Half Time for 2016 – The Year So Far
2016 has passed the half way mark. Isn’t that scary? It seems like only yesterday we were putting 2015 to bed and yet it is already time to put my tax return in. The year has flown by so far and that is in no small part due to the barrage of excellent games released in the first six months of the year. Honestly, I looked at 2016 as being potentially a little bit of an average year for games, especially considering we had such a strong 2015. But I am more than happy to say we are well on our way to a bumper year. So in this quiet time before No Man’s Sky and Deus Ex hits I thought I might take a look back at my personal highlights so far.
February was a massive start to the year for me. I always wondered if GOTY could be released in February and that may just have happened this year. Xcom 2 was everything I loved about the original but so much more. Apart from the occasional graphic glitch I really can’t find anything to fault about this supreme example of the turn-based tactical combat genre. I honestly think I will be playing this game forever or until Xcom 3 comes out, whichever comes first. The second big release in Feb for me was actually an expansion pack. Dying Light, the surprisingly excellent zombie/parkour game received a massive new dump of content with The Following. A huge new map, new mechanics, and an awesome customizable buggy meant this expansion was more in the nature of a fully fledged sequel than an expansion pack. Hours and hours of Zombie fuelled, open world fun.
The first quarter of 2016 also saw Gravity Rush finally get the attention it deserves with a PS4 HD remake. The game was possibly the best game on the VITA and now that it is on home consoles a much bigger crowd should get to play it. I can’t wait for the sequel. Ubisoft took Farcry back to the stone age with mixed results in Farcry Primal. The game was fairly solid but it lacked the excellent characters like Vaas and Pagan Min so I struggled to find much enthusiasm for the game after the initial 10 hours or so. Thankfully the excellent puzzle/shooter combo of SUPERHOT met my high expectations. Such a unique title that took a strange yet well thought out mechanic and made a supremely entertaining title out of it.
The biggest release for March was, without a doubt, The Division. It seemed to take the world by storm on release and I quite enjoyed the title initially. However much like Destiny (of which it shares more than a few attributes) The Division ran into trouble during the end game and as a result player numbers dropped off quickly. I have to say I got a good 20 hours of fun out of the game but at this point, I probably won’t ever go back to it. March finished off with the release of the first episode of Hitman. This new episodic structure for the franchise still hasn’t won me over but there is no doubt that the gameplay is top notch. Hitman fans are well served here, trust me.
April was a cracker with Dark Souls 3 coming out and once again consuming the lives of Soulsborne players everywhere. I have not been shy in saying Dark Souls is not for me however and I was looking at other games to fill the gap. Quantum Break, Microsoft and Remedy’s big new IP, was released and seemed to split audiences. I for one quite enjoyed the game, it felt very much like a combination between Max Payne and Alan Wake so I had a good bit of fun. There is no doubt it had its problems but overall it was an entertaining experience and I would love to see a sequel. My game of the month for April however, was a surprise that came out of nowhere. A tight little indie title called Stories: The Path of Destinies came out of nowhere to consume all my spare time. A wonderful Action/RPG that has shades of Bastion and a touch of RARE this is a game that everyone should get their hands on. If you buy it for nothing else its unique storytelling mechanic is worth the price of entry.
Two big titles dominated the headlines in May. The first was a game I could have sworn would be average at best. Thank god I was wrong. Doom stormed back into the hearts and minds of gamers everywhere with a cracking single player campaign that felt modern, yet old-school at the same time. If only the multiplayer didn’t seem like a tacked on, last minute addition. The second game for May surprised no one with how good it was. Uncharted 4 came out and officially rocked my socks. The tight adventuring that the franchise has always had was combined with some wonderful storytelling devices that Naughty Dog learned from The Last of Us created, in my mind at least, the ultimate Uncharted game. Hell, even the shooting didn’t feel ordinary this time. Truly a classic of the genre.
What about Overwatch? Well, I wanted to give Blizzard’s shooter some extra special attention. Blizzard has done what many thought impossible by creating a highly competitive yet highly accessible shooter. I know people that have barely played an FPS in their life that are addicted to Blizzard’s spin on the TF2 formula. It is balanced, well put together and most of all fun. It may not be my favourite game for 2016 but it does deserve special recognition for its wonderful achievements.
That pretty much wraps up my highlights for the first half of the year and I am sure you will agree it has been an absolutely first rate 6 months for games releases. Things look to only get better though with a host of new games coming soon that should all be top notch. In particular, I am looking forward to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Mafia 3. I have a long history with Deus Ex and words can’t explain how excited I am about Adam Jensen’s return. Mafia 3 to me looks like everything I could want from an open world game. New Orleans setting, fascinating 60’s time period, killer soundtrack (Hendrix, Credence, The Stones….. I mean come on how good is that) and some very interesting gang management mechanics make Mafia 3 sit right atop my most anticipated list.
But those two games are hardly the only exciting games coming. Watch Dogs 2, Forza Horizon 3, Gears of War 4, Final Fantasy XV and The Last Guardian are just a few more that gamers everywhere should be excited about. It is pretty clear to me that despite my reservations at the start of the year, 2016 is shaping up to be one of the best years in gaming ever.