Game of the Year 2015 Day 2 of 3

You can tell it’s a good year for games when I have more difficulty whittling down my list of surprises than my list of disappointments. I even had to cheat a bit and cut Black Ops III in half in order to give my list of disappointments three nominees.

Most Disappointing Game of 2015

Winner: Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture Box Art Logo

Dear Esther was one of my first forays into the “Walking simulator” genres. It was beautiful, fascinating and I felt encouraged to explore a space. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture seemed to following down the same path as Dear Esther but it became the deliberately slow movement speed and ugly performance issues ballooned to the point where I just didn’t care if I finished it or not.

The plodding movement speed ran against the exploratory nature of the game which is insane when that’s the only means of interaction.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III’s campaign was a significant step down from Black Ops II’s which was surprise considering Treyarch’s track record. However, I wasn’t as bummed out by it as others because I played it in a co-operative setting.

As for Xenoblade Chronicles 3D? It’s my fault for even buying this game. I knew it had MMORPG trappings but I felt compelled to buy a New Nintendo 3DS game after picking up the refreshed handheld earlier this year. The surrounding praise didn’t help but I should have known better. I’m more disappointed at myself than the game, really.

Runner ups: Call of Duty: Black Ops III (Campaign), Xenoblade Chronicles 3D

Most of Surprising Game of 2015

Winner: Rocket League

Rocket League Box Art Logo

Soccer with cars. I heard rumblings about Super Acrobatic Rocket Powered Cars being a fun game I didn’t bother pursuing it. Rocket League was given away through the PlayStation Plus Instant Game Collection and if it wasn’t for the slowish summer season and the fact that it was “free”, I may have missed out on this simple and incredibly deep game. It’s a game that comes closest to matching the spirt of soccer. I wasn’t controlling a player who manipulated the ball based on his dribbling ability, I used a car and exerted force to manipulate the ball; it was my skill (or lack thereof) that determined if I scored, how well I blocked, how accurate I passed or how fast I dribbled a ball. It was both frustrating and satisfying.

Hitman: Sniper looked like the myriad of other Silent Scope knockoffs on iOS but since it was Square Enix Montreal, I gave it a try and discovered a surprising amount of depth and challenge. I even made my way onto the top 100 or so.

I didn’t think Life is Strange was my kind of game but what did I know? It didn’t matter if it starred high school girls, a heartfelt story was great no matter what.

Runner ups: Hitman: Sniper, Life is Strange

Call of Duty: Black Ops III PS4 Multiplayer Review

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After entering my third Prestige level and well over a day’s worth of playtime, I think I have a firm grasp on Call of Duty: Black Ops III’s multiplayer. Most of my impressions from the beta still rang true:

  • I was still pleased by the mixture of mobility options and “the time to kill”
  • The SMG class’s viability was more prolific than I initially gave credit for
  • Silenced weapons remained in check
  • UAV spam also remained in check

Death to the Kill Death Ratio, Please

It’s unfortunate that Treyarch continued to highlight a general kill death ratio. I’m okay with surfacing this information on a per mode basis but they shouldn’t have an aggregate average. It continues to hurt objective modes where people care more about their ratios than the scoring the win.

I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t check how I’m doing but I am not fixated to it. I want to win.

Group or Bust?

Playing Domination with a full group of like minded individuals is a revelation. It’s just as powerful as playing Battlefield with a competent squad. You have players who know which angles to cover and will push for control points. I’m playing with GAF players and while most games fall our way, the most exhilarating games are when we’re going up against another group.

Conversely, when I’m playing by myself, I would turn and flee if I saw a six man group in the lobby of a Domination match. If it was team deathmatch, I wouldn’t mind it but an objective game is a different beast.

A Good Selection of Maps

I’m pleased by the map selection; there’s no standout one way or the other for me. Some argue the three lane design of the maps make it too simple but setups like this make it easier to learn maps balance them for objective modes like Domination.

I used to play Ground War religiously in other Call of Duty titles but the combination of the movement system and the map sizes, most of the Black Ops III maps don’t accommodate the larger player account well. And while I appreciate them adding another game mode to the rotation, playing Safeguard in Ground War is just a clusterfuck.

I would like Treyarch to revamp the map voting system though. I love Combine but not enough to play it twice in a row. Why are we given the opportunity to even vote on the same map twice in a row is a head scratcher.

What keeps Black Ops III’s selection of maps from achieving greater heights is the lack of variety in environments. Where are the lower visibility maps like Downpour or Bloc of Call of Duty 4? I’m glad they’ve made different classes of weapons viable but let’s entice more different classes with different visibility conditions.

The Best In Years

I keep expecting me to drop Call of Duty: Black Ops III’s multiplayer out of a combination of boredom and frustration but it hasn’t yet. I still play with my bro and/or GAF members on a regular basis. I have my bad nights and good nights but in the end, I keep coming back and that’s telling. Treyarch is doing something right with Black Ops III multiplayer. I may not be able to articulate it as well as I hoped but simply put: I’m having a blast.

Checkpoint: Match Made Edition

Skill based matchmaking is a good idea in theory. Players are paired with other players of similar level which result in more balanced games and fewer bouts of frustrations. A balance must be struck though. You can’t match people strictly on skill because that may draw in players with undesirable connection quality as well. Ideally, the matchmaking should find players matching both attributes but if it can’t do so within a reasonable amount of time, it should bring in players just outside of the skill range with the highest quality connections.

I had no idea skill based match making was a point of contention for the Call of Duty fan base. Apparently Treyarch enabled skill based matchmaking on Friday and caused a shitstorm on Reddit, NeoGAF and other gaming forums across the internet. But you know what? Those who are complaining are in the minority. They’re currently high level players who are now being paired against other high level players and are finding it difficult to pull off what they were doing before.

Those players only have one argument against skill based matchmaking: they’re being paired with players with lower quality connections.

That’s it. That’s the only valid argument against skill based matchmaking. Every other argument is just a poor attempt to mask the fact that they enjoy pubstomping and Treyarch is putting an end to it.

I have to wonder why Treyarch introduced skill based matchmaking so late though. Why not include this at launch? I know why they’re including it now; they want to avoid bombarding the huge influx of Christmas day new comers to the barrage of Motherships, RAPS and other high level scorestreaks. It’s in Treyarch’s best interest to keep the playerbase at large content.

Since I’m a 1.5 KDR player, I wasn’t adversely affected by the skill based matchmaking change. I suspect I’m in the largest pool of players and thus I am largely unaffected by this change.

Needless to say, I’ve been Call of Duty: Black Ops III multiplayer. On top of that, I’ve been playing through The Order 1886. I’m enjoying it but there are some glaring issues that are head scratchers. Who thought all different QTEs were a good idea?

I’ve also been chipping away at Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. I wish Shulk would get impaled by a Mechon. How many times do people have to coax out what he saw in his visions?


Call of Duty: Black Ops III Campaign PS4 Review

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“Imagine yourself in a frozen forest…”

Now that you’re all relaxed, let’s talk about Treyarch’s latest entry to the Call of Duty franchise. I was concerned when Treyarch announced the campaign included four player co-operative play. I was hoping for a continuation of Black Ops II’s branching campaign and wondered how they were going to pull that off in a co-operative setup. I was also wondering how the BioShock inspired suit powers, the wall running and larger areas would play together. The answer? Not as well as I would have liked.

In my Halo 5 campaign review, I pointed out how a number of the encounters were designed with co-operative players in mind. This resulted in damage sponge bosses or situations where the friendly A.I would fail to draw the attention of bosses and enemies resulting with me being overwhelmed. Bungie tried to make it work for solo players by including A.I partners but they served as glorified fodder most of the time.

With all of that fresh in my mind, I tackled Black Ops III’s campaign co-operatively. I quickly discovered this campaign would have been very tedious by my lonesome. Things are popping off from all angles. Drones were flying everywhere, robots/soldiers were streaming in to do their decade old Call of Duty thing and giant quad legged robots were obsessed with mowing down everything in their path. Would they have toned down the chaos if I were playing solo? Perhaps but just seeing the spectacle of it all with a buddy who is capable of fending for themselves made it an enjoyable experience.

To my surprise, Treyarch designed the gameplay with co-operative play in mind but they didn’t acknowledge the presence of other players in their story. We were a single entity narratively but were split into individual entities during gameplay.

There were three different suit powers of Black Ops III and disappointingly, it wasn’t possible to equip all of them without unlocking a late game power-up. Fortunately, I was playing the game with a buddy which ensured we were able to cover two of the three branches; powers to neutralize humanoid and robotic enemies. The remaining suit movement based power-up wasn’t necessary in co-op but I can see it being very useful playing solo because of the cloaking ability.

We shot Singaporeans and robots through the usual gambit of Call of Duty scenarios. Big bombastic battles, turret sequences and guided aerial dog fights were present but I was surprised the more scripted stealth sequences fell out of favor. I always enjoyed those since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare; if they were going to guide me down a path, I wanted it to be the most bad ass guided experience. It was certainly better than stumbling out of the mission area and being warned I was going to die because I shouldn’t be there. It’s counterintuitive and it always irked me when these games punish me for trying to explore.

The Black Ops games were always trying to be clever with the story — the first Black Ops’ imaginary friend immediately comes to mind. Nothing is as it seems and if Black Ops III’s campaign seemed disjointed and erratic, there’s an explanation for it all. I was content that they kept it together enough for me to retain interest in their future cyberspace story to look for answers online.

There wasn’t very much globe trotting in Black Ops III but they still managed to go places. They grounded most of it through their futuristic direct neural interface technology and I was able to follow it all with ease.

The technology powering Black Ops III’s campaign was a disappointment. Advanced Warfare looked and performed better. Granted, the scale of the battles in Black Ops III’s campaign was larger but they shouldn’t have pushed the engine to the point of buckling. They employed dynamic resolution scaling in an effort to alleviate the performance issues but when noticeable ugly framerate drops continued to crop up, it’s clear they were trying to do too much with the technology they have.

In games, they say co-op makes everything better and that’s certainly the case with Call of Duty: Black Ops III’s campaign. It would have easily been a disappointing outing if I played the campaign by myself but with a co-op partner, the annoyances and weaknesses of the campaign were easier to stomach. Unfortunately, the co-op was a source of technical issues when the action was too intense and the framerate gave way. And while the narrative has its moments, it falls short of what I was expecting coming from the house who made us care about Call of Duty narratives.

It’s okay

Ratings Guide

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