The best the PC had to offer in 2016 made us tread through history and hell, simultaneously at times. These games also painted colorful worlds to explore, which were most graphically impressive on the PC. We’re talking frenetic first-person shooters and intricate strategy games, games meant to be played on a keyboard and mouse.
Doom was a pleasant and ferocious surprise to us all. Expectations were tepid due its struggles in production and a lukewarm multiplayer beta, but the game came back from the depths of development hell to take us on a trip through its savage world. Doom’s single-player campaign straps us in for a wild rollercoaster ride. It’s fast, frantic, and devilishly atmospheric. Every weapon packs a punch and every demon is vicious. Shooting and movement is incredibly smooth. Levels have an element of verticality, which leaves room for exploration and a hunt for rewards and collectibles.
It revels in the simplicity of classic run-and-gun gameplay, but adds modern touches like weapon modifications and upgrade paths for abilities. Glory kills for health and chainsaw kills for ammo add a strategic layer to combat. Doom went all-in on the hyper-stylized, over-the-top, self-aware attitude and it hit the mark.
Civilization is one of gaming’s marquee strategy franchises, and this year PC gamers were granted another amazing entry into the series. Civilization VI retains its underlying 4X strategy formula, but enriches its mechanics and systems. Unstacking cities adds nuance to turn-by-turn planning by making players carefully consider the placement of assets and account for terrain. Diplomacy is better implemented, and could be used to exchange luxury goods to keep citizens happy and establish trade routes to enrich everyone involved.
The Civics research tree -- which now runs parallel to the Technologies tree -- adds deeper options for players seeking Cultural victories. The sheer variety of win conditions in Civilization VI empowers players to pursue different play styles without being put at an inherent disadvantage. The AI leaves more to be desired, but Civilization VI truly shines when playing online. All these tweaks refined the strategy experience which already had a strong foundation. It’s arguably the most complete base Civilization game to date.
While other shooters in 2016 went to the future, Battlefield 1 returned to a dark and grim era of the past. The single-player campaign, War Stories, handles the weight of World War I with respect. The Great War is portrayed through vignettes of historical fiction and gives players insight to its brutality, scale, and effect on human lives.
The detailed ambient sound design paired with explosions and gunfire capture a gruesome atmosphere that complements its bleak, beautifully destructive environments and jaw-dropping visual fidelity.
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Battlefield has been and always will be about large-scale multiplayer, though. Battlefield 1 highlights historical battles in its variety of maps. Operations mode, similar to Rush mode of past Battlefields, evokes team coordination and an element of push-and-pull in the tide of war. The World War I backdrop lends itself well to variation in ground and air combat and the game’s improved progression systems offer players a strong reason to come back.
Instead of defending Earth from an alien invasion, XCOM 2 offers a narrative twist. Humankind is fighting for survival after being occupied by the Advent, the alien organization occupying Earth. The theme of desperation is set from the start.
XCOM 2 tests players to rethink what it means to play a strategy game. Its asymmetric style of battles fit the feel of guerrilla warfare. You’re forced to think steps ahead and become resourceful. If decisions on the field don’t pan out in your favor, be prepared to retreat. You can’t win every fight. You’ll lose soldiers and lose territories, but how you learn from failure makes XCOM 2 a truly unique experience. It’s all wrapped into a cohesive, fun, and rewarding package that is an outstanding addition to one of the PC’s most acclaimed franchises.
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Overwatch is a precisely crafted class-based team shooter. Each hero was made with tremendous thought and detail, not only in their aesthetic but in their in-game abilities as well. The game is designed to encourage teamwork and thoughtful team composition, and it eases players into these elements in the most helpful way possible. From on-screen prompts to easily recognizable character animations and sound design, players always know what’s happening.
Players have to think critically and band together to push for victory, though. Your team’s success in a match is contingent upon the ability to recognize which characters warrant the ever-changing situations. Timing your hero’s ultimate ability at the most opportune time can make the difference in winning or losing.
Constant updates and a stream of new content keep the game fresh. Overwatch is another stunning example of how Blizzard makes its games. Whether you like Overwatch or not, there’s no denying it caused a paradigm shift in multiplayer gaming.
GAMESPOT'S BEST PC GAMES OF 2016
GameSpot will be unveiling its picks for the best games of the year throughout all of December. Click here to see more.