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Podcast Links: iTunes, Hipcast, Direct Download
Day two begins! John, Rose, Niall, and Michael join hands and lend voices to another round of end of the year awards. Wondering how we got here? The podcast links above will take you through our discussions and debates as we determined the winners.
On this day, we run through Best Writing, Best Moment, Scene, or Level, Best Surprise, Hella Broken-est, and Most Disappointing.
Best Writing: VA-11 HALL-A
Runners-up: Orwell, Firewatch
VA-11 HALL-A’s world-building is nigh-flawless. You’re introduced to its characters casually, but their stories are anything but standard. You quickly sink comfortably into the game’s dialogue, since the writing is so believable and funny. There are characters such as Stella, a cat-girl who somehow makes perfect sense, and Dorothy, a character that raises every possible red flag but still ends up as a super charming member of the ensemble, who help not only flesh out the world, but assist in bringing more information about Jill, the main character, out. VA-11 HALL-A is an absolute masterclass in storytelling in general, from characters, world, and humor.
Best Moment, Scene, or Level: The Night in the Hospital (That Dragon, Cancer)
Runners-up: Play of the Game (Overwatch), Pokemon Go Craze
In many ways, it feels wrong to be awarding a scene like That Dragon’s night in the hospital the title of “Best Moment”, but it’s also important to remember that “best” doesn’t necessarily mean “happiest”. There’s certainly nothing happy about stepping into the shoes of Ryan Green as he attempts to soothe his screaming baby son Joel on a long, bleak, lonely night. Games rarely deal in despair the way That Dragon does in this scene; Joel’s screams are blood-curdling, agonizing, and hauntingly real. It’s in this moment that That Dragon ascends beyond merely a loving tribute to a life lost too soon and into something so much more – it strikes a chord with the player in a way that shocks to the core, and it breaks your heart.
It’s more than just a scene in a video game – it takes you out of the real world and places you in Ryan and Joel’s; a world of nothing but pain, despair and hopelessness, and gives you a taste of the worst life has to offer. Almost a year on, and it’s still tough to watch, let alone replay the scene without tearing up. Games as a medium have the potential to make you feel things no other art form can, and that’s why Joel and Ryan’s night is so powerful.
Best Surprise: HITMAN
Runners-up: DOOM, Stardew Valley
When HITMAN was announced, very few of us knew exactly what IO was planning. They talked about episodic content, about a disc release nearly a year after the digital one, and an odd price plan that I was sure would scare everyone away. Oh we of little faith. Turns out IO wasn’t just turning a game episodic for the hell of it, they had designed HITMAN to fit right into it. Each level begs to be played over and over, leveled up, and played again. While we waited for new episodes, elusive targets and escalation missions filled the gaps. HITMAN did what none of us thought it could, pull itself together and become one of the best games of this year.
Hella Broken-est: Batman: The Telltale Series (PC)
Runners-up: Kerbal (PS4), Watch Dogs 2 (PC)
In a year filled with broken ports and broken dreams, Telltale’s Batman stands not as a symbol of justice, but as a symbol of the endless overall frustration involving 2016’s PC ports. Upon episode one’s release in August, an overwhelming amount of players, including at least three members of Chooch, found it was impossible to coerce Batman into running above molasses-level, unplayable frame-rates- if they could get it to launch at all. The game itself only offered two graphics options (“high performance” or “high quality” visuals and the option to switch anti-aliasing on or off), and Telltale’s official statement amounted to “not our problem.” For about five months, Batman remained irredeemably busted, until a patch offering more PC graphics settings was released on December 2nd. However, it came right before the episodic series reached its conclusion, and for some players, the new options still couldn’t solve the problems. This time around, the Bat was broken before Bane even touched him.
Most Disappointing: Street Fighter V
Runners-up: No Man’s Sky, Dishonored 2
Street Fighter V should’ve been a lay-up for Capcom. They’ve already made so many other entries in the franchise, what’s the difficulty in making another? We sure found out, what with its confusing DLC regiments that were often late, the absence of every non-competitive mode, awful story mode art, and the inclusion of a honest to god rootkit in the PC version. Nearly everything wrong with Street Fighter V could’ve been fixed with a little more time in the oven, but Capcom wanted it out for professional players to practice with, undermining ninety percent of their fanbase. Street Fighter V has been out for about a year now, but it still barely feels like a full release AAA game.