Thursday, February 23, 2017

WCNC Staff 2016 Game of the Year Awards Part 2

Game of the Year Reviews - Chris

            2016 was certainly an interesting year in gaming. We had many titles come out that were highly anticipated and almost as many that were disappointing. Thankfully, we are not focusing much on the later. However, we are focusing on some of the top games of the 2016 year. But, we are going to keep it simple with Top Exclusive, 2016 Game of the Year, and Top Game regardless of year.
Top Exclusive

            Unfortunately, this one was a tie for me. Both of these were games that I have been able to play at any time and able to enjoy at any time. Forza Horizon 3 was another fantastic edition for the Forza franchise by Turn 10 Studios and Playground Games. Forza Horizon 3 was by far the best of the Horizon series. Known for being an open world racing game, Turn 10 and Playground really turned Horizon 3 into a truly open world game where you can go virtually anywhere. Whether you want to be able to cruise inside the cities, slide around in the desert, speed through the countryside, or weave through the forest, you now have the ability to. The mechanics and physics of the game were fantastic and really set the new standard for open world racing games. While still an "arcade" style racing game, it has a nice blend of both worlds for the racers that prefer simulators. Each car handles and feels different from the next whether driving your car right off the lot or have it upgraded. Racing around Australia along the coastline, around the airstrip, or even searching for that barn find, you can do it in the largest selection of cars in the Forza Horizon lineup. Whether you are a diehard racer, or just picking it up for the first time, you can race in one of your dream cars and have an absolute blast.

            Uncharted 4 was a fantastic end to a truly great series from Naughty Dog. While the final chapter to the saga of Nathan Drake unfolds, we get to meet Nathan's older brother, Samuel Drake. Sam is in a bit of trouble and needs the help of his younger brother in order to pay off some serious debts. Nathan reluctantly jumps on board, of course with his old friend Sully and Nathan Drake's wife. He leaves his "boring" life behind and sets back off to do what he does best, be a thief. As they set off on an all new adventure with all new twists, challenges, and puzzles. Nathan's wit and sarcasm carries you through each moment. The voice acting does not disappoint and the story sets the tone of the game. The combat is just as chaotic as ever with more intense moments. Each new puzzle offers a new challenge, with some being agonizingly difficult. The story in Uncharted 4 was another great one and continues to prove how great Naughty Dog is when it comes to storylines. While the game had been pushed back into 2016 from 2015, it was because Naughty Dog wanted to make sure this game was done correctly. While taking time to rewrite the ending four times to ensure it was what they wanted, it was the absolute correct decision. Uncharted 4 is a must play from 2016 and should be on everyone’s list to play.
Top Game of the Year

            While Fallout 4 came out in 2015, it was a game that I always came back to in 2016, and even currently in 2017. Fallout 4 offered so much from the previous games and added in some great new features that helped added to a more immersive feel. Fallout 4 continues with the post apocalyptic nuclear warfare style and is still the open world sandbox we know in love, but now you can also build your own settlements with all of the junk that is left around. That’s right, you can pick up almost anything and turn it into something. You can upgrade weapons, armor, even power armor. You can also dismantle these same things to use to upgrade your items, repair your power armor, and build your settlements. You can spend hours into building a settlement if you wanted, gaining experience for each piece you build and dismantle, all the while turning that settlement into whatever you can imagine. Or you can simply play the story, which was also interesting, giving interesting twists along the way and forcing you to make choices along the way. Some choices are easy, some a little more difficult. Bethesda once again gives us the chance to do whatever we want. Boston, also known as the Commonwealth, adds new enemies, along with the familiar ones in the largest map to date. The game also adds all new companions and the return of few from Fallout 3 including a fan favorite, Dogmeat. A familiar level up system with a combination of new perks and old perks being added, makes you decide how you want to level your character. The additions of Far Harbor and Nuka World add more hours of game play to a game that has plenty of play time as it is. While there were 6 add ons to the game, three added to story and three added to the settlement building. Fallout 4 is the most immersive game to have released in the Fallout franchise and possibly one of the best.
Game of the Year 2016

            Anyone who has known me for longer than fifteen minutes knows that I am not a fan of Final Fantasy. Which is why, even for me, this is a very surprising pick for my Game of the Year. While I have not yet finished it due to my work schedules, I have enjoyed every moment of this game. The scenery is absolutely stunning from the desert to the forest to the volcano and everything in between. From the banter between the team, the car rides and the combat, it really does feel like a group of friends just going on an adventure. The game is set before Prince Noctis gets married, and that's when everything seems to hit the fan. The kingdom falls just after Nocits and his friends leave, and it is up to them to attempt to regain control, all while being on the run. The story has been great and easy to follow even if you have never played the franchise before. The combat system is now a real time combat instead of a turn based which brought some new life to an old series, while keeping a certain nostalgia that long time fans will love. The teamwork between everyone works well while having a very smooth flow to it.  It also brings a few other things that you can do in the game. Example, you can go fishing, which I probably spent more time doing that I would like to admit to. You can even race chocobos! That’s right, everyone’s favorite giant chicken is back! That being said, if you have not played Final Fantasy XV yet, it is a MUST! If you enjoyed Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantsy XV is by the same group of people, and guaranteed to give you even more action, adventure and intrigue. Final Fantasy XV is a game that is great for everyone, whether you are coming in as a fan of the series or maybe as a new comer like me. Regardless of which side you stand on, it is a must play.

Big O’s 2016 Game of the Year

3.  Final Fantasy XV

 Final Fantasy XV was cursed with a long development cycle.  Starting life in 2006 as Final Fantasy Versus XIII (originally meant to be a companion game to XIII), the game saw many changes and a complete overhaul in 2013 where it was announced as Final Fantasy XV.  Normally when a game sits in development for this long and sees so many drastic changes, the final product is pretty disappointing (see, Duke Nukem Forever).  Thankfully, Final Fantasy XV is the exception to the rule.  Square-Enix has taken great care to listen to fans and fix mistakes from previous installments of the series.  Final Fantasy XV is a beautiful, open world experience that the player can explore at their own pace.  I constantly found myself getting lost in the world and exploring incidents at nearby towns all while neglecting the main story.  I got so lost, I poured about 80 hours into it in the first few weeks of owning the game.  I realize that this game isn’t for everyone.  I found the story and characters incredibly charming but they could come off as annoying to others.  That being said, I loved my time in Final Fantasy XV and would gladly give it my third best game of 2016. 

2.  Overwatch

 If you read Rory and Frankie’s lists from last week, it should be no surprise that this game is one of my choices.  What can I say that they haven’t already?  The characters are fun and imaginative, the mechanics of the game are much deeper than you would think at first glance, and it’s just fun.  Personally, this game has been the main way I’ve kept in touch with my friends on the opposite side of the country for the past year and that makes it special in my book.  Not to mention the work that Blizzard has put into crafting the wold with the use of online comics and videos.  While there is no story in the game itself, the world of Overwatch contains a rich lore.  I was a little hesitant to put this game on my list because it is a multiplayer only experience, but it does that one aspect so well it is hard to deny that Overwatch is one of the best games of 2016. 

Honorable Mention.  Pokémon Go

While Pokémon Go did come out in 2016, I’m giving it my honorable mention for a different reason.  I’m not putting this game on my list for the traditional reasons you would select a game of the year nominee, like gameplay, story, or graphics.  I’m putting Pokémon Go on my list because of experience.  The experiences I had playing this game with my friends and by myself trump that of any other game to come out in 2016.  I’ll always remember chasing a Charmeleon through a trailer park during an Arizona Summer while my phone got so hot it turned itself off to keep from melting or simply sitting at a park bench with some of my closest friends while we lured the local Pokéstops and talked for hours on end.  While I understand that the play base for this game is dwindling and the gameplay is not fun in the traditional sense, I will continue to cherish many of the memories that this game gave me. 

1.  Uncharted 4

 Could there be any other?  Many of our long time readers/listeners will know that Uncharted is one of my favorite game series of all time.  I still hold Uncharted 2 Among Thieves to be one of the greatest games I’ve ever played.  Needless to say, this was my most anticipated title of the year.  Luckily, it did not disappoint.  The game is fast paced, while never feeling overwhelming.  In the slower moments, the game’s phenomenal writing has a chance to shine.   I might be getting a bit ahead of myself, Uncharted 4 is a special experience.  You follow Nathan Drake (expertly voiced by Nolan North) as he goes on a journey of love, betrayal, mystery, and most importantly adventure.  Many of the classic characters return Sully and Elena.  The newest edition to the cast of loveable rogues is Sam Drake, Nathan’s brother (Also expertly voiced by Troy Baker).  The journey will take the crew along a set of increasingly breathtaking set pieces around some of the most beautiful locals in the world.  Uncharted 4 was the perfect ending to the Nathan Drake story, a character I have seen grow and develop over five games.  I couldn’t think of a better game for us to part on, and that is why it gets my number one spot. 

A Delicious Nolan North and Troy Baker sandwich

Thank you everyone who has continued to support since we started.  2016 was an amazing year for video games and 2017 is looking like it might be even better.  Seriously, we’re not even done with February and we already have some strong game of the year contenders.  We have a lot of fun projects coming up on the blog, as well as a few surprises.  So, stick with us and we hope to entertain you for years to come. 

-Big O

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