Games I Finished in 2016
Arranged in the order I beat them. At the end of the year, I will rank them from best to worst.
Arranged in the order I beat them. At the end of the year, I will rank them from best to worst.
5/5 - This game isn't perfect. But no game in recent memory has evoked such visceral reactions out of me. I don't remember the last time a game has made me physically gasp out loud as much as Life is Strange. The emotional roller coaster this game put me through shook me to my core, and I haven't thought about a game this much after finishing it in a long time. Life is Strange is sweet, gut-wrenching, beautiful, artistic, and I'm so happy this medium has evolved in such a way that made this game exist.
5/5 - When I think of the things that make this game special, they're all on a macro scale. World building, characters, writing, player choice—Witcher 3 excels at these aspects like no other game in the market today. But when I start to analyze the micro—repetitive mission structure, relatively simple combat, awkward upgrade system—you understand why a game of this scope and scale has to make certain sacrifices. Thankfully, the Witcher 3 accomplishes such great feats on the macro level that its glaring annoyances become wayward thoughts in the background. It's really a testament to how much I enjoy this universe when after beating the main story after about 80 hours, I was already itching to jump into the DLC while the credits were rolling.
Hearts of Stone - 12/25/2016
5/5 - Only one thing needs to be mentioned: the Shani/Vlodimir wedding quest. That quest alone makes this expansion pack truly unforgettable.
Blood and Wine - 3/18/2018
5/5 - Not only was Touissant an incredibly gorgeous location, but the main story quests in Blood and Wine were some of the best quests in the entire game. After putting more than 120 hours into the Witcher III and its expansion packs, I think I can finally say I'm done with my time with this amazing game.
5/5 - Both Doom and Titanfall 2's campaigns are some of my favorite FPS single-player experiences, ever. Titanfall 2 just does a great job at making you feel like you're the star in a bad-ass action movie. The multiplayer also did exactly what it needed to do to improve from Titanfall 1: add more stuff. And I need to make special note of the Effect and Cause level in the campaign. If you've finished the single player, you'll know why it deserves a special mention here. So rarely has a single part of a game have me grinning from ear to ear during its entirety. Just the way the game has an idea and executes on it so sublimely blew me away. The smoothness at which it happens, the way that mechanic is utilized to create some breathtaking moments... The combination of all of these elements coalesced into one of the most memorable levels in a game in years.
5/5 - Similar to Bioshock Infinite, I felt compelled to read and devour as many discussions about Firewatch as soon as I beat it. While I was perusing through a variety of forums, I came across some very valid complaints: the story doesn't satisfactorily tie up the loose ends all that well, if you're going to tell a story about two regular people, you don't have to place all these red herrings about conspiracy theories and missing girls to try to "spice" up the narrative, etc. And while I agree with all these grievances, for some reason, they didn't bother me that much. The voice acting, the writing, and the overarching visual style are all just so fucking good that's it's easy for me to forgive some of the stumbling blocks the story might have tripped over. Similar to Gone Home, the story itself may not be perfect or revolutionary, but it's a real-world kind of mature narrative so rarely told in video games that I'm willing to overlook some miscues along the way.
Also, I must note that this game scared me more than any other game this year, including Until Dawn. That goddamn raccoon and getting punched in the face literally had me jumping out of my seat. As colorful as the game is, there's something hauntingly real and stark about the forest. The game does such a fantastic job of making you feel truly alone and cordoned off from any kind of society, with a walkie-talkie being your only means of communication to the rest of the world, so when something out of the ordinary did happen, it really took me by surprise.
5/5 - While Doom didn't really wow me right off the bat, I began to warm up to this game as the arsenal of weapons got bigger and the enemy encounters became more frantic. The ebb and flow of combat when there's a multitude of enemy types being thrown at you is a combination of pure frenzy, spectacle, and unadulterated violence. The game also became exponentially more fun as you had more weapons at your disposal. This must be mentioned as well: similar to Titanfall 2, the constant lock of a buttery-smooth 60 frames per second goes a long way in a game so fast-paced and hectic.
5/5 - I'll be honest: my favorite parts of the Uncharted games is when I'm not holding the controller. That seems like damning thing to say, but Naughty Dog does cinematics in games so much better than a majority of developers out there that it doesn't even matter. However, having the option to complete a combat encounter through stealth made the gameplay far more interesting. And of course, the set piece moments are exhilarating, as per usual with the Uncharted series. But what made Uncharted 4 really special is its much more personal story. I played all three Uncharted games, but I couldn't tell you what happened in those games in regards to the actual story beats. Uncharted 4 manages to bring story, characters, and set pieces in a way that no Uncharted has done before it.
5/5 - It's awesome how a relatively simple rhythm game that involves tapping usually no more than 2 buttons is so full of charm, personality, and downright weirdness. This game makes the simple act of pressing A so much fun. Seriously, all this game is pressing buttons to a beat, but all the ways the game wraps that mechanic in such a silly manner are what make this game special. The minigames also get pretty savage near the end, with the game throwing all kinds of syncopated beats to keep players on their toes. With the beginning of the game being pretty easy, this serious uptick in challenge was both surprising and welcoming.
...Wubba dubba dubba dat's true?
5/5 - I cannot understate how much I love this game. The creative-as-hell weapons, the fluid traversal, and the bright colorful world did a lot for me. While its referential and fourth-wall-breaking humor doesn't always hit the mark, I appreciated how the game did not take itself too seriously and kept the entire experience light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek. But some minor annoyances definitely irked me, like the repetitive side missions and the vague circle indicator which wouldn't directly point out what you're looking for, making you bumble around an area fruitlessly searching for a tiny knickknack hidden away in some random corner. If I gave out 4.5/5 scores, Sunset Overdrive fits that bill perfectly. A fantastic, original game that does what it sets out to do really well, bogged down by a handful of frustrations. But don't give out 4.5/5s, so I will round up because of LARPers.
4/5 - I'll admit it: after solving about 3 or 4 lasers on my own, I used a walkthrough through most of the game. That actually made the rest of the game more enjoyable, as looking at hints and guides made me excited to look for the next puzzle. When I played this game with my initial rule of "no hints or guides," I would often feel a sense of dread going to the next puzzle, knowing that I probably wouldn't solve the next conundrum Jonathan Blow threw at me. While I thought some puzzles were obscure and obtuse to the point of making them impenetrable, most of the puzzles were so well thought out, so meticulously crafted, that I marveled that a human being was actually able to create and design them. But the most tantalizing thing for me about the Witness was the island itself. Utterly beautiful and bursting with secrets, the island is just as integral to the game as the puzzles. At some point, the puzzles are what they are, but the way the Witness wraps those challenges in such a uniquely gorgeous and intricate setting is what made the Witness memorable to me.
4/5 - What a beautifully crafted game. And I don't even mean that from a pure visual perspective (although the game looks fantastic). I'm referring to how all of the characters are so well thought out and varied, how all the maps have been smartly designed, and how the UI does an outstanding job of making the player feel like they had a positive impact on the game, even if they did get repeatedly mowed down by that goddamn Bastion camping in that one corner of Hanamura. And of course, the entire package is smothered in that patented Blizzard Polish™ that you've all come to know and love. Although I fell off relatively quickly compared to some of the Overwatch fiends that are out there, every time I do go back to play a round or two, I'm reminded of just what an exceptional game Overwatch is.
4/5 - No game franchise does character, world building, and player choice quite like The Witcher series. I loved the fact that the story decisions given to the player weren't as black and white as something like Mass Effect, and that these choices had real consequences on what the player would experience later on in the game. Now if only the combat didn't feel so clunky and unwieldy...
4/5 - Maybe I came into this game with unrealistic expectations after seeing it receive perfect scores at the time of its release, but Bayonetta 2 wasn't the transcendent action game I was led to believe it was. Don't get me wrong, it's a fantastic game with a level of stupidity and stylishness that makes its combat gleefully fun. But this game felt extremely similar to Bayonetta 1, and really didn't do much to differentiate it from its predecessor. Bayonetta 1 left such an impression on me, as it felt so fresh at the time with the absurd levels of ridiculousness that was packed into each cutscene and combat encounter. Bayonetta 2 follows and continues the tradition exceptionally well, but it didn't do anything else that made me supremely impressed.
4/5 - Evie Frye is the best assassin since Ezio. Ubisoft's finally done it. It feels like every Assassin's Creed protagonist since Assassin's Creed II has lived under the shadow of the Italian stallion, but with Syndicate, Evie takes the spotlight and can confidently step out of the looming presence of Ezio. Also: murder cane.
4/5 - A charming, brightly colored JRPG is something I need every once in a while to cleanse the palate from all the games about shooting and violence, and Tokyo Mirage Sessions satiated that need perfectly. The combat system was really the main draw of the game for me, as I never stopped having fun always getting into battles, leveling up my party, and learning new skills. The over-the-top bubbly narrative wasn't really up my alley, and there were a few quality-of-life inconveniences that were especially irritating (Just let me make new weapons in a menu instead of having to go back to Tiki! Gah!), but all in all, Tokyo Mirage Sessions was a pleasant, light-hearted adventure that I thoroughly enjoyed.
4/5 - While I enjoyed Limbo, I thought it was too fraught with trial and error gameplay moments. You would come across an obstacle, die on the first attempt because it involves some timing based jumping, and then easily complete it on the second attempt. Inside, much to my joy, focuses much more puzzle solving, and does it extremely well. Playdead knocked it out of the park with Limbo's visual tone, and Inside, while maybe not as graphically striking as Limbo, set its own stark ambiance that must be commended. But Inside's utterly weird, ludicrous, and eye-popping final crescendo may be the most lasting memory for me.
4/5 - Take an amazing gameplay mechanic. Throw in sharp, clear minimalist visuals. Add dystopian cyber-future hacking. What comes out?
...I'll let you say it.
Only problem I had with this game is that I would oftentimes die from a dude rounding around a corner that I had no knowledge of. It simply felt unfair every time I would die to a gunshot to the back. Although adding minimap or radar of some sort might have been totally against the nature of the game, I think it would've reduced a lot of the frustrations I had.
4/5 - The first half of Until Dawn was one of the most pleasantly surprising experiences I've had since I was blown away by the quality of 2014's Wolfenstein: The New Order. The characters were all appropriately shitty teenagers, the butterfly effects meant your choices actually had tangible consequences, and the horror was done extremely well, with fixed camera angles and a moody soundtrack that really emphasized the tension (although I thought the game relied too heavily on jump scares). But as the game went on, I found myself liking this game less and less. The game became inherently less interesting when the only emotions the characters exhibited were scared and terrified. The game worked so well in the beginning because it juxtaposed the snide, pompous attitudes of these shitty teenagers and the horrible things that were happening to them. But as the plot progresses, there's no lightheartedness to balance the violence and dread, and that made the game just boring and dour. The choices in the beginning of the game were far more interesting as well, as it gave insight on your personality and where your morals lie. Do I snoop on this person's text, or respect their privacy? Do I keep this secret to not hurt this person's feelings, or is it always better to tell the truth? These were interesting choices that shed light on what kind of person you are, but later on in the game, a lot of the choices devolved into, "Do I take the left or right path?" or "Do I hide here, or continue running?" These are uninteresting decisions that I might as well be flipping a coin on. And without spoiling anything, I thought the plot is way too predictable, and the true nature of the menacing force just made me roll my eyes.
All that being said, I really liked the first half of the game.
4/5 - An excellent puzzle game that utilizes all of the right motifs and tropes found in the Tomb Raider games. The puzzles are perfectly suited for a mobile experience, and I vastly preferred the style and flavor of a living, breathing jungle theme more than the sterilized board game setting of Hitman Go.
4/5 - I think Drew said it best when he said that he felt a sense of nostalgia playing through Gears of War 4. I look back extremely fondly at the original Gears trilogy, and bouncing my way from cover to cover, blasting robots/aliens to bits once again in 2016 was like eating a great home-cooked meal from your childhood. The variety of weapons is one of my favorite aspects of the Gears games, with new additions like the Dropshot and Buzzkill being extremely fun to use. And there's nothing more satisfying than hearing a crunchy squish every time you get a well-placed headshot with the Longshot. But my biggest complaint about this game was the ending. It was Halo 2-esque, and it was the first time in a long time that I actually said out loud, "That's it?!" at my TV when the credits began to roll.
4/5 - Never has a game made me just want to go outside and break a printer with a baseball bat more than Thumper. The hard-hitting impact of Thumper is undeniably visceral, and I often found myself relaxing my shoulders and letting out a sigh after a particularly tough section was over, only to clench up again when the next level began without a moment of respite. The one major issue I had is that a big part of succeeding at this game was dependent on pure memorization and reflexes, more than rhythm. The gameplay felt more akin to a series of elongated quick time events than an actual rhythm game.
4/5 - I have a love-hate relationship with this game. The Ace Attorney series is one of my favorite series of all time, but this is the first time that after I beat an Ace Attorney game, I felt somewhat underwhelmed. The game did make a great first impression on me, however. There were more cross examinations than Dual Destinies, the game felt challenging right from the get-go, and the return of Maya had me more excited than I would've expected. But the near the end of the game, I just kind of fizzled out. The new characters failed to connect with me in any sort of way (the prosecutors in the last two games do absolutely nothing for me). The constant reliance on the "AHA!" moment near the end of the case, in which the game merely presents a series of options that leads to the turnabout moment is not only bad, but is the antithesis to the core nature of the series. These games are about making you feel like a detective, figuring out and solving a case through cross examinations, witnesses, and evidence. When you come upon a revelation simply by answering a sequence of multiple choice questions that you can't fail, it severely undermines and takes away the essence of what makes these games unique.
...I really liked the face off between Apollo and Phoenix though. The series needs more confrontations like that!
4/5 - The last Madden game I've played was the one that introduced the hit stick. Yeah, it's been quite a while since I've played Madden, but I bought Madden NFL 17 for one sole reason: the Los Angeles Rams. Finally having a football team in LA got me excited for football, and actually made me want to play some good ol' fashioned Madden for the first time in over a decade.
...Too bad the Rams absolutely suck. But the game's good! It's exponentially better the burning trash fire that the real life Rams are! It's a perfectly competent game that provides the football experience that fans want. I greatly enjoyed my time with this game, after not having played Madden for such a long time.
3/5 - From a pure gameplay perspective, Fire Emblem Fates is rock solid. It follows the Fire Emblem tradition to a T—almost to a fault, in fact. But somewhere around the latter half of the game, I began to turn on this game. Maybe it's the completely forgettable plot, or how I was not invested at all in the characters. I also somewhat felt cheated in regards to the story right off the bat, with the game being split into 3 different storylines, and the DLC add-on ostensibly being the "true" narrative.
3/5 - While the lack of an Arcade or Story mode at its launch did not bother me that much, the problems Street Fighter V had with its online play were severely crippling. It's most likely a lot better now, but around its launch, the online play was not only laggy, but the ridiculous amount of time the matchmaking took made me not want to even play at all. As a huge FGC guy and someone who watches a ton of fighting game streams and tournaments, I was surprised at how fast I fell off of SFV compared to the amount of time I put into SFIV. And finally...CAPCOM, HOW COULD YOU NOT FORESEE THE PROBLEM OF RAGE QUITTERS IN AN ONLINE GAME RELEASED IN 2016?!
3/5 - I wasn't one of those people that thought No Man's Sky was going to be "THE GAME THAT ENDS ALL GAMES" like some other folks who were hyping it up to high hell before its release. Regardless, I was still massively disappointed with its cumbersome inventory management, the repetitive facilities, and the general aimlessness of the entire experience. Although some may say that the point of the game was to explore the universe while drinking in its vastness and wonder, a lot of the splendor was lost on me when each planet would have the same three types of installations found on every other planet I landed on.
3/5 - Alright, who's the crazy person who wanted more story in Pokemon games? Whoever you are, it's plainly obvious that you and I play Pokemon for extremely different reasons. I've played every main entry in the Pokemon series, and this is the first one in which I've felt legitimately frustrated and annoyed at the game. The amount of times the game takes control away from you to show you another goddamn cutscene about some inane bullshit made me want to die. Story and characters are simply not the reasons I play Pokemon games.
Now, it's one thing if the narrative was actually interesting or engaging. But it's essentially the same cookie-cutter plot that every other Pokemon game has used: you're a young kid who moved to a new town, you embark on an adventure, you stop the evil corporation using Pokemon for nefarious deeds, you become the champion, the end.
While the core gameplay is Pokemon-ass Pokemon, the amount of old Pokemon that showed up was also seriously disappointing. If I wanted to fight an endless stream of Raticates and Golbats, I would've popped in Pokemon Red. When I play a new Pokemon game, I make it a point to only put brand new Pokemon in my party, but it seemed like there were far more old Pokemon than new ones.
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