Games

Predicting Game of the Year Winner

Awards season is always an important time for the games industry as it provides studios a chance to be recognized for their hard work. While a game being given accolades doesn’t inherently change anything about the experience it provides, awards and nominations serve as a great endorsement for a title, especially if the award is given by a major show like the upcoming 2021 Game Awards.


The Game Awards feature 30 categories for games and content creators to be nominated for, however, perhaps the most prestigious award is for Game of the Year, a category that looks to highlight the best overall experience captured in a game within the past year. 2021 has seen some excellent releases, but the six nominated for Game of the Year are Deathloop, It Takes Two, Metroid Dread, Psychonauts 2, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, and Resident Evil Village. Each has plenty of reasons to be nominated, however, only one can win and, based on how each was received, there are some clear frontrunners for the award.

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Deathloop


deathloop arkane formula

Following its release, Deathloop looked like it might become one of the most highly rated games on the PlayStation 5 with plenty of outlets giving it perfect scores. Critics and fans alike praised its satisfying gameplay, interesting story, and interactive world citing the game as potentially one of the earliest “generation-defining” games for the PS5. It’s an extremely approachable immersive sim that has introduced plenty of new fans to the genre, potentially opening the door for more “hardcore” immersive sims to break through into the mainstream. Additionally, from a style perspective, Deathloop certainly stands out with its 1960s-inspired, comic book-style visuals and music that really sets the mood for the time-loop action thriller.


Although there’s a lot going for Deathloop, there are a few hangups as well that could stand in its way of being crowned “Game of the Year.” While its story is gripping in its early hours, many conversations surrounding its second-half point out the many inconsistencies in it and how several aspects of the narrative fall apart before its conclusion. What’s more, while its immersive sim elements are great for newcomers to the genre, the game coddled them a bit too much rather than challenging them to think critically about each gameplay situation.

It Takes Two


It Takes Two Title

It Takes Two was perhaps one of this year’s most surprising titles. Hazelight Studios is known for its focus on split-screen co-op games, but It Takes Two felt like a breath of fresh air in an industry clogged by single-player RPGs and online multiplayers. What’s more, while Hazelight’s previous game, A Way Out, told a serious story, It Takes Two leans into absurdity in order to provide a well-rounded experience that keeps the players on their toes by constantly introducing new gameplay mechanics and ideas. Many fans and critics have cited It Takes Two as the perfect game to play with a partner who’s looking to get into gaming as a hobby because the game frequently requires its players to work as a team, meaning that help is always there for those who might be less skilled.


While the gameplay of It Takes Two shines the brightest, its story leaves a lot to be desired. The premise is solid enough: a husband and wife who are in the early stages of getting a divorce accidentally get their bodies swapped with miniature dolls and need to work together to get back into their bodies to take care of their daughter. Unfortunately, It Takes Two struggles to find anything concrete to say about relationships, divorce, or marriage and results in all of its characters feeling like two-dimensional caricatures that aren’t all that upset about the emotional strain that divorce puts on a couple.


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Metroid Dread


Metroid Dread

There’s a lot to love about Metroid Dread. From the moment it was surprisingly announced during Nintendo’s E3 2021 conference, fans knew that they were in for something special. The game is a prime example of the heights that can be reached when learning from past entries in a franchise to make the next game even better. Metroid Dread‘s tight controls, thought-provoking puzzles, and fantastic boss fights make it one of the best games in the entire Metroid series and one of 2021’s all-time greats. Its soundtrack that evokes classic Metroid paired with combat elements that are refined versions of older franchise staples give it a sense of quality and synergy with the rest of the franchise, making it a no-brainer for a Game of the Year nomination.


The two major things potentially holding Metroid Dread back when it comes to actually winning the category are its high difficulty and, at times, obtuse puzzles. Unclear progression is something of a staple for the Metroid series and, those familiar with the idea that the player will need to be firing missiles at every seemingly innocuous wall shouldn’t have had an issue with Dread‘s take on the mechanic, but those not in the know might have had issues with the obtuse nature of its puzzles. Metroid Dread‘s high, unalterable difficulty also serves as a potential barrier for anyone looking to play the game but is unable to master the skills necessary in completing it or otherwise unable to play it due to the game’s complete lack of accessibility settings.


Psychonauts 2


psychonauts 2 close up of main character

One of the best things about Psychonauts 2 is the fact that it exists at all following its drawn-out development cycle. Now that the game is finally available, long-time fans of the original were delighted to discover that Psychonauts 2 follows the first game’s lead when it comes to overall quality. Psychonauts 2‘s visuals and design are the game’s strongest elements as they both individually showcase the extent of what’s possible in gaming as an art medium. Each different mind that Raz enters feels like a caleidoscope of ideas and symbolism that haven’t been explored before in gaming.


While many fans and critics praised Psychonauts 2 for being faithful to the original in terms of the gameplay, it, unfortunately, didn’t really innovate on any of the ideas present in the first one making the returning powers that are a part of Raz’s arsenal feel dated and old. The lack of gameplay innovation that Psychonauts 2 is bringing to the table might be a big problem for the game when it comes to securing a win in the category. Another issue it might run into is the fact that its story, while certainly touching at times, falls a little flat in its later hours and the conclusion begins to feel rushed. This feels like a result of the game’s troubled development not being able to tie up its story beats in a narratively satisfying way, however, hopefully, the more endearing moments can outshine those that don’t get the payoff that they deserved.


Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart


Rivet from Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart

The PlayStation 5 has had a good year and Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is a prime example of why. Rift Apart almost feels like a follow-up to Astro’s Playroom in that many elements of its gameplay feel like technical showcases to what the PS5 is capable of. On top of being a technical marvel, Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart also features one of the series’ strongest stories with the introduction of Rivet and Kit who filled it with plenty of heart thanks to the game’s strong writing. While there had previously been a handful of titles that properly made good use of the new PS5 hardware, Ratchet and Clank has frequently been described as the type of game that is the reason why someone should purchase a current-gen console.


One major issue cited by critics about Rift Apart that could keep it from winning Game of the Year is the fact that most of its gameplay is made up of often repetitive shooting sections. Although that’s not necessarily different from other entries in the series, Rift Apart‘s constant need for the player to be blasting away at enemies got to be grating for some despite the interesting arsenal of weapons at both Ratchet and Rivet’s disposal.

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Resident Evil Village


resident evil village lady dimitrescu claws

Resident Evil Village is a great example of what a game can be, with many comparing it to an amusement park of classic Resident Evil in that there are all sorts of different “rides” for the player to enjoy before heading off to the next. One of Village‘s best features is that it has plenty of different gameplay styles throughout its playtime for fans of every era of the horror franchise. It borrows plenty of the series’ best ideas like the overwhelming hordes of enemies from Resident Evil 4, the horror-focused stealth sections from Resident Evil 7, and even the widely criticized action-shooter sections from Resident Evil 5 and 6. Its satisfying gameplay loop, strong character writing, and its willingness to embrace the campier side of its genre make it one of the strongest contenders for Game of the Year.


A big problem standing in the way of Resident Evil Village winning the category is the simple fact that it’s a horror title and that horror isn’t for everyone, meaning that those voting on the winners of the award might have been turned off by the intense moments in the game’s early hours. Horror fans can certainly appreciate it, but Resident Evil‘s specific tastes, unfortunately, aren’t for everyone. Those who were able to make it through to the end of the game also might criticize it for its weak second half. The initial moments in the titular village, Lady Dimitrescu’s castle, and the dollhouse are the strongest parts of the game but are frontloaded giving it a weak conclusion with areas and enemies that aren’t particularly memorable or unique to RE8. The things about the game that left impressions, however, are likely to stay in players’ minds for years to come.


Final Predictions For the Game Awards’ Game of the Year


promo ad for The Game Awards 2021

Clearly, there are a lot of reasons for each title nominated to be awarded as Game of the Year, but only one can emerge with the title. Obviously, this is all speculation, but the two games that seem to be in the lead for winning are Deathloop and Resident Evil Village. While both games’ introductions are much stronger than their conclusion, narratively and from a gameplay perspective, they both are full of some of the year’s most memorable moments and characters. Colt and Julianna’s relationship and banter give Deathloop a style and tone that hasn’t been frequently seen in games up to this point. Lady Dimitrescu, Heisenberg, and Chris Redfield all stand out as some of 2021’s best characters in gaming and serve as an excellent example as to why RE8 deserves to win.


From gameplay perspectives, Deathloop and Resident Evil Village open themselves up to allow players to take control of each situation they’re put in and come up with their own ways to solve them, truly highlighting one of video gaming’s strongest aspects over every other artistic medium. While games like It Takes Two and Metroid Dread might have more solid mechanics, Deathloop and RE8 are great marriages between gameplay and narrative in a way that both titles are lacking. What’s more, Psychonauts 2 and Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart might have better narratives than Deathloop and Resident Evil Village, however, both games’ mechanics left a little bit too much to be desired making the gameplay sections of the games often feel like a drag that was getting in the way of a well-written story. Only time will tell which game walks away with the title of Game of the Year, but it seems like a strong possibility that it could be Deathloop or RE8, though both have strong arguments against them as well.


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