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)
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?
I got online with some friends for about three hours last night touring through the multiplayer for Red Faction: Guerrilla. The combination of destructability + backpack abilities + gameplay modes made for a unique experience. As an example the Vision backpack gives you the ability to see through walls a few seconds at a time. It’s great for coordinating your team as you call out enemy locations but it also works on offense.
During one of the many memorable moments of the evening I was defending the flag and knew there was an enemy nearby waiting for backup before rushing the flag. I turned on my Xray specs, picked him out on the other side of the wall, and smashed it an him with my trusty sledgehammer. This is also great as the counter to the Stealth backpack. I don’t know how many times I went mostly invisible, snuck up on an opponent, and took him out with the one-hit sledgehammer attack.
It’s even got an experience system for unlocks (ala CoD 4) that works for custom and ranked matches. Just as RFG puts a new twist on the open world genre, it brings something new to the standard multiplayer shooter as well.
Sandwiched in between the two high profile superhero-in-an-open-world releases of inFamous and Prototype is the excellent game of Red Faction: Guerrilla. I don’t own a PS3 so inFamous isn’t on my radar. Prototype is the team that made Hulk: Ultimate Destruction which is a great game. But RFG has been getting good reviews at my regular haunt and it’s from the devs of Saints Row 2 (which I played a LOT more than GTA IV last year) so I jumped in.
Wow. What a great game. I’ve only played a few hours of single and multiplayer but my initial impressions are very favorable. The mars/sci-fi setting really sets up the style and artwork. There’s a plethora of vehicles and weapons. The detail and draw distance is impressive and I like the mechanics of missions, actions, control and morale to progress in the game.
But the killer app is the destruction. Every single building, bridge, factory, whatever can be destroyed. Not just some, all of them. As an example there’s a rescue mission I was having a lot of trouble with. By the time I fought through the existing guards to the back of the building reinforcements made extraction very tough. So I drove my truck up to the back of the building and used my trusty sledgehammer to knock a hole in the wall. Took out the guards in the room, left some detonating charges on the load bearing beams, loaded up the truck and sped off as the building collapsed on the reinforcements.
If you like open world games ala GTA IV, Saint’s Row 2, Mercenaries, and the like you really need to take a look at RFG. I’m scheduled to play some online with a group tonight, will probably post additional thoughts over the weekend.
I played a new kind of videogame Monday night. In an era of time-shifting DVRs allowing you to watch TV when you want to, the Xbox Primetime initiative is a bit of a throwback. It’s a scheduled videogame, the “live” version only available in this case between 7:30 and 9:30. So I grabbed a few folks from the games forum I frequent and lined up to get in.
I’m not kidding when I say lined up. We were some of the lucky 40,000 people to get into the game. The live announcer kept saying over 50,000 but the in game stats said 40,456. Just like the Bob Saget hosted game 101 people actually got to play the game. The rest of us were in the crowd. We still competed against each other in our small group of up to 4 people and the leaderboards were contiually updated to show how well we did against the rest of the crowd. It kept me quite enthralled until the dog needed to go walkies.
So here’s the rules of 1 vs. 100. There’s a single contestant called the One (whoa) and 100 people in the Mob. A question is asked with three possible answers. If the One gets it right play moves on with everyone in the Mob who got it wrong knocked out. As the Mob thins out 10 people the prize money goes up. If the One beats the Mob he or she gets 10,000 Microsoft spacebucks ($125 value). If the One misses a question the remaining Mob splits the prize money. The One gets three lifelines, sorry “helps”, to bail him/her out with a tough question. Trust the Mob automatically takes the most common answer of the Mob. Trust the Crowd does likewise for the 40,000 other people playing the game. Trust the Brain takes the answer of the person with the highest score.
Since I never got into the Mob, let alone be the One (whoa) my measuring stick wasn’t how many spacebucks I won but my score. This is where 1 vs. 100 shows some bar trivia roots. The answer period is quick to discourage google search answers and like a bar trivia game your score is increased the quicker you answer. You also get bonus points for streaking together correct answers and for how many of the Mob gets knocked out that question. There was a lot of challenge and trash talking in the game. Very fun with friends in the group of 4 or using one of the XBL parties.
Beyond the cut are a few sentences worth of my thoughts on mostly all the games of 2008 I’ve played. Listed in no particular order or preference. There’s already plenty of top X lists and games o’ the year out there.
With the upgrade of the Xbox Dashboard (called the New Xbox Experience or NXE) you have to create a little cartoon avatar. Here’s my guy. I went for as close to realism as I could with the limited options. I was quite surprised that they had my style of glasses available.
Out of all the games I’ve been playing in the last few weeks, the one that I keep coming back to is Banjo Kazooie Nuts & Bolts. Rare has developed a reputation of hiding deep games under a veneer of color and fuzziness. Conker Live and Reloaded was a pretty hardcore class based shooter. Viva Pinata is a deep management and collector game. Banjo Kazooie is the best example yet of user generated content.
The original Banjo was something of a Mario 64 clone. This version (8 years after the last one) does away with most of the platforming and relies on customizable vehicles. Customizable being the key word here. As the game progresses you unlock hundreds of components and snap them together LEGO-style to make pretty close to anything you want. The only requirements are a seat for your character. If you want to make a land vehicle you add some wheels, fuel, and an engine. Wings and propellers (or jets later in the game) and you have a plane. Tilt the propellors up and you’ve got a helicopter. Add some floaters and you’ve got a boat. The possibilites are near endless.
All the components have statistics of weight and durability which ties directly into the game’s physics engine. Overload one side and you’ve got balance and handling issues. Bigger engines means more power but also more weight and fuel consumption. Most weapons require ammo boxes. Do you attach critical components directly together running the risk of losing something when you take a hit or do you use fragile poles to tie everything together or or the additional strength and weight and space of body parts?
Unlike Spore, everything that you design matters. The ability to make your own designs (and share them online or in multiplayer) is very powerful. Don’t be fooled by the colorful and fuzzy exterior, BK provides as much depth in construction as Viva Pinata provided with garden management. It’s a must get especially at $40.
How do people feel about Gears of War for GNO in June? It should be somewhat bargain bin priced and with 4v4 multiplayer we should have the opportunity to whup up on each other and avoid the rabble of XBL. Good choice? Any other suggestions? I’ll send something out via Xbox later today.