2016 Games of the Year + special mentions

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The top 10 list I submitted for Giant Bomb:

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1. DOOM ; The ultimate, well-oiled murder machine. Filled to the brim with lovely action scenarios, great interplay between its fast-paced action and ripping soundtrack and just the right amount of humour. *kisses fingertips*

2. Stardew Valley ; A hugely impressive one-man project which strikes the right notes and achieves its goals in just about every way.

3. Titanfall 2 ; I bounced off of Titanfall 1 during its beta phase but I thought that with a few changes and additions it could be a great game. Respawn totally delivered with Titanfall 2. Both the single player and multiplayer are great.

4. Hitman ; I've been a fan of the series for a long time and while there were gameplay improvements this time, the real reason it's up here is because of the release model, elusive targets and other non-gameplay tweaks and additions. ♫~Come with me, and you'll be, in a world, of pure assassination~♫

5. Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR- ; An incredibly deep fighting game with lots of lovely, player-friendly touches. Did I mention it also looks positively stunning?

6. Superhot ; [Disclaimer: I helped kickstart this video game.] It may be a g bit of a gimmick, but damn if it isn't a fun one! This game's got styyyyyle out the wazoo.

7. Thumper ; AC⚡DC's Highway to Hell performed by Aphex Twin or Squarepusher by the way of Guillermo Del Toro's Cronos. I'm terrible at rhythm games but this game's sinister attraction proved irresistible.

8. Abzû ; 2016's Soulja Boy Award for Games To Play If You Drink And Get Drunk or Smoke And Get High.

9. Dark Souls III ; The formula is getting a bit long in the tooth and repetitive. The series frustrates me in its inability to improve on what seem like brilliant ideas executed kind of poorly or incompletely. That being said, it's still a damn fine game. I'm just glad it's over.

10. Dishonored 2 ; Dishonored seems like the series a lot of people want to say they like but don't actually like or play that much. It's hard to deny this game's sense of style, design and its level construction though. What an impressive toybox to tool around in. And then they give you The Darkness as well? I'm totally on board with that!

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I also want to give a special mention to the 2 games I played the most this year. Neither of them made it onto the top 10 list.

1. Street Fighter V

I played a solid 650 hours of this game, not including the beta, but I could not in good concience put it on my top 10 list. Don't get me wrong. The core aspects of the game are mostly sound and I also know why it launched in such an unfinished state but in the end I feel like it was a massive misstep for Capcom. A dearth of content at launch, limited battle lounges, technical issues during both offline and online play, no protection against -or punishment for- ragequitting. Its list of problems seems near-endless. And let's not forget one of this game's updates basically had a rootkit in it. I don't particularly blame Capcom for malice in this case, just gross incompetence. When I look at the polish Street Fighter IV and Marvel vs Capcom 3 had at launch I can't help but be sad about how things have evolved.

2. Overwatch

As someone who sunk a solid 2000 hours into Team Fortress 2 (without idling!) I was very hopeful for this game. I had not really liked any of Blizzard's output since The Lost Vikings so I was a bit apprehensive but I definitely wanted to try the beta to see if Overwatch could fill the hole TF2 left when it died due to Valve basically using it as a testbed for their other video games and letting go of all quality control.

I reconnected with a few of my old TF2 friends and off to the races I went. The beta was promising, maybe not on par with TF2 in its heyday but I felt it had the potential to get there for sure. After all, Blizzard's support for its franchises has historically been very strong and enduring. With that in mind I put down the money for the full release and jumped in.

I ended up playing a whole lot of Overwatch. I'm not sure exactly how many hours since Battle.net doesn't appear to show that information but I reckon it's my second most played game of the year after SFV.

However, as I spent more time with it I started to notice some structural problems. The 6v6 nature of the game actually made it far less forgiving or beginner-friendly than many other competitive multiplayer games. It also made it a terrible game to play by myself (aka solo queue) due to the fact that if you only have 6 players on a team, even having 1 player not pulling their weight can pretty much destroy any chance you have of winning the match (depending on the hero). After trying it a few times I quickly learnt to only ever play it with my dedicated group of friends.

Its usage of the MOBA-style Heroes instead of classes or loadouts also didn't really make for a more varied game, it actually made for a more restrictive one, often slavishly adhering to a certain optimal "meta", basically being forced to have certain characters on the team because their abilities are too essential (hello, Lucio!) really drove home just how limited this system actually was.

Then there was the general issue that hurts many modern multiplayer games: A slavish adherence to the matchmaking system and no dedicated servers. This prevents communities from forming around these servers and generally prevents you from really making new online friends to play with. To this day, most of my Steam friends are people I met playing TF2 on a few great servers with awesome communities. Online friendships which have lasted for years and which are basically impossible to build up in many of today's online games.

The far more locked down nature of these types of games (no custom maps, no fun rule or physics changes aside from the ones Blizzard gives the community to experiment with, etc.) also limits the amount of variation you can have within a game which in turn hurts their longevity.

As these issues started to become more apparent my interest in the game started to wane. I think I had reached around level 79 when Blizzard rolled out its competitive mode and I stopped playing cold turkey shortly after that. (I went back one more time a while later because a friend invited me to try Lucioball but that's about it. Lucioball sucked btw.) The game's problems had combined and amplified, resulting in a profound sense of boredom and lack of self-expression. Playing became a chore even when grouping up with friends the lack of variety in maps, strategies and hero combinations turned me off faster I had thought possible when playing the beta.

For the reasons I stated above and a few others, Overwatch is the recipient of my "Most Disappointing Game of the Year" award.

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