Disclaimer: I wasn’t paid to say of the gushy things you’re about to read, I just love these games.
Pure shooters, first or third-person, are not my video game flavor of choice. Call of Duty stagnated for me after Modern Warfare 2, Battlefield has never been my cup of tea aside from Bad Company 2, and I’ve always found Gears of War’s trudging pace too clunky to enjoy. Nowadays almost every game has elements of a shooter; modern Deus Ex has a first-person camera and a third-person cover mechanic and Metal Gear Solid V could technically be a third-person shooter as could The Last of Us despite their stealth focus. These hybrids aside, modern shooters have not had much to offer me other than opportunities to complain about DLC practices. But in the year of our Lord 2016, every shooter I played, I had a blast, and each one offered something different.
Campaign: Doom 2016
One of the largest gripes I and many players have with modern shooters is their lack of quality single player content. When I’d heard that Bethesda and id Software were making a new Doom game my skepticism kicked into full gear. It didn’t help that there was little to no actual press prior to the game’s May 13th release and that the multiplayer beta left many a player cool on the game. So when the game finally got into the hands of the press and the community, I was shocked to hear such high praise for this game but once I picked it up for myself I joined the Doom 2016 evangelists.
I hadn’t grown up with Doom as many others had so my reverence for Doom is relegated to a historical appreciation but Doom 2016 managed to capitalize on what made the originals amazing without being slavish to the old or new trends. You move at approximately 200 mph and the Doom Marine has no need for aiming down sights and can carry around an arsenal that makes the two weapon limit of other shooters look as lame as it always was. The enemies are well designed, both visually and mechanically, with each enemy having different behavioral patterns that makes tackling diverse groups a frantically tactical challenge. The multiplayer is functional, but nothing too write home about, especially with the other AAA shooters released this year.
Aside from hours of fun, if the shooters of 2016 have given me anything it’s a reminder that I can’t always trust my first impressions. Overwatch was born from the ashes of Titan, Blizzard’s epic, large scale……something that they scrapped. Combine this with CG trailers and MOBA comparisons and I wasn’t even cynical, just disinterested. Fast forward to the first beta weekend and after two matches I’d pre-ordered (don’t pre-order games kids, do as I say not as I do).
Switching the method of control from just clicking and hotkeys to a polished FPS made me realize I don’t completely hate MOBAs, just that I find them boring to play and watch. The synergy and mechanical complexities of Overwatch invigorates every match. Some may say the counter-picking is too strong but I enjoy that it forces people to experiment with different characters and with Blizzard constantly updating the balance the meta-game stays fresh. The character designs are some of the most immediately memorable and appealing designs I’ve seen since Persona 4. Their playstyles all use basic FPS controls, but there’s a character for everyone in the cast, aesthetically or mechanically. The scraps of lore Blizzard gives us are entertaining but beg for more fleshed out exploration. If only there was a shooter with a great campaign and multiplayer…
Best of Both Worlds: Titanfall 2
Titanfall 2 is probably the game on this list that I have the most complicated history with. I loved the first one to death; no lack of true story or 400 unlockable attachments for each of my guns could keep me from enjoying the wall running, parkour, mecha/Titans, and the glorious feel of it all. So when Titanfall 2 was announced I was beyond ecstatic.
Then the online tech test launched with a lackluster mode, maps, and other small changes that added up to me writing the game off from my October purchases. But then a friend gave me a code to the CoD: Infinite Warfare beta. The Titanfall 2 tech test didn’t live up to my memories of what Titanfall 1 was, but the IW beta showed me how much worse it could get. Despite all of CoD’s famous polish and production values it couldn’t even match the fun I’d had being disappointed by TF2. I’m happy to report, as if the rest of the video game press hasn’t already, that Titanfall 2 is a sublime experience, on and offline. The campaign is great, it’s well-paced with various locales, with situations and mechanics that aren’t simply there to introduce you to multiplayer features. The multiplayer has expanded your arsenal from TF2 without it feeling bloated. The maps are not as tight as TF1, but using the various new movement abilities on top of the parkour and learning the maps gives you a feeling of mastery of the traversal system that no other game, shooter or otherwise, can offer this year. What makes TF2 shine is its mechanics. The gunplay, Titans, and all the various combinations of pilot and Titan loadouts are icing on the delicious movement cake.
Take Your Pick
Titanfall 2’s mechanics allowed it to master both single and multiplayer. The parkour movement and Titan systems are satisfying regardless of whether it’s a human player or NPC you’re decimating. Overwatch’s characters and systems are designed for fast paced mental play, multiplayer match-ups, and metagames. And frankly I can’t exactly pinpoint why Doom’s multiplayer is so lackluster, perhaps its campaign is just that good. Each of these games displays a mastery over a different aspect of the FPS genre, and all are different enough in tone, style, and play that if you have any affection the first-person shooter genre, 2016 had something for you.