Happy New Year! It may be a little late this time around, but I have for you my annual wrap-up of my favorite things in video games from the past year. =)
I’ve done this most of the years I’ve been writing Robo♥beat, and it’s my favorite post to write because I get to relive some of the games I’ve loved over the year. Rather than make a big top 10 list or something, I prefer just picking out some of the most interesting mechanics, settings, and characters from the video games I played. Here are some from previous years if you want to check any out!
Since I never get around to every single game I’d like to play — and some of these I haven’t finished yet — this list is restricted to just the games or parts of games that I know and enjoyed.
So without further adieu, here is what I loved in video games from 2016!
Biggest Life-Saver: Del Walker (Gears of War 4)
Some of you may know I love the Gears of War series and have played all of the games on co-op. If you haven’t played these games co-op, I’ll just say it’s exceptional. And one of the things you can do in co-op is revive your allies when they’re down but not out. Or, to switch that around, if you fall in battle, you’ll have a limited amount of time to crawl to a safer spot while begging your friends for help and tapping a button to avoid bleeding out quite so fast.
That’s all well and good when you’re playing with someone. In previous games, as soon as I noticed my partner was down, I dashed over to rescue him — and vice versa. But one thing I noticed about Gears of War 4 is that you don’t need to worry about that as much, because you have AI squadmates, too. And they are awesome at keeping you alive.
The biggest life-saver for me was Del. In my campaign, my partner played as the protagonist J.D., while I got to choose between playing as Kait or Del. Obviously, I chose Kait, because she’s a girl and she’s awesome. But I underestimated Del a little there, because for the rest of the game, every time I fell in battle, he popped up at my side to revive me. Even if he was on the other side of the battlefield with enemy bullets flying and Juvies jumping out of popped pods, Del somehow managed to squat-walk all the way over to me, without dying, and bring me back into the fight.
I owe him my life about a hundred times over.
Coolest Character: Adam Jensen (Deus Ex: Mankind Divided)
This is a tough choice, because it’s easy to say that characters like Nate Drake from Uncharted 4, Corvo or Emily from Dishonored 2, or even the portrayal of Bruce Wayne in Telltale’s Batman series are all incredibly cool characters from 2016. But honestly, I don’t think any of them quite out-cool Adam Jensen in Deus Ex.
An augmented human with some super-human abilities, Adam Jensen is a badass. Even his built-in sunglasses look badass. His past as a security officer (among other things) make him handy with a gun, but it’s his augmentations that really make him a unique fighter. You play the game with a lot of stealth tactics, which means Jensen uses his wits even more than his weapons. That’s always the sign of a cool character in my books.
What I really enjoy about Mankind Divided is that Jensen comes into contact with all kinds of people — from cops to refugees to hackers — and he has to make decisions about who to help and who to trust. It makes for some interesting storytelling and role-playing. But Jensen never veers too far from his cool-headed attitude.
Most Intriguing Setting: Clockwork Mansion (Dishonored 2)
Set in the fictional city of Karnaka, Dishonored 2 brings the same steampunk-like details to its environments as the original game did with the city of Dunwall. But the best setting in the game is the Clockwork Mansion, which you either stealth or fight your way through in the third quest.
What makes this setting so intriguing is that it consists of shifting walls and platforms that can replace rooms with entirely new designs, with just the pull of a lever. Floor panels shift to replace furniture and decor, walls disappear while new ones are lowered in, a series of planks drop to the floor to create a walkway, or a staircase appears to give access to new parts of the mansion. If you haven’t already, you’ll have to play the game (or at least watch some footage) to see for yourself how cool this concept is!
Most Interesting Death: The Series of Deaths in Battlefield 1’s Opening
When you start the first mission of Battlefield 1, you may die. But instead of a traditional “game over” screen, you’ll see the name of the World War I soldier you were just playing as, along with the year of their death. You then launch into that same battle from another soldier’s perspective. If you die as him, you’ll come back as another soldier, with another weapon, on another part of the field.
This happens throughout that introductory mission, and it really brings home the idea that death in war is permanent. You may be playing a video game here, but let’s not forget that war isn’t a game. Battlefield 1 goes on to breathe life into a war many of us have forgotten from history books, in a very unique and human way for a shooter video game.
Favorite “Real” Moment: Nate and Elena Having Dinner (Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End)
Uncharted 4 just runs away with the award for best narrative of the year, in my books. What makes it so special is not just the globe-trotting adventure Nathan Drake partakes in, but the personal side that gives the tale so much heart. More than being about a treasure hunt, the story is about Nathan’s relationships: with his wife Elena and brother Sam, and the conflicts that arise there.
The scene that had everybody talking when the game first came out was an early one in the game, a chapter called “A Normal Life.” It shows Nathan and Elena, now married, on their living room couch one evening — just having take-out, discussing work, ribbing each other a bit. I love when Elena calls Nathan out for not listening when she rambles about the article she’s writing. And then there’s the part where they play Crash Bandicoot to see who will do the dishes.
It’s such a real moment between two people who are intimate, and it shows the very relatable dynamic of a couple in a long-term relationship. Not much fiction delves into what it means to be in love in this way, or married — it all too often focuses on just the initial butterfly feelings of new courtship. I love watching the characters’ movements in this scene, and the easy way they go from talking to playing to making love.
Those are the big ones for me from 2016. Last year’s games I wanted to play but haven’t gotten to yet are Inside, Titanfall 2, and Watch_Dogs 2 — but that’s okay. Another year, another 52 weeks to play video games, old and new. =)
What were your favorite games, characters, and moments from video games last year?