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.

Checkpoint: Vengeance Edition

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Good news! My new PC woes are behind me. The Corsair Vengeance LPX were installed and the PC booted without a fuss — I even activated XMP mode without issue. I finished installing drivers and updates but without a storage drive (my old Western Digital Black 1TB doesn’t fit the case), there’s not much I can do. I guess I could play StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm and the countless other titles in my Steam catalog

I’m also waiting for NVIDIA’s Pascal GPU to make its debut which will really open up the gaming possibilities.

Dailies. That’s not something I thought I would be partaking in but everyday my brother and I put in an hour or so to complete the daily missions in The Division. It’s really unfortunate that Ubisoft aren’t able to maintain The Division’s momentum. Now glitches, repetitive daily missions and inflated crafting requirements have blemished an otherwise strong start.

The Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst closed beta is happening right now. I played through the tutorial and while it wasn’t the consistent performer that I would like, I was impressed with the combat improvements and style. There’s an open world element which I have yet to try but I suspect I’ll be fine with it. I enjoyed the original Mirror’s Edge but I enjoyed it for its style and parkour, not because it was linear affair.

The Division PS4 Review

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The Division and Destiny share many of the same faults. They’re both repetitive in mission structure. They both feature damage sponges for enemies and both have too few enemy types. I recognize those faults in Ubisoft’s loot driven third person shooter but there were a few key decisions that made The Division stick with me and not repel like Destiny did.

Despite its limited selection of skill types, weaponry and character attributes, there was a surprisingly wide variety of customization options in clothing appearance. Even though New York City may appear drab and uninteresting from a distance, there were numerous bite sized moments and vignettes littered throughout. And despite how shallow each individual component of the gameplay loop was, Ubisoft rearranged these basic components into something amusing in a group setting.

I took to the idea behind the Division initiative. I love the idea of sleeper agents being called upon to do wet work in moments of extreme crisis. It’s the kind of farfetched idea that I’ve come to expect in a Tom Clancy title. It’s also a conceit that allowed players to look and dress like every day citizens augmented with high tech gear and military grade weaponry.

I will happily acknowledge the fact that this is one of the more fashionable third person shooters that I’ve ever played. Articles of clothing were treated as item drops and rewards in The Division. To my surprise, there were more variations in clothing than weapons and armor. I concede much of it were simply color variations of the same piece of clothing but they were different in appearance which was more noticeable than another MP5 that did 500 more damage. I was genuinely more excited to see that teal ray of light emanating from the ground than any other weapon or armor including those shining with yellow.
The Division’s story missions showcased the most spectacle and action in the game but the story itself left a lot to be desired. I felt like we’re at the cusp of a revelation and then we ran out of game to wrap it all up. I realize there’s probably a whole lot more that Ubisoft wishes to expand upon but at least give us one final boss to wrap up this story.

I teetered back and forth on whether or not The Division looked good on PlayStation 4. I’ve seen screenshots of the PC version and it’s a beautiful game through and through on that platform but on the consoles, it varies wildly. There were moments when the game ranked amongst the best lookers on the platform while other times, it looked like Ubisoft dialed back the quality settings to the PlayStation 3 era. In the end, I felt they made the right choices in trying to maintain framerate above visual fidelity. I would have loved to have played the game seeing all the piles of garbage and abandoned taxis in vivid detail but not at the cost of performance. I doubt I would have stayed with the game as long as I have if it suffered frequent framerate drops like those found in high action 4 player party scenarios.

As a Ubisoft title, I wasn’t surprised to find the map littered with collectibles. Most of them were tucked away in easy to find places but a handful had my brother and I scratching our heads a bit. “How do we get up there?” We would split up and decipher building layouts to eventually find that door, ladder or window that unraveled the whole thing. I found amusement in some of the collectible cell phone snippets but I was glad we tackled each district’s share as we progressed through the game because it would have been far too tedious otherwise. Most of the collectibles were a step above the Assassin’s Creed feathers but not by much. I would have preferred more Echo locations where we could investigate a holographic reconstructed scene of life during the early days of the outbreak but I can see Ubisoft running that idea into the ground with overexposure.

In a way, I was glad to have explored so much of the New York City through the collecting trinkets because I caught numerous gems ranging from neat minute details to horrible and unintentionally funny situations in the environment. I hadn’t seen a Dalmatian until 24 or so hours into the game and was genuinely surprised when I saw one. I was taken aback when a group of private military soldiers gunned down an innocent man walking towards them and hearing them call out “Area secured”. These little moments gave The Division’s version of New York a semblance of life. Things have spiralled out of control and it was fascinating to see the number of ways Ubisoft reinforced that idea.

Taken from a distance, without any form of scrutiny, the modern day hell scape that The Division painted was convincing. Scratch the surface and questions began to flow. How did they manage to organize such a large number of these people together? Are there really that many sanitation workers in New York? Why did all the rioters dress like hoodlum caricatures from the 90’s? Each and every faction required a conceit of some kind and I just had to convince myself to roll with it. If I can look past the idea of dumping 160+ bullets from an M60 into the face of a man without him toppling over, I can look past the logistical lapses in the narrative.

Engagements in the Division were divided into three groups: against tough A.I, against other humans and against the fluff. The A.I in the Division is basic at best; the challenge to anyone who’s even remotely decent at third person shooters can be found at higher difficulties where enemies are an actual threat and thinning their numbers quickly requires coordination. My brother and I found a lot of enjoyment in tackling the Challenging missions by ourselves. We found ourselves having to think and figure out ways to lure enemies into choke points and sometimes even outfitting our characters to better suit each encounter. These aren’t new ideas for compensating for lacklustre A.I but it’s still effective in a game such as this.

I kept my pre-order because of the intriguing nature of the Dark Zone. The threat of other players turning Rogue and attacking my party in an attempt to steal our loot was exciting. Every extraction moment was tense because we had no idea if or when A.I or other players were going to pounce on us. Most players were friendly and would apologize through emotes there was no way to know if they were sincere.

As soon as I reached the level 30 cap and entered the Dark Zone, the uncertainty being ambushed or overpowered turned into a guarantee. Rogue agents were more prevalent and we no longer could hold our own against the higher level enemies. We needed better equipment. The unpredictability of the Dark Zone made it exciting and I hope to return to it sooner rather than later. I’m just not keen on having to scavenge for better equipment to get back in there.

I can see myself checking in with the Division on a regular basis. I don’t know if I’m convinced to spend money on a season pass but I actually enjoy playing this game. It has many of the same issues that Destiny had in its early days but there’s nuance in every one of those problematic areas that I find myself enjoying. The loot wasn’t particularly interesting in a weapon or armor perspective but I love the dumb idea of giving an energy bar to an NPC civilian and getting a beanie as a reward. The city of New York wasn’t interesting in its layout but I was driven to explore each nook in hopes of witnessing an example of humanity’s worst. The Division isn’t a remarkable game if I dug deep into certain areas but if I mined others, I discovered a wealth of good times within.

Verdict:
I like it

Ratings Guide

Checkpoint: Tesla Model 3 Edition

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I felt a brief moment of regret after laying eyes on the Tesla Model 3. For approximately 5 seconds, I thought the car that Elon Musk unveiled late Thursday night was the ideal fit and that perhaps I should have waited for his latest product. But then I gathered my senses and went back to playing The Division.

I didn’t make a reservation. I’ve prodded people in hopes that they would but realistically, the Tesla Model 3 isn’t what I was hoping for.

The specification are sound:

  • 215 miles on a single charge
  • Starts at $35 000 USD before government incentives
  • 0 – 60 MPH in 6 seconds
  • Seats 5

It sounds all well in good but what they’ve shown so far makes me question who this is for. I think it’s for the Tesla fan that can’t afford a Model S or Model X; it’s not for the everyday person just yet and all the interior design decisions point to that fact.

But let’s talk about the exterior first. Outside of the weird grill-less front, I really like the look of the Model 3’s exterior. That single piece of glass for the windshield, roof and rear window is a source of envy. It makes me wonder why we haven’t seen car manufacturers try this kind of design though. Is it cost thing? A potential safety issue? I have no idea but I’d like to see this idea take off.

There are plenty of exterior shots of the car on Tesla’s website but the interior is absent. They’re not hiding it — they showed it off during that reveal — but it’s probably not final and they didn’t want many people studying it too closely.

The giant touch screen is an eye catching centre piece. However, once I was done being wowed and thought about what it would be like to live with that as the only means of input. I thought I would be fine with the first generation Volt’s capacitive touch controls but as soon as I got into one and had look at where I was tapping, I realized that not everything should be touch based. Basic functions like volume and climate control are fine as knobs. Just look at the Nest which pushed for simplicity and brought back the classic knob based thermostat.

According to Elon, not every detail in the Model 3 is set in stone and it’s all subject to change before actual manufacturing begins. One area, I would like for them to address is the lack of speedometer. There’s a widget on the top left that will display the speed but I don’t want to glance to the right, I would like to see it in front of me. I don’t need it in a traditional dashboard set up; I will be happy if they projected on the windshield.

Other decisions that made me question the appeal of the car for the masses is the trunk opening. My brother and I thought it was going to be a hatchback but that single piece of glass setup meant it’s the exact opposite of a hatchback with one of the dinkiest of trunk entrances I’ve ever seen.

There still may be too many concessions for people to go full electric but efforts like the Model 3 are very promising. I look forward to seeing the car on the road.

I finished Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright. I didn’t like it very much and I’ll elaborate why later this week. I also finished the main content in The Division but I’m not done with it yet. I’m curious what the upcoming Incurision (or “raid”) is like and there are still a handful of enemies to thwart in the Dark Zone.

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