It’s a real list and it’s right here
Boy. Yikes. Twenty-sixteen. That was something.
I feel like I’m not going to cover enough ground if I write anything about how just absolutely terrible 2016 was, so instead I’m just going to focus on the good here —and that’s right, I’m talking about the good good video games.
Video games got weirder. They got more polished and refined. More ambitious, more experimental. Crazier, dare I say. It’s a trend that’s been slowly creeping up on us in these past few years, starting with indie titles and working its way into the life force of the industry — until it suddenly exploded out of nowhere and a shit ton of quality video games came into existence left and right. So many quality titles, narrowing it down to just ten is almost insulting.
In other news, I’ve been doing pretty alright this past 365, thank you for asking! I got my first taste of internet notoriety, got very drunk with Suda51 at a party I co-hosted, made two appearances on Podtoid, and I also filmed an interview with Mega64 that I’m still debating posting or not because that video gets very avant-garde and contains fake blood, technical issues, Mike Cosimano dying of heartbreak, and uh, pubes. No one knows whose pubes.
The fourth game released in the Uncharted series, and… only the second Uncharted game I’ve ever played. I bought my PS4 relatively late in the year and while I did catch up on the exclusives I missed, Uncharted 4 blew me away.
Naughty Dog has been pumping out this kind of thing on the reg for a while now, and for some reason the studio possesses the magical ability to squeeze every last drop of performance out of any hardware that gets plopped in front of it. Uncharted 4 is no exception, easily being one of the prettiest and most polished games I’ve played in my entire life.
Out of the many sights and wonders and spectacles the game has to offer, I was pleasantly surprised by the meticulously detailed facial animations, specifically. I stopped thinking of the characters as 3D models, and sunk my teeth into the idea that these are real people with morals and motives who act out of self interest and make mistakes and are, well, human. Naughty Dog has started to climb out of the uncanny valley — and it’s only making me more excited to see what comes next.
I did not finish XCOM 2. The time I spent with it, however, was sweeter than the sweetest freshest honey that one might find at your local Trader Joe’s or something. It’s good shit.
I spent most of my time with XCOM 2 on the PC version connected to a Steam Link with a Steam Controller, slumped on my couch and sweating very hard. This game is fucking stressful and wants to tear your limbs off and watch you lick the blood off the floor. Turn-based tactics games always get me like that, but there’s something special about the XCOM brand of difficult that sets it apart from the rest. I’m still debating on whether or not it’s unfair — one moment I’m plowing through a group of aliens with my fully decked-out squad pirouetting through the air in an expertly choreographed and brilliantly timed mission, and the next I’m stuck with three rookies on my squad and the world is quite literally on fire.
Even without mods, XCOM 2 strikes that delicate balance of fairness pretty well. I had some minor quips about the game’s structure (I installed a mod to turn off the turn limit on day one), as well as found some interesting glitches with the AI — but that’s just a part of XCOM’s charm.
I never felt entirely cozy playing this game, and I kept finding myself awake at 5 in the morning muttering to myself, figuring out the most optimal build schedules while factoring in income loss and throwing myself into missions last-minute to stop some dark event that I’d been ignoring for the entire campaign.
Maybe in a few months I’ll dive back in and say a quick hello to my team before I lead them back into hell again.
Super. Hot. Super. Hot. Super. Hot. Super. Hot. Super. Hot. Super. Hot. Super. Hot. Super. Hot. Super. Hot. Super. Hot. Super. Hot. Super. Hot.
Ever wanted to feel like an absolute badass while holding a video game controller? This video game does that, and in fact it does that quite well. As it turns out, slow motion is the coolest shit in the entire world. Slow motion is the entire world in SUPERHOT. And it’s that crispytasty slow-mo. In SUPERHOT every shot is the money shot.
SUPERHOT is what you get when you take a good idea, wrap it in more good ideas, and then polish the result to a mirror sheen. Everything here is absolutely beautiful, the story is extremely well-executed and brought to life by a remarkably detailed fake retro computer, the base game mechanics are solid as a rock, and it stayed fresh throughout the five or so hours I got out of the story. SUPERHOT didn’t overstay its welcome one bit, and it’s certainly one of the most innovative shooters I’ve played in years.
The last time I played a class-based shooter was the year 2011, on someone else’s PC, at a LAN party. Of course it was Team Fortress 2. What I didn’t realize at the time was that Valve’s anti-cheat software has some sort of beef with triple-screen Eyefinity setups, and my account ended up getting permabanned. With my 16-year-old world shattered, I vowed never to touch this kind of game ever again. I’ve learned since then that I shouldn’t make promises I can’t keep (which is why I won’t make promises ever), because Overwatch is too fucking good.
There’s too much to say about this game. The characters are memorable, the gameplay is tight and smooth and polished and only kinda balanced (Roadhog you piece of shit), and from the sound design to the extremely detailed maps and character animations to the diverse range of abilities, it just… feels good. “Game feel” is a term that has been thrown around the industry a lot, and it’s a real thing — Blizzard absolutely nailed the game feel. Everything feels good in this game. Even losing a match feels good. Feels good. Gooooooooooooooood feels gooood feeels good.
I’m gonna go take a break from writing this and play a match or two.
Back from my Overwatch break! Next up on the list is another game with fantastic game feel. It’s a real thing, look it up! It’s a common theme in this article.
I’m pretty big on platform fighting games (as well as the fighting game scene in general), coming primarily from the Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament scene. 2D fighters never really clicked for me until I played 2014’s Guilty Gear Xrd -Sign-, and even then I ended up keeping a relatively safe distance. That is, until REVELATOR dropped and it was pretty much the only game I ended up playing for weeks.
REVELATOR is a slick and polished anime fighter with a cast just as diverse and memorable as you’d expect. This game is more of an update to Sign rather than a brand new game in and of itself, but the improvements in polish and the addition of the mash-buttons-to-auto-combo Stylish mode made it all the more worthwhile.
This one’s a hard one. Up until very recently this game wasn’t even on my list. I had to kick Raw Data off the roster for this. But oh man, Final Fantasy XV blew my socks off and my skin off and my foot tissue off and now my feet are just bones.
It has its shortcomings, but I genuinely think it was worth the wait. There’s so many things to do, the detail in the world is breathtaking, the fights are challenging, and the interactions between the main cast go a long way to push the idea that this is a “modern” Final Fantasy title. Frankly, I’d go so far as to say it’s my new favorite in the series (Reader, before you fire up your scroll wheels to go type “Myles you suck and nobody likes you” in the comment box, please keep in mind I didn’t grow up with Final Fantasy).
It is not very often that the sidequests in a game are actually any good. Fetch quests, on any given day, are in fact the actual bane of my existence. XV didn’t just make fetch quests fun, it made searching for sidequests fun. Most of the fun in an RPG for me is usually found in the actual dungeon exploring and and the combat, not necessarily bopping about the overworld looking for shit to do. I spent so much time in XV just driving around finding new quests, new monsters to kill, new recipes to make, new outposts, new photo spots — all the while blasting the battle theme from Final Fantasy VII.
Sure, it might close itself off a bit in the latter half, but I don’t think that necessarily means the linear section of the game is terrible at all. I put roughly 4–5x as many hours into the first half, and the last few chapters served as an adequate change of pace as well as tied up loose ends.
Future content updates make me eager to return to this game more and more as 2017 continues.
Truth be told, Let It Die was the biggest curveball of 2016, at least personally. I played the game at PAX East and thought it felt “kinda clunky” — while I thought the art style and aesthetics of the game were charming at the time, there was no way I would spend time or money on a free-to-play game, right?
I am so into Let It Die. Uncle Death is fantastic and iconic and I want to see more of him. Once I discovered the true nature of the mechanics and realized just how far this game goes, I fell into a very deep yet satisfying rabbit hole.
It’s a game that I’m still talking about with my friends and comparing progress and builds. It’s a game that I can relax and play dumb and stupid, and twelve seconds later be on the edge of my seat shouting at the screen during a boss encounter. It’s a game that scratches my never-ending itch to just pick up a really difficult game and grind forever. Some might disagree with me on this, but coming back to the waiting room and watching stat points go up only a little bit after a 45-minute-long hell run probably feels better than most drugs.
3. SUPERHOT (VR)
I just wrote about SUPERHOT, and now it’s time to praise the VR version.
SUPERHOT VR is an entirely separate title from the 2D version, and practically the entire game has been reworked and rebuilt from the ground up with VR as the focus. It’s a hell of a lot better than its already stellar two-dimensional brother. This is how SUPERHOT was meant to be experienced.
SUPERHOT VR has you teleporting through levels, fighting short waves of red dudes with nothing but your fists and anything you can pick up. Since it’s structured not entirely unlike a rail shooter, each scenario is wonderfully scripted and the developers somehow knew exactly what players were going to do when placed inside SUPERHOT.
One of my favorite playthroughs involved dodging several red dudes firing at me while pole dancing, punching a guy very hard in the face, throwing my gun, teleporting behind everyone, catching the gun that I tossed to myself, and pulling the trigger lots of times. SUPERHOT VR did a great job of making me feel like I’m inside an incredibly well choreographed action movie, straight up being a cold, calculated badass. This game is very easy to lose a good several hours to.
The top three games on this list all have some intense attitude, but DOOM is quite a few cuts above the rest for over-the-top-ridiculously-self-aware-yet-plays-it-straight attitude. It’s pretty much everything I’ve ever wanted when it was first announced, a nice clean 1080p 60fps fast-paced ridiculous shooter that knows it’s a DOOM game.
Right down to the nittiest grittiest details like the mindblowingly good original soundtrack, incredible graphics, a framerate that runs almost too smooth, and crazy traversal speed, DOOM is a refined and focused entry in the series and I had an absolute blast playing through the campaign. Structurally, it gave off some real Metroid Prime vibes with the 3D map system and different weapons — and the levels are designed with just as much attention, love, and care. id must have made a deal with the devil to pull this off.
When I find the time I’ll get back to playing DOOM so I can just punch shit and holler at how good this fucking game is.
Thumper is, in my objective eyes, a perfect video game. I love Thumper to pieces. Not only is it my favorite game of the year 2016, it’s also my favorite game, period.
I just love showing this game to people and watching them play it. Aesthetically, it’s like flying through Trent Reznor’s brain at three trillion miles an hour. Rhythmically, it’s intense, loud, bassy, dark, and punishing. The controls may be simple but the gameplay is fast, tough, and fair. It’s even got a VR mode that is so immersive the entire outside world melts away. The perfect recipe for a game that Myles would love.
Thumper is catchy and addicting and extremely deep in its mechanics, way deeper than what is taught in the early tutorial levels. For instance, the game might not tell you that performing a perfect turn while flying allows your space beetle to keep flying in the air, theoretically forever. The game doesn’t explicitly tell the player too much at all — a lot of the teaching in Thumper is really just based on patterns and context clues. It’s all about executing a pattern well and then building or iterating on that pattern. I’m all about that kind of smart game design.
The actual rhythm aspect of Thumper is insane too, and some of these beats are so infectious I can’t get them out of my head and it’s been almost four months. Blasting through the nine increasingly difficult and complex levels I found some sort of zen, and figured out some shit about drumming and time signatures that I was never able to grasp back in music theory class.
I want everyone to play Thumper. It’s $20, it’s on Steam and PS4, it’s got VR support, and you best eat a snack and put your headphones on because you’re about to go on a long journey through rhythm hell.