So long, 2016
As we enter the year of our lord Star Wars: Episode 8, were in prime position to look back on the greatest games of the last 12 months. 2016, youve done well: whether it was open-world, action-packed or extravagantly remade, youve delivered a varied and memorable batch of truly modern video games. Lets go over the best of 2016, shall we?
Watch_Dogs 2.0: In~finite
Players questioned whether Ubisoft could maintain its open-world pedigree while splitting its focus between Far Cry, Assassins Creed and its controversial efforts to remaster the city of Montreal itself, but Watch_Dogs 2.0: In~finite deletes all doubts. Developed by the newly established Ubisoft Anchorage, Watch_Dogs 2.0 takes players into a fantastic re-envisioning of the virtual open world as a virtual open world being constructed from within by a team of up to 8 player-hackers posing as Ubisoft employees.
No experience is truly the same, thanks to every single thing in the game being procedurally generated, randomly gamified and algorithmically dispersed on a fully craftable progression field that stretches out for several light years in every direction. Some players still havent found everything in the game, and some havent found anything at all. Brilliant!
Call of Duty 2016
Call of Duty 2016 - which confusingly takes place in 2106 - is truly a fresh breath of air for the franchise, moving all its frantic first-person action to exclusively underwater arenas. Though Activision insists on calling it a SCUBA, Call of Duty has taken a clear MOBA turn with its roster of aquatic heroes and unlockable fins.
Its also the most accessible game in the series to date, with the inescapable presence of water slowing down all movement, aiming, and evasive maneuvers to an understandable pace. To top it all off, this Call of Duty also refines the classic Pick 10 system into its most sensible form yet, allowing you to pick which 10 minutes of campaign youll play before returning to the multiplayer.
Tolstoy's Treasure: Origins
Move aside Indiana Jones, Nathan Drake, Lara Croft, Prince of Persia and that guy from Dark Void! Theres a new action/adventure hero/anti-hero in town, and his name is Norman E. Tolstoy. (Or is it?) Though many will completely overlook the subversion of design tropes happening in Tolstoys Treasure: Origins - even though its all right there in the title! - reading between the lines reveals a truly deceptive masterpiece that simultaneously undermines and revitalizes a genre.
Yes, Norman Tolstoy may seem like a generic, action-breathing man who conquers an off-brand third-world country in search of treasure, but you can tell its all tongue-in-cheek when Norman rests his foot on a bloody corpse, turns his head to face the screen and says, Wink! It may seem like just another blend of third-person action and stealth with RPG elements, but if you look closely, youll see none of that stuff is really necessary. INDEED?
A Sassy Screed
AHHHH, whos there? someone asks in A Sassy Screed, a new emergency narrative adventure in which you play a sassy ghost wreaking havoc on the residents of a sleepy Los Angeles suburb. This freeform floating simulator stood out in a year of loud, garish games by letting us explore the environment and shake everyday objects in spooky ways.
As the characters in the town gradually become aware of you and begin to panic and fight back, they become painfully aware of how much time they waste simply standing around, waiting for something to happen in their lives. As a ghost, you disrupt and disturb their idyllic existence for better or worse - almost like a player messing up a video game story with metaphors that are about video game stories themselves.
Metal Gear Solid Zero Plus 5: Remorandum HD
Though Wikipedia finally elicited enough donations by mid-2016 to receive a flashy new upgrade, its servers fell under the weight of Metal Gear Solid-related conspiracies. Konamis remastered collection, Metal Gear Solid Zero Plus 5: Remorandum HD, brought the answers just a little too late. Despite not being overseen by departed creator Hideo Kojima, though, Metal Gear Solid 5 (now combined with Ground Zeroes) has never looked or played better, and clues within the restored Chapter 2 finally allowed authorities to track down Konamis illegal dumping ground for choked-out motion capture actors.
Final Fantasy 7 Pre-Prologue [Decimus] Wayfarer: Witch-Chapter SiGH
Everyone knew it would take a while to get the Final Fantasy 7 remake out the door, including Square Enix. Luckily, the 20-hour demo for 2017s Final Fantasy 7 Remake: Episode 1 (of 14) was an excellent game in itself, exploring what happens to Cloud in the moments after he flips off the train arriving in Midgar, but before he lands on the platform.
The surprisingly dialogue-heavy story is a perfect taste of whats to come in the full FF7 remake, including a frantic real-time battle system that keeps the fun materia management system of the original, but adds several more colorful magic orbs thanks to a high-profile Jelly Belly promotion.
Katamari Free Form
Finally, Katamari Damacy is back with a modern veneer that competes with the likes of Metal Gear Solid 5: its a technologically profound open-world brimming with realistically lit details, and its original creator wants nothing to do with it. While Katamari Free Form could have just been a sweet little repackaging of one of gamings most eccentric artifacts, Namco goes the extra mile by fitting Katamari into our modern lifestyle.
Yes, free-to-play is still a turn-off to some, but its never been approached as cleverly as it is here. Now, when you roll over all the random bits of furniture and societal detritus in the world to create a materialistic sphere of stuff, the game connects to Amazons database and automatically purchases those items for you. Brilliant!
Created by just three developers and two chickens and a cat wearing a sweater (ironically), Think Peace is a pacifistic parody framed in a world that is literally the interior of a picture frame on the Presidents desk. Moving the analogue sticks in rhythm to the beautiful Enya-esque soundtrack, its your job to maintain a vibrant picture of serenity and pacifism within the magical picture frame. If you play well - and yes, Think Peaces high skill requirement makes this a TRUE video game - the President will see strokes of calming color and idyllic family portraits. If you fail, pictures become discordant, vile and poisoned by inappropriate product placement, and the Presidents extended hand will move closer and closer to the nuke button its been hovering over all along. Brilliant!
Gloom Cutter: Vessel of the Old Scorn
The year is full of pretenders to the Dark Souls throne, though none come as close to ascending gamings most frightful tower than Gloom Cutter: Vessel of the Old Scorn.
After earning over $14 million through Kickstarter in just 30 days, Gloom Cutter satiates fans in search of a true challenge with its gothic graphics, entirely inscrutable map, dynamically randomized controls and creatures with health bars so large they cause slowdown. In another brilliant stroke, the protagonist is a golem made of porcelain and can only raise his shield when he stands in the light of a full moon. Gloom Cutter is also notable for its dynamic cloud system, which covers the entire sky 100 percent of the time.
Destiny: The False Envoy-God
With its latest overhaul, Destiny lures us back into the never-ending (thankfully!) battle against the darkness. Though some fans miss Nolan Norths performance as Ghost already, most would agree that new replacement Chewbacca is the only one thats done the script justice. And though The False Envoy-God quests improve upon The Taken King in terms of structure, pacing and storytelling, Bungies real master stroke lies in the core campaign: now that the entire universe is mirrored, players can revisit the beginning of the story and be surprised all over again.
Those Vex that were on the right before? Now theyre on the left. Brilliant!