Strictly speaking in terms of the gaming world, 2016 hasn’t been what one would call tumultuous. As expected, gaming conferences like E3 premiered and promised new and improved content across all systems. Throughout every quarter, long awaited titles and console upgrades were released amidst typically wide ranging reactions and some rumored content was, for better or for worse, left as just that (seriously though, Portal 3 is still a thing right? Right??).
That said, the year was by no means without its impressive highs and equally spectacular lows, a few of which left enough of a mark to bear reviewing once more before 2017 arrives and starts the ball rolling all over again. For the purposes of this article, we’ll refer to them as “hits” (best of the best, filling gamer hearts with joy and hope), and crits (the disappointing and rage-quit-inspiring). Let’s dive in, shall we?
HIT: Indie Games as a Whole
This year has once again seen a multitude of impressive independent game outings. Obviously, not each and every offering is a winner (more on that below), but the number of first-rate releases far outweighs the duds, not to mention the beyond affordable pricing with or without memberships or subscriptions. From the eerily heartbreaking Firewatch to the creepy, choose-your-own-ending style Oxenfree, one could do far worse than spend hours exploring the worlds and narratives created by Indie developers. Now, because these titles aren’t coming from the big leagues, some of these releases are, unfortunately, easy to miss unless one spends a bulk of their time trolling steam or console-based digital stores. But, if you are lucky enough to stumble across something like a Bound or ABZÛ I highly doubt you’ll be disappointed.
CRIT: That One Indie Game…
There’s been enough salt rubbed in this wound, so I’ll be as brief as possible. No Man’s Sky was probably one of the worst instances of bait and switch in modern gaming history. Sky raised consumer hopes high above terminal velocity and let go, sending expectations crashing down to the tune of an over 200,000 concurrent player loss in less than a month. There are dozens of theories as to why this game doesn’t live up to it’s massive potential, and perhaps in time, DLC and updates will improve upon the existing content. But for now, we’ll quote Spore’s Kate Compton and call the vastly repetitive world exactly what it amounts to: “10,000 bowls of plain oatmeal.” That doesn’t sound too bad right? Awful you say? OK, moving on…
HIT: Multi-player First Person Shooters
Some of 2016’s highest rated games came out of the genre, and it really isn’t hard to see why. Entries like Doom and Titanfall 2 followed the usual formula of their predecessors, but absolutely delivered when it came to what long-time fans wanted. Battlefield 1 managed to make a gorgeous multiplayer, with the added bonus of a character-driven single-player campaign where one actually feels invested in a series of fully-fledged narratives from WWI battles. And then of course, there’s Overwatch. Not only did this game build hype and draw huge sales, but it managed to live up to players’ expectations and hold on to online gamers well past its initial release. Here, Blizzard takes its RPG development wizardry and blends it with elements that everyone can get behind: easy playability for newcomers and veterans, balanced characters, and (gasp!) positive online gaming environments. Those who don’t play are almost certainly sick to death of hearing their friends gush about it, but this game has earned the accolades and praise that people just won’t shut up about.
CRIT: The Ripple Effect of P.T.’s Cancellation
Somehow, even two years later, the failure to launch of Silent Hill’s latest outing is still being felt throughout the horror genre. Ever since it was announced that P.T. would be the only content available from the planned Kojima/Del Toro collaboration, it seems as though developers have been scrambling to fill the void. Since this mad dash began, the shortfall has spawned countless “inspirations,”rip-offs clones, and even a Resident Evil game that looks less like the next chapter in the franchise and more like Silent (zombie) Hill-billies (I’ll probably still play it and scream my brains out, but I’m just saying…). As with their film counterparts, one can only hope horror games eventually begin to rediscover their own way instead of trying to captivate audiences with overdone replications.
HIT & MISS: Game Announcements and Reveals
It’s hard to be mad at a year that brought both a last minute Last of Us 2 trailer and a brand new God of War action sequence, but it’s also impossible to ignore the simultaneously underwhelming aspects of various announcements and previews. Take-Two Interactive’s E3 baiting of Red Dead Redemption 2 info, prior to the (albeit, awesome) trailer’s eventual months-late release was fairly uncalled for, and the amount of beautiful and allegedly innovative trailers for games like Mass Effect: Andromeda and Hellblade are quickly becoming somewhat tiresome without, respectively, proper gameplay presentations or a release date. Overall, neither the frustrations nor the excitements fully overshadow one another in a way that puts a definitive success or fail tally in either column, but who knows? Maybe the industry will fully commit to wowing gamers all the way in the coming year and get good.
What were some of your gaming hits and crits of the 2016? Be sure to tell us below in the comments and in our Best and Worst Games of 2016 Survey here.