It’s that time of year again where there are more pine needles on the floor than the tree, the dog has been sick on the rug at least twice, our body clocks are ruined and there’s no room for all our lovely new presents except that space in the corner of the bedroom. It’s also Game of the Year time and as we at Punk and Lizard all have such different tastes, we’ve decided to present our top 5 each.
Watch Dogs 2 – Without a doubt, Watch Dogs 2 is my Game of the Year by a clear mile. I probably shouldn’t acknowledge that I enjoyed the first one as so many of you dislike it with an angry passion, but looking back and comparing it with the new one, I can admit it was very flawed. Watch Dogs 2 is fun, colourful, full-on stealth tactics and genius hacking. It has a terrific story, a beautiful open world, a great online mode and it’s spawned one of the year’s most beloved characters: Wrench. I would sell my own mother for a Wrench DLC. Best of all, though, is the absolute havoc you can wreak in Sunny San Francisco. Murder and mischief has never been so much fun.
Final Fantasy XV – I haven’t enjoyed an FF game so much since VII. I’m still in shock at how good this game is. I’m usually the smart ass that anticipates what’s going to be good or bad even when the likes of IGN think they know it all, but this time I couldn’t call it either way. Yup, it’s got some flaws including slow loading times, ridiculously long automatic car rides that are clearly attempting to disguise even longer loading times and I wasn’t too keen on battling bees I couldn’t even see because the camera decided above the trees was the place to be. Also, parts of the story didn’t make sense, the foreshadowing was poor and that chapter 13 was the most boring three hours of my life. Not really selling it, am I? But despite these things, FFXV is still a spectacular RPG with a tears-and-snot-inducing story. It’s got great characters, epic battles, good humour, challenging dungeons and a post-game monster to test everything you’ve got.
The Division – I do have a fondness for open world Ubisoft experiences. The Division worried me because multiplayer really isn’t my thing, but the story and the world of The Division was, and I was determined to experience it. After struggling through several missions solo, I took the plunge and found some strangers. Then I found some friends. Then I became completely obsessed and spent every waking moment in the post-game challenges and the Dark Zone. Mechanically sound, a beautifully bleak New York that I didn’t want to leave and a PVP zone that was genuinely scary to be in, The Division, when played with friends, was a truly awesome experience I’ll never forget.
Overwatch – Again, I’m not a multiplayer person, but the colourful graphics and even more colourful characters pulled me right into the game. Its quick battles, visceral maps and incredibly deep character playstyles made this a game that was easy to play and a pleasure and a challenge to master. There’s a character to suit most people and each one changes the whole game and your role within it. Snipers, tanks, stealthy cybernetic ninjas and healers. You can lead the pack, distract the enemies, heal and boost your team or completely miss the point and go off trying to lone-wolf it (much to the frustration of your team). Turn the team chat off if you’re not into that or want to swerve the ever-present toxic players and it barely feels like multiplayer. A very clever game that gives you a wide choice of characters to learn and play with, so if you’re not a COD champion or a Battlefield Pro, you can still be an effective part of the team. Genji fangirl right here.
No Man’s Sky – Do you love it or despise it with every fibre of your being? It was the most hyped game of the year, and if you were expecting an exploration-based, procedurally-generated space adventure that was mainly going to be about classification and discovery, then, like me, you were probably over the moon. However, if exploration-based, procedurally-generated space adventures that are mainly going to be about classification and discovery aren’t your thing, then I’m not sure why you even bought it, never mind complained about it afterwards. Exploring, trading, space battles and, best of all, MINING, this game took over my life. It was pretty much everything I expected and wanted.
Titanfall 2 – Having missed out on Titanfall, this came as a brand new experience to me. Slick, stunning and with a stomping single player mode, Titanfall 2 is an exceptional and explosive sci-fi shooter. The diversity of the journey ahead coupled with enormous Titan battles really puts some shooters to shame.
The Bunker – If you’re looking for a different type of experience then here’s one. The bunker is a psychological thriller about the last remaining survivor trapped down a nuclear bunker. The game is a live-action adventure horror that let’s you feel what psychological effects living in an isolated Bunker does to you. An evening’s entertainment sorted, and a platinum lover’s dream too.
Zen Pinball – Flipin’ eck, Zen Studios never fail to amaze, and when you’re wanting to dip into something a little different Zen have your back. Amongst their huge catalogue of tables there are three standout ones in the form of Bethesda’s epic gaming universe Fallout, DOOM and The Elder Scrolls V. The top pick has to be DOOM, a blood stained table that’s nothing short of epic. A feast of chainsaws, guts and a sliver spinning ball entice you into a trip to hell. A table to grab you by the short and curlies. Brilliantly brilliant.
Mantis Burn Racing – VooFoo Studios know how to turn on the style, and their top-down racer Mantis Burn Racing didn’t disappoint. Think dusty tracks, tight racing, big drifts and you’re just about there. Mantis Burn Racing has a lot to offer. The main single player mode rolls out a well constructed path of destruction and races. Each race gives you the opportunity to show off your skills and rack up your XP. Mantis Burn Racing is a fantastic fast-paced racing game.
There Came an Echo – Iridium Studios’ debut gave PS4 a voice controlled real time strategy game that had me hooked. Helping the action come alive was some truly awesome voice acting which boasted a stellar cast of actors. There Came an Echo is an underrated experience that should not be missed.
Firewatch – Who knew a game about a fire lookout ranger called Henry could be so gripping? Your only point of contact is a woman named Delilah on the other end of your radio, and it soon becomes clear that not everything is as it seems. What transpires is a brilliant, unique journey that will stay with you long after you complete it. There have been so many great games this year, but none have captured me like Firewatch. Absolutely outstanding.
INSIDE – Limbo is a superb game and if you haven’t played, please do – it’s out of this world. But developers Playdead did the unthinkable this year and actually bettered it with INSIDE. The whole game centres on the unknown. Like Limbo, there’s no dialogue, and all you know is that you’re a small boy caught in the middle of what seems like some horrifying project. INSIDE focuses on you trying to escape, with many mind-bending puzzles along the way. The whole experience is verging on a masterpiece, but the last 10 minutes of the game have to go down as some of the most bizarre ever in a game. And you’ll love every strange, scary minute.
Oxenfree – At first glance, NightSchool’s Oxenfree could be mistaken for a light-hearted coming of age tale, a modern Stand By Me if you will. You play as Alex, and it all starts with you and your friends heading off to an island party. You’re just going for the night, so it should be good times. The problem is it’s actually an old military island, and quite early into your night you accidentally open a ghostly gate. (It’s hard to open these things on purpose after all.) Armed with a little radio and your friends around you, it’s up to you to search the island, helping your friends and yourself make it through the night alive. And at times, you and your friends might not always be on the same page. What occurs in the next 5 hours is honestly one of the coolest, trippiest games of the year.
Heavy Rain – This one feels like a bit of a cop out, due to it originally being released on PS3 in 2010. But Quantic Dream’s epic story of a father trying to find his kidnapped son received the remastered treatment earlier this year and the story of the Origami Killer will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. With so many different endings, choices feel vital. Well worth it if you missed it first time around. “Jason!”
The Park – In The Park, you play as Lorraine, a single mum who can’t find her son Callum, who has run off into a theme park just as it is closing for the day. You can call out to him, and occasionally hear him calling, but he always seems out of reach. It’s up to you to venture further and further into the Park, taking turns on abandoned rides, finding flyers and notes as you go. The more and more you head into the darkness, the more you start to realise that you might know more than you think about the whereabouts of your son. The realisation of how events have unfolded is truly horrifying. And whilst The Park is a very short game, it’s a sincerely disturbing experience that had me hooked from the second I paid admission.
Honourable mentions to The Bunker, Virginia and Asemblance, that I also really enjoyed this year.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End – Well what can I say, this game will be on a lot of GOTY lists and for many good reasons: the excellent graphics, the awesome action sequences, the engrossing story and the return of Crash Bandicoot! Nate’s final (maybe) farewell definitely lived up to all the high expectations.
Dino Dini’s Kick Off Revival – One of the games that many loved to hate is the game I’ve spent most time with this year so it was always going on my list. Most people struggled to see beyond the control system, which does take time to master, but when it clicks you’re left with a highly addictive and satisfying retro football game. Roll on the Vita release.
Windlands – This first-person parkour/grappling hook exploration game lets you channel your inner Spider-Man while you go looking for crystals in a colourful, bright virtual world. The instant immersion and ease of play make it the perfect introduction to the world of PlayStation VR.
Bound – This unique 3D platformer, where you control a ballerina and guide her through an abstract world made up of disjointed shapes, falls into the same “game, not a game” category as Journey and Unfinished Swan but its visuals and audio are both true works of art. The plot is better off experiencing without spoilers but I will say it will resonate with many people.
Severed – Drinkbox Studios first-person dungeon crawler is a definite must for any self-respecting PS Vita owner. Its crisp and colourful palette shows off just how vibrant the handheld device can be. The combat system will have you frantically swiping the screen like a finger ninja.
Final Fantasy XV – An obvious choice for my #1 game of 2016. I’ve been obsessed with the Final Fantasy series since I was about 10 years old and the newest instalment hasn’t let me down. Not only does it look stunning and has a great storyline, but the side quests and mini-games (etc) can keep you entertained for weeks on end. It plays like a good ol’ fashioned FF. Everything about it (except maybe the long auto drives) has kept me playing non-stop. The characters and the relationships they have with each other has made me wish I was in with the cool kids surrounding Prince Noctis. As they have officially said, this is definitely a “Final Fantasy for fans and first-timers”!
Paragon – I’ve never really been a big fan of MOBA’s. I dabbled a little into League of Legends and watched my brother play Smite a few times but the “Arena” set up had never really interested me… until Paragon. The trailers had me hooked with the look of the game and so when I signed up to the Beta back in March I was expecting to quickly get bored. How wrong I was! Nine months later and I still find myself running through the visually beautiful world of Agora and getting excited when a new Hero is released every few weeks. I can honestly say that I’m quite the fan of this MOBA and cannot wait to see how it progresses as it moves on from its open Beta.
Zenith – I was fortunate enough to have this game handed to me for a review earlier this year and I can’t thank the boss enough. I loved every second of it and didn’t really want to stop playing long enough to write a review. As you may have noticed, I’m quite happy in an RPG world and Zenith kept that statement true. It had me in stitches with its witty one liners and random events (like firing an elephant into another dimension to stop the demons… it could’ve worked, right?) but beneath all that was a solid, well constructed RPG which I would recommend to anybody.
Jackbox Party Pack 3 – Not exactly a “game” as such, Jackbox is a group of mini games you can play with friends or family via your phone or any device that you can use to get onto the jackbox.tv site. If you’re looking for something for the whole family , get this now! Jackbox 3 is probably the strongest instalment to date (the first two are great fun too) and with games like Quiplash 2 and the Trivia Murder Party, this is sure to keep you entertained after stuffing your face with pigs in blankets and eggnog. However, it’s “Fakin’ It” that wins the gold this time and will have you screaming and shouting hilariously as you try to capture the Faker.
Until Dawn: Rush of Blood – I’m kinda cheating with this one as I don’t actually own the game, I just played for about 10 minutes in a store that had it set up for demo purposes. This was my first experience of the PSVR and completely exceeded my expectations. However, I have never been more embarrassed in my life than when I took the headset off to see strangers standing around me in the middle of a busy shopping centre. I was taken on a terrifying ghost train through a creepy-as-hell carnival and had to shoot targets as I went along. I found myself shooting at anything that moved and looking from left to right waiting for something to jump out and murder me in my VR world. The last thing I remember is the lights flickering off, hearing heavy breathing and footsteps and ripping off the PSVR headset faster than I’ve ever moved before.
It’s been another strong year for PlayStation, and all of us here at Punk and Lizard could easily add another ten favourite games each. Some of us have thoroughly enjoyed 2016’s indie selection box, some of us have basked in a AAA feast and the rest of us have enjoyed loading up our plates with a tasty bit of this and that. One thing we all have in common, though: our backlogs have got much larger.