Handbook Of Evidence

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The best games of năm 2016 ran the gamut from taut, well-told tales to wide-open possibility spaces. If there’s any justice, the year will be remembered as one in which triple-A exceeded itself with games that weren’t so much sequels as reinventions, & in which indies had no trouble at all keeping up.

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To grapple with và get the most out of everything here you’ll need khổng lồ bring tactical nous, a big heart, và your little grey cells. And don’t forget to wear your fun-garees. You know. For all the fun.

Forza Horizon 3

*

Forza Horizon 3 is the third in a series of attempts khổng lồ humanise Turn 10’s excellent, if cold, driving simulators, và the first to successfully complete the windy & treacherous route from Xbox to personal computers.

Set in an alternate-world Australia, in which everyone and their mums is obsessed with motorsports, Forza Horizon 3’s xuất hiện world exists to lớn satisfy you. As in Pokémon’s Kanto, every citizen in the country pours their energies into one shared passion, becoming either opponent or cheerleader of your efforts to lớn become the leading racecar driver & part-time festival organiser down under.

It can be patronising, showering you with currency và swooning before your coolness and ability, but none of that matters. The tiệc ngọt atmosphere is infectious, & the engine beneath is quite simply the finest available in the genre. Drift sideways through the outback. Drive khổng lồ the beach & perform stunt jumps through an elephant’s graveyard of cargo ships. Build a festival site that takes up 25% of Byron Bay. Just pick a road & goooo.

Titanfall 2

*

What a lovely twist in the tail kết thúc of a delightful year for games. Titanfall 2 is not only a good sequel to a multiplayer game deserted too soon by its community – it’s also a fantastic single-player shooter. The kind you used khổng lồ tell people about in 2004 & 2007 – a Half-Life 2 or a BioShock.

As the chiến dịch progresses, with hulking metal companion BT at your side, developers Respawn fire và forget: tossing away brilliant ideas as if they were empty clips, before reaching for another. All the while, Titanfall 2 offers a first-class showcase in visual & audio feedback – nothing underwhelms.

How could we have forgotten, in the year of Modern Warfare Remastered, that this team of former Infinity Ward staffers were capable of such great feats in single-player FPS design? Forgive us, Zampella and co., for our forgetfulness.

Planet Coaster

*

You’d be hard-pushed lớn find a game that exudes as much happiness, joy, và enthusiasm as Planet Coaster does with every guest’s beaming face. Yes, on the surface, it’s all about creating & managing a theme park, but the compelling element is how even donkey work lượt thích raising the price of slushies by a couple of pennies feeds back to improving the general happiness of your guests. Everything you vị in Planet Coaster is in the name of making others happy. It’s a feedback loop that has its roots in Rollercoaster Tycoon, but one that Frontier Developments have perfected và built upon in Planet Coaster.

Creation is key to that feedback loop: it’s one thing khổng lồ design a park and please your guests, while creating a park that makes you happy and proud is another thing entirely. Thankfully, Planet Coaster boasts some of the most flexible và freeing creation tools outside of a dev kit. There are hundreds of objects & shapes – all fully customisable, of course – that can be bolted onto boring toilet blocks in order to theme them to your tastes. Just look at all the mad & beautiful Planet Coaster creations the community have put together since the game’s launch if you’re still not sold on its quality.

Civilization VI

*

In the year 2217, when your ‘mouse hand’ is a bionic replacement designed specifically for PC gaming, there will still be a new Civ – overseen by Sid Meier from his life-support throne, designed by a plucky new designer straight from MIT. It’ll be reassuringly familiar but shrewdly different.

So it is with Civ VI. Although it can’t currently compete with the bundled editions of its predecessors for sheer wealth of content, it’s the perfect celebration of the defining 4X on its 25th anniversary. Music, palette, pacing: all conspire khổng lồ make you fall for the series all over again, providing a warmth where Civ V was sometimes too stern.

This entry takes a new branch in the Civ series tech tree, too, planting bold new mechanics và laying strong foundations for diplomacy, religion, war, & espionage which will surely be built up into proud cities in the inevitable expansions.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

*

It was in between stacking the fourth and fifth dumpster in an impossible staircase up khổng lồ a Prague apartment window that we realised – at no point have Eidos Montreal forgotten Deus Ex’s roots. For all its modern shooter trappings, the series has lost none of its essential magic in silly simulation và player problem-solving.

It perhaps hasn’t gained quite enough in Mankind Divided, Montreal’s second Deus Ex sequel khổng lồ date – certainly not in overall length. But the studio maintained their focus on improvisational combat và avoidance while venerating player ownership above all else, allowing parts of their knotty plot of prejudice and class struggle to lớn slip into the background if we so desired.

Speaking of which: although it might điện thoại tư vấn itself a shooter, Mankind Divided does quests better than practically any mainstream RPG outside of The Witcher. Và nowhere else in the trò chơi industry will you see the size of fake thư điện tử writing carried so far. To top it off,Mankind Divided’s PC port isn’t too shabby either.

Want more? Read our Deus Ex: Mankind Dividedreview.

Inside

*

Playdead’s long-awaited Limbo follow-up begins with a boy in the woods, minus a backstory, và with no other option but lớn stumble towards the right-hand side of the screen. This overfamiliar fake-out soon gives way to lớn a game with its own mysteries, however – a trò chơi so accomplished that these Danish indies couldn’t possibly have made it on their first time out.

Like its predecessor, Inside offers toàn thân horror, & the prospect of pulling and pushing boxes about so that you can clamber to lớn out-of-reach areas. But it’s also about control, và brings uneasy new mechanics to lớn match its new themes.

There’s a more nuanced aesthetic, too – while Limbo is unmistakeable in its gloom, Inside’s gently stylised approach manages a remarkable và terrifying verisimilitude. When a masked man chases down your young charge và drowns him in a puddle, the fear hits you somewhere central. In the space between its impeccably choreographed animation và sound design, Inside starts lớn feel horribly, horribly real.

Doom

*

With Quake Champions on the horizon & this exceptional shooter in the rear-view mirror, id are tearing down the highway at the front of the pack again after a decade in neutral. Where Doom 3 spun the horror of quái thú closets off into a realm of dark rooms và sudden scares, new Doom takes a different tack: embracing the forward aggression of the original & coating everything in gibs rather than shadows.

Brilliantly, the gore feeds into the game – ultraviolent glory kills are not only a visual and aural reward in Doom for getting up close and impersonal, but serve a tactical purpose, offering health pickups và a valuable few seconds to lớn decide on your next attack or weapon switch. That rhythmic flow soon becomes second nature thanks to cấp độ design that funnels you between murderous, vertiginous arenas. A masterclass in FPS thiết kế that never feels anything less than contemporary.

Want more? Read our Doomreview.

Overwatch

*

Blending elements from Team Fortress 2, MOBAs, & Blizzard’s own extended universe, Overwatchcemented itself as the multiplayer PC trò chơi of năm nhâm thìn – not even the likes of Battlefield and COD could topple it.

It’s the sort of trò chơi that would once have been called ‘class-based’ but now goes under the ‘character shooter’ moniker, offering a focused selection of modes that riff on TF2’s payload maps and capture point objectives. Really, though, it’s the interplay between Overwatch’s heroes that make it special. It really is a feat of balance on Blizzard’s part – you think Bastion’s OPed until you realise it takes 200% damage from behind when it’s in turret configuration. You suspect Genji is too good until you watch someone’s Play of the Game and realise, nope, that player is just incredibly skilled. You think Zenyatta’s useless & then he spends an entire round killing you.

Best of all: in typical Blizzard fashion, tư vấn and development continues in earnest.

Want more? Read our Overwatchreview.

Dark Souls III

*

Never really a series about difficulty but, rather, camaraderie – banding struggling solo players together via scrawled messages và occasional co-op –Dark Souls is incredibly self-assured in its third iteration. An entire industry might have failed lớn follow them, but FromSoftware now know exactly how to lớn go about their strange, knotted cấp độ design – littering the sequel’s hard road with diversions, shortcuts, secrets, và optional bosses. They’ve named the result Lothric: a mostly-dead world that recalls the 19th-century German fantasy of The Nutcracker và exists in perpetual twilight.

After a break to lớn hone his skills on Bloodborne, director Hidetaka Miyazaki returns with a masterclass. There are odd moments where encounters feel unfair, và you’ll fall to lớn the occasional cheap, untelegraphed boss attack. But at its hollowed heart, Dark Souls III on PC is a near-perfect ramble over peaks & troughs of frustration, building to lớn a godlike crescendo that feels lượt thích nothing else in games because you’ve earned every step.

Want more? Read our Dark Souls IIIreview.

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The Banner Saga 2

*

The Banner Saga games are uniquely gruelling in an RPG genre where the numbers tend only to lớn go up. Here your warriors get weaker, not stronger, as they’re chipped away at in turn-based combat, swinging weakly at the encroaching Dredge. Và as your exhausted caravan trundles on, tying events together, you’ll inevitably fail to save every desperate soldier and their family.

Even victories in The Banner Saga 2 can feel pyrrhic, coming at a great cost. The cruelty is leavened only by a gorgeously-animated art style which evokes Disney’s Beauty and the Beast but also has a stark nobility of its own.

Fittingly-named studio Stoic have addressed complaints about samey-ness this time around, introducing obstacles, special objectives, và centaur-ish enemies with horrifying, cheek-crushing hooves lớn the battle. The emotional engagement the series started with might have been lessened by an overlarge cast of characters, but The Banner Saga 2 can’t be bettered for bleak tactics và management.

Want more? Read our The Banner Saga 2review.

The Division

*

It’s impossible lớn know how much The Division has changed since the E3 trailer that first lit up our imaginations like a thủ đô new york Christmas. But it’s become a stark, breathtaking co-op shooter that diverges from the Ubisoft open-world formula by embracing Diablo-style progression systems.

Identically black kevlar vests don’t make for the most compelling loot, but tying DPS to Clancy-style tactics works better than you’d think – rewarding suppression, flanking, and good use of cover with more favourable numbers.

You play as a federal sleeper agent shooting looters. You’ll hear your colleagues dismiss your targets as mindless or “animals,” và the tone can err towards dehumanising rather than empathising. But the world building is better than in any other Ubi game. There’s an early mission that has you navigating the makeshift morgue the city’s metro has become. The centrepiece of another is a burning department store Christmas tree. The Division on PC is by turns bleak and beautiful.

Want more? Read our The Divisionreview.

Hitman

*

Maybe it’s too much lớn ask that Io Interactive get everything right at once. They managed to lớn confuse us all when describing the latest Hitmanwith talk of episodes and staggered development. But, at the same time, the studio hit on the same inspired thiết kế principles that carried Blood Money, oft-remembered as Agent 47’s finest outing.

EveryHitman location releasedhas been a great big puzzlebox filled with creative murder solutions. The Parisian mansion, for instance, is occupied by AI characters who react khổng lồ the ripples you create in their lives, as well as the lives of their fellow NPCs.

Your options for assassination aren’t so emergent, but they are colourfully scripted: poisoned sushi taken to lớn your mark by a clueless waiter; a press camera packed with plastic explosives. Hitman is a celebration of experimentation.

Want lớn hear more before you scan the barcode? Read our Hitmanreview.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

*

We may no longer see the vast graphical leaps of old – the great strides forward of Doom & Quake – but Rise of the Tomb Raider was far & away the most beautiful trò chơi you could play on your PC in 2016. Crystal Dynamics built an explorative showcase around some astounding set-pieces: strange Soviet installations và longboats encased vertically in ice.

Beneath the veneer there’s an adventure that builds on the successes of the 2013 reboot, returning Lara not only lớn unflinching third-person murder, but also the tombs of the title – multi-stage crypt conundrums that put Uncharted’s tired pillar-shifting to shame. Rise of the Tomb Raider is a sequel driven by the same curiosity that never quite seems to lớn kill Lara but does for everyone else around her.

Want to lớn delve deeper? Here’s our Rise of the Tomb Raiderreview.

XCOM 2

*

Less a straight-up sequel than a guerilla resistance story told with familiar mechanics, XCOM 2 is far more ambitious a trò chơi than the iteration Firaxis could have been forgiven for turning in. On the ground, it’s all about the squeeze: the struggle to scout a procedurally-generated map and nab your objective in the face of an inflexible turn timer, the threat of overwhelming enemy reinforcements, và the necessity of reaching a distant evac point – even if that means sprinting through urban corridors thick with overwatchers.

On the global level, it’s all about turning back the hands of time – or, rather, that of the progress of the alien Avatar project that can jeopardise your entire campaign. This time the aliens are playing the game along with you, and it’s a wonderfully frightening, consistently surprising prospect. It’ll keep on surprising, too, thanks to XCOM 2’s mods.

Want to know your enemy? Read our XCOM 2review.

Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak

*

What on Earth, or some less habitable orb, does a Homeworld trò chơi look lượt thích when it’s not in space? Surely the classic RTS series is all about the vast gulf between planets, the vulnerability và beauty of combat in the void, rather than the planets themselves?

As it turns out, Homeworld can be about both. The graceful dance of its units, ducking back and swooping forward in elegant strategic symbiosis, is transposed successfully khổng lồ the desert here. Relic refugees Blackbird Interactive have even preserved that vulnerability, too, in the ramshackle movement of physics-enabled dune convoys. After a little time on Kharak, you’ll wonder if the sandy surface actually makes a better battlefield than space: almost as endless và overwhelming, but scattered with obstacles và terrain that can alter your tactics.

Enjoy a dust-up? Here’s a Homeworld: Deserts of Kharakreview.

The Witness

*

Without wishing khổng lồ sound like your dad on a family walking holiday, there’s a certain irony in whisking the player away to lớn a breathtaking whimsipunk island before sticking their head in screens the whole time. On paper, The Witness doesn’t necessarily sound lượt thích a great time at all – boasting more mazes than a motorway service station puzzle book, but asking you khổng lồ sit upright in front of your PC for tens of hours khổng lồ tackle them.

In the event, however, Jon Blow’s seven-year project turns out lớn be the purest evocation yet of the feeling that made Braid essential. The Witness provides you with a framework to build your understanding, stretching your brain sideways & making you feel brilliant in the cerebral sense of the word. Và thanks khổng lồ that island, you’re freer than ever before lớn wander off & stimulate your synapses somewhere else rather than bang your head against a particularly troublesome panel. We’ve already solved one puzzle for you: whether or not Jon Blow is drinking enough water.

Still puzzled? Read a Witnessreview.

Oxenfree

*

If Far Cry 3 didn’t teach you that teen beach parties off the beaten path can over spectacularly badly, hormonal horror story Oxenfree certainly will. Taking its cues from the supernatural cinema of the ‘80s, it combines post-Telltale conversation with synth pop and stunning backdrops drawn by Disney alumni.

You’re Alex, the wayward kidult responsible for pulling new stepbrother Jonas into a big, scary mess. Well done. But you’re also the one with the radio that allows you khổng lồ commune with the dead và manipulate the world around you – uncovering island events across decades & lifetimes. Voice talent from The Wolf Among Us và The Walking Dead awaits, as well as decisions that can affect the outcome và – more importantly, for a teen – Alex’s relationships.

Darkest Dungeon

*

A cruel, cartoon roguelike which asks a question of your adventuring party: who are you becoming? Usually they’re becoming corpses, but along the way they can pick up a catalogue of characterful traits & ailments – halting disease, crippling fear, gnawing paranoia and, lest we forget, the after-effects of actual gnawing.

It’s less about the grasp you belatedly gain over the turn-based RPG systems in Darkest Dungeon, and more about the well of anecdotes you’ll acquire in the meantime. The masochists you’ll đại bại to packs of wild dogs; the jesters who’ll succumb lớn the wrong sort of mushrooms; the bounty hunters you’ll see starve in dank passageways because they forgot their shovel. If you’re into permadeath, procedural dungeons, and emergent stories, this might just be your bag.

Want khổng lồ know more? Read ourDarkest Dungeonreview.

That Dragon, Cancer

*

One of PC gaming’s rare attempts at autobiography, That Dragon, Cancer comprises a series of disarming vignettes in which you play witness lớn the diagnosis, struggle, & eventual loss of its lead developers’ toddler son. Playing as family members, bystanders và – on one occasion – a duck bobbing gently in a nearby pond, you participate to lớn varying degrees in Ryan & Amy Green’s memories.

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Interaction is dosed out only in small amounts, often to convey a particular feeling. What you can control is the pacing, indulging in moments of uplift và racing through some of the pain if you so choose. Despite the terrible proximity of its creators lớn its source material, the trò chơi is never anything less than a light cảm ứng – an honest tài khoản that becomes an exercise in empathy for its players. It’s just a shame That Dragon, Cancer sales haven’t reflected its chất lượng and nuance.