2016 was unusually contentious among the Gamer Professionals staff when it came to deciding our Game of the Year. Nearly every person had a different pick: only DOOM was nominated more than once. As it was too close to call, we held a runoff vote, which was even closer than the original nomination process. Ultimately, though, DOOM squeaked ahead of every other game this year. Even though 2016 had plenty of impressive AAA titles, this was no accident. DOOM boasts one of the best shooter campaigns ever, and arguably the outright best of the past few years. It blindsided gamers and critics everywhere, most of whom expected it to be yet another mediocre offering from iD Software, a legendary studio which had begun to fade into obscurity.
DOOM ended up being anything but mediocre; much like its hellish setting, it was a watertight experience. The gameplay was quick and reactive, the pacing nearly perfect, and the level design effectively flawless. Experienced art direction melded with heavy as hell music to produce an atmosphere that was decidedly metal. The story took cues from the Souls series, and was present if you looked, but unobtrusive if you just wanted to kill demons. Even better, it didn’t take itself too seriously, as evidenced by the DOOM Marine’s habit of smashing anything that spoke too much. Unlike many of this year’s offerings, it ran like butter on PC, despite its demanding eye-candy graphics.
More impressive than any of this, though, was that old school DOOM feeling it successfully lifted from the original games. It felt like an arena shooter, not a clone of popular games in the genre like Battlefield and Call of Duty. It empowered the player, and made him or her feel like a true hunter in the most primitive, visceral sense. This was a first-person shooter with soul, with not a trace of corporate sterility, and no sign that the developers reigned in their gory and glorious impulses at any time.
That the outsourced multiplayer was so mediocre by comparison is a shame, but at the same time, this allowed iD to focus its whole stable of talent on building an incredible single player experience. DOOM‘s campaign has hooked us, and thanks to its astounding “why can’t I stop” replayability, it’ll hook us for years to come.
Two other games garnered quite a few votes among our staff: Overwatch and Dark Souls III. Overwatch was, like every Blizzard game, a huge deal even before release. More than that though, it was a release of tension for the company, which built the game out of the ashes of an enormous failed project. Overwatch feels like freedom, a breath of fresh air, a colorful and quirky expression of raw talent by a group of consummate designers. It’s competitive, of course, which is standard for recent multiplayer shooters, but it’s also accessible. Most of all, it’s just a really fun game: Blizzard is no longer developing for eSports at the expense of all else.
Dark Souls III too was a beautiful experience. Unflinchingly punishing, yes, but beautiful all the same. FromSoftware has clearly learned from each game in the series, and combined this knowledge to create a perfectly focused expression of the Souls style and universe. As with Bloodborne, combat was a bit faster than in Dark Souls, but less clunky than in Dark Souls 2. Progression was less linear than in Demon’s Souls, but not nearly as open ended as in Dark Souls. Dark Souls III was what we wanted and expected from a Souls game, an amalgamation of the series in all its brutal grandeur. Its bosses are suitably terrifying, its PvP is still heart-pounding, and its atmosphere is dark and lonely. FromSoftware couldn’t hardly have capped their flagship series in a better way.
A big thank you to our readers for joining us in appreciating a densely packed year of great video games. Stay tuned for our future series about the games we’re looking forward to in 2017.