A mystery. A creature of mirth and mischief and yet holds the power to virtual worlds in his fingers. Are these virtual worlds his or ours though, what destruction will be wrought upon his whim? The reading of his book may destroy us all. He also plays games.
I’ve only been contributing to the site for a couple of months now, so when the Editor asked me to put together my thoughts for the best and worst of 2016 it kind of caught me off guard. Press wise this year has seen many highly rated games hit the market, but for me the difficulty has always been picking and choosing which of those games to play and which to let ‘slip through the net’. I don’t have the free time that I used to, and as such I’ve got to be really picky about what I fill that time with. Sometimes I find myself pleasantly surprised, where a game manages to either live up to or exceed my expectations. But sometimes all the hype subsides to bitter disappointment. This year has seen the usual highs and lows, but has also included the odd unexpected surprise which I have tried to summarise a bit below.
Firstly, I want to say that this game had one of the most gripping introductions/tutorials that I have seen in recent memory. I felt that the first 5 minutes managed to capture the essence of war, the terror, the futility, the waste. Its real strength was a strong single player campaign alongside the usual strong multiplayer, a campaign presented as 5 individual stories capturing a different theatre of the war. For it me it struck a particular chord, and what I took from the campaign was an actual realisation that I didn’t really know anything about The Great War. The campaign introduced me to many elements of the war I knew nothing about, which led me to firstly read as much as I could about the war, the battles, the fronts, etc; and secondly culminated in a trip to France and Belgium to visit many of the sites of the Somme, a trip that gave me real perspective on one of the darkest times in human history. The game inspired me, through its presentation and story telling, to explore a real subject I knew nothing about, and that has to speak volumes as to how well DICE managed to capture the essence of The Great War in this game.
I’ll admit that my expectations for Doom were somewhat low, particularly with Bethesda now pulling the strings. But instead I throughly enjoyed the game. I found that Id managed to strike a superb balance between the classic Doom gameplay whilst introducing some modern FPS elements. It felt true to its roots, with some intense moments and frenzied combat along with some really nice gameplay elements. Presentation wise it looked the business, and extra kudos should go to the development team for delivering an extremely well optimised PC port somewhat against the current tide.
Overall it was a refreshing, old school experience especially compared to the modern ‘cut from the same cloth’ FPS that are available these days. If you are looking to rekindle some of that 90’s PC gaming love with a little bit of modern flair then I would highly recommend Doom.
Ultimately the game hasn’t really done anything new, after all there have been many other augmented reality games, but what it has achieved is using the Pokemon brand to surpass the critical mass needed to truly get a project like this to achieve its original vision. The game itself is conceptually very simple in nature, and it doesn’t really boast any significant elements of note to highlight or discuss. But what I do admire is getting together with my wider family, my nieces and nephews to be specific, and heading out into the world with them on a big Pokemon hunt. Whilst out, we meet and converse with many others also playing the game. But it also manages to arouse the interest of other people who don’t play but are curious to know more about what we are doing. It’s fantastically social, encouraging conversation between strangers that stretch far beyond a simple polite hello, and this is something that I really have to applaud. In a world where everything feels like it’s drifting towards a more isolationist existence, Pokemon Go has managed to offer some brief flicker of light. It’ll be interesting to see if this manages to stand the test of time, and what lies ahead in 2017. But for me it’s been an essential companion when out with the family and has helped to turn some of the most mundane walks for 6 year olds into, well, a proper hunt.
I am a massive fan of co-operative gameplay, and often host LAN parties for a group of my friends where we pick a co-op orientated game and sit down for a weekend to complete as much of it as we can. As such, this game had been on my radar for a while and myself and the group were very much looking forward to playing it. In the end however, what I found was a game trying to stitch together good gameplay elements from some other big hitter titles, but implemented with all the grace of a doing surgery with a sledge hammer. Its strongest point was the environment, which was a gorgeous looking rendition of a quarantined Manhattan Island that I enjoyed running my eyes over. But for all its beauty, the game lacked polish in virtually every other element successfully conveying a rushed feeling. This was all capped off with a somewhat excessive repetitiveness leading up to an end game experience that felt so underwhelming. Every concern could, and perhaps has been, addressed with patches but to me it’s a case of having already moved on with no appetite to return.
No Man’s Sky
So, probably one of the most controversial releases of the year for many and the media storm post release would make you think that the Hello Games committed murder. So they showed off their best material, and exaggerated some elements of the game a little. But isn’t this just the norm? Normally I would lay the blame on a mass corporation’s huge marketing campaign, which wielded effectively can pass off even some of the smelliest turds as platinum. But this time I feel a small piece of footage served along with the imagination of those who watched it became a self sustaining fusion bomb driving expectations far beyond grounded reason. Most of the internet was in uproar, to the point where it seemed the only closure would come by the presentation of Sean Murray’s head.
If I happen to go to the cinema and see a shitty film that’s not the director’s or the cinema’s fault, it’s mine! I don’t leave, demanding a refund for my own incompetence to properly research what I’m buying. Sure, the trailers made the film look good, but we should all know by now how artificial promotional material can be. Sure things shouldn’t be this way but they are and hence it’s up to us, the consumer, to filter through the bullshit and see what’s really on offer. As such, was I disappointed with the game… well yes a little. But I was more disappointed with a general lack of people taking responsibility for their actions and the witch hunt that followed.
With that out of the way, I enjoyed many elements of the game and although it fell short of my expectations in some areas I found it a peaceful, and pleasant beefed up walking simulator. It made me think of that mental mountain retreat that you pop to every now and again to get away from it all. I was disappointed by some elements, in particular the space combat that perhaps could have been either left out entirely or given a bit more thought; But I genuinely love the scale of the game, and I still like to dip into the game from time to time mainly just to look up at another world and know that given a few minutes I can actually hop into my ship and go and set foot on it. I expect that this, hopefully now the media shite storm has blown over, will steadily evolve each time I dip into and out of it.