Funny To A Point – The Grand Shooter Roast Of 2016
2016 has been an incredible year for shooter fans, filled with fresh new experiences like Doom, Gears of War 4, and More Destiny. Not to be outdone, the genre's biggest franchises also explored new territory, with Battlefield boldly tackling the world war that didn't star Hitler, and Call of Duty going to space...again. There were plenty of awesome shooters to fall in love with this year, but rather than gushing over them like every other year-end list, let's use this time to tear 'em all a new one, shall we?
Without further ado, here's my roast of the 10 biggest shooters of 2016, ranked from awful to...slightly less awful.
More Like: Homefart: The Revulsion
The first Homefront was a competent first-person shooter hamstrung by dated graphics and forgettable gameplay. As such, the sequel strived to push new boundaries – specifically, the boundaries of how many glitches and performance issues a game can contain before players quietly set down their controller, unplug their console, and heave it through the nearest window.
How bad do the bugs get? Well, for starters that guy in the above screenshot ain't pointing to the Big Man upstairs. He's just holding an invisible gun, a magical cloaking technology that NPCs will periodically employ when they disappear before your very eyes. I posted over a dozen clips of facepalm-worthy glitches I experienced during the game for a feature back in May, and that was just the beginning; if I had compiled every problem I ran into, the video would probably still be uploading to YouTube.
I should note that since release Dambuster Studios has put out several patches to improve the game. I hope they do, as Homefront: The Revolution did have some interesting ideas and mechanics. I haven't personally returned to the game since the patches were released, however, and thanks to the Geneva Conventions, no one can make me.
Final Verdict: The revolution should not be televised.
More Like: Battleboring
In a pre-Overwatch world, Battleborn was beaming with potential. In a post-Overwatch world, however, the game quickly became Battlewhatnow? "But wait! That's not fair! They're completely different games," said annoying people all over the Internet. And they're right: Battleborn is a 5-v-5 team-based competitive shooter with a cast of 20-plus playable characters sporting unique abilities. Overwatch, on the other hand, is a 6-v-6 team-based competitive shooter with a cast of 20-plus playable characters sporting unique abilities. Completely different!
We apparently weren't the only poor, misguided souls who thought the two games were similar. Months before launch, the official Battleborn Twitter account took a jab at Overwatch with a gif of a penguin in a mech saying "Come at me, bro!" – because that'll help drum up support! Blizzard responded with its own goofy gif of Zenyatta and the message "The universe embraces us all, bro!" It's almost like one developer was super confident about their game, and the other super wasn't...
But joking aside, there are some real and meaningful differences between Battleborn and Overwatch. One game has a story campaign, and the other has impeccable controls, gameplay balance, and an art style that doesn't make your eyes puke. In one game, you level up your character with new abilities during the course of a match, and in the other you can actually find enough players to play a match. The list goes on.
Final Verdict: Definitely not Overwatch.
#8: Killing Floor
More Like: Cutting Room Floor 2
Until a few weeks ago, I didn't really know anything about the Killing Floor series, nor did I expect to play it. But Cork wrangled me into some co-op for his review, and I actually kinda sorta somewhat had some fun. How's that for a ringing endorsement!
Killing Floor 2 is essentially a rip-off of Call of Duty's zombies mode – with the teensy caveat that the first Killing Floor mod actually came out four years before Call of Duty even knew what a zombie was. Tripwire Interactive's sequel doesn't stray far from the shared formula; you're still doomed to aimlessly wander around levels with no option for escape, and must buy your weapons from glorified vending machines in between waves of enemies – because if there's one thing I want to do during the zombie apocalypse, it's balance my checkbook!
I've got a sizable list of beefs with Killing Floor 2: the
game needs more bosses, the leveling bonuses feel largely inconsequential, the
characters call money "dosh" (I mean seriously, what the hell?), and so on.
However, I still enjoyed what I played; turns out shooting a bunch of zombies
with your friends is a hard thing to screw up (though rewarding players with
loot boxes that require microtransactions to open is a great start). It's a low bar, but Killing Floor 2 deftly steps over
it like a toddler that has gotten pretty good at the whole "walking" thing.
Final Verdict: Low expectations can be a remarkable thing.
#7: Gears of War 4
More Like: Groins of Warts – oh, forget it.
Confession: I haven't played Gears of War 4. Or any Gears of War game. The series personifies the dude-bro attitude that annoys every gamer who isn't a dude-bro. Hell, it may have even created the attitude; I mean I can't say for certain having not played the games myself, but I'm pretty sure every line of dialogue in the series ends with the word "dude" or "bro," or some combination thereof.*
Neither the meathead characters nor the sticky-butt cover-based gunplay of the series has ever appealed to me. In fact, just hearing about Gears of War for the past 10 years has been a challenge – I'd rather have my wife shoot me in the face than play any of them, and that's a Gears of War reference I shouldn't even get!
That said, Gears of War 4 certainly looks good, and
everybody who has played it keeps telling me it's good – and they don't even
call me "bro" while doing it! Virtually everything about Gears of War 4 is new;
the protagonists, enemies, weapons, even the developer. So when faced with
figuring out its spot on this list, I did what any responsible journalist would
do: I asked Kyle to pick a random number between one and ten. Then I told him
to shut up and put it at number seven.
Final Verdict: Sure.
#6: Destiny: Rise
More Like: Destiny: Shoulda Been In The Main Game, Amiright?
If you just laughed at that alternative title, then buckle up, because this joke is on you. I hate that whiny, cynical sentiment with the fiery passion of that flaming hammer dude. As a matter of fact, I put Rise of Iron this high on the list for the sole reason that it, along with all of Bungie's other updates and expansions, have finally shut the haters up. You simply can't complain that Destiny doesn't have enough content anymore – and no, just because you were unhappy with the base game doesn't mean you were entitled to two years of free labor from Bungie. Fun fact: I wrote about some of my problems with Destiny (specifically the story!) after the beta, and got raked over the coals by pre-launch super fans who wouldn't tolerate any criticism of their beloved precious. I'm guessing those same people became the post-launch super trolls that have complained about how they were duped into buying it on every Destiny-related article for the past 27 months. Wait, I thought I had something for this...
Regardless of what the trolls think, Destiny did indeed continue to expand and improve throughout 2016. Perhaps the game's biggest achievement is creating its own alien language – you know, the one that the entire damn game is presented in? I logged in for the first time since launch this week, and virtually everything is unintelligible. Just my inventory alone is filled with unintended mystery: I've got glimmer, I've got armor cores, I've got crucible commendations, I've got motes of light, I've got strange coins – what the hell does any of this crap do?! I'm not really surprised by the lack of explanation considering Bungie couldn't be bothered to include its own lore in the game, but that doesn't make my eyes bleed any less every time I dive into a fan wiki.
That said, the actual gameplay is still pretty great.
Final Verdict: You're probably going to need a Miller to figure this crap out.
#5: Call of Duty:
More Like: Call of Doody: Infinite Woefare
I'm not going to say anything mean about Call of Duty, because it already gets way more hate than it should. After all, what other series consistently ships with full-fledged single-player, co-op, and competitive multiplayer offerings in every game? That's a lot of work! You've got to come up with brand-new characters for the player to follow through levels, all-new lore for why the world got blowed up again, and another villain to be apathetically voiced by a big-name actor. Not to mention the tireless efforts to continue improving the series' world-class A.I.:
Battlestar Galactica's Infinite Warfare's
story this year, but it wasn't the only mode that hit it out of the park. Zombies
mode finally got what it has always needed! No, not meta-progression or
character customization or better objectives or a story or a rigorous
streamlining to make the game halfway-comprehensible to newcomers. I'm talking
about soulless pandering to our nostalgia for the '80s! I mean, it's got David
Hasselhoff! Can we get any kookier? That's not a rhetorical question – somewhere
in the bowels of Activision right now there's a room full of stressed-out
designers saying, "Seriously guys, how can we get kookier?!!"
And finally, there's Infinite Warfare's competitive
multiplayer, which is just...hoo boy, I mean what can you even say? It's got all
those modes and loadouts and perks still probably – I've definitely played it,
Final Verdict: Three modes, 1.5X the fun.
#4: Titanfall 2
More Like: Toot'n'fall 2
Normally, I'd just jump straight into the tongue-in-cheek insults, but based on Titanfall 2's sales, I'm the only one who bought and played the damn game. So I feel compelled to start with a caveat: Titanfall 2 is an awesome game! Do yourself a favor and pick it up. It's already on sale.
EA actually let Respawn make a single-player campaign this time around, and it turned out great thanks to some clever gameplay gimmicks including a time-traveling sequence and a manufacturing facility that makes Willy Wonka's factory look like Foxconn. The story is also a success; most games fail at creating meaningful bonds with the player because their engines can't handle the detail or animation necessary to make characters feel believable. Titanfall 2's engine can't either, so Respawn made the main character a robot instead.** And it works!
Titanfall 2's multiplayer is also lots of fun, once you
figure out which modes aren't (i.e. everything not called Hardpoint or
Attrition). The constant stream of rewards you unlock is so gratifying that you
won't even care that half of them are dumb zebra skins for your gun.
Final Verdict: Seriously, go buy the damn game!
#3: Battlefield 1
More Like: Butthole-Fooled Wien...er
Once upon a time, gamers used to complain about how all first-person shooters were set during World War II. Then they complained that all first-person shooters were set in modern times. Then they complained that they're all set in the future. DICE's bold new innovation for Battlefield 1 was to jump even further back in time to World War I, so either they're so ahead of the curve that they've lapped the competition and are approaching the starting line again, or they're too stupid to realize they're running in the wrong direction. I've already gushed about my enjoyment of Battlefield 1 in a previous column, so either it's the former, or I'm an idiot too.***
But DICE's true innovation with Battlefield 1 was to stop
shamelessly aping Call of Duty and do its own thing. And that led to a truly
novel idea: Instead of telling one long, bad story, Battlefield 1 tells six
short, bad stories instead! I actually do think it's a great format for shooter
campaigns, but none of that really matters when you're smack dab in the middle
of a massive, chaotic war. And just like in real war, the guy in the tank
ALWAYS WINS. Aaaand, that's all the Battlefield 1 jokes I've got. Seriously, if
you want more, just read the other
Final Verdict: World War Fun.
More Like: Dumb (Hey, it's a one word title, what do you want from me?)
In 1993, id Software revolutionized the gaming industry with a demon-filled shooter named Doom. 23 years later, id made Doom again. As much as I'd love to tear into id for its utter lack of creativity, I can't because I love the game even more.
Everything about the new Doom's success harks back to the original: the blistering movement speed, the tough-as-nails enemies, the manic run-and-gun gameplay – it's as if someone at id just stumbled upon Tom Hall's original Doom Bible and said, "Yeah, let's do that!" And yet somehow it's still brilliant!
Just as important to the new Doom's success are the things it doesn't do. Screw your cover-based shootouts, iron-sights, and recharging health – Doom doesn't need them. If that's not a condemnation of the last two decades of FPS design, I don't know what is. It's like if all the top carmakers got together at some international conference and then collectively said, "You know what? Henry Ford did it better. Let's go back to hand-cranks and wooden tires."
I'd honestly love to make more fun of Doom. The game's
obsession with skulls and cheesy heavy metal music is not so much badass as it
is Hot Topic. But it's still the right call for the game, and I wouldn't change
a thing about it. But hey – at least I can definitively say that the box
art is f---ing terrible.
Final Verdict: Better than it has any right to be.
More Like: Overworst
I'm well-versed in the Overwatch hate thanks to the 10 Dan Tack gave it in his review. For months our Feedback email account was flooded with angry responses – because nothing enrages the Internet more than somebody enjoying a good game. The anti-Overwatch rage goes something like this: There are only three modes! There's no campaign! There's no progression! It costs too much! It's made for kids! Team Fortress 2 did it first! It's a MOBA probably! Blizzard screwed up Diablo III! Basically, they lash out with a flurry of hate, flailing between whatever complaints they can think of – the hate mail equivalent of T-1000's death scene. My favorite insult from a reader was that Overwatch is "The cartoon COD!" I can't count all the ways this statement is wrong, but I'll be damned if the alliteration isn't nice on the ears.
I can't definitively prove that Overwatch is great; just like a review, that assertion is a subjective opinion based on my own personal likes and dislikes. However, the fact that Overwatch fans are so oblivious to its shortcomings is as close to objective proof of the game's quality as you're going to get.
Because it does kinda suck that there's no single-player or co-op campaign to flesh out the world and characters and offer more variety. I'd love to explore the lore's weird, futuristic cities, pick up a dozen quests from quirky NPCs, then head out into the world for some adventuring. Or team up with some buddies for the kind of ultra-challenging raids Blizzard is known for. In fact, there tons of possibilities that I'd probably think a whole lot more about if I wasn't still thoroughly entertained by Overwatch's competitive multiplayer every time I start up the game.
I'd probably also be more irked about the fact that, just like Destiny, the vast majority of Overwatch's lore isn't in the game! I've made countless jokes about Destiny's grimoire cards – hell, I made one in this very column – but somehow when Blizzard decides to flesh out Overwatch's lore with comics and videos at its post-launch leisure, everyone is totally cool with it? Not to mention that none of said lore is even close to making any sense. And yet, I don't really care, because a single match is all it takes to completely get one of Overwatch's characters; their abilities, their personality, their core essence – you're locked in a complete mindmeld after five minutes.
Overwatch fans are even willing to overlook the microtransactions, a bane of the gaming industry. "They're fine because they're totally not necessary," we all say...except when clock is ticking down on those awesome seasonal costumes you absolutely need to have. I know friends who have sunk more cash into Overwatch's microtransactions than even the most diabolical mobile games, but we're still not complaining because why not support a beloved game from a beloved developer?
So maybe the final joke is on us, the Overwatch fans who
are so happy playing what's there that we don't notice or care what's missing. After
all, I've spent countless hours playing the same modes on the same maps with
the same characters, and every new update gets me as excited as I was on launch
day. But I'm fine being the punchline – I'm still laughing and having a great
*Just like Dane Cook's stand-up routine. Zing! (back to top)
**Yes, I consider BT the main character, and not the unnamed soldier you play as. And guess what? He actually has a name, but I bet you didn't remember that and still don't know what it is, which just further proves BT is the true star of the game. (back to top)
***I'm am seriously not discounting this possibility. (back to top)
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