Yes, it's 10AM PST once again, and thus it is time for the fourth day of our Game of the Year presentation. As always, this text recap is a small slice of what we're really doing here! Be sure to check out the podcast for our full deliberations and today's video for something with a little higher production value. Tomorrow's the last day, so place your bets about the order of our site-wide Top 10 list and don't forget to build your own Top 10 list via the list system on your profile page! We'll be tabulating those lists in January and presenting your picks for the best games of 2014.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
You know, it's a real shame we still have this category, but it's not surprising. After some of last year's sloppiest game launches--SimCity and Battlefield 4 spring to mind--the optimist would have hoped major game publishers might clean up their collective act and start putting out games that, at a bare minimum, work like they're supposed to. But we had a sneaking suspicion that things were going to get worse before they get better, and sure enough, they did.
This was a disturbingly tight competition, but Halo: The Master Chief collection took the edge with a suite of crucial network features that simply haven't been consistently functional in at least five weeks since the game released. This was a collection of four games that are years old; the very least you expect from such a remaster is for the old games to work right. While Master Chief's failures are arguably the most egregious and the least expected, plenty of other publishers deserve blame this year, with other high profile releases like Driveclub and Assassin's Creed: Unity also launching with various combinations of missing features, broken functionality, poor performance, and rotten microtransactions.
At the time of this writing, most of the fall's messiest messes are finally coming together. Driveclub is finally close to the game it was supposed to be at launch, Unity has seen its console performance noticeably improved, and Master Chief--fingers crossed--seems to be putting some players into multiplayer matches like it should. But running a paid public beta on your supposedly finished product isn't going to cut it anymore. Let's all join hands and hope together that this category isn't necessary again a year from now.
Best Moment or Sequence
South Park: The Stick of Truth -- Fighting the Underpants Gnomes While Your Parents Boink
There's an alternate universe somewhere that is identical to this one in every way, except South Park: The Stick of Truth, pretty much in its entirety, is the winner for this category. After all, what is The Stick of Truth but a lengthy series of completely insane, often hysterical moments? Just to name a few: the Helm's Deep-flavored battle inside South Park elementary school; the classic RPG tribute that plays out when you visit the Kingdom of Canada; finally unfriending Al Gore on Facebook; and that ludicrous abortion clinic level. Any one of those would make a strong enough nominee for this category.
In the end, the moment we chose is the one that first sprung to mind when talking about this game. It was the scene we were all texting each other about as we played through the game, remarking to one another about our disbelief at what we had just experienced, questioning whether this was even something you could get away with in an M-rated game.
We are, of course, talking about the Underpants Gnomes.
The Underpants Gnomes are gnomes that steal underpants for vague reasons that, throughout their tenure on the South Park TV series, they've never been able to articulate properly. Their appearance in The Stick of Truth, arriving to steal your hero character's underpants in the middle of the night, starts off innocently enough. You are eventually shrunk down to their size, and pursue them through the innards of your house until arriving in your parents' bedroom. You find your mom and dad talking emotionally about you, unaware that you're in the room. They then share a moment of tenderness right before launching into torrid, borderline angry, middle-aged people sex.
Not content to simply have you watch your parents have the kind of sex nobody wants to think about their own parents having, the game then thrusts you into a battle that takes place directly underneath said intercourse. While engaging in a turn-based battle against a gnome warlock, you're canopied by the fleshy extremities of your fornicating father and mother, forced to dodge the occasional wayward ballsack in the process.
This scene is completely ridiculous. It is also tremendously funny and, in its own deeply immature way, shocking. And for anyone who's played The Stick of Truth, it's quite likely to be the first thing your mind conjures up any time the game is brought up in conversation. Considering how many other bonkers moments The Stick of Truth offers up, that's saying something.
Best Local Multiplayer
Jackbox Party Pack
When video games discovered online multiplayer, it took over, and basically everything went online. While the ability to play with friends thousands of miles away remains a wonderful innovation, some games benefit from having people in the room. In the last few years, developers have started crafting competitive games for groups squished together on the couch.
Even if you get enough people in a room, there are snags, mostly related to controllers. Besides finding enough charged batteries, new consoles aren't compatible with old controllers, which means potentially spending hundreds of dollars on new peripherals. Jackbox Party Pack wisely sidesteps this issue by ditching the traditional game controller, turning the phone in your pocket or tablet in your backpack into the vehicle for each game in the collection. It's not an app, either, so any phone works. Android, Windows Phone, and iOS live in harmony.
Jackbox Party Pack's controller conveniences wouldn't mean much without entertaining games, but it's got that covered. Classics like You Don't Know Jack translate seamlessly, while new games like Fibbage and Drawful, which use keyboards and illustrations, wouldn't even work on a traditional controller. Though a few of the games misfire--Word Spud, Lie Swatter--the three others are well worth paying full-price for.
The rules are simple and the "controllers" are familiar to everyone, which means almost anyone can jump in and play within seconds. There aren't many game experiences your parents could participate in, but Jackbox Party Pack has several. It might not feel good to realize your mom's surprisingly good at drawing "broccoli enema," but hey, you had to find out somehow, and we're probably all better people for it.
Webster's dictionary defines "style" as "a distinctive manner of expression (as in writing or speech)." That definition is boring and dumb. You know what style is? Jazzpunk.
Necrophone Games' first-person "wait, what?" simulator is style personified. A heady mix of Cold War-era spy fiction tropes, rapid-fire non sequiturs, and technological weirdness, Jazzpunk is the rare comedy game that doesn't just force the player to sit through jokes. It instead invites the player to dig around in its goofy ass world, ostensibly for the purpose of completing some spy mission or another, but more accurately to just see what out-of-left-field thing you might find. Those things can range from a simple hard-drive pun to a faux-Street Fighter II car obliterating minigame, with a great deal of wiggle room in between.
Jazzpunk's sense of humor is bizarre, but cohesive. It feels fully-formed, from its visual palette to its sharp, pithy writing. It's not just a jumble of wacky things all competing for your attention, more like deliberately paced, precisely curated insanity. There's not much else out there quite like Jazzpunk, but we certainly hope that it inspires more games like it in the future.