We’re deep into summer territory here and with the news and actual game releases slowing to a crawl, I figured it would be a great time to return to my mid year lists I started last month.
Today, I’m taking a look at the top 5 games that have surprised me this year. There’s been a ton of releases so far and to be honest, some of them kind of came out of left field. Yes, there have been a few surprising stinkers, but I’m staying away from those in favor of these five which turned out to be much better than expected. Everyone enjoys a good surprise, right?
Perhaps it was simply a case of underestimating these titles, but for whatever reason these five really stood out to me.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
I have to admit, this one surprised me. I’ve already shared my thoughts on the game in a previous post, but coming in to Catalyst, I wasn’t a fan of the series. I had heard good things about the first game, picked it up, and just couldn’t get into it at all for a variety of reasons. So when the recent trailers for Catalyst caught my eye, I was surprised considering my previously less-than-awesome experience.
Thankfully, I was able to go hands on with the game at PAX East and it confirmed what I had believed: DICE has made substantial improvements to this entry, making it more approachable for me and more fun.
One of the bigger changes this time around was that Catalyst ditched the linear maps, and instead opened up the world. For me, this may have been the biggest reason why it really helped breath new life into the franchise. Being able to explore this city the way I wanted and how I wanted really clicked for me and I’m happy to say, I absolutely enjoyed the entire experience as a whole.
If you’re a gambling sort of person, you probably were more than willing to bet that this one wouldn’t turn out as well as it did when it was revealed in full last year by Bethesda. I can’t say I blame you, it really did seem like a safe bet at the time.
Lets be honest here, I think expectations coming into this one were already pretty low as many wondered how you could make that arena style formula relevant in an age where shooters like Overwatch and Call of Duty are insanely popular. Couple that with the fact that id takes a while to develop games and their last effort with Rage was somewhat underwhelming, so everything was lining up against the game.
Throw all those questions out of the window because as we all know now, DOOM turned out way better than most people expected, successfully reviving the dormant franchise. What impressed me most is that id managed to toe the line between keeping those core tenants of the franchise will modernizing the experience for new players. While the multiplayer may not be as innovative as the campaign, it’s still pretty fun in its own right. Plus creative folks can create their own maps and modes thanks to the impressive SnapMap feature.
Speaking of Overwatch, I think we all figured Blizzard would have another hit on their hands, it’s pretty much what they do when they release a new game. With that said, this one blew up when it hit the scene late in May.
What’s interesting here is that the game doesn’t have a huge number of game modes, something which many of us, myself included, would regard as a negative. Maybe it’s due to the diverse character roster, or the addictive gameplay, but so far no one has really been saying anything negative whatsoever. The community has attached to it super quickly, making it a massively popular game in its own right. With competitive mode having launched a few weeks ago, and the first free character being added to the roster soon, things continue to look up for this online shooter.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens
These LEGO games tend to be simple fun, but I think for many, the formulaic nature of these games was starting to wear a little thin. Thankfully, The Force Awakens seems to be the shot in the arm that the franchise needs. While it retains much of the gameplay and humor that you remember, mainly collecting LEGO studs and characters, new features were brought in to mix things up.
Shockingly, The Force Awakens features a lot of cover based blaster sections and even more surprisingly, they’re fun! Utilizing a simple cover based system for these scripted areas, players huddle behind cover and can pop out to shoot enemies and objects like.
In addition, vehicles have taken a bigger role as well, as there are dedicated flying sections which feature on-rails segments and actual open areas where the player can fly around as they want taking out enemies.
These are two elements which I never thought I’d see in a LEGO game, but I’m thankful that they are. I can definitely say that The Force Awakens feels like the freshest LEGO game to come along in quite a while.
I’ve added this game to the list simply because there was such minimal marketing behind it, and it seemingly took the industry by storm. The reviews for this thing have been off the charts good, and I can confirm that it has blown me away. Playdead, the same folks behind the also stellar Limbo, have crafted another visually stunning game that really make you think. Honestly, I don’t want to say too much out of fear of spoiling things. Just know that it’s absolutely worth your time.
So those are my five surprises so far for 2016, but what are yours? Let me know what games took you by surprise so far this year.