2016 may have been a rough year in many respects, but for the First-Person Shooter, it was the best year in quite a while. The venerable genre saw a surge of original titles and entertaining throwbacks that fused modern design with old-school action.
Shooters In 2016: Breaking Out Of The Mold
The overwhelming victor in the FPS races this year was Blizzard's multiplayer team shooter, #Overwatch. The shooter's success was unexpected to many, since it was cobbled together from leftover resources of a scrapped MMO, but the fast-paced combat, host of unique and well-balanced characters and excellent design aesthetic won gamers over.
#Blizzard smartly decided not to include a singleplayer story mode, which in many multiplayer-focused shooters has been something of a vestigial tail hanging uselessly off a fun online experience. Instead, they fleshed out the story of Overwatch's world and characters through an entertaining and beautifully animated series of short films, which captured the imaginations of fans so thoroughly that even people who don't play the game have started drawing fan art of the characters.
The title of most inventive shooter of the year though, would almost certainly go to the indie hit Superhot. Featuring a beautiful minimalist art style, Superhot was as much of a puzzle of violence as it was a traditional FPS. The central conceit of the game, that when you don't move neither does time, completely changes traditional reflex based FPS gameplay into a considered, deadly ballet of destruction using the most efficient actions possible. When you see your hard work played back at normal speed at the end of each level, it's something beautiful to behold.
New Settings, New Experiences
The Battlefield series abandoned their modern shooter setting for a rarely used historical period with Battlefield 1, which is the sequel to Battlefield 4, because DICE are too important to care about the fundamentals of how numbers work. Battlefield 1 took us back in time to the First World War, one of the most pointless and bloody wars in modern history. Despite the inherent problem with portraying the carnage of WW1 for entertainment, Battlefield 1 was a surprisingly respectful take on the conflict. The fact that the game featured an excellent and touching singleplayer campaign in addition to the classic Battlefield multiplayer certainly helped things.
While Far Cry Primal was ultimately a flawed game, it took a huge risk by breaking out of the modern/sci-fi shooter mold. Far Cry Primal moved the FPS forward by taking us back to the stone age, and showed that an entertaining FPS didn't need the standard array of shotgun, pistol, machine gun and rocket launcher to succeed. Sometimes, just sometimes, you can let the player throw a bunch of bees at their enemies.
Updating The Classics
Doom fans were initially skeptical of Bethesda's reboot-cum-sequel of the classic game (Requel? Seboot?): The earliest gameplay trailers looked far too slow for fans of the original, and rumors of regenerating health systems were met with sour disapproval. Luckily, Bethesda managed to pull things together—cover mechanics and regenerating health were nowhere to be found and the final gameplay was considerably sped up from early previews. Fans who'd been yearning for a return to some high octane, classic FPS gameplay found what they'd been hoping for in the new DOOM, which fused a lot of the things we loved about the classic with one or two modern design improvements.
One thing's certain for FPS lovers in 2016, whatever your tastes, there was an excellent game that suited it. After long years of wars between greenish grey military shooters, it's been damn good to see so many games break out of the mold. Judging by the awesome trailer for Prey, next year may be just as great.
Do you have an FPS you're looking forward to in 2017? Think there was a revolutionary FPS in 2016 I missed? Let us know in the comments.