My Favorite Games of 2014

January 1, 2015

Let’s be honest, 2014 lacked a large amount of great games. There were quite a few good ones and possibly just as many “ok” ones but this wasn’t the strongest year for straight up hits. With that said, I feel like 2014 had a lot more diversity than most years.

10. Destiny

Love, hate it, but can’t stop playing it. I have an odd relationship with this game. On one side the grind of it becomes borderline unbearable after level 20, but it is still some of the most fun I had playing coop this year. Destiny should have been more than the sum of its parts but at the end of the day, the sum of its parts is all this game has.

9. Wolfenstein: The New Order


I expected nothing from this game and it gave me a fun 1st person shooter with an interesting cinematography, simple yet profoundly human narration brought to us by B.J. Blazkowicz, and a few neat set pieces. This game really put this series back on the map in a big way.

8. South Park: Stick of Truth


This game is just as hilarious as the TV show and some bits are even funnier since they are interactive. If you are a fan of the show, I find little reason here that would make you dislike this game. It’s a solid (if not a little bit simple) RPG that nails what a South Park game could be.

7. inFamous: Second Son


Being a huge fan of the series, I was satisfied with the game…to point. Simply put, it felt way too short. If you played straight through, you can beat the game in 6 hours, and the side content isn’t all that interesting and very basic. It’s a bit of a shame that they built this beautiful world but they didn’t give you a ton of stuff to do in it. Still, the graphics, presentation, story, and combat still had me enjoying myself.

6. The Walking Dead: Season 2


You can’t quite capture lightning in a bottle twice. With that said, I still found S2 of this series to be well done despite it not being as great as the most excellent S1. It put Clementine in some precarious positions that never feel you quite she gets away from without losing a little bit of herself and some of the decisions you make are difficult and life changing to the character…in my playthrough at least.

5. Octodad: Dadliest Catch


Octodaaaaaaad, nobody suspects a thiiiing! There’s just something about this Chicken Boo simulator that I absolutely loved. They found a way to make the mechanics work in a way where they aren’t frustrating and the story is really charming. Looking forward to going back and playing the free DLC!

4. Mario Kart 8


Before this, I hadn’t played an MK game since the first in the series on SNES. This game is pure joy and fun pressed on a disc. The original amount of content felt a little lacking to me, but with the added tracks and characters that the DLC brings, it makes this a much easier choice for me to put in my top 5.

3. Sunset Overdrive


Insomniac needed this game more than Bioware needed DAI. After the disappointing Fuse, this game is a breath of fresh air with its funny dialog, kinetic traversal system, and excellent boss fights.

2. Dragon Age: Inquisition


This game is long….like Xenoblade Chronicles/Persona/Skyrim long. 50 hours in, this game is a return to form for Bioware in a time where they really needed a win. This feels like the Mass Effect 2 of this franchise. Although they made the combat more accessible, it still is fun and isn’t as brain dead as the combat in DA2.

1. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor


The nemesis system in this game really made it stand out. It made you feel like the enemies you made were unique to you whether they were or not. It feels like this game didn’t have a lot of expectations from folks coming it but really helped make this year just that much more fun.

 

Honorable Mention

10 spots just isn’t enough to highlight some of my favorite games of this past year.  Alien Isolation, TitanFall, and The Last of Us: Left Behind, this nod’s for you!\\

 

I Really Liked It Despite Itself

These are games that I enjoyed despite the games having problems that others might not be able to overlook.  Even games with flaws deserved a little attention!

Murdered: Soul Suspect-  It’s an adventure game that’s trying hard to be a 3rd person character action game.  I had a good time playing this with my wife.  I liked the gimmick of being a ghost and although the detective stuff was at times a bit too simple, it was fun.  The story it told was decent too.

Halo: Master Chief Collection-  We are talking strictly single player here.  Having all four single player campaigns running at 1080p/60fps is really nice.  Too bad they completely botched any of the network functionality.

 

I Coulda Been a Contender!

These are games that are all quality, but I just didn’t get to play enough of them to give it their due. Super Smash Bros Wii U, Bayonetta 2

Super Smash Bros. Wii U-  Got this one for Christmas so I haven’t played a whole lot.  It’s a ton of fun though, and I’m looking forward to digging even deeper into it.

Bayonetta 2-   I only played through half of Bayonetta 1 on Xbox 360 so I decided to replay the entire thing on Wii U.  It was a lot of fun….can’t wait to play part 2!

Tales from the Borderlands– I’m a big fan of both Tell Tale’s games and the Borderlands series so this seems like a no brainer.  Too many games, not enough time to actually play them.

 

Most Disappointing Game of The Year (Brought to you by Prototype)

To clarify, this isn’t “worst game” necessarily, just one that I was really disappointed with.

Assassin’s Creed Unity-  Destiny came close to taking this one but at the end of the day, at least I was able to actually play that game at launch.  Ubisoft just patched the game to the point where I (theoretically) can play the coop now, one of the game’s biggest selling points, but I got so used to waiting until it was patched that I’ll have to give myself a pep talk in order to add it back to my rotation.  The AC series is one of my favorites and I can’t help but feel like Ubisoft did the fans dirty with this one.  I’m hoping the series can bounce back.  This will be the last AC game that I buy sight unseen.  


My Favorite Games of 2013

January 1, 2014

2013 has been considered one of the weaker years in releases.  I suppose that’s what happens when a console generation lasts well past what it was probably supposed to.  Still, plenty of highly enjoyable games came out.  Despite the lack of big releases, indie games like Stanley Parable, Gone Home, State of Decay, Rogue Legacy and Gun Point, have me feeling less qualified to put a list up than most years.  Despite there being less AAA games out than usual, there are still plenty of games left for me to play from 2013.

10. Tearaway

“This game is charming as fuck.” pretty much sums it up for me, but there’s a lot more going on with Tearaway. Lovely art style, genuinely clever gameplay mechanics based around Vita’s functionality, and simple to do arts and crafts that directly affect the environment, it’s hard not to have a smile on your face while playing this game.

9. Super Mario 3D World

Just when I’m out, they pull me back in! Nintendo really brings it with this installment. It has a lot of things I loved from other Mario games (Princess Peach can float!), and adds much needed creativity to Mario. The worst thing I can say about this game is that I find the way Mario meows annoying.

8. Tomb Raider

This scratches that Uncharted itch for me. I enjoyed Tomb Raider despite it being a huge departure from the original series that I loved. I’m really hoping the sequel has more tombs to raid. Those were my favorite bits in this game and there simply wasn’t enough of them.

7. BioShock Infinite

It’s a fine shooter, but the game’s story is really what makes this game special for me. I really enjoyed the twisted Disney princess setup used to introduce Elizabeth and enjoyed Booker’s relationship with her quite a bit.

6. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Brothers tells an affecting story with visuals, voice inflection, and music, despite the characters speaking gibberish. There’s no real combat to speak of here, just environmental puzzles, exploration, and platforming. One of the few games where the mechanics of the game directly ties into its narrative. One of my surprise games of 2013.

5. Saints Row IV

If you liked SR3, it’s mathematically impossible for you not to like this one. Think Saint’s Row 3 mixed with Crackdown. The comedy is still there too, totally worth picking up.

4. Metro: Last Light

Although I enjoyed Bioshock Infinite mainly for its story, Metro Last Light strikes a good balance between enjoyable gameplay mechanics and a engaging narrative. Although the game’s more interesting survival mechanics (finding gas masks, using bullets as currency as well as ammunition) takes a back seat in the sequel compared to Metro 2033, this game’s level design, story telling techniques, and satisfying shooting mechanics made it one of my favorite shooters in a very long time.

3. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Black Flag totally took me by surprise. Assassin’s Creed III’s ending left a bad taste in my mouth but this game was good all the way through. Not only did it feed my compulsion to want to collect everything in these types of games by giving you some cool extras for doing it (like shanties for your crew to sing, and treasure maps, weapons, and costumes to unlock) but the naval combat stuff has been tweaked and made a bit more full scale compared to the previous game. Oh yea, it also helps that the game looks gorgeous on next gen consoles. It even had a companion app that was well done and added quite a bit to the game. This didn’t feel like it was rushed out to make a deadline. Its polished and full of content.

2. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

This ended up being one of my favorite JRPG’s in a very long time. Not only did this help me understand why so many people like Pokemon, but it used one of my favorite animation studios Studio Ghibli to do it. I have to go back to this and do the post game activities at some point. It’s flippin’ tidy, it is!

1. The Last of Us

Poignant, well written, honest storytelling. That’s what I took away the most from this game. Being a huge stealth fan, the gameplay really spoke to me. There were entire fight sequences I avoided by using stealth. When forced to confront enemies, I felt I had the necessary tools to have a fighting chance. I loved the honesty and audacity the game’s final moments had. There are very few games that use your own life experiences to help shape how you feel about a game’s ending but I felt that TLOU did exactly that. I think those of us that have children can empathize with some of the choices Joel had to make, but very few of us would be willing to make the same choices. At the end of the day, this game isn’t about being the hero that saves the day, it’s about being human and all of what that entails…both good and bad.

 

 

Honorable Mention

10 spots just isn’t enough to highlight some of my favorite games of this past year.  Games like GTA V, Ducktales Remastered, Batman: Arkham Origins, DmC, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, and Guacamelee were among my favorites.

 

 

I Really Liked It Despite Itself

These are games that I enjoyed despite the games having problems that others might not be able to overlook.  Even games with flaws deserved a little attention!

Deadpool-  I enjoyed this game a lot more than I expected to.  The gameplay is mostly brain dead despite there being some fun aspects to the combat and shooting.  More than anything this game cracked me up.  There were a lot of bad jokes, but for every bad joke or two there was one that was genuinely funny.

Remember Me- The art direction, graphical fidelity, voice acting, and general atmosphere of this game was great.  The gameplay however was too simple.  The edit combos together to create buffs for your character was an interesting mechanic but it wasn’t fully fleshed out.  The platforming was also fairly disappointing and reminded me a lot of Enslaved where you were simply given too much direction as to where to go next.  I also found the ending to fall very flat.  You are left thinking, “That’s it?  THAT’S why all of the things in this game happened?”.

Beyond: Two Souls-  Although the story is hit and miss, there were a few moments that were genuinely well done.  The graphics in this game are among the best of this past generation.  The problem here is that the quality of the story is uneven and the although ending doesn’t fail as hard as Heavy Rain, it does stumble a bit.  I still enjoyed my time with the game despite those flaws.

 

 

I Coulda Been a Contender!

These are games that are all quality, but I just didn’t get to play enough of them to give it their due.

Lego Marvel Super Heroes-  What I did play was a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to going back.  Love all the Marvel fan service.

Legend of Zelda Wind Waker HD-   This will be one of the games I go back to first once the next gen drought hits me (which will be soon).

 

 

Most Disappointing Game of The Year (Brought to you by Prototype)

To clarify, this isn’t “worst game” necessarily, just one that I was really disappointed with.  Only criteria that I have for this is that it has to be a game I beat so I could properly judge the game in its entirety.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance-  I can’t deny that I had fun with this game, but I was surprised by how quickly that fun wore out.  It took me about 8 hours to beat this game and it felt like it wore out its welcome 5-6 hours in.  Fun gameplay mechanics that just weren’t fun enough to carry an entire game.  


Playstation 4 – My Console Impressions

November 17, 2013

The next generation of consoles has finally begun! Although I’ve been following the development of the PS4 (and Xbox One), I’ve actually tried to stay away from watching too much footage of games/UI running and/or going to a store to try one out for myself.  When I get my PS4 on Friday (at least I hope I do…don’t let me down Amazon!) I want it to be as new of an experience as the social media age allows.  Seems like these days it’s possible to consume so much information about something prior to its release, that you can diminish the “shiny and new” feeling you get when you experience something for the first time.  I figure it’d be more fun to take a more detailed, first hand look at the console once I actually have it in my hands.  I’ll be giving you impressions of all of it, from the UI, PSN Store, games, and apps.

User Interface/OS

PS4’s UI

Above the PS4’s main UI, the XMB is used for all of the console’s settings.

PS3’s XMB was divisive among gamers.  While some liked its minimalist look and clean interface, others hated how slow and unoptimized it felt.  With the PS4, Sony did a lot right, with a little bit of room to grow.  The XMB hasn’t completely gone away, but it’s used mainly for settings more so than main UI functionality.  The biggest positive with PS4’s OS is how fast and snappy everything is.  You can go in and out of menus with ease with no  hang ups.  There are a few niggles like not being able to bring up friends list while watching Bluray movies and the lack of Folders, but Sony has made a conscious effort to make this OS a lot more flexible than PS3’s so you can expect changes to be made in the following months, hopefully improving it even more.

Dualshock 4

Love those triggers.

If PS4’s OS and UI are a big leap in improvement compared to PS3’s, the Dualshock 4 is a Hulk sized bounds worth.  Gone are the curved triggers, convex sticks, and small hand holds of the aging Dualshock’s original design.  It seems like Sony definitely listened and improved just about everything that was wrong with the DS3.  About the only thing you can complain about is analog stick placement, but that was never an issue with me to begin with.  Those that like asymmetrical analog sticks will be disappointed to hear that Sony went with the same placement of sticks as the PS3.  The main difference here is that they are a little further apart,  which is meant to alleviate the cramped feeling you got from the analog sticks on PS3.

The Playstation Store

The interface is the same as Playstation 3’s new Storefront, but unlike PS3’s this one is very fast and responsive.

As one would expect, the PlayStation store has been getting hammered since the launch on Friday.  Despite this, I am very impressed with not only the ability to be able to download games, but also the download speeds themselves.  I was able to download all of the digital content that I had available in 10-12 hours despite PSN going in and out.  As of now, it seems as though it has stabilized and I am getting very few errors trying to get in to the store.  Considering Sony’s past, I am thoroughly impressed that they were able to stabilize the network in just two days despite having potentially hundreds of thousands of people logging on.  The biggest problem I have with it currently is that getting into the store can be hit and miss.  For some reason, logging in and out of your account just about guarantees it letting you enter the PSN Store if you’re having trouble getting in.  Not sure why that is, but it seems like it desperately needs a refresh button…at least until things die down.

Aside from the store, I played a few hours of multiplayer with no lag or disconnects and live streaming worked great even if I was playing online while streaming multiplayer.  These are just initial impressions but it seems to me like Sony rose to the challenge and is at the very least justifying rolling online multiplayer into the cost of PS Plus.  Seems like they were (for the most part) ready to handle the server load.

Sharing

This is what you see when you bring up the Share Button Menu.

Facebook and Twitter Integration.

Twitch’s UI while livestreaming.

This could potentially be the PS4’s game changer. The share button is used to instantly share your screenshots and video uploads with friends on Twitter and Facebook. Trimming videos down to size is quick and easy. All of the options are presented to you in a simple, concise, and easy to use manner.  Although I was very impressed with the ability to use the share button to share photos and video clips, the live streaming function is the big draw.  With the press of a few buttons, you can stream yourself playing any game by using a Twitch/Ustream account. Aside from entering your account information, everything is native to the PS4’s user interface which makes set up very fast and simple. You can use the headset that was bundled with the console to add your own commentary while you are playing, or you can buy the camera so you can add video to your livestream.  People watching are able to interact with you via chat and you can view their comments in (relative) real time and reply back.  Some say that couch gaming is dead, but this brings back those feelings.

Further social implications for this functionality are yet to be fully known, but it is safe to say that it will have an impact on the way you not only play games, but also seek out information on them. Not sure if the game is worth buying? Hop on to Live at PlayStation and check out a few streams of people playing it. I’ve always valued the opinions of other gamers over the gaming press at large and this allows you to have a direct dialog with other gamers.

Remote Play

I haven’t spent a whole lot of time with this functionality but came away impressed with the short time I had with it.  I was able to use my Vita as a second controller so I could play Knack with my 11 year old son, and I tried out Resogun via Remote Play.  At certain times games actually looked better on the Vita than on my HDTV due to the Vita’s OLED screen which outputted a very vibant and crisp image.  I experienced little to no lag input, but I was directly connected to the PS4 while I was playing.  I haven’t gone much deeper than that but am curious to see how bad the lag input will be when you are on a different network.

The Games

You did get this console to play games right? Well PlayStation 4 has those! Despite having anything that is truly groundbreaking, the launch lineup for the PS4 spans genres and has a lot going for it. It seems that the gaming press is down on the launch games available, but compared to the last generation’s offerings these launch games are a stark improvement over what was available on day one 7 years ago.

Here are some of my quick impressions of each launch game that I have played. Please note that I only played a few hours of each game so these are simply impressions so no final thoughts.

Resogun-  This is probably one of the better launch games. It’s an arcade style shooter that combines old-school gameplay and technology to make a very fun, graphically impressive shooter. Fans of side scrolling shooters like Gradius will get a huge kick out of this.

Knack-  Despite middling reviews, I was pleasantly surprised by Knack. This isn’t the type of game that will win any game of the year awards, but offers a stiff challenge with old-school sensibilities.

Battlefield 4-  I’ll be the first to admit that I am not much of a first-person shooter guy, but what I played of Battlefield has been fun. A bit too hectic for me at times, but the game mechanics are very solid and is a showcase for what the PS4 can do graphically, at least at launch.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag- I haven’t had a chance to play a lot of this, but I’ve been impressed with what I played so far. The graphics aren’t as “next-generation” as I anticipated but it’s still a very striking game and seems like a good addition to the franchise. I’ve heard a lot of good things and look forward to playing it more.

Killzone: Shadow Fall- I’ve always enjoyed Killzone’s multiplayer and little was done to change that opinion. The on-the-fly change of objectives keeps things fresh and interesting and the mechanics feel very tight without losing the slight feel of movement that I enjoyed from previous games. I don’t think this game is doing much different where people that dislike the series before will come around. Still the inclusion of the OWL which is a drone that flies around assist you and the Crysis-like open environments gives you a lot of options. Oh yeah, and the game looks absolutely gorgeous.

B-E-A-utiful.

I should be getting NBA 2K14 in the mail today, really looking forward to playing that one, and I haven’t even touched any of the F2P games like Warframe, DC Universe Online, and Blacklight Retribution.  That’s not even mentioning other games like Flower and Sound Shapes that are “free” if you own the PS3 version, and Contrast that is available to PS Plus members for free.  So there you have it, sure beats the pants off Genji, Perfect Dark Zero, and Fantivision.

Overall

Overall, I’m happy with my purchase.  Although none of these games are necessarily worthy of buying a $400 dollar console to play them, the PS4 has a lot to offer even at launch, particularly for those that like to be early adopters.  For others that expect to be floored by the games at launch, you might want to wait until early next year to make a purchase.  As of now, new features such as the “Share” button, livestreaming, and the speed and convenience of the UI/OS are the things that make the PS4 stand out.  Still, I’m not only looking forward to playing more of the games I have, but all of the games that will come out during the life span of the console.


My Gravity Rush Impressions – It’s not flying, it’s falling…with style!

June 16, 2012

Although I’m still early into the game, I’ve had a chance to play GR for a few hours now and decided to write down my impressions of the game so far (I’m on Chapter 7 right now).

Pros

Graphics: It’s not the best looking game from a raw horsepower point of view because of its jaggies, but the art direction, animation, and art style are all top notch. I love the look they went for here. Its cell shaded euro-anime look is great and the comic book panel cutscenes are very well done.  The use of the gyroscope to be able to manipulate the comic book panels was a nice touch as well.

The framerate is rock solid and the game does look very pretty, can’t ask for much more.

Gameplay: The way this game uses gravity as a gameplay mechanic is pretty great. It’s not super graceful, and it’s not meant to be considering Kat doesn’t really know how to use her powers all that well. I like that flying from place to place is a little bit clunky by design. The controls during flight feel unique and non-conventional and I like the use of the gyroscopes to aim. I find myself doing the same thing I did in Uncharted: Golden Abyss where I aim the camera with the R stick for most of the aim and then use the gyroscope the rest of the way to fine tune my aim. Most of the gravity stuff feels satisfying once you get the hang of it and when you level up your powers. Gravity kicking from bad guy to bad guy feels pretty rewarding as well. You have minimal control over Kat during her actual flight, but you can stop her in mid air and change directions. I applaud SCEJ for trying something different with this game. It really gives it a unique feel.

The City: Being able to fly anywhere really makes you want to explore the city. There are a lot of nice details and architecture…not to mention gems you can collect to level up your character. You can also unlock challenges by helping to repair the city.

I’ve found the challenges to be a lot of fun although I’m holding off on trying to get gold medals in all of them until I completely level Kat up. It seems almost necessary, since I’m coming nowhere near the top goal. At least this will give the game some longevity as I get closer to beating it (I still have a while to go).

Music: The music is pretty great. It matches the visuals and mood of the game really well and there are more than a few tracks that I’ve really enjoyed so far.

Characters/Plot: I’m really enjoying the characters/story although it’s a little thin so far. One of the things I like so far is that this game totally brings the whimsy. It’s light hearted fun, and the game doesn’t take itself too seriously. It does seem like they are planting seeds, building up to when Kat finds out what’s going on. Until then, I’m having fun going with the flow.

Cons

Camera: It seems to me like right stick control of the camera can get a bit unwieldy at times. Some of it has to do with me not being used to how sensitive the right stick on the Vita can be (although I am finally adjusting to it a bit), but another reason is because the camera movement speed is way too high by default. I ended up lowering it by quite a bit to get to a point where I felt comfortable with it.

The camera also gets a little wonky if you are flying in tight spaces. Almost every game that allows you this kind of freedom of movement (namely every Spider-man game) has had this same problem so I find it hard to really take Gravity Rush to task on it.  It’s something you kind of have to work with, but it’s not a deal breaker.

Positioning During Combat: The one problem I have with gravity kicking dudes is how your flow can be completely ruined. After you gravity kick an enemy, the force of the kick makes Kat sort of backflip backwards after the attack. This is actually pretty useful because you can aim your next kick while shes doing this and then go right into another gravity kick. When done right, it feels really good and gives you a nice sense of control.

The problem is that sometimes you go backwards and end up behind a lamp post or water fountain. This breaks up the momentum you have going in because you will either kick the object instead when you attempt the kick or you have to fly to the side a little bit and completely preposition yourself.

This becomes particularly more frustrating with certain enemies that take more than one gravity kick to dispatch. I found myself getting frustrated when I aimed the first kick and then ended up behind a lamp post and couldn’t follow through with the second kick…leading to me having to re-position myself and have to find a different angle where his weak spot wasn’t concealed.

This doesn’t happen every time, and as you upgrade your gravity kick I’ve found it a little easier to avoid this, but it’s still a valid complaint.  I just thought of using the dodge manuveur to get out of the way of the way of objects as a tactic.  I’ll give it a try and edit my impressions once I see if that remedies my issue.

Gravity Slide: I will admit that perhaps it’s because I haven’t upgraded this ability very much, but I’ve found it hard to use the tilt functionality to control your slide. I think a lot of the problem comes from you being able to pan the camera up and down using tilt, causing you to become disoriented enough to throw you off if you get into it and aren’t paying attention to how you’re holding the Vita. It also doesn’t help that you jump when you gravity slide by shaking the Vita. This makes it really important that you make sure not to tilt the Vita up and down too much when you attempt a jump. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done in the heat of the moment.

Luckily, the use of this mechanic has been optional thus far. I’m hoping it will get better once I level it up.

Overall

I am really enjoying Gravity Rush so far.  Outside of a few camera quirks the game as a whole comes together and feels fresh, making it a joy to play.


My 2011 Game of the Year Awards

December 26, 2011

Best Xbox 360 Game


Honorable Mention: Bastion

It helps that there weren’t that many 360 exclusives on the system in 2011 but let’s face it, Gears 3 would have probably won anyway.

Best PS3 Game


Honorable Mention: inFamous 2

Thought by some to be a downgrade from Uncharted 2, Uncharted 3 still has some of the best graphics and set pieces than any other game in 2011.

Best Downloadable Game


Honorable Mention: inFamous: Festival of Blood

I don’t play many downloadable games but when I do, I hope them to be as creative and fun as Bastion.

Best Wii Game



This is a no brainer.  Not only did I not play another Wii game that released in 2011, but Skyward Sword is pretty damn amazing.  Intricate level design, beautiful art direction, and good motion controls gives the series a fresh feel.

Best PC Game

Honorable Mention: The Witcher 2

This game caught me by surprise.  A little bit Deus Ex 1, a lot of bit Metal Gear Solid, I had a great time overall with the game.  DXHR beat out The Witcher 2 because TW2 somehow managed to have worse boss fights than Human Revolution.

Best 3DS Game

Honorable Mention: Pilotwings Resort

Having never played Ocarina of Time when it first came out on Nintendo64, this was a treat.  Well implemented 3D and redone graphics give the game a new coat of paint.  I can see why so many regard this game as one of the best ever.

2011 Game of the Year


Honorable Mention: Portal 2

This is one of the few games that just got better as it went along. The last two hours were fucking great, and that ending!  In just a few short years, Rocksteady has become one of my favorite developers.

Other fun choices:

Best Graphics: Uncharted 3
Best Artistic Design: Rayman Origins
Best Action Game: Saint’s Row: The Third
Best Fighting Game: Mortal Kombat
Best iOS Game: Sonic CD
Best Platforming Game: Rayman Origins
Best RPG: Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Best Shooter: Gears of War 3
Best Sports: NBA 2K12
Best Score: Rayman Origins
Best Voice Acting: Uncharted 3
Best Story: Portal 2
Best Online Multiplayer Game: Gears of War 3
Best Survival/Horror game: Dead Space 2


LTTP: My Deus Ex Review

August 21, 2011

I was never a PC gamer when I was growing up. So really, the only experiences I had with PC games as a young kid started and ended with Jazz Jackrabbit.  To make a long story short, my parents were never tech savvy in any way, so I didn’t own a PC until my late teens when a friend of mine actually gave me his hand me down machine.  This was when I got to play Jazz Jackrabbit (loved it, by the way!).  I played Max Payne and Freedom Force sometime after when I was able to buy my own PC (with a meager video card) but my experience with PC games was extremely limited.

The reason for that little tidbit of background was to explain why I don’t really have a whole lot of experience playing great PC games.  I’ve never played Half-Life 1 on the PC and just beat Half-Life 2 a few years ago when it came out via The Orange Box on Xbox 360.  So yea, that’s why I never played Deus Ex when it came out so long ago.  Now that I built my own PC (with the help of some great people), I play PC games on a regular basis and sometimes go back to play some of the all time greats.  You’ve got to love those crazy Steam sales!

Although one can look at Deus Ex now and see that a lot of games have done what it tried to do (sometimes arguably better) in 2000, the fact remains that it is one of the first games to incorporate RPG elements into a completely different genre.

At it’s best, Deus Ex strives to be ambitious and succeeds in its goal.  The level design really gives the player multiple paths towards the same goal, giving you the kind of freedom that most games in this day and age are afraid to give you.

A version of the story in Deus Ex has been told time and time again in other forms of media, and by now it’s probably not anything you haven’t seen already in video games either, but I’d argue that not too many games have done it this well.  Dialogue trees are a very popular thing in video games right now.  Games like Heavy Rain, Fallout 3/ New Vegas, LA Noire, and the Mass Effect series give players the freedom to choose their own dialogue path, oftentimes rewarding them with a different experience based on what path you choose.

I’d argue that Deus Ex does this better than most of the games I mentioned.  When you make a choice in this game, the rest of the world changes the way it speaks to you based on that choice.  NPC’s will either like you more or dislike you more based on these choices and sometimes the ramifications aren’t obvious until hours later.  The game does an incredible job of keeping track of these choices, changing entire strands of dialogue and encounters to account for it.  This leads to you more than likely having a different experience with the game than another player.  Many of the choices you make in Deus Ex aren’t completely binary either.  It takes that path down to the very last choice you make in the game (the game has three different endings).  Despite what you chose, there isn’t an inherently good or bad choice, just a variance in philosophy.  I really wish modern games took that approach more often.

The choices you make in Deus Ex feel incredibly important and they impact the story in a significant way, which often leads you down different areas of the level.  There were many occasions where talking to an NPC would bring a path to my attention that I didn’t know existed.  Other times, the NPC would give me information that’d be vital to sneaking into a compound undetected as well.  These kind of interactions gave NPC’s a more important role within the game compared to other games.  Instead of them just being there to add ambiance and texture to the game world, they serve a tangible purpose.

Sorry JC, you'll have to wait until Mass Effect to come out before you can decide to get laid.

Deus Ex excels not only in giving you freedom to have the story play out however you want, it also gives you the same kind of freedom with its game mechanics which allows you to tailor the play style to your tastes.  If you want to go in guns blazing, you can take a direct approach and just attack the problem head on.  Although the head first approach lacks finesse it can still be effective depending on what enemies are in front of you and what weapons/ammo you have on you at the time.

Despite the freedom, Deus Ex seems to try and guide you into taking a more stealthy approach (which is personally my favorite way to play the game).  There are often times way more points of stealth than there are points where you can directly attack the enemy.  This leads me to some of the things Deus Ex doesn’t do well, namely the gameplay.  Simply put, the gameplay doesn’t hold up nearly as well as the other aspects of the game.  Guns don’t take nearly as much damage as you’d like them to and their success is predicated by how much you’ve leveled up that aspect of your character.  You are probably thinking to yourself, “No shit, it’s an RPG.”  The problem here is if your “Denton” is more of a stealth build where you focused on swimming, cloaking, lock picking, and computer hacking, that leaves very little XP to put into the shooting.

Seeing as I put enough into my pistols that Denton’s status was “Trained” I would’ve thought he’d at least be competent, but that wasn’t the case.  It took too many shots to kill an enemy and took him way too long to reload.  Even taking into account that I was a stealth build, it just didn’t work.  I found that once I was spotted the game became less fun because I knew I’d have to fumble around with the game’s iffy shooting mechanics.  A lot of this can be forgiven due to the game’s age, but that doesn’t put the Triscuit crackers in my stomach now, does it?

The other problem I had with the game is that it didn’t really equip you with enough ammo to run through an entire level with 100% stealth.  Eventually, you were going to run out of poison darts and tazer charges, forcing you to kill enemies with melee attacks.  This is what usually broke the stealth for me, making it a lot easier for enemies to spot you.

The game does get a bit easier as you find more augmentation canisters which grant you special powers for a limited amount of time.  These powers range from night vision and regenerative health, to cloaking and speed boosts.  Being able to cloak yourself to get past sticky situations really came in handy.

Also, you get a certain weapon for the last half of the game that is damn near god-like (I don’t want to spoil what it is for those that might be playing it for the first time in preperation for Deus Ex: Human Revolution).  Although it’s a melee weapon, it’s basically a 1-2 hit kill on everything but security bots so I used it as an “Oh shit” button when I got spotted.  This made the game significantly easier, but I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing seeing as the game was pretty hard to begin with.

One thing I’d like to also point out before I wrap this puppy up is that the soundtrack to this game is phenomnal.  It really captures the feel they were going for, I’d argue even more so than the visuals did.  The music still holds up and I have more than one of the themes stuck in my head as I write this.

So is this game worth playing?  Absolutely.  Despite the fact that the game play mechanics haven’t aged as well as everything else, Deus Ex was an experience worth having.  I love the fully realized cyber punk, conspiracy theorist world Warren Spector and Ion Storm created here.


My Alice: Madness Returns First Impressions

June 17, 2011

 

Shooter fatigue has set in for me.  After playing through Call of Duty Black Ops’ single player campaign amongst other various shooters, I need a break from them.  Not really being a fan of the series (and after playing some of Alice 1, not a fan of that particular game) Alice: Madness Returns was an opportunity for me to play an IP that would be new to me as well as something that doesn’t involve military cover ups or moments that promise consequences of dude bro-like proportions.

The game’s reviews have been all over the place so I didn’t know what to expect.  Initially, the game doesn’t make a big first impression from a visual perspective.  The first initial area you are in has a few muddy textures and the typical Unreal 3 jank of textures popping in and out.  A lot of that changes when you finally are outside in the streets of London.  The world substantially comes to life with vendors selling things on the street and people walking around the world doing various things.  This intro portion to the game is a slow burn for sure where you aren’t even allowed to jump, which is kind of weird for a platformer.  Still I understand the reason the approach was taken and it makes sense within the context of the story.

I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to state that Alice ends up in Wonderland.  This is where the game feels like a breath of fresh air.  Just like People Can Fly and Bulletstorm before it, Spicy Horse does a wonderful job of differentiating the game’s look from what you come to expect from a game that has Unreal 3 running under its hood.  The vistas are beautiful, the art direction dark and unique, and the color palette bright and colorful.  More than anything I was impressed that they were able to give the game a dark look without feeling like something that came out of a 1990’s Todd McFarlane comic.  It’s safe to assume that the game will have a dark and “edgy” look to it simply based on the series but it does a great job of displaying that look without feeling derivative of that approach.  Despite the fact that the texture work can be inconsistent at times, the great art direction more than makes up for it.

Enough about graphics, how does the game play?  I’m happy to say that it plays nothing like Alice 1.  The game does offer a double jump with a float mechanic and it feels really good for the most part.  I didn’t have a big problem judging distances, falling, or dying repeatedly once I got used to the jump mechanics of the game.

The one issue I did come across is that the camera can be a little spotty at times, but does a better job than a lot of platformers out there.  The only time it’s given me any kind of trouble is when you are cornered by multiple enemies in a small space, but that could very well be situational since I think most games have camera problems when put in that sitation.  The game has yet to give me camera problems while platforming.

The combat in the game is streamlined and simple so far with a butcher knife for melee and a pepper grinder gun for shooting.  The lock on feature in the game is VERY generous for those that aren’t good at aiming while the game still offers you the ability to shoot manually if you enjoy lining up shots for yourself.  I found myself switching between both and enjoying them about the same.

Although the combat is on the simple side, it works great for this type of game where the combat isn’t the main focus.  The knife works nicely and you can string up a simple combo and can use a dodge maneuver to either slide behind enemies to make the killing blow, or just give yourself some breathing room if you get overwhelmed by enemies.  The pepper grinder is very effective against flying enemies as well as enemies that are off in the distance although it overheats a bit too quickly.  You can upgrade both of these weapons, so I’m assuming that a faster cool down time for the pepper grinder will be one of the upgrades.

The game does have a wealth of collectibles for you to search for between pig snouts (which help open up new paths in the environment), memories (think audio logs like in Bioshock) that help flesh out some of your backstory, bottles (which I’m honestly not sure what they do yet, LOL), and teeth (which act as the games currency to purchase upgrades).  Although it sounds like there’s an overwhelming amount of things to collect, the game hasn’t gone out of its way to tuck any of it away yet (at least not yet).

The soundtrack to the game has been really great so far.  The music fits right in the with mood and atmosphere of the game, and there’s a few tracks that stand out even now after I stopped playing the game.  Sound effects are well done and the pepper grinder has some real bass to it which gives it a good feeling of power.

I’m only a few hours in so some of my opinion could very well change, but I’m really enjoying my time with AMR.  It’s refreshing to not only play something that’s not a shooter by nature, but also something that stands out in a genre that’s not used to having M-rated games in its ranks.