On our final day of Game of the Year deliberations, we came to some of the biggest conclusions of 2016. Who's the best at protecting the payload? What story grabbed us more than any other? Most importantly, what is the worst and the best game of the year? Find out below.
There are a lot of great Overwatch characters, sure. Some have their funny little magic tricks, some are oh-so-angsty-and-scary, and some like to sit in one spot and just shoot at things. There’s only one character, though, that is there to move you to the point, capture it, and let you forever hold it. That character is Reinhardt. Watch as Soldier 76s and McCrees literally lay down and die as they see it relentlessly marching across the map, an army in tow. Conversely, as you approach the objective and see an opposing Reinhardt you know it’s time to rethink that head-on assault. Rip-tire? No problem for a well-aimed Fire Strike. Exploding D.Va? Let’s just Charge and push her away from all our little friends. High noon? Big shield. I could on and on, except about Earthshatter, that one… well, the man needs to have some limits to his greatness... I suppose. Do your friends a favor, learn and play Bastion… so I can destroy you with Reinhardt.
Naughty Dog has shown that it's more than capable of penning a great video game story, most notably in The Last of Us. During the Uncharted series, their work has been impressive in terms of dialogue, but most of the characters and overall story beats felt like typical adventure fare. With Uncharted 4, the studio finally made these characters feel like human beings, more often during low-key moments than during bombastic action sequences.
Twitter may have loved the Crash Bandicoot bonus during the chapter with Nathan and Elena at home, but the dynamic between the now-married couple does more of a service toward the game as a whole. They discuss Nathan's "retirement" in believable terms, with the excellent facial capture helping to sell Elena's desire to keep her husband out of harm's way.
Human moments like this are found throughout A Thief's End. From Nathan's reunion to his brother, to the betrayal Elena feels when she discovers that Nathan has lied to her, to the fitting epilogue, it's the well-told story that feels newer to the series than any gameplay mechanic or setpiece moment. Sure, there's also the story of a sniveling antagonist and a pirate treasure, but for the first time, the story of Nathan and those close to him was the real standout of an Uncharted game.
The subjects of Soviet Monsters: Ekranoplans are undeniably cool: gigantic, real-world quasi-hovercraft that look like what Hideo Kojima would make with Kerbal Space Program. Too bad everything about the game is as drab as a Stalingrad apartment complex and about as functional as a Trabi. You can pick from a long list of ammo types and crew members to take with you on your missions, but good luck determining if any of that makes a difference. There are 27 missions in the game, but unless you’re a part of some secret Soviet telepathy program, you’ll have no idea what to do. Oh, is the “Ground Effect” light in your cockpit illuminated? The entire concept this game hinges on? Press it. See if anything happens. No? Exactly. This game has more bugs than Siberia in summer. I’d rather stand in a breadline.
You'd have been forgiven if you weren't over the moon at the initial announcement of a new Hitman game. 2012's Hitman: Absolution seemed to forget what made the series fun to begin with, opting for a more straightforward experience instead of the possibility-filled sandboxes of previous entries. Fans were already worried that the series was heading in the wrong direction, and even more eyebrows were raised when IO Interactive delayed the new game and announced at the last minute that it would be switching to an episodic structure. Signs of development turmoil were starting to pop up, and an already skeptical fan base began to temper their expectations.
Little did we know that the new Hitman would be one of the best entries yet (if not the best), and that its episodic nature would work wonders. New locations were released on a regular basis, and we found ourselves coming back each time we had a new playground to explore and cause chaos in. Elusive targets became can't-miss opportunities -- we had to try our hand at these limited time contracts whenever they appeared. If the full game had been released all at once, we may have burnt out on these tense, detailed, open-ended maps if we played them end-to-end. With the new business model, Hitman stayed at the forefront of our minds for the entirety of 2016.
A good business model doesn't mean much if we didn't have fun playing the game. Thankfully, Hitman excels in all of the areas that the series has done right in the past. Everything just feels better this time, as well. Its controls and mechanics aren't perfect and missions sometimes involve the occasional bug, but it's a smoother experience overall than its ever been before. Possibilities seem endless thanks to the wide variety of outfits and implements of assassination. The amount of trouble you can get into is truly impressive, as is the way the game allows you to miraculously slip away from it all if you play your cards right.
2016 was filled with huge debuts, finales, and resurrections, but the surprise success of Hitman had us talking, sweating, cursing, and laughing more than any other game this year.