Of all the genres that exist for games, one can argue that none have wider appeal than shooters, especially those of the first person variety. After all, they are rather simple to understand—you just pick up a gun and shoot bad guys, and sometimes you don't even have to pay attention to the story to figure out what is going on. Predictably, this also means that you generally have a huge influx of new shooters year after year, and 2017 was no different. From Call of Duty: WWII and Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus to Ghost Recon: Wildlands to Prey and Destiny 2, there was certainly a diverse catalog of games to choose from. Having such a large quantity of shooters to choose from doesn't necessarily equate to quality experiences across the board, however, and there were quite a number of disappointing failures.
Rather alarmingly, some of these aforementioned failures were games that came from AAA developers and publishers, companies that have a comparatively endless pool of resources and manpower. No one would ever say that EA or Activision (or any of the developers associated with them) had major staffing or funding issues and yet two of 2017's largest flops came from these publishers. Star Wars Battlefront 2 was virtually dead in the water before the game even shipped thanks to greed, and Destiny 2's community is on the verge of a rebellion after Bungie showed how little they care about creating an experience that all can enjoy without opening one's wallet. Even if you disregard each respective game's handling of microtransactions, Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Destiny 2's gameplay is rather decidedly mediocre, offering little to no incentive for people to keep playing after the first few hours, and that's just the tip of the iceberg of blandness.
Fortunately, there were some shooters that found a degree of success during the year. Games like Sniper Elite 4 and Ghost Recon Wildlands targeted comparatively niche audiences, and while it would be disingenuous to say that such games were either terrible piles of garbage or amazing sleeper hits, they did fulfill whatever desire one may have had during the first half of the year to shoot generic bad guys. As 2017 chugged along, Prey and Wolfenstein 2 unsurprisingly received a very warm welcome from people who were looking for a more classic shooter experience free from microtransactions and multiplayer shenanigans, proving that good single-player games can certainly take advantage of how all the multiplayer-centric games were cannibalizing each other's audiences. In fact, Wolfenstein 2 won the "Best Action Game" award at The Game Awards 2017, with no shortage of nominations for other award categories.
In a somewhat ironic and unforeseen turn of events, Call of Duty: WWII turned out to be the most well-received multiplayer game of the holiday season, despite the slight stigma that surrounds the franchise and the usual claims that the game was not innovative. That being said, Call of Duty: WWII didn't receive this honor solely because it was an excellent game that raised the bar on what was possible in a shooter, but rather because its major competitors (Destiny 2 and Star Wars Battlefront 2) shot themselves in the foot in their rush to ram microtransactions down people's throats.
It certainly didn't help that virtually all of the major holiday shooter releases followed the same disturbing trend of simplifying everything gameplay-wise so that everyone is on an "even playing field," rather than introducing or retaining interesting mechanics that would take time to master. As painful as it may be to hear, developers are targeting casual players (or if you want to put it more bluntly, the lowest common denominator) because that's where the quick buck lies. Want to be a medic in Battlefront 2? Good joke, just kill people and you'll heal yourself if you're the right class. Looking for interesting class builds in Destiny 2? You might want to keep looking in the direction of any actual RPG. While you're at it, take a peek at that guy's loot box in Call of Duty, sure looks interesting doesn't it? No casual player has the time to learn and master game mechanics or pay attention to the story, so dumb everything down and stick some glittering prizes in there (or at least that's the impression that developers are giving).
All things considered, 2017 was a very disappointing year for shooters. EA had a once in a lifetime opportunity to blow their competition out of the water with the combined power of the Star Wars license and Battlefield mechanics, but they ended up torpedoing their own boat while it was still docked; Bungie squandered their chance at redemption to try to squeeze a couple (hundred thousand) dollars out of people; and Call of Duty is, well, Call of Duty. If you were looking for a fresh new shooter experience during the year, your best bets would've likely been Prey and Wolfenstein 2, because as it turns out, if the best thing that you can say about a game is that it's fun with friends, then it's probably not a good game.
Should such trends continue into 2018, then one would have to worry for the state of the shooter genre as a whole. Very little innovation coupled with massive amounts of blatant greed by major developers and publishers is never a good sign, and while consumers have to shoulder some degree of the blame for the current state of affairs by falling for the usual microtransaction temptations and sequel loyalty, developers and publishers also have to take a long hard look at themselves and ask whether or not they want the most popular genre of games to be at long-term risk for short-term financial gains. That games like Overwatch and Rainbow 6: Siege continue to win hearts and minds with each new update and each new announcement, despite being comparatively old games in the face of all these newer shooters, should be a wake up call for developers and publishers to get their collective acts together.
What did you think of the shooters released in 2017? What hope do you have for 2018? Let us know in the comments below!