“As for things at Epitome of Epic, I promise I’ll try my best to not leave such a big gap in my schedule this time round, and do my best to update more regularly.”

That was one of the closing lines to my previous post of this blog…. way back in December 2015. Over a year ago. I’m really good at this blogging thing aren’t I? So, what happened? Long story short, I started a new job in January last year, and amongst the settling in, I’ve been up to lots of things! Plus I’m lazy, so very very lazy. I’m actually well behind schedule right now, as it’s already 2017, and I’ve still got tons of shit to write about. I should’ve released these at the end of 2016! Oh, Happy New Year to you all, by the way!

Being as I’m a massive gamer, I’ve decided to start the 2016 retrospectives with the games I had the most fun with this year. Alas, I once again missed out on a load of great games, which is sacrilege, considering some big-hitters have fallen by the wayside. However, games I’ve not completed yet are not included on this list, as I can’t really fully judge them from a partial play through. Instead, I’m dedicating those in a separate blog post, so keep your eyes peeled for that one! Anyways, without further ado, here’s the most fun games I completed this year…

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Well, here’s a shocking start to the list that few people probably saw coming. I mean, it’s pretty controversial; not only because Infinite Warfare turned the CoD franchise upside-down, with it’s extremely over-the-top sci-fi setting (upsetting a massive bulk of the fan base), but for those of you that know me well enough should know by now that I’m not a huge CoD fan. So, why the change of heart here?

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Well, forget the heavily scripted story, and forget the fact that it attempts to make you feel emotions towards characters you barely know, in a somewhat lacking storyline. Then again, I do admit, “Ethan” was awesome (although it’s a little ironic the best character in the game is a robot…) What I really liked about this was the gameplay, and the campaign structure.

Being as you become the captain of the ship you serve on, the Retribution, it allows you to call the shots. Sure, it’s not much; the hub world is pretty small, and has minimal usage, but it’s a neat little addition, even if it is a tad under-developed. It’s the fact that you can pick and choose missions from the galactic map that makes this brilliant, it’s a breath of fresh air to be able to so. It’s definitely a step in the right direction.

The main flaw I’ve found with Call of Duty games of the past, is that the developer’s creating said instalment would hype a feature, only for it to be used minimally within the campaign. Take the loveable dog is Ghosts, for example! In this round, it’s space combat. However, a good chunk of the campaign, at least a third of it, has you blasting around space, shooting up enemy ships like a young Luke Skywalker. The result is surprisingly adrenaline pumping battles that will have you at the edge of your seat. What’s impressive is how this neatly flows into other elements during the campaign. One second you could have your boots on the ground, in more traditional Call of Duty run-and-gun style gameplay, only to be jumping aboard your ship and engaging in space combat the next. Hell, you could even end up floating around in space, in some disorienting shooting sections, relying on your grappling hook, so that you don’t float off into the dark voids of infinite nothingness. It truly shines when it mixes and matches these elements on the fly. Yeah, so it still guides you on a bit, but it’s a fun blast!

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At the end of the day, whilst it feels like a very different Call of Duty game, it’s still pretty much the same CoD beneath. The multiplayer is the same old, and lacks the space combat elements from the campaign, which is a real missed opportunity. Zombies is fun, but if you’ve played any of the Treyarch developed titles, you know what you’re in for. The fact is, I mainly enjoyed this for the campaign, which I had a surprising amount of fun with. It’s not breaking any new ground, by any means, but it’s definitely a hell of a ride!

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

I have to admit, when I started this, I was a tad worried. The opening tutorial mission felt too dull and linear for a Deus Ex game, I was expecting more. Thank god, then, that it really opened up upon completing this mission, and became the Deus Ex I’ve come to know and love.

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There are various mission areas (in many locales), but the main bulk of the game takes place in Prague, which works as the game’s hub world. Whilst it may seem disappointing that this is the only hub world in the game, the addition of other such areas for the sake of it would have been pretty pointless. It’s allowed Eidos Montreal to really put a lot of effort and detail into it, and create an even more realistic, believable world than anything we experienced in Human Revolution. It’s a place filled with tons of side quests and secrets… some of which I’ve still yet to uncover!

Of course, getting around these environments means you need the right augmentations for the job, and the biomechanically augmented Adam Jensen has some new tricks up his sleeve (depending on what paths you take, of course.) Initially, you do start with all augs that you had available to you in the previous game, which threw me off. However, in a twist of plot convenience, they’re soon taken away, and it’s discovered that you have experimental ones hidden away. In all honesty, the way in which this is done is actually brilliant, and really works within the game’s narrative. The new abilities at Jensen’s disposal are awesome too. I particularly loved using the Icarus Dash to traverse gaps with blinding pace, as well as the Tesla aug to shock multiple foes at once from a distance. I really feel that these new additions make options even more diverse, and play well into the Deus Ex philosophy of alternate choices.

Speaking of which, missions and side-quests also allow for alternate routes, and some choices do change events later on dramatically. Whilst paths aren’t always as obvious, having to work that extra mile to attempt to discover a different method is rewarding. Even though, overall, it’s not quite as open-ended as I would have liked, the multi-part quest line to do with a series of murders by “The Harvester” are truly a testament to everything the series stands for. A clear highlight of the game. Perhaps the main story doesn’t feel as deep, and seems lacking in the shady world of conspiracy. However, this seems like a plot that’s supposed to be more personal to Jensen, and makes it feel like he’s is a pawn in a much bigger game.

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It’s clearly a game that’s been through some issues during development, and leaked info that suggests that the game was even cut in half is shocking, and it really does show. However, that was publisher Square Enix’s fault, and even with all that in mind, it’s still absolutely fantastic. It manages to retain the atmosphere and ethos that has made the series so incredible so far. I do admit, whilst it’s not as good as Human Revolution, it’s definitely still worthy of the Deus Ex name. I’m really excited to see where the series goes next.

DOOM

A game that went through development hell… and that’s not even a pun! After an identity crisis, where the game looked like a standard military shooter (which resulted in the fans referring to it as “Call of Doom”), iD Software went back to the drawing board, and pretty much started again. I, and I’m sure tons of others, are thankful they did, because the end result is simply stunning!

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Do you remember the good old days? Ya know, where games were about fun? Where they didn’t take themselves too seriously? Well, that’s exactly what Doom does! It borrows from the 1993 classic and boosts everything up to 11, revamping it for the modern era. No heavy emphasis on story (unless you really want to look for it), no reload button, no aiming down iron-sights and no other modern tropes to get in the way of the action.

The action itself is insanely fast paced, and easily one of the most brutal, visceral games I’ve ever played. It’s glorious! The weapons feel beefy, and are deadly boom sticks of death, my particular favourites being the Super Shotgun, Chaingun and, of course, the legendary BFG. Almost all weapons even have upgrades, so that you can change tactics on the fly. It would be criminal of me to not mention the Chainsaw, which is easily the most savage weapon in the entire game, being able to literally chop most foes to pieces in a single swipe. It may seem like an odd choice for it to take fuel cells, with it consuming more when disembowelling tougher enemies, but to have it as an infinite usage weapon would have been overkill. It Using it becomes a more tactical choice, and definitely more of an event. This goes hand-in-hand with Doom’s Glory Kill system, quite literally! Stagger an enemy, and with a quick button press you’re able to perform a deadly, extremely vicious melee execution. These range from tearing limbs off of your opponents and slapping them round the face with them, to literally tearing their jaws off. The animation is fast and fluid too, so it really doesn’t distract from the chaos at all. To those of you that have never played Doom, this all probably sounds horrifying. I admit, it isn’t for the faint of heart, but for me personally, it makes it even more of a blast. The thing is, the story is about Demons invading a research station on Mars. Think about that, and you realise how ridiculous it is. iD have totally embraced this fact, and translated it into the gameplay, making it as over-the-top as possible. It’s truly a spectacle to behold.

As for the Demons, there’s a great variety of them, and a lot of the old school classics return. Imps will leap and bound around the level, ambushing you by throwing balls of flame. Pinky demons will charge you, with their almost bullet-proof fronts forcing you to shoot them from behind. Cacodemons rain fire at you from the skies. Mancubi will blast you from afar. Many more return, with each one requiring different tools and tactics to defeat, keeping the adrenaline pumping, whether you’re battling them on the Mars landscape, in the Mars complex itself, or in the depths of Hell. The levels themselves are truly spectacular marvels of design, providing excellent arenas to face off in. Plus, it includes first-person platforming that actually works! All this is complimented by the amazing soundtrack created by Mick Gordon, with epically harsh metal and industrial tracks blaring out as you mow down foes. It’s truly a symphony of destruction, and one of the best game soundtracks ever produced.

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Doom is definitely something special. It’s rare to see a game go through so many development troubles, for it to re-emerge as such a solid, extraordinary experience. It’s an insane amount of fun, and always makes you feel like a badass. With a shotgun in one hand, and a chainsaw in the other, Doom has fought its way through the fray, and reclaimed it’s throne as the king of all shooters.

Ratchet & Clank

It’s been a while since a decent old-school style platformer has graced us in the gaming world. Enter, stage left, Ratchet & Clank! However, this is actually a remake of the original, although to simply call it that wouldn’t be doing it justice at all. It is in fact, a re-imagining of the original game, with some fresh new elements, and mechanics from latter games in the series, added into the mix. The result is a love letter to long time fans, and something fresh for newcomers (although the less said about the film tie-in the better! )Alas, I fell into the latter category here. I do admit, I’d played little bits of the original, but not a substantial enough amount to make too many comparisons.

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The bits I did remember, however, have well and truly been transformed, truly utilising the power of PS4! There’s certainly echoes of the past in play, but the changes are absolutely astonishing. It’s truly a signifier of how far gaming and technology has come in the past 14 years! Environments feel like they span forever, as they stretch off into the horizon, all presented in a beautiful aesthetic style that makes it look as beautiful as a Pixar film.

As for the gameplay itself, it’s simple, and easy to pick up and play. Exactly what you want from an experience like this one! Traversing these levels is fast, fluid and fun, with each one having a unique look and feel, whilst also introducing new elements along the way. There is a sense of achievement as you unlock new skills and abilities, then revisit previous locales to access areas you were previously unable to.

There are a degree of tactics to consider when it comes to combat. Certain tools are better in certain situations, so you’ll constantly be switching regularly as the chaos unfolds. Weapons are unlocked by purchasing them with bolts, the games’ currency, and Raritanium shards are used to upgrade them, so sometimes you really do need to choose carefully. The series has always been well known for it’s insane range of weapons, and the tradition is still happily alive here. The Proton Drum drops mini orbs that send constant shockwaves out, which is excellent at damaging large groups. The Glove of Doom sends out tons of tiny robots that swarm enemies. The Pixelizer is a close range blaster that not only deals damage, but turns foes into flat 8-bit renditions of themselves. This is only scratching the surface, and each one is a joy to use, and have to be applauded for their creativity. My absolute favourite has to be the Groovitron, that launches a disco ball, and enemies within it’s range are stuck helplessly dancing to it’s hypnotic beat. It’s worth noting that this can be used on every enemy in the game, and each one has a different set of dance moves. A very nice little attention to detail, right there!

Needless to say, it’s definitely keeping in-line with the series’ sense of humour. There’s some wacky moments from these combat arenas, and some truly interesting, lively characters you meet along the way. It’s very self-aware too, constantly poking fun at itself, and even breaking the fourth wall on occasion. In an age where games have become so serious, it’s nice to see something that’s a bit more light hearted, and genuinely amusing.

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Ratchet & Clank has truly set a new benchmark on game remasters. Whilst most developers would have tweaked a few things, increased the resolution, and slapped a full priced tag on it, Insomniac Games have built everything from the ground up. It’s fantastic to see that so much attention, love and effort has gone into breathing new life into a classic, and that truly shows in this game. A must have for anyone who loves fun platforming games!

Titanfall 2

I was a fan of the original Titanfall back in the day, but it felt somewhat, well… lacking. The mechanics and gameplay were absolutely solid, but then I’d expect nothing less from the creative minds that bought us Modern Warfare. However, it there was no depth in terms of story, with it focusing on multiplayer only, and there being no campaign. Thankfully, Respawn Entrainment decided to add a campaign this time round, and I was intrigued to see how it would turn out. What I never expected it, was to be as good as it ended up being!

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Being on foot feels as fluid as ever, with your pilot able to traverse areas with ease. It’s exhilarating to bound across levels at lighting pace, being able to wall run and jump gaps that would be impossible in reality. When you nail these mechanics, it’s like poetry in motion. Piloting Titans (the giant robots you control) is epic too! You can really feel the weight of them as they stomp around, causing chaos and destruction wherever you go. Both sides have their strengths and weaknesses though, so you always need to be on your toes. It really feels like a game of two halves, and has been extremely well balanced.

Not only has the gameplay been refined and tightened, but the design of the campaign is absolutely fantastic. Surprisingly, the amount of time you spend in and out of your Titan, BT, it pretty equal. If you ever can’t get to him, there’s good reason for it, and it allows the campaign to flow nicely. Each level has a new idea or gimmick to it, that always makes it feel fresh. Although it stops pushing that certain element too much, before it gets too old, making it almost perfectly crafted. The mission “Effect & Cause” in particular has to be one of the best missions I’ve ever played in any game! I don’t want to say much, because it would spoil the suspire for those that haven’t played it yet, but it flows and plays brilliantly, plus allows for some ingenious and devious puzzles. Not only is it a joy to play, it’s also a massive technical feat, and I’d love to know how the hell it actually works! This is the only element in the game that I felt was too short-lived, I’d have really liked to have seen it explored a bit more in later sections. Although, considering the quality of game we got, it’s a minor nitpick.

I do have to admit, the multiplayer itself in this sequel is quite close to the original, but then the wheel really didn’t need reinventing. The refinements that have been put it place really work to Titnafall 2’s advantage, making the proceedings even more manic than ever. Grappling hooks are a fun way to get around, new abilities can really give you the edge in combat and the new Titan types kick ass! It always feels fair too. I’ve never felt cheated, and I found matches to be fair, and intense.

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Respawn have really outdone themselves here. Titanfall 2 is not only a brilliant title, it finally separates the company from their Modern Warfare legacy. I feel that comparisons between the different franchises no longer need to be drawn, the Titanfall franchise has well and truly come into it’s own here. Plus, the fact that all DLC that affects the game (so new modes, maps, Titans, etc) will be free is a move that should be applauded with a standing ovation. The message is clear. Respawn care a lot about their fans, and it really shines through throughout the entirety of the game. This is definitely the studio’s finest hour.

So, we’ve reached the end of my top games of 2016… and the list is pretty bloody short. Sadly, as I said earlier, I never got round to completing a lot of my games. I shall be detailing those in another blog post pretty soon, so stay tuned for that!

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