Call of Duty Vanguard, despite its attempts at innovation, still feels like a typical Call of Duty game. Battlefield 2042, despite its gripping marketing, is a half-baked cake with some vital ingredients missing. Halo Infinite, despite its amazing multiplayer gameplay, had a dodgy progression system at launch that stole the headlines.
In a year where some of the biggest names in the first-person shooter genre failed to hit the sweet spot by over-promising or simply dropping the ball on certain aspects, one shooter subverted all of this and showed that nailing the basics can result in a great game. That game is Splitgate.
Before I continue this love letter to 1047’s debut game, there are a few things I should clear up. Firstly, taking every aspect of modern day gaming into account – graphics, soundtracks, content, artistic direction, storytelling, and everything else that gets its own category at awards shows these days – Splitgate is not the ‘best’ game made this year.
Secondly, the last couple of months have seen me play Splitgate far less than I was during the summer due to the recent influx of new games and major updates – Call of Duty Warzone, Halo Infinite, FIFA 22, and Forza Horizon 5 are soaking up the majority of free time I have at the moment.
Splitgate isn’t my most-played game this year, either, but it’s one that’s earned my utmost respect. Its initial simplicity during the summer when it launched on console, and the huge popularity it gained as a result, taught many of this year’s big live service multiplayer games a valuable lesson – one that some of them (looking at you, Battlefield 2042), should have probably listened to more closely.
In a competitive FPS genre drowning in battle passes, progression systems, cosmetics, crossovers, in-game events, and demanding communities, Splitgate showed that gameplay is still king.
Yes, Splitgate is not completely devoid of some of the above, but it was its addictive, satisfying, simple gameplay that saw its player count skyrocket when it came to consoles this summer, becoming this year’s biggest surprise package in the process. It even managed to juggle that simplicity with having a high enough skill ceiling and a decent ranked mode to cater to both casuals and high-level FPS players.
The game might have dipped in popularity since then, but it’s still soldiering on with a strong community. Yes, Splitgate will gradually morph into something much bigger that is packed with content to appease modern gamers.
However, the point is that 1047 placed gameplay above all else, proving that well-developed arena shooters still have a place in today’s market – even when they don’t come with all the bells and whistles of triple-A rivals.
1047’s success with Splitgate should not only be a sign of encouragement for smaller developers who wish their competitive FPS games will take off in similar fashion, but it should also stand as a valuable lesson for the established studios and publishers too. With so many FPS games suffering from their “bigger is better” philosophies, the simple yet satisfying Splitgate stands out as one of my favourite games of 2021.