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We're over halfway done! This year was filled with great music, multiplayer, moments, and some welcome additions to Xbox One's backwards compatibility list. Join us as we run down our Day Four winners.
A pleasant surprise among the big-name releases of 2016 was Furi, a difficult-yet-rewarding procession of elaborate boss fights. While much of the appeal of the game lies in recognizing attack patterns and reacting to them, the game has style to spare. Its anime-inspired visuals and unique character designs stand out, but nothing grabs your attention quicker than its pounding soundtrack.
Featuring a variety of synth artists like Carpenter Brut and Danger, the high-energy beats complement the twitch-heavy gameplay perfectly. The soundtrack is a great listen even when removed from the game, so be sure to head over to its Bandcamp page if you're curious.
When Overwatch was announced at Blizzcon two years ago, the common refrain on the internet was "oh, Blizzard is making a Team Fortress." The announcement came months after Gearbox announced Battleborn, and countless comparisons were made before it became extremely apparent that Overwatch wasn't anything like Battleborn. It also wasn't a "me-too" Team Fortress clone. Blizzard created a genuine phenomenon with Overwatch, and its rock-solid multiplayer is the biggest reason why.
Blizzard didn't reinvent multiplayer shooters here, as it utilizes modes that we've seen before in numerous games. Where the game shines is in the differences between the characters. Not only are they unique in appearance and personality, but their powers are fun, well-balanced, and built to play off of each other. Whether it's in a fun quick play with random teammates or a well-built competitive team, matches in Overwatch are almost always fast-paced and fun. With the upgrades tied to skins, sprays, and voice lines instead of weapon upgrades or character progression, it feels more like an even playing field than a race for XP.
Early comparisons severely undersold the potential for Overwatch. One comparison to Team Fortress 2 may actually work, as (like with Team Fortress 2) we expect Overwatch to be played and talked about for years to come.
Runners-up: Titanfall 2, Overcooked
Xbox One Backwards Compatible Game of the Year
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved
We can all agree the Xbox 360 backwards compatibility initiative on Xbox One is a great thing, right? It was technically difficult and not something Microsoft offered at the console's launch, but whether the company was motivated by the PS4's massive sales lead or an earnest desire to do right by its customers who want to play their old games on a new console, the facts are that the feature works really well (in many cases improving the games' performance over their 360 versions) and Microsoft has been making some smart choices about which games to prioritize, largely adding old titles to the service that people would actually want to go back and play again.
Plenty of great 360 games made the cut for backwards compatibility in 2016, but... look, there's only one 360 game you would absolutely want, no, need to take with you to a desert island, and that's Geometry Wars. The unassuming five-dollar 360 launch game that quickly became one of the most endlessly replayable arcade-style games of all time also became the white whale of backwards compatibility on the Xbox One, given that it was one of the first titles added to the preview version of the service for several months last year, and then unceremoniously yanked when backwards compatibility was made available to everyone. Whatever business deals that needed to happen to bring Geometry Wars back to the Xbox One must have gotten worked out, and we couldn't be more thankful. It's one of the biggest steps Microsoft could have taken to make us finally start thinking about boxing up our 360s for good.
Runners-up: Red Dead Redemption, Burnout Paradise
Best Moment or Sequence
The first few hours with The Witness deserve some kind of onion-peeling metaphor, as you slowly pull back layer after layer of the unexpected elements that make up the game's lonely, mysterious island. Why is this desert next to this forest? Where do the tunnels under this windmill go? What's with all the statues? Wait, is that... is that how you solve that puzzle? As many strange, puzzling elements as there are crammed into The Witness's small island, it's the puzzles themselves--specifically, the huge number of inventive ways the solutions to those puzzles are hidden in the environments around them--that make it feel like just about anything in this quiet, brightly colored world might be possible.
And then, just when the shapes from all those puzzle boards are starting to really burn themselves in your brain, you start seeing those shapes elsewhere, everywhere, outside the puzzles. Then you wonder if there might be a reason you can activate the puzzle-solving cursor when you're not interacting with a puzzle and HOLY CRAP THAT ACTUALLY WORKS WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON. The revelation that an interface previously confined to a series of abstract computer-terminal line puzzles can also work with the more naturalistic shapes of the game's world is an astonishing way to elevate the feeling of discovery in a game already built around a series of discoveries. The fact that there are dozens of places this works, and that every player consequently discovers this ability at a different time and place, just makes the moment that much more personalized and memorable.
Runners-up: The First Five Minutes of DOOM, Inside (That Part)