Destiny has come a long way from the base game released in 2014. Rise of Iron is the fourth expansion pack. The newly-released Destiny: The Collection compiles the base game, the Rise of Iron expansion, plus all three previous expansions—The Dark Below, The House of Wolves, and The Taken King. Newcomers will find a sensationally deep game with inestimable replay value. Hardened veterans looking to check out the new expansion will find a story that isn’t quite as well fleshed out as last year’s Taken King, but still immensely satisfying in the amount and variety of public events and the numerous tweaks it makes to character customization.
It can be tough to stay a loyal fan of the Madden franchise. Some years you get little more than roster update, and some years you get major changes that weren’t needed and don’t seem to fit within the natural game mechanics. (Anyone else remember the ill-fated QB vision cone?) And then some years, like this year, you get lucky. You get a major overhaul that works well—new broadcasters, new ways to dodge defenders, new ways to defend the pass—plus an upgrade in graphical fidelity that makes the game look a little bit more like the real thing. In short, it was a good year to be a Madden fan. And if you don’t have it yet, it’s pretty cheap right now ($38 on Amazon).
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3. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Battlefield played its cards right this fall, offering the throwback alternative that Call of Duty fans have been demanding on the Internet for the last few years. Activision may have ignored these pleas, but it’s hard to argue when the result is Infinite Warfare. The latest COD doubles down on the series’ recent steps into far-flung futuristic combat, taking the battle into space. Kit Harrington (Jon Snow from Game of Thrones) stars as an evil admiral in the campaign—which boasts a tighter, more compelling story than last year’s Black Ops III—and multiplayer somehow grew even more robust with options. Zombies mode is so well fleshed out it could practically be sold as its own game (Activision, please don’t get any ideas.) Opt for the Legacy Edition and get a digital download code for Modern Warfare remastered.
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4. Gears of War 4
It’s been 10 years since the first Gears of War debuted on Xbox 360. The original game came to redefine third-person shooters, cover tactics, and grizzled, roided-out protagonists. Hey, when your standard-issue assault rifle comes with a built-in chainsaw, you’ve officially declared that subtlety is for wimps. A lot has changed since then, and Gears fatigue might have started to set in with 2013’s prequel, Judgment. But a debut on a new console with higher resolution and some refined gaming mechanics can go an awful long way. Add a perfected Horde mode and the new Dodgeball mode and you’ve got a worthy new entry in the storied franchise.
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5. Titanfall 2
This is the game that Titanfall 1 could have, and maybe should have been. Where the original lacked a real campaign, Titanfall 2 provides a fully-fleshed out single player experience, not the kind of tacked-on afterthought that multiplayer-only enthusiasts so often complain about. Because the first Titanfall’s story was only sussed out in snippets of dialogues shouted over the roar of battle, it was impossible to pick a side in the war that you were supposed to care about.Titanfall 2’s campaign finally contextualizes all of that in a tight, well-crafted narrative. With giant robots and rocket launchers.
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6. Battlefield 1
War is hell. And in hell, you can’t get shot five times, duck for cover for 10 seconds and then rejoin the fight, no worse for the wear. The opening sequence of Battlefield 1 hammers this point home by forcing you to die over and over and each time reincarnate into the body of another soldier on the battlefields of World War I. Yes, the campaign is solid and the multiplayer as massive and addictive as ever, but the opening not-so-subtle reminder that there are real flesh-and-blood humans who fight in these wars is what stays with you.
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Top Ten Games of 2016
10. The Last Guardian
9. Madden 17
8. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
7. Far Cry Primal
6. Gears of War 4
5. Titanfall 2
4. Quantum Break
3. Battlefield 1
2. Uncharted 4
Ever wonder what would happen if a crazy-ass over-the-top heavy metal album cover came to life? Doom, with it brutal ultra-violence and roided-out demons from hell is the answer, continually dropping you into balls-to-the-wall adrenaline-spiking action. Cut scenes? Heavy exposition and dialogue? Dramatic Call of Duty-style set pieces? Nah. Doom is totally immune to popular FPS tropes, relying instead on solid, old-fashioned level design and balanced combat. The game has a perfect, almost musical rhythm of highs and lows; verse (exploration) followed by chorus (a screen full of demons). And though it dispenses with conventional narrative techniques, the game still tells a coherent story. It seems crazy that more big budget games haven’t caught on to the fact that just a sprinkling of direct dialogue is more effective than burdening the player with convoluted lore upfront. Hopefully, Doom will be an emulated touchstone in the coming years. It perfectly executes everything it attempts, and for that reason, it is our game of the year.