Game of the Year 2015 Day 2 of 3

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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

Game of the Year 2015 Day 1 of 3

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2015 will go down as one of the better years in video games. I actually struggled to trim down my top 10 and nominees across all my categories.

Today’s categories feature two Nintendo titles that I didn’t spend enough time with despite the fact they’re in my wheelhouse.

The 2015 Game I Wish I Bought & Played In 2015

Winner: Splatoon

Splatoon Box Art

Nintendo’s third person shooter made waves with its unique and innovative approach to the genre. It looked interesting every time I laid eyes on it but as soon as I glanced at the price of $69.99, I was immediately turned off. The early criticisms concerning the lack of content fell by the wayside thanks to Nintendo’s continued support with free maps, weapons and modes.

I should have pre-ordered it with Amazon.ca’s E3 promotional discount but hindsight is 20/20.

Runner ups: Rise of the Tomb Raider, Until Dawn

 

The 2015 Game I Wish I Spent More Time With

Winner: Super Mario Maker

Super Mario Maker Box Art

Super Mario Maker should be an endless supply of platforming fun and I should have been tackling course after course but I haven’t. I played several of the pre-made levels and sampled a number of user created ones. I even made and uploaded a level but I haven’t played nearly enough to even give it a an honest review. As silly as it may sound, I think I would have played it more if I bought it digitally.

As for the other nominees? I spent a solid month or so playing Rocket League but it fizzled away as soon as the third quarter approached. Psyonix continued to support it with paid cosmetic items and free gameplay content but I never found the opportunity to revisit it despite my intentions.

It may seem a little silly to nominate The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in this category but I really wanted to play the expansion DLC.

Runner ups: Rocket League, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Checkpoint: Les Yeux Secs Terribles

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Apparently I don’t know what the symptoms of dry eyes are. I thought it simply meant my eyes felt — you know — dry. Apparently, if you feel like there is something in your eye but there’s nothing there when you check, that’s a symptom of dry eyes. I’m sure a lot of it can be attributed to the post-eye surgery recovery but I’m sure the seasonal allergies aren’t helping the cause either.

Metal Gear related puns and jokes are at an all time high at the moment. It’s a byproduct of Metal Gear Solid V’s generally warm reception and how much time people are investing into the game. I must be nearing 70 hours at this point and — for the most part — I’m enjoying my time with the game. I wish Snake was more vocal and I hope they somehow explain why he’s so reserved compared to his previous outings. The likely business reason is that Kiefer Sutherland is an expensive voice talent but I want a story reason.

I didn’t play much outside of MGSV. I dabbled with Rocket League after their most recent patch and I have to say that I’m not sold on the revised ranked matchmaking. They re-introduced 3 vs 3 (Solo) playlist which effectively split the 3 vs 3 user base even further. I’m sure trying to match players from a pool of only 2000 isn’t ideal but they got themselves in that position by splitting the 3 vs 3 pool. I don’t know what the answer to their problems is and thankfully I don’t have to come up with it. But if they don’t sort out their ranked matchmaking woes, I might just stick to unranked playlists so I can play competitive matches.

Rocket League PS4 Review

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There exists two category of sports titles in 2015. The traditional sports simulation games like Madden NFL, NBA 2K  and the FIFA series. On the other end of the spectrum are smaller titles like those found in Sportsfriends. The arcade sports titles like NBA Jam and NFL Blitz went the way of the dodo. Psyonix’s Rocket League could be categorized as an Indie sports title but word of mouth, release timing and the fact that it was a PlayStation Plus freebie propelled it to unimaginable heights. It’s soccer with cars and as any Top Gear fan knows, that’s a very potent recipe.

I love playing FIFA 15 but it doesn’t make me feel like a member of a team. I am the team in FIFA. I control all the players, I set up all the plays and I am scoring all the goals. In Rocket League, I’m a member of a team of up to 4 players who somehow have to knock a ball into the goal of an opposing team. Player stats don’t exist in Rocket League, everything was physics based and how good of a dribbler, scorer or tackler was dependent on my proficiency in those areas.

Rocket League didn’t immediately sink its hooks into me; it took several sessions before it began to click.  20 minute sessions quickly ballooned to hour long sessions as saw myself improve with each passing match. The act of flying through the air with these rocket powered cars slowly turned from an impossible option to a viable one as I became more familiar with my car’s capabilities and how the ball physics operated.

I’m still learning new skills and strategies as I progress. As I progress, soccer strategies and positions begin to surface as players assumed roles. I primarily play 3 v 3 matches and I see myself in the attacking midfield role trying to set up crosses by knocking the ball into the rounded corners where they’ll hopefully go in and across goal. I’m not a reliable goal scorer and an even worse goal keeper but I’ve begun ramming into opposing attackers who are trying to position themselves in front of our goal in anticipation of a cross.

A handful of technical issues mar the game but they weren’t enough to keep me from playing. Launch window server troubles were eventually stamped out but the less than perfect 60 FPS framerate in certain arenas make me question why those arenas with those graphical effects were included in the first place. The rain didn’t affect the handling of the cars or the ball, it was purely aesthetic which was why I questioned its inclusion.

The playing field is incredibly level in Rocket League and it’s the player’s skill that determines who wins or loses. Thankfully quality ranked matchmaking makes it possible for everyone to have competitive matches. I’m currently hovering around 550-600 pts in the matchmaking and if the leaderboard is to be believed, there are those out there who are quadruple my level out there. Early disconnections by sour players were the only bothersome quirk in ranked matchmaking but ever since Psyonix added a 15 minute matchmaking ban, those disconnects have become rare.

So unless the player base dries up, I can see myself continuing to play Rocket League for a long time. I have friends that play and enjoy it on the same level as I do. It’s one of the few games where we’re all on a similar skill level. And it’s just a different style of game than the shooters that we usually team up in. We and most of the world overlooked Rocket League’s predecessor with that long name but don’t repeat that mistake and check out the much palatable and refined Rocket League.

Verdict:
I love it

Ratings Guide

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