Here at Ready Players, we pride ourselves on delivering content that’s both entertaining and interesting about the games we play and the industry that surrounds them. But that doesn’t always mean that we’re exactly timely when it comes to reviews. Sadly, things don’t always go to plan and we end up missing deadlines for releasing relevant reviews. Sometimes this can be because we’re still making our way through the games, or we just can’t get our hands on a certain game in time.

So, rather than add to one of the quigatillion “Best of 2016” lists you’ll be seeing for the next week or two, I thought we might do a little catch-up instead and take a very short look back at some of the games we missed out on reviewing this year.

In no particular order, here are five abridged reviews for games we weren’t able to talk about this year:

  1. Final Fantasy XV

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Since I finally finished this one, and it’s far too late to give any sort of timely review beyond my first impressions article from last week, I think it’s worth using this time to get some quick final thoughts on Final Fantasy XV out of the way.

If you’re still a little wary of whether to get Final Fantasy XV, I can safely say that after clocking around sixty hours with it, that it’s totally worth the $90AUD price tag. Throughout my whole playthrough, the combat, exploration, and most importantly of all, the bromance between the game’s four main characters never felt tired or stale. Just be prepared to be disappointed in terms of the game’s main storyline.

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While the story starts off strong with a fairly straightforward plot of “Buck’s night roadtrip turned quest to battle an evil kingdom”, the last third of the game starts to show where the team ran out of time and money to tell what should have been a grand, epic tale. It’s around this point that the open world is completely locked off to you until the post-game, instead funnelling you through a linear race to the end credits. Characters you expect to be major players or potential antagonists later in the story are either completely forgotten about or are only given brief reference to in a sentence worth of dialogue near the game’s final moments. And let’s not forget the now infamous thirteenth chapter which consists of the player exchanging their actually useful weapons for a shitty one, then being forced to run down the same corridors for about two hours.

But at least the story has something good in its favour, offering a great villain with interesting motivations and backstory who makes for a fun as hell final boss battle. And while the ending lacks something in terms of worldly gravitas, it is a satisfying conclusion to the story of the four best buds you’ve been following all game.

And with planned story DLC and a potential fix to the abysmal thirteenth chapter on the horizon, there might still be a little more left in Final Fantasy XV to keep me coming back to it next year.

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Final Score: 4/5

Final Recommendation: Pick it up! But if you want a better story, maybe wait for the updates and story DLC.

  1. DOOM

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In all honesty, I really didn’t expect this one to be as awesome as it turned out to be. Before release, DOOM did give off some tell-tale signs that have become synonymous with bad AAA releases – such as a poorly received multiplayer beta and absolutely no review copies before launch. But, to everyone’s pleasant surprise, DOOM ended up being so good that it ended up winning “best action game” at this year’s game awards. And it’s not hard to see why.

Its gameplay was fast, fun and frenetic, offering a fantastic throwback to what made run-and-gun shooters of the 90s so great. It was unapologetic in its gore, always making sure that the player felt powerful, even when they were fighting against enemies three times their size and sporting plasma guns for hands.

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The level design was intelligently crafted so that progressing through the levels felt more like organic exploration, rather than following a linear pathway. Even the sound design was so on point that you knew how much badass stew you were about to ingest when you heard the game’s opening shotgun cock.

The only real issue I think the game had was that it ran out of new things to give you as it reached the end. During the game’s final few levels, the flow of weapons and interesting upgrades to purchase eventually comes to a halt, causing the gameplay to start feeling a little stale and repetitive. Thankfully, the game ends just before it outstays its welcome, even if via an ending that I personally thought was a little unsatisfying. But that still doesn’t take away from DOOM’s overall quality. Looking back on it now, I can still say I had a blast mowing down demons and finding new ways to rip them open like fleshy piñatas filled with tasty health goodies inside.

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Final Score: 4.5/5

Final Recommendation: Pick it up! Just be prepared for the final hour drag.

  1. Oxenfree

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I don’t think I ever expected Oxenfree to be as interesting as it was. Honestly, I bought it off the PSN store on a whim because of the cool coming-of-age tale mixed with weird, if not horrific imagery seen in its trailer peaked my interest just enough to see what it was all about. And from the moment I started it up at 9pm, I couldn’t put it down until I had finished the story at 4am the next morning. It started off so simple, feeling like an interactive indie flick focused around a small beach party. But it didn’t take long for the game to take an unexpected turn, becoming a horror-fuelled trippy mindfuck as the game’s characters race against the clock and desperately try to defend themselves from a supernatural force with nothing but their wits, sassy comebacks and a portable radio.

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There’s very little on offer when it comes to gameplay in Oxenfree, having you spend nearly all of your time talking to other characters and walking around the map. But as it turns out, that’s actually what is so fascinating and brilliant about Oxenfree. The dialogue system is so well designed that player-to-character interactions feels incredibly organic and natural. Because you’re given dedicated response buttons, you’re free to move around, play with your portable radio and interact with various objects – all while in the middle of conversations with other characters. Even cooler is that you’re able to interrupt conversations in various ways, which the game will happily go along with and respond to you before using clever scripting to get the chat back on track. Because of this, Oxenfree is able to keep the flow and pacing of its in-game dialogue consistent with that of an everyday chat – a far different approach compared to the current, stilted norm of sticking the player in one spot as the camera flicks back and forth between characters when it’s their turn to talk.

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That doesn’t mean that Oxenfree is perfect of course. The dialogue isn’t always consistent when you want to respond to or interrupt a conversation. Every now and then you’ll have moments when you’ll simply want to reply to a question, only to suddenly butt in while you were waiting for another character to finish talking. Alternatively, you’ll also have moments when you want to butt into a conversation, only to have your character politely wait for everyone to finish talking before interjecting. And while the game ends on a creepy, yet brilliant twist which begs you to start over from the beginning again, the best possible ending you can get requires you to play the game over three times total. While it seems like an interesting storytelling decision at first, it will quickly feel like a chore when you realise you’re playing through the same, long story again with nothing new or interesting to do gameplay-wise. And even though each playthrough differs slightly from the last, these moments are just too few and far between to keep you interested.

While I can’t deny that it was certainly an ambitious way of telling a really interesting horror/sci-fi story, I’m not sure it was wise to make me play through the same story for up to twelve hours just to get the most out of it.

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Final Score: 3.5/5

Final Recommendation: Wait for a sale. While the first playthrough is fantastic, the other two will be a chore to get through.

  1. Bravely Second

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Well this one was a huge pile of disappointment. I still keep a place in my heart for the first Bravely Default after offering us something Square Enix had been failing to produce for the previous four years: a competent and enjoyable JRPG. Bravely Default was a fantastic throwback to an era of JRPGs when magic needed to be bought from shops and saving the world meant beating a god over the head with mundane weaponry. When I found out there was going to be a sequel, I was ecstatic to be able to go on another grand quest full of changing combat jobs and fashionable clothes accordingly. Instead I got almost the exact same game all over again, in one of the worst ways possible.

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Besides the rather poorly written storyline and cookie-clicker inspired minigame, any changes that were made upon the first game’s groundwork were either too small to immediately notice or practically non-existent. Practically every cast member from the first game returns, with only a small handful of new faces making up the antagonists of the story. Besides a few new areas, the world map and dungeon maps are exactly the same as the first game’s. Even worse is that the challenge of the original game is completely gone. So much so that I was able to beat the last half of the game using the same early-game job classes, as well as using the exact same techniques with almost no need to change up my tactics in the slightest.

Ultimately, this all made Bravely Second feel like an overpriced story DLC for a three-year-old game that ends up being less impressive and satisfying than its predecessor. Sadly, not the successor to the JRPG king crown like I had hope it would be.

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Final Score: 2.5/5

Final Recommendation: Wait for a sale. While there’s definitely something for fans to enjoy, newcomers will be better off buying Bravely Default first.

  1. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

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Let’s be honest, we all knew that Uncharted 4 was going to be pretty good, giving newcomers a fun adventure and long-time fans of the series an emotional ending to an awesome series of games. If you knew the typical Uncharted game formula, then you knew exactly what to expect: fun platforming, exciting gunplay, clever little puzzles and beautiful set pieces that show off just what the PS4’s current gen hardware can do. I just wish they could have figured out a more interesting way to reach high-up platforms than “go find a box with wheels”.

What was surprising this time around, however, was a larger focus on storytelling, delivering a well-written story and fantastic voice-acting performances that portray believable connections between the characters that fans have grown to know and love. I still think the moments you get to see with Nate and girlfriend-turned-wife Elena are some of the funniest and emotional of the whole series, letting you see their relationship at its highest and lowest points throughout the story.

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I think the only thing that Uncharted 4 has going against it is its own gameplay formula. Don’t get me wrong, it’s proven to be an excellent formula that’s brought the series its current acclaim, but it’s also the same one we’ve had for the last five games, if you include the PS Vita entry. So much in fact that I was more surprised when a pipe I was climbing didn’t break before I reached the top of it. Sure, there’s a new inclusion of a grappling hook for platforming and the inclusion of stealth to replace a majority of the gunplay, but they both aren’t implemented as well as they could be. The grappling hook is primarily used as a way to cross large gaps between platforms and very little else. And unless you’re playing on the hardest difficulty, the stealth is so forgiving that enemies will see nothing strange about a one-hundred and eighty-pound man jumping right over their head

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Nonetheless, Uncharted 4 was the perfect send off to a series that has been very dear to me and I’m definitely going to miss it. Well, at least until the recently announced story DLC and obvious prequels come out anyway.

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Final Score: 4.5/5

Final Recommendation: Pick it up! It’s the perfect ending for fans and the perfect incentive for newcomers to pick up the HD Collection.

Writer: Tristan Venables
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