With 2016 over, it’s time to discuss the year’s best games. Alongside a top 10, I’ll be posting a few “Versus” articles pitting two games against each other. Really though, it’s just a silly way for me to talk about some of the titles I may not get to in my final top 10 list. Enjoy!
2016 was a great year for games, but one of the weirder phenomenons was the prevalence of excellent shooter campaigns. In a time when more developers are experimenting with multiplayer-only (Titanfall 1), succeeding brilliantly with multiplayer-only (Overwatch), or blending the whole thing together into an always-online experience (Destiny, The Division), the dedicated 5-10 hour single-player shooter campaign seems out of place.
Yet here we are with Doom, an instant classic that seems to have a tacked-on multiplayer if anything; Battlefield 1, which didn’t advertise a campaign at all, but came packed with an emotional collection of short war stories; and Titanfall 2, a complete package straight out of 2007 featuring fantastic multiplayer and a campaign that’s been compared to Half-Life 2.
In any other year Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Gears of War 4 would have been standouts. In 2016 they barely rate. Infinite Warfare’s campaign is at least as good as the Kevin Spacey-starring Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and certainly more ambitious. Meanwhile, Gears of War 4 successfully resurrects the franchise with a fresh cast and a new threat.
Infinite Warfare is particularly surprising considering how half-assed the rest of the package feels. Yet that only makes a stronger case for a game like Titanfall 2, which features fresh, exciting multiplayer, a campaign packed with novelty, and a robot companion I actually cared about (Infinite Warfare’s E3N is great, but he’s no BT).
Gears of War 4, meanwhile, walks a bit too close into the territory forged by 343 Industries’ Halo 4. Like Halo, Gears 4 is in the hands of a fresh team, and much like Halo they struggle to introduce new ideas without stepping on the past. The new robot enemies, the DeeBees, are about as unfun to fight as Halo 4’s Forerunner jerks. And like Halo 4, Gears of War 4 only feels right when some familiar faces return. By the end, Gears 4 is nearly indistinguishable from Gears 3, but with a cast that’s about half as likable as Marcus, Dom, Cole, and Baird.
Despite all that, my takeaway is more surprise for how spoiled we are for great shooter campaigns from 2016. If you have the stomach to play through five shooters than you’ve got a solid list here — I’d just recommend starting with Doom, Titanfall 2, and Battlefield 1 before moving on to these two.