Thursday, August 30, 2012

Top 50 Games - #42

42. The House of the Dead 2
Developer: AM1
Publisher: Sega
Year: 1999
Format: Dreamcast, Arcade, PC

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Top 50 Games - #43

43. Pikmin 2
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Year: 2004
Format: GameCube

Monday, August 27, 2012

Top 50 Games - #44

44. Resident Evil
Developer: Capcom Production Studio 4
Publisher: Capcom
Year: 2002
Format: GameCube

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Top 50 Games - #45

45. killer7
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: Capcom
Year: 2005
Format: GameCube, PlayStation 2

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Top 50 Games - #46

46. Fur Fighters
Developer: Bizarre Creations
Publisher: Acclaim
Year: 2000
Format: Dreamcast, PC

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Top 50 Games - #47

47. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
Developer: Silicon Knights
Publisher: Nintendo
Year: 2002
Format: GameCube

Monday, August 20, 2012

Top 50 Games - #48

Check it, I've worked out how to put breaks in.  INTERNET WOO

48. Soul Calibur
Developer: Namco
Publisher: Namco
Year: 1999
Format: Dreamcast, Arcade

Friday, August 17, 2012

Top 50 Games - #49

49. Red Faction: Guerrilla
Developer: Volition
Publisher: THQ
Year: 2009
Format: Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 3

Most of the games on this list are things of elegance.  They demonstrate superior design, rabid originality, refinement and class.  Red Faction: Guerrilla is not one of these games.  Red Faction: Guerrilla wants shit to blow the fuck up.
   Guerrilla is the third in the Red Faction series.  The first two were first-person shooters on the PlayStation 2, PC and Xbox.  I haven’t played them.  I’m not convinced that anyone’s played them.  The cornerstone (pun kind of intended) to the Red Faction series is destruction.  The first two games were on systems that couldn’t handle what the developers wanted.  But come the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, the tech was there for stuff to go boom.
   Guerrilla breaks from its predecessors by swapping into a third-person, open-world format.  (One of the admirable things about the series is Volition’s willingness to completely change the game style – the fourth game, Armageddon, switched things up again to a linear shooter a la Gears of War and company.  And there was also a spinoff between games 3 and 4 that was entirely vehicle-based, although apparently that was a bit pants.)  The plot, such as it is, sees you as builder Alec Mason (DO YOU SEE WHAT THEY DID THERE DO YOU) drawn into an attempt to free Mars from the military chokehold of Earth forces and give the planet a fresh start.  You do this by breaking things.
   Guerrilla is entirely a showcase for GeoMod 2.0 – an engine that allows unrivalled levels of physics-based destruction.  Every building in the game can be destroyed, and it’s all carried out the way you would in real life.  Walls shatter before steel beams buckle.  You can take out a building in one go with a well-aimed sledgehammer swipe at a load-bearing area.  Use an explosive and bits of wreckage fly through the air and smash through other buildings.  No piece of cover is entirely safe, as it too could be destroyed.
   It’s astonishing.  Allegedly, Volition had to hire some real proper architects as the engine was so true-to-life that some of the more outlandish sci-fi structures they’d come up with wouldn’t take their own weight and would collapse as soon as they were coded into the game.  And it makes the primary act of the game – its core, its USP, its very raison d’ĂȘtre – exactly as enjoyable the five hundredth time as it is the first.  Smashing stuff up simply never gets old.  And the toolset you get for smashing up said stuff is highly pleasing.  Mason’s never without his trusty sledgehammer, and the limpet mines you get right from the start – chuck ‘em on to something, detonate ‘em when you feel like it – are so pleasing they’re unlikely to ever get left out of your inventory.  (Extra sadist points – stick a mine to an enemy soldier and cackle as they run around in a panic.)  Going up through typical weapons through to oddities like the electricity-shooting arc welder, sawblade-spitting grinder or the enforcer, with its homing bullets, is great fun.
   And great fun is basically what this game is about.  It’s not deep and meaningful, and it’s not trying to be deep and meaningful.  It just wants to entertain you.  When it gets it right, it’s like playing a cheerfully dumb action movie from the ‘80s or ‘90s – probably starring Stallone or Schwarzenegger – and is exactly as enjoyable as you’d hope.  (You even get a jetpack near the end.  And occasionally you get to run around in a big mech suit smashing things just by waving its arms about.)  Admittedly, it doesn’t always get it right: some missions are annoying, the last one in particular, and quite a lot of the sidequests are a bit rubbish.  But the good bits are so good that it doesn’t really matter.  Plus, it’s an American-made game from 2009 where you play as a heroic terrorist with distinct Communist undertones.  How likely is that?
MAGIC MOMENT: The mission that ends the second chapter, where you have to evacuate a town before the troops arrive, is breathlessly exciting.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Top 50 Games - #50

 Right, here we go.  I wanted to get a decent backlog before I actually started posting these.


All publisher info, release dates etcetera refers to the European version of the game.  'Cos I live in Europe and buy European games.
For "format", I list the version I actually own first then the others in alphabetical order.  I haven't bothered to list every single machine you can get each game on 'cos with some games we'd be here all day - I've just noted the ones that the game was initially released on.  So there's no "Xbox 360" for Sonic 1 or whatever.
This is 100% personal preference, regardless of the game's objective quality, to such extent as objective quality exists.  So there.
The longlist is actually a couple of months old now so if I wrote one today it might be slightly different but whatever.

it begins

50. Psychonauts
Developer: Double Fine
Publisher: THQ
Year: 2005
Format: PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC

No matter how generic and unadventurous gaming gets, there’ll always be a Tim Schafer or two.  In 2005, we were just coming out of the stealth game boom and warming up for the rhythm-action takeover.  Schafer’s Double Fine, meanwhile, were unleashing their first game – a free-roaming platformer with adventure elements.  Set at a summer camp designed to train psychic children.  Psychonauts tells the unlikely tale of Raz, a young acrobat with considerable mind-manipulation skills.  Running away from the circus and attending Whispering Rock Summer Camp to hone his talents and achieve his dream of becoming a psychonaut – a secret agent who can delve into others’ minds – he instead stumbles across a fiendish plot to steal his campmates’ brains.  As you do.
   The game lets you wander across Whispering Rock at will, taking the Zelda-style method of letting you enter one level at a time and locking off areas until you get the requisite ability to open ‘em up.  Once you actually go into a level, it’s a more straightforward 3D platform affair.  But that’s where the “straightforward” bit ends, because the levels are, as you’d expect from the plot synopsis, set inside people’s minds.  And good heavens do Double Fine take this idea and run with it as far as it’ll go.  Levels wrap around themselves, so you’re running on the floor, and suddenly the floor’s the wall, and then it’s the ceiling.  You sort out literal “emotional baggage” – crying pieces of luggage – by finding its lost address labels.  The people whose brains you’re running through might appear as themselves, or as a giant bull laden with symbolism.  There’s a secret room in one brain-level that completely re-evaluates one of Raz’s teachers – I won’t say more, but it adds a huge amount of depth to the character and is arguably the game’s most startling, affecting and thought-provoking moment.  And you could quite easily go through the whole thing not knowing it’s there!
   It’s the wealth of detail that makes Psychonauts, really.  The way that late in the game you get the ability to see through other characters’ eyes, so you can see how they view the world.  The pile of extra bits and pieces to find.  How Double Fine manage to come up with legitimate justifications for a couple of platforming’s most enduring bits of silliness – Raz can double-jump by telekinesis, and can’t enter water because his family are labouring under a curse that says they will all die by drowning, meaning that he becomes paralyzed with fear and imagines a hand coming up out of the water to grab him if you get too close.  
   The only major fault of the game is difficulty spikes – most people agree that the final level, the Meat Circus, is too hard.  Personally I didn’t have any major problems with it.  Instead, I got stuck on a boss fight barely halfway through the game – if I hadn’t found a toggleable invincibility cheat, I would’ve given up altogether.  Important note for game designers there – always provide an out.  If it hadn’t been for that cheat, I wouldn’t have got through the game, and it wouldn’t have taken its rightful place on this list.
MAGIC MOMENT: the utter genius of the level The Milkman Conspiracy.  Set in the mind of a near-catatonic conspiracy theorist, it presents a twisted view of suburbia where the streets twirl into loops and the classic mysterious men in hats and long coats are everywhere – except they’re trying to disguise themselves as members of the community.  And they’re absolutely terrible at it.  It’s completely hilarious.