Most Pleasant Surprise of the Year
For me, Inside was an experience that I’ll remember for years and up until release, I had zero expectations and very little knowledge of the game. Haunting and mesmerizing, Inside is a master class in focused video game design and direction. I can’t wait to see what Playdead comes up with next.
Most Beautiful Game of the Year
One of the biggest and most anticipated games of the year, Uncharted 4 did not disappoint when it came to scenic environments and gorgeous backdrops. While I could likely mention tens of different times I was in awe while playing, entering the city of Libertalia was simply stunning and one of my favorite parts of any Uncharted game. I expect nothing less from Naughty Dog.
Honorable Mention : Forza Horizon 3
Even beyond capturing the actual Australian sky using time lapse cameras, Forza Horizon 3 is a work of art. The cars and environments are presented in stunning detail at a silky smooth framerate no matter the amount of action occurring on-screen. This is escalated even further when playing the Windows 10 version in 4K with HDR. Some of the photo captures from the drone mode can be mistaken for photographs. Playground Games deserves a lot of praise for Horizon 3.
Most Impressive Sound Direction
Battlefield games have generally had very impressive sound direction, and Battlefield 1 is thankfully no different. With The Great War as the backdrop and more ways to customize the experience, the sound design is more impressive than ever. From soldiers yelling and screaming in their native tongues, bullets whizzing by your head, tank and artillery shells booming through the air, explosions causing buildings to collapse all around you, fighter planes and bombers buzzing by, and tanks crushing rubble beneath their tracks as they roll by, it makes for one hell of an experience. As someone who appreciates sound design in games, I simply have to tip my hat to the masters at DICE.
Game I Most Regret Missing To Date
I’ve heard nothing but great things about The Witness. Sadly the timing just hasn’t been there and I hope to get to it sometime in 2017.
Most Overrated Game (Tie)
Alright, put the pitch forks down for a second and let’s have a reasonable discussion. Overwatch is very fun game with excellent character designs, polished mechanics, and charming art direction. It also does a very good job at being accessible while still retaining a competitive core ; something that’s difficult to achieve for developers. Right, with that said, it was also a $60 game on consoles with a staggering lack of overall content. What other developer besides Blizzard could launch a game with no campaign, no player nor character progression, three game modes that lack variety, and loot boxes that can be bought with real money without receiving criticism on a broad scale? What’s that? Post launch content is free? Excellent, just as it is for Gears of War 4, Titanfall 2, and Halo 5……all games with substantially more content than Overwatch for $60.
I’m not even sure where to start with this one. Not even truly a game and lacking any serious content beyond collecting Pokemon in a tremendously simplistic way, the way Pokemon Go took the world by storm was staggering. It was a fascinating and memorable social experiment. But a good game it is not.
Personal Favorite Game of the Year
For a lot of gamers my age, Doom is something special. It’s been nearly 25 years and I can still vividly remember seeing Doom for the first time. This year’s revival of the iconic franchise (a monumental task in itself) was brilliant and playing through the campaign brought me utter joy. The speed, level design, soundtrack, and carnage were incredibly refreshing in the crowded FPS space and everything I wanted from a reboot of Doom. Thank you Bethesda Game Studios.
Honorable Mention : Gears of War 4
One of my favorite franchises was revived this year and thankfully, it was revived properly. The Coalition did a wonderful job at bringing new life to Gears of War while retaining nearly everything fans loved about the series. The campaign setup a new story while introducing amiable new characters in J.D., Kait, Del, and Oscar. Horde mode is as addictive as ever and playing Gears multiplayer on servers at 60fps (with PC crossplay now!) is amazing. The best part? It’s only going to get better from here.
2016 was one of my favorite years in gaming and possibly the best overall year since 2007. The market has grown in such a way that near endless games are at your fingertips at any time. While this has caused a lot of conversations around “backlogs”, I prefer to think of it as a good thing in that there’s always something new to play from any genre and more gamers and developers are coming together than ever before. Let’s hope 2017 is even better.