Time to make the donuts, bitch.Jordan Hass is a comedy writer and game breaking idiot from Los Angeles and has a diet of cotton candy, steak and root beer. He's never played Mass Effect. Ask him about game shows.
I decided to write my 2016 GOTY when everybody else is either too hammered to write or when everybody decided to finally say good riddance, both in the figurative sense and in the many many tributes to celebrities with Green Day playing in the background.
2016's year can actually best best be summed up as the year of revivals and overcoming the odds to win the love of America. But enough about the return of 'Match Game' on ABC and the Chicago Cubs winning the pennant, it's time to talk video games.
10. Job Simulator: the 2050 Archives
I'll be honest with you, I don't own any VR Headset. They are crazy expensive right now that for regular consumers, they are only seen as a novelty. Where people who scoff at it compare it to the Virtual Boy, while those that have actually given it a try are amazed by it's technology. It's only going to be a matter of time before we see all sorts of shovel-ware coming to Oculus and Vive, but until then, let's enjoy the simpler things in life, like having a job.
Aside from Tabletop Simulator and Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, this was the only VR game I played all year (Apologies in advance, Rec Room fans!) but it's one that made me feel like I could do anything, at least in the confines of the simulation. In the gaming world, simulations have been getting quite the bad rap. They flooded the Steam page almost every week with some half-assed design and weird for the sake of being wacky. But Job Simulator felt like a game that did none of that, it's a game where the developers knew almost every possible combination in doing the tasks and had the appropriate consequences. It reminded me so much of 2014's Jazzpunk in the way they handle some of the comedy. It's one of those games you can plow through, but it's best played as the tech-demo for what you can do in Virtual Reality. A game that allows you to play it straight in a weird setting, or allows you to be weirder with it's mechanics.
9. Batman: The Telltale Series
As good as the Batman Arkham games are as a series, I must confess that my biggest gripe in gaming is the jump scares. I really, really hate jump scares. I may or may not be banned from the Haunted Hayride for punching somebody out. The Arkham Series is about 40% jump scares, rather it's Man-Bat on the rooftops or a fucking shark popping out of the ice. It doesn't just terrify me, I put down my controller and walk away, even deleting the game and never returning. So when I heard Telltale was making a Batman game, I was curious how their take on Batman will be different from what would now be considered the definitive video game Batman.
I was thinking all sorts of Telltale tropes like having them recreate the death of Martha and Thomas Wayne with "Bruce will remember this" in the corner. But was instead, actually surprised with how it all turned out. This wasn't an Arkham storyline where the focus is on Batman vs The Joker, like every other Batman Fanfiction. But rather a story of Bruce Wayne and his relationship with Alfred and the friendships he has with Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent.
You can play this game as whatever Batman you want, your "Batman never kills, only intimidates" approach, to your ultra-violent rich kid fantasy that makes you feel more like Jason Todd than really Bruce Wayne.
While it does suffer the slope of the "Third Episode Roadblock", making the game almost of a chore to complete. If you decide to continue on, and play though til Episode 5, you will get one of the greatest endings to a Batman story. Not just in video games, comics or movies. But ever, period.
8. The Witness
I'm a sucker for a good exploration puzzle game, and The Witness was able to strike when I needed it the most. The game gave me a headache with it's sensory overload at first. In fact, when I played the game for the first time, I accidentally beat the game with the alternate ending, thinking it was the first world of puzzles. Hearing the credits being spoken by radios, as it turns out, wasn't opening credits, but final credits.
The Witness is something that tackles your logical skills in this very colorful and rich atmosphere, environmental puzzles, when you discover them, add a layer to the game that gives this sense of wonder, a game of discovery and actual exploration as opposed to "where's the next puzzle box?", a game that matched my love of Myst.
But my suggestion is that if a puzzle becomes too challenging or you start getting those headaches, turn the game off, this is the perfect relaxation game for a thinker, a game for you to come back to, when you need to the most.
Have you ever had that feeling of a video game that was just made for you? SUPERHOT was one of those things. Gaming, especially in First Person Shooters has been in a stand-still for far too long. It's been about ammo, upgrades, multiplayer. And very rarely do you see some element of puzzle and strategy involved, unless you're talking Portal.
The gimmick is simple, time moves when you move. But it's such a simple gimmick, that it works so well when it comes to aiming shots, moving forward, or grabbing a weapon to throw. The enemies shattering like glass, having this style that's part simulation, part text adventure, when you're in the chatroom hacking into more of the game, getting more DLC, finding out the truth about "Superhot" (the game inside the game).
But what makes me enjoy this game so much during level completion when you see that slowed down shooter play in real time, so you get this effect like you are in the 2016 version of The Matrix. Gliding around, kicking enemies through windows and shooting three enemies in the head one after the other, it never got tiring, and the way they fixed those repetitions made the game so worthwhile.
6. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
Uncharted as a series has been a mash-up of so many genres, you get a shooting game, with a puzzle game, mixed with this platforming of climbing up walls. A cinematic adventure that actually does rival most Hollywood Blockbusters both in it's presentation and it's storyline.
Nathan Drake has always been seen as this jokey, overconfident, Han Solo type character, looking for treasure for it's historical value and mild financial gain. And Uncharted 4 was the game that finally got the player to get the full character breakdown of Nathan Drake, Who is Nathan Drake? What does he do outside of treasure hunting? As it turns out, playing Crash Bandicoot on a PS1 on a 72 inch HD Plasma.
While the multiplayer still gets some getting used to (and honestly, it hardly houses that many people) the game always will shine in that campaign mode, It still makes no sense why Nathan will gladly shoot and murder so many soldiers in the war. But seeing Rafe for the first time, you'll know that you have found somebody equally as adventurous and cunning as Nathan.
The ending for Uncharted is the gold standard for a way to bid farewell to a character's story, but still leaving room to have a new adventurer should Naughty Dog, Inc. ever want to get back into spelunking.
This is one of the first of many games I was skeptical of. I was always more fond of Quake than Doom when it came to shooters. Quake felt like I am entering a Elder Scrolls Dungeon with rockets, while Doom tried so much to be a game about spooky things popping out and you shooting at them.
Seeing the original trailers for DOOM, like many people, I was feeling like I am watching what was essentially Dead Space 3, a shooter in space, with scary monsters to go "pew pew" with the gun. Ultraviolent for the sake of controversial, like the original DOOM had back in the 90s, and after much consideration from my friends here and on social media, I gave it a try. $20 felt like too little for what really deserved the full $60.
DOOM has become essentially Saints Row to me, an over the top and hilarious action game that plays up all of the tropes of classic shooting games, and redefining what a FPS should be. It did something very few games let me do - be happy about jump scares. They probably wanted to embrace those like me, the "fight" vs "flight" when it comes to jump scares. Monsters never pop up unless in berserk mode, and even then, glory kills almost treat them like a minor cut-scene, as if the protagonist, much like myself is going "fuck you these are stupid".
The developers of this game treat Gears-style diatribes as boring, throwing them away, sometimes literally, in favor of "pay attention to this hologram, or not, we don't really care". And they have gotten rid of the conventional "defense is just as strong as offense" of recent Call of Duty and Battlefields in favor of the classic "Run and Gun" attitude that they were known for. The ultraviolent attitude of the game isn't to sell "edge" to the energy drink teenagers, it's selling to the consumers something rare in video games - pure fun.
DOOM has made video games fun for the sake of fun. Kneeing enemies in the face and watching them fly across the map like ragdolls and shoving skeleton enemies into walls after a 20 second long screech, just makes you smile. Dying on checkpoints are hardly met with enraged throwings of controllers but with a smile and laugh. And the soundtrack makes the game feel like you're composing the music with your attacks.
It almost made me forget about that live-action movie with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, almost.
When I think Blizzard, I usually think of games like Diablo III and World of Warcraft, strategy role-playing games that end up being big time e-sports after a year they come out, with my favorite game being Hearthstone , so I was a little concerned when I was hearing about Overwatch for the first time, it's a multi-player FPS game similar to Team Fortress 2? That's going to be difficult to create anything that mirrors that, fandoms love Heavy and Scout in that game, you can't beat it.
And somehow, they did.
Overwatch created lovable, diverse characters of all shapes and sizes, and created this universe around them. Players can't get enough of Tracer's quirky voice, D.Va's Twitch-streamer personality and all the catchphrases such as McCree's "High Noon" and Reaper's "DieDieDie", a game that almost entices it's audience to get into head-canons with the characters, while still pondering if heroes are supposed to be good guys, why do they need to shoot other heroes to secure payloads? Did they decide fighting crime was too much that we need to escort a limousine instead? Why do canaries love Bastion so much? Why do I suddenly have a crush on Hanzo? Most of these questions are answered in-game and with it's mini movies out every month.
Loot Boxes add this element of surprise to the game, which I will argue - you should never buy. Skins are fun to have, and so are sprays, but I enjoy them after a level-up during the game. It should feel like a reward for playing the game. The game just does an amazing job of making it seem like a celebration, making it addictive for you to want to open these to the point of buying some. Thankfully, I never did that. But oh man, seeing people shell out the money for these boxes, just reminds me of the lengths people go for Blind Boxes in figurine stores. That rush of wanting a Funko Pop of Jughead in some Archie Blind Box, but winding up with 4 Reggies to get it, Nobody likes Reggie. But when you finally get that thing you wanted, there is this element of joy that can only be rivaled by perhaps winning a prize on The Price is Right.
But what makes me enjoy the game most is simply how the gameplay works. It appeals to all types of players in FPS. If you just love RPGs, you could play as Pharah, If you love being a defense with strong melee, Reinhardt. If you love to just camp and just blast an automatic, Bastion is perfect. And if you just want to be a great support group and be the real help for the team, you can play as Mercy and just save the heroes. There is no right or wrong answer to who you play as or how to play it. The more you play, the more you learn what characters are great against other characters.
The games are quick bursts of fun, that you can finish one game in roughly 15 minutes and with such a simple control scheme, it is perfect for those pick up and play moments, when you just feel like playing a video game to kill some time. Overwatch is a game that is not going anywhere anytime soon, and 2017 will see some improvements to this game that will keep people securing payloads for years to come.
3. Watch_Dogs 2
I feel like I might be one of the few people on Earth that actually completed the original Watch Dogs. It's drab, depressing protagonist messing around in a Chicago that doesn't have the personality or character of the actual city. What felt like two years of hype, was for one of the most "Meh" games ever developed.
Which is why I was so shocked when Watch_Dogs 2 came out, that I would be addicted to it. Marcus is one of the best protagonists ever created for a game. Not only because of the rarity of a person of color to grace the cover, but because of his personality of being this lovable nerd who is trying to use his hobby for a good. He is somebody that has elements of friends you know in real life, in a San Francisco that is as vibrant and colorful as the one in real life, only a bit smaller and the price of coffee being still accurate.
Wrench is also one of those characters you see originally as an "Emote Anarchist", you think because his eyes go ^_^ that he's just going to be "the random comedy" person. But while he does have some great one-liners and somewhat of a nihilistic attitude towards life, he doesn't come across as somebody to hate, but rather as a character that you can actually call a friend for support. They actually bothered not making him a flat character, which is necessary for a game about nerds hacking for a cause. During the game, you might get into a discussion about Star Wars or Alien Vs Predator and it makes the game more enjoyable. They have friends bonding over the same stuff most people do.
The ASCII design of the game, mixed with the game soundtrack, makes this one stylish game. Yes, you are essentially playing a member of Lulzsec meets Anonymous in DeadSec, but the loading screens and dialog boxes and transitions between missions make the game so beautiful to stare at, I want to make some of these my screen savers on my computer, even if it means getting rid of my flying toasters.
Sure, the game gets a bit repetitive with grabbing cherry pickers and playing with drones. But the mix of puzzle-hacking, and the Hitman-style stealth strategy in the "Big Data" missions, makes the game so enjoyable with my favorite game experience of 2016 being "Swelter Skelter"
"Swelter Skelter" is a mission where Marcus goes to a Burning Man type festival and tries to regroup the team after the team gets attacked for the first time in game. Marcus interacts with so many different characters, from people dancing in morph suits, to annoying a DJ's set, and hacking the transmissions to "The Shit Poetry Contest" and hearing voice-overs of people reading their awful slam poetry out loud is one of the funniest and dumbest things in video games that just makes me love this game so much.
That and taking pictures of Wrench's butt, it's a nice butt. Butt of the Year.
2. TIE: Drawful 2 &amp; Jackbox Party Pack 3
Jackbox Games knocked it out of the park this year with not one, but two games this year. While the focus was around Jackbox Party Pack 3, for having 5 games, people shouldn't forget about Early 2016's Drawful 2 as a game that didn't come with the game, but was one of the most fun party games out there.
So I'll take the time right now to make a miniature "Top 6" of the Jackbox Games that came out this year, because they all deserve a bit of a discussion on what makes each game so great and fun and why I need to make sure I charge my phone before any parties in the near-future.
2.1) Drawful 2
Drawful 2 relies on you drawing weird prompts and having your friends figure out what the hell you drew. What makes the game even more fun was the fact you can create your own packs and create Drawful prompts based on your friends inside jokes or references of your own community. They also started awarding players based on Streaks, which theoretically could end ties. Of all the Jackbox Games this year, this one was the best one and stood out the most for it's quirky music and it's way of letting players interpret prompts in any way they choose.
2.2) Quiplash 2
Quiplash 2 is the best game of Jackbox Party Pack 3, because it doesn't bend the rules that much of the original Quiplash, and actually fixed the final round to be more of a "winner takes all" finale, while giving a nod to Acrophobia. Also like Drawful 2, they also let users in on the game by creating their own questions and prompts as well, theoretically making the game never ending based on your own imagination. A simple question and answer game that rewards smartassery or cunning wordplay always deserves something in the game of the year line-up.
2.3) Tee KO
While the first part of the game does take a long time, creating designs and writing slogans, when it comes to making the shirts and then pitting them against each other Quiplash style, it makes for amazing reveals, where even an artist who designed and wrote everything could be shocked at the interpretations being made for their shirts. And what makes it so fantastic is when the game is done, there is an option to ACTUALLY purchases these shirts and wear them in real life, like some sort of crazy person who loves Bootleg Bart Simpson shirts that say "Ethics in Game Journalism" on it.
2.4) Trivia Murder Party
I feel this game was the culmination for the many years Jackbox Games has put into video games, that it could be interpreted as it's series finale. A murderous host invites players to answer trivia questions (with haunting You Don't Know Jack music) and if they answer questions incorrectly play fast-paced versions of Quiplash or Drawful, or memory based challenges as well for survival. A feeling of somebody who was over-obsessed with these party games might end up actually doing. Although it loses points, because JUMP SCARES. But it also has my favorite video game song of 2016.
Guesspionage is the game of Survey-lence, get it? Survey? Surveillance? I crack myself up. Anyway, the game lets you answer survey questions previously answered by sorry sadsacks like myself in the hopes of gaining the most points by predicting Card Sharks-style what percentage of people believe or have done some activity. With the rest going Higher or Lower on an answer (or doubling-down if they are off by 15% or more). The game is really simple to understand, however the questions being asked on the Surveys (which could also be asked to large audiences, if you have 5 or more people on the sidelines) and the phrasing of the answers in the Final Round are a little rough. "How many people would say they are smarter than the average person?" was originally asked in a different phrased question. But the spy-asethic is everything I love.
2.6) Fakin' It
While most of the other games rely mostly on the phone with Jackbox.TV , Fakin' It only requires the phone to be used to see what question or activity is going on, who is the faker, and how to vote for whoever is faking it. It's a game that's not really fun for Twitch Streamers to play, so it's one of the few times you'll actually need people together in a room to play. Pointing at people, holding fingers and doing whatever it takes to deny being a lying son of a bitch is what is necessary to play Fakin' It. But it's so good knowing Cookie is still around to make our lives so much better.
There isn't much I could say about this game that hasn't been said by just about everybody. I am not fond of stealth games. I find them really boring because you're just sitting around patiently waiting for something to happen before you can finally strike. I'm an impatient man by nature, but Hitman has made me a fan of Steath games.
Hitman is one gigantic puzzle, one big strategy game, one giant game of chess with you versus your Target. You can play the game in a standard way of finding the Target, shooting them or strangling them and then fleeing away like the Agent you think you are. But Hitman wants to reward you for taking your Agent 47 with Objective Kills.
Objective Kills are what makes this game so much more alluring, multiple ways to take down a target that's not just a bullet. Dressing up like Helmut Kruger and getting the VIP Treatment at a Fashion Show, playing a Yoga Instructor and kicking somebody off a cliff, being a Masseuse and ruining somebody's message, all hilarious causes of death you can bring at your disposal.
If you want the game to just be a simple "shoot the target and leave", you miss out on almost everything that makes the game great. The assistance it gives you in figuring out where people are, where items are, where exits are, they give you a bit of breathing room. The game treats that part of the game as "simple things you shouldn't worry about" and instead wants you, and encourages you, to go nuts.
Dress up like a chef and poison some food, Kill Gary Busey with a Chandelier, It's a game that takes the familiar spy-trope, and turns it around to be almost Naked Gun levels of silly, while still making the game trial and error if you fail certain ways. With each mission failure, you learn something about the map, about a NPC, about a weapon, and you can use that to your advantage on your next try.
You will fail, Hitman wants you to fail a few times, before you learn your surroundings and be very resourceful, planning your attack, getting your costumes suited. Figuring where to hide bodies, or should you just snap their neck to save time in case they wake up.
Hitman is a thinking man's stealth game, Hitman wants you to blend in, but they also want you to wear ridiculous outfits. They want you to play the game however you want, but rewards you for multiple playthoughs. A game that takes a known flaw of repetition of a map, and makes it so you're not annoyed, but rather excited. A sandbox of strategy and a really fun way to spend an afternoon. It's hard to say you're "finished" with the game, when you just want to go back and have some fun.