2016 has most defiantly not been my most prolific video gaming year. I have spent a significant amount of time looking at screens for sure, but I’ve noticed my tastes and gaming habits changing. It isn’t just me though. I think the industry as a whole has gone through a bit of a shift.
The focus on buying new games every couple of weeks seems to be dying down a little. Games are expensive, and more of them are coming out than ever before. Developers are shifting their focus slightly and spending less time churning out one project before jumping to the next, rather the idea of games as a service is becoming something people seems to be gravitating towards. Myself included, and that might become apparent in my list for this year, which didn’t have as large a pool of games to choose from has previous years have had.
So, like last year, I’m going to spend the next ten days listing my top ten games of 2016. As I said though, I haven’t played everything so if you think I missed something, chances are I just didn’t play it. Or hey, maybe we have different tastes and thats okay too.
#10: Gears of War 4
Played on Xbox One | Released 11th October | Developed by the Coalition
Off all things, a return to the Gears of War franchise was not something I thought I’d be happy to go back to. Looking back, Gears of War felt very much like a time and place kind of franchise. It was a more influential game than you may think. Once it was over, enough developers incorporated ideas into their own games, and improved upon them. It really felt to me that maybe Gears time had passed. Guess I was wrong.
I gave myself every opportunity to dislike Gears 4; I wasn’t happy that it was just a return to the same characters 25 years later, I really didn’t enjoy the competitive multiplayer Beta (then again, I have never been a fan of Gears’ competitive multiplayer) and that the game played almost exactly the same as the older games. But in spite of all that, I still picked the game up and still got a kick out of it.
The campaign is a couple of slices of cool visuals, fun gameplay and interesting set pieces sandwiched between a stodgy centre of the worst parts of the original Gears of War games. You know what I’m talking about, the seemingly endless stretches of underground catacombs where you just cut your way through dozens of locust. Despite this though, it still manages to redeem itself in my eyes by having a likeable cast of characters, as opposed to the general meat headed group from the original games, as well as some really thrilling segments at the beginning and tail end. It’s not perfect by any means, the actual ending being a abrupt cliffhanger of Halo 2 proportions. But it made me remember why I liked Gears and why going back to it might not be the worst idea for Microsoft.
The other big draw for me in this was the game’s Horde mode. Having dumped hours into the Horde mode’s of the past. I wanted to see what Horde 3.0 could be. And my verdict: Initially more impressive, but lacking the simplicity that made the original modes so fun. I’ve already spoken about how Gears of War 4 is a pay to play mess, how progression is essentially random and the game’s player base forces you to play a particular way that you don’t want to. It’s what essentially drove me away from investing any significant time into Gears 4’s horde mode and why I’ll probably not pick the game up again. It’s still amazing to me how the developers could think this was a good design for the game, but I’m not putting anymore money into the game to simply level a class I want to play.
While this is a very flawed game, the campaign alone was a lot of fun and the gameplay, while almost unchanged from the older titles a console generation ago, is still solid and responsive. I am looking forward to seeing what Microsoft has in store for the future of the series. It’s still good and probably suffers the most from having to exist in a market very dense with shooters, but they’ve got nobody to blame for that but themselves.
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