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Several games had us looking to the sky this year in search of adventure. Little did we know, the most fascinating force in the universe was right here under our noses the entire time. We first met him during a memorable trip to Paris...
Best New Character
The world of assassination is filled with memorable characters. From 47 to The Sheik to Gary Busey, we've assumed the roles of dozens of identities and killed many more in 2016. Our favorite (and one of the most useful) is the one and only Helmut Kruger. Artist, fashion icon, and author, Helmut is the talk of the party in Hitman's Paris mission. If 47 manages to interrupt a phone call and dump Helmut's body in a river, his disguise opens the doors to just about every area in the map. He's a coveted guest for any high-society gathering, and Giant Bomb's favorite new character of 2016.
Best VR Experience
Virtual reality moved fast this year. We went from the launch of the first consumer-ready PC headsets to a whole lot of VR "things" in the course of about six months. Of course, the quality on those things has been a bit uneven. But the magic of VR is present in a good number of games and experiences this year. Some of them feel fully realized out of the gate. Some feel like they could be influential, presenting good ideas in need of better execution. And some hint at a potential future for us and the way we interact with computers in the first place. Google Earth VR is an eye-opening take on... well, a lot of things, really. It's a new way to parse just some of Big Data's big data. But it also provides you with this blocky, slightly hazy view of the world around us. Standing among Google Earth's data gives it a dreamlike quality, and it's easy to lose hours to it as you virtually retrace your steps and fly high above the world you typically only see around eye level. It's great now, but it also hints at something more.
Most Disappointing Game
There's a real glut of "survival" games out there these days, and the competition for your time and money is fierce. You could probably write books about how a game like No Man's Sky was presented and marketed and sold and how that process could've gone better. You could spend hours talking about how Sony's big push behind the game, matched up with the decision to sell it at full price and press it up onto physical discs, helped create a set of expectations that a small team would almost certainly be unable to meet. You could even talk about the pre-patch version of the game and pontificate about just how many key features were (and still are) missing. But, ultimately, there are a lot of games out there, and too many of them do it better. Separated from the hype, No Man's Sky is still a strong contender for the year's most disappointing game. When you ball it all up into the mess that it all is today, nothing else even stands a chance.
While PlayDead's Limbo featured a memorably stark art style, Inside manages to add more detail without sacrificing any of its atmosphere. If anything, it's even more haunting than its predecessor. By including moving parts and environmental objects deep into the background, PlayDead's sophomore effort feels like a living diorama at times. It seems odd to call that thing from the final stretch of the game "best-looking," but its design and unsettling undulations won't be forgotten anytime soon.