2016 has been conspicuous by our absence. It almost seems strange that, in a year where everything went wrong, with so many adored artists and creators being whisked off to the afterlife, the events of the last twelve months have barely been registered on Awesome Friday.
Of course, there are some very boring practical reasons for this: employment; parenthood; time disappearing; the pursuit of new hobbies and the slow recategorising of old. However, beyond these tired, true excuses lies a deeper question that I’ve not been able to answer – what can be said? What can I possibly add when Bowie, or Prince, or Alan Rickman dies? How could I even begin to talk about Carrie Fisher? The Internet is a constant platform for one-upmanship when meaningful people pass; every anecdote must be greater than the general gloomy hum it strives to rise above, and it leaves a bad taste that I have begun to actively avoid. And so many personal heroes died this year, each holding memories almost too personal to share.
The end result, then, is silence. A quiet reflection of things lost. Not the ideal jump-off point for a website that actively tried to report and comment on such public events. But I think 2017 might be different. Both Matt and I have talked about our need to write again, not just because of the time we are reclaiming, but also a new will to share our thoughts once again, and I’m almost certain that Kat has a myriad of article ideas up each sleeve. I’m keeping my ambitions on check, though, especially after a NaNoWriMo where I attempted to write an historically-accurate Regency sci-fantasy romance with split parallel future timeline, and so spent the whole month researching. Still, each word is important, and even though I only managed 10,000 of them, it’s still a start.
As is this. In looking back at my favourite games and movies of 2016, what I really want to do is draw a line and start again. Let’s see what 2017 brings. Now, have some opinions.
The Games of 2016
It’s great. Like, Blood Money great. The series has gone back to what it’s always done best – wide open spaces, rammed with interesting characters and dialogue, and lots of options for dispatching your target. Plus, the addition of extra challenges with specific requirements creates a game that will entertain for months.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (PC/various VR)
Print the bomb disposal manual then find a friend and you’re got one of the best multiplayer experiences available. Completely unique and terrifyingly compelling. Cut the blue wire. THE BLUE WIRE.
Enter The Gungeon (PS4/PC)
I’ve gone back to fast, arcade experiences this year and Gungeon has fitted beautifully into that niche. Even though I’m terrible at it. The fantastic pace of the gameplay is matched by the brilliance of the art style.
Uncharted 4 (PS4)
It’s way too long – every single one of the flashbacks could have been cut – but it’s still a deliciously sumptuous release that is almost perfect in its execution. The only game my wife’s watched me play this year. It’s a playable Indiana Jones movie.
Rez Infinte (PS4)
My favourite game of all time in a new 60FPS HD remaster with an extra level and VR capabilities. Still perfect.
The only rhythm action game I’ve played that’s come close to Rez. Truly terrifying, and a game that needs such precise input that I can’t get to level 3 on my laggy TV. On PSVR, though, it’s something else.
Infinite Tron pinball with the best soundtrack to a game I’ve heard in years. On my phone. Immaculately presented and endlessly fun.
Titanfall 2 (PS4/XO/PC)
I felt no compulsion to play it again once finished, but what an astounding single-player experience. The spacial manipulation of Portal 2, the movement of Mirror’s Edge, and the gunplay of classic CoD. The tricks it pulls for each level are spectacular, with one especially being a standout moment in gaming as a whole. Definitely one to play without knowledge of the twists it has waiting for you.
Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare (PS4/XO/PC)
You see, this is where I stopped reading The Internet. General consensus will tell you that this is a tired entry in a dying franchise; the game I played was a thrilling, creative sci-fi story with fantastic gameplay and, most surprisingly, a brilliant script. ETH.3n is up there with K-2SO as the character of the year. Superb.
I have no idea what the name means, but this is the best Trials game since…Trials HD. Throw in a liberal dose of Limbo and some gravity manipulation and you have a hard, precise bike game. On my phone.
Archer vs. Archers (Android)
What seems to be a cheap stickman game reveals itself to be one of the most hilarious things I’ve played this year. And it’s not just in the unlockable arrow upgrades, even though the exploding tip is a thing of devastating beauty. There’s sinew between the simple blocks that make up the players that give them a real human touch, together with a programmed tenacity that keeps enemies firing even when you’ve blown away their legs. A great, simple arcade thrill.
The Last Guardian (PS4)
It plays like a brick. A brick being slowly dragged through mud. And yet, the link between the characters and the sudden bursts of protective action have created some all-time great moments. My love for Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are giving The Last Guardian more breaks than it deserves, but it’s still an honour to witness that old Ueda Team Ico magic. And the soundtrack is amazing.
Best of 2016: Inside (PS4/XO/PC)
Inside is the video game that Kafka would have made if he’d known how to code and had a propensity for hallucinogens. Each room a puzzle, each puzzle bleeding into the next to tell a story that’s bleak and compelling and utterly unhinged in its finale. Truly unique and just wonderful.
The Movies of 2016 (Matt’s list is going to be much, much longer)
Ryan Reynolds finally gets to play the character that’s a compilation of his whole career. Should have been an unfunny disaster. Instead, it’s a light, ridiculous, violent delight.
10 Cloverfield Lane
Look, you put Mary Elizabeth Winstead in something and I’ll watch it. You put her in a bottle-movie horror, with John Goodman, and I’m there day one. And I wasn’t disappointed – just when you think you know where it’s going, it goes somewhere else altogether, and I really hope it’s the start of a series with Winstead going full Sigourney.
Captain America: Civil War
It’s not as good a story as Winter Soldier, falling into the Marvel trap of being a set of scenarios in which to throw around the ensemble, but it’s still a joy to watch. Great action scenes, and a new Spider-Man that makes me think we might actually get another good standalone Spidey film.
It’s great. Takes the core of Ghostbusters and runs in its own direction. I love the original, and yet it’s possible to love this too. Who knew.
Star Trek Beyond
Just for the moment where the alien threat is wiped out with The Beastie Boys. A fantastic finale in an enjoyable film that finally seems able to get Kirk right.
La La Land
I’m still not sure I should have watched this – a deeply affecting and tender, bittersweet tale of love and dreams and life and music. Turns out they do make them like they used to. An instant classic, and so close to being my film of the year.
Best of 2016: Rogue One
I’m not blind to its faults – the greatest of which is the totally wasted Vader reveal – but it’s pure Star Wars heaven. It’s made for me, specifically for me, and I adore its message of tenacity and hope. A gritty, morally-ambiguous war story that adds a wonderful dimension to my all-time favourite movie.