Sunday, February 28, 2010

What I'm Playing (2/28/10)

I've been playing a lot of stuff lately. The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom (XBLA), Borderlands (finally beat my first playthrough), Castle Crashers, MW2, CoD: WaW, Halo 3 (mostly the "Action Sack" online playlist), and I just beat Plants vs. Zombies on my iPod. I also finally tried the God of War III demo on PS3 and it was amazing. Cant wait for that game.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Greatest Games of the Decade: The Year 2009

Finally! Here is the last entry in my Greatest Games of the Decade series (though some people do it differently, for the purpose of this I counted the decade as 2000-2009). It's been a fun ride (at least for me) looking back at some of my favorite games of the last ten years, and I hope you enjoyed it too and maybe even got something out of it.

2009 ended only two months ago, so many of the games from that year are ones I still play or even still have yet to play. My favorite game from 2009 is a game that I put a lot of time into, and have even started new playthroughs with different characters after I beat it.

Dragon Age: Origins

Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: RPG
Developer: Bioware
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date (NA): November 3, 2009
Rating: M

Another amazing RPG by Bioware (almost all of whose games made my lists), this is a long but incredibly worthwhile journey in a fantasy, Lord of the Rings-esque setting. Like Bioware's other games, the story and characters are all great, and the world they created for the game is very good as well. I dont want to post any spoilers here (especially because this game hasn't even been out that long), but let's just say that the way you interact with other characters (especially the ones in your group) and how your actions affect what they do is incredible. Bioware has said that this game is a "spiritual successor" to the Baldur's Gate series (Baldur's Gate II being my favorite game of all time), and they are correct in saying that. Playing this game took me back to when I was playing Baldur's Gate II and I remembered what it was like to control a character whose actions really matter and affect the other people and world around him (Mass Effect 2 does an even better job of this, but that game will have to wait for the Greatest Games of 2010).

As for the other aspects of the game, the graphics are good, though many of the facial models aren't anything special (especially on the console versions). I really enjoyed the soundtrack, and the dialog and voice acting is all top notch. The combat is more turn-based and slow paced (like the Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, and KotoR series), which I dont mind, but some people who aren't used to it may not like it. They do a good job of adding in lots of special moves you can perform during battle to give it more of an action-game type of feel. Character creation is great, and each race and class has their own "origin story," which means they start the game in a completely different area of the world with a different story of what's happening around them. This adds a lot of replayability to the game and actually made me want to make every different type of character just so I could play through their origin story. As always, leveling your guy is fun, and each class (Mage, Warrior, and Thief) has 4 different speciality classes you unlock once you reach a certain level, which adds a lot of customization to what kind of character you want to play.

There has also already been a good amount of DLC for this game, and an expansion pack is on the way next month. I would definitely recommend this game to any RPG fan who has enjoyed any of Bioware's previous titles. The PC version is slightly superior to the console version (mostly in that you can control the camera angle of the game), so if you have a computer that can run it you I suggest you get it for that. If not though, the console versions are still excellent (I have the game for my 360, and I still loved it).

Honorable Mentions:

Madworld (Wii)- One of the most mature games I've played, and it's on the Wii! What are the odds? Anyway, this is a third-person brawler that is a lot of fun. It also uses the motion controls very well, which is rare for games on the Wii. The graphics and art style are also very unique and cool too. This game did well critically but unfortunately sold very poorly.

Red Faction: Guerrilla (360, PS3, PC)- A good third-person action/sandbox style game, but what really made this game special was the physics engine it ran on. You could destroy pretty much anything in the game. Seriously. Buildings could be taken down piece by piece, floor by floor, however you wanted. Not just some buildings. Any building. This really makes the game a blast to play; even if you're not doing missions it's fun to just run around blowing stuff up.

Wii Sports Resort (Wii)- Basically Wii Sports 2 (but with a lot more games), this game comes with a lot of fun mini-games that take advantage of the Wii's motion controls. This game was also the first to use Wii-Motion Plus, which is an attachment that adds additional sensors to the remote that lets it pick up your movements much better. If you enjoyed Wii Sports, you'll like this game too.

Batman: Arkham Asylum (360, PS3, PC)- Not only the best Batman game I've ever played, but also the best superhero game. If you want to know more about why I liked this game, check out my review here.

The Beatles: Rock Band (360, PS3, Wii)- I will admit my bias right away: the Beatles are my favorite band of all-time, and have been since I was a kid. So I obviously loved all the songs in the game. What makes this game so great though is not just the music, but the way they really captured the spirit of the Beatles in a game. The art direction and graphics are great. Often times I've done poorly playing because I stopped looking at what color notes to play in order to watch the "dreamscapes" (background images) that go on while the song is playing. Also, the addition of three part harmonies for singing really added an extra element to the game that allows more people to play (especially at parties). If your friends can sing well, it actually works very well too. I hope to see Rock Band 3 and any following Rock Band games add that in too.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3)- So much has been said about this game that there's really nothing left for me to say here. It won almost every Game of the Year award for 2009. Everything about it is great. If you have a PS3 and haven't at least checked this game out yet, then you dont deserve to have said PS3 (I'm looking at you, David Slaght).

Demon's Souls (PS3)- Another great PS3 exclusive, you really have to play this game to understand what makes it so great. It's a third-person action game in a very dark fantasy setting that is incredibly challenging but still a lot of fun. There are some really cool multiplayer elements that make this game stand out as well. If you have a PS3 and are looking for a challenge, definitely check this game out.

Borderlands (360, PS3, PC)- A great mix of first-person shooter and RPG. The people who design the game refer to it as a RPS (role-playing shooter), which is a pretty accurate description. The shooting/combat feels great (it's very similar to Call of Duty), and the role-playing elements are fun and helpful while not being overly complicated. The art direction and graphics are really cool and unique too. This game is really meant to play co-op with friends, but even by yourself it's still fun to play.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (360, PS3, PC)- Another game that there is nothing left to say about. If somehow you haven't heard much about this game (which is doubtful), you can check out my review here.

Biggest Disappointment:

The Conduit (Wii)- For most of my other "Biggest Disappointment" sections, I usually start off by saying that this game wasn't terrible, it just didn't live up to my expectations. That is not the case here. The Conduit is a pretty terrible game. In retrospect I'm not sure why my expectations were so high, as most games on the Wii not made by Nintendo usually suck. But still, The Conduit holds a special place in my heart as a game that failed me miserably. Live and learn, I guess. Also, if you want more detail on why The Conduit sucks so bad, check out my review here.

Well, that's all of them. The last ten years of my gaming experience in a nutshell. From looking at the lists, it seems to me that as time goes on developers start to more clearly see what makes a good game and what doesn't, which is why we see more and more good games every year, and less really terrible ones. To anyone reading this- I hope you enjoyed these posts and maybe even took something from them. As always, feel free to comment and post your own opinions. Now that I'm done this series, I'm not sure what I'm going to do next, if anything. I'll probably still do reviews and the like once in a while, but if you have any ideas for anything else you'd like to see feel free to let me know. Thanks!

Monday, February 15, 2010

What I'm Playing (2/15/10)

Bioshock 2 (both single player and multiplayer), the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 demo and A Kingdom for Keflings (which I finally beat). I also just started a 30 day challenge on EA Sports Active on the Wii, because I need to get some exercise.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bioshock 2 Prediction

I am not very far into Bioshock 2 (as of typing this I am in Pauper's Drop), but I am making a prediction about the story right now: Eleanor (the little girl who you think is your daughter and is bonded to you) is actually the bad guy and she is pitting you, Lamb, and everyone else against each other for her own purposes. I have read absolutely no spoilers, and this is my prediction. I'm putting it here right now so that if it turns out to be true I can brag about how I guessed it only a few hours into the game.

The Greatest Games of the Decade: The Year 2008

So, it's been a while since I posted my 2007 entry. A long while. It's a new year now, but I intend to finish the Greatest Games of the Decade nonetheless. For anyone who reads this, my apologizes for the delay. In 2007 we had a lot of good games, and 2008, while perhaps not as packed with great games as 2007 (which is regarded as the best year for video games ever by many people in the gaming industry) there are still several really good games that came out in 2008. The winner for best game though is a game that I (along with many, many other people) put a lot of time into:

Fallout 3

Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: RPG/First Person Action
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date (NA): October 28, 2008
Rating: M

As of right now, Fallout 3 is the best open world game I've ever played, and one of my all-time favorites. The graphics and and the art direction are amazing, as is the sound and soundtrack. The world in which the game takes place (a post-nuclear-war Washington D.C.) is incredibly well crafted and filled with adventure for those brave enough to go exploring. At its base the game engine is the same as Oblivion's, but it has been improved upon immensily. There are tons of different kinds of weapons, from everything to guns, rocket launchers, grenades, melee weapons, and even devices that shoot nuclear bombs. For the most part, they all work well too. The VATS combat system is a welcome addition because even though the real-time combat is improved over Oblivion's, it's still not as good as a top-tier FPS. VATS lets the game take on a more RPG feel in combat while still keeping the cool weapons and tactical elements of the first-person gameplay.

Like I said before, the world is incredibly well-crafted. It is a large open world, and yet almost everywhere you go you find something interesting, whether it's a location, enemies, other people, items, or pieces that add into the story. The characters, while not the best or most memorable, keep the story moving and are certainly an improvement over Oblivion. The voice acting is very good, as Liam Neeson does a good job as your father and Three-Dog is a funny and somewhat helpful guide to the Wasteland. The game's main story is solid, if not amazing. But that's only part of the allure of Fallout 3; you can do the main story how and when you want, but there's just so much else to go see and explore in the world, including many, many side quests. And like I said before, even just running around exploring can keep you busy and throughly entertained for endless hours in this game.

Also, with the benefit of hindsight, on the whole the DLC that came out for this game afterwards is very good. When I talk about a "greatest game of the year", that includes any expansions that eventually came out for it, so I factor all five DLC packs into this. The two that stand out as superb are "Broken Steel" and "Point Lookout". "Broken Steel" allows you to keep playing after the end of the main story (which you couldn't do originally, the game actually ended), and also raises the level cap from 20 to 30. It also somewhat finishes up the main plot-line. "Point Lookout" takes you to a beach in Maryland, and is structured like a small open world itself with various quests. The other three, "Operation Anchorage", "The Pitt", and "Mothership Zeta" are largely combat-focused, but are still worth playing and will give some extra loot and experience to your guy.

That all being said, if you still haven't purchased this game but want to eventually, I would definitely recommend getting the GOTY (Game of the Year) edition. It has the game and all 5 DLC packs all on one disc. The main game itself is a lot cheaper now, but by the time you wind up purchasing all the DLC (which you're going to want to do), you'll have spent more money than if you had just bought the GOTY to begin with.

Honorable Mentions:

Tom Clancy's Rainbow SIx: Vegas 2 (360, PS3, PC)- A well made tactical FPS that has you hunting down terrorists in Las Vegas. The level-up system works a lot like CoD 4, but you gain experience for your guy throughout every mode, which I really liked. Terrorist hunt is also a lot of fun.

Call of Duty: World at War (360, PS3, PC)- Nazi Zombies!!! Would be a decent game without that mode, but the introduction of that really gave it an edge in my book. If you want to know more about my feelings on this game, you can check out my reveiw here.

Dead Space (360, PS3, PC)- A terrifying third-person shooter that also has solid and very fun gameplay mechanics.

Braid (360, PS3, PC)- A very fun and challenging puzzle game. It's not a full game, hence why it's only available through download and doesn't cost much. Definitely worth taking the time to play though.

World of Goo (Wii, PC)- Another puzzle/arcade game (like Braid) that is challenging but very fun.

Little Big Planet (PS3)- A very original game in a genre (platformer) where up until this point there wasn't much originality for a while. Sackboy has got to be the cutest video game character ever (and I dont use that term very often), and while the basic gameplay is a lot of fun, it's the online creation tools and level sharing that have given this game a life-span and following that's still going strong.

Mirror Edge (360, PS3, PC)- This game has its fair share of issue, but having played it for a while I'll give it the benefit of the doubt just based on originality. Jumping and being able to do parkour all over a city is a lot of fun, and the controls for that are pretty good (especially considering it's from a first-person point of view). The combat isn't great, but that's not the point of this game. Hopefully the sequel (if it ever gets made) will take all the new things this game tried and really perfect them.

Left 4 Dead (360, PC)- An amazing zombie shooter with great (maybe the best) co-op play. Lots of fun and great to play with friends. The fact that you can play as the zombies (and it works really well) is icing on the cake.

Mario Kart Wii (Wii)- An awesome mix of classic and new Mario Kart action. As much as I still love the original Super Nintendo Mario Kart and the N64 one, I have to say that this is the best. There are lots of different characters and karts/motorcycles to choose from, the levels are all designed great (with some of the best levels from past Mario Karts thrown in too), and the controls and action are tight as ever. Also, they added a few new elements like drafting and the drift-boost that make it a little more strategic. Throw in good online multiplayer (which is rare on the Wii), and you've got a really fun game.

(Special thanks to Mike Pouch for his help with some of the games on this list.)

Biggest Disappointment:

Fable II (360)- In a year with a lot of new IP and a few big releases, this is the only one I had high hopes for that really disappointed me. Like I said in last year's post with Halo 3, this isn't a terrible game. I guess it's mediocre. But I was expecting so much more, especially with all the stuff Peter Molyneux was saying before launch (you think I would've learned my lesson from the first Fable). I enjoyed the first game; I knew it wasn't perfect but at the time (especially on Xbox) it was one of the better RPGs around. The second one really didn't improve much for me. The combat was bland, the level-up system was okay but nothing special, the realty/economy system was a joke, character customization was pretty weak, and it turned out having a dog wasn't all it was cracked up to be pre-release. I completely lost interest in the story less than halfway in, and dont even get me started on the ending. Suffice to say, as far as I'm concerned this is one of the worst (if not the worst) ending to a video game I've ever seen (the only other one I can think of that would be up there is Halo 3). Not only does it not tell a good story, the characters are all largely forgettable. And the DLC that came out afterward was all a waste of time and money too. And let's not forget the awesome "co-op" mode and what a joke/lie that turned out to be.

So that's the list for 2008. For some reason I feel like I'm forgetting some games in my "Honorable Mentions" list, so I reserve the right to add to this list if I think of something else. That being said, please feel free to comment and let me know if you think I forgot a game, you might be right!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

What I'm Playing (2/6/10)

I beat Mass Effect 2 a couple of days ago, and I had been playing that exclusively since I got it (at release). Since then, I've been playing Borderlands, Assassin's Creed II, Dragon Age: Origins, and Left 4 Dead 2. Also a little Warcraft III over