For me the year 2016 in videogames is notable for a couple of reasons.
The first is that this year marks the moment Forza Horizon shtick wore out its welcome, and that despite its slavish dedication to paying homage to Australia’s unique auto history, I couldn’t force my way through the now by-the-numbers open world racing of Forza Horizon 3.
I played the fewest games in 2016 I probably have in any other year of my adult life. Which makes this a rather hard post to write. I haven’t followed what’s been happening in the world of video games terribly closely – which has been wonderful truth be told – but if there was a year to be ‘out of the loop’ this was it.
Because although I’d made a conscious decision to completely block out video games media and coverage, when snippets did creep their way to my attention through the information cracks and crevices in modern day living, it felt like I’d been picked up and sent way back in time. A return to Willamette Shopping Mall? A trailer featuring Watch Dogs’ T-bone? Rocket-launching Revenants? In many ways – whether it be through the return of some of my favourites from years past or the release of games long in the making – my abridged experience of 2016 felt like a year designed to remind me personally of the things I love about video games. And the things I love about video games were encapsulated perfectly in my favourite games of the year.
Classic Doom always will hold a very special place in my video game lexicon. It is the one game I’d say without reservation every human being should – if they have any interest in pop culture of any kind – at least experience once in their life.
I’d probably say the same thing about this year’s Doom.
Doom is quite simply the same as it ever was. It’s prettier sure, and there are some more modern day trappings sprinkled across the top, but Doom is now as Doom was then. It’s impossible to know what would or could’ve been, but I can’t help but feel that if the Masters of Doom had the latest technology in the 90’s, this is what they would’ve unleashed upon an unwitting society. It’s fast, it’s violent, it’s frenetic, and it’s fantastic. From the moment the first zombie-soldier shuffles on to the screen, it feels just as it did more than 20 years ago. The masters may have changed, but Doom is back in a big way.
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2 is perhaps the perfect follow-up to what I still consider one of this generation’s finest video games. Although I found Chicago the more interesting place to hack, San Francisco is clearly the more logical place for cyber-shenanigans, what with most of the world’s social media hailing from the city by the bay.
The feel and flow of the series’ storytelling also got a significant overhaul; which despite not being as brooding aired as much of modern humanity’s dirty laundry as the grittiest pop culture yarns, with gender, sexuality and racial discrimination all getting subtle yet powerful cameos in such a clever and understated way that it’s not far-fetched to hope it paves the way for smarter representation of social minorities in video games.
But it was the story about how a ragtag bunch of activists bond – and I mean really become friends who care for one another – that wins the game my highest of praise. Watch Dogs 2 is a thoughtful game wrapped in a veneer of fun and frivolity, a game that successfully tackles some of western civilisations’ greatest challenges from living in a hyper-connected world, and a game that treads that fine line between preaching and informing.
The fact Watch Dogs 2 is incredibly fun to play is nothing short of a miracle, and why it’s without a doubt my favourite game of the year.
So there you have it; a shorter list than most previous years, but one that is filled with two games that for mine have packed a far harder punch than any in previous memory. Please let us know your favourite 2016 games in the comments. Happy New Year and I hope to be around these hallowed halls more frequently in 2017.