It's hard to tell if a category such as this is becoming more or less relevant. The battle for exclusives seems to be raging on, becoming even more heated than before. It's a shame as well, as there are some really great games in our nominees and more that many gamers won't have access to. In any case, Sony was the landslide winner this year in terms of nominations, taking four of the five top spots.
Here's the list of nominees (and here's a list of all nominees for all categories):
- The Last Guardian (Game Page)
- Let it Die (Game Page)
- Pokkén Tournament (Game Page)
- Ratchet & Clank (Game Page)
- Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Game Page)
Reader's Choice - Uncharted 4: A Thief's EndAny year an Uncharted game is released, it's pretty much automatically in discussion for many people's game of the year. It's no surprise that the conclusion to Nathan Drake's story hit home with our readers and has been generally very well-received overall. Naughty Dog has definitely cemented themselves as one of the best developers around.
Third Place - The Last Guardian (Our Review)
By Georgina YoungThe PS4 exclusive title The Last Guardian is one of the few to justify an incredibly lengthy development cycle. This 3D puzzle platformer was nine years in development for the team behind Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, but they certainly delivered a strong third game. In The Last Guardian, you play as a boy trapped in an unknown environment with a huge man-eating eagle you lovingly call Trico. The true strength of this game is the emotional story, which is played out so perfectly. As you watch the bond between boy and giant cat/bird grow, each twist and turn that the plot takes digs in all the deeper.
The world looks so realistically gorgeous it's almost impossible to imagine it ever being developed for the PS3. Trico is a work of genius. You will never see a fictional character imagined more precisely than Team Ico created Trico in this game. Every piece of realism from Trico's look, to her characteristics and behavior, only aid in the completely immersive nature of this game. What really elevated this story for me, though, is how the story is told. Narration and music is used incredibly sparingly and always at the right moments. The game never insists on telling you how to feel but rather lets you discover everything yourself through the interactive medium. This game does interactive story telling right.
It's not without it's flaws of course. The camera and controls were incredibly difficult to get your head around, and while people (like me) might argue that this adds to the immersive nature of the story, as you physically battle through, for many this was a unforgivable problem. On top of this, just like a real animal, Trico herself is incredible difficult to guide as she can often not listen to your commands making it too frustrating for some.
Overall, I'm very glad The Last Guardian made it onto one of our end of the year lists. It's a spectacular game that deserves high praise and something I would recommend to anyone.
Second Place - Ratchet & Clank
By Connor FossSometimes the best thing to do for a series is redo it, but better. Ratchet & Clank manages to do exactly that. Looking back is sometimes the way forward, and Insomniac decided to give it a crack. Looking back to the original Ratchet & Clank title, they took all their experience from the series and retooled it for a modern audience.
It looks amazing (it won our Best Visuals award!), it plays amazing, and it retains the spirit of the original while improving on it in every way possible. For starters, the controls are buttery smooth and you get many movement options from later on in the series. The original didn’t have these, so it’s nice to go through familiar areas with better controls.
Speaking of those areas, some are exactly the same as the original Ratchet & Clank, like Novalis or Aridia. Others, however, are extremely different! Gaspar used to be a relatively short, small planet. Now it’s been expanded to house so much more content. This is where the “collect 100 gems/crystals/etc” sidequest in every other game takes place. This wasn’t present in the original, so it adds a lot to the game by putting it in.
It’s true that there are fewer planets than the original game, but in exchange, other planets are largely expanded upon for a net gain. Insomniac wasn’t afraid to trim the fat a bit from the original, which I can appreciate. They expand the good parts and cut the lesser parts of the game.
Don’t think everything is just a retread, though! While many of the original guns are in the game, there are several brand new ones. Of course, they’re as inventive as you can expect from the weaponsmiths at Insomniac. In addition, a new card system extends the gameplay time considerably without being invasive.
At a price point of $40 at launch, it would be criminal not to play Ratchet & Clank. Be sure to check it out!
Winner - Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
By Andrew OttonI won't forget the feeling of seeing the first teaser for this game, watching A Thief's End come across the screen. I held out hope, maybe Nathan Drake was foiling someone else's plot. But, I knew this game meant the end for Nathan Drake. Of course I ignored all the news that said it was Nathan Drake's last game, because maybe it was all a ruse.
There's always that sad moment when a great game is over, that the content is done and you've completed it. If only it would keep going, you might say; if only there was more. That's how I felt in every single Uncharted game I've ever played. However, it always helped knowing that there just had to be a sequel on the way. I'd get to see Nathan Drake and Sully go on some sort of adventure again. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End has robbed us of that, however, as it concludes Nathan Drake's story.
If you look at Naught Dog's history, there's no doubt they've proven themselves the masters at video game presentation in pretty much every way. Uncharted 4 rivals any game out there right now in terms of its graphics, and in my mind much of it looks like some of the best vistas, models, animations, and texture work I've ever personally seen in a game. All of that is made to look so many times better with the incredibly lighting work as well.
It helps that Uncharted 4 has a great sense of scale, and you get to see a lot of varied locales from a Panamanian jail to Scotland to Madagascar and more. Each had their own gorgeous set pieces, setting up incredible action sequences the likes of which have probably only ever been rivaled by other Uncharted games. The sense of awe, the sense of "my god that was cool," and more is all turned up a notch in Uncharted 4, leaving behind what may be the best Uncharted game yet. Though, Uncharted 2 will always give it a run for its money.
What Uncharted 4 accomplished best was saying goodbye through its spectacular writing (Uncharted 4 came away with our Best Writing Award, too). The send off for Nathan is wonderfully done, leaving him in no better place that I can think of. It make sense and gives us a great deal of closure; a joy in seeing where a beloved character's story will continue, even though we will not be a part of it.
So here's to saying goodbye to Nathan Drake, one of the best realized characters in all of gaming. All we can hope is that this is not the end of Uncharted as a whole, or that Naughty Dog keeps making similar games as time goes on. We at least have The Lost Legacy to look forward to.
What did we miss? What did we get wrong? What did we get right?