Six Surprises of 2016
I have a feeling that in a few years time people will look back at 2016 as the year of gaming surprises. I don’t think anyone could have predicted how good this year was going to be gaming wise. From games coming out of nowhere and shocking us all to new features taking over lives. So I thought I would list my biggest six surprises of 2016 (gotta love that alliteration) for you all. So in no particular order and without any further ado, let’s get to the list.
Honestly, I gave this game next to no chance of being good. ID Software hadn’t exactly been filling me with confidence that Doom would be anywhere near as good as it is. After all, their last game was the promising but highly flawed RAGE and the Doom Multiplayer beta was average at best. So when Doom hit store shelves and the single player mode turned out to be a blood-soaked, demonic 10 hours of pure shooter joy I felt l had been sucker punched out of nowhere. It was a frantic revival of the classic Doom formula that was modern yet somehow still felt like the original title it was rebooting. I also loved the (admittedly minimal) story and how it hinted that this was actually a sequel and not a restart for the franchise. It left enough ambiguous hints and clues to suggest a bigger story and that made it all the more enjoyable for an old Space Marine fan such as myself. Now I just hope that Bethesda and ID release some more single player content soon because I can’t wait to dive back in.
As far as features go, backwards compatibility has always been in the realm of “nice but not necessary” for me. I have always felt that the option was cool but it would likely be something I wouldn’t use very often. This year that attitude changed. With Microsoft continuing to expand their library of 360 games that work on the Xbox One, I kept finding reasons to go back to my favourite games from the last generation. In fact, there is every chance that I have played more Red Dead Redemption and Mass Effect than any other game this year. That is not a slight on this year’s releases but an indication of how, in this day and age, good gameplay still rings true. It is my sincerest hope that Sony soon follows suit, but sadly, I find that highly unlikely.
In 2015 it was easy to feel that Ubisoft’s formula was wearing a little thin. There seemed to be a little too much dipping into the well with their lead titles. Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry and Tom Clancy were all starting to feel a little worn. Thankfully 2016 has been a different story. Ubisoft has taken some of their key franchises and injected them with some originality, inspiration and plain fun. Beginning with their continued support of the excellent Rainbow 6: Seige, working through the troubled yet still enjoyable Division and ending with the superior sequel that is Watch Dogs 2, Ubisoft has dared to differ in 2016. Their new franchises like Steep and Eagle Flight were impressive, their smaller titles like Grow Up and Champions of Anteria tried something new and the return of classic games such as Trackmania excited players everywhere. I have to say that of all the major publishers, Ubisoft surprised me the most and I couldn’t be happier.
While I expected Blizzard’s newest game to be excellent I didn’t have any idea of exactly how big the game would end up being. Blizzard’s first new IP in decades and first ever FPS has taken over the world in a way I just never saw coming. The smart evolution of the Team Fortress formula has stolen million’s of gaming hours worldwide. The instantly cosplayable cast of characters, the smart and engaging gameplay and the huge amount of variety has come together to form something of the perfect storm as far as team FPS goes. I can see this game dominating game time for hundreds and thousands of people for years to come.
In a move I never saw coming, it appears that free DLC is once again in vogue. 2016 saw a host of big games move to a free DLC policy. Gears 4, Halo 5 and Titanfall 2 have all taken this step and I couldn’t be happier. Shooters especially suffer from fractured communities when gamers have to pay for map packs so I hope this new trend abolishes the paid map pack forever. Please for the love of us all, Battlefield and CoD you need to move down this path.
Single Player Shooters
I have spoken about this in the past but it is worth repeating. This year has been surprisingly good for single player shooters. We have had gems like Doom, Shadow Warrior 2 and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided but the biggest surprise has been the traditionally multiplayer focused titles. Titanfall 2, Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare all had excellent single player components that showed skill in storytelling, pacing and level design. It was wonderful to see.
So that is my biggest surprises of 2016. I would love to hear what your biggest surprises of the year are. Let us know in the comments or on social media and join me in hoping that 2017 has just as many great surprises.