Best of 2016 – Day One: Story, Soundtrack, Voice Acting

Over the next ten days, Hardcore Gamer will be revealing its Best of 2016 Awards leading up to our Game of the Year. Today we present you with the Best of Story, Original Soundtrack, Licensed Soundtrack and Voice Acting.

Firewatch

Firewatch has one of the more controversial stories of the year, but even with the curveball ending it still stands as the best 2016 had to offer.  The game starts almost as a text adventure, telling how Henry went from a young man first meeting his soon-to-be-wife to ending up alone and taking a job in the wilderness to get away from everything, interspersed with first-person walking as he makes his way to his summer home.  Once there he “meets” Delilah, the voice on the other end of the radio, and a mystery slowly develops over the coming months.  Henry and Delilah are alone in a vast wilderness, never seeing each other but always in touch, and their banter ranges from playful to serious, flirty to snarky, without missing a beat.  As the mystery deepens what had been a playful relationship gets strained by inexplicable events, but it’s always genuine rather than dramatic.  The final outcome of what had seemed to be a grand conspiracy ends up being a more mature, realistic payoff, sadder and more personal than expected.  It’s a story that takes its characters seriously, paying off with a strong emotional punch that refuses to sugar-coat the personalities of the people who lived through the events of Firewatch.

Runner-Ups
OneShot Yomawari: Night Alone The House in Fata Morgana  Zero Time Dilemma

DOOM

Orchestral filler? Vocal additions? Quaint ambience to add some momentary downtime? Pffft nah…this is DOOM! It’s heavy metal…followed by heavy metal, followed by more heavy metal. It might have been obvious in hindsight, but the opportunity was there for lead composer Mick Gordon to be lead towards contemporary tropes when it came to architecting the soundtrack, but that would betray one of the things that made the original such a memorable experience in the first place. Never tiring, never fading, never faltering, DOOM’s soundtrack is as unrelenting as it is unforgiving with its jagged guitar riffs, hard-hitting drums and generally loud, energetic and high-octane delivery. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the Doom Slayer’s bottomless bit of demon-slaying rage and at its peak, truly makes main protagonist and player feel one and the same. Whether it be exploring hidden passages, blasting demons in the face or simply making heads or tails of the orderly chaos on show, DOOM’s soundtrack was more than a perfect fit, it was the audibly sonic equivalent to id Software’s own triumphant creation. Rip and tear folks, rip…and…tear!

Runner-Ups
Hyper Light Drifter Furi Let It Die Final Fantasy XV

Forza Horizon 3

Odds are that a year Forza Horizon releases is a year where said game takes home the honor of best licensed soundtrack. The series has been built around music and each entry has been more impressive than the last when it comes to sonic goodness. Horizon 3 features a bevy of incredible music with artists like !!!, CHVRCHES, Cut Copy, Justice, Ladyhawke, M83, Miike Snow,  School of Seven Bells, Rufus du Sol and many more gracing the virtual airwaves. One of the more impressive aspects about the soundtrack is how carefully it’s curated — while there’s plenty of recently-released tracks, songs like Cut Copy’s nearly ten years old Lights and Music were and selected simply because they fit the vibe of the game. More than just fantastic rock and EDM artists, there’s also strong representation on the rap side of things with artists like Aesop Rock, Run-D.M.C. and Pharoahe Monch. One earworm after another, Forza Horizon 3’s soundtrack is the sound of legend.

Runner-Ups
Mafia III FIFA 17 LOUD on Planet X Steep

Firewatch

There are many games where voice acting can be ignored, but in a story about two people who only ever interact by talking it’s important that the performances sell the characters.  Firewatch nails this perfectly with Frank and Delilah, two people in separate towers in the wilderness keeping an eye on the forest in case it combusts.  They hit it off almost instantly, bantering back and forth in a natural style, and the friendship they develop over the course of the summer is believable not just because of the writing but due to it sounding like they actually enjoy talking with each other.  Just about everything of note lets you call up Delilah on the radio to have a word about it, and the dialogue between the two is always fun to hear.  As the story kicks in and events go from strange to mysterious and eventually dangerous, the acting never slips, always reinforcing the characters rather than calling attention to the actors.  Frank and Delilah become people in a way that a lesser delivery could never have managed, giving Firewatch the living, breathing soul it needs.

Runner-Ups
Zero Time Dilemma Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Quantum Break

Continue to Day 2 →

  • The Doom soundtrack is not heavy metal.