Here’s the list of games I played in 2010 placed in broad categories of my personal enjoyment. Due to Eve, a new house, and general busy-ness at work I’ve probably gamed the least this past year than any in recent memory. Also, there’s some 2009 games in here as Lockdown prevents me from playing holiday releases until the next year. Games are in no particular order.
The Great – My Favorites of the Year
Batman – Arkham Asylum – The one game I played early in the year while home with Eve. Excellent fighting mechanics and really “got” what Batman is about. (X360)
BioShock 2 – Great follow up to one of the best shooters of the decade. Still need to finish this one. (PC)
Dawn of Discovery – Awesome city-builder. Great graphics and an interesting trade across the archipelago mechanic. (PC)
Supreme Commander 2 – Best RTS this year. Moves forward and improves on SC1 in all the ways that Starcraft 2 didn’t. Excellent post-release support. (PC)
Rock Band 3 – The pinnacle of music based games. Great improvements to the UI, the inclusion of Pro mode is very well done, and you can’t beat 2,000+ songs. I’ve spent 30 hours just on pro keyboards alone. (X360)
Distant Worlds – Excellent AI viceroys make this real time 4x-ish game an interesting space empire ant farm. (PC)
Pac-Man CE DX – Perfect marriage of sounds and graphics with enough gameplay twists to improve on Pac-Man CE. Best XBLA game this year. (X360)
Civ V – Yes the tactical AI is questionable, yes there are significant changes from Civ IV. I don’t care, this is a great game with the best UI of any 4x I’ve played.
The Good – Worth My Time
Tron: Evolution – Interesting story that ties in and gives you more background on the movie. Competent multi-player (lightcycles!). Could have used a little tightening on the gameplay. (x360)
Shattered Horizon – Hardcore zero-g shooter. Beautiful and stark but the learning curve and the lack of variety on release were disappointing. (PC)
Lead and Gold – Western shooter that is very good, but still a little empty and sparse. (PC)
Lost Planet 2 – Many people were put off by how Japanese it is, but I loved the variety of the levels, the immense boss battles and all the pretty mechs. (X360)
Tidalis – Big props for doing something besides the match-3 game, but I can’t get my brain wrapped around changing the path on the fly and got stuck half-way through. (PC)
Mount and Blade: Warband – Great Medieval sandbox game hidden under a very slow start and obtuse UI. (PC)
The Meh – Don’t Bother
Scott Pilgrim: The Game – I loves me some Paul Robertson, but this is just an old-school beat-em-up. (X360)
Poker Night at the Inventory - Great dialog, love the characters, crappy poker game. (PC)
Star Ruler – Sorry guys I see where you’re going and I’m glad you’re still working on it, but the game ain’t done. (PC)
Haven’t posted in three weeks. Bad monkey, no cookie for you! Here’s the headlines of my recent involvement with games. I’ll follow up with Home and Family editions later in the week.
With family, work, and the house I haven’t had much time for games but I’ve made point of getting in a little time here and there to keep me sane.
Supreme Commander 2 got some new maps and units, and continues to receive excellent free patches to AI and balance tweaks. I love it when the designers are willing to commit to supporting a game. We still play this every week and most weekends.
My friends continue to work on SotS 2. They’ve got a really nice engine that can show off some detailed ship designs. Here’s a taste:
Civ V is a great game. No it’s not Civ IV, yes there’s some issues with the AI, but I love, love, love the interface, the changes to combat, and the city-states. 14 hours to finish my first game (tech win before 1960) and I’m going back for more.
Played through Dead Rising: Case Zero. Well worth my $5. Haven’t had time to pick up the full game, but I most likely will… maybe.
Also played some 8-bit-ish side scrolling with Scott Pilgrim: The Movie: The Game. Didn’t get to the theater to see the movie, didn’t read the manga, bought and played solely on the information that Paul Robertson was the lead animator. He did this: and this:
Amy wants to move Holiday Lockdown further back each year. I’m only with that as long as I can pick up Rock Band 3 on 10/26. Not too sure if I’ll get the keytar or the MIDI box and hook up my own keyboard. I hope they re-release the NIN tracks.
My friends at Kerberos have released a teaser for their sequel game out Spring of 2011. Great job for a dozen or so people and a small budget. Lots of detail and style packed into those polygons. Looking forward to more!
I can’t remember the last time I purchased a boxed PC game from a retail store.* It’s just too easy to buy them from Steam online and get it downloaded directly to my PC. Twice a year, the other time being right before the new year, Steam puts on a big sale. It began today and goes through the 4th of July.
There’s some deals going on the whole time like all of Introversion’s games (Uplink, Darwinia, Defcon, Multiwinia) for $5 and daily deals for example in the next 13 hours and 40 minutes from this post you can buy Unreal Gold, Unreal Touranment 2004, Unreal 2, Unreal Tournament 3, and Unreal Tournament: GoTY for $13.60.
It is a time for me to go back and try out games I wasn’t willing to pay full price for, and the sale prices are a serious threat to my wallet, but so many games!
* I did get a few well appreciated boxed games as gifts last Christmas/Birthday, but I didn’t acquire them.
At first glance the changes in RockBand 3, out this holiday season, are a little yawn worthy. Vocal harmonies (introduced in Beatles and continued in Green Day), better party and in game people management (stolen from Guitar Hero 5), improvements to song filtering and management (already started with the latest patch) and a new instrument: a keyboard.
But if you dig in a little deeper you’ll find what Harmonix is calling “RockBand Pro”. It’s a new mode of play that allows you to still select a difficulty level but makes some subtle and not so subtle changes to actually teach you how to play real music on real instruments.
Vocals is a bit of a moot point. You’re already playing that on pro mode hitting pitches and some word detection.
Drums is already pretty close, the only difference is it will detect cymbals versus drum pads, making a yellow hi-hat explicitly different from a yellow tom.
Keyboard is a new thing and you can get the official 25 key instrument which covers c3 through c5 or plug in your own MIDI keyboard with an adapter.* So instead of “5″ keys (Green, Red, Yellow, Blue, Orange) you’re playing two full octaves. In other words really playing the notes of the song and the whole thing when you get into the Expert difficulty level.
But where it gets insane is the guitar.** You can either get a pro guitar controller that has ~170 buttons on the neck, one for each fret/string combination. Or just buy a Fender Squire Stratocaster, which is a real guitar that you can plug into an amp and everything. See the video in the previous post for a little “Button to Button” example.
So awesome, I may go back and pick up the piano and learn some guitar at the end of this year through a videogame.
*You can plug in a MIDI drum kit as well if you have one of those lying around.
Here’s some thoughts on the games I’ve played in 2009 in executive-bullet-point style. Lists are in no particular order.
There’s some big games missing from this list. As you probably know my birthday is 12/24 and I have a reasonable amount of disposable income. So it’s around this time of year when all the holiday game releases come out that I’m banned from the store or else I ruin gift giving opportunities.
The Great - Highly recommended
Warhammer 40k, Dawn of War II – Impressive twist on RTS conventions.
Plants vs. Zombies – Tower defense with Popcap style. Fun casual game.
Section 8 – Great take on class based multiplayer FPS. The next Tribes.
Red Faction: Guerilla – One of my two most favorite games this year. Everything should blow up this good. Takes the crown of open world destruction from Mercenaries.
Brutal Legend – Other favorite game. Don’t let Jack Black, Metal, or the RTS scare you. Great story, great gameplay. Try something different instead of Call of Duty 6 or Madden 10.
Forza Motorsport 3 – If you’re a car nut, get this game. If you like Top Gear, get this game. If not, then get this game anyway and you will be.
Sword of the Stars: Argos Naval Yard – My friends made the perfect send off for 3 years of expanding and tweaking a great game.
The Good - Not bad, worth your time
Left for Dead 2 – New maps, new weapons, new special infected. $50 for something that could have been dribbled out through DLC.
Shadow Complex – Metroidvania in 2009. If you like that kind of thing.
Splosion Man – Silly puzzle platformer. Chuck Jones kinda style.
The Beatles: Rock Band – Beautiful tribute to an amazing band. Refines the Rock Band experience even further.
Torchlight – Methadone for WoW addicts, something to tide you over until Diablo III.
The Meh - Dissapointing, some redeeming qualities
Puzzle Quest: Galatrix – None of the charm of the previous Puzzle Quest.
Arma 2 – Massively ambitious, too bad it’s broken in many ways.
Hearts of Iron III – See Arma 2.
Empire: Total War – Big leap forward for the Total War series. Too bad the AI doesn’t know what to do with water among other problems.
No I’m not talking about crazy military people or low income housing. Since it’s me you should have guessed that Section 8 is the name for a video game. (Some gagdet would also have been an acceptable, but incorrect, answer.) I like all kinds of video games. About the only genres I don’t get into are sports and Japanese-RPGs. Probably the most popular genre is the First Person Shooter (FPS). Call of Duty and Halo are the two most well-known series in that genre.
As a mature genre (all the way back to DOOM and beyond 16 years ago) FPSs have a wide variety of subgenres. For me, I like a little strategy and thinking in my FPS and not so much of a reliance on reflexes. So Section 8′s gameplay is something I can really see interesting me.
Section 8 takes the standard team based and class based multiplayer subgenre and adds some new mechanics to streamline the experience. There’s perhaps to many to explain in detail so I’ll sum up:
The role you play in battle is defined by your loadout. The combination of weapons, gear, and passive powerups makes for a wide variety of customization.
Instead of spawning in to predetermined locations you “burn in” dropping onto most anywhere on the playing field from 15,000 feet up. Anti-air turrets block off areas, but it’s quite fun landing on the head of an enemy.
Dynamic combat missions are semi-random missions that break away from the defend/attack the waypoints style.
Deployable support allows you to set up defenses anywhere on the map.
All players can move at vehicle speeds, which means no more camping the plane ala Battlefield.
If all that sounds interesting to you I’d recommend getting the demo from Xbox Live (no PC demo) or reading the interview on Tom Chick’s gaming blog. I prefer mouse and keyboard so I’m playing the PC not the X360 version. Perhaps I’ll see you online?
This is pretty huge. Billboard has the details on the outsourcing of Rock Band tracks to any music copyright holders called Rock Band Network. In the next two months a service will be starting up that allows bands, studios, and labels to get their tracks into Rock Band without having to wait for the programmers at Harmonix to get you onto the schedule. Right now you get up to 10 tracks a week (every week since RB1 came out which means over 700 tracks!) but with RBN it could potentially go up to hundreds.
The copyright holders can take it all the way through the process if they’re willing to do some programming and become “certified” in creating RB note highways. If not you can outsource it to a certified community group and only worry about the music not the game. Quality Assurance of the track is done in a community as well, then once it’s approved it on the RBN marketplace for anywhere from $0.50 to $3. You get your cut of every download.
Looks great for indie bands but it also allows studios and labels to fast track their music into the game. Sub-Pop has committed to getting all their popular music from the last two years onto RBN.
So by the end of August we could be seeing an explosion of music in Rock Band, like iTunes or Amazon Music amounts and varieties of tracks. I can’t wait.