We’re coming up to the last leg of 2016, and it’s time to reflect on the year that has almost passed. It’s been a heavy year for many, and a downright horrific one for others – all in all, 2016 will go down as one of the worst years in history. However, it has been a great year for gaming. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.
But having so many great games launch in a period of just 365 days creates a unique problem related to money and time. Games must be bought with hard-earned cash, and must be played over a period of time. I do not have these things in abundance. So I thought I’d shuffle this list together as a kind of forlorn look back at the experiences I could have had but didn’t.
“I’ll wait for the sale.” I said. I told my girlfriend to tell me not to buy it. I was struggling to keep my hands out of my wallet. She did a perfect job – I still haven’t bought the game. Yet now it’s being nominated as GoTY by many a website. I want to play it. I’m starting to think I should have played it earlier. I regret not buying it on launch day.
All the DOOM games (bar DOOM 3) have been installed on my PC for years. I never take them off. I love to drop into them when I have a few minutes to spare. Kill a few grunts, take out some Cyberdemons. It’s instant gratification, and I don’t have to worry about getting to the next bonfire or hitting a save point. I can quit the game in four seconds.
2016’s DOOM was built for me. Fast paced combat with lots of explosions, guts, and a tongue in cheek story. From what I hear, it was what most (not every) DOOM fan could have wanted. I’m sorry I didn’t pick it up. I’m really sorry.
I’ve come across Kitty Horrorshow‘s games only recently. I follow her on Twitter, and am regularly amazed by the glitchy abandonment of her titles. I haven’t yet picked up one of her games and tried them, but this years ANATOMY has me intrigued. As a student of literature we studied Freud and Jung loosely – choosing to invest as heavily in the theories as we liked – and I fell heavily into the Uncanny Valley and Freud’s concept of ‘unheimlich’ meaning uncanny, or unhomely.
For the unacquainted, ANATOMY is a psychological horror title which twists space and examines the psychology of homeliness and unhomeliness. You can see how this sounds appealing to me. I long to explore the broken shifting recesses of the forgotten house. Perhaps, someday soon, I will.
Watch Dogs 2
I didn’t fall for the first one. I thought the first one looked like shit before it even came out. I didn’t like the simplicity of the hacking feature, it belittled the complexity of computers. You can’t just tap a button and make everything happen. I admired the idea, however, and could see how it could be appealing en masse. It’s a superhero game but with a dude who knows technology. It’s basically Batman, right? (I’m going to get flack for that, I know it).
Watch Dogs was pants. We all know it was pants, and Ubisoft got burnt for it – but I’ve been hearing so many pleasantries about Watch Dogs 2. Things are different, apparently. The critics are rather enjoying it. There’s humour and satire in the sequel, and the open world is much more fleshed out than in Watch Dogs.
That’s not to say it’s all good. There’s been a lot of chat about the 3D printing of weapons within the game; that the act of killing really does not suit the game’s atmosphere. It would be like handing all the kids in Stranger Things shotguns and pointing them at the woods – it wouldn’t feel right. Needless to say, if there was Watch Dogs 2 demo I’d be all over it.
Another title I haven’t played the original of. I’d love to get my hands on Titanfall 2, however. It looks super slick, smooth, fast paced and with an acrobatic element that fascinates me. I’d be incapable of moving even half the speed of those currently jumping around online, but I’d try. By the gods, I’d try.
It’s a title that unfortunately came out between Battlefield 1 and COD: INFINITE BOREFARE and I can’t help but feel that the game would have done much better if released outside of those two heavyweights. January 2017 would have been a great launch date. Give the kids something to spent all their Christmas money on, eh?
Initially, I was all about Battlefield 1. The trailers won me over. But then it came out, and it had slick UI and unimaginative maps. It was disturbingly casual. It felt like a re-skinned Battlefront and that’s not what I wanted. It’s not what I wanted at all. I was expecting a Battlefield equivalent of Red Orchestra but instead we got the Books for Boys version of events, where John Doe drives a flamethrower tank into the city and murders hundreds of Germans because no-one ever has any anti-tank grenades.
Then there’s COD. It’s better to not talk about COD. I heard this one was pretty good, but it’s just not for me. Put it in the bin.
I’ve seen a few short videos for Night School Studios Oxenfree, and am strangely drawn to it. It’s not my kind of game, but I admire its focus on storytelling and the generous screen time given to the characters. Modern triple-A titles haven’t handed us a competent narrative for years now – studios are investing in environmental storytelling, or using objects around us to tell us about the world; discarded papers, books. Perhaps this is what draws me to Oxenfree; there’s a nostalgia there – it’s a game learning that uses conversations to tell us about them, and about the world around them.
It looks like a grounded and well crafted storytelling experience. It’s something I’d really like to experience.
Gah! If only I had more time! I was absolutely ready to fall into Thekla’s The Witness back when it came out in January. I knew it was a game I’d love. But I didn’t play it – I didn’t even buy it. I was short on cash at the time, and it hurt to see so many others enjoying it whilst I couldn’t. How it aggravated me.
I’d played plenty of Antichamber and The Talos Principle, so was looking for another puzzle game to sink my jigsaw shaped teeth into. The Witness both looks and feels beautiful – reminding me of Myst and Blow’s previous masterpiece; Braid. It looks like the kind of game you swim in – tentatively entering the water toe after toe until you feel comfortable in the water, then you doggy-paddle, and before you know it you’re swimming out towards a distant island.
Layers of Fear
Horror horror horror. Now that Silent Hills is dead there’s not a lot to look forward to. There’s some hope for the new Resident Evil 7 but let’s be honest here – have Capcom ever made an actually scary Resident Evil since numero uno? The closer they play to Silent Hill the better, but I can’t see Resi 7 giving me brown trouser moments like P.T.
But! Then Layers of Fear appeared, and it got traction, and I had no idea it was coming. It’s a great looking psychological horror that takes the changing paintings from Amnesia and makes a game out of them. That’s oversimplifying it a fair bit, but the trailer took me back to those dark corridors I experienced years ago.
Bloober have done a grand job with Layers of Fear. I’m looking forward to more.
Last one on the list is Campo Santo’s first person narrative experience; Firewatch. I stumbled across this title quite late in its development, but was instantly taken by the art style and immersive gameplay. It was clear to me that an awful lot of effort had gone into animating the environment; the trees felt busied by the wind, and the golden light of the sunset stretched across the distant mountains,
A very original game; one that sidestepped typical genres to give us a walking, hiking and climbing simulator – but with an active story, rather than the passive approach by titles like Dear Esther. It’s a game I wanted to play, and a game I certainly will play in the coming year.
There were so many fantastic titles this year, and although I want to be optimistic about 2017 I have to be honest – I don’t think 2016 can be bested.