Multiplayer Experience Of 2014 – Staff Awards

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Yesterday, our readers passed final judgement on the multiplayer games of 2014 they deemed most worthy of the MP1st Multiplayer Experience of 2014 Readers’ Choice Award.

Now, we want to share our picks and tell you all about the the best multiplayer experiences we were fortunate enough to enjoy last year.

Below are a selection of choices from MP1st staff, including our third, second, and first picks. The Criteria? To rate the top multiplayer titles we got the most personal enjoyment out of in 2014, which lead to a few interesting choices for some of us.

Above, you’ll hear from five of us in a special edition of our MP Talk podcast dedicated to the MP1st Multiplayer Experience of 2014 Awards. We recall our choice and also look at head to 2015, listing some of the upcoming multiplayer titles we’re most excited about.

Whether you decide to read or listen to our thoughts, we want to hear your reactions in the comments below. Tell us what you thought about our picks and, while you’re at it, tell us what titles you’re looking forward to in 2015!

Thanks again for participating in this year’s MPX Awards. Stay tuned for the final MPX 2014 winners later this week.

Now, our picks.

Alex DiFiori

3 – Dark Souls 2 \\ FromSoftware

Let’s be honest, Dark Souls 2 isn’t really a multiplayer game in the traditional sense. It’s more of an online jolly cooperation simulator, and that is what sets it apart from so many of 2014’s titles. In year when games like Battlefield and Counter-Strike are at the forefront of multiplayer gaming, it’s nice to have something you can still play with your friends that isn’t about shooting other people. Considering how good Dark Souls 2 is, it also having online multiplayer just sweetens the deal.

2 – Insurgency \\ New World Interactive

What Insurgency lacks in big-budget polish, it makes up for, hand over fist, in solid gameplay and excellent map design. It’s a no nonsense tactical shooter that takes no prisoners. Play smart and you’ll be rewarded. Teamwork is a must. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun or can’t be played casually. Insurgency’s AI co-op is just as entertaining as its traditional MP.

1 – Elite: Dangerous \\ Frontier Developments

2014 was the year of the open world MMO Early Access titles and Elite: Dangerous stands out among those titles as the most polished, ambitious, and actually finished one to be released in 2014. Frontier still has a ways to go in adding more functionality (planet landing, co-op options, exiting your ship), but the core game is there and it’s fantastic.

Tom Gregorio

3 – Secret Ponchos \\ Switchblade Monkeys

Despite running into some launch issues, this multiplayer-only title has remained quite enjoyable. Secret Ponchos takes the isometric twin-stick shooter formula and drops it into traditional competitive modes with a cartoonish, spaghetti western backdrop.

Once you dig into the meat and potatoes of the gameplay, the subtleties really jump out. Players must wisely use their dodge maneuver as it is tied directly into the stamina bar. All weapon reloads must be initiated by the player since auto-reload is nowhere to be found. These gameplay mechanics contribute to the constant chess match of when to advance aggressively, when to stay back and reload, or a combination of the two.

Despite its relatively small character roster and rudimentary character progression, Secret Ponchos has maintained a relatively healthy player population thanks to the game being free for PS+ members for the month of December. With most of the launch bugs eradicated, Secret Ponchos is worth a look not only for its current price point, but also for its unique marriage of twin-stick shooting and competitive multiplayer.

2 – The Last of Us: Remastered \\ Naughty Dog

As the only 2014 AAA title I haven’t traded in, The Last of Us: Remastered is easily the best big budget title I’ve played this year. We all know about the highly touted single player portion, but the multiplayer doesn’t fail to impress either. The adversarial multiplayer features various 4v4 modes. It does have the roadie run — somewhat akin to Gears of War — but what I most appreciate is the player’s reliance on materials. Strewn throughout each map, players will find chests that contain random materials which can be used to make health packs, grenades, and molotov cocktails. Since the materials are random, players must adapt their strategy in each round. Even if a player can get enough materials for a health pack, it can not be used instantaneously as players must find enough of a lull in the action to successfully bandage their wounds.

Best of all, for old school fans, there is no regenerative health mechanic whatsoever. This not only forces a player to strategize when to use their health pack during the course of a match, but creates an extra reliance on teammates to heal them as well. I haven’t relied on voice communication with teammates this much since the days of Rainbow Six 3 on the original Xbox or Counter-Strike on PC. If you missed The Last of Us the first go round like myself, then the Remastered version is an absolute must-play for both the exhilarating single-player and intense multiplayer.

1 – Towerfall: Ascension \\ Matt Thorson

Originally released exclusively for the utter failure that is the Ouya in 2013, Towerfall finally made its way to PS4 in 2014. Although unassuming in its 8-bit appearance, its old-school look fused with more modern-day physics makes for some highly addictive local multiplayer action.

Players must jump, dodge, and wall hug their way from impending attacks — all of which are one-hit kill — while simultaneously volleying their own arrows towards oncoming enemies. Arrows come in limited quantities, so players must wisely pick their spots before emptying their quiver. Ammo management doesn’t stop there – players may pick up any arrow once it sticks into geometry and juggle more powerful ones such as the Drill arrow, which can shoot through walls and platforms. The co-op mode ended too quickly — despite trying the final boss 87 times — but I eagerly anticipate the upcoming 2015 expansion so I can once again rain down a barrage of arrows.

Shawn Kegarise

3 – Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition \\ Blizzard Entertainment

Diablo is one of my favorite hack-and-slash RPG’s of all-time, and when Diablo 3 finally released for next-gen consoles, I was ecstatic. Beautiful visuals, responsive controls, and a crispy smooth 60 FPS made the Ultimate Evil Edition an absolute blast to play cooperatively with friends. If you’re looking for a game that could give you endless hours of entertainment on your couch with a bunch of friends, look no further than Diablo. The loot system is unparalleled and is the sole reason for my return each time I come back to play Diablo 3: UEE.

2 – Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare \\ Sledgehammer Games

I’m a very big critic of Call of Duty. In fact, I didn’t play much of Ghosts at all. I was both extremely nervous, yet optimistic about Sledgehammer’s coming out party. They helped out with the development of Modern Warfare 3, which was a concern of mine, seeing as how I disliked MW3. I was relieved once I was able to pick up Advanced Warfare to test out my reluctance to the series, and the developer.

They knocked it out of the park. Every bit of the game was an upgrade from the previous entry, and the exo movement was a game changer to me. I’m very much looking forward to the DLC plan that Sledgehammer is putting together for Advanced Warfare, and will continue to support the title for the remainder of the year.

1 – Destiny \\ Bungie

Destiny is an absolute love or hate scenario. You hate it because you know where the potential of the story can go, despite Bungie’s failure at delivering such an experience. You love it because, gameplay-wise, there’s not much else currently out that can rival it. There’s nothing more addicting than hopping on Destiny each Tuesday to knock out the Weekly Heroic and Nightfall strikes with a few friends. Tackling the raid is an even bigger challenge, and takes great communication, skill and teamwork to become successful.

My addiction to Destiny is so real that my backlog of games has increased due to these features alone, and for that reason, it is my top pick for MPX 2014.

Denny Kovacs

3 – Insurgency \\ New World Interactive

If there was ever a game so fundamentally well-crafted by a small group of developers that delivered on everything promised while adding more than its fair share of free content, it’s Insurgency. Capitalizing on the growing market of niche gamers that want something more realistic like ARMA, yet introducing a competitive sense alongside the high stakes engagements, New World Interactive has given what I and many others consider an amazing indie title that refreshes first-person shooters.

Insurgency has a bright future ahead simply because it has done what most triple A shooters couldn’t, and that’s deliver an experience as advertised.

2 – Titanfall \\ Respawn Entertainment

Titanfall may suffer from story driven details and a lack of unique game modes, but it more than makes up for it with diverse maps, an astonishingly fun multiplayer gameplay experience that rewards players regardless of skill level, and an offering that is an overall breath of fresh air in the first-person shooter genre. Though it was a risky move charging $60 for a multiplayer-only title, it’s hard not to appreciate the studio’s focused vision of what a good multiplayer shooter should be. In the end, I think it paid off. Respawn’s masterpiece surpasses expectations and might as well keep rolling until the sequel arrives.” – Titanfall Review 

1  – Next-Gen Gran Theft Auto V \\ Rockstar Games

Grand Theft Auto was already a masterpiece of innovative design to the same old ideas that have plagued open world games, but what’s even more impressive is its operational and RPG-like multiplayer online that offers players a chance to essentially live in Los Santos while terrorizing San Andreas.

However, what makes Grand Theft Auto one of my picks of the year is one simple, yet immersive feature – It’s first person mode, something I never thought would create an entirely new experience for me. I would go as far as saying that it was well worth another $60 simply for that one feature which completely revamped my interest in Grand Theft Auto.

James Lara

Unfortunately, James wasn’t able to contribute this time around, but he was able to share his picks anyways.

3 – Grand Theft Auto V \\ Rockstar Games

2 – The Last of Us: Remastered \\ Naughty Dog

1 – Driveclub \\ Evolution Studios

Joel Santana

3 – Dragon Age: Inquisition \\ BioWare

While not a main focus of BioWare’s latest RPG, Dragon Age: Inquisition offered a surprisingly solid cooperative experience.

2 – Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls \\ Blizzard

Now, Diablo 3 isn’t exactly a new game, per say. However, its first expansion pack, Reaper Of Souls, managed to make it feel like a very different game altogether, compared to its initial release. With a new act, a new playable class, and much more, probably the biggest addition is the Nephalem Rifts and Greater Rifts which serves as a randomized end-game dungeon that will not only test one’s skill, but also make them aim for that one item that will help them clear Greater Rifts before the allotted 15-minute time limit.

As for the future of the game, if the previous two patches for the game are indication as to where it’s heading, then it’s safe to assume that Diablo 3 has a very bright future ahead of it and definitely deserves to be picked up if you stopped playing or never played it.

1 – Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare \\ Popcap HD

After a rather disappointing year in 2014 in terms of multiplayer gaming — some of the biggest titles of the year one after the other lead to disappointment — there was one game that actually did it right and surpassed my expectations and more.

This is none other than Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, a quirky third-person shooter from the folks over at PopCap HD who managed to fuse their popular PvZ world with the multiplayer mayhem of the Battlefield series for a very addicting and fresh experience. In addition, Garden Warfare also featured multiple DLC that added a ton of content post-release that will take ages for you to unlock, even if you succumb to buying card packs to unlock that character variant or one of the silly aesthetic items with real money.

Either way you look at it, you’ll be spending hundreds upon hundreds of hours just trying to unlock all the items in the game, giving Garden Warfare some serious replayability.

David Veselka

3 – Insurgency \\ New World Interactive

This PC shooter has made quite a name for itself over the course of 2014. Originally based on a Counter-Strike mod, Insurgency incorporates the frightening realism of modern-day war without the complexity of true-military sims and delivers a mature, lethal, and fun-as-hell first-person shooter like none other.

With consistent and free post-launch updates, New World Interactive has managed to keep its community — one of the more helpful ones out there, I might add — alive and coming back for more. While its competitive multiplayer puts a very minimal, hardcore, and unforgiving spin on the modern FPS, it was Insurgency’s team-based, cooperative vs. AI Checkpoint mode that really had me hooked. With any mistake imposing serious consequences on your squad-mates, NWI hit a home run in encouraging gamers to get on their mics and work as a team.

To top it off, Insurgency boasts some of the most detailed combat experiences out there, even without PC-melting graphics.

2 – Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare \\ Sledgehammer Games

As one of the best entries yet in the long-running series, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare proved that newcomer Sledgehammer Games has what it takes to roll with the big boys while offering up some of their own distinctive and innovative ideas to boot. Advanced Warfare is likely the biggest leap forward in the series since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and does a pretty good job at rejuvenating elements in areas where it counts the most, like core gameplay.

Perhaps what’s most interesting is to see what sort of influences Advanced Warfare might have on is successors. Are jet-pack-powered soldiers with high mobility here to stay? Will Sledgehammer’s mark on the series bear any significance on the direction first-person shooters in general are headed in? I don’t mind waiting to find out, as I’m pretty happy with where Call of Duty is right now.

1 – Destiny \\ Bungie

No game has managed to grow my Xbox Live friends list in such a short amount of time as Destiny has.

If we were to put our opinions on Destiny’s gameplay balance mechanics aside for a moment, I believe Bungie is the first developer to successfully craft a compelling social experience on consoles that’s not a true MMO. In fact, I don’t even really know what to call Destiny, other than what Bungie themselves came up with: a “shared-world shooter”.

Always giving me something to do, I boot up Destiny at least once a day and look forward to its weekly challenges with my Raid buddies. If Destiny’s PvE isn’t keeping me busy enough, I won’t pass up a good PvP battle with other Guardians in the Crucible.

When it came down to my first pick for MPX 2014, it was pretty simple. There really isn’t anything like Destiny and I really can’t recall any previous experiences I’ve had in my many years of multiplayer gaming that come close to it.