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Out of all the awards that I hand out, this one may just be my favorite. There’s nothing quite like taking a chance on a game which you’re just not sure about or came out of no where. I’ll fully admit, there weren’t a ton of surprises this year, but there were a few that really caught me off guard.
These games may have been unfairly stereotyped early on in development. This was probably due to my feelings from having been burned in the past or even my hesitation at diving in on day one. These games overcame those odds and made them stand out even more this past year. Make sure you don’t miss these 2016 gems!
Here is my list for the biggest surprise game from 2016.
And the nominees are…
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
I’ve spoken at length on this before but I had a really hard time getting into the original Mirror’s Edge. I gave it a good effort but ultimately, my frustration led me to drop the game faster than you could say parkour.
When Catalyst was first announced, I didn’t give it much thought, considering the bad taste left in my mouth from the previous title. Still, I couldn’t completely turn my back as the visual aesthetic and the numerous trailers managed to not only capture my attention but get me excited to try it out. After trying the beta and going hands on with it at PAX East earlier this year, I was sold and picked it up on day one.
I’m really glad I did because I found a very stylish and slick title waiting, with really fun gameplay moments and controls that didn’t get in the way of the experience.
A well made game that ultimately never got a chance to shine. Made by the studio best known for the Borderlands games, Battleborn managed to mix MOBA-lite mechanics into a hero based first person shooter formula. Unfortunately, the fan base just wasn’t there for the game, ultimately under performing, even though it is still getting regular updates and content. The big problem that many would likely agree is that it released so close to the absolute wrecking ball that is Overwatch.
Still, I found Battleborn to be extremely fun, especially the multiplayer aspects of the game. While not overly plump on content, Battleborn let players pick from a large roster of diverse and interesting heroes in a number of team based modes. Co-op was decent, but the game shined in its other competitive modes like Meltdown and Incursion. While Battleborn may have under performed, I’m still glad I gave the game a shot, because it was a lot of fun.
Okay, this game isn’t on here because everyone expected it to be bad, or because I hated the first game (I didn’t actually, thought it was well made and fun for what it was). I put Watch_Dogs 2 on this list because in my opinion, Ubisoft did a tremendous job on it. Not only does it elevate the franchise out of the super serous and gritty tones of the first game, the game is just downright fun whether you’re doing missions or taking in all the sights and sounds of San Francisco. In some ways, this could be seen as an extension of what the team started with the excellent Bad Blood DLC for the first game.
There’s plenty of characters to root for, the color palate has really expanded, and the lead character is actually someone you can really get behind. Watch_Dogs 2 just may be the experience Ubisoft was going for with the first game, but either way, this is a sequel that does its job right.
For me, this one kind of came out of no where. There was almost no press behind it leading up to its release due to the surprise announcement at E3, but with the knowledge that this was the next game from the developers behind Limbo, I was in on day one.
Sure enough, the strange little title instantly pulled me into this world, teasing me to keep playing to find out what the hell was actually happening. Gameplay wise, it’s fairly similar to Limbo in that you’re constantly moving left to right, solving puzzles as you go along. Death will come frequently, but thankfully these “learning” moments were not frustrating thanks to lightning fast reloads and generous checkpoints.
Forza Horizon 3
I’ve always taken an interest in the Forza franchise, though never went as far to pick up a copy. While the game is stunningly gorgeous, the realistic sim-like racing experience was out of my comfort zone being more of an arcade style fan. Still, when Forza Horizon 3 was announced, I was swept away by how fun the game looked. Coupled with the fact that the Horizon series wasn’t as strict as the more traditional Forza Motorsport games, I decided to jump in.
While having gorgeous visuals makes everything better, I found the gameplay to be extremely fun and not as strict as I was expecting. The events and races are incredible thrilling especially the showcase events where you’re typically going up against outrageous vehicles like a helicopter or a dash to the finish against a train. It’s clear the developers wanted players to have a good time and based on the gameplay, I’d say they succeeded in this goal.
and the winner is…
Winner: Forza Horizon 3
I’m generally glad I gave all the games on my list a chance, but I’d argue that Forza Horizon 3 has given me the best and longest lasting experience out of the bunch. With new expansions like Blizzard Mountain finally here, I’m fairly certain I’ll be coming back to the Aussie outback time and time again in 2017.