Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.
Yeah, this has nothing to do with a week summary. In fact, this happened in like…May, but I saw it and I love arepas and it looked so good. Mmmm…arepas…
Welcome to the last WIBD of the year! I’ve been a little bad about keeping up with this list throughout the year, but I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing what I’ve been up to and I hope to continue to talk about what I’m doing next year too.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – Not the first time I’ve seen it, but the first time Katie’s ever seen it all the way through. Is the movie a little cheesy/corny when viewed in the 2010s? Yeah, a little, but it’s also kind of supposed to be that way. Solid fun.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – My dad randomly got way into The Hunger Games when he saw it with my brother and he wanted to watch Catching Fire, so we went to the movies early on Christmas and had us a jolly time. Definitely an exciting movie, but it’s not gonna win any awards or anything.
Key & Peele – Katie and Kara were randomly watching a few episodes. Hell of a show. Super hilarious.
How I Met Your Mother – The mother episodes continue being real stand-out affairs. Loved seeing Andrew Rannells again. He’s a funny dude.
Parenthood – Yeah, the mayor campaign subplot was a little silly. I also wasn’t expecting them to cancel the wedding.
Trophy Wife – I’d heard good things about the show and I do love Malin Åkerman, so this show seemed like it would be pretty good. On the whole, it’s a little predictable, but it’s got a solid cast and makes for some good laughs. Not gonna blow anyone away with groundbreaking comedy, but I will say that I laughed pretty hard a few times.
The Amazing Race – Moving on through season 21. I’m loving watching it again. I don’t know why people disliked this season, it was super fun.
I’m sure I’ve put The Weeknd’s “Wicked Games” up here before, but it’s so tight. Damn…
Well Played 1.0: Video Games, value, and Meaning – Right now I’m on a good section about Shadow of the Colossus and something the author is calling “futile interactivity”, which really is an interesting mechanic that is not used often enough in games.
Civilization V – The long break has slowed Eric and David’s ability (mostly David’s) to play turns. It’s been an agonizing wait…
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies – Still on that final case. Just found out that there’s a nefarious third party influencing things, but I have no idea where we’re supposed to proceed in this case. Getting interesting.
Super Mario 3D Land – The good times I experienced in Super Mario 3D World made me want to go back and view the source material. It makes a lot of the things I saw in 3D world make a little more sense as an extension of things introduced in 3D Land, but 3D Land uses depth in ways that are way neater, but also impossible on a non-3D system.
XCOM: Enemy Within – Another game bites the dust. Moved on to a new game and turned off the Second Wave stuff. It makes the game more interesting and tougher, but I’m having too hard a time actually winning for me to leave them on. I’ll start to remix on further playthroughs.
NES Remix – Nintendo stealth released this during their most recent Nintendo Direct. It’s a little like WarioWare, but without the zaniness. The idea is that you’re supposed to complete mini challenges with old NES classics within a time limit. Works pretty well, but some of those old games are tough. Also it’s weird that they don’t allow custom button mappings. I don’t want to use A and B, I want to use Y and B.
Pokemon Y – Barely beat that ice gym thanks to Sturdy. I mean, I almost lost, for sure. All my original team is gone/dead, so I’m down to a new set that I’m grinding up to level 50 before I try to tackle Victory Road. The Elite Four is gonna be a struggle, I know it.
Super Mario 3D World – I played this a whole bunch with my siblings over the break and…holy cow, still so good. That final world?! That FINAL BOSS?! Just an incredible moment that I totally dug. I need to talk about it more, but I’ll probably talk about it in my year end video game thing.
Project X Zone – Ok, picture this: What if Namco, Capcom, and Sega made a crossover tactical RPG game with all their famous characters? That’s what this is. I played the demo before picking it up and Ryu and Ken were battling monsters with Valkyria Chronicles dudes. Namco guys were there too (no idea who they were). It’s neat, but I don’t think I have the hang of the battle system yet. Looking forward to putting more time in next year.
Risk of Rain – Played this with Lee and Min. It starts off feeling a little thin because you’ve only got one guy unlocked, but with two we seemed to be getting the hang of it a lot more. Really fun as a multiplayer game. Can’t wait to get more time in with the guys.
The Walking Dead 400 Days – It’s short, but it’s more of that Walking Dead flavor that everyone needs. It’s full of short vignettes about companionship and survival and I really loved all the connections between the characters.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds – Unlocked the first item to rent (bow), but I haven’t entered the Eastern Temple yet. Loving the game so far.
The Walking Dead Season 2 – Just…brutal. There’s this thing that happens where Clementine’s trust is betrayed…SO GOOD.
I really dig the everyman personality that the protagonist seems to have. Not to mention that I’ve been really sweet on Capcom games since RE5 and Dead Rising 2.
So maybe I wasn't playing video games at birth nor was this blog running 25 years ago, but this is my 25th year too!
2011 was an odd year in games for me. It started out like any other, filled with joy and happiness, and then it was all wrenched away halfway through, thanks to that burglary, until I was able to start replenishing my stores and getting the ball rolling again for the second half.
This list, unlike last year, will cover the games I played most this year, even if they came out several years ago :cough: Team Fortress 2 :cough:. I think it’s better to reflect upon what I put the most game time into, even if it wasn’t new.
Resident Evil 5 – 2011’s 2009 Game of the Year has to go to Capcom’s co-op survival horror epic. I remember the Giant Bomb guys pimping this game super hard, but I ignored them over and over again for nearly two years because I’m not much of a scary games guy. Then the steam sale happened and I wanted something co-op to play with Min and Lee, so I buckled. This game was so good, guys. According to Raptr, I played 57 hours of this guy just cruising through all the levels, S-Ranking each one, finding all the emblems and upgrading all the weapons, and getting every achievement for the first time on a full-sized game. Then I came back and played it all again with David. RE5 may be some of the best bang I got for my buck in 2011.
Batman: Arkham Asylum – I think it’s hilarious that I played both Batman games this year. Make no mistake, Batman: AA is the better game. Tighter story focus, less wandering and rambling around, and that sharp, crunchy combat system that we all love. It almost literally hurts to watch Batman punch people in the face in this game. Lots of fun, even for a guy who doesn’t really like Batman.
Red Dead Redemption – Man, every game that I played in January came out in another year. RDR has a lot of those Rockstar quirks that I hate (incorrigible supporting cast, homicidal ludonarrative dissonance, etc.), but it also has one of the best realized characters in recent video games in its portrayal of John Marston. Horseback riding is fun, lassoing fools is fun, and the story is frustrating (because of the asshole supporting cast), but also solid most of the time. The only thing that really annoyed me was breaking horses every fucking time. Why? It’s not like it was fun to do…
Magicka – 2011’s Game Most Likely to Make You Strangle Your Friends. Ask Min how many times I killed him by striking him with lightning. I never took this game seriously and mostly tried to speed cast lightning. Fun, but the polish wasn’t there. Buggy as all hell. Not to mention that lightning bolt was the only spell worth using…or maybe it was the only spell I knew?
Ghost Trick – I used this game to try and improve/practice my Spanish. It’s lots of fun, quirky, weird, neat, but I never finished it. I thought it wasn’t taken in the burglary, but I’m having trouble finding it now. I want to finish it soon…Pick it up if you have a DS. It’s quirky and fun.
Costume Quest – Picked this up on sale and played it for a few hours. It’s definitely got that Double Fine humor, but it couldn’t hold my interest.
Pixeljunk Shooter 2 – I don’t know why some of the magic was gone with this one. Maybe the new fluids weren’t as innovative or neat? The fluid mechanics remain super awesome and the game is plenty fun on its own, but even more fun with a partner to troll.
Face Raiders – Shooting at Min’s face is the best thing I did with my 3DS before it was stolen.
Pokemon White (Black) – I got David to try a new Pokemon game with this and I’m super proud of that. Gen V brought a lot of really interesting changes to a game that most people feel is flat and unchanging. I had a lot of fun playing it until the momentum was killed with the burglary. When Grey inevitably gets announced I’ll probably buy it.
Game Dev Story – When this finally hit the Android marketplace I was ecstatic. Then I played it and realized it was a competent, but not overwhelming sim. Worth a few bucks.
Borderlands – Another co-op game for Min, Lee, and I to play. Lots of fun even though the story is stupid as hell. Brings out the loot whore in all of us.
Planescape: Torment – Talk about old! Didn’t get anywhere close to finishing this. It seems interesting, but never captures my interest enough to play it for longer than 20 mins.
Portal 2 – This is, bar none, the greatest example of story and comedy narrative laid out in video game form. Portal 2 has just brilliant writing and pacing. Everything from Wheatley to the history of Aperture Science to the origins of GLaDOS is perfectly realized. Then you have the game itself…Portal 2 is not a bad game at all. It’s just not as hard or interesting, with respect to puzzles, as Portal. This was a result of narrowing the possible solution space (story-justified by the decay of the facility, but still) in such a way that it was mostly obvious where portals needed to go, removing that aspect of figuring things out. It’s still probably the best game of this year, but I wish it they hadn’t pared it down as much as they did.
Pro Yakyu Spirits 2011 (Professional Baseball Spirits 2011) – I had a fun, challenging season going with my 2011 Hiroshima Carp before that jerk (those jerks?) came and stole my copy of a Japanese baseball game (in Japanese, mind you!). What were they gonna do with a game in Japanese featuring teams they weren’t even familiar with?! PYS 2011 was a huge step forward from 2010. Home runs may have been a little easier to hit (ok, a LOT easier to hit), but 2011 looked sharper and had enough new, interesting features (the player development was cool) that I was super stoked…until it was all taken away from me. Assholes.
L.A. Noire – I got about 1/5 of the way through the game before someone stole it. I still remember the forensics guy asking me if it was any good. Here’s the thing about L.A. Noire: It’s an adventure game skinned with GTA. Getting anywhere in LA is unsatisfying because driving is a bummer (and property/car damage lowers your rank), the devolution of most cases into shootouts feels a little artificial, and, worst of all, most of the chases (car and foot) let you see how the sausage is made. What I mean is, you can tell that you can’t catch up to a perp before a certain point and you can also see where the game just makes a perp crash or fall intentionally to just let you catch up. The face modeling stuff is super cool (and eerie if you watch Mad Men) and works pretty well minus one or two people. A tremendous achievement, but ultimately a mediocre game.
Call of Duty: Black Ops and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – I’m combining these because I don’t have much I want to say about either. The shooting is good, but the missions are kind of lame. I can see where this might be fun, but it’s also not for me.
inFamous – This was my free mea culpa game from Sony after the big hack fiasco. Decent open world game, but it suffers from being an open world game, in my eyes. The electric powers were fun, but the story was stupid. I don’t regret beating this game or getting it for free. Skating on the rails and then getting hit by a train is awesome.
Shadows of the Damned – I wish I’d taken the time to actually beat this game. It plays exactly like a Resident Evil game, has a super cool aesthetic, kickass soundtrack, and some of the funniest, most Japanese characters I’ve ever seen (come on, Garcia Fucking Hotspur is the greatest character name of the year!). Maybe I’ll beat it in 2012.
Hot Springs Story – From the devs what brought you Game Dev Story we have Hot Springs Story. See the entry above. It’s equally meh to me. I think I just don’t like playing games on my phone.
Torchlight – Gave me my Diablo fix a whole year before I’ll ever see Diablo III (I bet D3 is still not out in 2012). It’s fun and addictive, but it can get a little repetitive after a while. Good for loot whores/junkies.
Jikkyou Powerful Pro Yakyu 2011 – I got this expecting to have as much fun with it as I did back when it was the only Pawapuro/Konami-style baseball game I could play. In a post (Dan Mesa) PYS world, the simplifications of the engine don’t quite work for me. I need the extra systems that PYS layers on top.
Team Fortress 2 – TF2 has always been good. The addition of large-scale achievements made it even better, but the real tipping point for me was Strange Weapons. Once I learned that there were weapons which tracked the number of kills you had on them…well I couldn’t go back. This year probably saw the most TF2 playing from me since its launch. This game is barely recognizable to what it looked like in 2007. It’s free to play now. It’s got so many new maps and weapons and hats. It’s still the best competitive shooter a person could play right now.
Cahterine – Some people don’t get Catherine. They think the block puzzles are annoying and frustrating and find the whole thing to be stupid, too anime-y, and a waste of time. While Catherine makes a turn right near the end that mucks with its interpretation, it’s still one of the most interesting, adult experiences out there, which isn’t to say that it’s got nudity (none) or sex (none on screen), but, rather, that it deals with a lot of grown-up problems. Vincent’s life is in a rut, he’s being pushed into committing to a woman he’s afraid to commit to, and then he finds an escape in Catherine. I have yet to play a more interesting or convincing game about growing up, taking responsibility, and becoming a man. Catherine forced me to take a hard look at myself, my life, the incidences of cheating that have been in it, and just think about it all. A lot of games don’t do that.
Yakuza 4 – Got maybe two hours in before it was stolen.
Dragon Age II – Man, a lot of people have a lot of beef with Dragon Age 2 and I don’t really get it. Maybe it’s because I came to the game knowing all the complaints that everyone had before I got there, but it’s really not that bad. It “suffers” from the Mass Effect 2-ization of Bioware’s properties, but that’s not all bad. Dragon Age: Origins was bloated, over-long, and caused most people to quit right at the cusp of its climax. The way I see it, there were two things that were glaringly wrong with the game mechanics. First was the way that enemy reinforcements just seemed to pop in out of nowhere, artificially extending every fight and turning them into hyper-frustrating affairs. Keeping things limited to the enemies on-screen would have been vastly preferred. The second big miss was the lack of polish/variety of locations. It was very clear that this game was rushed to market because there were maybe three or four map styles recycled to cover a lot of locations. The minimaps weren’t properly reflecting when doors were shut and it was painfully apparent how much recycling happened. These are not sins worth crucifying the game for. The way that it focuses exclusively on Kirkwall and Hawke’s family is actually a good thing. Rather than be as sprawling as DA:O, it allows for a more personal story. Every relationship in this game is way cooler/most interesting than the ones in DA:O and, arguably, any of the ones in ME2. DA2 gets a lot of shit, but it’s a great game.
Bastion – Considering how much everyone just loves this game I really wish I’d given it a little more time this year. I barely played it, but the narrator was cool and the game seemed neat. I’ve got to beat this in 2012
Deus Ex: Human Revolution – I bought this game to get the pre-order items it came with for TF2. I don’t regret doing so. Played about an hour or two of the game. Haven’t felt compelled to go back yet.
Gears of War 2 – This is the year that Min and I beat GoW1 & 2. It took a long time, but we still managed it. These games are really fun in co-op. Easily among the most fun we had in couch co-op this year.
Gears of War 3 – My GOTY comes down to this or Portal 2. I know I’m way late to the GoW train, but god damn these games are razor sharp. Shooting in this game just feels so right, you know? It’s about as polished and good as a third person shooter can possibly be. Fighting the final boss for two hours because I turned on no ammo drops will be memorable for a long time in a way that I don’t often make memories in video games any more. Thank you, Epic, for this amazing game.
The Binding of Isaac – The second I heard that the dude from Super Meat Boy, Edmund McMillen, was coming out with a new game, I knew that I would be buying it and that it would be tons of fun. You’ll remember from last year that SMB was the best game I played. The Binding of Isaac is not quite the best of this year, but it is a more realized game than it has any right to be. I mean, the game was $5 at launch, for Christ’s sake, and it featured a free content patch at Halloween. Isaac took 55 hours of my time this year, assuming every one was counted by Raptr, and I anticipate it taking more before I’m done with it. This game is the best $5 you can spend this year.
Galaga Legions DX – Coming off the awesomeness that was Pac-Man CE DX I expected big things from this game. It’s nowhere near as fun, but maybe that’s because Pac-Man is a way more fun game than Galaga ever was.
Batman: Arkham City – I’m pretty sure you already know that I think this game was a major step back from Arkham Asylum. I really don’t think the open world aspects did this game any favors. It’s still got that super-crunchy, razor sharp battle system, but it’s also marred by too many poorly dressed women constantly being called b***hes. This is a game that aggressively pushed me away from it and I was more than happy to be done with it when I was despite being the best thing to happen to brawlers in ages.
Dungeon Defenders – Tower defense made even more fun by allowing us to run around in the environments. I didn’t put in anywhere near as many hours as Min did, but it was fun while I played it.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – Man, Uncharted 2 was fantastic, wasn’t it? Try this new one! It’s a lot like the old one, but with a little less charisma. A little less je ne sais quoi. Despite featuring my favorite video game characters of the modern era, Uncharted 3 was lacking in weird ways that the appearance of the The Last of Us trailer makes clear. Focus was diverted. Glad that we got three of these, but I wish it was as much a step forward as the second one was.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Remember how I wrote that article where I outlined everything I hated about this game? Since I wrote it I played another hour or two and said, “Nope. I don’t want to play this.” Will I ever go back? God, I hope not. It was worth spending $60 to drive in the point that I don’t like Bethesda open world RPGs. Here’s a note to Future Dan: Don’t buy any more Bethesda games, you moron.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword – This poor game is being victimized by the launch of The Old Republic. Had TOR not come out there’s not a doubt in my mind that I would be playing the most charming Zelda game since Wind Waker non-stop. Skyward Sword plays sharply and is tons of fun.
Star Wars: The Old Republic – My life has been sucked into this game in a way that I wasn’t prepared for. I can’t believe that there was a time where I was actively thinking about avoiding this game and staying away from MMOs altogether. Bioware did something fantastic here by adding story to a genre that typically lacked it. This game has already rocketed up the charts for total time played and I predict that it will never be usurped based on how much I truly love playing it. I haven’t even finished one story and I’ve still got seven more to go.
The big announcements for me to come out of Captivate 2011?
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record and SSFIV Arcade coming to home consoles.
DR2: Off the Record
Frank West returns in a bizarre alternate retelling of the events of Dead Rising 2. Originally meant to be a director’s cut of the first game, the concept evolved into this bizarre mechanical overhaul where the photography from the first game is reintroduced and the narrative is totally mixed around. Will I pay to play the same-ish game again? Probably.
Yun, Yang, Oni, and Evil Ryu join the cast along with changes to the mechanics of the game.
The best part of this is that it’ll also be a $15 DLC pack. Thank god. I thought they were gonna lose everyone’s goodwill by making us buy another disc copy of the game. How weird is it that I’m complimenting Capcom for not being total jerks? In any case, I’m excited, even though I haven’t booted up SSFIV in ages. Get hype, y’all.
He hasn't covered wars (you know), but he can do mean things with duct tape.
Dead Rising, how I’ve missed you. You first charmed my heart in Willamette, Colorado along with Frank West’s camera, your punishing save system, immense difficulty, and utter insanity. Within the first two minutes of actual gameplay, you can bet that I died. I fell in love right there.
Oh, Dead Rising. Now you’ve returned with Case Zero and Dead Rising 2. Both reminded me how much I hated the photography mechanic in Dead Rising and how sweet it was to duct tape shit together to make über weapons. Yes, I fell back in love the second I took a drill, combined it with a bucket, and created little helmets of death to put on the wandering undead.
My iPhone makes me want to do this too sometimes.
The game is just as difficult as its always been, only now the survivors are less stupid. Be prepared to experience a game that is inherently Japanese, despite its Canadian origins. Keiji Inafune’s stamp is felt all over this game, and not just because Katey mentions playing Mega Man within the first 45 minutes. It’s the punishing systems in place, the madcap insanity of the characters, and the utter insanity behind the premise and presentation that make this game so great.
– The voice acting is subtly Canadian, eh. It’s not a problem, but it’s jarring at times. Fortune City is in Nevada, not Ontario. Voice talent may come cheaper in Canada, but we can tell here in the states.
– Dead Rising 1 felt like a Japanese interpretation of what an American shopping mall might be like, so a lot of the things seemed a bit off. DR2 does a much more realistic job of capturing this new version of Vegas. There’s still some stuff that feels slightly off, but it feels like there’s less of an East/West disconnect, at least in my mind. Maybe it’s psychological because I know the game was made by Canadians.
– Combo weapons are amazing. I used a 2×4 and a lawnmower to make a portable lawnmower to be used in maiming all kinds of zombies. It was brilliant. The “wolverine gloves” made with boxing gloves and a bowie knife also deserves grand mention. Super fun. I can’t wait to combine a car battery with a goblin head to make a Blanka mask that electrocutes zombies around it.
– I like some of the new characters, but others aren’t anywhere near as endearing. Sullivan seems a little too obviously like the bad guy. TK feels a little like a stereotype. Rebecca Chang is ok so far, but my favorites are Stacey and Chuck. Both of them have great chemistry with each other and Katey and they seem to be the most heart of the cast.
– Thank god answering the transceiver is instantaneous now. Seriously, thanks.
– The achievements seem easier this time around. There are still some toughies (rescuing all 50 survivors), but it’s nowhere near as bad as it could have been.
– I kind of like that shooting is so janky in this game, even if it’s frustrating when I needto shoot
– This game has perfect crunch to it. Hitting enemies with a sledgehammer feels appropriately brutal. Using a sword to slice through them feels exactly as smooth as it should. Most every bit of contact in this game feels perfect. The outlier: bullets. They lack oomph and are obnoxious.
Dead Rising 2 is coming. It’s on the cusp of releasing this summer and I can’t wait. While the official date has been pushed back to late September, those interested in getting their zombie killing on will be able to pick up Dead Rising 2: Case Zero next month. Case Zero is meant to bridge the five-year story gap between the events of Dead Rising 1 and 2 and introduce us to our new guy, Chuck Green. It’ll be tough getting used to Chuck after the iconic Frank West (who’s covered wars, you know), but if the game is anywhere near as good as Dead Rising, I think we’ve got a good thing on our hands here.
After being coy about not wanting to release a Super Street Fighter IV arcade cabinet in Japan, Capcom wisely gave up the guise and announced that it would see an arcade release. What they didn’t initially tell us was that there would be two new characters thrown in the mix.
What this means for console owners, I’m not sure, but all the same, I’m starting to get hyped about getting two new fighters.
Mass Effect 2 was lacking one thing for me: Liara T’Soni fighting alongside Commander Shepard. It was like the game just wanted to tease me by showing me a new, fierce, Benezia-like Liara, but didn’t want to follow through and let me actually take her fight to the Shadow Broker with her.
Lucky for me, Bioware is looking to remedy that with their next set of ME2 DLC, Lair of the Shadow Broker. I’ll finally get to kick some ass with Liara on my side. Hopefully they put in flags pertaining to the main character’s relationship with Liara in ME1 as well. Time will tell…
After a year and a half of not-so-dedicated Mega Man 9 playing, I finally defeated Wily last night and moved on to the recently released Mega Man 10. Maybe it’s because I’m still in the groove from 9, but it seems a lot easier, even on Normal.
I’ve killed six of the eight robot masters, most of them with the Mega Buster instead of their weakness. I can only attribute this to the overabundance of E-Tanks throughout the normal levels. Rockman 9 had one tank in its standard levels and one in Wily’s Castle. I’m pretty sure I’ve located around three in the normal levels. Beyond that, it feels like screws are way more abundant than before, which makes it easier to buy even more tanks. It just seems like Capcom heard people say that the game was too hard so they toned it down…a lot.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still lots of fun, but I miss some of the frustration. I’m sure I’ll be eating those words once I get to Wily’s Castle.
With the release of Super Street Fighter IV rapidly approaching and the convenient timing of CES, Capcom has started its marketing blitz in earnest these past few days. The most recent trailer highlights the new features in the game, including new costumes, rival battles, and, most excitingly, new Ultra Combos.
I haven’t seen the full gamut of the new costumes, but there’s no way that you can argue that Mecha-Zangief is not the most awesome of the ones showcased. A close second is Shadaloo Cammy decked out in Vega’s costume (here at IBNttT we call Dictator by his true name).
One of the other great things about the trailer is the part showing the “ink” cutscenes that comprised the intro of the first game. The Juri vs. Chun Li fight looks like it’ll be interesting to watch.
The true spotlight goes to the new Ultra Combos. Knowing when to expect one Ultra from each character is hard enough, but now I’m gonna have to remember both UCs for everyone and try and figure out how to dodge them all. Most terrifying to me is Zangief’s air-Ultra, which will probably snag me many times, since I tend to jump to avoid his UC as is. Another bummer is Ken’s ability to have real range on his Ultra. I loved being able to just back away one character length and be safe from his shoryuken. Other trailers I’ve seen make it seem like players will have to declare which UC they’re using, so at least it won’t be too bad to judge what’s coming.
I know what you’re all thinking. How can Grunt ever live up to the awesomeness that was Wrex? I think we’re going to have to accept that he’s just not going to be cool enough and leave it at that. Instead of having everyone’s favorite Krogan in my party, I’ll probably side with some of the other aliens, but maybe one of the humans will make the coolness cut this time. Who knows? I can’t wait until 26 January, I’m hurrying my replay on the PC to prepare for the end of this month.
You may notice some games that are missing from this list and are on every other list. Well, I didn’t play everything because I didn’t have the time or the money, so that accounts for some of the big misses like Pyschonauts or Resident Evil 4. Other games are deliberately omitted :cough: HALO :cough:
This list is also way long, but I didn’t want to limit myself to an arbitrary number like 10 or 20, so here it is:
Half-Life 2 (2004, 2006 – Episode 1, 2007 – Episode 2)
There are two divergent paths for shooters in the aughts. Halo and Half-Life. In the first corner you’ve got everything on the consoles since then: Regenerating health, aim assist, silly physics, and general jackassery. In the better corner you’ve got everything that’s come out of Half-Life and the Source engine: more realistic weaponry, realistic physics, and a much better legacy. Say what you will about the future of shooters and the PC market being antiquated, but this is a damn good shooter. I’d call it the best I’ve ever played. Valve has completely mastered the art of environmental storytelling and player manipulation. They can make you look where they want you to look and feel what they want you to feel all without ever wresting control from the player or relying on cutscenes. This game has brilliant pacing and amazing characters that you actually care about. Who’s ever heard of an NPC sidekick that you don’t hate? H-L 2 and its episodes are among the greatest gaming experiences I’ve ever had.
Rock Band 2 (2008)
Ok, so rhythm games are kind of saturated now, but Rock Band 2 is the pinnacle (only because The Beatles: Rock Band doesn’t let players bring their dlc in) of music gaming. It hits at just the right sweet spot, four players, and its filled with music from all kinds of genres. Better yet, the interface and note tracking isn’t sloppy like that other franchise and it’s a fantastic way to get people together for a fun time and even grow as a person. It’s probably the game I’ve played the most since 2008 and a ridiculously fun time.
Left 4 Dead (2008) and Left 4 Dead 2 (2009)
There are a lot of Valve games on this list. The Left 4 Dead series is on it because it has done cooperative, first-person multiplayer right in a way I’ve yet to see done better elsewhere. Everything about these games is top notch, tons of fun, and worth returning to time and time again. Beyond the mechanics, the games also feature great environmental storytelling and fantastic voice acting putting it at the top of my list for the best games of the past two years. Zombies may be getting old, but this series will always feel fresh.
Jonathan Blow didn’t revolutionize video gaming when he released Braid last summer. What he did do was bring indie games (and XBL games, in general) firmly into the spotlight for consideration. A self-funded and self-made game, Braid proved that one man (and one hired artist) could still create a top-notch, professional caliber game. Braid is deep and complex and tons of fun to play, especially when you’ve figured out a tricky puzzle.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (2005)
OBJECTION! This game should be higher on the list. Overruled, this list has no numerical ordering.
The Japanese sensation that brought visual novels and a resurgence in adventure games to America may have a niche audience and play real loose with the legal system of the real world, but it’s tons of fun. Just think quirky anime and you’ll get the idea of what playing this game is like. It just feels right to present a damning piece of evidence while Phoenix screams OBJECTION!
Shadow of the Colossus (2005)
I have yet to beat Shadow of the Colossus, but I absolutely love what I’ve played so far. Ueda is among the genius game designers in how well he understands presentation. The game world feels absolutely empty, as it should. All you come across, as the player, are the giant Colossi and man, they are wild. Each one is a dungeon/level to itself and the player is tasked with taking them down to save his love. But what have these giants done to you? Each one I take down makes me feel sad inside and a little empty. I usually find myself thinking What have I done? What did he ever do to me? The best art makes you think.
Final Fantasy XII (2006)
I had my choice of any Final Fantasy game between 9 and 12 for this spot, but I really couldn’t go with anything but the best. X was definitely a close second, but there are just so many things that XII did right in its evolution of the series that I couldn’t pick anything else. Maybe it’s because I’m in love with the world of Ivalice, but everything about this game just grabs me in a way I hadn’t been grabbed since VI. Maybe it was because I wasn’t being assaulted by too many belt buckles and leather by Nomura. It was probably because the story was mature, the characters way less annoying than before, and the battle system was finally revamped and moved into the 21st century. In any case, the best FF game of the decade.
Portal really does everything right. The game gets you acquainted with its mechanics quickly, gets you doing neat things with them right away, and then finishes up with a climactic and cool boss fight all comfortably within the span of 5-8 hours, if you’re slow. With mechanics and dialogue that are beyond brilliant, the only thing that could make this great game better would be to give it a hilarious end credit song penned by Jonathan Coulton. Oh wait, you’ve gone and done that already, haven’t you Valve? Bravo.
Burnout Paradise (2008)
Realistic racing games are kind of boring to me. Until Burnout Paradise, I would have said that I only enjoyed Mario Kart games, and those were starting to wear on me too. Then Criterion put out the first open-world racing game (that I can think of). Burnout Paradise would be tons of fun if all we had to do was run into walls and other cars. The fact that the game is so easy to get online and play (and purchasable as a digital download on the PSN) is brilliant and makes for tons of fun.
Mass Effect (2007)
Shepard. Wrex. It’s brilliant. It really is. Hard science fiction is always tons of fun to me, but when you go and flesh out this world to the nth degree, you’ve got me drooling already. Add in characters I genuinely cared about and enjoyed having in my party and a morality system that was finally free of cheap moral choices and I’d say that Bioware had a genuine hit on their hands. I anxiously await the sequel in January.
Eternal Darkness (2002)
I’m really not a big scary games guy. It’s simple: I’m too jumpy and I’ve got an overactive imagination. Those things don’t combine to make a pleasant gaming experience. Now you want me to play a game that’s actively trying to mess with my head to freak me the hell out? I’d normally say “No thanks,” but I was eventually convinced to try this Lovecraftian horror game and I found myself loving it. The plot is interesting and the characters are neat, but the insanity effects are what stick with me to this day. I can still see that image of Alex lying dead in a bathtub filled with her own blood when I think about it and it still gives me the chills.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii (2009)
You know what? I really loved the old-school Mario games. Those 3D ones are way too easy. This game does it right. What makes it even more awesome is that you can play it with four dudes, making it both infinitely harder and easier while also making it more fun and frustrating. Use the multiplayer mode at your own risk, it may start fights.
Rhythm Heaven (2009)
Scratch-O, HA! The Rhythm Heaven (Paradise in Europe) series is loosely based on the bizarre Wario world, which is totally obvious after three minutes of play, which is great, because that series is brilliant (if stale by now) too. This game features simple rhythm mini-games, but man are they fun AND catchy. As I write this I’ve got the Moai statue song stuck in my head. Go play this.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004, Subsistence – 2006)
I love this game. MGS 2 may be the biggest practical joke (and most significant of the four), but this is undoubtedly the best. The epic cycle of the Metal Gear universe is made clear in this game that does its best to subvert war in every way possible. I do truly find it significant that in a Cold War game focused on stealth action, you can make it through from start to finish without killing one person. Well, almost. Metal Gear Solid 3 is almost heartbreaking when you play it non-violently and the ending still has a strong effect on me to this day. Definitely Kojima’s finest work.
World of Warcraft (2004)
I would give anything to get the time I spent playing this game back, but I definitely can’t deny how truly great it is. We’re talking about a bona fide phenomenon here. The absolute refinement of social engineering to such a degree that escape is nearly futile. Blizzard has truly outdone itself with this one.
Team Fortress 2 (2007)
What a surprise, more Valve. The Orange Box was a groundbreaking offering in value and Team Fortress 2 continues to be a huge part of that. I bought this game at launch back in 2007. Since then they have added achievements for nearly every class, new weapons for nearly every class, new game types and maps, hats, and an item crafting system. I’ve never seen so much free support for a game in my life. It’s no reason that Valve is my favorite developer of all time. They really know how to treat their customers and put out a great game.
The Sims 2 (2004)
Yes, I did create Sims of my friends and family. You’d better believe I killed some of them, turned one into a vampire, another into a werewolf, one into a zombie, and bargained with death to revive another. The Sims certainly don’t feel as relevant as they did at the start of this decade, but man were they a success and tons of fun. Sure, I should feel a little guilty that I spent so much time in what amounts to a digital dollhouse, but I really don’t. It was fun.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008)
If you don’t think that this is the best in the series, you’re wrong and you’re clinging to the past. Tons of characters, great level design, fantastic music, and all the right refinements to the battle system are what makes this great. The fact that I can listen to Snake Eater or the Love Theme from Mother 3 is just icing on the cake.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2003)
Insert another credit, because it’s time for your weekly video game news and you’ve just hit the Game Overview screen.
There’s been a lot of news this week, so let’s get right down to it.
The Xbox Live Summer of Arcade schedule has been announced and it looks like there are some great games coming soon.
22 July – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled – A 3D update of the classic arcade and SNES beat-em-up, this game could be fun, but then again, the 3D models just look so uninspired compared to the cartoon and their pixelated counterparts.
29 July – Marvel vs. Capcom 2 – The most famous of the Capcom vs. series, MvC2 was one of the worst kept secrets in video gaming. We’re all excited to see it arrive soon, even if the game makes absolutely no sense and is hectic as hell.
5 August – Splosion Man – Don’t know much about this platformer other than that 1up.com kind of likes it.
12 August – Trials HD – Some motorcycle racing platformer. :yawn:
19 August – Shadow Complex – Epic’s latest project was surprisingly not Gears of War related. This Metroidvania-style game has a lot of promise and a great pedigree. Will it deliver?
The English have figured out something before we did:
Music game downloads are becoming a significant share of music sales.
They’re looking into counting them on the downloads chart to try and track them a little better. I applaud their practical thinking.
My national pride (the 4th wasn’t that long ago) requires me to say, “Hey, at least we figured out dentistry first!” Sorry UK, nothing personal.
Some great trailers and videos about Mass Effect 2 and Uncharted 2.
While we’re in the vicinity of Bioware coverage, why not mention this alarming statistic about The Old Republic, Bioware’s upcoming (in 201X) MMO.
The good folks at Bioware claim that TOR will be as long as 10 KOTORs. Now, Knights of the Old Republic was a plenty long game, but the scope we’re talking here is, wait for it, forty (40!) novels worth of dialogue that’s ALL SPOKEN. That’s going to be a lot of audio.
L4D2 and Nerds
Has a week gone by since L4D2’s announcement that I haven’t talked about it?
EA and Valve have decided to show off the new game, specifically a campaign called “Swamp Fever,” at next week’s San Diego Comic-Con. This means I may have more news next week to post about. Good on you Valve and EA
Everything Old is New Again
Much has been said of the recent resurgence of the fighting and adventure game genres. The most recent Giant Bomb Bomcast (Downloadable Here) made a joke about how we were back in the 90s with the punchline being something like “All we need is for Starcraft and Diablo to come out again.”
Well Starcraft II is scheduled for a late 2009 launch, but analysts are starting to get skeptical (quite frankly, so am I), especially given statements by Blizzard itself. They want about four to six months to beta test the new game, but we’re already at a point where only five months remain before 2010.
My prediction: mid-2010.
Two Million?! USO!
Dragon Quest IX went and had two million pre-orders set for the game before launch. Guess what, it sold about two million. Lines weren’t as ridiculous as they were in prior years, but it was still something of an event.
I started reading an article on Kotaku about the launch and it didn’t quite feel like it was by Brian Ashcraft as my RSS reader said it was. It sounded more like…well, I watched a video on the story (good read) and pretty much knew by then that it was Tim Rogers. It’s worth reading and it provides a look at what a modern Dragon Quest launch is like in Japan now that players can just pre-order their games at local convenience stores.
UFC president Dana White says “EA doesn’t give a fuck about mixed martial arts.” That makes two of us…
The real point of the story is that White tried to pitch the ridiculously well-selling UFC Undisputed 2009 to EA a few years ago, before MMA was big, and he was turned down. Now he says that if any fighter signs to be in EA’s upcoming MMA title (creatively entitled MMA), they can kiss the UFC goodbye.
This now makes for two (three, counting this one) more paragraphs about UFC than I ever want to see on this blog again, so I will close with Penny Arcade’s accurate rendition of every UFC match ever.
VIDEO GAME BREAK!
SOUR / 日々の音色 (Hibi no Neiro) MV from Magico Nakamura on Vimeo.
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…
Get ready to say “That’s ridiculous.”
Modern Warfare 2, the sequel to Call of Duty 4, has a special edition coming out that includes functioning night vision goggles. The less said about how ridiculous that is, the better.
Club Nintendo Rewards
If you were a Platinum member of Club Nintendo last year, you can earn yourself a Punch-Out Wii download that will allow you to box Doc Louis, your personal trainer. It’s kind of crazy, but also way cool.
1 Beellion Dollars
You know how EA has that pesky monopoly on football games due to an exclusive deal with the NFL?
Well, according to an economist, that deal has cost gamers about $926 million due to lack of competition allowing EA to raise their prices.
EA thinks this is ridiculous and I kind of agree. Guess what, Mr. Economist? If 2K still had access to NFL licenses, they probably would have sold their game for $60 too.
Looks Neat and Shadowy
That dude, Michel Gagne, who’s famous for leaving Disney and making his own cartoons has got a game in the works and it looks beautiful. Watch:
The game is called Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet and it looks quite good and retro-tough. All of the footage is in-game, apparently, so it also looks pretty kicking.