The video game industry has its version of the Academy Awards last night with Geoff Keighley’s annual Game Awards ceremony, which honored the greatest achievements in gaming from 2016. Overwatch won the top prize (you can find a full list of winners here) but to be honest, most gamers (myself included) tune into the Game Awards to see what new game announcements there might be.
Overall, this year’s show was a little disappointing in terms of reveals — it probably doesn’t help that Sony probably snagged a bunch of them for its PlayStation Experience event on December 3 — but there was a good mix of cool trailers and a few other surprises that only live TV can deliver. If you didn’t have three hours to spend watching the 2016 Game Awards, that’s okay, because here’s a list of the most important things you missed out on.
Mass Effect Andromeda Trailer (With Gameplay!)
Although EA’s lack of commitment to nailing down a release date for Mass Effect: Andromeda is worrying, especially since the game is supposed to be out in March, the trailer that was shown off made it easy to forget about all that. Clocking in at almost five minutes-long, the new trailer offered the best look at Andromeda yet and showed off a ton of gameplay. For those who don’t know, Andromeda is set hundreds of years after the events of the original Mass Effect games and involves your characters, a “Pathfinder,” exploring a new galaxy in order to find a new home for humanity.
Judging by what was shown, the game looks to be much more exploration-heavy than previous games in the series and gives you plenty of tools to do so, including a new vehicle that already looks a hundred times better than the first game’s infamous Mako, and an updated combat system that offers a wide range of evasive maneuvers (why did it take this long to get a jetpack in a Mass Effect game?). Assuming Mass Effect: Andromeda hits its 2017 target, it could very well be a contender for Game of the Year consideration.
New Cast Members Join Kojima’s ‘Death Stranding’
Hideo Kojima was on hand to show off more of his mysterious new PS4 game Death Stranding, with a new trailer that at least tried to convey what the heck this game is actually about. Apparently it’s an open-world action game, which makes sense considering Kojima’s previous game was the open-world action game Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
However, the big Death Stranding news didn’t involve what genre it belongs to, but rather two new prominent figures who will be part of the game: filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, who is a friend of Kojima’s and worked with him on the cancelled horror game P.T. and Mads Mikkelsen, who is perhaps best known for his sensational turn as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the gone-too-soon TV series Hannibal. Kojima knows how to make a statement, that’s for sure.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Footage
Nintendo showed not one, but two new bits of Breath of the Wild footage at the Game Awards. First they presented a new cinematic trailer, which has fans speculating that Zelda will be a playable character in the game, as well as a level playthrough from some Nintendo Treehouse reps, which was about as awkward as you might expect.
Curiously, the game was being played on the Wii U, which seems like an odd choice given that the console is pretty much dead at this point and everyone wants to see it on the Nintendo Switch. You would think that Nintendo would relish the opportunity to promote its upcoming console, especially at an even like the Game Awards, but then again, Nintendo’s decisions often seem to defy logic. Anyway, Breath of the Wild still looks fantastic and is sure to be excellent on the Wii U and Switch. Now if Nintendo could just tell us when it’s actually coming out, that would be great …
World Premiere of Cliff Bleszinski’s ‘Lawbreakers’
Technically, this wasn’t really the ‘world premiere’ of Lawbreakers, as the game has been shown in alpha footage previously, but the new trailer for Gears of War c0-creator Cliff Bleszinski’s new gravity-defying shooter offers a clearer idea of what it’s all about (hint: lots of shooting). Right now, it’s unclear if a console version of Lawbreakers will be made, as it’s still planned as a PC-only release, but it’s now been confirmed that the game will no longer be free-to-play and will instead take a cue from Overwatch and be a full-priced game. As the trailer notes, you can sign up for the beta now, with the full game arriving at some point in 2017.
Shovel Knight Expansion Announced
Shovel Knight, the retro-themed 2D platformer that also happens to be one of the best games of 2014, is getting an all new expansion. Developer Yacht Club Games dropped a trailer for Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment. While it’s a bit disappointing that we’re only getting an expansion and not a full sequel, more Shovel Knight is hard to say no to. The expansion is actually a prequel to the original game and follows the villainous Specter Knight as he sets out on a quest to assemble the Order of No Quarter for The Enchantress. Specter of Torment is set to launch in spring 2017.
Halo Wars 2 Trailer
Honestly, it’s hard to get excited for another RTS set in the Halo universe, but I have to admit that the trailer that Microsoft dropped for Halo Wars 2 during the Game Awards looks pretty cool. No actual gameplay is shown off (it’s a cinematic trailer, after all), but a new villain, Atriox, is introduced. He’s got a cool red plasma sword and leads some sort of rebel group of Elites. Not much else to say on this one, but it is nice to see that the game is taking its story seriously, which isn’t always the case when it comes to RTS games.
Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition
Rumors of a remastered Bulletstorm started circulating a few weeks ago and lo and behold, the Game Awards delivered. People Can Fly, the developer behind the criminally-overlooked 2011 shooter, announced that the game will be coming to current-gen consoles and PC on April 7, 2017. Dubbed the ‘Full Clip Edition’, this new version of Bulletstorm will support 4K , some new challenge maps, and something called Duke Nukem’s Bulletstorm Tour, which I’m assuming lets you play through the game as cigar-chomping antihero. Hopefully this re-release helps Bulletstorm get a new lease on life and gets picked up by some of those who ignored it the first time around.
Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy Game Officially Announced
One of the worst kept secrets in gaming over the last month or so, Telltale officially confirmed what we all knew already with the announcement that they are developing a licensed adventure game based on Guardians of the Galaxy. The short teaser trailer doesn’t feature any gameplay, but is set to King Harvest’s “Dancing in the Moonlight,” suggesting that game will have a soundtrack filled with all sorts of 70s pop classics. The game will be out sometime in 2017 and if Telltale’s work on Tales from the Borderlands — a game that feels similar in tone already to the 2014 Guardians of the Galaxy movie — is any indication, we’re in for a real treat with this one.
‘The Walking Dead: A New Frontier’ Extended Look
In addition to Guardians of the Galaxy, Telltale also showed off the next entry in its series of games based on The Walking Dead with a brand new trailer for A New Frontier, a.k.a. Season 3. The game will again follow the struggles of the young Clementine and introduce a new protagonist named Javier. The first two episodes are due out December 20, just in time to help us get super depressed for Christmas. Thanks Telltale!
Micheal Phelps Presented The Award For Best eSports Player
You know that eSports are starting to be taken seriously when the Game Awards are able to rope in arguably the greatest Olympian of all time to hand out the award for Best eSports player. That’s right, Michael Phelps was on hand to present the award to Counter Strike: Go player Marcelo “Coldzera” David. While you’d be forgiven for assuming that Phelps’ presentation would have an air of condescension to it, given that he’s a “real” athlete roped into handing out an award to someone who plays video games for a living,
Phelps seemed to have genuine respect for the eSports community and even referenced his fondness for Call of Duty (admittedly, he may have been contractually obligated to namedrop CoD, considering he has a prominent role in advertisements for Infinite Warfare). This could have been extremely cringe-worthy to watch, so good on Phelps for being a consummate professional.
Nolan North’s Heartfelt, Possibly Controversial, Speech
Prolific voice actor Nolan North won the award for best performance for his work as Nathan Drake in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and when he took the stage to accept the award, he took things in a bit of an unexpected direction. North focused on the SAG-AFTRA voice actors strike that has been been ongoing since October and seemed to criticize his fellow voice actors by standing up for the artists and programmers at Uncharted 4 developer Naughty Dog.
“Performance matters,” North said, echoing the #PerformanceMatters hashtag that has been used to promote the SAG-AFTRA union worker’s grievances. “The performance of every designer, every programmer, of every hard working and talented person who works at that office [at Naughty Dog] That performance is so important. … And their performance matters more than mine. And that’s important in this day and age, with all this talk going back and forth. Because without their performance, my performance wouldn’t matter. It wouldn’t even exist.”
While I would argue that North was acknowledging the hard work of the many men and women who make video games a living and thus, create jobs for video game voice actors, he may want to clarify his statements, as he risks being taken the wrong way by many of his fellow SAG-AFTRA members.
Super Awkward Schick Razor Man
Game Awards host/creator Geoff Keighley has done a fine job in recent years in putting together a respectable awards show for video games, but even he can’t escape the boot of random, awkward product placement. Which brings us to Schick Hydro Man, who very well may be the most memorable thing about this year’s awards ceremony.
At one point during the broadcast, a man dressed in a giant Schick razor costume burst out of the crowd to tell us all about the benefits of a good shave and even presented a bizarre Street Fighter-themed commercial. It was totally bizarre and stupid, but it also gave us a new horrifying corporate mascot that will surely inspire all sorts of memes, so I guess that’s good?
That Dragon, Cancer Acceptance Speech
That Dragon, Cancer was one of the more uplifting (and simultaneously totally heartbreaking) gaming stories of 2016, as the indie title was developed by Ryan Green focuses on his young son’s battle with cancer. Sadly, his son Joel didn’t make it, but Green’s game did win the Games For Impact award this year, which prompted an emotional acceptance speech from the grieving father.
Green touched on how telling his sons story through the medium of video games gave him, his wife, and their other children an avenue to be heard and let others understand their experience. I haven’t played That Dragon, Cancer and I’m not sure if I’d even be able to, but Green’s speech is evidence of the power video games can have as a storytelling medium and his game will have an impact for years to come.