2016 was a good year for first-person shooters, but a great year for single-player shooter campaigns. First, Doom, Gears of War 4, Battlefield 1, and Titanfall 2 all had single-player campaigns, which is a victory in itself for an industry that would prefer to go all multiplayer all the time (screw you Overwatch). Second, all those campaigns were good, and some were even great! However, the biggest surprise of all was that the best shooter campaign came from the game I had the lowest expectations for: Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.
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The Witness is a game with no tutorials, no overt explanations. It is a puzzle game, but it makes no deliberate effort to explain how its puzzles work. It teaches only through experience and observation.
This is clear from the outset of the game, in which the player finds him- or herself looking down a tunnel at a door from a first person perspective. The game doesn’t explain that WASD is used to move, nor anything about who you are or where you are. You just need to play around with the keyboard and approach the door.
Dishonored 2 is a stealth action game that tells you to “play the way you want”. What that really means is that you have a choice in how to get rid of patrolling guards: Either kill them, or knock them out, be lethal, or be non-lethal.
Early in the game I picked up a pistol. Now, late in the game, I’ve still never shot it. Well, except for that one time I shot a wall just for kicks, but my gun has never been used for its intended purpose. It’s never killed people. I also picked up a crossbow early on, and it has been rarely fired. I’ve set insect nests ablaze with incendiary bolts, I’ve broken wood planks with normal bolts, but I’ve only ever shot people with non-lethal bolts. It’s another tool that, for the most part, has not lived up to its intended purpose.
As is our tradition, this year we count down our top five games of 2016. Spoiler alert: there’s a whole lot of indies and oddities on this list.
Far Cry 2 was, and still is, an anomaly in the world of shooters: A big-budget franchise shooter power fantasy that undercut its power fantasy with constant reminders that this kind of violence has consequences. Throughout the game your friends die, your friends betray you, and in the end, we team with the central villain to save some refugees before we both kill ourselves; doing something good before we let our violence consume us. It was a world that fought back at us as much as we fought it, and everyone was corrupted by the violence.