2016 has been one hell of a year! Whether we’re talking big AAA releases or smaller indie titles there has been plenty to keep us busy. And as always its that time of year where we run down our ten best/favourite games so sit back relax and prepare to be in agreement or a fit of rage as we reveal our pick for four through one in our list…
4. FINAL FANTASY XV
Believe it or not but I have never played a single Final Fantasy game in all my twenty plus years of gaming. None of the main series, none of the spinoffs, in fact I’ve never even seen the awful theatrical movie. So why on Earth did I finally take the leap with Final Fantasy XV? To be completely honest I couldn’t tell you, having little to no exposure to anything even closely related to the game. Fifty hours later, a lot of slaying and I’m already starting to wonder what I’ve been missing out on all these years from this series.
First things first, the game has its issues let me just make that clear. The voice work is questionable at times, the pace dogged down in spots and the fact the final third of the adventure feels as if it came from a less interesting, more tedious video game are just the tip of the iceberg. In fact it may be the most flawed title on this entire list. However for some reason I kept coming back. I kept pouring another three hours in, then another, then another. Then suddenly the end credits rolled and rather than set it aside and move on, I was straight back in to finish off more dungeons and missions. I couldn’t stop.
While it may sound like I’ve done nothing but complain about the game and question its power it had over me, it does in fact excel in plenty of areas. Despite my initial irritation toward the main four boys, by the end of the game a strange thing happened. I actually cared about them. I felt uneasy when they were drifting as a group, I hated to see one of them get hurt (Ignis in particular) and even ended up smiling every time Prompto would show his nervous nature in a dungeon. The combat too is excellent offering a great blend of real time attacks with magic and special abilities selectable in menus (think Xenoblade Chronicles and you’ll know what I’m talking about). Visually the game is a stunner with the open world full of detail and character – this of course all mirrored by a soundtrack boasting orchestrated epics whether exploring or tackling enemies.
Most important of all though, the adventure I was on with Noctis, Ignis, Gladio and Prompto was a memorable one full of highs and lows. I felt like a fifth member of the team, like I was along on this road trip. And just like any great road trip, its one I’m eager to take again come XVI.
3. TRACKMANIA TURBO
Now we come to the final three. The very best 2016 had to offer and taking the bronze medal is the super insane Trackmania Turbo. The racing genre is a tough one to stand out in, either you’re a realistic simulation based driver, a Mario Kart-like weapon focused free-for-all or you lie somewhere in the middle. Not Trackmania Turbo. I found this to be unlike anything else out there and it was such a breath of fresh air.
Having the campaign split into short minute long time trials made this the perfect game to jump straight into over and over. Whether it be grabbing a couple more gold medals or seeing how I might rank when taking on other racers online. The track designs themselves are also a standout taking you up giant half-pipes, through loops are leaping through canyons. This is definitely one of those racers where you’ll want to repeat tracks over and over in order to master and grab that ever elusive green medal.
Then there’s the game’s local multiplayer which offers a strong mix of variety and downright crazy. Take the Micro Machines inspired Mono Screen mode where the camera hangs behind the four racers sharing a single screen with stragglers lose points. Or Double Driver where you and a partner drive the same car as a team. Or Bonus where players are randomly assigned abilities whether it be a tiny vehicle, giant monster of a car or a powerful jump. Sure you can play online in 100 player time trial rooms but tussling against a bunch of pals in these silly modes is even better.
Trackmania Turbo is a fantastically unique experience and one that I find myself always going back to whether its continuing my campaign progress or getting a few friends together and competing for the fastest times. A real hidden gem amidst a bust year.
My top two entries in this list are of a genre I never thought had any surprises left. For every new Call of Duty or Halo that gets released I start to grow more and more weary. The hiding till your health regenerates, the constant missions where you need to follow someone else’s lead or just the big focus on story (scratch that an uninteresting story). The first person shooting genre needed a big shake-up. Enter Doom.
The game had me by the balls from the get-go. I absolutely love the self-awareness of the game’s story (if you can call it that). Waking as the Doom-guy from a sarcophagus it’s mere seconds before the intro is over and you find your first gun. Off you go! In a day where big budget games are becoming more and more story driven, it was such a change of pace to come across one that focuses on the most important thing, gameplay.
Every chapter of the game brought with it plenty of guns and gore. Your arsenal rapidly upgrades from pistols and shotguns to rocket launchers and miniguns each with their own insane customizable additions. Everything from exploding shells to homing rockets all at your disposal to help dispatch all the evil. Level design is fantastic and never feels like a bore to explore.
Of course the gunplay is the true highlight here with the game wearing its arcade-like roots on its sleeve. Rather than take on enemies with a well thought out plan, it’s all about movement in Doom. Running around, avoiding fire and going in for the close up kill. It’s manic, fast-paced and always fantastic fun.
Also worth noting is the game’s arcade mode that has been added in post-launch, scoring you in each level of the campaign. Trying to get the highest score in each chapter of the campaign was enough to have me play through a third time.
All in all Doom is a shooter unlike any other this year and that is its strongest selling point. The only other game to top it is…
1. TITANFALL 2
While Doom’s campaign blew me away, its multiplayer component felt like it was lacking the same magic. This is where Titanfall 2 has the edge. Not only is its campaign innovative, surprising and great fun but its multiplayer stands as easily the best of its kind in recent years. Sure you could argue it rips a lot of what Call of Duty has made commonplace in a multiplayer shooter, but Titanfall 2 takes that and makes it feel fresh again. It addresses all the complaints made about the original. It is in essence a sequel done right in every way.
While many shooters out there rely on heavily scripted moments or a series of mindless battles against AI, Titanfall’s campaign throws a series of ideas your way each one more different than the last. Did you enjoy parkouring your way through a factory that builds small homes? Good, now we’re going to give you a time travelling device you can use real time. Done with that? Okay no we’re off to… and you get the idea. It’s a campaign that always keeps you guessing and always surprises in the best possible way.
Then there’s the addictive multiplayer. Where to begin? The levels themselves memorable, the weapons varied and satisfying to use, the Titans rewarding and epic in their presence, and most importantly the way it plays feels so damn good. Running along walls to springboard off and then land on another pilot or make a Hollywood-style leap from the top of a building onto a Titan to deliver a well-placed grenade inside. While a lot of game’s are so focused on delivering epic scripted set-pieces, Titanfall 2 is all about actually making your own set-pieces. If you see it, you can acrobatic your way over to it. If you have an idea, chances are its possible.
Three regenerations later and I still want to keep going to unlock that pink skin for my Titan.
So there we have it. What a fantastic year it’s been. Perhaps the toughest when it came to narrowing it down to just ten games. Honourable mentions go to Ratchet and Clank, Rhythm Paradise Megamix, Fire Emblem Fates, Overwatch and Forza Horizon 3 to name a few.
Here’s to an equally high quality 2017 (hopefully).