It's been an interesting year in gaming, to say the least.
While the likes of No Man's Sky and Mirror's Edge: Catalyst may not have lived up to the hype, other games like Doom surprised players with a richly designed and familiar-yet-unique gaming experience. Here's just a small taste of some of the highlights in console gaming this year...
5. NO MAN'S SKY
Look, there's no point in denying it - where No Man's Sky was in terms of our expectation and where it actually was when we played are two completely different things. That being said, you have to give credit that No Man's Sky was definitely trying to do something unique and trying to make it more than just a flat game; it was trying to create an experience. Its immersive soundtrack from 65daysofstatic, the feeling of vastness in space, the complete openness of it all, it really was unlike any other game. Yes, it was something of a noble failure, but it's still worth experiencing because no game has tried to make discovery so thrilling. That alone is worth entry on this list.
Games like Unravel prove, more than anything, that gaming can be an art-form that you can interact with and have an emotional connection to. The very idea of the game centres on emotion and our connection with them through memories. Playing as an anthropomorphic ball of yarn who slips through an elderly woman's photographs, you begin to see a life lived, experiences missed and chance encounters revisited from a unique perspective. Beautifully told and gorgeous to look at, Unravel was a wonderful little game that was hugely overlooked.
When you strip back the layers on Overwatch, it's basically a first-person shooter with the mechanics of Street Fighter II. You have to shift your strategy depending on a specific character choice, work it against your opponent's choice and furiously push yourself and your aggression to the limit to beat them back. Unlike other first-person multiplayer shooters, Overwatch runs on sheer chaos. You can't do laps of the map or even try to park yourself in a spot because the game is so frantic and so geared against that kind of playing. Not only that, the game's use of characters means that there is a genuine, real difference between them - not just variations on the same base model. It's little wonder that Overwatch has been enthusiastically embraced by eSports since its launch.
Now that Naughty Dog has finally drawn a line underneath Uncharted 4, it's clear that they were probably saving the best for last. Easily one of the best, if not the best PlayStation Exclusive title out there, Uncharted 4 didn't need to rewrite the rules of the franchise or even attempt to undo the work that came before. Instead, it built upon the layers and crafted a deeply immersive experience for players and honoured what came before it. It's always heartening to see storytelling done right in any medium, none more than in gaming where it's often an afterthought to graphics and playability. Here, in Uncharted 4, it was at the forefront and underlined every aspect of the game - even down to the time-jumps in the game to an earlier version of Nathan Drake. A fitting end to one of the best modern gaming franchises.
After a disappointing multiplayer beta, Doom looked to be... well, doomed. Who would have thought that it was leading up to one of the most refreshing single-player experiences of the past five years? What made Doom so thrilling to play was that it tapped into something that the original one had and what a lot of first-person shooters - a lot of games, period - have missed out on. Fun. Doom was really, really fun to play. You could pick up a controller cold and within five to ten minutes, you'd be chainsawing your way through the depths of Hell to a blistering soundtrack. What's more, you didn't even need to follow the storyline to play. It was there, sure, but as more adult players struggle with finding free time, it really was something that its storyline could be almost completely bypassed in favour of a straightforward, shoot-your-way-to-the-end style of playing. Ridiculously violent, fiendishly clever, Doom was just honest-to-goodness fun. How rare a thing that is in modern gaming.
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