Matthew Rex Downham’s Favorite Games of 2016
This year Rex decided to be different and call his list the “Favorite Games of 2016”, but honestly, there are 10 games here and some honorable mentions. Why isn’t it a “Top 10 Games of 2016” list like everyone else? I’ll never know. But what I do know, is that Rex has played a healthy amount of games this year, and distilling those games to get these results onto this list couldn’t have been easy.
Honorable Mentions: Fire Emblem Fates, Quantum Break, Uncharted 4, DOOM, LEGO Star Wars The Force Awakens, REZ Infinite, Thumper, Clustertruck, Skylanders Imaginators, Steep
Games I Haven’t Played Yet But Would Probably Make This List If I Had: Dishonored 2, FFXV, Dead Rising 4
Here’s the list in a descending order…
I’ve been a fan of the Hitman series since its inception, and this might be my favorite entry in the series yet. It has the largest environments to interact with and the most branching paths I’ve ever seen in a Hitman game. You can do any of the missions in many different ways, and there’s always something you can do when things go south. Easily the tightest entry in the franchise, with a fresh new way to deliver content over a year instead of rushing it out.
9. Tom Clancy’s The Division
While this game had a lot of issues with the end game, the dozens of hours it took me to get there were phenomenal. I played this countless nights with my friends in co-op and it became appointment gaming. The mechanics were great, the visuals were off the charts, the worldbuilding/story was intriguing, and most of all- it was fun. Sadly the game fell apart at end game, but I hope Ubi can learn from this and make an even better sequel.
8. Gears of War 4
The Coalition brought their A game for the first post-Epic Gears of War title. Filled with fantastic setpieces and fun new characters, this managed to feel like a truly unique entry in the franchise without feeling too derivative. Overall I think The Coalition played it safe, but it worked, and I can’t wait to see where they take the story next.
7. No Man’s Sky
Another game that I had plenty of issues with despite pouring in dozens of hours. None of us are strangers to the problems and negative reactions plagueing No Man’s Sky, but I had a ton of fun with it while I played. It could never have delivered on the hype, but what was delivered was unique and an achievement for such a small studio. It was filled with beautiful visuals, one of my favorite audio/visual cues in recent gaming, and above all, a kind of isolation and relaxation that was appreciated.
6. Titanfall 2
I loved the first Titanfall, and Respawn hit it out of the park with the sequel. The much-requested singleplayer campaign is Valve levels of good, with “Effect and Cause” easily being one of the best shooter missions I’ve played in ages. This game is a huge display of confidence, learning and passion from the developer and I hope it warrants more games despite less than stellar sales.
5. Battlefield 1
I’ve been playing Battlefield games for 14 years, and this is the most intense contemporary entry in the franchise. I’ve never played a multiplayer shooter that has more going on at every waking moment than this. It’s overwhelming in the best way, and incredibly fun to boot. There’s nothing quite like a “Battlefield Moment” and this game is obviously full of them. Those, alongside much-needed UI and design improvements, and it’s the best Battlefield in years.
4. Forza Horizon 3
Playground Games hits it out of the park again with another great entry in the Horizon franchise. The off-year Forza title has managed to surpass the mainline series in my book. Horizon takes the class and polish of the Forza franchise but adds in a massive sandbox environment and tons of charm that makes an arcade/sim hybrid racer. Exploring Australia in various cars, constantly performing feats & tricks and racing your friends for the top spots never gets old. These things combined with stunning fidelity in 4K and HDR create an amazing package.
When Blizzard enters a genre, they tend to dominate it, and Overwatch is no exception. They’ve taken team shooters to a new level, a pedigree that every new game will be checked against. Beyond the incredibly polished gameplay, Overwatch has a great cast of characters (the best being Junkrat) and so many things to master. Playing with a group of friends will provide hours of “just one more match…” moments.
2. Watch Dogs 2
The original Watch Dogs, while panned by many, was a game that I enjoyed a lot. It was a little too grimdark for its own good, but introduced a unique sandbox with tons of potential. Watch Dogs 2 helps expand that potential and take it even further. Shedding the dark tone for one with a lot more levity, and introducing an awesome cast of characters, Watch Dogs 2 has proven that the studio learned from their previous release.
SUPERHOT is easily one of the best shooters I’ve ever played. It has one of the most original shooting mechanics in any game I’ve seen, where time only progresses if you move. If you stand still, time stands still. This turns every level into a puzzle and introduces a meta beyond “just shooting the dudes”. A clear visual language helps you pick up how to play close to immediately, and the game masterfully builds on this language the more you play. In addition to the air-tight mechanics, the narrative does some incredible things that just left my jaw on my desk. I can’t recommend this game enough. Which leads me to…
1a. SUPERHOT VR
SUPERHOT VR. It’s hard for me to accurately describe the experience I had with this game. Available exclusively on the Oculus Rift with Touch controllers (for now), SUPERHOT VR is the most impressive VR experience I’ve had. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say it’s a transcendent experience. Much like the original game, time only moves when you move- except this time, it’s ACTUALLY you moving in your real, physical space. You’ll find yourself bending your body to dodge bullets, leaning forward and back to evade enemies and getting absolutely lost in this game’s world. I’ve never gotten “lost” in VR before, forgetting where I was in my room, until I played this. This is the single biggest power-fantasy delivery mechanism I’ve ever experienced. There’s no virtual/gaming experience I’ve ever played that makes me feel more like a badass action hero than this. Drop whatever you’re doing and find a way to play this. It alone will sell you on the entire concept of VR.