TechTalk Games of the Year 2016
It's been an amazing year for gamers. Discover our pick of the best...
Best DLC – Witcher 3: Blood and Wine / Heart of Stone
(image source: Witcher Wiki)
As much as we’d like to award Game of the Year to Witcher 3 again, it’d be a bit cheeky. We’ll just have to content ourselves with the fact that these two epic DLC additions (together, they’ll give you about 30 hours of gameplay) are essential purchases and bring the story to a satisfying and emotional conclusion.
Both expansion packs deliver morally complex stories with interesting antagonists, and the enormous new region in Blood and Wine brings a beautiful new look to an already gorgeous game. And that’s to say nothing of the Toussaint accents, which are worth the price of admission alone.
Best RPG – Final Fantasy XV
(image source: Wikipedia)
Let’s face it – every Final Fantasy release is a major event. The reaction from gamers is nearly always the same – half the players love it, and half feel it’s not as good as the previous games. What’s interesting about FFXV is that more gamers seem to be of the opinion that this has some of the best gameplay of the series so far.
Final Fantasy XV is epic and sprawling, but the core focus is on a small group of longtime friends who find themselves caught up in world-shaking events. It’s easy to get involved with the characters and enjoy the bonds of friendship between them that the game establishes so well. Indeed, it’s in the quieter moments when the guys are chilling out rather than the more spectacular story set-pieces that FFXV is at its best.
At the end of the day, it’s the frantic and epic real-time battles that kept us playing through FFXV. The more you fight, the stronger you become and those gigantic beasts you ran away from early on might just be possible to beat… Even once you’ve completed the main story, there’s still a whole ton of stuff to do.
Biggest disappointment – Mafia III
(image source: Steam)
As fans of the series, we were particularly exciting by the new look for Mafia III, which turned the tables and had you playing as a black Vietnam veteran in the ‘70s, building a new crime organisation to take down the Italian mob who betrayed him.
All the pieces looked to be present. Interesting characters, great story, some of the best acting we’ve seen in a video game… but then we got to the gameplay. While the set-piece missions where you take down mob bosses are excellent, the rest of the game involves you building up your reputation in a series of oh-so-repetitive missions. Complete enough of these and you can move on to the next area and do them all over again. And that’s not even starting to mention some of the horrible bugs we’ve come across.
There is a good game in Mafia III, but it’s been padded out with repetitive filler missions that make the whole thing feel like work rather than fun. It feels like the developers rushed to release the game and couldn’t put in all the content they wanted so just copy-pasted a bunch of missions into every area and hoped nobody would notice. Maybe if they’d had more time this could have been the classic we were hoping for.
Biggest surprise – Watch Dogs 2
(image source: Ubisoft)
Let’s face it, the original Watch Dogs didn’t live up to the hype. We didn’t have high hopes for the sequel, but the fact is that it fixes many of the problems of the first game.
With a lighter, less edgy storyline, Watch Dogs 2 gives you a wide variety of bite-sized quests before the main story takes an unexpected turn and kicks things up a gear. While some people may not gel with the snarky, pop-culture quoting hacker gang, most will find their friendship and optimistic “together we can make a difference” attitude refreshing.
It’s not all perfect – the ability to pull out guns and murder your way around San Francisco feels jarringly out of character for happy-go-lucky Marcus, but you don’t actually have to use lethal force if you don’t want to. More successful are the gameplay options Marcus’ drones give you, and hiding in a secluded spot while your drones sneak past the bad guys and cause chaos is extremely satisfying.
If Watch Dogs 3 can iron out the few remaining issues, EA might have a genuine classic on their hands.
Best strategy - XCOM 2
(image source: Steam)
We’ve been fans of the XCOM series ever since we played the original UFO: Enemy Unknown on PC back in the ‘90s. Heck, we’ve been a fan of the games that creator Julian Gollop has made ever since he put out Rebelstar Raiders on the ZX Spectrum in 1984! It’s always a worry when a beloved series gets rebooted, and its with some relief we can say that XCOM 2 firmly establishes the new generation of this series as one of the most addictive strategy experiences out there.
XCOM 2 is challenging, thrilling and tense. Every move feels like it could cause disaster, yet moving too slowly could make things even worse. It’s a desperate struggle as your small team fight to reclaim earth from the alien invaders before it’s too late and every failure could mean the end of humanity.
This is a game that demands replaying – especially as it’s very likely you’ll end up with the bad ending on your first play through. It’s a good thing saving the world has never been this much fun…
Best Handheld – Pokemon Sun / Moon
(image source: Nintendo)
2016 was a good year for Pokemon. Pokemon Go on Smartphones was just a taster for the main event, with two of the best games in the series appearing on the 3DS. Whether you go for Sun or Moon you’ll get essentially the same main storyline – it’s the “big boss” Pokemon and focus on day or night creatures that changes for the most part.
Pokemon Sun and Moon take you to a new location – a tropical paradise island where familiar Pokemon have evolved in slightly different ways. It gives the series a fresh feel and adds to the desire to catch ‘em all.
It’s hard not to get caught up in these games and you can easily find yourself sinking about 30 hours into the main quest. That’s not the end, though. There’s still a whole island of Pokemon to capture and activities to enjoy. This will keep you playing for a very long time.
Best Remaster – Skyrim Remastered
(image source: YouTube)
When Skyrim came out, it was one of the best looking games on PC. The vanilla version still stands up today, but time has passed and today’s generation of computers and consoles are capable of so much more.
Skyrim Remastered takes the base game and all the DLC then adds a substantial number of mods that improve the graphics, sound and gameplay. The end result looks so much better than it ever did before, giving Skyrim a fresh lease of life and giving you an excuse to play through it once more.
While those of us who’ve been playing on PC with lots of visual mods won’t find the changes as earth-shattering as console users, the improvements genuinely do add a lot to the game.
We’ve spent over a hundred hours playing Skyrim and the DLC, exploring the world, discovering new quests, secrets and items. We’ve fought dragons, the undead, assassins, vampires and more, and we’ve still not seen all the game has to offer. Be warned – Skyrim is a big game, and you won’t be leaving for a long long time.
Best Action – Overwatch
(image source: YouTube)
Team-based shooters can be tense and exciting, but some people feel that all the military based games seem to blend into one after a while. The complaint is they lack character and take themselves too seriously to be fun. That’s not a complaint you can level at Overwatch.
Overwatch delivers a range of wild and varied characters, each with unique weapons, abilities and play styles. It’s not a game where you’ll get stuck in just one role, either. The game encourages you to switch characters mid-round, and you get bonus XP according to how each character you use performs.
Blizzard, the developers, are famous for their attention to detail and focus on longevity, and it’s the little touches that make Overwatch such fun. Apart from the idiosyncratic nature of each character, the levels have been painstakingly designed to allow each player to shine. The more you play, the more you’ll grow to love the game. Add to this the seasonal costumes and additional characters Blizzard have been regularly adding and it’s the game that just keeps on giving…
Best Action Adventure – Uncharted 4
(image source: Playstation)
Every episode of the Uncharted series has been hotly anticipated and warmly received. It’s fitting that what looks to be the final instalment in Nathan Drake’s story is an absolute classic, giving the series a satisfying and sometimes emotional finale.
Although Uncharted owes a huge debt to Tomb Raider, Drake’s adventures have always been more cinematic and over the top as he races from death-defying set-piece to jaw dropping action sequence. The action barely slows down to let you catch your breath.
The action may be superlative, but it’s the story and characters that will keep you playing. Nathan and friends are really likeable and it’s not hard to find yourself caught up in their escapades. This is a classic of the genre and a must-play for all self respecting gamers.
Best driving – Forza Horizon 3
(image source: Forza Motorsport)
Racing games are great, but sometimes you just want to get in your car and drive. The Forza Horizon series lets you do just that, exploring huge and beautiful open world locations in a series of ever more powerful cars. As you travel the world, you’ll find new races and events to take part in, new opponents to challenge and vehicles to unlock.
Horizon 3 gives you an enormous section of Australia to drive through – the map is about twice the size of the previous instalment, and that was already gigantic. It’s also very beautiful indeed and claims that it’s the best looking racing game ever are hard to argue with.
What really makes this our racing game of the year is how it captures the sheer joy and excitement of driving. The combination of freedom, beautiful visuals, excellent music and pulse-pounding gameplay make this game a breath of fresh air.