2016: This Year in Gaming - Dorknado
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2016: This Year in Gaming

By Thom Farquhar – As we come to the close of 2016 I think everyone would agree that this hasn’t exactly been the best of years. Not just in gaming but in general world events. If you look back through the months you start to notice that there have been some highlights that will make you remember that not all has been bad, for the most part. Here we’ll take a quick look at some of the highs, the lows and the lies that have plagued this year in video games and my personal choices for each.

Let’s get the bad right out of the way. There are quite a few games that have disappointed fans throughout the year ranging from Mighty No. 9 finally coming out after multiple delays to less than favourable reviews. Sequels like Homefront: Revolution showing us how to ruin a cool story and fill gameplay with boring repetitive tasks and dumb enemies. To big budget titles like Quantum Break which does give a new overall experience in the way it tells it’s narrative although lacks the core gameplay elements to make it fun throughout its campaign. Some would say Street Fighter V with its lack of modes upon release made the game bad and pointless until it’s inevitable updates make it a full game, but at least it was playable and the core mechanics all were there for when these modes would get included.

For myself, the biggest disappointment of the year would be Starfox Zero. I’m one of the other 20 people that have a Wii U and still game on it thanks to great games like Mario Maker and Smash Bros that keep me entertained anytime I am just looking for something to just pick up and play. Nintendo usually has a good track record of making sure their big name main series games are fun, playable and polished. Unfortunately, with Starfox, it seems the need to include gamepad features got in the way of nearly all of those points.


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It all seems good from the box art, but that changes once you start playing…


While the game itself does a fine job of updating the Starfox universe and making the game look better than it’s ever been, graphics don’t excuse poor controls that make the game too challenging at times. I’m all up for a hard game that tests my reflexes and reactions to a breaking point when the challenge is fair, however trying to pick off smaller ships and enemies on one screen whilst making sure I’m not flying into the floor or scenery on another screen becomes tiresome and tedious. That and I’m not a great fan of motion controls which are made obligatory thanks to no option to use the right stick on the gamepad. The main problem is having to move your arms about to aim, which doesn’t sound too awkward, yet becomes a nightmare in later stages as you’re constantly swapping your vision between both screens whilst also potentially obscuring your view as you swing around violently trying to land the last shot on a target. The gamepad itself doesn’t have the greatest battery life either, so after a few hours of gameplay, it gets even worse as you now have the fun of a charging cable protruding from the top and becoming a whip in some cases.


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This looks like fun, but after 5 minutes it becomes annoying…


If it wasn’t for the controls I feel this could have been a great game, it certainly has it moments introducing new vehicles and giving the sense of depth to space battles that I always wanted from the original game. Annoying design choices though make it a chore to play through and something I wouldn’t expect from one of Nintendo’s higher profile series.

I could have easily included No Man’s Sky as this year’s worst game or biggest disappointment, but honestly, I think gamers expectations of any game before release are far too high these days. It’s definitely the biggest lie of this year, let alone for many years since Aliens Colonial Marines was released in 2013 and was a complete disaster. When I saw the first reveal years ago I admit I got hyped for what looked to be a dream game for me. Flying about in space from planet to planet, mining for materials whilst taking out dangerous creatures and enemies, upgrading my equipment and trading with alien species, all with the premise of getting to the centre of the universe to find out what it was all for. It looked amazing.


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It all looks so promising…


So when a game like this peaks my interest I stay away from all the articles, previews and news so as not to overhype or ruin what my expectations of the title are. Upon release I was quite happy with the game, it played fine. The lack of tutorials made the exploration and crafting side of things more enjoyable as I wasn’t being told how to do everything and was left on my own to discover what could be done. It seems I was in the minority though as many a gamer who had been watching and reading all the pre-release footage and articles found a lot missing from the final release. No big space battles or randomly generated aliens that lacked half the body types seen in multiple gameplay demos and no multiplayer of any sort led to a huge backlash towards Hello Games and one of their founders Sean Murray.


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I don’t think this is meant to happen…


There are many videos and articles that compare what was said and promised prior to release and what was actually available once out so I won’t go too far into the whole debacle; this for me is why I stay clear of any media hype, to make my expectations so high that the final product can’t come anywhere near what I want it to be. Looking back through what was meant to be included it is a shame that a lot of parts aren’t in the final game, but as with any medium, especially video games, it’s very much an opinionated art. Considering the time I have free to play games is the few hours between working, eating and sleeping, having a game like No Man’s Sky that I can pick up for an hour or two every so often is perfect for me. Understandably though I can fully appreciate anyone who was more than disappointed with their purchase as the marketing spin made there out to be a universe amount content available.

So onto the good. Overwatch is exactly what I’ve been looking for in a first person shooter for years. I’m of the age where Unreal Tournament and Quake III Arena ruled as the kings of multiplayer shooters, where quick reflexes and twitch style shooting meant you either developed repetitive strain injury from rapid movements or nervously flinched ready to strike every time a pigeon flew past you. However, throughout the years there hasn’t been a game like Overwatch that has recaptured my passion for shooting anything that moved even slightly.


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Who doesn’t like choices…


Multiple different characters and weapons, maps that allow for different play styles and tactics. Gameplay that ranges from being a tank for your team to rushing out and murdering the closest enemy that dared to try to take B before you could, it has everything I need to keep me entertained. Sure there’s no campaign to play through and the modes and game types are pretty lacklustre, but if I wanted a story in my shooter I’d go play one of those brilliant campaigns in Call of Duty I hear everyone loves each year. Or Doom, at least that understands that most people want to shoot first and hear the who’s and whys later. Not only is Overwatch a blast to play, it also looks brilliant and the sound design is excellent too. The banter before each match begins still makes me chuckle even after the hundredth time I’ve heard it, plus the satisfaction of winning a tightly fought round that had the scores going back and forth makes the win even more fulfilling. While some would argue that the matchmaking is horrible, the inclusion of loot crates that can be purchased for real-world money, and the price of the game considering it’s a multiplayer only shooter with 3 modes is too much. I’d argue that; the matchmaking is based on your skill level, you don’t have to spend any money on extras as it’s not forced upon you, and people go out and buy Call of Duty each year for full price to play one-third of that game and still moan that the previous year’s version was better.


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No one gets past the ice wall…


As with everything though it’s all opinionated. With seasonal updates to game types and more characters included for free, the game has overcome the hurdle that most new IPs have trying to break out and away from the stereotypical shooter mould. I’d personally say it’s my game of the year as there are not many other games that have come out since that I’m still playing to this day. Although Pokemon Moon is a close second.

So that’s it, overall not as bad as it may seem in the world of gaming but definitely a reason to look forward to some early titles like Resident Evil 7 or Persona 5 in the coming months.

What was your biggest disappointment or best game that you’ve played this year? Sound off in the comment section below.

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