Titanfall has giant, awesomely-designed robots -- I'm not going to lie, that's what drew me in initially. But after playing it for hours (I initially played it on PC, then picked up the Xbox One version after it went on sale), you start to appreciate other aspects of the game.
First off, shooting in this game is so, so finely tuned, which makes it feel better than any other FPS out there, especially when compared to other controller-based FPS games. This is a benefit of the FPS heritage that resides at Respawn, which came out of Infinity Ward. It's just one of those things in game development that is highly technical, highly iterative in design, with the result being players saying "it feels perfect," without quite being able to pinpoint precisely why.
Movement in the game isn't quite Doom-fast, but the pace is quicker than many big-budget shooters out there. Add that to the finely-tuned shooting, the intuitive parkour system, and vertical level design you've already got a winning combination. Throw in some hulking robots and the cinematic touch that the dev team is known for, layer it with weapons and leveling systems that makes you want to play just one more round, and you've got one of the best games of the year.
As an added bonus, you can even play Threes! on your Xbox One while waiting for your Titan. Just find a good hiding spot. - Kris Graft
My multiplayer game of the year didn't turn out to be Super Smash Bros. Don't get me wrong; it's incredibly good. But TowerFall: Ascension is the reason I now own four DualShock 4 controllers, and as I look back on the matches I played this spring, they're my favorite video game memories of the year.
Everything came together with TowerFall: Ascension. From the graphics and the music to the theme and the gameplay, it's all of a piece; but what really makes it stand out is the polish that was fastidiously applied, the careful tuning that turns it from an also-ran indie game to a Bomberman-caliber classic that made inviting friends to my house on weekends a necessity instead of a nice idea.
This game reminded me that there are forms of interaction we musn't lose as technology moves forward; but it just as clearly reminds us all that details are everything, and getting a game's feel just right is top priority. - Christian Nutt
Rust, DayZ, Don't Starve -- quite a few excellent survival games have come to market in the past few years, and none have held my interest for more than a week. This War Of Mine is different.
More than a month after release I still find myself thinking about it when I'm supposed to be working and playing it when I should be sleeping. 11 Bit's work here is brilliant; the studio deft deftly blends practical resource management and life-or-death decisions that see you weighing the moral cost of stealing from the less fortunate against the promise of keeping your people fed for another day.
This War Of Mine delivers these bleak challenges with finesse, but it's hardly the first game to do so -- so why does it stick with me, when similar games slip past?
I think it's the eyes. See, in most survival games you can't see your character's eyes -- you're usually riding behind them in first-person, and if you pop out to a third-person perspective your character model is often little more than a rough-hewn facsimile of a person.
The character portraits in This War of Mine are different -- they stare out at you peacefully even as you guide their corresponding avatars, laden with fatigue, to build rainwater stills instead of sleeping or shovel through the rubble of blasted-out buildings with their bare hands. Sometimes those eyes blink at you, if you look at them long enough. Every once in a while the character bio they're attached to will be updated with a new diary entry describing how that person is dealing with the trials of life in a region at war, trials that -- more often than not -- your choices have forced them to endure.
It's a surprisingly affecting bit of narrative design that evokes empathy in a way I haven't seen since Telltale's inaugural Walking Dead game in 2012. But unlike Telltale, 11 Bit doesn't march you towards a clear ending; instead, you face a never-ending series of difficult choices in a daily fight to survive. Fail, and you start over again from day one. If there's an end to the game, I haven't yet found it. I can't seem to stop trying. - Alex Wawro
Once we had a former soccer star. We sent him out running at night to scavenge supplies. In the hotel we found, for the first time, not machine parts and harmless rubble, but bad men. They had guns, like, real ones, and hostages. He came back too injured to go out again. The next night we sent the plucky journalist, eager to prove herself. She died there. - Leigh Alexander