Game of the Year 2016 Day 3 of 3

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2016 was a hell of a year for games. Long awaited games like The Last Guardian and Final Fantasy XV finally made their debuts. First person shooters received a massive jolt in the arm with the fantastic Doom and invigorating Overwatch. Even long running franchises showed that their respective fourth iterations can be amazing. It was a good year, indeed.

Best Old Game of 2016

Winner: Picross 3D

I had finagle a way to acknowledge the majesty that is Picross 3D. Picross is fine but blow it out into 3D dimensions was a mind expanding moment for me. I wanted to buy Picross 3D Round 2 but seeing how it was $40+ CAD and I didn’t even play the original, I went on Amazon.ca and bought a cart. It’s charming, weird and addictive to boot. The difficulty curve is a bit erratic at times but I feel it’s been fair. I’m playing for the perfect run so I restart any time I make a mistake and chip off the wrong piece.

While I’m technically not done with this game, I feel it’s easily one of the best games I’ve played this year.

 

Best Game of 2016

Winner: Overwatch

It’s my most played game the year but that alone doesn’t warrant the number one spot. It’s also incredibly well designed from top to bottom with its unbelievable ability to entice me into trying new things. Blizzard managed to get me to play a ranked Competitive mode and even convinced me to use online voice chat with strangers on the internet which in itself is a small miracle. 

With a timeless aesthetic and strong free support including seasonal events, costumes, characters and maps, I see myself coming back to Overwatch over and over again.

Runner-ups:

2. Doom – It invokes the Doom games of the past but doesn’t use it as a crutch. The campaign was so tightly designed with systems feeding off other systems, music, story and gorgeous fluid visuals designed for the sole purpose of making me feel like a total badass. 

3. TitanFall 2 – Likely the most complete package of 2016 with both a surprisingly great campaign that invokes Super Mario Galaxy and a multiplayer mode that I thought was a write off after the less than stellar Tech Test. Respawn Entertainment will be supporting the game with free content as well which is a trend that I would love to see continue.

4. The Last Guardian – I love Trico. I wish I could have one as a pet. I don’t own a pet but my patience with Trico is highlighting the fact that I do have the mentality to be a decent owner. All I need is to pet them regularly right?

5. Uncharted 4 – The perfect ending to the adventures of Nathan Drake. If there was a single game that made me feel old and reflect on what I was doing with my life, it was this.

6. Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past – Some of the most depressing stories ever told in an JRPG were found in this epic. You can say it was needlessly long at times and they could have trimmed the fat but the long winding journey was essential to create attachment to characters.

7. Inside – It may not have been as impactful as Limbo but Playdead still knows how to unsettle people with the simple gestures and actions.

8. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided– Iffy performance in the hub world didn’t prevent me from rummaging through other people’s personal belongings, read their e-mails and hack their wall safes. It’s more of Human Revolution than I expected but more of a good thing isn’t bad. 

9. The Division – End game issues stopped my brother and I from returning to The Division but for a very brief couple of months, The Division’s loot driven brand of third person shooting kept my brother and I coming back everyday to do our “dailies”.

10. Gears of War 4 – It’s been years since Gears of War 3 – both in-game and out of it. Creating a likeable cast of new comers isn’t easy but The Coalition managed to package them and the classic Gears of War formula into a game that still plays in 2016. I look forward to the “dark middle” chapter and hope they’ve learned to run around like normal people by then.

Checkpoint: Uncharted Retrospective Edition

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Brad sat down with Naughty Dog’s John “Cowboy” Bellomy to talk Uncharted tech and how far this series as come since Drake’s Fortune. I’m about 1:15 in and so far it’s wonderful. I love hearing development stories and just how proud they are of what they’ve accomplished.

Much of the technical details flew over my head but I love the passion and reverence Cowboy shares for it. Moving from key set piece to key set piece and highlighting the challenges and solutions they came up with to tackle them. I loved hearing the proxy boat trick in Uncharted 3 for example.

After watching this video, I just want to go back and replay the Uncharted games. It’s easily become one of my favorite franchises ever.

Besides fawning over Uncharted, I’ve been chipping away at Odin Sphere. it doesn’t seem to ever want to end which is not a great thing.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Campaign Review

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The Last of Us will go down as one of the most important games in Naughty Dog’s history. It gave the studio clout and free reign to do just about anything they wanted. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End may be the fourth Uncharted game by them but in many ways, it is unlike the trilogy that were born on the PlayStation 3.

A Thief’s End’s wasn’t afraid to take its time building towards its action scenes or allowing quieter moments enough room to breathe. It wasn’t deterred by the fact that I haven’t shot someone in X amount of time. The game felt like an adventure game punctuated by action instead of an action game broken up with exploration. It takes a strong and confident studio to make that kind of shift and I was happy they were able to do so this time around.

Some will undoubtedly find the slower ramp up plodding and boring but I loved it. I soaked up every scene with Nathan Drake living the civilian life. Many games go down the path of the “retired” character falling back into his old life but it’s usually handled as a quick prelude before the action ramps up to full speed. There were set piece moments and firefights but they didn’t dial it to 11 until late.

Not since Drake’s Fortune has Naughty Dog introduced a new character as well as they did with Nathan’s brother, Sam. Chloe, Cutter and the cast of villains in previous games were always seen as the flavor of the game and were treated as such. They gave just enough backstory to frame the situation but the players never spent the time to witness the nuances and subtleties of a relationship.

I didn’t expect to spend as much time with Sam as I did. They showed how they interacted with one other and how much Nathan looked up to Sam. I even got answers to questions that I never questioned like how and why Nathan was so driven to hunt down treasures. I simply assumed that’s just what he did for a living.

A Thief’s End was a very reflective title. Nathan and gang spoke in reverence to their previous adventures but Naughty Dog also pulled from popular touchstones from the studio’s early history. Less overt but more important were the lessons and inspirations taken from The Last of Us. A more deliberate pacing and much less fantastical scenario for our heroes to face up against grounded the series like never before.

Make no mistake, the action and platforming was still patently Uncharted. It was unbelievable, bombastic and just the way I liked it. Time was very kind to Nate and company; they still had unbelievable upper body strength and all the luck in the world on their side. Nate did learn/recall a new trick though: the ability throw a hook shot and swing across giant chasms. Unfortunately he and his brother did not learn to use the rope to help one another up from hard to reach places so they continued to rely on pushing over bookcases, boxes and other platforms.

The last cover based third person I played was the Division and it allowed me to become complacent — I hunkered down behind cover for too long. Since I chose to play A Thief’s End on Hard difficulty, I witnessed many deaths as cover deteriorated quickly and the enemies weren’t afraid to lob grenades to flush me out into the open. New tricks like the ability to swing from up high while unloading a clip from midair were rendered ineffective due to the fragile nature of Drake on this difficulty.

I should have played the game on Moderate difficulty but then I wouldn’t have engaged in the stealth options as much as much as I did. Repeated deaths in these encounters weren’t frustrating because there were so many options and avenues of available to me. Being able to mark enemies like in Far Cry 4 made it easier to track enemies but it was still a bit tricky to find the ideal moment to strike. Naughty Dog teased rolled out these kinds of encounters in Drake’s Deception but they were few and far between. Now, nearly every encounter was setup with the mindset that I could tackle it in numerous ways.

For the first time in the franchise, the venerable jeep was used to do more than engage in fire fights — it was also an exploration and puzzle solving tool. Nathan wasn’t stumbling across the series’ trademark room scale puzzles on foot any more. He was exploring islands and vast spaces that required other modes of transportation. It was the closest Naughty Dog has come to an open world game and I liked it. Everything remained intricately detailed as I’d expect from them but it was in a much bigger space.

Naughty Dog wrapped up the Uncharted franchise in such a tidy bow and I would be perfectly content if we never see another title in the franchise again. There are still holes to be filled like how Sully and Nathan met but with how much Naughty Dog acknowledged in A Thief’s End, it would be incredibly difficult to shoe horn a title in without it sticking out like a sore thumb.

I’ve rarely felt old when playing a game. When I played Call of Duty: Black Ops III, it was just another game in a franchise that didn’t really age or mature per se. I felt differently while playing Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. It resembled their PlayStation 3 games but it felt older and more refined. This game was the culmination of nearly a decade of world building, character development and stories in the Uncharted franchise. And as a tough a task as it was, they absolutely nailed it.

Verdict:
I love it

Ratings Guide

Paris Games Week?

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Another tradeshow was brought to our collective attention as Sony held a two hour press conference to open Paris Games Week. It was a well produced press conference but there weren’t any unexpected surprises. (Of course a Gran Turismo was coming, you’re a fool if you thought otherwise.)

Even without the bombastic reveals, it was nice to see release windows narrowed and more footage of announced titles.

Announcements

  • No Man’s Sky launches June 2016
  • Tekken 7 coming to PS4 & Xbox One
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End launches March 18, 2016
  • Nier sequel officially named Nier Automata via NeoGAF
  • DRIVECLUB Bikes launches today as an standalone expansion
  • Gran Turismo Sport announced for PlayStation 4
  • Quantic Dream’s Detroit: Become Human announced for PlayStation 4
  • Street Fighter V launches February 16, 2016 via Capcom Unity
  • Uncharted 4 Multiplayer Beta will run from Dec. 4 – 13 via PlayStation.Blog

Media

My interest for Guerrilla Games’ Horizon: Zero Dawn grows with every piece of media I see. I don’t have a firm grasp on what exactly Monster Hunter is but this looks like a westernized Monster Hunter to me. I suggest you watch the walkthrough above, it’s neat to say the least. Then you can watch these two other videos if you wish.

Uncharted 4 Multiplayer PGW 2015 Trailer

Star Wars: Battlefront PGW 2015 Trailer

Detroit: Become Human PGW 2015 Reveal Trailer

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