CalmDownTom’s Game Awards 2012 – Best Online Mulitplayer
Welcome to the first in our CalmDownTom Game Awards for 2012. I know its easy for us to get swept up in apathy when we look at sequels and massive franchises dominating the headlines in mainstream game media. There were whole weeks where you couldn’t escape the media blitz for titles like Halo 4, Mass Effect 3, Assassins Creed 3 and other Xbox video games that you could think of. If you’re of a depressive or cynical bent, you might look at 2012 as being a bad year for gaming. If you do think this then I have some great news for you: you are wrong! You are still fabulous (obviously, you visit this site), but you are nonetheless gloriously, brilliantly wrong.
You see this year has had more great games than any I can remember. Many of them were unexpected successes that seemed doomed to failure, like Sleeping Dogs. Others were so innovative they seemed to create whole new genres, like Tokyo Jungle and The Walking Dead. Sure, there were the big releases too. Some of them, like Far Cry 3 and XCOM, were much better than anyone expected them to be. Finally, and most importantly, there were the indie titles. This year so many amazing games came from the indie space. In 2012 if you had a great idea for a game then you had almost no barriers to realising that vision. We saw this with the success of games built around great ideas like Proteus, FTL, Thirty Flights of Loving, Intrusion 2, Chivalry, Spelunky, Sine Mora, Mark of the Ninja, Lone Survivor and so many more that I can’t hope to list them all here.
So if you look back on 2012 and think it was a bad year of gaming…. well, you’re just lazy. But thankfully you come here, so while we’ve spent the whole year telling you about amazing games you might otherwise have missed, you still have one more chance to hear about them all. Right now. In our 2012 CalmDownTom Game Awards!
How many have you played?
SOE had a big challenge with Plaentside 2. Follow up a game that still has vociferous supporters today and keep them happy while attracting a whole new crowd AND implementing a free to play model that made them money without feeling like it was crippling player progression. They had to achieve all of this in the largest and most ambitious multiplayer shooter of the year. While Battlefield has to have an infrastructure that supports less than a hundred players, and is labelled ambitious for it, Planetside 2 simulates battles with thousands of players.
And SOE succeeded. Planetside 2 is a triumph and each battle is a glorious mess. There are so many ways you can contribute to the chaos; whether you are on land, in the air or on foot, you have a chance to add to the explosions and insanity of the world of Auraxis. Its a gorgeous world too. Despite the scope of the battles you engage in, they take place in an amazing looking world that takes advantage of the power of modern gaming PC’s.
Sure, there are issues. Because of the nature of the combat the pacing can feel a little off. You can die – respawn – die – respawn over and over if you are unlucky, and it can feel unfair at times when you have a pea shooter and you are fighting some crazy mechanised robot cyber soldier. But hey, that crazy mechanised robot cyber soldier could be you! So stop complaining and go grind out some money to spend on something REALLY powerful!
Chivalry: Medieval Warfare
While I’m a big fan of the Mount and Blade games, there aren’t very many competitive multiplayer medieval combat games. Weirdly, this year we had two very close together: Chivalry and War of the Roses. While both were excellent, it was Chivalry that really grabbed us at CDT. The combat is more visceral and has a more solid feel to it. While we still recommend War of the Roses highly, it never grabbed us like Chivalry did.
So why is it so great? Well, to quote someone who occasionally makes sense (me): Chivalry is the most fun I’ve had in a multiplayer game in a long time. If, like me, you’re tired of modern military shooters, air strikes and RPG’s, you should try Chivalry too. It made an old cynic like me, who doesn’t even like competitive multiplayer games much any more, scream a battle cry at my screen. It broke through my hard, cynical and jaded exterior, and reminded me what I still am at heart. A gamer….. and a warrior.
Gotham City Impostors
It shouldn’t work. Badly dressed crime fighters and criminals ape their heroes in a simulacrum of the Road Runner cartoon as they battle with ACME inspired weapons. Games let you play as Batman, to BECOME Batman, so why would you want to play as a Batman imposter? Well, mainly because its both fun and funny! Gotham City Imposters is like Team Fortress 2 with idiots, but loveable ones.
Syndicate is a great little title from this year that many of you overlooked. When I say many, I mean almost all of you because this game sold about five copies. Despite its lack of commercial success, it was a decent cyberpunk adventure that did many things better than its obvious big rival, Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Sure, Deus Ex had much more depth to the gameplay and the stealth was well implemented, but Syndicate’s action was frenetic and fun, and hacking peoples brains was far more fun than hacking their emails.
While the campaign was solid, its the multiplayer that really shone. Playing a little bit like Left 4 Dead, you went through linear levels with up to three team mates. The big appeal of the game was the way you “hacked” enemies and the environment. You could hack your enemies guns to stop working or even explode, or you could hack the chips in their brains to make them fight for you. This hacking system made the moment to moment gameplay fascinating. Should one person hack the enemies shield while the rest fought? Should all four hack together to bring the shield down faster, hoping they could survive long enough to succeed? Whichever strategies you use in Syndicate, you’ll be having fun. If you find Syndicate in a bargain bin over the holidays, make sure to pick it up!
Mass Effect 3
While everyone expected Mass Effect 3 would be at least a competent game, no one expected it to be an amazing multiplayer experience. In fact quite the opposite. Many saw the multiplayer component to be a major distraction to the development team who should have been spending all their time making the best ending to the series that they could. While I didn’t think there was a direct correlation between the addition of a multiplayer component and a diminished singleplayer campaign, I was also completely uninterested in Mass Effect 3 multiplayer.
So when it came with micro-transactions, you would think it would be even worse than it sounded. It was not. It was great.
Leveraging the much improved combat of Mass Effect 3, Bioware managed to craft a satisfying and compelling multiplayer game that even fed into the singleplayer campaign progression. By winning online you pushed up your “galactic readiness rating”, giving you a better ending to your singeplayer campaign. And you didn’t need this incentive to play; the horde-like nature of the gameplay, the character progression and the different classes and races meant you could play in many different ways and still have fun. The micro-transactions even managed to be fun and introduced a bit of gambling into the mix with mystery packages that featured random items.
Mass Effect 3 multiplayer took up far more of my time that I ever expected, and makes it onto this list for how much of a pleasant surprise it was.
343 had a tough job; to placate the die hard Halo fans by making a game that stayed true to everything that was great about the Bungie games, but at the same time reinvigorated a series that has become stale. While I think they took a risk averse approach and played very safe, there’s no doubt they nonetheless produced a very good Halo game. Maybe the best one to date.
There’s no question that while Halo 3 was the biggest multiplayer FPS game for a little while, it’s position was usurped completely by the Call of Duty series. Maybe Halo 4 didn’t redress the balance, but it did at least feel fresh compared with all the COD clones on the market today. Sure, it aped some of COD’s key features, like the character progression. Still, as the market has become saturated with games set on modern battlefields, Halo feels fresh again. Halo 4 is also the first game in the series to really shine graphically. The site of a blue player Tea-bagging a fellow Spartan after killing him with the battle rifle has never looked better.
The winner is…. CHIVALRY!
While I loved all the games on this list, I didn’t play any of them as much as Chivalry. Mass Effect 3 is surprisingly fun, but Chivalry is more surprising in that a tiny studio managed to craft such a polished, brilliant game. Halo 4 looks great, but Chivalries rain-soaked, blood-drenched medieval battlefields are better places to fight. Syndicate had enjoyable team work, but Chivalry will make you feel love for the archer who fires an arrow into the eye of a Knight moments before he cleaves your head off your shoulders. Planetside 2 is vast in scope, but when you are duelling a swordsman on the battlements of a castle while lightening scars the sky and ballistae sink burning ships in the distance, nothing feels more epic than Chivalry.
So Best Online Multiplayer goes to an indie game that took on the big development studios and won, at least in our eyes. Chivalry is a wonderful game. Will other indie titles win more awards this year from CDT? You’ll need to come back to find out!