Holiday season gaming wrap-up: action games
By MICHAEL S. DARNELL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 27, 2016
Guns, explosions and violence are the focus of the second part of Stars and look at the past year in video games. Read on for our picks for the top action games of 2016.
Sure to top many a publication’s Game of the Year list, “Doom” has been the unqualified surprise hit of 2016. “Doom” had all but fallen from grace as Parts 3 and 4 spent more time chasing gaming trends than carving out an identity of their own. The 2016 rendition of first-person shooter refocused on the bloody carnage the series always should have been about and it did so with unwavering faith that gamers would respond.
And boy, did they.
The new “Doom” has quickly become the hallmark of the new shooter, the bar by which every subsequent game has been compared against. Read through any forum or Twitter chain about any other game and you will no doubt see at least one comparison to “Doom.”
Its frantic action, gore-soaked visuals and straightforward storytelling struck a chord with gamers disenfranchised by “follow the glowing dots” first-person shooters. It’s easily one of the best games of the year and sits among the best shooters ever made.
“Battlefield 1” is what happens after World War II shooters got played out and even “Call of Duty” developer Infinity Ward got bored with modern-day shooters. In taking a trip through history, EA DICE was able to tackle a setting of which most have little to no knowledge.
Taking gamers to the proverbial World War I trenches was just the start. Developers also included fighter pilots, tank drivers and Lawrence of Arabia. It was an interesting blend of settings, characters and combat styles that managed to keep the campaign fresh.
Along the way, “Battlefield 1” was able to deliver a gritty realism that was lacking in most other shooters released in 2016. It also added some interesting new elements – cavalry attacks, bayonet charges, airships and battleships – to the tried-and-true Battlefield formula.
Of all the games to see the light of day in 2016, none had more fan art, memes and YouTube clips made of it than Blizzard’s “Overwatch.” That’s for good reason. Despite it being a skill-intensive team shooter, the diverse cast of colorful characters, simple gameplay loop and Pavlovian loot distribution gave “Overwatch” an immediate casual appeal.
Its incredible rock/paper/scissors/rocket launcher character balancing managed to snare the eSports crowd immediately.
Hell, Blizzard even made a character for scrubs who can’t aim to save their lives, but still want to contribute to a win. Mercy, like the Medic in Valve’s “Team Fortress 2,” is the type of character we really see too few of, in this Mercy-mainer’s opinion.
Overwatch really is a game that has something for anybody – assuming some base level of interest in first-person shooters. If for some reason you haven’t given this a shot, it’s well worth the cash.
Dead Rising 4
“Dead Rising” is a series that started off with a bang, then sort of limped along through a couple lackluster sequels. As a longtime – and somewhat heartbroken fan – of the quirky zombie killing/photojournalism simulator, I am exceedingly happy to report that “Dead Rising 4” is a return to form.
The core gameplay remains much the same as it has in past game. As Frank West, you’ll romp around a zombie-infested open world, fashioning weapons out of household junk you find along the way. There are side quests to discover, impossibly zany characters to meet and plenty of good, old-fashioned violence (most of which is tinged by the series’ trademark dark humor). What separates this entry from the past is the addition of a story that you may actually care about and a likable cast that provides the overall experience some semblance of grounding.
The game is still a bit rough in places, especially on Windows 10, but despites its glitches and graphical bugs, it’s still incredibly fun to run down hordes of zombies with a ride-on lawnmower. It’s very much a game that speaks to the fans, but I personally believe there is plenty of fun to be had even for those who have never heard of Frank West.
When I heard “Hitman,” the stealth-action classic series, was going episodic, I, like many gamers, became concerned. The gaming landscape is filled with attempts at the episodic gaming model, ranging from complete failures to the moderate niche success Telltale Games has been able to carve out. More often than not, episodic gaming has been a way to squeeze cash out of honest customers. In fact, it’s completely fair to say that I had some preconceived notions of what “Hitman” was going to end up like.
I have, instead of the traditional Christmas turkey, decided to feast on a nice helping of crow this year. IO Interactive used the episodic formula to such great success, I can hardly remember why I was worried in the first place.
For starters, each episode (or “hit,” really) is packed with so many sub-missions, Easter eggs and variations on the main mission that it will take even dedicated players quite some time to master each one. Secondly, IO continues to support the game with a constant stream of high-quality content, to the point where I’m still finding new stuff to play around with nine months after its release.
As far as single-player focused action games in 2016 go, “Hitman” is easily the one that offered up the most bang for your buck.