When we started the process for the 2016 TechRaptor Awards, the internal reaction among editors was “wow, 2016 sorta sucked in comparison to 2015.” Well, our initial reactions were most definitely wrong. From the juggernauts that will continue to dominate gaming headlines for many years to come like Overwatch to the incredible indie projects like Stardew Valley, 2016 had a little bit of everything. 2016 had good variety with RPGs like Final Fantasy XV, strategy games like Civilization VI, and more; however, nobody can deny that 2016 was the year the FPS dominated the gaming landscape. We had plenty of big games in Overwatch, Battlefield 1, Titanfall 2, DOOM, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and more. Our nominees list reflects that, but which one came out on top?
Here’s the list of nominees (and here’s a list of all nominees for all categories):
- Dark Souls III (Game Page)
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (Game Page)
- DOOM (Game Page)
- Final Fantasy XV (Game Page)
- Overwatch (Game Page)
- Pokémon Sun and Moon (Game Page)
- Stardew Valley (Game Page)
- SUPERHOT (Game Page)
- Titanfall 2 (Game Page)
- Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Game Page)
Without further delay, here’s what you, the readers, chose and our list of winners for the Pick of the Year Award for the best game of the year, whose sum of its parts are greater than any other.
Reader’s Choice – DOOM (Our Review)
It’s been over ten years since we last saw Doomguy in a major Doom installment, and some waited with cautious excitement. It’s been so long, and id Software didn’t have the greatest string of releases from Doom 3 and the new DOOM. It now seems silly that the worry existed at all as DOOM offers one of the most enjoyably visceral experiences in gaming. It sounds great, looks great, and its gameplay is oh so satisfying. It’s easy to see why this, among 10 nominees, took a quarter of the votes from our readers.
Fifth Place – Final Fantasy XV (Our Review)
By Samuel Guglielmo
It took ten years from when Final Fantasy XV was announced, originally as Final Fantasy Versus XIII, to release. You always have to wonder how something that got so many delays will turn out, and usually the answer is “not good.” Thankfully Final Fantasy XV isn’t just good, it’s really good.
It’s tough to fit everything in a short write-up, but there’s so many elements of the game that just work right. From the first scene of the game, which features the four main characters pushing their broken car to the tune of Florence and the Machine’s cover of Stand by Me while bickering with each other, I already knew I was in for something special. While the actual story may fall kind of flat, I couldn’t help but fall in love with all the characters and how they interacted. By the end of the game I felt like I knew the bro trip squad so well, and I honestly wanted to spend more time with them.
It helps that Final Fantasy XV is also super fun to play. Changing to an action RPG was the right choice for the series, and teleporting around the field to find the best angles to smack monsters around is a lot of fun. Switching around which weapons I was using, teaming up with my buddies for special attacks, and blocking and countering attacks proved to keep me far more interested in the gameplay than the usual turn-based fare did.
Finally, the entire game is wrapped up in a fantastic audio/visual package making it both one of the most lovely looking games of the year and my personal choice for the best soundtrack of the year. A lot of love went into it, and I was always soaking in the sights and sounds at every opportunity.
It may not have been the best release of the year, but by the end I was in love with Final Fantasy XV and felt like it was something genuinely special.
Fourth Place – Dark Souls III (Our Review)
By Connor Foss
It’s actually quite rare for many games to refine themselves over several entries. While it seems like the only thing that comes out nowadays are sequels and reboots, there are countless games that aren’t so lucky. Thankfully, FromSoftware was able to launch Dark Souls to grand acclaim in 2011.
Because of that success, the gameplay was given a chance to be expanded upon in Dark Souls II. During that time, Hidetaka Miyazaki was busy trying a faster, more visceral combat style in Bloodborne. After that, everything culminated in Dark Souls III.
It runs on the Bloodborne engine and plays like Dark Souls, but faster. Enemies are meaner, your movement is faster, and you really have to stay on your toes. That isn’t the only thing that’s improved, however.
Unfortunately, the world doesn’t mesh together like in the original Dark Souls does. It may lack that cohesive world design, but fret not. Each individual level in Dark Souls III is a masterpiece of game design. Levels are incredibly smartly-designed, with shortcuts and architecture that constantly amazes. There were at least three times where I stood in awe for a moment as I opened a door or activated a lift, only to realize I had doubled back to the safety of a bonfire from half an hour ago.
This happens constantly. One particular example of smart design is a bonfire you end up returning to at three different points. Instead of having several points of safety, the level is designed so that you open up several shortcuts to the same area. How awesome is that?
Alongside the changes to the magic system, covenants, netcode and more, Dark Souls III stands tall. It’s a game that does what it knows but tweaks it just enough to fine-tune everything to a razor sharp finish. It’s a fitting end for the franchise, and I hope Miyazaki’s next title is as polished as Dark Souls III.
Third Place – Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
By Robert Grosso
Perhaps the most cinematic and safe choice on any game of the year list, Uncharted 4 deserves a top spot almost automatically thanks to the pedigree of game Naughty Dog has created. It is the quintessential action title, full of excellent voice over work, thrilling action sequences, and an emotional sendoff for the character Nathan Drake.
Uncharted has grown into a massive part of Sony’s library since the first title was released a decade ago. It also serves as a growing reminder of the changing face of video games. Uncharted 4 rivals the best of the action-movie genre with its lavish set-pieces and cinematic combat. Even with the presence of the much-maligned quick time events and scripted scenes, part of the appeal for Uncharted 4 is how casually real it can be, both in terms of dialogue and presentation.
It is easy to knock Uncharted 4 for being too cinematic and shallow, but it is missing the point and appeal of such a title. It may not even be the best game on this list, but out of all the titles represented here, it is perhaps the most modern by a mile. Gaming is slowly turning a corner that some do not like, but if the quality and enjoyment of Uncharted 4 can be gained from other titles of its ilk, perhaps there is little to worry about in the future.
Second Place – Overwatch (Our Review)
By Chris Anderson
I don’t really think anyone expected Overwatch to be anything less than a resounding success. Say what you will about Blizzard Entertainment’s modus operandi, they definitely know how to boil down a concept to their barest essentials, improving and tweaking their way to the most streamlined version of what that game could be.
Overwatch was built from the ruins of Titan, Blizzard Entertainment’s mysterious second MMO that, at one point, was planned to exist alongside Blizzard’s major cash cow World of Warcraft. Rather than scrapping the entire project, Titan’s multiplayer component was separated from Titan and retooled into the hero shooter many of us have been playing in 2016. Following a rather successful promotional campaign leading up to the game’s release in May of last year, Overwatch quickly turned into a phenomenon that took the globe, and eSports scene, by storm, and as time went on, the grip Blizzard had on the industry became even tighter. Blizzard turned Overwatch into the very model of a Blizzard game: a familiar concept popularized by someone else but polished by them to be the best version of that game it could be.
Overwatch is a deceptively simple game to pick up and play. The characters all have mechanics that are easy to learn but exceedingly difficult to master. While the initial process of trial and error is more than enough fun on its own, it’s not until you start to get a feel for team composition that the game starts to grip you. The game is also pretty balanced for a game as new as this, and the Overwatch team, led by Jeff Kaplan, have shown to be more than willing to keep an open line to their community and have been relatively good at listening to their fans. Overwatch is a pleasure to play and to look at, and I think a lot of us are looking forward to seeing what’s next.
Winner – DOOM (Our Review)
By Perry Ruhland
In hindsight, 2016 was a great year to be a shooter fan. It was the year where we got Titanfall and Battlefield games that actually improved upon their predecessors, a year with truly innovative FPS offerings such as Overwatch and our indie game of the year SUPERHOT, and of course, it was the year that gave us the return of the king itself, DOOM.
It’s safe to say that very few people expected DOOM to be as good as it actually was. The original 1993 title is an undisputed classic, a genre cornerstone that still has quite the passionate fanbase even twenty-three years later. And here was a different team on different technology in a very different era, with a multiplayer beta that showed off the game’s weakest component at an early state. Months away from launch, and it already had people ready to call the game DOA. Even people like me who still had faith in the project were worried.
And then it launched.
In an era of corridor shooters and weak RPG/FPS hybrids, the non-stop action spectacle of DOOM was a welcome return to the genre’s glory days with a high movement speed and low time to kill, prioritizing being able to think on your feet and adapt to a bad situation over then being able to point and click on an enemy before its AI responds. Of course, it’s not just a 1:1 retread of 90s conventions, DOOM throws in features like enemy logs, special level challenges, and upgradeable weaponry that would’ve been unheard of back in the original.
Perhaps the biggest change to the classic is the one that worried fans the most: the inclusion of a story mode. While it may be disappointing to learn that the carnage has to stop every once and a while, DOOM manages to make up for it by breathing life into Doomguy (Now called “The Doomslayer”), making him a one-man Armageddon who will actively destroy anything that’s between him and the forces of hell, derailing what would be a cliché sci-fi story into a rollercoaster ride of blood, bullets, and BFG blasts.
Of course, the actual Doomguy and his abilities makes up only half of what makes DOOM so great; the fantastic level design cannot be overstated, with sprawling maps of everywhere from the dusty dunes of Mars to the deepest bowels of Hell that are absolutely jam-packed with interesting arenas, clever environmental storytelling, and hilarious secrets (Who knew Doomguy had a passion for toy collecting?).
Perhaps the strongest compliment one could give DOOM is that it got the top prize on our site, despite having an admittedly baffling tacked-on multiplayer mode and a weak level editor. It’s a game with a campaign so memorable, so fun, and so well put-together that its flaws aren’t enough to drag it down. In 1993, Doom revolutionized the FPS genre, and now, in 2016, DOOM reminded us what made it great in the first place. In the immortal words of Doomguy’s long-time rival Duke Nukem: Hail to the king, baby.
What did we miss? What did we get right? What did we get wrong?