Today, another year draws to a close. 2016 has been many things to many people, but most anyone would tell you that it’s been a great year for games. Every year at this time, we set aside a little time to recognize those games that we feel were a cut above the rest in the preceding 12 months. Of course, there can be only one Game of the Year, so we offer up a few categories to let the best games of each be recognized.

These are our choices for The Escapist‘s 2016 Video Game Awards. Check out our picks, then hop in the forums and tell us what your picks are!

To see which games our editors each loved, check out our Five Favorites from last week for Josh, Ron, Liz, and Steven.


Table of Contents

  • Page 1
    • Best RPG
    • Best Indie
    • Best Shooter, Single Player
  • Page 2
    • Best Shooter, Multiplayer
    • Best Strategy
    • Best Action/Adventure
  • Page 3
    • Best Expansion/DLC
    • Best VR Game
    • Best VR Experience
  • Page 4
    • Best Surprise
    • Worst Surprise


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Best RPG Winner

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided


Developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix. Released on August 23, 2016. Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.


Ron says: Announced to great fanfare in August of last year, the newest installment in the Deus Ex series is Mankind Divided. It was advertised with the tagline “mechanical apartheid,” which raised some eyebrows, but ended up being a fitting description of the human / aug segregation in the game. Ever since the so-called “Aug incident,” those people who are augmented have been both shunned and feared.

Adam Jensen is back, only instead of working as a corporate security guard, he’s now part of an Interpol anti-terrorist team. Oh, and he’s also working on the side for an anti-Illuminati group, if you can believe that.) He’s still a walking sack of augments, and you even discover that you have more installed than you thought, allowing you the pleasure of upgrading yourself all over again in this game.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided offers much of the same things that Human Revolution did. You can choose how you want to advance, be it violently, diplomatically, or stealthily. In fact, the entire game excels at choice. You’ll find that characters will see you differently based on what quests you’ve completed, and how you chose to complete them. You’ll also see the effects of your choices echoing through the game. Don’t be surprised when you decide to try out a second playthrough, just to see how you can have things turn out differently.

If you’re looking for a game that takes on mature themes, while emphasizing the choices you make, you really cannot go wrong with Mankind Divided. It’s a must-play for fans of shooters, RPGs, stealth games, and games with great stories. Just go play it already.

Best RPG Runner-Up

Dark Souls 3


Developed by From Software and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. Released on March 24, 2016. Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.


Liz says: Dark Souls III is the most linear Souls title, a fact that left many franchise purists disappointed. But that fact pales in comparison to what the game actually does right – which is nearly everything else. In fact, there are a few ways in which Dark Souls III surpasses the original – not the least of which being more a versatile and extensive range of weapons, spells, character builds, and more. And, despite how linear the game is when compared to its predecessors, each area is teeming with labyrinths of interconnected paths that allow for exploration and discovery.

The game also feels more cohesive that earlier installments while still feeling familiar, with an epic scale, aggressively brutal difficulty, and a generous development of the franchise’s existing lore. It’s fierce, dignified, grand, and meaningful, with both physical and character progression feeling satisfying and justifiably earned. Exploration is exciting, choices are meaningful, consequences are permanent, and death is frequent – making the taste of completion all the sweeter.

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Best Indie Winner

Darkest Dungeon


Developed and Published by Red Hook Studios. Released on January 19, 2016. Available on PC, PS4, and PS Vita.


Ron says: You might be a bit surprised to see Darkest Dungeon here, since it’s been on Early Access since February of 2015, but it didn’t get its full Steam Release until January of 2016 (the PS4/Vita version followed in September). If you’ve played or followed the game at all, you know how it works. You’ve inherited your ancestral estate, beneath which your most recent ancestor has delved so deeply that he’s opened a portal to a much darker world. How dark? Well, the fact that this world is narrated by H.P. Lovecraft veteran Wayne June should be enough to give you an idea what to expect.

You’re tasked with rooting these creatures out and cleansing the lands of the evil that was awoken. To accomplish this, you’ll need to recruit brave heroes to adventure into the dark places where dangers unimaginable await. As they brave the dark dungeons, they’ll have to survive monsters, traps, and a number of other hazards. That’s bad enough, but they’ll also have to deal with the stress that facing such dark things will inevitably cause. You’ll need to manage their sanity, and enemy critical hits and special attacks will also add to the unease. If a hero’s stress is high enough, their resolve will be tested, and they’ll wind up succumbing and receiving a negative trait, or triumphing over the stress with a positive trait. Many times, the outcome of these trials can have a serious effect on the success of the mission.

Many times, your heroes may not return from their adventures. You can recruit new adventurers to take their place, but you’ll need to re-equip and re-train them, which is often a costly process. You’ll find yourself managing the provisions each party uses, the trailing they receive, and the upgrades to your town, all while trying to keep yourself financially solvent. To make matters worse, Darkest Dungeon auto-saves almost constantly, meaning that pretty much every decision you make and every death you face permanent. You can’t re-load and try again – you just have to live with the consequences. That means that deciding how much food an expedition will pack isn’t trivial – it, just like every choice, really matters.

Darkest Dungeon excels at giving choices real weight, and making the right ones can be the difference between progressing or foundering. You, and only you,will decide which heroes to take, what provisions and trinkets they will get, and ultimately whether they press on in the face of certain doom. As you make these choices, you’ll find that the hardest thing to do is to stop playing.

Best Indie Runner-Up

SUPERHOT


Developed and published by Superhot Team. Released on February 25, 2016. Available on PC, Xbox One.


Liz says: Superhot is the product of a 7-Day FPS game jam that was so successful, the team turned to Kickstarter in order to raise the funds needed to expand it into a full gaming experience. The entire game was built around a single clever idea – time-manipulation. When you move, everything else moves as a regular-speed bullet hell of moving parts. When you stop, time slows to a crawl, effectively adding a strategic element to the title.

The clever time manipulation is complimented by an environment that is uniform in color, appearing as sterilized as a horror-movie hospital, faceless, glowing red enemies shatter when dead, and the knowledge that the game is one shot to kill or be killed, all weapons have limited ammo, and picking something up to throw it could either guarantee you a win or give your foe the opportunity to move three feet towards you.

The time mechanic also allows for some badass action movie-style moments. You can smack the gun out of one enemy’s hand, dodge bullets from three more, freeze as a bullet comes toward you, line your crosshair up with the bullet, and fire a shot to block their bullet with your own. Bad. Ass.

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Best Shooter, Single Player Winner

DOOM


Developed by id Software and published by Bethesda. Released on May 13, 2016. Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.


Steven says: When Bethesda said that early review copies of Doom weren’t going to be sent out, my expectations for it dropped dramatically. Doom was already remake no-one wanted, especially after the dark, gritty, monster-closet simulator that was Doom 3. When you couple this with the game’s lackluster multiplayer beta, interest was at an all time low.

Then, I actually played the game, and wanted to slap the crap out of the Bethesda PR dude who thought it was a good idea to withhold review copies. Doom was everything a Doom fan wanted. You collect a shitload of guns, mow down a shitload of demons, and run through levels as fast as you can without giving a fuck about anything. Bethesda finally got it right, returning us to the ultra-fast paced, power-metal, slaughter-fests that embodied 90s shooters.

Doom isn’t perfect. Its multiplayer, to be frank, sucks ass, and the collectibles system feels tacked on, and serves only to slow down gameplay. But that’s ok, because Doom does so much right I can forgive the few things it does wrong. If all Doom does is manage inspire the next wave of shooters to copy its style, then I’m perfectly OK with that. I can’t wait to see what Bethesda will do with Quake.

Best Shooter, Single Player Runner-Up

Gears of War 4


Developed by The Coalition and published by Microsoft Studios. Released on October 11, 2016. Available on PC and Xbox One.


Steven says: I wasn’t expecting much from Gears of War 4. I assumed I was going to chainsaw-gun people in half, hide behind lots of chest-high walls, and listen to the “witty banter” of big burly soldier men. While this is a pretty accurate description of GoW 4, what surprised me was how much fun I had doing it all. Yeah, it’s basically the same as every other Gears game before it, but there is just something so immensely satisfying about the Gears of War formula. I actually found myself engrossed in the game’s story by the end of it, and being a little disappointed that it was all over.

What also surprised me about Gears of War 4 is how much it sold me on Microsoft’s “Play Anywhere” initiative – which allows gamers to purchase a game on either Xbox One or Windows 10 and be able to play it on either platform seamlessly. Gears of War 4 ran so silky smooth on my PC, you would have been mistaken in thinking the Xbox One version was the port. Especially after having a bunch of trouble with other games on my rig (*cough* Dishonored 2 *cough*) it was a very pleasant surprise to not have any issues with Gears of War 4 throughout my entire playthrough.

If every Play Anywhere title is going to have the level of polish that Gears of War 4 had, then it almost justifies having to use Window’s shitty UWP app system…


Table of Contents

  • Page 1
    • Best RPG
    • Best Indie
    • Best Shooter, Single Player
  • Page 2
    • Best Shooter, Multiplayer
    • Best Strategy
    • Best Action/Adventure
  • Page 3
    • Best Expansion/DLC
    • Best VR Game
    • Best VR Experience
  • Page 4
    • Best Surprise
    • Worst Surprise


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Best Shooter, Multiplayer Winner

Overwatch


Developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment. Released on May 24, 2016. Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One.


Liz says: Blizzard’s first new IP in seventeen years was built on the ashes of a failed MMO, which easily could have resulted in a failed attempt to salvage the unsalvageable. Instead, Blizzard delivered an intelligent, often addictive multiplayer shooter that isn’t weighed down by the fills of a campaign.

The levels are static, and characters have no upgrades outside of the cosmetic, leading to a truly tactical gaming experience. The game forces you to learn each character. When you see your opponent, you know precisely what their strengths, weaknesses, and individual dangers are – and with the ability to easily swap your hero for another in your team’s spawn room, you can adjust your strategy to combat each threat. But the game’s greatest strength as a shooter is its emphasis on real teamwork. Your team’s composition is as important as your own character choice, demanding a healthy balance based on who your opponents have selected and the mission you are tasked with for each map.

Overwatch has become a total powerhouse in the gaming community, making it easy to forget that it’s only been out for 7 months. The focus, since its release, has always been on the actual game, with information about characters rolling out gradually via comics and videos. While playing, the only things that matter is what your character can do and whether or not you’re okay with someone on your team playing Widowmaker on attack. Overwatch is first, last, and centrally about the shooting – and that’s why it’s our Best Multiplayer Shooter of 2016.

Best Shooter, Multiplayer Runner-Up

Battlefield 1


Developed by DICE and published by EA. Released on October 21, 2016. Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.


Ron says: The Battlefield series is well-known for its multiplayer, and rightly so. Although some recent entries (looking at you, Battlefield: Hardline) have felt like they fell short, the newest game in the series has brought back the luster. In a world of shooters that are going further and further into the future, Battlefield 1 made the decision to head back into the past – all the way to World War I.

While BF1 is set in WWI, it isn’t intended to be a simulator of that war. What you will find is plenty of period weapons, vehicles, and locations. Because of the two periods of technology the war straddled, you can find yourself going from riding a horse and firing a bolt-action rifle to manning the turret of a tank in fairly short order. You can expect to see vehicles, but they aren’t as powerful as you’d expect from the more recent Battlefield games. Instead, you’ll need infantry support to make them effective, just like in BF1942.

As you’d expect from a Battlefield game, the standout game mode is the series staple, Conquest. There are also a few new game modes, the best of which is Operations. Set in varying locales across the war, Operations puts you on a team, and then tasks you to either take or hold a series of objectives, each one part of a “front line” scenario. The attackers try to push through and take the final point, while the defnders try to hold each line until a timer runs out. It’s a fast-paced experience, and one of the best to come to the series in a long time.

The new “War Pigeons” mode is also worth a look. To win, you need to find the pigeon coop on the map, pick it up, and then survive long enough to “write” the request for artillery fire. If you get it written, you can release the pigeon, which will fly away and trigger artillery on the heads of your enemies. Of course, the enemy can kill you and take the pigeon, or shoot it out of the air when you release it. It’s a variation on other game modes like VIP from Counter-Strike, or Oddball from Halo, and it a nice change-up from the modes you’re used to in Battlefield.

No matter what modes you play, prepare to be captured by BF 1 just like we all were by the early Battlefield games. “I’ll just play one more round” is something that’s being said far too often around here.

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Best Strategy Winner

Civilization VI


Developed by Firaxis. Published by 2K. Released October 20, 2016. Available on PC and Mac.


Josh says: Sid Meier is nothing short of a legend in the history of video games. His most well-known series is, of course, Civilization, an historical 4x strategy game originally released in 1991. The series has persisted through the years in no small part because of the franchise’s storied history of innovating the tried-and-true strategy formula. The last entry, a sort of spin-off, Civilization: Beyond Earth wasn’t bad, but it didn’t hit the same notes that I’ve come to appreciate with the series. October’s release of Civilization VI, however, was the most fully-featured Civ launch this century.

Civ VI saw some game-changing updates to legacy systems, like city building and planning, which add whole new layers of depth to the game. New systems, like the technology tree for civics, solidify mechanics that had previously been a bit nebulous. The whole experience is at once simpler to play and more difficult to master than any Civ to date, and it is glorious.

Best Strategy – Runner-Up

XCOM 2


Developed by Firaxis. Published by 2K. Released February 5, 2016. Available on PC and Mac.


Steven says: The original X-COM (or rather, the Firaxis remake of the original X-COM) was a downright masterpiece. It showed us that there was still very much a market for tactical turn-based strategy, and that the PC modding scene, when given complete freedom, could still do some really amazing stuff. So, X-COM 2 had some pretty big shoes to fill. Thankfully, the sequel improved upon almost every aspect of the original, delivering a game worthy of the X-COM brand.

One of the coolest things of the sequel was that rather than assuming the “good” ending from X-COM 1, it took us down “the darkest timeline,” assuming the player had failed at some point during the previous game. This means you are in command of a rag-tag in-the-shadows guerrilla warfare team, rather than a fully-fledged government backed defense force. This shift in narrative and style fits the game really well, going hand-in-hand with the gradual upgrade mechanics that are so prevalent in X-COM games.

Aside from the dreaded “pod” system (where aliens get a free turn after being revealed) and some lag in the higher-intensity levels, commanding your soldiers in X-COM 2 felt really good. It is so satisfying to set up a successful ambush conceal, or to blow up a whole cluster of bad guys with a grenade, or have your whirling blade of death Ranger clean up several aliens in one move.

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Best Action/Adventure Winner

Dishonored 2


Developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda. Released on November 11, 2016. Available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.


Ron says: In Dishonored, you saved the kidnapped daughter of the recently assassinated Empress Jessamine Kaldwin, and then returned her to the throne. In Dishonored 2, we’ve returned to the world of Dunwall, where Emily has reigned as Empress since the first game ended. In fairly short order, she finds her throne stolen by the usurper Delilah, who claims to be Jessamine’s long-lost sister. You must restore Emily to the throne again, but you can choose to do so as Corvo once again, or step into Emily’s shoes to handle the dirty work yourself.

No matter which character you choose, you’ll find an array of powers at your disposal, thanks to the presence of The Outsider. Both Corvo and Emily have their unique powers, but you’ll also find many that are similar as well. This is also true of the experience you’ll have when playing as one or the other. Largely similar, but with some noticeable differences. You’ll work your way through those who support Delilah, either by rendering them powerless of killing them outright. No matter which path you choose, how you play will affect how the game ends.

Early in the game, you’ll travel from the familiar streets of Dunwall to the new city of Karnaca. The city is a bit of a condradiction, as it’s far brighter than Dunwall, but underneath you can still find the underlying rot that characterizes the kingdom.

Graced with outstanding writing, solid gameplay, and a well-realized setting, Dishonored 2 is a worthy successor for the series. The PC performance issues that plagued the launch have been fixed, removing the only reason not to play it. It’s time to take back the throne.

Best Action / Adventure Runner-Up

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End


Developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. Released on March 10, 2016. Available on PS4.


Liz says: Nathan Drake’s final adventure could be a case study in both storytelling and game design. It’s a visually captivating game, with each environment setting an appropriate and almost painfully beautiful setting for Naughty Dog’s farewell to Drake. Set several years after the events of Uncharted 3, Drake has settled into a normal life with his wife, Elena, and is working for a salvage company, where he’s traded in globetrotting in search of historical artifacts for recovering submerged cargo trucks from the river. Drake struggles throughout the game to reconcile the life he had with the one he has, and is feeling the pull of the chase right up until his brother Samuel – long thought to be dead – appears with the proposition of tracking down the treasure of the infamous Captain Avery (a mission that his life, literally, depends on).

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a grand adventure that is simultaneously over the top and graciously restrained. It’s maturity as an Uncharted reflects the growing maturity of its protagonist, serving both as a reflection on a grandiose life and a dignified closure on it. But more than that, it was exactly what an action adventure game should be – legitimately exciting and legitimately satisfying.


Table of Contents

  • Page 1
    • Best RPG
    • Best Indie
    • Best Shooter, Single Player
  • Page 2
    • Best Shooter, Multiplayer
    • Best Strategy
    • Best Action/Adventure
  • Page 3
    • Best Expansion/DLC
    • Best VR Game
    • Best VR Experience
  • Page 4
    • Best Surprise
    • Worst Surprise


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Best Expansion / DLC Winner

The Witcher 3: Blood & Wine


Developed and published by CD Projekt Red. Released on May 31, 2016. Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One.


Liz says: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was one of the best games of 2015, taking home the majority of awards it was nominated for. The game’s final expansion, and the end of ashen-haired badass Geralt’s story, came in the form of Blood and Wine, and while it maintained much of the narrative mastery that has become synonymous with the Witcher franchise, it also left behind the impending doom that has frequently overshadowed some of the game’s quirkier moments.

Blood and Wine takes players to the new, vibrant land of Toussaint, with Geralt hunting a magical beast, which ends up being a vampire, and obtaining his own private vineyard. Blood and Wine, get it? One of the highlights of the adventure is the self-awareness that Geralt shows on his journey, never oblivious to the ridiculousness that is his life. Without the dramatic, epic overarching story, players are free to fall in love with Toussaint, its inhabitants, and even Geralt for what they really are.

CD Projekt Red easily could have packaged The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine as a standalone game, thrown the title The Witcher 4 on it, and every fan of the franchise not only would have probably bought it, but also likely would have walked away satisfied. In terms of sheer value, the choice for Best Expansion was almost no contest.

Best Expansion / DLC Runner-Up

Hearthstone: Mean Streets of Gadgetzan


Developed and published by Blizzard. Released on December 1, 2016. Available on PC, Android, and iOS.


Steven says: Let’s be completely honest, One Night at Karazhan blew chunks. Big steamy chunks. The Hearthstone expansion, released earlier in 2016, featured lackluster legendaries, a boring campaign, and disappointed a lot of fans. The only thing of note it did was knock The Grand Tournament off of the “Worst Hearthstone Expansion” pedestal. Thankfully Blizzard managed to squeeze out a second expansion, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, right near the end of the year that more than made up for Karazhan.

Mean Streets of Gadgetzan brought back the magic that Whispers of The Old Gods introduced to the game, by having three distinct factions, lots of new features, and plenty of cool, interesting legendary cards like Kazakus, Hobart Grapplehammer, and Wickerflame Burnbristle. “Reno decks” (decks that only contain one of every card) became a full archetype for Mages, Priests and Warlocks, Jade Golem decks were created for Shaman and Druids, and Warriors, Paladins and Hunters got the new hand buff mechanic. Rogues got fucked, but I mean, it had to be someone other than priest this time.

The only real negative thing I can attribute to this expansion is the prolific rise of Pirate Warrior, on the back of Patches the Pirate and Small-Time Buccaneer. It’s seriously one of the stupidest, mindless decks in the game, and the biggest plague to the game since the dreaded Undertaker Hunter. And yes, I am pretty salty. Thanks for asking.

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Best VR Game Winner

SUPERHOT


Developed and published by Superhot Team. Released on February 25, 2016. Available on PC, Xbox One.


Josh says: VR gaming will be an important component of how much success VR eventually sees, but the couple dozen games I’ve played so far demonstrate just how far we are from that being in any way viable as a growth model. VR games are, for the most part, carbon copies of a couple simple formula, much like we saw a few years back with the garbage heap of Flappy Bird clones and the like. That makes games like SUPERHOT particularly conspicuous.

When I played SUPERHOT on PC last year, I already thought it was a phenomenal concept that was brilliantly executed. If I’m honest, the conversion to VR didn’t even occur to me, even though it is the most natural fit. With the limitations of early VR technology, I was shocked to discover that SUPERHOT in VR is actually a vastly superior experience. It leverages the base formula of the stationary shooters prevalent in VR, while adding its own unique twist with the “time only moves when you do” mechanic. Without question, SUPERHOT is the must-play-est VR title.

Best VR Game Runner-Up

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes


Developed and published by Steel Crate Games. Released on October 13, 2016. Available on PC, PS4 (PS VR), and Android.


Liz says: Virtual Reality is still a technology in its infancy, with one of the greatest hurdles for it to clear being the way in which it isolates players from their surroundings. One specific game, however, jumped this hurdle with ease, creating an awesome, intense virtual gaming experience that requires team cooperation in order to be successful – Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.

In Keep Talking, one player assumes the role of the bomb defuser, wearing the VR headset and trying to describe the layout of the bomb in front of them. The rest of the team flips through a 23-page downloadable manual in order to talk the bomb defuser through the process and detail the appropriate way to solve the individual puzzles before the timer runs out and, well, everybody explodes.

It’s a bizarre, intense, and satisfyingly nerve wracking experience that overcame the challenge of virtual reality in a way that brings people together – one of gaming’s most historically important achievements.

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Best VR Experience Winner

Universe Sandbox 2


Developed and published by Giant Army. Released on August 24, 2016. Available on PC (HTC Vive VR).


Josh says: I’ve elucidated the importance of distinguishing between VR as a games platform and VR as a platform for life experiences. While there are excellent games available at this point, sometimes the experiences outstrip the games as far as compelling reasons to put on a headset. Universe Sandbox 2 is one of those experiences. While it might not be a “game” per se, the advanced gravity simulator can offer as much satisfaction as any boss fight or puzzle.

US2 makes gods of us all, allowing you to create comets, moons, planets, even stars on a whim. You can collide two Suns to see what happens, or you can accelerate time to see what how the solar system moves at a million years per second. Committed designers can even make things like a Game of Thrones system, with erratic season length, or just line up a few dozen moons, and watch the mayhem as the inexorable pull of gravity destroys basically everything. You’ll definitely need to rest by the seventh day.

Best VR Experience Runner-Up

Google Earth VR


Developed and published by Google. Released on November 16, 2016. Available on PC (HTC Vive VR).


Josh says: While the Universe Sandbox experience was certainly more satisfying, Google Earth VR showcases what I think will be huge for driving interest in VR. The technology is still rudimentary, to be sure, but the ability to travel the world, navigate streets and highways, or see a whole city from a bird’s eye view. There’s not really much to describe about Google Earth VR. It’s simply the fastest way to experience the wonders of the world, both natural and man-made.

We are a long way from VR being able to simulate a real experience, but when it gets to that point, Google Earth VR will very likely serve as the foundation for any number of virtual travel agencies.


Table of Contents

  • Page 1
    • Best RPG
    • Best Indie
    • Best Shooter, Single Player
  • Page 2
    • Best Shooter, Multiplayer
    • Best Strategy
    • Best Action/Adventure
  • Page 3
    • Best Expansion/DLC
    • Best VR Game
    • Best VR Experience
  • Page 4
    • Best Surprise
    • Worst Surprise


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Best Surprise Winner

Titanfall 2


Developed by Respawn Entertainment and published by EA. Released October 28, 2016. Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.


Ron says: If you’re surprised to see Titanfall 2 here, you are not alone. After all, the first game in the series didn’t even bother with a single-player campaign, so for its sequel to be one of the best of the year is really saying something. Titanfall 2 earns that honor easily.

The campaign casts you as Infantryman Jack Cooper, and opens with you training to become a Titan pilot. When your ship crash lands on an enemy planet, you find yourself thrust into that role alomst immediately, as you take over a Titan named BT-7274. BT is your constant companion – he’s even with you when you’re apart, thanks to the magic of neural communication. As you advance through the game, taking on IMC (the bad guys) soldiers Titans and other obstacles, you’ll find a strange thing happening: you start to actually care about this giant robot you’re shooting things with.

You’ll also find that the movement-based gameplay that the Titanfall games are known for works really well in the space of the campaign. There are plenty of places where you can take a step back and decipher a way forward using some combination of jetpacking, wall-running, and sliding. There are even a few spots where BT will pick you up and just launch you toward a distant destination – these definitely show how much you need to trust your robotic partner.

It’s unfortunate that the multiplayer suffers from many of the same problems that its predecessor did. The traversal that feels so organic in the campaign feels forced in multiplayer, and combat outside a Titan is mediocre at best. At its best it’s still quite fun, but it isn’t a must-play experience like the single player is.

In the end, the campaign in Titanfall 2 ends up being the highlight of the game. The gameplay is rock-solid, and the story is definitely worth experiencing. It’s a testament to Respawn’s development team that they could go from no campaign to something as well put-together as this.

Best Surprise Runner-Up

Gears of War 4


Developed by The Coalition and published by Microsoft Studios. Released on October 11, 2016. Available on PC and Xbox One.


Josh says: Having grown up playing Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM, Quake, and continuing on with Call of Duty, Gears of War, and Battlefield, I love shooters. I’m admittedly terrible at them, but I love to play them. I’m not much more than a target dummy to decent players, so I stick to the campaign for the most part. I’ve played all the Gears of War to date, and I’ve enjoyed them every time, but every iteration seemed to be a lot like the previous entry, so by the third, it was starting to wear thin. I didn’t really have much by way of expectation for Gears 4, except to be another Gears game.

To my delight, it was anything but. It’s definitely still Gears of War, but the campaign experience was radically changed. The story was a more personal story with more relatable characters. The dialogue exchanges were more clever and more human-seeming. Having expected another typical Gears game, what I got was far better, and the pleasant surprise of it has stuck with me since I started playing it.

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Worst Surprise Winner

No Man’s Sky


Developed and published by Hello Games. Published by Sony for PS4. Released on August 9, 2016. Available on PC and PS4.


Liz says: No Man’s Sky‘s cold reception was a combination of collective hype – many individuals falling in love with an idea in their head, exasperated by the internet giving a platform for all of them to share this one-sided slow dance with one another – and Hello Games not delivering the game that had been promised. Trailers, interviews, and gameplay demos included either explicit promises or implications of features that ended up absent from the final product. Planets are less diverse than promised, animal behavior is different than shown, ship combat is nowhere near as meaningful as promised, trading offers few benefits, inventory and crafting are a mess, you are unable to see other characters, and the game is ultimately plagued by a level of monotony that makes any lengthy exploration feel more like a $60 chore than an exciting space-trotting experience.

All of this was made worse by Hello Games’ virtual silence after the game’s release – speaking very little publicly, and when they did, they claimed it was the result of a hack. The recent addition of an expansive Foundation Update added a survival mode, base building, freighters, and more. However, the new features do little to resolve the issues in the game, the repetitiveness of the planets, and do nothing to deliver the game that fans were expecting… or deserved.

Worst Surprise Runner-Up

Mighty No. 9


Developed by Comcept and Inti Creates. Published by Deep Silver. Released on June 21, 2016. Available on PC, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.


Josh says: Like many, I had such high hopes for Mighty No. 9 that it would have been difficult for it to live up to my expectations, but I was not prepared for just how far short it would fall. I loved Mega Man, and I even started playing the legacy collection before No. 9’s launch to get myself back into practice. When I did finally get my hands on Mighty No. 9, however, it took very little time for me to go back to Mega Man.

Whatever spirit of the original franchise Mighty No. 9 was hoping to capture, it did not. I have a weakness for reboots and spiritual successors, which makes this sort of disappointment feel almost like a betrayal, if I’m being melodramatic about it. Which I am.


That’s it for The Escapist‘s 2016 Video Game Awards. Make sure to check back tomorrow to see our choice for Game of the Year 2016!

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