indie train, Playdead’s Inside was short and sweet. I never played Limbo so going into Inside fresh was indeed something special. I love it when games stick their plan without any filler to tell their story. The puzzles aren’t that hard to solve and the big twist remains one of the best gaming moments in 2016. There is a certain style with Playdead’s games and Inside lives up to that. I’m curious if they’ll step out of their comfort zone for their next game.
7) Pokemon Go
Here’s my most played game in this year’s top ten for me. I didn’t expect myself to go hard with Pokemon Go when it came out. By the time I caught half of the original 151, I was committed to catch ’em all. As of this writing, I need four more out of that 151 minus the legendaries. I’m in no rush to get them as they’re some of the rarest ones to find. Living in Southern California fortunately has been beneficial to the game’s playtime for me. Traveling to different locales grinding to get enough candies at nests to evolve certain Pokemon was a breathe of fresh air. Plus having two of the greatest spots to play Pokemon Go with the Santa Monica Pier and Long Beach Pike doesn’t hurt too.
Yes, dealing with Niantic has been a rollercoaster of emotions, but the Pokemon Go phenomenon was something special. Experiencing crowds of people flocking to a certain park where a rare Pokemon is hanging out at is always crazy. The gym battles are not the deepest to no surprise and you rather play the main games for that. However, it’s the social experiences that make Pokemon Go such a revolutionary game for today’s times. I’m still not a fan of Niantic’s decisions with certain features and the staggered rollout of Gen 2 is disappointing, but let’s hope they bring back the hype back when it was this summer next year.
Here is the first VR game on my top ten this year, but not the last. Once you put on a PlayStation VR headset, you’re immediately sucked into Thumper’s horrific world of rhythm violence. Yes, I mean horrific in a positive light because you just want to get out of this roller coaster any means necessary. The gameplay involving the space beetle is simple yet fierce and intense. When I have headphones on with my VR headset, I never felt so focused trying to beat a level especially with no mistakes for the trophies. Every time I survive, I breathe a sigh of relief as if I was riding an actual roller coaster at a theme park.
The recently added Play+ mode pictured above makes the action faster and more intense with the new 4x multiplier. It’s basically the game getting Guitar Hero/Rock Band hyperspeed. The PC version recently got Oculus support for VR, so those that don’t have PlayStation VR can finally see Thumper at it’s true form. Thumper remains as the most intense game I played this year especially with VR, but those without it should still take this ride for a spin.
5) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
When 2016 started, I expected Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End to be my game of the year. I wished the complete package was better as the result, but the single player alone was one of the best games I played this console generation. Naughty Dog is still the best at the game when it comes to bringing theatrical quality acting to the medium. The final adventure for Nathan Drake reuniting with his brother Sam is no exception. Plus this franchise got the closure it rightly deserved and didn’t go the cliched route. I’m still surprised how amazing the ending was along with a certain Easter egg. I will miss this beloved cast of characters a lot. Luckily the franchise will still truck on with the Lost Legacy’s Chloe and Nadine next year.
I didn’t expect Blizzard’s take on the class-based hero shooter to be that addicting. Valve’s Team Fortress 2 didn’t grab me back in the day, but boy I underestimated Blizzard with this game. Overwatch did the unthinkable personally making this type of shooter work so well for both casual and hardcore players. It also struck the perfect chord with accessible gameplay and great visual style. More importantly, Blizzard made cool and interesting heroes that are also fun to play. When a shooter like this can make even support characters fun, then you got yourself a home run. I usually play the majority of the cast especially fulfilling a missing role of a team for matches. Mixing this up personally for me with these characters has been keeping this game fresh months later.
While there’s ranked matches, I still stick to quick play because I don’t want to take the game that seriously. Competitive mode personally doesn’t make the game good for my general mentality and stress levels as I’m getting older. However, I do like Blizzard balancing the game frequently and releasing new heroes periodically. With that said, executing that last push as you and your teammates time your ultimates so well it decimates the opposing team is always satisfying. Overwatch brings back class-based shooters in a big way and it’s gonna be hard to anyone else to compete with them. Ask Gearbox how that went for them with Battleborn.
3) Titanfall 2
Out of the three big shooters released this holiday season, Titanfall 2 impressed me the most. It’s been said here on numerous occasions, but it’s really a shame Respawn’s sequel didn’t perform so hot on the sales. Sure, you can’t beat how big the Call of Duty and Battlefield brands are, but with word of mouf and all the discounts in the past month, more of those guys should of gave this one a fair shake. Fans were a bit concerned about the changes from the original’s multiplayer, but the new additions worked out pretty well.
No one however expected how awesome the campaign was gonna be. Sure, epic titan battles on a single player setting were gonna happen, but the amount of variety your pilot does in the six to eight hour journey is staggering. From the big twist involving time, platforming that uses the series’ game changing mobility and boss battles as if you’re in an anime, Titanfall 2’s campaign loves to keep you on your toes compared to the run of the mill pacing seen in the other two shooters I mentioned. With only paid content being just cosmetics where future significant DLC will be free, Respawn made all the right calls with Titanfall 2. If only EA released it in a better window, then more of us would be playing the best futuristic shooter this console generation.
2) Rez Infinite
If I was really biased, one of my favorite games of all-time would of been my 2016 game of the year. Rez Infinite not only brought back the classic for the new generation, but it sold me on what VR is capable of for the future. Playing this with PlayStation VR compared to normal controls is night and day. You’re aiming at enemies easier and the environments surrounding you is astounding with it’s abstract visual style. Playing those memorable five areas again felt great, but man Area X is something special.
I’ll admit that I teared up at a bit when I saw the first Area X trailer. More tears came back when I played it for the first time. I finally got to play new Rez content when it seemed like it wasn’t possible. It was the best gaming sequence I played in a long time. I can’t think of any other moment has brought that much emotion in me involving videogames. Hopefully Rez Infinite comes to more VR platforms soon, but more people need to play arguably the best VR game out so far.
What if shooters went back to what made them fun in the first place? The rebooted DOOM shows that old school shooters can still work in today’s era of games. My beef with modern shooters, even though I still like them, is that there is too many things to worry about. From customizing loadouts, lack of personality, getting headshotted consistently after being respawned, concerned about their K/D ratio, etc, the current crop’s depth annoys me. They were also missing that certain power fantasy while doing everything fast and furious. With all that said, DOOM is why I love videogames in the first place.
DOOM simply goes straight to the point and doesn’t go by the rules. No exposition or tutorials, just start shooting lots and lots of demons. That’s all you need right? Oh you need the game to explain the story and your motivations (yeah there’s the optional codex for background on the lore)? Screw that. I like games that stick to their core identity and DOOM is a perfect example of that. Playing through the perfect campaign felt like I was back at Woodstock in the 90s. This special game also shares a lot of similarities with Platinum Games’ greatest works. They are games are don’t take themselves seriously and let the fast paced gameplay be the star of the package. Huh no wonder this, Metal Gear Rising and Bayonetta 2 are some of my favorite games ever this decade.
Besides the back to basics gameplay, what I love the most about this reboot by ID Software is the audio presentation. The sound effects are brutal from the glory kills and firing of weapons. More importantly, how about Mick Gordon’s masterful composition of the game’s soundtrack? I was already familiar with his contributions on the new Killer Instinct’s first two seasons, but his work on DOOM is on another level. I even have this soundtrack blasting on my car at times and who can say that about other game soundtracks in recent memory? Sure, multiplayer is a bit disappointing and the focal point of the DLC offerings, but Snapmap slowly got better as more options were available for players to toy around when creating levels.
After all the trials and tribulations for numerous years, DOOM ended up being the reboot that carries on the original’s legacy not only for fans but also newcomers. Going into 2016, no one expected this game to be a critical hit among the gamers and masses. ID Software proved everybody wrong by releasing a shooter that doesn’t care about the new standards showing that old school can still hang with the young guns. As we head into 2017, sometimes simplicity is way better than complexity in our games especially as we get older and have less time to play them. I hope console game developers are aware of that for their games are still being worked on track for release next year.