The best games of this generation

Tomorrow’s the day that this long console generation finally dies, and it has been an amazing ride. Huge changes are a big mark of this generation, particularly in the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Those consoles are not the same in form or function than they were from the start and they only got better with age. This is my entirely biased list of my favorite games of this generation. I simply couldn’t bear to reduce it to 10, so you’re stuck with the odd number of 14. Every single one of these games is a classic.

  1. Batman: Arkham Asylum – What can I say about Arkham Asylum? Did anyone ever expect a good Batman game? But it happened, and it’s amazing. There’s no point in that game that is not dripping with Batman lore, and makes you feel any less than the one of the most legendary comic book heroes of all time.
  2. Mass Effect 3 – The Mass Effect trilogy is amazing, but the third one is my favorite. The ending does not tie up every loose end, but the whole sequence of events leading up to it are amazing. It also improves upon nearly every aspect of the previous two games.
  3. Halo: Reach – I love Halo, and not just for the multiplayer. I love the Halo lore and the single player. Halo: Reach has, hands down, the best Halo campaign. Being a prequel, it’s no spoiler to say that Reach has to fall for the Halo series to start. It’s the story of the spartans on Reach and the sacrifices they make that give Reach weight.
  4. Borderlands 2 – I was a huge fan of Borderlands, having played through all of it twice, and Borderlands 2 is more Borderlands with more variety and better writing. Borderlands is funny. Borderlands 2 is funny, dramatic, serious, and silly.
  5. Alan Wake – Alan Wake has the best parts of Twin Peaks combined with the solid action of Max Payne. Instead of a slow-mo shoot-out, you manage enemies with a flashlight. It does an amazing job of establishing atmosphere.
  6. Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Human Revolution is the sequel Deus Ex deserved. It’s got cyborgs, conspiracy theories, and humanity. It kind of feels like a Metal Gear Solid without a lot of the nonsense story.
  7. Killzone 2 – I came to Killzone 2 well after its release, but it really grabbed me with a story that was better than I expected. This combined with some excellent first-person shooting makes it one of my favorite PS3 games.
  8. Fallout: New Vegas – I loved Fallout 3, but Fallout: New Vegas is much bigger, much more varied, and slightly improved. I mean, FO3 is great, but New Vegas allowed for more viable character builds that didn’t always rely on shooting. It also has some of the best DLC this generation with Honest Hearts taking things tribal and Old World Blues sending the game into the 50’s sci-fi movies it often draws inspiration from.
  9. Left 4 Dead 2 – Left 4 Dead 2 made coop easy and fun. When you have friends to play with, it’s some of the most fun you can have with a game. Even solo, it’s still pretty good. What’s not to like about blasting hundreds of infected with your friends?
  10. Rock Band 3 – Another game that gets better with a room full of friends, and Rock Band 3 didn’t even require everyone to be in the same room. It built on the madness that is plastic musical instruments that were introduced in Rock Band and my Rock Band 3 song library is enormous in no small part to the ability to bring the songs from previous games with you.
  11. Spec Ops: The Line – Spec Ops: The Line has no rights being as good as it is. The Spec Ops games for Playstation were generally dumb action games. Spec Ops: The Line is far more insidious. It appears to follow the dumb modern military genre but almost immediately starts questioning everything about it.
  12. The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings – Assassin of Kings took the best parts of the first Witcher and gave the story more complexity, more paths to take, and kept the swamps and drowners to a minimum. Many third-person action RPGs aspire to achieve what The Witcher 2 accomplished handily.
  13. Bastion – This generation of games was huge for indie developers and Bastion is absolutely one of the best. It’s got relatively simple gameplay but there’s so much charm in it. The music and narration in this game is better than that in games which cost millions more to develop.
  14. Shadow Complex – I love Metroid games and Shadow Complex is Metroid in everything but the name. It’s criminal that this game only came out on Xbox Live Arcade but I will never not own an Xbox 360 because of that. It hits every action platforming game note perfectly.
2013 Game Log

#28 – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Yes, yes, it took me 10 years to finish KOTOR. Let’s get the bad out of the way. It’s not a mechanically exciting game. The pathfinding AI is frustratingly dumb. It’s no pushover, and sometimes the difficulty feels unfair. The last area is a serious slog through a mountain of Dark Jedi and Sith troopers and that is barely fun.

What keeps it moving is the setting and the story. Even though it’s set well before the Star Wars movies, it’s very clearly a Star Wars game. It starts with an exploding planet and runs through all kinds of Jedi/Sith/force nonsense. It’s got tons of different races, languages, cantinas, and smugglers. Those things KOTOR does very well. And the story is interesting, if a little simple. I had a major plot point spoiled for me years after the game had been out, but it was still worth experiencing for myself.

But I really only wanted to finish it so I could play KOTOR 2, which I’ve read tells a much better story and is an improved game despite some quirks. KOTOR on Steam crashed pretty frequently, which really impeded my progress and pretty much forced me to quicksave every 5 minutes. Here’s hoping KOTOR 2 goes better for me.


N64 games currently disappointing me

I never owned an N64 when I was a kid. I had a SNES but I got a Playstation because the Playstation had better games. I always thought the N64 was kind of an overhyped relic. I mean, it was a cartridge system in the burgeoning days of the CD-ROM. And the big joke was that the games were few and far between, and if it wasn’t from Nintendo, it probably wasn’t worth playing. But I got an N64 a couple years ago, and now I’m trying to fill out my collection of games, so I hit eBay recently to do so. I (generally) know what the “best” games for the system are, but I’m unexplainably attracted to first-person shooters, even if they’re bad. So I got Goldeneye, Turok 2, Quake 2, Doom 64, and Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer. I’ve probably put about 20 minutes into each of these, so bear that in mind.

Goldeneye is the game that everyone else said was the best game ever way back when. I never got to spend much time with it, except when friends would want to play it multiplayer, and then I’d get destroyed because I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. Well, now I have it in my hands and I don’t get it. The controls are mostly competent, but it seems like the AI has laser aim, and the game is too low res for me to tell what’s shooting me from a million miles away. I’m going to give it more effort but it’s currently not drawing me in.

Turok 2 has guns and lizard people. It also has like a 10 minute unskippable cutscene at the start of the game. I was not impressed by Turok 2. I can’t remember if Turok 2 is supposed to be the good one or if Turok 1 is the good one. But I do know Turok 2 came after Goldeneye, and they both suffer from a lack of decor. It’s also got some controls that felt weird, but I’ll discuss that later.

Quake 2 might be a bad port. The first two levels don’t even resemble the first parts of the PC game! Don’t get me wrong, it looks pretty good compared to the other games, but it’s weird to play Quake 2 and not see the familiar sights. It also suffers from N64 FPS controls.

Doom 64 is almost enjoyable! I knew going into it that the levels were all new from the PC versions, and the enemies are redrawn and they’re not an improvement (the cacodemon is awful!) but it’s Doom! But it’s fucked by the controls! What the fuck, Doom 64?! Why are the strafe buttons on the shoulders? And the movement feels best using the D-pad, but the shoot button is Z, which means either using the analog stick for movement, or stretching a finger to reach arguably the most important button in the game! And if the shoot button is the most important, then the strafe buttons are number 2 and 3, and there’s no sensible way to keep fingers on all three!

Surprisingly, Episode 1 Racer is the best of all of them. It’s almost like Wipeout, and I fucking love Wipeout. The controls feel good and make sense, and the sense of speed feels right. Sure, it’s set in Episode 1, which was awful, but it’s a racing game. The details are kind of secondary to how the game feels, and Episode 1 Racer feels great.

But let’s talk about N64 FPS controls. Look is bound to the analog stick, which feels right. So why is look inverted on all of these games?! Unless I’m playing a flight sim, I want to look up when I push the stick up. Even worse the being inverted, there are never any options to fix it! Horrible.

So obviously, N64 isn’t ideal for first-person shooters. But I’m going to keep playing them. And constantly looking at my feet when I want to look up at the thing shooting me.


Giving up

I don’t actively quit on games often at all. I’m far more likely to get bored and just stop playing them, or jump on something new before finishing what I’ve already got. But I very rarely give up on a game on purpose.

I’m probably not going to finish Resistance: Fall of Man. I got it because it was cheap and I’ve heard a lot of good things about Resistance 3 and I wanted to start the series from the beginning. But Resistance was a PS3 launch title, over six years old, and it has aged poorly. It’s a fairly good looking game, but it seriously lacks color and the gameplay is very bland. Then it has a problem with checkpoints being too far apart, and where I am in the game is getting fairly difficult. So now it’s not exciting, and it’s not fun.

So instead of forcing myself to play something I’m not enjoying over and over until I get through it, I’m giving up. I read the plot synopsis on Wikipedia, and I’ve started Resistance 2, which is a better game so far. I’ve got way too many other games to play to suffer through something I’m not enjoying.

Game Reviews

Sleeping Dogs: Nightmare at North Point

If the Zodiac Tournament was a kung fu movie, Nightmare at North Point is a cheesy horror movie, steeped in Chinese mythology. An evil spirit kidnaps your date, and you have to fist fight demons and possessed people to get her back, with the help of some mystical tea, and peachwood swords. There are hell money, yaoguai, restless ghosts, jiang shi, and no police so you can run over and stab whomever you wish! It exists outside of the main game, so it goes rather bonkers at times, with possessed people attacking you at random, and the world constantly raining and night time. It’s not the most exciting piece of DLC ever, and it’s kind of short, but it’s cheap. If you want more Sleeping Dogs, or more Chinese myths, go nuts.


Sleeping Dogs: Zodiac Tournament

I’m back on Sleeping Dogs, and I felt like I was at a point where playing The Zodiac Tournament would make sense. Being an open-world game, there was nothing stopping me from starting the Tournament from the start, but I figured I should level up a few times first.

Zodiac Tournament is heavily influenced by old kung fu movies. It’s got the film grain cutscenes, and the sound of punches and kicks are replaced with the over-the-top kung fu chops. The Tournament is very short. You meet seven other fighters with no more backstory than what you get from a one minute conversation. Then you fight! If you’re any good at fighting in the main game, you will breeze through the tournament like I did.

It’s an enjoyable hour of running around a very small island and fighting guys.


RE5: Desperate Escape

I feel like I’m on a roll here and didn’t want to lose momentum so I blasted through Desperate Escape too. Desperate Escape is the opposite of Lost in Nightmares. It’s a straight action shooting gallery. It also fills in a spot in the plot that wasn’t really needed. No boss fight, but plenty of Majini to shoot to pieces. There’s one new enemy but it’s another slow bullet sponge. It’s really interesting to see how hard the game and its designers are willing to swing between slow paved tension and frantic action.


RE5: Lost in Nightmares

This doesn’t count because it’s DLC but I want to post about it anyway. So this is a weird thing. You play as Chris and Jill, you’re in a mansion, it looks an awful lot like the mansion from RE1, but it’s not. Even the layout is pretty much the same as the mansion in RE1. There’s one enemy type and a familiar boss fight. It took me less than 48 minutes to complete, but it felt way more Resident Evil than RE5 itself. You’re creeping around in a spooky mansion. There’s plenty of tension. There’s even an “itchy… tasty…” reference. The “story” (there isn’t much of one) fills in one specific blank in the plot of RE5, and that’s about it.


Here’s why I liked Killzone 2.

I’m still stuck in a gaming rut, even though I started Journey. I’ll finish it this weekend when I can sit down and play it straight through. The PS4 announcement and subsequent announcement of Killzone: Shadow Fall is making me think about how much I liked Killzone 2. Since I’m talking about ending stuff, here’s a break. Don’t read the rest of this unless you’ve played it or you really don’t care about spoilers!


What am I doing?

I haven’t updated for a while, right? I must not be playing any games, or I got lazy already and quit posting! No, I’m definitely playing games, but I’m trying to complete the Mass Effect trilogy and I’m not posting about games I’ve already beaten, so Mass Effect 1 and 2 don’t count. I finished Mass Effect 1 last weekend, and I’m halfway through 2. Mass Effect 3 will count, I haven’t played it yet. I’ve also never played the Mass Effect 2 DLC, but DLC doesn’t count.

I’m also trying out a couple games in the interim. Stealth Bastard Deluxe is a fun, stealthy platformer. It’s mostly a puzzle game. I got Miasmata because it got a lot of positive word of mouth. I’m a couple hours into and I’m fairly bad at it. I mean, I get the navigation principles, I just haven’t gotten used to the spotting landmarks. I backed Strike Suit Zero on Kickstarter, and it was released last week! I’m two missions in and it is remarkably a lot like Colony Wars. I haven’t gotten to the part where I get the sweet mech suit yet though.