GamesRadar+'s Game of the Year 2016

5. Firewatch   

Campo Santo's acclaimed debut explores rambling conversations and winding paths in the Wyoming wilderness, as troubled protagonist Henry adjusts to his solitary life as a fire watch guard, with only mysterious supervisor Delilah for company on a handheld radio. Firewatch's grand deception is that it isn't interested in your choices at all: subverting your expectations of the multiple-narrative-path genre pioneered by Telltale's The Walking Dead, almost chiding you for expecting *more* for your myriad, inconsequential, choices. At one stage *mild spoilers*, it threatens to become a sci-fi detective mystery… before mundanely dashing your expectations to make a powerful point. Video games are narrow, predictable systems, with achievable win states. Life is anything but: complex, unfair, chaotic… and the only ‘win' conditions exist in our mind. Firewatch is a mature game in the truest sense by subverting your own narrow expertise of How Video Games Work, and by lovingly questioning their value. Fittingly, Campo Santo's rambling tale blazed a trail for two emerging trends: the rise of III games (the blurring of Indie and AAA games); and by recognising the medium's ageing audience, the late 30s to 40s folk weaned on 8-bit sprites, whose tastes are now more sophisticated. The natural, warm dialogue and scenery are sufficient reward for your investment, which feels like a lesson in itself. Dan Dawkins 

4. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End 

You can't finish 2016 without acknowledging Nate's final send off - a last goodbye to one of PlayStation's most prominent and beloved characters. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End gave us our most human take on the adventurer yet, filling out his past to explain who he was, while showing us a present that revealed who he had become. It was an earthy update to the series, taking its characteristic big-screen action and weaving between it the story of someone who was just a man, trying to find a balance between the life he wanted and the one he knew he should have. But it was still pure Uncharted thrill-seeking at heart, with set pieces and locations that made you lower the controller to take in what you were seeing. While, arguably, it could have been a couple of levels shorter, seeing Nate and the gang through to the ending was a must-play moment of this year and the resolution of that epilogue even more so. Thanks for everything, Drake. Leon Hurley 

3. Dishonored 2 

Dishonored 2 is about taking systematic revenge on a conspiracy of nobles (again), but the real fun is in all the systemic shenanigans you can pull off along the way. Play for a few minutes and you won't notice much difference from the original game, aside from graphics that elevate their stylized figures into nigh-photorealistic grotesques. Play for an hour or two and you'll see how all of the little improvements to the familiar model add up: lob a bottle of cider at a guard's head then leap down and slam her partner's face into the pavement for a brutal, but 100-percent non-lethal, group takedown. Sure couldn't do that back in Dunwall. By the time you unlock and upgrade a handful of your first Void powers (assuming you didn't decline the Outsider's assistance), the world is your river krust. Abilities and tactics that are useful on their own can be combined for glee-inducing results, whether your experimentation yields new strategies or hilarious Domino-effect mishaps. Then levels like the Clockwork Mansion and A Crack in the Slab introduce brilliant new scenarios that turn all of your trusty old tactics inside out. However interested you are in the narrative beats of Emily's quest to restore her rule / Corvo's revenge rampage part deux, the skeleton of metal, steam, and magic underneath is one of the best "mess with people" simulators ever committed to code. Connor Sheridan

2. Doom 

Doom isn't just the best pure FPS of the year - or in fact a good many years before this one. It isn't just a blisteringly kinetic, deeply intelligent, hilariously self-aware cavalcade of strategic slaughter, running on a hot engine of pure, player agency and drenched with lightly steaming adrenaline. If it was just those things, Doom would still be the number two game on this list. Its immediate, accessible, but immensely layered action is just that damn good. But Doom does more than that. Doom knows it has the finest-crafted distillation of FPS values around, and so it sets out to explode, explore, examine and expand those systems in every possible permutation and reinterpretation, to create the greatest celebration (and evolution) of FPS imaginable. Doom knows why the genre was important in the first place, and so it dedicates itself to smashing that into your face and throwing it a parade on a second-by-second basis. Its vast, 20-hour campaign, typified by incredulous escalation and littered with cleverly themed challenge rooms, is a glorious achievement in itself. But then its multiplayer brings along the console-friendly Quake we all long-thought impossible. And then there's SnapMap, a set of level, mission, and gameplay design tools that are as fun to interact with as the game itself, but which belie an almost dev-level depth and versatility. Doom is wonderful. Doom is stunning. And best of all, Doom's parting shot is to ensure that it never, ever needs to end. David Houghton 

1. Titanfall 2 

Who knew? Our actual Game of the Year is a big, dumb shooter about a space-dude and his space-dude robot. Well, actually, that's a gross reduction of Titanfall 2. For starters there's nothing dumb about the core shooting here, which is slick and quick as anything you've played this generation. Being able to triple wall-run down a corridor, while lobbing a grenade at a bunch of enemies and headshotting another, before touching down, knee-sliding under a low-beam, shotgunning another couple of baddos, then leaping into your titan is… look, it just feels really, really good. When you're flowing through Titanfall 2 and you start to chain together your moves it's an incredible sensation. Doesn't end there, though. See, our big, dumb robot is actually one of the best AI companions you'll ever play alongside. His imperative to "protect the pilot" not only creates a wonderful bond between you and him, but also makes his increasingly warm communications with you that much more honest and endearing. The solo campaign delivers a great mixture of play types, its lauded 'Effect and Cause' level the highlight, and offers enough action to satisfy without becoming repetitive. It's a hugely accomplished 8-10 hour story. Multiplayer - the sole focus of the original - rounds off the package by being ‘merely excellent' when compared to the single player. An accomplished game, then, with more humanity, warmth, and genuine fist-pumping moments than just about anything else in 2016. Not bad for a big, dumb shooter about a space-dude and a robot. Andy Hartup 

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