Welcome to my third entry in Our Year in Games 2016. I hope everyone has had a merry Christmas and festive period so far, and with 2017 just around the corner, I think it is about time I actually talked about some of the games from this year that I have been playing.
I touched on the Uncharted series in Part Two of Our Year in Games, but there I was talking about the Uncharted Collection. This year, I actually managed the impressive feat of playing, and completing, a new release! Admittedly, I didn’t complete Uncharted 4 until the back end of July when I wrote about The Joy’s of A Thief’s End, a couple of months after it was released. In my defense though, I did have the task of completing Drake’s first three adventures before I could tackle one of this year’s biggest first party console exclusives.
I started the game on a buzz after having very recently finished off the original trilogy, and was immediately blown away. Everything about A Thief’s End was a step, or two, beyond anything Naughty Dog had achieved in the first three games. The storytelling was leaps and bounds beyond anything I’d seen from these guys before, handily aided by judicious use of flashbacks and some exquisite scenes between Nate and Elena, a few of which were utterly heartbreaking. The game looked gorgeous, and I would love to see it running in 4K, but what was more impressive was how cinematic sequences seamlessly blended into player control. Some might knock the Uncharted games for featuring clearly signposted climbing routes and quick-time events. But I would ask those, what is wrong with that? When the game turns out as good as this, I don’t care about how much time you spend playing the game versus taking part in quick-time events or watching cinematic sequences. The action was a cut above what has gone before in the series, and it even managed to make the vehicular sections entertaining for once, mainly because you were given the freedom to jump out and explore your surroundings.
Having not played the latest Tomb Raider yet, I am happy to say that Uncharted 4 filled my Indiana Jones style action quota for the year.
If you cast your minds back nine months, the big bad wolf on the block was The Division, Ubisoft’s new open world MMO that isn’t quite an MMO, FPS/RPG hybrid. There was a combination of hype and concern about a game that caused headlines when it was first revealed that you could close car doors as you brush past them.
I invested a decent amount of time with the game in the early months, and wrote a few articles about my early experiences with the game. I talked about my first hour in the game, where I completed the introductory tutorial mission and started to appreciate the wonder of the snowy, desolate Manhattan that I was about to step into. After playing around with the game a bit, I talked about how I found it bizarre that Ubisoft were pushing the game as an MMO/co-op focused title, when there was a large percentage of players enjoying the world by themselves.
By the beginning of May, I delivered some extended thoughts on my time with the game, soon after which I came to put the game to the side. At that stage of the life of The Division, it still wasn’t offering me the satisfaction of the grind to continue playing it solo. It has received numerous updates, and some expansions, in the seven months since I stopped playing it, and now I am writing about it again, I am somewhat tempted to head back to New York and see what the game has to offer. Having upgraded my PC just before Christmas, I am sure that I will be able to play it on some decent settings as well!
Bethesda and id Software shocked the world two years ago when they brought Wolfenstein back from the dead, delivering an extremely well-crafted singelplayer first-person shooter. It was up front about what it was – full of action, full of Nazi’s to kill, full of secrets to find and firmly not an open world game, even if some levels were fairly expansive.
Looking back now, I wonder why there was concern over the new Doom before it released. Bethesda had established and proven their credentials in making a singleplayer FPS for the modern market, but yet, there was worry over what they would do to a franchise which holds such a dear place in people’s hearts. People were probably concerned as Doom 3 has managed to go down in history as a misstep for the series, even though it was a game that I personally really enjoyed.
New Doom takes us back to the spirit of the first two games, and remixes them for a modern audience. Similar to Wolfenstein, this is a game that is up front about what it is, just replace Nazi’s with demons from hell and slightly larger levels to explore.
You might find that it was Doom which dragged me away from The Division, I wouldn’t be surprised as after many hours with Ubi’s title, I would have been crying out for some classic shooter action. It is shameful that I haven’t completed the game yet, but over the past few days I have picked it up again and am firmly in the last third of the game. It took me an hour or so to get back into the rhythm of things, there is a certain kinetic energy to Doom that you need to zone into. The fluidity of how all of the elements – gory kills, the chainsaw and the movement – all fit together, constantly pushing you forward alongside an almighty heavy metal soundtrack. If I was awarding a title a Game of the Year honour, then Doom would be right at the top of my shortlist.
Look out for the final part in my Our Year in Games series where I talk about Dishonored 2, Hearts of Iron IV and Battlefield 1.