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

#32 – Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (X360)

This one barely counts because I played most of it a couple years ago, but whatever. I had to come back to finish it. I got really jammed up on the music box level, which is an awful platforming sequence. Then it was immediately followed by a level full of the most difficult enemies (creeping coffins) in the game, so I dropped it again. Yesterday, after finishing God of War 2, I decided to buckle down and wrap it up. I’d heard so many good things about the ending.

Which is important because the ending is the whole reason I played this game. You see, this is not Castlevania as anyone really knows it, unless you’re one of the few who enjoyed those PS2 or N64 Castlevania games. This is God of Whip. Or Belmont May Cry. It’s 3D third-person action. It doesn’t really bear much resemblance to the better Castlevania games besides some of the names and some (some) of the monsters.

It’s not a bad game by any means. It’s pretty decent, if overly long. It’s far longer than any game like it. This fatigue, combined with the difficulty in later stages, is what caused me to drop it so close to the end. You’ve got to have a reason to continue and that music box is a real buzz kill.

Does it pay off? Well, kind of. But I’m a pretty enormous fan of Castlevania and I’m not sure all that was worth it.

Edit: I forgot to mention, this game somehow manages to cram in a Portal reference. I can’t even joke about that. It’s not as tasteless as the Portal reference in Duke Nukem Forever, but it’s just as out-of-place.



I love Halo. If I see someone playing Halo, it makes me want to play Halo. Here’s the perverse part: I play it for the single player. I’ve played a lot of Halo 1 multiplayer. Despite how awesome it is, I don’t feel the need to play Halo multiplayer.

And I’m not even good at Halo. Legendary destroys me. I can finish the game on Heroic, but I’ll only do this once. I spend so much time on that Heroic playthrough just beating my head against difficult spots that I don’t even want to play them again. I’ll only play it for the second time on normal. I used to have this notion that I could only replay it on Heroic or give that Legendary run just one more try. Those ideas made me quit playing more often than not.

Reach is easily my favorite Halo. It tells a solid story with an excellent variety of gameplay. My least favorite is probably Halo 3. It’s still a good game, but it has nothing but brutes and flood. I think the brutes and the flood are the least interesting enemies to fight. Even though ODST is all brutes from beginning to end, it’s still more interesting than Halo 3.

One of my favorite Halo levels is that first level with the Arbiter. It’s so perfect for setting up the character. It’s the blend of stealth and risky action. The Arbiter is both a hero out of mythology and a dead man walking. He’s sent to hunt down the heretic and will do anything to stop him. I was just as shocked as anyone else to be playing as anyone but Master Chief. Unlike when Metal Gear Solid 2 pulled the main character bait-and-switch, The Arbiter was a pleasant change of pace that complimented the typical Halo action well.

Man, what was up with Halo 4?


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.

2013 Game Log

#7 – Resident Evil 5 (X360)

What do I have to say about Resident Evil 5? When I left off last time, I was halfway through the game and couldn’t be bothered to finish it. I recently got the Resident Evil 6 Archives, so I felt compelled to power through this one so I wouldn’t be lost in 6.

Resident Evil 5 feels like it jammed together Resident Evil 4 (totally fucking awesome) and Resident Evil Zero. I’m one of the few people who actually enjoyed Resident Evil Zero, so it would make sense that I would enjoy Resident Evil 5, but it’s not that great. The enemies are somehow stupider than most RE enemies. The friendly AI partner is mostly competent but not great. The biggest offense it commits is poor choice of weaponry. When I give it a rifle and a pistol, it’ll use the pistol until the ammo is depleted before using the much more powerful rifle. This isn’t much a problem fighting normal enemies, but it’s very annoying when you’re fighting the mid-range to boss level enemies. I mean I gave the AI partner the rifle for a reason.

There are also some tonal changes in Resident Evil 5. The game is more action-y, even more so than RE4. You still can’t move and shoot at the same time, but you can sidestep, and there are even enemies with rifles who shoot at you. The story is your basic Resident Evil nonsense; someone has a virus, it turns people into monsters, they want to use it on a lot of people, the end. There’s a “shocking twist” 3/4ths through the game that is absolutely obvious well before you get to it.

But Resident Evil 5 isn’t really a bad game. It’s quirky, for sure, but it’s competent.

3 tentacle snake monsters out of 5


Games For Windows Live sucks

There is no way I can put it any better; Games For Windows Live (GFWL) is awful. Not only is it cumbersome, especially when combined with other forms of DRM such as those built into Steam, but it openly punishes gamers who most want to use Microsoft products.

Way back when, my first encounter with GFWL was Fallout 3. At first, I thought it was pretty cool that I could play Fallout 3 on my PC and get achievements in it that were reflected in my Xbox Live account. I don’t recall having any problems with using my Xbox while playing Fallout 3, so I didn’t get why so many other people had complaints about GFWL. It was just one more login to get it started, what’s the big deal?

Not too long ago, I bought the Game of the Year edition of Fallout 3 through Steam so I could play through all the DLC that I missed. I wasn’t thrilled to find out that even the Steam version had GFWL, but that didn’t immediately make me regret buying it. Since then I’ve gotten Fallout: New Vegas, which uses Steamworks, which provides the achievements and the ability to buy DLC through Steam.

I’ve played through Fallout: New Vegas and purchased all the DLC separate from my initial purchase, and never had a single problem. Throughout almost the entire game, I’ve watched TV shows and movies through Netflix on my xbox 360, which requires me to login to my Xbox Live account because an Xbox Live gold account is required to use Netflix.

Now I want to go back to Fallout 3 and play through it again, except when I start the game, it logs into my Xbox Live account and promptly disconnects from my xbox. GFWL and Xbox Live will not allow me to be logged into both services at the same time on the same account, despite the fact that I’m doing entirely different functions on two different devices.

I want to play Fallout 3 on my PC, and watch Netflix (which requires its own login and account, with its own costs!) on my Xbox 360. Because of Microsoft’s policies, I cannot do both without some inconvenience, being either having to re-login every time I finish an episode of a TV show or movie, or risk having achievements malfunction and not being able to use the DLC that I want to play in Fallout 3.

Because of these hassles, I can barely muster the enthusiasm to play Fallout 3. During my vacation, I sank over 40 hours into Fallout: New Vegas and watched an unholy amount of Netflix because the DRM and copy controls were not preventing me, the legitimate, paying consumer, from using those products which I’ve paid for. The other side of that is Fallout 3, where the DRM is actively working against me to prevent me from using both products at the same time.

These frustrations are what drive so many others to video game and movie/TV piracy. If I were downloading movies and TV shows illegally, I could watch as much as I want while being logged into GFWL because watching local media on an Xbox 360 does not need an Xbox Live gold account. Similarly, if I were playing a pirated, cracked copy of Fallout 3, I’d at least be able to play the game while being logged into Xbox Live because the cracked copy would bypass GFWL.

This doesn’t just affect Fallout 3. I have Section 8: Prejudice, which also uses GFWL, which I also can’t muster any enthusiasm to play. Section 8: Prejudice is also mostly a multiplayer game which takes advantage of GFWL matchmaking services. There is no logging in, logging out, logging in like sometimes works out in Fallout 3. It’s either GFWL or Xbox Live but never both. With these kind of irritations, it affects the community of a game. If it’s a hassle to play Section 8: Prejudice because of GFWL, it’s easier just to play one of the bazillion other multiplayer action games on PC that don’t need GFWL.

DRM only punishes legitimate, paying customers. It’s not a hassle for people who illegally download and pirate games and movies. Games For Windows Live is particularly bad because it doesn’t just affect one product, it affects multiple products across multiple platforms. I will be more wary in the future not to buy games that use Games For Windows Live because it sucks.

Game Reviews

Brutal Legend

Oh boy, I sank some time into this one this weekend. Brutal Legend is the definition of a mixed bag. When it starts out, you’re hacking things to death with an axe and blasting them lightning bolts out of your guitar. Soon after, you’ve got a car and it’s an open world game where you’re driving around and doing side missions and collecting stuff. Then you start collecting followers and guiding them into battle. About halfway through, you’ve got a handful of units, you can fly, give orders, build stuff, and it’s a full blown console RTS.

The transition from simple action to RTS is very smooth, and you never lose the open world aspect when you’re not in the middle of a story mission. What is kind of a jarring is that the whole first half of the game is the tutorial into the RTS side. The game has three continents and that whole first half of the game takes places on the first one alone. On top of that, there are two other factions in the game, but you spend that first half fighting against the same units you’re using. You then spend almost the rest of the game fighting the second faction, and you only really fight the third faction in the absolute final mission.

It’s pretty obvious to me that a lot of time and effort went into the first continent and first half of the game, then the rest was cleaned up and rushed through. Everything about the pacing in the second half of the game is off and rushed, and the end drops like a hammer. There’s that final RTS mission and one final action sequence and then you’re done.

Despite this, Brutal Legend is a ton of fun. It’s fun to drive around in. It takes place during the Age of Metal and the backstory and environments and soundtrack are all fantastic. It’s simply a fun world to exist in if you’re into metal. I’m pretty horrible at RTS games, and I still enjoyed the RTS battles. The controls kind of take some getting used to because they focus on your character as a leader, and so you can only issue orders to your units if you’re near them. This is probably why the first half of the game feels like a tutorial, but by time you get off the first continent, you’re definitely proficient at commanding your units.

I don’t know how to recommend this. I was turned off of it when it was released by reviews saying it was half-baked, and not that fun. It is true that it was definitely a rushed release, but it never feels incomplete. Everything is there, it’s just paced poorly. And I definitely had a lot of fun with it. I guess it boils down to whether or not you like metal. If I didn’t enjoy the setting so much, I probably wouldn’t have spent so much time playing it.