You might not have known it from all the drama going on elsewhere, but 2016 was a mighty fine year for video games. Going through the top 10s submitted by Eurogamer contributors that led to our final verdict for game of the year - democracy is still live and kicking here on this website - it was amazing to see the diversity of choices made. Truly there was something for everyone in 2016, and it goes to show how broad this church that is video games has become.
And so the voting was extremely close, with more than a few pleasant surprises. Titanfall 2 only just missed out on the top spot - and please, please, please go and buy this game if you haven't done so already - while The Last Guardian also troubled the top five, no mean feat given its ten years of tortured development and its release spot late on in the year. Doom also came close to winning the prize, something none of us could have suspected in the run-up to release for id Software's brilliantly bold reboot of the father of all modern first-person shooters.
If you know Eurogamer, though - and if you've ever been into its office on any lunchbreak in recent months, or been witness to the endless conversations on the matter in our IM channels - there was only ever really going to be one winner. Blizzard's Overwatch has captured the imagination like few other games in recent years, delivering a bright, brilliant and exceptionally designed team shooter that instantly became best in class. Its success means there will be countless imitators in years to come - and 2016 already boasted a couple of lookalikes in its wake - but it's hard to see anyone toppling Overwatch for years to come. This is simply the foundation for an obsession that's likely to run and run and run.
Heroes never die
Chris Bratt: Gosh, it seems a long time since we actually reviewed Overwatch. Reading those words again today, it's hard not to smirk: there we were, back in May, making crap jokes about Bastion being overpowered and hoping Blizzard would do enough to keep us invested in the weeks and months following launch. We've come a long way since then, huh?
Two new heroes, three new maps, ranked play, seasonal events, and a fantastic arcade mode. Those are just the headlines. This game has changed dramatically since we gave it the big golden badge and its developers, importantly, haven't stopped talking to their community about what's next.
"My name is Jeff, I'm one of the developers on the Overwatch team," says the game's director, as he jumps into a 12-minute video addressing an upcoming hero rework and why these changes were necessary. Balance is everything in a competitive shooter, of course it is, but knowing the developers understand how their community is actually playing their game - that's a big part of it too.
Once you've spent hundreds of hours mastering a particular character or map, it's difficult not to feel some sense of ownership, which means if it's about to change, it's important to know the reasoning. Maintaining a game like Overwatch isn't just about making the right decisions (although that probably helps), it's about ensuring your players understand why they're the right decisions.
So, yes, this was a fantastic game back in May, but it's been the quality of its updates and the willingness on Blizzard's part to get in front of a camera, or jump into a heated forum thread when they need to, that's made this something really special.
They've nailed it. The Overwatch team makes the rest of Blizzard Entertainment look quiet and unresponsive by comparison. Imagine that.
Aoife: I love how any match can turn around at any second, and some of the best games of Overwatch I've ever had were ones in which we managed to turn it all around in the last few seconds. Those are literal air-punch moments. But I think the game's aesthetic is probably my favourite thing about it. It's bright, colourful, and when you actually get a chance to potter around the maps, you'll see they're filled with loads of funny little nods and touches.
Most of all I love the characters. In a time when so many characters - in both multiplayer and single player games - are little more than empty player avatars, it's so refreshing to see vibrant and vivacious individuals with real distinct personalities. And it's evident that players react to that, with the amount of shipping and fan art and cosplaying and, yes, Overwatch-inspired porn there is out there. It's nice to see how the voice-actors have really embraced the community too, with all the interaction videos coming out of different conventions over the past year. Good vibes all round, and long may it all continue.
It's high noon
Johnny: One of my favourite things about Overwatch is how positive it is; how regularly it congratulates or rewards the player for doing good things, while discouraging a fixation on the kill/death ratio of others by hiding those stats from sight. It puts more of a focus on team awareness - of actually watching other players to see whether the team composition needs tweaking, rather than just glancing at a leaderboard and assuming whoever is toward the bottom is grossly incompetent.
Of course, it is important to try and play well and for the benefit of the team - especially if those players are watching you - and it was through the desire to be a good team player that Overwatch slowly cemented itself as my game of the year. See, Overwatch for me has been a string of small breakthroughs and little revelations. When I first started playing, I latched on to Lúcio pretty swiftly; he's still my favourite, in fact. Pretty soon, however, I found myself running into matches in which we already had a healer - so what then? I had to find another hero I could pick comfortably, knowing I wasn't going to throw the game. Then another. And another. Slowly but surely, I've managed to become comfortable with most of the hero roster in Overwatch, and it's those moments in which I try out a formerly neglected hero and something clicks that I cherish the most. Suddenly understanding a previously fiddly and unfamiliar character is not only rewarding, it shunts my understanding of the game and my potential as a player forward in a big, satisfying leap. It helps the game feel fresh again, even if I do still get flamed from time to time for dropping the ball.
Bertie: What a lovely, lovely game - a game made for playing. An irresistible toy with intoxicating charm. A game I'd challenge people not to like. Hooks on so many levels: team composition and tactics as well as simple skill. Character not having an impact? Switch it up. Enemy character running rampant? Switch it up - find a counter.
Such breezy fun atop plunging depth. A game talking by doing, prospering with limited maps because the simple joy and variation of playing is near limitless. A game that had me literally on my feet, punching the air. It's a rare game that captivates so many people at Eurogamer but here we are, months later, still playing, still bubbling with excitement at every update, even every incremental change.
It's in the craftsmanship, from the pow-pow of a gun to the cheek of an incidental voice line; it's in the approachability but also the competition; it's in the characters. Overwatch is uniquely Blizzard. It is superb.
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