Game of the Year 2016 Day 3 of 3

Game of the Year 2016 Day 3 of 3

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2016 was a hell of a year for games. Long awaited games like The Last Guardian and Final Fantasy XV finally made their debuts. First person shooters received a massive jolt in the arm with the fantastic Doom and invigorating Overwatch. Even long running franchises showed that their respective fourth iterations can be amazing. It was a good year, indeed.

Best Old Game of 2016

Winner: Picross 3D

I had finagle a way to acknowledge the majesty that is Picross 3D. Picross is fine but blow it out into 3D dimensions was a mind expanding moment for me. I wanted to buy Picross 3D Round 2 but seeing how it was $40+ CAD and I didn’t even play the original, I went on Amazon.ca and bought a cart. It’s charming, weird and addictive to boot. The difficulty curve is a bit erratic at times but I feel it’s been fair. I’m playing for the perfect run so I restart any time I make a mistake and chip off the wrong piece.

While I’m technically not done with this game, I feel it’s easily one of the best games I’ve played this year.

 

Best Game of 2016

Winner: Overwatch

It’s my most played game the year but that alone doesn’t warrant the number one spot. It’s also incredibly well designed from top to bottom with its unbelievable ability to entice me into trying new things. Blizzard managed to get me to play a ranked Competitive mode and even convinced me to use online voice chat with strangers on the internet which in itself is a small miracle. 

With a timeless aesthetic and strong free support including seasonal events, costumes, characters and maps, I see myself coming back to Overwatch over and over again.

Runner-ups:

2. Doom – It invokes the Doom games of the past but doesn’t use it as a crutch. The campaign was so tightly designed with systems feeding off other systems, music, story and gorgeous fluid visuals designed for the sole purpose of making me feel like a total badass. 

3. TitanFall 2 – Likely the most complete package of 2016 with both a surprisingly great campaign that invokes Super Mario Galaxy and a multiplayer mode that I thought was a write off after the less than stellar Tech Test. Respawn Entertainment will be supporting the game with free content as well which is a trend that I would love to see continue.

4. The Last Guardian – I love Trico. I wish I could have one as a pet. I don’t own a pet but my patience with Trico is highlighting the fact that I do have the mentality to be a decent owner. All I need is to pet them regularly right?

5. Uncharted 4 – The perfect ending to the adventures of Nathan Drake. If there was a single game that made me feel old and reflect on what I was doing with my life, it was this.

6. Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past – Some of the most depressing stories ever told in an JRPG were found in this epic. You can say it was needlessly long at times and they could have trimmed the fat but the long winding journey was essential to create attachment to characters.

7. Inside – It may not have been as impactful as Limbo but Playdead still knows how to unsettle people with the simple gestures and actions.

8. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided– Iffy performance in the hub world didn’t prevent me from rummaging through other people’s personal belongings, read their e-mails and hack their wall safes. It’s more of Human Revolution than I expected but more of a good thing isn’t bad. 

9. The Division – End game issues stopped my brother and I from returning to The Division but for a very brief couple of months, The Division’s loot driven brand of third person shooting kept my brother and I coming back everyday to do our “dailies”.

10. Gears of War 4 – It’s been years since Gears of War 3 – both in-game and out of it. Creating a likeable cast of new comers isn’t easy but The Coalition managed to package them and the classic Gears of War formula into a game that still plays in 2016. I look forward to the “dark middle” chapter and hope they’ve learned to run around like normal people by then.

Gears of War 4 Campaign PC Review

Gears of War 4 Campaign PC Review

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The first Gears of War was a landmark moment for the seventh generation of consoles. It was the title that many people including myself saw as the beginning of the new generation. It ushered in the cover based shooter and introduced the world to the power of Unreal Engine 3.0. I have fond memories chainsawing Locusts and roadie running from cover to cover with my brother via split screen co-op. It was a momentous start for the franchise that would later spawn two additional sequels and a prequel on the Xbox 360.

I had a lot of questions going into Gears of War 4. It’s been five years since Gears of War 3 and the industry let alone the genre has evolved in significant ways. Epic Games relinquished the reigns of the franchise to Microsoft and aptly named team, The Coalition. Will I like the new cast? How will the old cast be reintroduced? Will we see the return of the Locusts and all the gameplay trappings they’re known for?

Gears of War 4 also marked the series day and date debut on both Xbox One and PC. I bought an Xbox 360 because the game came bundled at a retailer, so it’s only fitting that I acquired Gears of War 4 in similar fashion courtesy with my NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070. As an Xbox Play Anywhere title, my brother and I were able to complete the campaign on PC and Xbox One without any fuss. (Although, we did have to burn through a couple of Xbox Live! Gold trials to do so.)

The Xbox One version looks fine but I cannot judge it on its own merits. Seeing Gears of War 4 supersampled from 1440p down to 1080p at mostly Ultra settings running at a near flawless 60FPS was a positive experience to say the least. I had to make some tweaks to a few settings in order to maintain framerate throughout but the excellent graphical options available made tuning an easy process.

Gears of War 4 was a remarkable example of what the Unreal Engine 4.0 can do. I don’t know if it will go on to gain the market share that Unreal Engine 3.0 did but one thing for certain is that it doesn’t have a distinct look that defined early Unreal Engine 3.0 games.

The Gears of War games grew more varied with each passing installment. Greenery and a move from the dreariness of wet concrete gave the franchise more vividity. Gears of War 4 continued that trend to the point where I’m getting Uncharted vibes from some of the levels. Some of the early campaign spots reminded me of Uncharted 2’s Nepal and Tibet locales.

Women were a weak spot for the Gears of War franchise both character and rendering wise. Anya and Maria were the only two that I recall but they weren’t front and center like Kait. She’s a lovable member of the new cast of characters including James Fenix and his fellow ex-COG, Del. They’re part of the civilian population who chose not to live in walled cities. The citizens of Sera may have rid itself of the Locust threat but traded a living threat for environmental ones; they cannot do much against giant tornadoes of fire and electricity other than dwelling inside COG controlled cities.

I couldn’t tell if life under COG rule was terrible or not but apparently it was bad enough for groups of people to leave and form settlements outside its walls. It is no surprise then that the Locusts’ return in the form of the Swarm went unnoticed until it was too late. Kait’s village was decimated, her mother abducted along with the rest of the village and it was up to her and her buddies to get to the bottom of the returning threat.

I liked the new characters and got a kick out of seeing the returning ones. The were all likable and entertaining throughout. I would go as far as to say that there were numerous charming and funny moments involving the bunch. The reintroduction of Marcus Fenix as a grumpy old man who doesn’t give a shit will be a key takeaway from this game for years to come.

No one will mistaken Gears of War 4 as anything but a Gears of War game. They introduced a few gameplay tweaks to the cover system but the inability to switch shoulders while aiming and forced roadie run continues to look silly outside of combat situations. They flirted with the ability to nab enemies from behind cover and vault over cover quickly but fail to present that as a viable option (at least) in Hardcore difficulty.

New weapons, destructible cover and environmental influences such as wind and lightning shake up shootouts throughout the campaign but if I’m being honest: they didn’t do enough to break the mold. As I enter every new area, chest high walls continued to stick out like sore thumbs and I expected enemies to pour in for some good ole fashion cover based shootin’. It’s a known quantity but it’s still satisfying to hear the distinct pop after a Longshot round does its deed.

Including a tiny bit of horde mode into the campaign was novel at first but to see it return a few more times felt unnecessary. The same can be said with all those lightning segments. I was glad to see Gears of War 2 try something new with the crushing digestive teeth (lovingly referred to as Thwomp) section but they didn’t bring back the teeth again and again throughout the campaign.

I wished the gameplay aspect of Gears of War 4 ascended to greater heights and explored new frontiers but in the context of reintroducing Gears of War with a new team of developers and new roster of characters, it wasn’t too shabby — it felt too safe at worst. I was far more intrigued by the Locusts’ revival and how the people of Sera will cope with the threat again. The Coalition have built a solid foundation for the new trilogy and I look forward to what they come with next.

Verdict:
I like it

Ratings Guide

Checkpoint: Silent Profile Edition

Checkpoint: Silent Profile Edition

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Silence is golden. It’s one of the primary reasons why I purchased an electric vehicle. So it’s no surprise that I want my PCs to be silent as well. 

The Gigabyte GTX 1070 G1 Gaming video card is more than enough for my 1080p gaming needs but as soon as I do anything graphically intensive, those fans can be heard. There was a moment of dread but it subsided quickly after I realized there are fan profile settings in the “Xtreme Engine” utility.  After launching the gaudy utility again, I switched on the Silent fan profile and it was aural bliss. Admittedly there was an uncomfortable amount of heat emanating from the case but I wasn’t worried. The temperatures were kept in check — below the max temperature of 94 degrees Celsius — and I didn’t hear the fans from where I was sitting. 

We’ve come a long way since the days of the GeForce FX5800 and its infamous “Dustbuster”.

I’ve made a couple of gaming related mistakes over the past few days. I started both TitanFall 2 and Picross 3D. I’m not disparaging those two titles — quite the opposite, actually. I’m just saying that I have two other games on the go that need to be wrapped up first. I’ve barely started Gears of War 4 and I’m right in the thick of it with Dragon Quest VII but Picross 3D is really good. And that TitanFall 2? It’s pretty incredible in its own right as well.

 

 

Checkpoint: Witness GTX 1070 Edition

Checkpoint: Witness GTX 1070 Edition

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And just a few days after witnessing the sheer compute power of my buddy’s GTX 1080, my Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1070 Gaming G1 arrived. Installation in the Silverstone Raven Z RVZ02 was painless with plenty of room to spare.

Shamefully, I’ve yet to put the video card through its paces. (I blame Overwatch and its Halloween event). I installed it, ran the Gears of War 4 benchmark and that was it. Unsurprisingly, it completed the test with 1080p at ultra settings without breaking a sweat. I’m hoping to play actual games with it some time today or tomorrow. I promise it’s not just going to be a Gears of War 4 benchmarking machine.

Oh, I did change the LED color to orange and made it pulsate like it was “breathing”. A truly useless feature when the case which the video card is installed is windowless.

I understand why people poo poo on the GeForce Experience for requiring a username a login but when it offers easy install and update of video card drivers, it’s tolerable. I don’t know how well it optimizes game settings to my hardware but at least there’s a baseline to work with.

Dragon Quest VII is surprising me with changes to the party members. It may end up being a temporary change but to see a major character just up and depart was eye brow raising.

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