I know this post is rather late because it’s already almost February and so much has already happened this year. I will get to topics like the Nintendo Switch and Scalebound as soon as I can, but it’s tradition for me to do a review in gaming of the year before so I decided I’d have to squeeze it in.
Let me be honest and say that while I always have my ear to the ground and I’m constantly checking gaming news, I wasn’t nearly as focused on current gaming last year as I usually am. This is mostly because I was busy trying to complete the 52 challenge. Ultimately I did complete it and you can read all about my experience doing that here. But if you look at the list of games I completed last year you can see that most of them, especially the big ticket titles, weren’t released last year. Of the 52 games I completed in 2016, the only ones released in 2016 were Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India, Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: Russia, The Division, Hyper Light Drifter, Attack on Titan, One Way Trip, and Strike Vector EX. Of those seven games, only two of them are AAA titles and only five of them are titles that had any possible significance to the general gaming public. I also put in a decent amount of time and effort into 12 other 2016 releases and purchased an additional 16 2016 releases that I have yet to try. My point is that as far as more than just lip service experience through reading and watching videos, I was not personally involved heavily in 2016 AAA release gaming. So while I feel that I am equipped to judge gaming in 2016 as a whole, I am happy to admit that for this particular year I wasn’t nearly as focused on current gaming as I usually am.
When I look back on 2016, I’m a lot more neutral in my feelings than I was for 2015. And even in my 2015 review I wasn’t leaning too far to either side. 2014 though, I was super unhappy with. I would say that this year we saw a number of bad practices and trends start or continue, but for the most part things ran pretty smoothly. So let’s look at the highlights.
Crowdfunding has become even more rampant with companies like Square Enix having the nerve to email people in their newsletter to go fun indie games that they’ll take a cut from without having to fund them. This year we didn’t see any crazy Kickstarter projects like Shenmue 3 in 2015, but the practice of larger studios pan handling for money instead of taking the risks on like they’re supposed to has become even more normalized. I just hope people start to see that this model doesn’t breed great games a majority of the time in the coming year. As far as indie crowdfunding goes, I’m still opposed to it but in cases like Hyper Light Drifter the model works. That was an excellent game that had a true justification for crowdfunding the project because the developer was literally unsure about how much longer he would be alive and wanted to have the funds to complete the game before his passing with no designs on profit.
The games to movies thing tried to happen again in 2016 and no surprise it was all talk and no delivery. Warcraft the movie fizzled out long before it ever began. I personally didn’t even go see it because it looked boring as hell and everyone I talked to said it was a waste of time and money. Just for reference, it got a 28% on Rotten Tomatoes. I actually did take the time to see Assassin’s Creed the movie and that was terrible. It was so bad I took the time to write a rather detailed piece about it which you’ll see published in the next few weeks. Basically again no studio has understood how to properly adapt a game to a film because the people on one side don’t play enough games and those on the other side don’t watch enough movies. We also had Ratchet & Clank the movie, which I didn’t take the time to watch because I wanted to play the game which is a remake of the original game anyway so it seemed redundant to pay money to watch a movie based on a game that I was already going to play that was already based on a game I had already played. But Rotten Tomatoes gave that a 17% which is even worse than Warcraft so I’ll just assume my choice not to watch it was the right one. I’m currently playing the game however and I’m having lots of fun. And everyone seems to have forgotten the importance of narrative quality in visual based entertainment mediums in general. But now let’s get to the actual gaming.
I’d say the best way to do this is to just touch on the highlight games of 2016 one by one. So in my opinion the top 10 games of 2016 in no particular order were The Division, Uncharted 4, Battlefield 1, Final Fantasy XV, No Man’s Sky, The Last Guardian, Street Fighter V, Quantum Break, Pokemon GO, and Overwatch. Please note that when I say “top games of 2016” I am in no way, shape, or form saying that these were the best games of 2016. In fact some of the titles I just listed can and should be considered on the list of the worst games of 2016. By “top” in this case I mean popular and /or noteworthy. These are the games that garnered the most attention from the press and public in 2016. There were some other honorable mentions such as Dishonored 2, Titanfall 2, Mafia III, and Doom but these 10 are the ones that caused the most buzz for the longest amount of time and I think sum up gaming in 2016 as a whole best. So let’s tackle them one by one.
The Division was another Destiny scenario. A great concept ruined by a lacking plot, terrible end game, and a screwed up economy. Again, I fell for the beta and preordered it and again I, like so many others, was left disappointed. The Division however, was a lot faster about their updates and added multiple new modes of play in the first year of the game. But Ubisoft, like so many other developers, failed to realize that once a player base is lost it’s nearly impossible to bring it back. The loyal players are still playing and some returned, but most of us never took the time to try it again after finally getting fed up. I preordered the gold edition yet I have not logged back in to even try Survival even though I have multiple friends still playing it that have told me the new expansion is great. This always online, PVP focused, crappy end game scenario just keeps coming more and more and it’s really a problem. Probably one of the lowest points for gaming in 2016, but by no means the lowest.
Uncharted 4 was a high point for both the franchise and 2016. It won countless awards including PlayStation game of the year by the users, which in my opinion might be the most important award a game can win. As in player’s choice game of the year, not specifically PlayStation. I haven’t played this one yet, but I already bought it and can’t wait to complete Nathan Drake’s adventure. That was also a high point in my book. The fact that Naughty Dog chose to conclude the franchise instead of milking it for as long as they can. The plot drives development other than being added in last minute like with so many other games and franchises today. I hope 2017 has more moments like Uncharted 4.
Battlefield 1 was heavily hyped from the beginning and set against Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. I don’t play either of these franchises and I didn’t buy either game, but I have to say that both games impressed me this year because they did things differently for once. Battlefield 1 decided to go the opposite direction of every other mainstream FPS game for like the last two to three generations of consoles. You’re always either in WWII fighting Nazis, in the Middle East fighting “terrorists”, or in the future fighting aliens and it’s gotten so old. Battlefield 1 goes back to WWI which is pretty much unheard of in modern shooters. The trailer looked great and the gameplay looked like it would at least be kind of different from the same boring crap these studios dish out every year. But I also think Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare deserves to be commended for actually trying last year. COD is a series that always gets panned for having a crappy campaign. It’s a game that people buy for the PVP and until recently they never took serious issue with that. But in recent years Infinity Ward has legitimately been trying to be taken seriously in the narrative gaming genre. Advanced Warfare was praised by many people for actually having a story worth playing. I didn’t play it, because I never buy COD, but I was actually curious about the story starring Kevin Spacey. The trailer for Infinite Warfare looked even more legit for plot with epic speeches by Kit Harington (Jon Snow from Game of Thrones). I was so impressed by the trailer that I actually considered buying this one. Kudos to both franchises for finally thinking outside the box. I don’t like the fact that new CODs are made every year, but if these pew pew franchises will actually put some effort in then more power to them.
Final Fantasy XV finally dropped. It had a very long and very disheartening development cycle. Originally it was supposed to be a completely different game. At times people didn’t believe it was ever gonna get released, but it finally did. I first tried it at a mall in Taiwan back in 2015. Right away I was impressed. This was not another shitty FF13 scenario. This was the Final Fantasy game we’d all been waiting for. A real time FF game that runs smoothly, looks beautiful, and has characters that people really relate to. Square Enix has disappointed us a lot in recent years, but FFXV is a step in the right direction. I haven’t really started it yet but I already bought my copy. My one beef with the game going in is that it takes less than 40 hours to beat. It seems the days of long RPGs that give you over a hundred hours of high quality gaming are a thing of the past for Square Enix which is sad because they basically invented the genre. Overall though FFXV is definitely a win for 2016.
What can I say about No Man’s Sky that hasn’t already been said about the Assassin’s Creed movie? It came out exactly as disappointing as I predicted it would be months before release. You can read about that here if you’re interested. Everybody hyped it. Everybody, well except for me, preordered it. And everybody was disappointed. Ok that’s not entirely true. Some people liked it. But an overwhelming number of people were unhappy with the finished product. It set a new record for refund requests on Steam. Hello Games failed to deliver so many of the things it promised and then went dark after release in the wake of all the negative press. The game was overpriced, under done, and a huge blunder for everyone involved. I’m just glad I saw it coming and was able to help the few people who took my advice seriously from making a big mistake. Probably the lowest point for gaming in 2016.
The Last Guardian was finally released. After more than 10 years of waiting for that game, Japan Studio finally got it out. People had lost hope. Even my resolve had begun to crumble. But I kept hope alive and I was rewarded. Preordered the collector’s edition and for the first time in years I have no regrets about a preorder. The game is excellent. Now I’ll be honest and say it doesn’t live up to 10 years of waiting. The graphics are good, but it would have looked fine on PS3. And, like all games in the series, it’s not that long. My only real complaint is that I can’t pick up a magic sword and start slaying enemies like in ICO. But it is a great game and I’m glad we finally got to see it released in 2016. We’ll definitely consider this a high point.
Street Fighter V was just a big disappointment for all the wrong reasons. It’s a franchise that has set the standards for most fighters for the last 30 years. The formula isn’t hard. Yet for some reason this time Capcom decided to get all modern DLC and release the game prematurely with a fraction of the normal content. Eventually they put out the single player campaign but honestly the game shouldn’t have been released until that was ready. And you have to pay $30 for a character pass on top of an already $60 fighter. What the hell is that? This is just another example of developers/publishers rushing things out and not delivering the quality necessary to stay competitive in what has become a very expensive and extremely competitive industry. The game also had a lot of controversy surrounding censorship because once again the SJWs decided to get involved in gaming even though they don’t play the games they’re complaining about. Capcom gave in and censored the American version of the game taking NA one step closer to a Nazi police state where no one can have their own ideas about anything unless it agrees with the vocal minority or demagogues. Street Fighter V was not only a low point for 2016, but also possibly a bad omen for the future of game development and release.
Quantum Break was yet another example of how Microsoft doesn’t know shit about keeping their customers happy or just flat out doesn’t care about it. The game was announced as an XB1 exclusive only to last minute get ported to PC, angering most of the XB1 user base in the process. PC owners felt cheated for being misled into purchasing the console version and console exclusive gamers felt angry that an exclusive title could so off handedly be ported thus negating the value of their console. And Microsoft went as far as saying that they wouldn’t be doing many more XB1 exclusives in general because they want everything to be both XB1 and PC because obviously that’s more profitable for them. While I am all for cross platform games and think exclusives are one of the worst practices in the industry today, even I was disgusted by Microsoft’s comfort with blatantly lying to loyal XB1 users and the gaming public in general. That kind of behavior is everything that’s wrong with the industry today. Also the game ended up being kind of underwhelming as well so just an all-around low point for 2016.
Usually I don’t talk about mobile games, but how could we talk about gaming in 2016 without mentioning Pokemon GO? Niantic Labs delivered a great concept with record breaking downloads and profits only to somehow screw it all up with greed, bad management, slow development practices, and general negligence. I still play Pokemon GO and I genuinely enjoyed the times when it was a thing everyone was doing. But I’m in no way surprised that the game died off for most people because it has so many problems. And the worst part is that most of them could easily be fixed if they would just stop being so blatantly greedy. Pokemon GO is just like Destiny and The Division. Proof that great marketing and a great concept go a long way but don’t hold a user base if the developer doesn’t make player enjoyment the main priority.
And finally, let’s talk about Overwatch. Now for me you can’t talk about OW without mentioning Battleborn. You can choose to say they weren’t competing with each other, but the public directly compared the two and the public chose Overwatch. Now personally I played the beta for both games and I didn’t buy either. But what saddens me is that the public chose Overwatch. I’ll be completely honest and say that OW has the better basic gameplay, but it’s by no means the better game. Probably the most played game of the year was a game that has no single player campaign or mode, no story, and requires you to be always online to play. People basically told Blizzard and all developers that from now on they can produce half a video game and still charge $60 for it. In return that game will win game of the year, get used in esports, and be the leading search on PornHUB. What the hell is wrong with everybody? If Overwatch had a campaign I would have purchased it. The gameplay is solid and the graphics are good. But I’m not going to pay $60 to have to always be online and rely on other people to define my gaming experience. That’s not acceptable. If the game had of been $30, which would have been an appropriate price for a match based PVP only game, then I wouldn’t be complaining, but you can’t just throw out COD multiplayer with lesbian porn stars and charge the price of games like The Witcher 3. I think the number of controversies surrounding Tracer are hilarious and telling about how people feel about the game. They love the gameplay but they want a story and that’s why they care so much about things like comic books that in no way affect the game. It’s Star Wars: Battlefront all over again with a more diverse roster. Battleborn may not have been the better game mechanically, but it had a story with a cooperative campaign and people chose Overwatch because of the “sexy” female characters. And the most ironic part is the fact that the game is being championed for its diversity while being one of the biggest drivers of sexism and the objectification of females in the gaming community in 2016. It’s not fair to call such a successful game a low point in 2016, but calling it a high point means accepting a future where developers don’t even try when they steal your money.
Ultimately 2016 wasn’t a terrible year. I guess based on my opinion of these 10 specific 10 games it leans a little more towards the negative side, but not by much. It had some very low points both in and outside of gaming. But there were also some great moments in gaming that made 2016 a year worth remembering. The game I was probably most impressed with in 2016 was Attack on Titan by KOEI TECMO. It was a perfect recreation of the show that played well, looked good, and had a lot of play value in it. I’d like to see more adaptations so expertly done. Here’s hoping that 2017 will be a great year of gaming but based on the announcements we’ve seen so far I’m already losing confidence. Fingers crossed for Horizon I guess.
What were your high and low points of 2016? Was it a good year for gaming overall?