I played a lot of games this year. A lot.
Now I'm gunna talk about em!
Good Games I Beat This Year
I started Dead Space in 2011, but put it on hold pretty early on. Just after New Years, I blasted through the remaining 10 of 12 chapters and hey, it's pretty good! Granted, it stops being scary pretty early on, but maybe that's also why I was able to finally play it for more than 5 minutes at a time. Overall, great atmosphere, and I liked the set-up of basically, "Resident Evil 4 in space."
I started playing, and finished Bulletstorm in the same day. Yeah, it's short, but it's also a game that for me at least, I simply couldn't stop playing until there wasn't any more. The flow is great and the story is good enough to keep you interested to the end. Given the over the top vulgarity and the fact that you can slide kick enemies, I like to think of this as a true successor to Duke Nukem.
They did it. They finally did it. After years of bad to forgettable Sonic games (Heroes through Unleashed) and one brief glimmer of hope (Colors), they finally knocked it out of the park with Generations. It's a bit funny that this was accomplished by one of the most ridiculous premises ever, "There are two playable characters. They're both Sonic." But this ends up working perfectly, having two characters that are similar enough to create a cohesive experience, but different enough to keep things fresh as you alternate between them. It also helps that classic Sonic feels and plays exactly like he should, and modern Sonic's gameplay is finally starting to actually work, after countless games that never quite hit the mark.
Another thing that's great about Generations is being able to replay levels over and over to truly master them, and improve your time. In the old Genesis games, normal play would take you through each stage once, so you'd probably end up taking a less than ideal route, but also not have much reason or opportunity to go back and practice. Granted, all of the newer games have let you replay levels too, but Generations is the first time that I've actually wanted to go back, get all the red rings, figure out how to take every route, master each level. I've been a pretty big Sonic fan since the beginning, and Generations easily ranks among the classics.
Red Faction: Armageddon
I am probably the only person who... liked this game more Red Faction: Gorilla. Yes, the destruction mechanics were awesome, but the large open world itself was extremely bland. Armageddon, while still a third person shooter, switched things from an open world to a linear action game, which many people saw as a downgrade, but I preferred the more focused experience, with less downtime between events.
I would remiss though to not mention the real reason I liked this game, which was one weapon: The Magnet Gun. What it does is simple, shoot two points, and it'll drag one to the other. What this means in gameplay is that you throw buildings at enemies! The destruction elements of the game are admittedly more downplayed, but they're definitely there once you start to mess around with the Magnet Gun. I have a feeling if you just play Armageddon like a normal shooter then yeah, it's going to be pretty standard, but for me it took on a whole unique spin by trying to use the environment as my weapon the entire game. There's really nothing more satisfying than throwing a bridge at some giant alien bugs and crushing them all.
This year I decided to write about every game I played rather than just the ones that stuck out the most, Crysis was one of the games I figured I'd skip over. It's good, but maybe not the most memorable. I was surprised that past the "OMG BEST GRAFIX EVER" reputation, there actually was an interesting game here. The world is large and open enough to not feel linear when it really is, and the suit powers, stealth especially, make it fun to kill enemies. But the best part though? When the game pulls a near 180 halfway through and aliens show up.
Half-Life 2 Mods
"Wait a second wasn't this..." says absolutely no one, but yes, Half-Life 2 was on my list last year as well. I played it again this year! And it's still fucking awesome! This time though after beating the episodes, I dug a bit deeper and tried out some single player mods. The ones I found were quite excellent. First up was MINERVA: Metastasis
, a short campaign that was nearly as good as the actual episodes themselves. After that was Research and Development
(pictured) a mod that turns the game into a first person puzzle game, like Portal, but with primarily physics puzzles. It's very clever, and uses elements from Half-Life 2 like the antlions and gravity gun in interesting ways. Third up was Nightmare House 2
, a really great horror themed campaign.
Finally, this one is technically a Counter Strike Source mod, CSS SCI FI 3: Hardwired
. It uses Counter Strike maps with Half-Life 2 enemies to create an oddly unique experience, a Half-Life game that isn't super linear. The large open maps that were originally designed for multiplayer and now retrofitted to be single player levels, with various objectives scattered about the map. You've got a decent amount of choice in how you approach the objectives, and while the maps aren't huge, they're big enough to make alternate routes meaningful. It is brutally difficult a times though, I wasn't able to get through without a ton of quicksaves, mostly due to a slight overuse of helicopters and striders, but it still managed to be one of the most fulfilling gameplay experiences I've had this year.
Touhou Bunkachou: Shoot the Bullet & Double Spoiler
So, Touhou. If you know me, you know I like this series a little bit. Shoot the Bullet was the first game in the series I played, way back at the end of 2006. I've been slowly picking at the game ever since, coming back to it every once in a while to see how much better at the series as a whole I've gotten. Earlier this year I decided to tackle a Let's Play of Double Spoiler, Shoot the Bullet's somewhat easier sequel. Many many hours of struggle later I was able to triumph over Double Spoiler, and by that point, had finally reached the skill and patience level needed to finally conquer Shoot the Bullet, once and for all. A game that haunted me for over 5 years was finally defeated this year.
If you're curious as to what the heck these games are, they're photography based shoot em ups where you take photos of bosses. They're also extremely fucking hard, and one of the earlier cases of the "Infinite lives, brutal difficulty, short checkpoints" style of games that seems to be popular now. But don't take my word for it, watch these
. Then you can take my word for it.
I also beat Great Fairy Wars on Extra and Hard this year, but one Touhou entry is probably enough for this list.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
It's pretty good, I guess.
Shoot Many Robots
I expected to hate this game, due to it having flash game controls (keyboard to move and jump, mouse to aim and shoot), but damn, the allure of leveling up and getting better gear manages to keep this game interesting far longer than it really should've been. I guess I didn't technically BEAT it, but I got pretty far into the highest difficulty, but got a bit tired when my friend was doing somewhere around 10,000 times more damage than me, and we were still struggling to make process.
Speaking of loot lust... here's a game that totally fucked that aspect up! Honestly, Diablo III is honestly really good, and I expected to dislike it, given the previous games CLICK CLICK CLICK reputation. But the game actually plays great, and I had a lot of fun going through it a few times. There are also some incredibly smart design choices here, like the ability to bring an NPC companion along with you while soloing, have a friend join you on the fly, and have that NPC automatically dismiss themselves.
The real failing of Diablo III is the loot, everything you find is crap compared to what you could be using, courtesy of the auction house. It just takes a lot of the fun out of the grind when you just end up having to buy all of your gear, and you do have to later on, when the difficulty begins to get pretty ludicrous. Relying on random drops isn't much better, but it's fun when you find something amazing and equip it on the spot, and Diablo III kind of lacks that. The funniest part of the game was how quickly all of my friends abandoned it, it was decided in basically a single day that we were all done, and that was that.
I'd always assumed that free to play games were all crap, but Rusty Hearts was actually pretty damn good. It doesn't even seem to care if you pay any money either, with most of the pay items being visual accessories or skins for your character. For online games I've always preferred real time combat, and Rusty Hearts delivers that, with its fast pace combo based combat. It's much more a beat em up than an MMO slog. Eventually though, I think the leveling grind and repeating levels too many times wore on us, so this is another game I didn't really "beat," but I felt satisfied with the time spent.
Wait wait wait... why is THIS here again too? Because of the insane level editor that was added this year! I ended up spending waaaaaaaaay too long making my own levels when that thing hit, that was my addiction for a few weeks, playing the best user made levels, and making my own too. Go play em! ;D
I am curious where Portal goes from here now. The original game was a short few hours, and now Portal 2 has nearly infinite content with over 200,000 user made levels to play.
I guess I need another disclaimer here. I said I was listing every game I played, but if I really talked about every single game I played, including things played for the Let's Play Olympics or creation of the Genesis list, we'd be here forever. But Dr. Mario deserves special recognition, as it's the one LPO game I kept playing far past the week we had to make a video for it. It became my immediate go to game on lunch breaks, via an NES emulator on my DS. I played it for a good 20 minutes every day for at least a month, maybe more, so you can certainly say that I warmed up to this game a bit. Good pick, judges!
Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing
Haven't really played a kart game since Mario Kart 64... but this one is pretty good! The biggest flaw is the total lack of online multiplayer in the PC version... speaking of which, where the hell is the PC version of the sequel Sega!?
Spec Ops: The Line
Spec Ops is... an interesting game. It's essentially a game about video game violence, a vicious attack on Call of Duty, and the people who play it. The most interesting part to me was trying to figure out just how far the developer intent went. Throughout the game, the main character, hellbent on completing what is obviously a flawed objective, causing nothing but death and destruction, continually repeats that he "Didn't have a choice." The game makes you do some pretty horrible things in order to progress, and I saw a lot of people online complaining that the game forced you to do these things, they didn't have a choice, and then getting angry and blaming the developers. It was eerie how much it mirrored the main character, and his pushing the blame onto Konrad, the antagonist of the game. Spec Ops postulates that you do have a choice... to turn the game off. It's a game that actively doesn't want you to play it. If you think what the game is making you do is so horrible, lay your weapon down, and turn off the console. It's a pretty bold message for a game.
Story aside though, I found the extremely basic third person cover based shooter to be kind of awful. "Maybe this is also the developers intent," I think to myself, "after all, killing shouldn't be fun
." Two thirds through the game, I got frustrated enough to just drop the difficulty down to easy, forgo cover entirely, and just rush down enemies in this chaotic orgy of blood and violence, a one man murdering crew. Part of me feels this was ALSO part of what the developers intended, the back third of the game is so loaded with combat that it's tiring, and the broken mental state state of the characters by that point fit perfectly with how I started playing the game.
So in a word, Spec Ops is a game that will get under your skin and inside your head for a while. It isn't fun
but it's worth playing.
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
Brotherhood completes the series transition from stealth action game to open world playground. It's a great game, but I can see the series starting to run out of steam here, and can see why people have cared far less about Revelations and Assassin's Creed III. Still, Brotherhood has great moments like taking out Borgia towers, raising up your own crew of assassins, and going through the Romulus Lairs.
Some of the missions are great as well, particularly the Leonardo's War Machine quest line, which is absolutely silly but allows for some of the craziest moments in the series. I also liked the "Da Vinci Disappearance" quests, which I later learned weren't even originally part of the game but DLC added later. Apparently the Steam version just comes with it already, and it was really weird finding out that something that felt so natural in the game itself was actually an add-on.
Saints Row: The Third
Saints Row is a game that wants you to have fun, plain and simple. Most games strive for realism, Saints Row looks for how to make things fun. When hijacking a car, you just jump in through the window. Because why not, really? One of the first weapons you get is to call down missile strikes. And by the end of the game, you can make yourself entirely invincible, flying around in VTOL jet.
The main story is also excellent, despite the total insanity, it plays it straight most of the time. Even as completely lunacy happens, like jumping into a tank as it falls out of of an airplane, then shooting at other tanks in midair. While in some open games the story is just there to unlock things for you, I'd say the story in Saints Row is the main attraction. The two endings are also both pretty incredible.
My favorite thing though, is that they went through the trouble of recording seven different voices for the main character. This allowed the character I made to actually feel like a character in the story, rather than either being totally silent (Fallout, Phantasy Star) or still based off a template (Mass Effect). It's probably a ton of work to record the same dialogue that many times, but it really paid off.
The Walking Dead
No game has ever hooked me quite like The Walking Dead did. Zombies? Adventure game? Episodic content? So many things seemed to be working against the game, but The Walking Dead ended up being one of the most gripping, emotional, edge of your seat experiences I've ever had. I was hooked in pretty early, and the anticipation every month for the last three episodes was painful.
In a year where player choice seemed to be the big thing in games, none succeeded more than The Walking Dead. There are no Good/Bad systems here, The Walking Dead is all about shades of grey, and trying to do the right thing in a situation that is totally fucked beyond repair. You'll be forced to make difficult choices with only a few seconds to think, you'll make impulse decisions based on your emotions, and sometimes, you'll read the list of choices, then click the "..." option because you just don't know what the fuck to say.
Every choice feels based on what you would do in the same situation, rather than trying to manipulate some karma or point system that too many "choice" games are saddled with. It's the writing that sets the game apart though, along with how it handles all the choices you make, that make it feel like an intensely personal story, and that everything that happens is the result of what you chose.
If one game completely failed to find its audience this year, it's Pid. On the outside, Pid looks another artsy puzzle platformer, with its gentle, softly rendered backgrounds, and relaxing acoustic soundtrack. Upon playing it though, the game honestly has more in common with Super Meat Boy than any puzzle platformer. The distance between checkpoints is tiny, you have infinite lives, and enemies, traps, and spikes are everywhere. I personally love the game to death, but I can see why the huge dissonance between how the game looks and feels, vs how it plays, turned a lot of people off. It also doesn't help that the game was released with almost no marketing or fanfare outside of a really lousy trailer that emphasized the story of all things.
It's really too bad though, because I think Pid is one of the best games released this year. The main gimmick here is the ability to place down beams of light that can carry you around. The way this changes how you navigate through the game world is dramatic, and a bit reminiscent of the Bionic Arm in Bionic Commando Rearmed, which a lot of the Pid team also worked on. The game thoroughly explores this mechanic, with every area in the game having a slight twist to how the game plays. Most of the time you use the beam to carry yourself, but other locations have you using it to carry bombs towards enemies, carry enemies themselves, or even push around light sources needed to light the way for you. The other great thing about the beam mechanic is how the way forwards is always right there in front of you, but you have to figure out where to place the beams, adding a bit of a puzzle aspect.
Overall though, I really can't stress enough how much I like this game. The scenery, music, atmosphere, and gameplay all combine to form this truly unique experience. The game is pretty long as well, but has a great flow and variety to the areas. If you like hard platformers, you should check this game out.
Is Hotline Miami a commentary on game violence? Is it a commentary on the pointlessness of game narrative? Do I think people are reading way too much into this game? Whatever Hotline Miami is about, I don't really care, I just care about the highly addictive gameplay, fueled by one of the best soundtracks of the year. Hotline Miami is another infinite lives, short checkpoints game, apparently this is called Masocore... don't really like that name, but it's a sub-genre I'm increasingly a fan of. Hotline Miami is fast, frantic, and chaotic, and really puts you into another place mentally.
So let's just cut to the chase here: Sine Mora isn't a very good shooter. There are simply too many little problems, balances issues, unfair bosses, smoke covering your ship, instant death attacks, bad camera angles, etc. The most annoying issue, is that the game inexplicably forces you to play the lower two difficulties in story mode, and the higher two difficulties in arcade mode. There really seems to be no real reason for this, I really want to play arcade mode for some of the things it adds, but fuck playing this game on the harder settings.
But... I still had fun with the game. It's visually amazing, the shooting itself feels great, and really made me want to make another shooter myself. The bosses are varied and interesting, and the story, while kind of nonsense, is interesting enough to make me play through the game several times to get the true ending. It's just kind of a bummer the game itself wasn't better.
Mark of the Ninja
Mark of the Ninja is the only stealth game I've ever really liked. The wide 2-D view allows the game to convey a ton of information to you visually, most importantly all sounds, as well as other things like where a guard thinks he saw something, or faint outlines where you last saw a guard. The game is not about trial and error to brute force the situations, but learning how to use the tools you have to complete the task at hand. My only complaint is the unrealistic level design doesn't give the guards a route to reach you a lot of the time. They'll know where you are, but simply have to give up as they have no way to reach you.
There's a lot of extra material here too, various challenges like getting through without killing anyone, and a more challenging new game+ mode. I haven't really dug into that stuff though, so this is a game I'll be getting back to sometime next year.
NiGHTS Into Dreams...
NiGHTS is easily one of my favorite games ever, so it was quite a treat to get to revisit again, but this time with a new coat of paint in the new "HD" version. The visual upgrade maybe isn't quite as good as I'd hoped, but the game does still look a hell of a lot better than it originally did, but is still held back by the awkward camera angles and the framerate still being locked at 30. I understand why it is, but it's kind of a bummer nonetheless. Because of this the visuals feel extremely strange a times, with older and newer elements clashing heavily. The boss arenas are the most improved, allowing you actually figure out what the hell is going on in them now.
Playing NiGHTS doesn't just make you think "They don't make games like this anymore," it's a realization that there are simply no other games like it at all. Few games can claim to be a truly unique experience, and NiGHTS is one of them.
Bioshock 2: Minerva's Den
So here's a weird paradox. I "didn't like" Bioshock 2. The very premise of a Bioshock 2 was dumb, and the story wasn't nearly as good as the original. By comparison, I thought the Minerva's Den DLC was decent. However, if I'm to actually compare Bioshock 2 to Minerva's Den, then obviously Bioshock 2 would win. I guess what you expect from something can color how you see it a bit.
I will say though that I thought Minerva's Den had a much better storyline, as in it didn't actively piss me off like Bioshock 2's. This allowed the gameplay to shine through a bit more, even though I still went back to my old habit of just summoning security drones to fight for me. At least it didn't get as absurd as 2 did at the end, with me rolling around with two security bots, a big daddy, and a big sister, letting the game play itself.
Minerva's Den only has two full levels, so since you start with nothing, the ramp up to being fully powered plasmid wielding badass was really fast, which was kind of nice. I appreciated the experience being a more focused, shorter Bioshock 2. If you have Bioshock 2, this is certainly worth a play. It felt like a fitting epilogue to the story of Rapture.
It feels like the big theme in games this year was "Let's make the player feel bad for what they do." Spec Ops definitely does it, and a lot of the other games listed just above here also have various shades of it. In this context, Binary Domain was the perfect refresher. Like Saints Row, I think this is a game that just wants you to have fun. You're gunna go in, shoot robots to bits for 9 hours, and you aren't going to get guilt tripped into feeling like a horrible person at the end.
I haven't played many of these "Third person cover based shooters" that seem so popular these days, but Binary Domain easily feels the best so far. Getting into cover is a snap, shifting cover is also quick and easy, and the game mixes it up with enough moments where you'll want to run and strafe around slower enemies to keep things fresh. The shooting also feels incredibly satisfying as well, the robots you shoot blow up real nice, and there are various elements like blowing their legs off to send them into a crawl, or decapitating them to cause them to go haywire and shoot at their companions. The level of destruction in this game simply wouldn't work with human enemies, but since you're fighting robots, who cares! Shoot em all!
The game also has a ton of unique boss fights, the occasional vehicle sequence, and fairly interesting story. It keeps these things all in nice balance, moving briskly from one thing to the next. It's too bad this game wasn't called Contra, it would've sold a lot better.
If there's one disappointment I had with the game, it's that the story landed with kind of a thud. It has some pretty heavy moments regarding self-aware robots, and if that counts as life, and then takes a hard line kill-em-all stance, which just felt crazy to me. But maybe that's OK, because I sure didn't want to game to start making me question what I was doing Spec Ops style, but it still felt weird for the game to go there, then back off entirely.
Fallout: New Vegas
I didn't like my first few hours in New Vegas. While Fallout 3 opens up the world right from the start, New Vegas has a pretty heavy handed, "Hey you should go south! Then east! Then north again!" opening to it. With powerful enemies on all sides, you don't really seem to have much of a choice but to follow the main narrative for a while.
After reaching Vegas though, the game really opened up for me in an amazing way, and I start to really love it. 90 hours later and I'm still playing. There are a lot of little improvements over Fallout 3 here, like speech checks being pass/fail based on your skill level instead of a dice roll, improved companions, and karma for the most part being replaced by an interesting faction system.
Overall though, New Vegas is about the story. From moments like visiting Caesar's camp as a female character (IT'S REALLY FUCKING CREEPY), to a vault where the dwellers were forced to make ritual sacrifices, to reading the journal entries of a man who survived the apocalypse, New Vegas is full of moments that are really well written, and all combine to feel like your personal story through the mojave. The ending also provides a really nice recap of what happened afterwards, tying in many of the quests, companions, and other things you affected in the world along the way.
Now I just need to go play the last DLC, then go get one more ending!
Game of the Year
Phantasy Star Online 2
Come on, don't look so surprised. No game this year hooked me EVEN CLOSE to as deeply as PSO 2 did. And I don't say this lightly, considering I thought Phantasy Star Universe was a total fucking mess, I went into PSO 2 with pretty much no expectations, but they really managed to knock this one out of the park.
PSO 2 is an online multiplayer game, but features real time combat that actually plays exceptionally well. Each of the character classes (and yes, I've played them all) plays a bit differently. You've got your basic melee class, Hunters, who get up close and personal with enemies, and can lock on to strafe around enemies, dash out of the way of attacks, or using timed blocks to reflect damage back at the enemy. The Ranger class fights with guns, and can switch the games camera to a over the shoulder view, to allow for more precise aiming, but without sacrificing mobility. The third class, Force, uses magic attacks to take down enemies, and feels the closest to the older PSO games. Each of them plays pretty differently, and mastering them all adds a lot of replay value to the game.
PSO 2 isn't as repetitive as its predecessors either. Maps are randomly generated, and events can happen at any time. Some of these include party members being captured, having to collect items strewn across the map, and most importantly, bosses showing up at any time unannounced. These systems, along with the multi-party system, allowing you to run into other teams on the same field at once, make the game feel really dynamic, and no mission feels exactly the same twice.
The craziest thing about PSO 2 is that it's a free to play game. Sega has finally abandoned the outdated subscription model, but also made a game whose quality surpasses the typical stigma of free games being awful. I really do hope that the eventual English release of this game isn't botched, a lot of the series die-hards will be sticking to the Japanese servers, but the game seems ripe to develop a new western following of its own, should it get some actual marketing and promotion. And be placed on Steam.
But of course, an online game is nothing without people to play it with though, but that hasn't been a problem for me. You guys know who you are, and you all rock. I'm putting this on the "Games I Beat" list, because we can dance, and dancing is winning at PSO.
Good Games I Haven't Beaten Yet
Dead Space 2
It kind of figures that just like I did with the first game, I would end up starting Dead Space 2 halfway through the year, only to shelve it and come back next year. There's nothing really wrong with Dead Space 2, what I've played of it is amazing, it's just... almost exactly the same game, just in a new location. The two games feel so similar that it felt simply too soon to have such a similar experience. I'll definitely get back to this one sooner or later though.
Well... I sorta beat this one! However the trick in Punch-Out is that beating the game once is just half the game. After becoming the world champion, you must then fight every opponent again in Title Defense mode, which is way harder, and where I gave up for now. I've never really been a fan of Punch-Out, but this game is pretty great, and more than you could really ask for from a remake of the original NES game.
Kirby: Canvas Curse
Nintendo systems always seem to have weird or unique controls these days, but then there's always that one game where they click perfectly, and you get it. For the DS, I feel that game is Canvas Curse. Instead of controlling Kirby directly, you use the stylus to draw platforms, or tap enemies, objects, or Kirby himself to interact with them. Given that this game predates tablets and iPads by several years, at the time there was certainly nothing like it.
The game is also surprisingly difficulty, which I really didn't expect from a Kirby game, or a game with unique controls, but the developers knew that what they had worked well enough, that pulling off the crazy precision of later levels was all possible. I'll certainly finish this one eventually.
Kirby's Epic Yarn
Full disclosure: I'm only in the second world. But almost immediately, Epic Yarn sucks you in with it's completely unique visual style, chill soundtrack, and overall pleasant feeling. If you're having a bad day, pop this in, play a level, and you'll feel better. It's because of that feeling that I'm in no rush to finish the game.
I kind of wish I liked this game a bit more than I do. I've never been a huge fan of beat em ups, except for Guardian Heroes on the Saturn. Castle Crashers seems like it's trying to chase that game, but the magic system isn't as interesting, and the characters all play exactly the same. What makes the character similarity even more annoying is that they have to be leveled up individually, so if someone uses "your" character in multiplayer? You're straight up out of luck.
But there are some great moments in this game, there does seem to be a decent amount of variety to the scenarios, I just can't really stand playing the game by myself.
Bad Games I Beat This Year
Duke Nukem Forever: The Doctor Who Cloned Me
So last year I played Duke Nukem Forever, and somehow, it managed to spare my wrath, since I didn't do any worst game awards. I didn't think the game was quite as bad as people made it out to be. This year I revisited it with The Doctor Who Cloned Me DLC... and it really just emphasized how bad this game actually was. Despite promises of being better than the main campaign, all I found was a short bore-fest that really just showed how broken the core game was, since this didn't evolve any of the gameplay systems. A few enemies appear, you shoot them, the victory gong sounds, and you move on. It's just so BORING.
Other things are repeated like the fetch quest, the horrible driving, and the underwater breathing mechanic is reused, but in outer space. If you didn't like DNF, and who did, this doesn't fix it.
Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1
Playing this game after Sonic Generations was a mistake. Actually, playing this game was a mistake. I got stuck for a while at one part because I was trying to use momentum like in the old games. After 20 frustrating minutes, I looked up a playthrough, only to find out the answer was to just run straight up the wall. If you can't make a game that comes even CLOSE to the physics of the original Sonic games, why the fuck are you calling it Sonic 4?
Almost immediately after finishing Syndicate, I thought about the game I just played, and how forgettable it was. That's usually not a good sign. The four player multi-player mode may be totally awesome, and actually seems so, but I haven't gotten a chance to play it yet. The single player campaign is just so bland and mediocre though, you've only got a few powers, to either stun, kill, or turn an enemy, and that's it for the entire game. The only customization choice you have is in the skill tree, full of mostly unsubstantial upgrades.
I also found this game to be a complete visual mess, with an over excessive use of lens flare, blur, and other things I can't really name that made navigating the game world just feel completely awful.
Games I Gave Up On
Super Monday Night Combat
The original Monday Night Combat was one of my favorite games last year, but this sequel just kind of wrecks everything I liked about it. The original game mixed third person death match, MOBA gameplay, and turret defense in a clever way. Super does everything it can to just emphasize the MOBA part. So now instead of fast paced action that could turn on a dime, you've got long drawn out matches that you can see the winner of a mile away as you slowly wear down under a war of attrition. I admittedly didn't play this much, maybe it's changed, but I also don't care enough to look.
I wanted to like this game so much, but I just couldn't. Open world games work best as a playground for you to fuck around and be the master of. And to be fair, I had a lot of fun in Prototype's world, fucking around with the powers, massacring civilians, stealing helicopters, blowing things up with tanks. You know, the usual.
But it's the main storyline where Prototype completely falls apart, as it seems to want to be a third person action game like Devil May Cry, but with the camera and controls of an open world game, it just isn't up to the task. I knew something was up pretty early on when after defeating my first brute, the game then sent three of them at once, and I was immediately stun locked to death by enemies I could barely fight back against. Somehow I managed to persevere and come to grips with the game, and got pretty far, in spite of how hard the game was, and crashes forcing me to replay missions. I finally broke after a very long struggle against the final boss, full of bullshit deaths, more stun lock, and never ending enemies joining into the fight. I finally prevailed, only to find out it wasn't actually the final boss, and that I still had a few more missions left. I was so deflated that I just couldn't go on.
The Chronicles of Riddick
I don't think this is a bad game, but I couldn't get into the setting, the first person stealth, or Vin Diesel's ridiculous voice work.
Serious Sam 3: BFE
I would've liked this if the online play didn't boot me out after a minute, and single player isn't why I'm here.
Sideway: New York
A simple platformer with a very unique art style, you play as graffiti on the side of a building, and the camera swoops around as you move around the sides of buildings, onto roofs, and onto other buildings. Overall though, the overly simple gameplay and extremely repetitive music couldn't keep me interested long enough to finish it.
Driver: San Francisco
I'm torn on placing this here, it could be moved to the "haven't beaten yet" list, but the two hours I've spent with this game weren't particularly enjoyable. I'll give it another shot next year, but the gameplay gimmick of being able to project yourself into other cars didn't seem to pay off like I'd hoped. If I can't possess a truck and slam it into the car I'm chasing, then what's the point? The cars don't control well enough, and the game moves too fast, to make out of the box solutions like that feel very viable.
Blur is a realistic racing game, but with Mario Kart-esq powerups. It's not very fun.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
This is probably my favorite game from the "gave up on" list, but it still had problems. Ever since Burnout Paradise made me like racing games again, I've been searching to try and find that same high again. Where better to look than another game by the same studio? While Hot Pursuit hits a few of the same notes as Burnout Paradise, I got annoyed by the poor race selection, forcing me to do time trials in order to unlock more of the real events. I tried to avoid them and just do the fun stuff, but eventually my map was so full of events I didn't want to do, I just gave up.
Guild Wars 2
I may give this another shot next year, but wasn't very impressed with what I've played so far, and I couldn't play this and PSO at the same time anyways. I had hoped for a more real time action experience, but got what feels like a game that came out before WoW, with some very awkward camera and character controls. This isn't how third person games are supposed to handle. The combat also feeling like a buttonmash/zergfest didn't help much either. The overall visual style also seems more concerned with being pretty that being a space that makes sense in a video game. Cities are overly large and needlessly confusing. The amount of visual clutter is also very prevalent in combat. So yeah, I have a few issues with this game.
As you may have gathered, I love Half-Life 2. It's one of my favorite games ever. I am significantly less a fan of the first game, which I admittedly didn't play until 10 years after it came out. I'd hoped that Black Mesa would be a remake of Half-Life 1, with Half-Life 2 enemies and gameplay. Now don't get me wrong, Black Mesa is an amazing triumph in some ways. It's crazy that this was ever finished, and the visual fidelity, attention to detail, and voice acting puts this on an entirely other level from mods.
But the game isn't fun, at all. They have created something that seems to please neither Half-Life 1 or Half-Life 2 fans, a game that is significantly harder than the original Half-Life, but in all the wrong ways. Half-Life 1 was hard because the AI was intelligent, Black Mesa is hard because the AI spots you a mile away, reacts and shoots instantly, and has extremely high accuracy. While this upgrade is fine on the alien enemies, the soldiers are so incredibly frustrating to fight now. Not because they outsmart you, but because they act like telepathic aimbots. I thought of just making myself invincible to run through and see the rest of the game, but by that point, didn't really care.
I'm sure this has been said a million times... but don't compare your game to Portal. You aren't as good as Portal. The idea of switching between dimensions is neat at first, but they end up being SO transparently game mechanics it's boring. You have a fluffy dimension where everything is light, and a heavy dimension where everything is heavy. So get ready for lots of SUPER FUN box on switch puzzles! But it was the painfully unfunny attempts at comedy that really put me over the edge with this game, I've never seen a game try so hard to be funny and just miss the mark so hard.
Worst Game of the Year
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP
I know these are overused words that have lost all meaning, but I can't sum up this game in any other way than this: Pretentious Hipster Garbage. I've never seen a game that just acts so full of itself, an arrogant sense of self-importance, like it's saying "Look how awesome I am!" every step of the way. This wouldn't matter if the game was fun, but it's not, it's awful. It's badumb.
And that's all for this year, thanks for reading!