5. X-Com 2
XCOM 2 built on an already solid foundation of punishing turn-based tactical strategy, while mixing things up with its guerilla warfare elements, involving ambushes and opportunistic disruption missions. It straddled the line between serious and self-parody effortlessly, somehow managing to shape a world where Snake-Aliens-With-Boobs actually made sense (sort of). Refinements in player-classes and deft balancing made XCOM 2 feel different from its predecessor. An enforced time limit on most missions cut out the tried and tested Overwatch grind and bumped up the tension. Each soldier-classes felt diverse, with the different abilities working in tandem in a satisfying way, forcing you to pick your team carefully based on the type of mission or threat you were facing.
Picture the scene: your best soldier (the one with a cool eye-patch, named after the pet you grew up with), misses their 90% chance-of-success shot and is subsequently killed the next turn by a critical from one of your own soldiers who has been mind-controlled. What follows is a series of failures at the hands of Rookies, adept in the art of Stormtrooper gun accuracy and now aliens have conquered the world. Time to load that old save then…
– Jamie Levitt
“But it’s just Team Fortress 3,” shouted a bunch of angry folks on the internet. “It’s just Team Fortress 3.” They’re kind of right! And that’s exactly the point! Let’s discuss.
Overwatch’s biggest strength is its ability to make everyone feel extremely powerful, and make nobody all that much better than each other as a result. The game has gone through changes and modifications since launch, from new characters to significant tweaks to old. Through it all, the thing is some of the most high-octane fun one can have in a multiplayer game. Each character’s skillset is simple enough to pick up, but distinct enough to make players feel like they’re always learning something. I’ve played thirteen hours with D.Va alone, and still feel that way. It’s also amazing to play a shooter where the best are rewarded through Play of the Game and such. Everyone in Overwatch is absolutely stoked that you’re playing Overwatch!
There’s this cheesy line I always loved in The Incredibles, where the villain reveals his evil plan: to bestow superpowers upon everyone in the world. Because, as he puts it, “if everyone is super, nobody will be.” That’s Overwatch, right there. Everyone is super; an Avenger, a Power Ranger, a mec pilot, or whatever allegory you wish to use. Blizzard created an ensemble cast of likable superheroes, pitted them all against each other, and somehow managed to make the thing balanced and, more importantly, rewardingly fun.
Final Fantasy XV’s development history left many with a worried feeling about how the finished product would be. To the joy of many people including myself, Final Fantasy Boyband is a great game, not perfect by any means, but a great game. It took many risks and most of them do work, while not sacrificing the charm of earlier entries in the series. Even if many elements are influenced from a plethora of games from the past decade, Final Fantasy Camping takes these aspects and creates a charming and cohesive experience.
Final Fantasy Roadtrip take a departure from the series by being an open world action-RPG. This beautiful open world, and all the daisy chain of activities you can do in it, is the best aspect of the gameplay, complimented by a slick action combat system that borrows from a decade of action titles. You can easily lose many hours in the early game just doing the side quests and objectives; many of which are enjoyable in their own right – especially the camping. This is all complimented by a story that is good in spades, with breathtaking visual and audio design. What is most appreciated and surprising is how the level of polish is astoundingly high for what was a decade long troubled development period. While there are hilarious glitches that people have found and posted on social media, in my playthrough there was little to no technical issues with the game. Overall, Final Fantasy Stag Night succeeds for the most part on its mechanical, visual, audio, and technical strengths. The story is admittedly better in the first half and only enjoyable in spades at the latter half, the ending however, is one of the most satisfying endings of any video game I have played in a very long time, given more impact by how attached you grow to your party of characters.
Final Fantasy Boyfriends is a game that took risks and for the most part it paid off, Square Enix has made a title that gives it credence to the Final Fantasy brand. Every instance you load the game the prompt “A Final Fantasy for Fans and First-Timers,” appears. While this game is reflective look at the nearly three decades, it is also an optimistic stare into the future.
– Nathaniel Terencio
2. Uncharted 4
I’ve noticed that a lot of people’s first experience with Uncharted has been with its newest iteration, which is totally fine, but oh it’s so much better when you’ve been following Nathan Drake and his adventures since the beginning. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End wraps up Nathan’s exploring days so well that I almost, yes almost, shed a tear at the end. From the initial press of the start button to the last bit of text rolling off the credits screen, I was totally hooked. Now when I say “hooked”, I mean calling out of work sick for a few days to explore every square inch of the game. I loved every second of this game and I’m hoping that Nathan’s story is really over because Naughty Dog has ended it perfectly.
I adore any game that will make my wife stop in her tracks to ask me what I’m playing. She’s not a gamer at all (not my choice), but when something special comes along, she’ll watch the story unfold as I play through the game. Uncharted 4 not only made her set some time aside to watch Nathan’s tale, but my daughter also found herself in front of the tube to enjoy the ride. It turned into a television show of sorts where they were almost expecting to watch the next episode of Uncharted once we were finished dinner.
The reason the game is so much fun to watch is because everything is just so damn fluid. A sequence of events that starts with Nate jumping off a jeep to latch onto a moving construction truck that is barreling through a village, and then climbing onto said truck to finally jump onto another jeep to take the wheel is true gaming bliss! Uncharted 4 is filled with these types of events that piece together nicely to form one of the most amazing gaming experiences to date.
Now I did mention that I want Naughty Dog to leave Nathan’s story alone after this tale, but I don’t want to see the Uncharted franchise die. One of my favorite Uncharted characters, Nadine, desperately needs her own story. Now she will be co-starring role in upcoming Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, but I really do believe she can become the series’ new face. Please make it happen Naughty Dog!
– Mike Vito
Focus. That’s what makes a game truly great – when all of the millions of moving parts, the art and the gameplay and the story and the music, all move in perfect harmony to get the same point across – that’s when a game crosses the line from “good fun” to “masterpiece.” The point DOOM’s trying to get across may not be a particularly deep one, but every part of it works together so well that it leaves a far more lasting impact on the player than a hundred fake-deep walking simulators.
And what is it DOOM’s trying to be? In the words of Marty Stratton, the game’s executive producer: “Bloody good fun.” From the very first moment, the game tells you that “They are rage. Brutal. Without mercy. But you…you will be worse,” and from then on everything is a flurry of dodging, weaving, jumping, shooting, punching. The music pounds in your ears, perfectly complementing the gameplay, and while your protagonist conducts his business without words, everything you need to know about him comes in the body language and the look on the Imp’s screaming face when you go in for a glory kill. Yes. DOOM is a horror game, no doubt about that – one where you are the monster, an unstoppable force laying waste to any creature unlucky enough to stand in your way. You need more health? Glory kill an enemy. You need more ammo? Your trusty chainsaw will take care of that.
And this from a game we had no idea what to expect from. A game whose development was fraught with all sorts of issues, whose betas were so unimpressive that Bethesda refused to give out review copies and exclusively marketed the multiplayer, fearful of critics’ reaction to the singleplayer campaign. But now, in an industry that becomes increasingly saturated with remakes, reboots, and sequels eager to cash in on nostalgia, I’m glad we’ve chosen to celebrate a game that does it right as Hey Poor Player’s 2016 Game of the Year. DOOM shows that it’s still possible to make games with that old school cool in the age of chest-high walls, blending modern innovations with old design ideas to create something that is, indeed, bloody good fun.
Well done, iD Software. You’ve truly earned this award. Now don’t screw up Quake Champions.
– I. Coleman