Rabidgames’ GOTY Awards 2016: How bad was 2016 really?

It’s that time of the year again to look back at the previous year’s games. Well, it’s already another year, and almost March, but still, looking back cannot hurt. Plenty of things can be said about 2016, but let’s stick to games now so we remain calm, shall we?

So, let’s start with the disappointments, add-ons and the best remakes, shall we?

Disappointment of 2016

There are quite a few runner-ups in this category; the new Star Ocean not also had a name you cannot remember, it also felt half-finished and required a shitload of backtracking. Then we had Hitman in episodic download form together with the unwelcome always-online surprise (more on the physical version later). But hey, both were good games at the core at least. The same cannot really be said about The Division though – it was Destiny all over again – a pseudo-MMO with a shallow story and god-damn repetitive gameplay against the same 4 enemy types, most of them bullet sponges.

But the icing on the bitter cake of disappointment was surely No Man’s Sky – big promises and hardly a delivery, qaurter-finished and bare-bones gameplay and, well the novelty wearing off to quickly. Sure, it was pretty cool at first, but then, exploring a galaxy became stale quicker than a pint of Stella … But the outright lies about No Man’s Sky are still the biggest source of resentment and disappointment for many.

Remake of the Year 2016

Well, we’ve had quite a few; from Psychonauts to Dishonored, Batman: Return to Arkham to the Bioshock Collection. Then we go to play the quite massive Ezio Collection with 3 games for the price of a cheap one.

All of them were good value for money. But then, there was Skyrim. And Skyrim being Skyrim, it blew the rest of them out of the water. And added mod support, even on the PS4 (although that one is crippled). Skyrim is simply one of the greatest games of all time, and now running fluently, and the complete edition running so smoothly on the PS4 makes it even greater.

DLC of 2016

Okay, that’s an easy one, with no questions asked: The Witcher 3’s finale, Blood & Wine.

 

Alright, let’s have a look at Rabidgames’ Top 10 games of 2016. But before that, let’s have a look at some games that have ended up outside the top 10: There were quite a few games with massive flaws: Hitman has turned out to be enjoyable, but the episodic content resulted in a fragmented experience you can even feel in the disc version. Plus, whoever got the idiotic idea that you can only unlock things when you’re online should get fired immediately! Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness might have won in the category “gibberish title of the year”, and while it was still enjoyable, it reeked of half-finishedness.

Far Cry Primal wasn’t bad, but just more of the same, and the setting got stale a bit too quick. A quite complicated case was Homefront: The Revolution … What could have been the next Freedom Fighters, turned out to be underwhelming, buggy and glitchy mess. A few patches later, the game is playable and even fun at times. If only the ideas would have been better …

But enough with the rest, let’s get to the best:

Rabidgames Top 10 Games of 2016

10. Firewatch
A great yet bleak start, engaging dialogues and a mystery, all brought to us with graphics that remind one of Life is Strange; and this adventure goes a bit in the same direction, too.  Refreshingly, nature can be travelled with the only indication where to go being your map and your trusty compass, which adds to a different feeling you get from most games. Sadly though, the disappointingly mundane ending doesn’t really deliver. To write more about the game might give away too much so just check it out.

9. The Last Guardian
It took a time for the game to be released, but it turned out just fine. While the story is pretty simplistic and the gameplay mechanics are not too complicated either, the puzzles can take a while to be figured out. And of course, The Last Guardian shines when it comes to the relationship between the boy and Trico. As we learn to understand Trico, we get to control him, or scold him if we’re mean.It is perhaps the closest a game has come to petting an animal (pet doesn’t really fit here). Why only ninth place you ask? Well, The Last Guardian is good, but once the novelty of petting a “monster” wears off, there’s not that much left sadly. You repeat the same sequences again and again.

8. Rebel Galaxy
So a space simulation with two-dimensional space battles? Sounds crazy at first, but it worked out pretty well! It’s a light simulation, true, with the economy being there and battles playing out on the arcade side, but if you want to be Han Solo without having to deal with tons of options and menus and numbers, or if you’re sick of waiting for Star Citizen, Rebel Galaxy is a relaxing pastime for you.

7. Dishonored 2
It’s mostly more of the same, sure, but if more is still fun, fair enough. Plus we have a tropical setting, and we can play as a queen assassin. Win-win, right? Otherwise, not much has changed though. Some levels are genius, and trying to find the best way to sneak by unnoticed hardly ever gets old.

6. Final Fantasy XV
Finally, long awaited FF 15 arrived. And for the great battle system and the nice open world, it’s not all great news sadly. The story needs the movie Kingsglaive to make sense (and even then, it is spread thin and the pacing is off), and there’s additionally an anime explaining the relationships between the four protagonists. All of that frankly sucks Cactuar’s balls. It’s still fun because of the gameplay – and the summons look massive now – but there’s a bitter-sweet after-taste if a decade in development results in a half-baked story and rather bland characters.

5. DOOM
Doom is fun. The fun of shooting demons in the face. Or tear them apart with a chainsaw. Many shooter have neglected the “jump in and kill” aspect, but now we have Doom. Doom might have made it into the top 3 if not for two reasons: First, mandatory patches for the MP-only DLC packs so the game occupies more than 70GB is simply demonshit. Second, from halfway through the game, the fast-paced slaughter actually can get stale. But despite all that, Doom shows what a great shooter can be like when you just focus on the basics!

4. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
A dark future, sneaking around, a vast conspiracy. Aka Deus Ex. This time, we have a nice hub, Prague, where we can explore and hack to our augmented heart’s content, and there are plenty of small stories to be found. There are more powers and more ways to finish missions now, which is always welcome, and the politics of segregation and how to cope with terrorism are probably more current than intended as Mankind Divided is an uncomfortably fitting description of the current state of affairs. If only the story would be something to write home about … It is almost entirely forgettable though, and a cliffhanger ending is never a good idea unless you present stuff as a trilogy. While the gameplay is definitely refined, the presentation sadly isn’t.

3. Watch Dogs 2
Swap Chicago with San Francisco, swap dark and moody with sunny and bright, and swap an ice-cold, numb killer with a bunch of hipsters, and you get Watch Dogs 2. Okay, the hipster part doesn’t sound too great, but the guys are actually okay. The star of the successor to the repetitive and not impressive Watch Dogs is the Bay Area though – it looks beautiful and diverse, and there are still plenty of things to do although the map feels less cluttered. The main story is rather meh, but each mission can be tackled the way you want to tackle it; while shooting works, the slightly different approach to stealth is where this game shines (after you failed by trying routine stealth stuff at least).

Watch Dogs 2 feels simply fresh. Oh, you can get to watch spoilers for some Ubisoft projects in-game. Or hack your way around the elite and make fun of them. Or just hack a car to drive into the ocean because the driver cut you off. Similar to Saints Row 4, Watch Dogs 2 doesn’t even try to hide that it’s a game – and it is all the better for it.

2. Uncharted 4
Objectively, Uncharted 4 is probably the best game of the year. Beautiful graphics, a compelling story, all different gameplay mechanics coming together nicely. And finally, less of the annoying dude-bro banter and a few big open levels between linear sections are a welcome change.

And yet … There is a certain lack of originality around the Uncharted series that even this game cannot shush: Climbing, shooting, stealth, all mechanics are well-known and mostly very familiar. Of course, this doesn’t make Uncharted 4 a bad game, but well, we’ve seen it all before. While Uncharted 4 is a big step towards true greatness the likes of GTA or The Witcher 3 have known, the series is still not entirely there yet.

1. Mafia 3
Yes, objectively speaking, Mafia 3 has quite a few issues: It is technically not that polished, the graphics look off at times, whistling is an AI killer and the side stuff gets too repetitive at times. But Mafia 3 gets a few things amazingly right. The story is presented very well (except for some pacing issues due to repetitive side stuff) and the ending is a nice set-up for conspiracy theorists. Then, the city of New Bordeaux: It is a truly immersive experience – each district is different, from the architecture to the people, the protagonist will be met with different reactions as well, and the Bayou is also well implemented. Furthermore, sometimes driving around and just watching the scenery is all Rabidgames has wanted to do. Mind you, there are only a few games where it is worth it (GTA V for instance), but Mafia 3 surely is one of these, especially because of the superb 60s soundtrack. You just want to listen to one more song …

And last but not least, the game dares to depict everyday racism – as much as we wished it could be said racism is a thing of the past, we all know it’s not. You actually get a feeling of it when you’re being told to leave a bar or restaurant that’s for whites only, and when you hear on the radio that the murder of black kids won’t get punished by the law, you’ll just realise that Mafia 3 serves as a reminder how little we have achieved in almost 50 years now.

Mafia 3 is more than just the sums of its parts – decent gameplay, a good story, an immersive world and the ubiquitous themes of racism and revenge against a crime boss all come together to create an experience you want to be a part of for longer, even though that might mean you’re just cruising around listening to the radio.

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