Game On or Game Over Rewind 2016
A look back on the year that was.
Microsoft versus Sony, Battlefield versus Call of Duty and Forza versus Gran Turismo. These are some of the rivalries that can get people talking about console wars. “Game On or Game Over” is your place to get inside the minds of Nicholas and Andy as they seek to find the true meaning of gaming and tackle some of gaming’s most controversial subjects. Both are award winning authors – although the awards haven’t been mailed or created yet — but trust them. Would they lie to you?
Andy: Wow, I can’t believe we are already at the end of another year. For me 2016 was an odd year gaming-wise. I conscientiously bought fewer games this year, I tried to avoid the hype trains as much as possible, and really just wanted to enjoy what I played versus trying to rush through something to get to the next one. We’ve talked a lot in the past couple months about why we shouldn’t rush out and get games on Day 1 so I won’t rehash that, but I will say I feel good about not getting as many titles this year. Which sounds weird coming from a gamer like myself, but I’ve reached that point where enough is enough I guess.
It would be really easy for us to do the annual Game of the Year type article here, but I want to change things up here just a little bit, we’ll talk about our personal Games of the Year a little later. I learned long ago to open with negatives and close with positives, so I’d like to keep that going. Before we get to the good stuffs, let’s pump the breaks here and talk about those games that we played this year that for whatever reason we thought were terrible. So to get things started this week, were there any games that you played this year that were flat out bad or maybe even were there any games that you played this year that you just didn’t like but others enjoyed?
Nicholas: There are two games that really come to mind when I think about it – one of which I’m sure will probably surprise you (or frustrate you). The first, and ultimately the worst, is DOOM. It wasn’t so much that it was a bad game, but it was one that just didn’t meet what I was expecting of it. Off the love that I had for Wolfenstein TNO, I was expecting DOOM to be similar in gameplay. How I was wrong. Yes, both games are very much run-and-gun shooters, but the pace of the latter was just too quick for me. I didn’t enjoy that I had to constantly be on the move or else I’d die, and I think there’s a part of me that didn’t like the bobbing around all the time either. In-short, while a lot of gamers might have praised it, it just didn’t deliver what I was hoping it would have.
The next game, and this one you’ll love, is Fallout 4. I don’t think I’ve ever heard negative opinions about Fallout – it’s always been praised as a great franchise despite any random bugs or glitches you’ll encounter. That said, it just didn’t sound like my kind of game when I heard they were releasing a sequel, and for that reason I didn’t buy it immediately. That said, a few months later I managed to find it on special and figured I’d give it a shot. I played it for a few hours but I just couldn’t get into it. Perhaps it’s the lack of cars, perhaps it was just that it didn’t feel like a good shooter despite that being the main combat mechanic, but for whatever reason, it just didn’t gel with me. Sorry Andy.
So that’s my two least-liked games of 2016, but do the developer’s credit, I know they resonated well with other gamers. That said, enough about me, how about you? What are some of your hit-and-misses from the year that was 2016?
Andy: After all we’ve been through, all the things we have written about, argued about and discussed I was starting to gain a little respect for you. Then you go and say something like that. You’re dead to me, dead I say! My love for Fallout holds no bounds, but I don’t want to spend the entire article explaining why you’re wrong. We’ll just agree that you are wrong and move on. Now with that out of the way I can’t say anything on DOOM because just watching snippets of gameplay on it activated my wonderful motion sickness issue I have with some games. So, no chance I’m touching that one at all.
For me personally, there are two games that really stick out to me for not only under-performing in the sales category but just not measuring up in quality, gameplay or fun factor at all. The first one is personally disappointing to me because I was actually looking forward to it. That would be Homefront Revolution. From the moment I played the beta to when I played the actual retail release… it was not good. I’m still not entirely sure how a single player campaign can have lag. It just boggles my mind. Add to that poorly designed multiplayer, needless micro-transactions and a subpar story – there’s no redeeming value in this game. The other one for me was a new franchise for 2016 that seemed to have the right pieces in place to be one of those sneaky good titles that will develop a following over time, but the reverse happened. Once it was released, it suffered from long, and I do mean long, load times, an underwhelming story and questionable gameplay mechanics making it an overall disappointment for many gamers. That game would be Recore. I wanted to like it, but in the end I just couldn’t. Maybe if I had the patience to sit through just one more load screen I may have, but I fell asleep.
OK, enough of the negative stuff let’s move onto the good stuff. Stevivor does a great job of covering our opinions on Game of the Year, breaking it down by genre and all that good stuff. But, since our readers are already here I’d like to take a minute and talk about our personal picks for Game of the Year. That game, or games, that when you look back at the year 2016 you’ll fondly remember and want to play again, and maybe again. Did you play any games this year that would fall into that line of thinking for you? If so, what made them stand out above all others for you?
Nicholas: There are a few really great games that I’ve played this year. The first game that deserves an honourable mention is F1 2016. Typically the F1 games are usually good, but never great. Developed well, heaps of polish, but there’s not usually much that keeps me interested past the first few races. This time around though, it was completely different. It’s not to suggest that the game was drastically overhauled, but it just played better and was enjoyable at that. Winning felt satisfying and rewarding. There was no new content as far as historical cars or grand prix, but it was just overall a really fun racer. So my first great game for this year is certainly F1 2016.
Moving on, it would be remiss if I didn’t also mention DiRT Rally. This to me stands as my personal racing game of the year for the very fact that it not only showed a return to form from Codemasters and the DiRT franchise, but because it was a rally game done right. It was every bit brutal as it was beautiful, and was everything that racing fans have been wanting for years now. I know people are usually quick to dismiss racers as being simplistic track racers, but DiRT Rally not only gave motorsport some much needed love, but it proved that there’s love to be had in rally racing too.
Now I know what people are thinking – here we go, Nicholas is doing nothing but racing games again, but let’s switch it up. I want to give the BioShock Collection some love too. I missed out on playing the originals when they were released during the last generation, so I was really keen to give them a go this time around when they were re-released. While I’ve only finished the first game so far, it’s been a great experience at that. Everyone knows what I’m going to say – fun combat, amazing story and awesome environment. I know you’re definitely in the ‘more original games, less remakes’ camp, but there’s a lot of games I missed out last time that I’m glad to see coming out again for me to enjoy.
Moving on, and now to my final ‘game of the year’ title, I think it has to go to Quantum Break. For me, it’s usually very telling when I play through a game twice, and this was one of the very few in a long time that I not only played through again, but enjoyed doing so (as a matter of fact, the last game I did the same with was Wolfenstein TKO). None of the ‘big’ things about the game interested me. The fact it was being developed by Remedy was nice but nothing amazing. The fact it had some famous television personalities was nice too, but nothing amazing. It was the fact the game was such a complete and fun package that won me over. I loved the combat, was engrossed by the story and really connected with the characters. Sure, the story was a little short and the cutscenes in-between acts were low resolution and laggy for the most part, but everything that mattered to me, worked.
So that’s my picks for GOTY and looking back, it makes me appreciate some of the awesome titles we’ve played through this year. What about yourself?
Andy: See, this is where I’m a little hesitant to say too much. Mostly because like I have said in the past, I consciously cut back on the number of games I got right away and as such, there are a great number of games I haven’t played yet. So keep in mind when I talk about my personal Games of the Year it’s specifically for games that I played. I can’t judge those I didn’t play.
With that said the first game on my list is also a racing game, but not one of the ones you mentioned. My first pick would be Forza Horizon 3. It’s not like they did anything Earth-shattering or new with it. But, it’s a complete package and ticked off all the boxes I love in a racing game. I have always been a fan of arcade-style racers, fast-paced, varied environments, different styled events, co-op campaign and fun multiplayer. Add to that I got to visit Australia without of the fear of everything there being able to kill me it’s really a win-win for me. Looking on Xbox Smartglass I have put in over 100 hours on it, so replay value is certainly there too. It’s just one of those games I really enjoy playing.
The second game I would say is a Game of the Year for me would be Battlefield 1. As expected, the multiplayer is smooth and I love the setting. There’s no lasers, space battles, wall running or pay-to-win micro-transactions. It’s a tried and true formula on what makes a successful, fun and engaging experience. What I wasn’t expecting was how amazing the campaign was going to be. Dice rolled the… err rolled the dice and went for something different. They moved away from the one man super soldier type story and went more episodic with several different protagonists scattered around different settings. And man it pays off in spades. Each story is told in a way that maximizes not just gameplay but tells an actual story. Again, looking at Xbox Smartglass I’ve put in over 80 hours into it. So, I’m confident is saying it’s also a Game of the Year for me.
Aside from those two games, I don’t think I can honestly list off any other games I would consider to be Game of the Year calibre. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy some other games, but when I say Game of the Year I want it to mean something. We’ve talked about the bad games, we’ve talked about the great games, now I want to change things up just a little bit and talk about the game(s) that you played this year that surprised you. For either good or bad reason are there any games that you play that the end product wasn’t what you had expected?
Nicholas: There’s one game that comes to mind, and it escaped me until I was looking at my gaming history for this article – Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter. It made me think of a game I played a long time ago – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. It wasn’t a big-budget game and nor was it on anyone’s radar either. It’s one of those kind of games that a smaller studio makes, that will never put a dent in the likes of Battlefield 1 or Forza Horizon 3, but you kind of hope for one thing – it’s fun. For this game, and much like Harry Potter years ago, I expected the gameplay to be simplistic, maybe even a little repetitive, but I wished that when you sat back, ignored all the small stuff and just enjoyed it as a game that you’d like it. And I did.
Sherlock Holmes started off as one of the worst games I’d played. I remember in the first hour or two I was thinking of what I would write for my opener of the review, and it was cynical as anything, but after solving my first mystery, it started to grow on me, and by the end of the game I had actually enjoyed it. Again, it was nothing special, but I still kind of enjoyed it, and for that reason, it sits as that one game that delivered what I didn’t expect … although part of me kind of did.
What about yourself? So far we’ve spoken about our worst and best games, but was there anything that came out of left-field that surprised you? I also wanted to ask, is there any game that came out this year that made you think, “I can’t actually believe someone made this”?
Andy: I’m going to start with my more negative surprises first. The first is actually 3 in 1. I loved the original Titanfall. It felt new, fresh, interesting and more importantly, it felt like something I hadn’t played before. When I heard Titanfall 2 was coming out I was equally as excited. I was ready to hop back into my Titan and mess stuff up. The beta rolled around and I could not have been more disappointed in the game. It seemed like everything I loved about the first one was ripped out and replaced by something that looked the same but didn’t have the same soul. So I cancelled my pre-order. I then told a buddy that I’d try it via EA Access and see if my feelings changed. About two weeks after that EA released a memo saying Titanfall 2 would not be part of the EA Access subscription. On-top of that, releasing it between Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty was not a smart business move. Even though I have heard good things about it, especially the campaign, I doubt I’ll ever play it.
My second negative surprise is in regards to gamers. I am still shocked that gamers so willingly buy annual franchises with very little difference between the new one and the previous one. Annual sports games and Call of Duty just funnel money from gamers right into EA and Activision’s pockets with minimal effort. But they have updated rosters, they have zombies, they have… the same damn thing as the game before them. What does it tell you that Call of Duty sales are dome some 45-50% yet it is still the highest selling game over the holiday season? No wonder why Activision is content with doing the same thing over and over again. Come to think of it that’s the definition of insanity right? Buying the same game over and over again.
In terms of positive surprises. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Deus Ex Mankind Divided. I made the decision to play through without killing anyone, and while it was certainly a challenge, it added quite a bit to the gameplay and the choices I had to make. Running headlong into a room of enemies was not an option and it was a perfect change of pace for me. My second surprise happened just a couple weeks ago. Pinball FX2 doesn’t advertise what tables they are working on until a couple weeks before they drop. Imagine my surprise when they announced a ‘Bethesda Pinball’ table pack. Fallout, Skyrim and DOOM tables were everything (and more) that I had hoped for. Everyone knows my love of pinball, but when they get it right the tables can be amazing and this pack is certainly up there with some of the best they have ever released. It was a great way to end the year gaming wise for me.
As we reach the end of our last Game On or Game Over article for 2016 I wanted to ask you one final question. Looking back at the past 12 months of gaming, gaming news and everything else gaming-related what are you going to remember? Is there any one thing, or a couple things, that 2016 will be remembered for in your opinion? Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank all our readers for the support this year. Thank you for the feedback, and for letting Nicholas and I carve out this little niche of the internet. We will always welcome article ideas, so if you think of something you think would be a good discussion point please feel free to share. From my family to yours Merry Christmas and have a happy New Year.
Nicholas: Initially I was going to say something along the lines of “I’ll remember Quantum Break and how much I really enjoyed that game”, but I the more I think about it, the more one game in particular stands out. This isn’t a game that we’ve mentioned above, and nor does it come anywhere near my GOTY. The reason why this game stands out though is because it made me feel something I’ve not really felt about with gaming for a very long time – embarrassed.
For those who haven’t guessed what it is, I’m talking about Pokémon GO. I know you and I have discussed it in the past, and I know you and I have had differing views, but there’s just something about that game that I can’t shake – that I can’t get over how bad I feel about playing it. It’s not because it’s Pokémon – I love Pokémon, but more so just how insane we (and I) got about it. Running around in parks trying to catch a Slowbro before it disappeared, spending a couple hours flicking my index finger while sitting on a park bench at 10PM at night. As much as I can appreciate how it brought so many people together, I still can’t get over how childish I felt in hindsight.
All said though, 2016 was a pretty great year for gaming – and truth be told, it’s just another awesome year in a line of awesome years. To mirror what you’ve said, thanks to all our readers for their support over the past twelve months. Here’s to an even more exciting 2017!