Shaun’s Best of 2015 – Multiplayer Award

Shaun's Best of 2015 Awards

It’s no secret that I am not a big player of multiplayer games. I dabble, now and then, but rarely for long. The thirty hours I put into Team Fortress 2 during its beta felt like a substantial flutter to me, which fact will probably amuse anyone reading this who has spent 1000+ hours in Dota 2 or LoL and still feels like a bit of a scrub.

I’m hardly alone in this – I’m rather glad that designers and beancounters alike have long ago gotten past multiplayer modes as box-ticking exercises, and that modern game metrics have revealed how many players only ever play solo modes – but my point isn’t to establish that I’m not a weirdo (it’s also no secret that, actually, I kind of am). It’s to point a big fat New Year finger at a game and say “you win an arbitrary award! No cash prize.”

And the winner is…

…it’s AJ and Potter!

Okay, so they’re not a game, but I was looking over what we’ve played during 2015 and while there are some lovely games in there, what really sticks out are the people I was playing them with. So here’s to those two! With booby prizes for Madd, who very occasionally would join us, friend-of-AR Ben, who I think tried to join us occasionally, Kenty, who I don’t think joined us in 2015, and Dylan, who never managed to actually join in at all.

My fellow Arcadians would probably not relish an entire article about themselves, so here’s a quick rundown of the games we played, and a memorable moment from each.

Defiance: unfortunately this is a rather terrible game. The most memorable moments were probably its bugs, which often fell firmly into the ‘amusing disappearing assets and geometry’ category. I particularly enjoyed hopping into a vehicle and seeing it disappear, resulting in my seated character flying at high speed a few feet above the ground. Another memorable moment was the session right after AJ actually watched an episode of the parallel TV show Defiance. Oh, how we laughed.

Dead Island: we started this the year before, but didn’t finish it until 2015. It’s a very rough-edged game that only really shows its charms in multiplayer, even though the only dynamic that really changes is talking with people, and not getting quite as surrounded. In terms of memorable moments, I’d have to plump for any moment where we were all sat in a vehicle and Potter was driving – he and AJ are like an old married couple – or perhaps the session where we discussed the politicised contributions of friends to the debates following the Charlie Hebdo attacks whilst, er, setting walking corpses on fire, stomping on their heads and breaking their bones limb-by-limb. This, dear reader, is the face of modern liberalism.

Gears of War Judgment

The gang’s all back! Girl, Soul Patch, Commander Shepherd, Mac Store and Dork Lundgren

Gears of War – Judgement: it had been quite a few years since I’d played a Gears game before this one. I’d forgotten the simple joys of steering a steroidal mass of hard-bitten cliches around post-apocalyptic levels so that they could pump hot streams of bullets into the meaty lumps of scar tissue that are your opponents. Gears still does lots of stuff really well, from bigger picture design elements like its intense pitched battles bookended by moments of calm, to smaller details like the active reload system (essentially making a risk/reward minigame out of what would otherwise be downtime).

I don’t remember any particularly amusing moments from this game, aside from the fact that its narrative mortar is a military trial for the protagonists, which isn’t halted even after enemies burst through the courtroom walls and kill half a dozen guards before being fought off. Oh boy. I think Gears of War just out-Warhammer 40K‘d Warhammer 40K.

I did enjoy how we began to cohere into something approaching a military unit, though, alerting one another to weapons and threats, and settling into a rhythm with regard to the game’s additional optional challenges (“another time limit? Fuck that one off”).

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair: I previously wrote a little about this. It’s absolutely lovely as a co-op experience, full of little secrets, challenges and entirely distinct playable characters, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s up for a hard of nails experience and a lot of death preceding success. Memorable moment: finally, actually, beating Dracula. Second place: whoever it was that suggested we try the DLC levels, followed by awkward silence and non-committal noises. Maybe not. Maybe a bit too much, that. Third place: that time when I came online drunk and spent most of the session noisily bitching about the cheap stun-locks of some boss or another. Oh, me.

Operation Flashpoint – Dragon Rising: just go read what AJ said about this. He’s pretty much on the money. It’s a great game, tremendous fun to play with friends. Memorable moments: pretty much everything Potter does. I also had a lot of fun firing grenades at Potter and watching him flail about wildly as he tried to figure out where the enemy was. I killed him four times before he figured that one out. :)))

Op Flash Dragon Rising

Not pictured: fucking it all up