With 2016 now drawing to a close, we at Power Up Gaming have had time to reflect on what has, in many ways, been a turbulent year. Mirroring real-world events, the gaming industry has been full of stunning highlights, more than a few low points (more on those in a future article), and even a few shocks that came out of left field to defy all of our expectations.
After days of consideration, negotiation, and the odd spot of bickering, the staff here at Power Up Gaming have now agreed on the worthy recipients of our third annual game of the year awards.
Unlike previous years, in which individual staff members contributed their own game of the year in a series of opinion pieces, we have been voting – via a two-round, secret ballot – to decide the winners on a consensus basis.
Without further adieu, we see you into the new year with the 2016 Power Up Gaming Game of the Year Awards.
Game of the Year 2016 – Overwatch
What we said: Whether you’re new to the genre or a seasoned veteran, Overwatch provides a well-designed shooter that’s easy to get into and difficult to put down. Just about every individual component stands on its own, but as a package, the game is arguably the best online-FPS on the market.
While at first glance you might have been forgiven for thinking Blizzard’s highly anticipated entry into the crowded first-person shooter space was relatively shallow – with only a handful of game modes available at launch – you’d nevertheless be wrong.
The studio’s ability to create a team-based shooter so accessible that it’s been both beloved by the masses and taken in by the hardcore crowd that is esports players is nothing short of remarkable.
Overwatch’s movement feels weighted and perfectly conjoined to the environment and character animations. The shooting feels precise and tight and weapons control as you would imagine based on their aesthetics and attributes.
Each class of the game’s heroes brings its own advantages and disadvantages to the table in a meaningful way. Effective teamwork and composition isn’t only emphasised: it’s absolutely required in order for you to succeed, and makes victory ever the more rewarding.
Blizzard’s unparalleled post-launch support and ongoing development of new modes, seasonal events and intriguing (if not sometimes misguided) methods of introducing additional heroes to the title has been a refreshing change of tack in a market dominated by cash-hungry – and generally paint-by-numbers – annual franchises.
Overwatch includes the hilarity and unconventionality of some of the off-beat first-person shooters of yesteryear, harking back to the days of fun-filled mayhem that we saw in the likes of TimeSplitters and Perfect Dark, while including a richness of fully fleshed-out characters and strategic gameplay as developed as any we’ve seen in 2016.
Seven months on from its release on consoles and PC, Overwatch is as popular as ever and shows no signs of slowing down.
Game of the Year 2016 Runner-Ups
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
What we said: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a masterpiece, plain and simple. Naughty Dog’s knack for storytelling and character, world-building and evolving systems is once again unrivalled. Saying goodbye to Nathan Drake and his band of merry pirates is no meagre feat, however, as emotionally resonant moments and maturity hold up his final tale with equal measures of danger and poignancy. While it may be the end, this journey and its lasting effects will live on, forever in our minds and hearts.
Instead of an action-driven, Indiana Jones-esque quest for fortune and glory, Uncharted 4 is a meaningful narrative about family and betrayal – and the shift in the series’ tone is phenomenal. The game plays better than any of its predecessors, and its conclusion leaves you wanting so much more in the best possible way. It doesn’t lack for action, and the sequences in Madagascar are some of the best in recent memory. But above all, Uncharted’s brilliant cast of real and believable characters make it a game worth coming back to again and again.
Final Fantasy XV
What we said: Final Fantasy XV may have changed many franchise staples, but it keeps the charming characters and bonds they create intact. And if there’s something Final Fantasy can’t afford to lose, as it takes a step toward the future, it’s most definitely the heart and soul of the characters it brings to life.
Noctis, Prompto, Gladiolus and Ignis prove that point as they steal the show on their road trip, and are the biggest reason to invest time and money into this experience.
Every time a new Final Fantasy drops, millions of faces young and old are at the edge of their seat watching. Many times the fans get a familiar experience with a few changes and they fall in love with the characters, soundtrack and storyline alike. This time Square Enix flipped the script.
Instead of a few changes, we received a game that had the soul of an FF adventure, but not all of the same aspects that we’ve come to expect. Real-time combat, only being able to level up after resting and having a (nearly) static, four-man team were some of the big changes that freshened up the familiar experience. While not every change was perfectly executed, the game as a whole delivered the full experience wrapped in a different package and left us deeply attached to the characters we had the pleasure of going on a road trip with. What more does a Final Fantasy need to do? It’s safe to say fans will be eagerly coming back for more with the upcoming DLC.
The Last Guardian
What we said: If The Last Guardian is anything, it’s far more than the sum of its parts. It’s an incredibly moving novel told with the worst grammar imaginable. It’s the coolest jacket you’ve ever worn that doesn’t keep you warm. It’s a pair of elegant glasses that don’t improve your eyesight. It’s a master of form but a student of function.
Most importantly, it goes without saying that this game is rough. It will annoy you with technical issues from the second you pick up the controller to the moment you put it back down. But despite this, it’s a major accomplishment in storytelling, environment crafting and soundtrack curation all the same.
Even though it wasn’t able to keep up with the technical advancements the industry has seen since it began development nearly a decade ago, The Last Guardian retains all of the timeless, emotion-rich narrative that only a handful of developers have been able to achieve in the whole of gaming’s history. Ueda and company have been compared to filmmaking legends Studio Ghibli, and The Last Gurdian does nothing to revoke that honorary title. That’s impressive considering how far the game falls when it comes to camera and controls.
If it didn’t have these few glaring problems, there’s not telling how the game would come to be remembered. Either way, it’s safe to say this game will be remembered and has made its mark among its brethren Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.
Game of the Year 2016 Nominated
What we said: Titanfall 2’s campaign is a culinary delight, a main dish that was tasted, scrapped, and prepared again and again until Respawn crafted something that it could be proud of. The same could largely be said for the return of multiplayer. While setbacks such as a constrictive progression system is a disappointing follow-up from the first game, Titanfall 2’s multiplayer overcomes this hurtle with new mechanics, perfected design, and an overall spectacular online experience.
What we said: Dishonored 2 is a masterwork of intricacy and detail. Its locations are frequented by depth, horror and intrigue; its characters and story are just as well-crafted. The world of Karnaca may be merciless and dark but, amongst the flies and rot and filth, it is a city that never ceases to amaze.
Do you agree with our selection? Think we’ve got it drastically wrong? Sound off in the comments below, or hit us up on Twitter, @PowerUpGamingUK.