Hello, friends. 2016 was a very cool year for games; I played over 140 combined hours in strategy games, and that alone is a "win" as far as I'm concerned, but there were plenty of neato games that had to do with shooting, running, and running PLUS shooting at same time. This was a landmark year not only for strategy games (especially if you're unlike me and love to play Civilization) but for stealth assassin games. If you loved to run and jump and teleport and grapple around shit, 2016 was your wet dream with Dishonored, Mirror's Edge, Titanfall, Overwatch, and Deus Ex. And if you love puzzles that use dots, then hold onto your fucking hat because the king of all dot puzzle games, The Witness, also came out.
Unlike 2015, wherein I kind of waffled my list choices at the tail end, 2016 was a tough year for my Top Ten. The games I left off were given "dark horse" awards, which I'll be showing off in the Special Award section, as usual. This was a great and diverse year! BUT MY CHOICES MATTER MORE THAN YOURS SO HERE WE GO.
10) KILLING FLOOR 2 (PS4, PC)
Killing Floor 2 is basically Left 4 Dead injected with a cocktail of steroids, meth, and caffeine; it's jacked up with dumber and bigger explosions, better gore-filled enemies, and sillier weapons. While Overwatch was a game my buddies and I spent much of our time with, KF2 was the one we took on to blow off steam and just blast the shit out of gross monsters. It's a simple tale of "zombies and monsters have fucked the world, you shoot them all" and I have fallen in love with this brutal game of slow-mo headshots and buzzsaw guns. The only sleight I have against this game? Too many Brits. I don't need all these fucking Brexit cops and SWAT officers in my zombie game unless they are named Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. My hatred of limey humor aside, absolutely buy this big bombastic shootman game if you love dumbbell survival modes and katanas.
9) KING OF FIGHTERS 14 (PS4)
Normally, I'd have written a dedicated review for one of the top 10 games on this list, but KOF14 just strikes me as a such a simple and clean effort that there wasn't really much to say about it (For more about my opinions on SNK in general, scroll to the "Biggest Comeback" award). I've played a handful of fighters this year, numbering SFV, KI, and GGXR among KOF14's release. KI has been a treat and GGXR is absolutely god-tier in terms of aesthetics, features, netcode, and the ways it offers an enorminity of content and guides and services for players--but neither I could really classify as 2016 releases, due to their episodic/revisionary nature. SFV was not even close to winning this year's fighting game spot so by default it goes to SNK's baby. KOF14 is well-deserving of this honor, so here's to many more successful years of SNK making fun shit for us.
8) FINAL FANTASY XV (PS4, X1)
I wanted to write a review for FF15, but ran out of time and patience. The best I can do to describe FF15 is "road trip with your friends wherein the royal house does what he can to get favor with common folk by becoming a monster hunter and occasional rebel against the big mech bases of a frowny face empire." I want to emblazon this summary and tattoo it across the box along with the caveat "enjoy while you can," because the game morphs into a slog of meager highs and plentiful lows around halfway into the game--around 25 to 30 hours in. From Chapter 8 thru 13 (itself one of the worst 2 1/2 hours of any game I've played in years) the fun romp of charming food recipes and chocobo races turns into one of awful plotlines, "twists" so bad not even the main characters care about them, and generally dreary encounters.
It's not all bad, though; unlike Xenoblade X from last year, FF15 genuinely brought me a lot of fascination and wanderlust, because there were actually interesting things to discover. Someone said that FF15 is basically "the overworld of a 16-bit FF game made whole," and I agree with this, in a way. There may be a lot to traverse but the fighting gameplay is great and the locales are quaint. For the timeframe before and after the 5-chapter slog you get embroiled within, FF15 is genuinely fun as heck and totally worth the investment. It's a huge step in the right direction for Square, if they can resist the need to run amok with forced stealth sequences or claustrophobic epochs of time spent doing very little.
7) SUPERHOT (PC, X1)
I am seriously so tired of writing the same glowing details about this game over and over so please skip to either the dedicated review I did earlier last year or the Best Narrative award below, spoiler alert
6) OVERWATCH (PS4, X1, PC)
After seemingly eons removed from my college years playing Team Fortress 2, a new class-based FPS from big daddy Blizzard came down the pipe and won everyone's hearts. For the countless hours I've wasted with my friends in this stupid game alone, Overwatch was responsible for quite a lot of fun I had in 2016. More than anything else on the list, Overwatch was the premier multiplayer experience--and a stable one that has been updated constantly since release. Everything from hero stacking to matchmaking to game modes has been addressed beautifully, leading to the very admirable state it's in today. Blizzard's done a great job with their console endeavours, and Overwatch is well on its way towards even greater things in the future.
5) XCOM 2 (PC, PS4, X1)
XCOM 2 was the first in the series that I actually completed, which says a lot about the quality of this sequel. I loved the new aspect of your X-Com troops being the guerrilla force this time around, allowing you to craft some very fun setups and takedowns. I also loved the level of modding and customization you could put on your team, and the overall control of the game template itself. There's nothing like XCOM when it comes to the highs and lows of isometric cover-based strategy, and I 'm already looking forward to the next outing I'll have with my stupid custom squad of freaks and veterans. Thanks to the heavyhanded troop creation and endlessly fun maps, it's safe to say my clocked 70+ hours of this sucker will increase in 2017.
4) DARKEST DUNGEON (PC, PS4, Vita)
Darkest Dungeon is somewhat of a "longform" pick here, given that I've actually been playing it since early access in 2015 for a year. 2016, however, brought a plethora of fantastic changes to the game that helped ease the late grind and balance a few more aspects. Darkest Dungeon is a diceroll in the dark, a panic-button of an RPG, a cosmic encounter with mortality at every juncture. In Darkest Dungeon, the main character is your town, and your teams are nothing more than sacrifices for the greater good. Death is inevitable, much like XCOM2--but the victories gained as you play smarter are quite rewarding. Aesthetically and thematically, this game was already a huge winner for me; the endless weeks drag on in the same save file I've had for a year. I almost don't want it to end, as the "grind" of doing dungeons is always new and exciting as I mix and match team compositions and strategies. I love Darkest Dungeon intensely for the fact that I can jump in at anytime and still build towards something--it's already as timeless to me as older, mustier strategy outings. Darkest Dungeon, like the blight therein that infects and burns, is the itch that never goes away for me.
3) HITMAN (PS4, X1, PC)
One of the most successful franchise resurrections in quite some time (besides a certain id Studios franchise mentioned below), Hitman had a few things going against it with online-dependant unlocks and a potentially fatal episodic structure. The overall quality of Season 1 is so wonderful that I find it hard to complain about IOI's minor quibbles, even if I do hope they can someday just flat out give us an offline security blanket. Hitman has been a hallmark of excellence when it comes to imagination and devious creativity within a variety of intensely fun sandboxes; I'm already excited for what the future holds in 2017 and beyond for this game.
2) DISHONORED 2 (PS4, X1, PC)
Dishonored 2 comes so, so close to the precipice of GOTY--but falls just short due to a few glaring performance flaws and beginning section pains. It's an otherwise perfect action-adventure game built on the ability to choose. From the get-go, you're presented with an option that comes straight from the developers, but out of the mouth of the Devil: will you accept a gift greater than anything in the game's existence, or will you spurn the promise of godhood in favor of flesh and steel? As much as the creative and amazing skillset afforded by the Outsider is the trademark of Dishonored, it is also within your means to challenge yourself even further by accomplishing your goal as a normal human. This is just the first of many decisions in the game, one that is followed by an endless appeal of problem solving and incredible gameplay. When it comes to making you feel clever, invisible, or just plain magical, Dishonored 2 follows in the footsteps of its predecessor by showing us just how much fun games can be when the signposts are uprooted and we are told to simply "play it your way, go crazy, and have a blast."
Game Of The Year: DOOM (PS4, X1, PC)
The biggest shocker of the year, DOOM had the entire deck stacked against it: a questionable multiplayer beta. A release-day review embargo. Being a so-called reboot to a historically important sacred cow. And yet, id Software completely nailed the revival by marrying classical FPS principles with the modern control and features of current gen games. DOOM is a beautiful, blood-soaked game that looks hellishly good and runs like a rabid Ferrari. It's a series of challenges that come down to guts and glory, while offering enticing environments that hide devilish secrets and shortcuts. It's an experience based on acrobatics and strategy, item management as much as knowing when to be aggressive or defensive. As much as DOOM postures to be raving machismo, it is a thinking person's shooter in its moments of judgment. It is a crimson crystalline triumph in terms of aesthetics, gameplay, and beating the odds of a piss-poor marketing push. DOOM has always been an important name brand, and with the release of its new 2016 adventure, it has successfully made the transition from the cold DOS bootups of the 90s to the sleek home consoles of now. For perhaps the second time in game history, DOOM is a revelation--and the Game of the Year.
SPECIAL EXTRA AWARDS: "THE SPECIAL EXTRA AWARDS!"
Not everything can be in the hallowed Top Ten---and not everyone can win a special "Special Extra Award" award! Here are some fun little awards for extra fun special categories like Coolest Macaroni, or Lamest Sock Drawer in a JRPG.
BEST WASTE OF TIME: Overwatch
Congratulations Overwatch, for wasting so much of my time with endless quickplays and gimmick matches all throughout the course of 2016. They say time spent with friends is never wasted though, so I suppose maybe I should amend this award to "best use of time" or something. Nothing brings me more joy than getting pissed that a team won using 3 turret characters. For all the pissboiling to be had in a family friendly shooter, we salute Overwatch for capturing our hearts and wallets.
BEST COMEBACK: SNK
SNK made a bold choice not only to get back to its roots as a fun and feisty fighting game factory, but cut down on time and effort with their new graphical style. KOF games were known for their beautiful spritework and animation, so it was a little unsettling to see the PS2-level 3D character models on display for their return to the fighting game scene. Eventually, SNK made good on their promise to deliver a quality product, touching up the aesthetics as much as they could while creating yet another very satisfying KOF experience. KOF14 is a very odd beast in the fighting game landscape, not only for its nostalgic Dreamcast-era graphics but for its refusal to milk a playerbase of time and money. KOF offers itself as is with 50 characters, multiple single player modes, and good netcode--things that were a premium in early 2016 with SFV's questionable release.
Don't get me wrong, Killer Instinct has been a thrill to play and offered a huge package for the full price I paid, but KOF14 is so pure, so fun and so uncompromised that its existence is a huge victory for SNK going forward. The fact that SNK has already relented on its limited update policy and has already begun to plot balance changes, visual updates, and possibly DLC characters is proof enough that they have best interests at heart--even moreso now that they want to rebuild SamSho and Garou. SNK's comeback may not have been nuclear-level, but in a business full of microtransaction bullshit and piecemeal season pass scumfuckery, they beat the odds.
BEST SOUNDS: Final Fantasy XV
Nothing beats riding around in my crusty cruiser and listening to classic tunes in FF15. It's kind of cheating to consider FF15 for this award given how it literally hands you a dozen or so great soundtracks from previous games, but who cares? More games would win this award if they fucking included music options. Maybe Xenoblade Chronicles X would have been more fun to play if I could swap out that godawful home base song with literally anything. Ironically, FF15 does everything XCX wanted to do better, so it's fitting this is one more thing it has over that wreck. Speaking of which...
"HINDSIGHT IS 20/20" AWARD: Xenoblade Chronicles X
Last year, I hit the panic button with my top 10 because I didn't play nearly enough of games like Invisible Inc or Splatoon. I gave XCX a spot on my list, despite my growing frustrations with it. I regret this immensely, especially since I soon after got rid of the game and washed my hands of all its horrid flaws. Some people have called it "the best open world made in years;" I'd like to know where I can ingest some of the fucked up drugs they've inhaled. XCX had possibly some of the most boring open world locations since No Man's Sky, filled with sound and fury and brontosauruses and horrific pop-in but absolutely zero interesting things to discover. (In a year where Witcher 3 existed, this "best open world" statement was even more fucked.) XCX did its best to step up the combat complexity, but only succeeded in making it even more bizarre and needlessly baffling. The game completely erased all the charm and character of the previous outing, offering the worst fucking story and roster of cardboard anime cutouts I've played in years. I didn't even make it to when you get a mech because it's gated behind the shittiest hunt and fetch landmark discovery ever created. XCX was one of the WiiU's most monumental failures in every way, and is sort of a fitting end to the console's efforts.
BEST BALD WHITE GUY: Agent 47
We joke about "angry bald white guy" protagonists like Kratos, Cole Macgrath, Starkiller, and so on and so forth--but Agent 47 was the angry bald white guy before it became "cool." Nobody is fucking cooler than 47 in Hitman. If he needs to go undercover as a drummer to assassinate a rock singer, he can slam the skins like a pro and look awesome doing it. He can cook spaghetti better than Mario Batali. He can scale walls with the upper body strength of a gorilla. He has an uncanny resemblance to a German model. He owns and everyone should fall in love with this genetically-modified man of mystery. He's like a weird celibate James Bond who prefers a tall glass of water to a martini and a leather jacket with red clip-ons to Brooks Bros. Move over, Billy Corgan and Michael Stipe; there's a new Kojak in town.
BEST NEW CHARACTER: Xanadu
Xanadu is one of a few new faces in the KOF14 restart, and he's one sexy mothafucka. A weirdo pinhead inmate who styles in pimp coats over his jumpsuit and shark teeth, Xanadu might be an idiot savant with his strange philosophical ramblings put forth post-match; however, this is in juxtaposition with his frightening, babyman arm swings and rockabye-baby grab attacks. Xanadu is like the Iron Sheik crossed with a Zorastarian criminal and for this, he owns hard. 2016 needed more stupid fuckhead genius psychopaths with simpleton superstrength, and Xanadu filled the quota handsomely. Here's to hoping he sheds Choi and Chang and creates a true psycho team with Yamazaki and Shen Woo next year.
BEST CHUCKLES-TO-BUX RATIO: Final Fantasy XV
FF15 has supplied me with almost limitless mirth, whether it's Ignis' broken-brained yammering about finding new recipes in a public bathroom stall, or summoning God from heaven to smite a poor fucking hippopotamus creature for its sins. I've shared many laughs with my boy Prompto, seeing his photography skills grow with each passing apocalyptic battle. I've also crieds tears of laughter whilst playing through Chapter 13, one of the worst segments in any game I've played this year. It made the comparisons of FF15 to MGSV ring true because it reminded me of the No Fun Allowed battles I had with the Skulls and Sahalanthropous last year. I also could do nothing but laugh as the game froze at the culmination of a story chapter, forcing me to redo the entire Leviathan sequence from the start. Fucking hilarious shit, FF15.
"BEST" NPC DIALOGUE: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
The following video link will express everything needed to be said, but I can't stress enough how fucking godawful Squeenix and Co. bungled their whole "Aug Lives Matter" bullshit. The police officer in this video is especially and particularly fucking batshit, and I hope to god that no sane cop takes this worldview if confronted with quasi-fascist mindfuckery.
BEST BOSS: The Hellguards
Although not in the least bit as flashy or menacing as the Brainlord Spider or the Cyberdemon, the granite Hellguards in DOOM took me more than a couple of tries to vanquish due to their unrelenting abilities and speed. Two rockmonsters at once sounds like something you'd only encounter in the most vile of hardcore porns, but DOOM makes it work wonderfully. I dare you to stay unaroused as you leap over the flaming currents and stiff hard fists these sex machines hurl towards you.
BEST DRACULA HAUNTING: Hitman's "Vampire Magician" Disguise
It's sad that vampires aren't really prevelant this year in games, as even Darkest Dungeon won't get their bloodsucker expansion until early 2017. However, Hitman picked up the slack with the incredibly dumb and somewhat hilariously useless Vampire Magician costume you find hidden in a far-reach attic room. It's by far the dumbest thing you can wear at the Paris fashion show, and is guaranteed added difficulty towards whatever the fuck you're trying to do. Like most Hitman gameplay tactics, it has its place, though: looking fly as fuck while you drop chandeliers on people.
BEST NARRATIVE: SUPERHOT
2016 offered up gameplay first and story second, which is how it ought to be, unless you really have a hardon for long drawn out sequences wherein Nathn Drake eats dinner with his wife, then showers, then plays with a dildo on a webcam, then reads Proust before bed. 2016 said "fuck that" and gave us action-packed shit nonstop with DOOM, Dishonored, and Killing Floor. While a few strategy games gave us interesting themes and settings, and Odin Sphere attempts to be a giant nightmare Pixar tale, there was one game that had the guts and the gall to rise above the rest: SUPERHOT. A mishmash of Videodrome, The Matrix, Scanner Darkly, and Lawnmower Man (the film, not the Stephen King story about a satyr who eats grass), SUPERHOT is a wonderful package deal, right down to the options to view a "live" chatfeed in-game about the world it is set within. It's a minimalist masterpiece of blending consciousness with game immersion, and gave me more thrills than all of the "press X 100 times to adventure" prompts combined.
BEST ITEM/POWER: Rats
Normally, I nominate a specific weapon or tool, but I had to bend the rules a little this year. Sure, Overwatch is full of cool shit, and DOOM has the gauntlet of splatterhouse firearms, but from the beginning I knew the coolest armament was bound to reside within whatever occult skills Arkane had in store for us in Dishonored 2. You could righteously just say "Dishonored 2, as a whole" and leave it at that but I just want to hammer home how fucking incredible it is that you can realistically become the fucking Rat King of New York in this game without giving a shit about possession, doppelgangers, or any of the other amazing abilities. The game turns into a demonic Charlie Kelly simulator as your rodent pals consume bodies, cause chaos, and follow you pied-piper style into battle. How many games let you overtake a kingdom with just rats? That's right, fucker; none. Uh, Miyamoto? Kojima? Take notes, kids.
Best "Mouths Agape" Moment: Sneaking Up On A Bigass Bird
It's funny that for all my criticisms of FF15's latter half and various missteps as a whole, the charm and fun of simply being royal hunters taking out huge beasts never lost luster. The game does a great job letting you know that titans and demigods are going to be a regular occurence early on, as you're tasked with collecting a dumb trinket for a 25 year old man with a 50-year old Italian accent. You're faced with a slumbering, godlike squab, who wakes up immediately and takes wing to the heavens. You know somewhere, somehow, you're going to face this sucker later on and it's going to be glorious. This is how you introduce the wonders of a world you're building up.
BEST VILLAIN: Delilah Copperspoon
Sometimes the best adversaries aren't necessarily the biggest or baddest of the bunch, but the ones that make you question the purpose of their villainy. In a game that preferred to show you the nature of the world and its characters through found lore and psychic revelations through a heart-device, Dishonored 2 gives you the enigmatic Delilah, a witch who immediately starts a hostile takeover of your kingdom. However, as the story continues, it becomes apparent that Delilah could merely be just another victim of Dunwall's depressing poverty and misfortunes. The bastard daughter to a king before being forced to endure heartbreaking misery, Delilah's ascendance to the throne is one full of sound, legitamate fury--I felt a degree of sympathy despite her occult warpath. Robbed of her birthright, childhood, and general innocence, Delilah is dangerous mainly because of her wild quest to stop at nothing to create beauty in a world that had rotted over twice now. A woman who spent a lifetime crafting beautiful sculptures and paintings to counter the warped reflection of the continent that broke her, Delilah's ultimate goal to bring her artistic vision into reality is one that may be crazy, but not entirely undeserved in light of the shadows that bound her. Delilah's presence throughout the entire Dishonored mythos is one that makes you rethink the whole of Jessemine's character, alongside the worthiness of the world to be saved.
WETTEST FART: Street Fighter V / Pokemon GO
Honestly, before P:G, this was a shoe-in for me with how utterly bored I was with SFV's terrible launch week, incredibly, shockingly bad "story" mode, frustrating Survival, and utter lack of anything beyond netcode-driven combat. Even if SFV is a nice fighting game, it's still a fairly bad *game* in general, which is evident enough from the blustered sales/reviews from the public. P:G is just flat out bad, though being a mobile game saves it from some otherwise deserved ire. With 15 million downloads, you'd think there was some meat on it, but instead you're treated to a buggy and broken grindfest that boils down the premise to its most base idea. What may have encouraged social gatherings has also created some embarrasingly dorky shit, from trespassing private property to car crashes to cringe-inducing stampedes just to catch Snorlax. In retrospect, it reminds me of the Amiibo craze--another cash cow that involved similarly useless avatars that did almost fuck-all. If you want to play a good Pokemongame, try Sun/Moon. P:G was an interesting experiment, but one that has been handled by a shit-tier company that is holding the product together with twigs and glue.
When I say "wettest fart," I'm talking about how neither game has completely shit their pants, but has created enough of a fucking stink that I can't help but leave the train car they inhabit. Maybe 2017 will bring better tidings to both of these rickety heaps, but in terms of 2016, neither impressed me when it came to consistent quality versus their initial promises.
BEST PLACEBO UPDATES: Overwatch
As much as I love Overwatch, every update is merely a vote of confidence that "we won't fuck up this time." Maybe someone got nerfed? Maybe next time they'll get buffed? Who knows!? It's all a part of the sugarpill bullshit of Big Pharma Blizz, and we're all the teeming, sweaty masses in search of the next aquacola fix. Admittedly, the changes to Quickplay, hero stacking, and various abilities have come faster than expected, and big daddy Kaplan has done an admirable job keeping the peace. Just remember, we're one bad update away from the next top anime fiasco.
WORST ENDING: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
This is cheating because I only finished 80% of the game, but I already know what's coming: an ending cut off due to a desire to milk everyone of their money for a sequel. For the sole reason that the ending--and overall content--was portioned off out of complete greed, I give DXMD the golden butthole award of Worst Ending. I DIDN'T ASK FOR THIS.
GORILLA MINDSET AWARD: Darkest Dungeon
This award, named in honor of famed broken-brained twitter philosopher M. Cernovich, is given out for achievements in games that validate selfish shitfuckery, idiotic Sun Tzu fuckups, and misplaced machismo. This year's GM Award goes to Darkest Dungeon, a game that encourages foolhardy use of your disposal army, best laid plans gone to hell, and general RNG chaos. The town is your character in Darkest Dungeon, so don't get all sappy and weak about sacrificing your children for The Greater Good. Only weak-kneed libs and babyback bitches will weep at the prospect of a narrow victory.
"DOG PARK" AWARD: Hitman
In 2015, one man displayed unmatched digital cruelty in a series of videos known as the "Dog Park Tapes." In 2016, we are proud to announce the inaugral Dog Park award--a designation given to the game with the most diabolically heinous potential for inherent vice and sadism. Past Dog Park winners would likely include games like Postal or GTA (the grand origin of Dog Park.) I'm proud to announce that Hitman is this year's Dog Park nominee. Hitman is not only a brilliant and creative wetworks simulator, but a splendid "asshole recreation" in terms of terrorizing the public at large with explosive rubber ducks and sniper attacks. If you ever wanted to destroy a rich man's estate with methodical assassination or disguise yourself as a priest to smother a Steve Jobs millionaire to death, this might be your shit. On the other hand, if you also want to merely sucker punch civilians, stab custodians, drop coins and annoy cameramen, or hide chefs in garbage bins, this might still be your shit. Dropping a landmine in the midst of a mime performance was one of my game highlights, and reason enough for Hitman to win the coveted "Dog Park" trophy of 2016.
MOST WOKE AF GAME: Fire Emblem Fates
Fire Emblem's latest 3-part epic was unfortunately too fucking large for me to even come close to completing this year, much like how Awakening took me like 2 years to even finish. I'm sure by the time I beat all 3 goddamn episodes we'll have a new President, so for now all I can do is say "8, 9 out of 10, idk, it's Fire Emblem it's good it's great" and move on with my existence. However, Fates wins at least one concrete award from me: the "woke as fuck" award. Fates proves how aware it is of progressive social norms by normalizing weirdo incest fetish shit with your big and little sisters, no matter which family you choose. In Conquest, prepare your body for possible sexual harrassment from your older BDSM sister obssessed with giving you sponge baths. In Birthright, hope you're cool with fending off the creeptastic attention of your younger Nippon sister who idolizes your goofy non-shoe wearing ass. FE has always been a bit of a waifu simulator, but Fates cranks the dial to uncomfortable levels of relationship acceptance. For your commitment to exploring and advocating these new and fucked up spaces, we award FE Fates with the "Woke AF" Award 2016.
DARK HORSE 2016: Odin Sphere: Leifthreiser
Theoretically, "dark horse" might as well be the new developer title of Vanillaware, a company that continues to have a track record of beautifully-drawn sprite art and reliably enjoyable combat. I was a big fan of Muramasa and Dragon's Crown (having bought the collector's edition of the latter title) and immediately opted for the collector package of Leifthreiser last year. Sadly I haven't finished even half of the game, but it's so awesome to look at and so much fun to fly around the screen slashing shit that I had to commemorate it somehow. Vanillaware, as usual, created an underrated gem tha deserves a look if you have the spare change.
BLACK SHEEP 2016: Grand Kingdom
-Technically, a black sheep and a dark horse have precious little differences, though while Odinsphere comes from an established place (being a remake affords you that notoriety) and a memorable developer, Grand Kingdom almost comes off like Vanillaware-Lite in its aesthetics. It's a strategy centered around galloping around a map dodging perils and fighting enemies, while the combat takes place on a 3-lane area with your 4-person team. It's one of the better Vita games available on the go--it's also on PS4--and had almost zero fanfare upon release in the West. I don't expect many people will remember it being a thing, but it's a brilliantly fun little action strategy RPG with a huge clot of missions and leveling to do.
DARK KNIGHT 2016: Titanfall 2
-"Please what the fuck is the difference between a black sheep, a dark horse, and a fucking dark knight you insane idiot"
Ok, here me out: While Odinsphere is an underrated game from a niche, and Grand Kingdom is a little-known good game from an even more obscure team, Titanfall 2 is the dark knight of the year due to being "the game we deserve" in a sea of COD clones. The movement, the gunplay, the incredible setpieces, and the extra robot action all put Titanfall 2's offerings ahead of the curve when it comes to twitchy shootman games. In a year where Battlefield took us backwards in time and accentuated miniscule steps, Titanfall 2 jumped forward and leapfrogged over anything tiring about Call of Duty Blops Modern Infinite Warfare Deluxe. It's a tremendous shame that, like Batman, Titanfall 2's story ends with being left in the cold even after doing everything right; its future is uncertain in a world where it was a legit finalist for GOTY in many circles. Although this game and the latter 2 just barely missed the cut for me, I love what Titanfall 2 accomplishes in both its brilliant singleplayer jaunt and its frenetic multiplayer--especially when the progression system is almost perfect. It is my faint hope that EA continues to improve and update Titanfall even further in 2017, which is looking like a year devoid of traditional FPS games after 2016's deluge.
As usual, let's end the year with a review of the previous year's GOTY predictions, and put down my 2017 picks.
Here was my laughable 2016 prediction in 2015:
1) Mirror's Edge Catalyst
2) Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
3) Fire Emblem Fates
4) Uncharted 4
5) Final Fantasy XV
6) No Man's Sky
7) The Last Guardian
10) Dishonored 2
Honestly, not a bad selection of games; the sore thumbs are definitely No Man's Sky and The Last Guardian, one which turned out to be shit and the other I haven't even played yet. Zelda, of course, got delayed for the 100th time. I didn't see DOOM coming at all, and hadn't played the Overwatch beta just yet. I haven't mentioned Mirror's Edge at ALL in this article, despite it dominating much of my pre-release hype; while Catalyst wasn't a horrid game, I found it simply too drab and the challenge runs way too difficult to acknowledge its existence. When it comes to parkour and thrills in the 1st person, Titanfall and Dishonored delivered better.
Here's my very early 2017 list, of which I have great confidence in, despite not knowing what will be arriving in the year's latter half:
1) Persona 5
2) Nier: Automata
3) Resident Evil 7
5) UNANNOUNCED NINTENDO GAME
6) Red Dead Redemption 2
7) Mass Effect: Andromeda
8) Injustice 2
10) Yooka Laylee
I could easily see Zelda, Tekken, Ruiner, Gravity Rush 2, RCR Underground, Tokyo 42, God of War, Spider-Man, and The Surge also become contenders, if/when some of those even come out this year. You'll notice I put "random Nintendo thing" in the list; I'm convinced Nintendo will put out something amazing this year that we don't already know about. In fact, I'll go as far as say that no less than 3 or 4 "masterpiece-level" games will come this year from the Switch. (The last time we had such a year, it was back in 2014 with Smash Bros, Bayonetta, and Kart 8.)
IT'S BEEN A GREAT YEAR FOR GAMES. 2017 WILL BE EVEN MORE FUN, AND COOL. I THINK PLAYING GAMES WITH FRIENDS IS VERY COOL AND GOOD. SEE YOU FOR THE GRAVITY RUSH 2 REVIEW, CHIPPIES.
A DISH BEST SERVED STEALTH.
The first time I played Dishonored was on the PS3. It was the first game I ever played on the PS3 when I bought the system--this was shortly after it had pumped out The Last Of Us, but all I wanted to play was this Dishonored thing I had heard such wondrous things about. I played it, but promptly made a decision that I hated it after only a few days. 6 months later, playing it again on a PC, I was completely enthralled; I loved it and still love it.
Fast forward to Dishonored 2, and I fell into the same trap. Ignoring the basics while being too passive, I forgot what made the original game fun for me: going fast and loose, yet smart and adaptive. Dishonored 2 is a game that kind of requires 2 playthroughs, much like its predecessor--though for slightly different reasons. Whereas you might want to try a second build in the original game, D2 dares you to try a completely different character with unique powers for your next go-around.
Dishonored 2 follows the same quasi-whalepunk setting mishmashed with the occult voidmasters and Jets v. Sharks gang drama of the first game, but trades in the rat plague for evil mosquitos and political villains for outright witches and Thomas Edison. In this outing, Lord Protector Corvo and his not-so-secret daughter-turned-emporess Emily Kaldwin are victimized by DLC Villain Delilah Copperspoon, who is essentially a lich from Coyote Ugly. Once you pick your character, the other is turned to stone while you flee the kingdom of Dunwall in search of more information on your mystic adversary. Most of the game now takes place in Karnaca, Corvo's birthplace; Karnaca is a bit different from the cold stones and drippy streets of Dunwall in that there's a broad ocean in the distance, opulent mansions, towering mining towns, and railway hamlets with special little trolleys above the streets. Tallboys aren't around anymore, but there are more than enough elite guards and gangsters, smarter and more numerous than before.
The scenarios and stages themselves are brilliantly realized in Dishonored's aesthetic, which has a bit of an exaggerated impressionist twist. Overlooking the in-progress vistas of the mining town or marveling at the extravagence of the Jindosh Mansion, I was entranced by every corner of this game; the detail is just breathtaking and absolutely kicks the ass of last year's ZeniMax game, Fallout 4. I'm thinking Todd Howard's team should take notes and move their engine to what Arkane is using, simply due to what is possible in terms of physics, as well. As far as performance goes, I'm sure everyone is aware the PC release had a rocky start, but the PS4 version has been pretty adequate. There are some slowdowns when using a special Timepiece item later on, as well as random hiccups, but for the most part I've been impressed with how stable things are considering this is a heavily modified last-gen id tech (Void Engine, as they call it) running on duct tape and a prayer.
Gameplay is what you'd expect from a Dishonored sequel, as it's once again a compromise between hardcore stealth and brief bursts of using your witchcraft to do anything from control rat hordes to pulling dudes with a symbiote arm to linking people together in a ridiculous domino effect. For those of us that need familiarity, there's Corvo with all his previous skills intact--some of them boasting new upgrades. If you want to go in with a completely new bullpen of powers, Emily has some truly fascinating abilities, ranging from the aforementioned domino and symbiote arm to a fun doppelganger trick, a totemistic mesmerize, and a murderous shadow-walk. I admit that spreading out my ability points too much lead me to get frustrated; being a jack of all trades but master of none may not always work out. Upgrading Far Reach to pull and pick off enemies from a distance changed the game for me, just as upgrading Doppelganger to the max creates an army of mirages that completely baffle the opposition. It's in this system that replays are earned, as there are so many incredible combos and playstyles to try. The story itself may clock in at about 9 missions, but with each one capable of sucking you in for 2+ hours across multiple areas, and the possibilities of using multiple strategies on 2 different characters, you'll easily top 30 to 40 hours alone messing around.
Admittedly, I had some sour moments in my initial playthrough of Dishonored 2: getting lost in the Clockwork Mansion and then accidentally sequence breaking the game to the point of defeat in the Stilton Estate lead to some frantic moments where I regrettably went higher on the Chaos spectrum than I would have liked. Even with moments of fleeting frustration, the uniform excellence in level design shines so goddamn bright; the Clockwork Mansion still holds so many secrets and passages to victory never thought possible. The nailbiting encounters with witches in their terrifying manor still stay with me, as do the sneaking into various factions' strongholds before the Stilton mission and the dilapidated state of the grim Addermire Asylum.
Dishonored 2, much like DOOM and Titanfall 2 this year, is remarkable in how tightly constructed and contained its overall storyline is--every level is a very well-crafted snowglobe just itching to be shaken up and turned upside down. Like the previous game, Dishonored 2 is a masterclass in chaos and stealth in harmony, providing you with double the options and beyond this time around to maximize your creativity and fun. It's yet another masterful outing by Arkane and friends, and one that I'll be replaying even more than most games on my year-end list.
Amazing and topical!