The game that took up 100+ hours of my time in 2016 was Star Wars Battlefront. The game only really becomes truly satisfying if you buy a season pass and are able to download all the expansion packs – the outer rim, Bespin, Death Star and more recently Rogue One: Scarif. Without the DLC the game feels incomplete and lacking in variety.
It’s also important to take up the Hutt Contracts as soon as possible to give some focus to your gaming beyond achieving the objectives of the round and shooting anything that moves. By fulfilling the requirements of these contracts you earn useful additional traits, gadgets and weaponry. All these augmentations that you carry as cards into the battles are well balanced so no individual player has too great an advantage, but can match their cards to their style of play. The sneakers, snipers and berserkers among us all have the opportunity for maximum fun.
And the big thing for me with this game and why I have stuck at it so long and will keep at it until I reach the magic level 100, is that it is fun. There is very little of the anger you see reflected in similar games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield, and the emotes help to lighten the mood. I still haven’t tired of pretending to have a lightsaber whenever Vader or Luke Skywalker are on a map and the attention to detail in terms of showcasing the Star Wars universe is excellent.
The numerous pickups within the game, especially the hero pick ups, also add a good element of gameplay. I could ramble on indefinitely about this but I’ll stop myself by just tempering my enthusiasm with a note of disgruntlement about the lack of a proper single player story mode and about EA being buggers when it comes to making people pay for additional content.
The companion app for the iPhone is the only thing that is free and adds a turn based strategy game into the mix to earn you credits in Battlefront. It also helps to be able to track your progress with the Hutt contracts on the app while you are playing a round on the PS4. Also to be fair to EA there have had several bonus points weekends which have helped me to get to level 89 a lot quicker than I expected.
2016 was also a good year for television – especially on Netflix and Amazon. Stranger Things and Westworld were outstanding, and Game of Thrones continued to deliver. Stranger Things could have been a misfiring mishmash of ET and Stephen King but instead hit all the right nostalgic notes and delivered an engaging and well acted story. Winona Ryder was perhaps a disappointing weak spot but it was great to see her take on a challenging role with so much gusto. The kids were the real stars and I look forward to more Things in the future.
Westworld was up against series two of Humans in terms of sentient robot stories and blew the Channel 4 production out of the park. While Humans was tiresome and took a whole series to arrive at the same point they seemed to start at, Westworld was tricky, mysterious, challenging and intriguing from the get-go. Sure it was a little slow at times, but overall it was a really satisfying watch and it was great to see the writers take a whole new approach with the world in comparison to the classic film. Telling the story from the point of view of the robots and then playing with the timelines was genius.
Game of Thrones continued to delight. The characters moved away from and beyond the storylines laid out in the books and the revelation of the derivation of Hodor’s name was a memorable highlight along with the battle sequences in the later episodes.
Also worth mentioning I think was Mr Robot Season 2 which managed to fool plenty of people with the same gag as last season. It continues to be enjoyable but I felt it dragged a little in comparison to the truly awesome Season 1. I also started watching Season 2 of The Man In The High Castle and I am hoping they fix the pacing issues that hampered Season 1. They have surpassed the story laid out by Philip K Dick and I want them to get beyond what is in danger of becoming a Nazi soap opera.
On Amazon and then DVD, Siggy and I also watched all of Mad Men which was solidly entertaining but for me lacked any real purpose. We’re also gradually watching Preacher which is different that’s for sure. I also watched all the boxed sets of The Wire which was simply some of the best television I have ever seen.
On Amazon I also watched Vikings, Hap and Leonard (because it starred Michael Kenneth Williams from The Wire), and The Grand Tour because I was a Top Gear fan (despite not being all that into cars) before the BBC ruined it and we are also getting into Parks and Recreation although it seems to owe a lot to The Office. There seemed to be more interesting films on Amazon than Netflix, but both ‘channels’ had equal amounts of original content and tv shows. I certainly got my money’s worth from my various subscriptions.
On Netflix Orange Is The New Black was still pretty good (is it Season 4 now?) but may be in danger of dragging on too long if they don’t up the ante like they did with Breaking Bad. Better Call Saul, the Breaking Bad prequel spin off show, was in to its second season and while being markedly different to the original show continued to entertain. Also on Netflix American Horror Story is a bit hit and miss both in terms of story and acting but remains quite fun. Flaked was also an interesting short series based in a recovering alcoholic slacker’s LA and starring Will Arnett, The Detectorists was a laid back British comedy we stumbled across, and both the animated Bojack Horseman and bizarre Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt continued to provide quirky laughs. I also enjoyed season two of the anime Knights of Sidonia, Sword Art Online and the ridiculous spoof action series Danger 5.
On ‘normal’ television we ditched watching The X Factor (because it seemed so obviously fixed last year) in favour of Strictly Come Dancing. I enjoyed it more than I expected to and apart from Tess Daly, thought the presenters/judges seemed a lot more genuine than on the The X Factor. Dr Who didn’t run in 2016 and was sadly missed, but the Christmas Special was pretty good.
I thought The Night Manager was a great one off spy drama on the BBC, but HBO content on Sky aside, generally Channel 4 and E4 were our main ports of call for the likes of Gogglebox, First Dates, Secret Life of the Zoo, Eight Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown, and Tattoo Fixers. We don’t tend to watch many drama series on ‘normal tv’ and like I said Humans was pretty disappointing.
That said, I think it certainly was a good year for television. And finally if you didn’t see Planet Earth II then I recommend that you watch it now on iPlayer.