As the last game of the year awards trickle in, the final standings have begun to take shape. At the end of it all Overwatch walked away with the most rewards, supported by millions of adoring fans who have made it one of the most popular multiplayer games of the generation. But it didn't walk away with the top spot easily, as Uncharted 4: A Thief's End put up a good fight.
Although the top two most voted games may not be all that surprising, what came in third is: DOOM.
For all intents and purposes, DOOM wasn't supposed to be a good game. Its development was far from smooth sometimes bordering on vaporware following several years of insignificance at id Software. Just days before launch its multiplayer beta shrouded the game in a thick gloom, lending the appearance that Bethesda's post-launch review copies were hiding something treacherous. The only hope in sight was that id Software produced Wolfenstein: The New Order a couple years prior, a game that pleasantly surprised the industry.
But DOOM was a great game. It brought back the days of fast-paced, frantic shooter gameplay where Imp fireballs whizzed by from every direction as you hopped around blowing demons into smithereens using an incredibly well designed arsenal of weapons. It had a good variety of frightening enemies and entertaining level design, with climactic moments that punctuated the more than 12 hour experience equipped with a healthy amount of side content.
Standing at an 85 Metascore, most critics agreed that it was a solid shooter (GameRevolution awarded it a 4.5/5) that separated itself from most games during the year. It certainly had the best campaign of the many shooters that launched.
The thing is that just being great usually isn't enough to win game of the year awards. In this instance, there were more than 25 games released in 2016 that achieved a much higher review average. Here are just a few of them:
- Forza Horizon 3 – 91 Metascore
- Dark Souls 3 – 89 Metascore
- Titanfall 2 – 89 Metascore
- Battlefield 1 – 89 Metascore
- Stardew Valley – 88 Metascore
- XCOM 2 – 88 Metascore
- Dishonored 2 – 88 Metascore
- Sid Meier's Civilization VI – 88 Metascore
Looking at the list, DOOM is among great company. You'd think that it would have faced fierce competition on its way to earning a top 3 spot for the year. The reality is that none of these games even earned half as many game of the year awards as DOOM.
So what makes DOOM so special? Well, there's a big hint left behind on the game of the year lists where it won 15 times. The common theme is that DOOM was such a breath of fresh air. We've seen amazing RPGs several times these past few years, and multiplayer shooters were in overwhelming abundance during 2016. When it came down to it, Stardew Valley and DOOM were the two games that stood out the most during the year, with DOOM perhaps being the more surprising of the two.
When it comes down to it, game of the year awards are a matter of opinion, but only to a point. When recognized in large numbers they become a statistical indication of what games made the greatest impression during the year, not necessarily what was best. I believe that many would argue Forza Horizon 3, Dark Souls 3, and Titanfall 2 were better games than DOOM, but that mattered less than the impact they each had; you can't be much more impactful than proving that a 23 year old franchise can still produce blockbuster hits.
DOOM was a successful return of one of gaming's most classic styles of gameplay. For veteran games, it was a reminder of how fun a single-player shooter can be, but with all the benefits of modern game design. For that, it earned a prized spot in the annals of 2016.