Game of the Year 2016 Day 2 of 3

I didn’t play many disappointments this year but there were a couple of big surprises that elevated 2016 to one of the best years in recent memory. If you told me in 2015 that a new Doom game would brilliant, Street Fighter V was a bit of a dumpster fire and I would spend a lot of time playing a game reminiscent of Team Fortress 2, I would have called you mad.

Most Disappointing Game of 2016

Winner: Street Fighter V

I had grand plans for Street Fighter V. I was going train on a regular basis and actually compete in ranked matches. I was going to focus on a single character and “master” it. I was going to take Street Fighter seriously like I never did before. But none of that came to pass because I spent more time waiting for matches than actually playing. And even if I managed to get into a match, it was often hitchy and difficult to play.

My issues with Street Fighter V aren’t with the fundamental mechanics or lack of single player content – those didn’t help its case though. My issues stemmed from the game’s poor online play in 2016. I don’t care if I win or lose but I want to be able to learn from each experience. Losing or winning in a lag filled match accomplishes nothing.

Thankfully, I bought a physical copy and was able to sell it.

Runner-up: Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright

Most Surprising Game of 2016

Winner: Doom 

It’s been a long time since an id Software game was worth looking at let alone wow me. RAGE certainly didn’t live up to expectations; I bought a copy for cheap and didn’t even bother to play it beyond an hour. Doom is the anti-RAGE. RAGE was slow and plodding and Doom was in my face and demanded my attention. I had heard rumblings of positivity from hardcore id Software fans but they were the same folks who proclaimed RAGE was a good game. 

Doom blindsided me with its relentless action and gear shifter breaking calm of exploration. 

Runner-up: Overwatch, The Division

Doom PS4 Review

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Doom II: Hell on Earth was one of the first video games I’ve ever played. I’ve gone back to the original Doom on several occasions but never completed it. It’s also important to note that I played both games without music which turned the game from a bad ass demon shooter into a sci-fi horror game of sorts. I may have taken it more seriously than intended at the time but I loved it all the same.

I enjoyed playing Doom III more than the other long awaited first person shooter sequel, Half-Life 2 (it was nauseating in spots). In many ways it lined up with what I experienced with Doom II; it was a serious and more unsettling take on Doom. I have no idea how it holds up but something tells me following that formula would have produced lukewarm results.

After the utterly boring R.A.G.E which I started but never finished, the departure of John Carmack and years of silence from id Software, a reboot of Doom sounded like a Hail Mary play for the once industry leading studio. What could they possibly do to bring what made Doom enjoyable into 2016? It has to be fast paced. It has to be infused with satanic nonsense. It has to be gory. Mars and key cards need to have some influence as well.

Doom (2016) had all those trademark characteristics and stitched it altogether with modern gameplay advancements that other games and genres have been doing for years. A little Bayonetta? A little Geometry Wars? A bit of both can be seen hidden in there if you squint.

The original Doom was a fast paced shooter where the player was zipping around at nearly 80 KM/H at default speeds. I don’t know how fast the 2016 version has the player running but it’s undoubtedly the fastest moving shooter in the modern era. Fast paced shooters feel right at home on the PC with its keyboard and mouse – many will undoubtedly say it’s a return to form on that platform. But a fast paced shooter on consoles and the controller is a relatively foreign thing. Amazingly the clever folks at id Software managed give us precision and speed without relying on an overly aggressive aim assist.

Doom doesn’t believe in regenerating health but it also doesn’t rely on hunting for health packs either. The novel solution was to hide health orbs behind “glory kill” finishes which required me to mash the melee button near a staggered demon so I can brutally murder it. A headshot or gib didn’t yield anything worth while, only their patented glory kills.

The combat was fed with a number of upgrade and challenge systems. There were per mission challenges, per weapon challenges and optional rune (perk) related challenges as well. They all encouraged me to play in different ways and improve my skillset. I played on “Ultra Violence” difficulty and as I discovered in my second playthrough: I can skip or blast my way through most of the game with ease. It was only when I paid attention to these challenges that Doom’s magic shone through.

The Rune challenges reminded me of character action games like Bayonetta and its Alfheim portals. One challenge asked me to defeat a slew of demons without getting hit. Another had me running through a platforming course within a set time. The objectives were straightforward and while the load times were just a tad too long, I found it an enjoyable break of pace.

So combat was solved but what about the map design? The original Doom featured sprawling maps with players seeking key cards to unlock areas to find more key cards that would eventually lead to an exit. That’s back for 2016’s Doom but thankfully I wasn’t asked to juggle the trio of key cards like 1993. I was asked to backtrack for keys but I was also incentivized to explore to unlock suit upgrades. The location of the secrets were often revealed to me but how to get to that power-up was a mystery. I enjoyed that process of deduction and was glad they didn’t ask me to hump walls in hopes of triggering a hidden door.

Doom established id Software as a technical powerhouse that would eventually lead them into the middleware licensing business. Their might waned since the glory days of Quake III’s engine but I think they could have made a roaring comeback with 2016’s Doom. It’s by far the best looking and performing 60 FPS title on consoles. It has its issues with the occasional texture pop-in and sends the PlayStation 4’s fan into a frenzy but what is on display is unmatched in the console space. I’m trying to imagine what Call of Duty would look like if they were able to license this engine.

I spoke of the fact that I have very little reverence for the Doom franchise’s soundtrack and it remains the same here. Mick Gordon’s industrial metal fits the game’s motif like a glove but I don’t want to listen to it outside of the game’s context. I feel the exact same way with Devil May Cry 3’s and Metal Gear: Revengeance’s soundtrack.

I felt the sound mixing was obnoxious. They leveraged bass disgusting degree by blasting it as deep and as low as it possibly could. I turned down the music just to get it under control. I also felt many of the weapons lacked pop like the early games. As gory and brutal the chainsaw was, the pistol was a laughable pea shooter. The double barrel shotgun lacked a strong punch and the rocket launcher sounded like it was fired through a pillow. I did find the sound of the movement and other interactions was full of weight and purpose though. I just wished the firepower followed appropriately.

With Wolfenstein: The New Order breathed new life into the Wolfenstein franchise. MachineGames brought the core values of Wolfenstein to a modern audience. With this installment of Doom, id Software rose from seemingly out of nowhere to pull off the exact same feat and then some. I was blown away with what they did, it’s Doom for a modern audience and it’s absolutely wonderful. Even more amazing? They proved to everyone that fast paced arcadey first person shooters have a place in the console space in 2016. Bravo, id Software.

I love it

Ratings Guide

Checkpoint: TitanFall 2 Tech Test Edition

I was looking forward to the the TitanFall 2 Tech Test; it would be my first experience with Respawn Entertainment’s franchise. They made wall running a thing and ever since I played Call of Duty: Black Ops III, I’ve been wondering how Respawn Entertainment’s implementation felt. Apparently, if forum threads, I need to play the original TitanFall because Respawn changed the pace, the design and just about every detail of what made TitanFall beloved in TitanFall 2.

I felt the wall running lacked heft; the sound design in Black Ops III made it feel like I was actually running on a wall and not simply gliding across it like Overwatch’s Lucio. The grappling hook is surprisingly slow. I played a couple of rounds of Bounty Hunt and enjoyed the idea behind it but I kept wondering why the A.I controlled grunts were only accumulating in certain areas and why two sides are fighting over killing them.

The game ran and controlled well enough but everything looked a bit soft which is undoubtedly has to do in part with the 900p resolution. I got used to it but the soft image and feel of the wall running made for mushy feeling game while I’m a Pilot. I still feel like a tower mechanical monster while in a Titan though. It’s just a shame that they’re not coming in at a quicker rate.

I don’t want to pass judgement on just the first tech test (they’re holding another one next weekend) but I’m not enamored yet which is surprising to me.

My review of King of Fighters XIV will be up tomorrow. I’m still putting in hours into Overwatch and Doom with the latter winning me more and more with each passing level. I’m dying a lot more than I would like but a lot of it comes down to me trying to complete rune objectives while killing demons.

Checkpoint: English Premier League 2016-17 Edition

The English Premier League kicked off this weekend but I barely watched any of it. The reason? I simply forgot. Despite knowing and being constantly reminded of its start by the ESPN FC podcast, it just doesn’t feel like I should be watching meaningful club soccer yet. The 2016 Euros just wrapped up and the Summer Olympics are still going on. And yet Leicester City already lost and Manchester United already won their respective openers.

It’s no longer known as the Barclay’s Premier League which means new graphics packages and other frills. It’s weird seeing the league known only as the English Premier League but it’s for the better. I’ve always thought it was weird that you can have a league be sponsored.

With a fresh coat of paint, new managers helming many of the big clubs and ridiculous amounts of money being spent to bring in new players to said clubs, this season feels like the beginning of a new era. I don’t expect Leicester City will repeat as winners or even make it into the top 4 this season. I actually have no predictions on who will or should win it all this season. I’ll root for Liverpool since Jurgen Klopp is so lovable but I don’t know if he has the players to make an significant impact. Who knows though, right? He made Borussia Dortmund a German powerhouse. Maybe he can restore Liverpool’s glory as well.

I just realized I started too many games. I have Pikmin 3 on the burner. I started Doom, Tricky Towers and the latest entry in the King of Fighters saga. I also have Ocarina of Time to wade through. And all of this is competing with Overwatch which will likely go down as my most played game of 2016.

I didn’t even mention my daily rituals of checking in on Pokemon Picross and Pokemon Go. Those are daily activities though — like accumulating enough daily steps on my Vivosmart HR.

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