2016 was a great year for gaming. The unveiling of two ‘refreshed’ consoles — the PS4 Pro and Xbox One S — and a console-friendly VR headset — PlayStation VR — are undoubtedly the highlights, but graphics and hardware improvements aside, we saw some truly phenomenal games in 2016.
Set in the same locale as the 2012 original, Dishonored 2 opens the door to a sort of Victorian steampunk world that’s equally likely to feature futuristic robots as it is 1800’s steamers. You’ll play as one of two characters: royal bodyguard Corvo, the original protagonist, or Emily Kaldwin, a young empress that Corvo is tasked with protecting. It seems odd to talk about Emily needing protecting, as she’s pretty damn capable.
Aside from that, the game will play entirely different depending on your style. Some will use guns and crossbows, others swords and magic. Some will prefer to sneak around rooftops and side streets, others facing enemies head-on in a last man standing-type bloodbath. You can focus on the core game and finish it in about 12-14 hours, or explore every nook and cranny of the environment for upgrade-granting collectibles and take a couple weeks. It’s all up to you and there’s no “right” way to play.
There’s not much left to say about Hitman. The sixth iteration in a series that debuted in 2006 brings with it a sense of familiarity. Like others you’ll use stealth, creativity, and bad-ass weapons to help Agent 47 take out marks. Like others, you’ll die, get frustrated, and swear the game is actively plotting against you. And like others you’ll complete a level without raising any alarms and then rejoice in the sense of accomplishment that comes with being the world’s best assassin.
And then you’ll do it all over again in an equally frustrating new level.
Aside from improved visuals, there’s not much that’s new or improved aside from its episodic release. Rather than releasing Hitman as one game, you’ll get a series of episodes scheduled to be released throughout the year, and the years to come — three seasons are currently planned.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2017
FIFA may dominate the soccer world, but Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) has been the better title for at least two years. In what remains the only true rivalry in a sports gaming world dominated by exclusive licenses, each title has something to offer, but they’d really be great if they somehow joined forces and became one.
There’s something supremely satisfying about the mechanics of PES that FIFA still lacks. Hitting a back-heel pass to a striker, heading a cross into the corner of the net, or nailing a perfectly-executed tackle, all look as if you’d just seen the real thing. In a game about controlled chaos, flow, and precision, PES is easily the best choice for the soccer purist.
Ratchet and Clank
Devoid of any real-world aspirations you’ll tag along with the iconic Lombax, and his quirky robot friend, Clank, through a series of misadventures. It’s nostalgic gaming at its finest, and although it was set to the classic storyline of the 2002 original, it still felt decidedly new.
Visually speaking, this is the best we’ve ever seen Ratchet and Clank. The visuals stand up not just to other games in the series, but anything on offer for console gamers. Lighting, structure, and environments are all a marvel of technological achievement and as you fight robots, collect bolts, and equip newer and more outrageous weapons you’re often left pixel peeping and admiring just how great the game looks.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Playing as Nathan Drake, you’ll dive into some backstory while learning the basic controls and navigating your way through an orphanage as a younger version of the protagonist. It’s here that we learn about Nathan’s upbringing, as well as his brother before being thrust into a Panamanian prison alongside him to start the story.
Once the action heats up, you’ll be met with fierce combat, platforming elements, and some puzzle solving as you seek out treasure, and answers, before coming to the excellent conclusion. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s Uncharted, trust the successful series to satisfy in its latest iteration.
Of all the things Overwatch does well, its characters are what make the game most enjoyable.
First-person shooters, more than any other game, perhaps, have a seemingly-insurmountable skill gap between a mediocre player and a really good one. As someone who falls into the former category, I can tell you first-hand just how frustrating it can be to play them in multi-player when it ends up being a series of not-all-that-enjoyable deaths.
Overwatch doesn’t attempt to fix the skill gap to make the game more equal, nor should it. Instead, the game takes the approach of applying different skills to different characters. Each are varied enough that you’re certain to find one that fits your play style. Whether you’re a quick aim on the sticks, or you prefer to think strategically and find the optimal spots for turret placement, Overwatch has a character that’ll make you feel like you’re contributing no matter your skill level — or play style.
If you’re looking for a solid campaign mode, this isn’t it. If you want to go balls-to-the-wall with some intense 6v6 online action, there’s no better first-person shooter this year than Overwatch.