Thursday, 2 January 2014

My top 10 games of the generation

With the new generation of games consoles out in the wild now, I'd thought it would be great to look back on the last eight (yes, EIGHT) years from when the Xbox 360 launched in November 2005. This is my personal list of the best games from this period, though it probably changes on a daily basis. I'm not even sure that this is in order of preference anyway. Nevertheless, here's the list:

Assassin's Creed 2

The first Assassin's Creed was an interesting idea but was a flawed game. It was far too repetitive and suffered from other problems like being a total borefest. However, the first sequel fixed that (this was before the series was miked dry). Gone was the dull-as-dish-water Altair and stepped in Ezio Auditore da Firenze, a typically charming and cool Italian chap would charisma oozing out his digitally crafted ears. The gameplay mechanics fixed up and there was much more varitey to the game including building and fixing up the Auditore estate and buying weapons and items. Also new was the inventions that you got to use from Leonardo Da Vinci, including his flying device and dual-blades, which allowed for twice the stabbing simultaneously. Assassin's Creed 2 was so good that I got the Platinum Trophy on PS3. Though that's not saying much, Assassin's Creed 2 is the most 'Platinumed' game on PS3. Plenty liked the game then, I'm not alone there.

Mass Effect

Ah Mass Effect, the space opera RPG from Canada's finest at BioWare. Originally an Xbox 360 exclusive published by Microsoft before the developer was cursed bought by everyone's favourite videogame publisher EA. The game has since been released on PC and later (much later, think five years) came out on the PlayStation 3. Mass Effect saw take on the role of Commander Shepard but you could customise your character to suit your tastes like in most RPG games. Unlike most RPGs however Mass Effect focused on gun combat with some space-age magical nonsense thrown in, instead of melee fighting and also had an incredibly difficult to control vehicle to drive called the MAKO. Anyway, the best thing about Mass Effect was the world BioWare had built, along with the characters. The way you interacted with them dictated the story that was told and you made decisions, some of which weren't easy. I bet you're thinking why do I prefer this one to either of the two sequels that have released since? Well, it's the only one I've played. Before you eat me, I will say this, I do have Mass Effect 2 and 3 but they're deep within the abyss of my backlog and I did play the Mass Effect 2 demo that came out and it felt more like a shooter with RPG elements instead of the first game which is more of the opposite. I would take a trilogy re-release on PS4 I'll say that much.

Gears of War

Another Microsoft published game in the form of Gears of War. Everyone remembers the 'Mad World' advert that came out to promote the game, no sound effects just Gary Jules singing the lyrics which gave the game footage (not actually in-game) a rather bleak look and feel since that song is proper depressing. Many would go and say that Gears of War was the first 'next-gen' game when it released back in 2006 and I would happen to agree with that. The game looked fantastic and had sold gameplay to go with it. Fluid animations with an excellent cover system along with a wide range of weapons which felt great to use. Gears of War also innovated in the realm of the reload, normally a few seconds to catch your breath while you wait to kill more stuff. In Gears of War, this could be a bit of a roulette since Epic Games introduced what is called Active Reload, a bar would appear where you had to press RB on the 360 controller when the moving line went in the highlighted zone. Get it right and the reload would be faster which also gave you a temporary power boost. Get it wrong and you'd be waiting longer to get back in the killing stuff mayhem. The first Gears of War is the best one because it has better feeling weapons than the second one. The mulitplayer is also better, as Gears of War 2's was completely broken. Horde mode was nice though. The story in the series is a joke though, but that's not why you play these games.

MotorStorm: Pacific Rift

PlayStation 3 launch title (in Europe) MotorStorm was a fun game but was far from perfect. The direct sequel, MotorStorm: Pacific Rift, fixed pretty much every problem that I had with the first game and is probably one of the most underrated games on the PS3. First improvement over the first game was the menus. In the first game they were slow and it took ages to do anything. The second one was the sometimes iffy track design. Some of the tracks in Pacific Rift aren't that good but the overall sum of them add up to more than what the original game offered. Another thing was more variety in vehicles, well the monster truck fixed that, it's glorious. There were other things but they were minor things. Pacific Rift had better graphics, sounds and added extra depth to the boost mechanic, with heat coming off volcanic rock increasing the speed of the gauge's meter, giving you less boost. Contrast to that, there was water on track which cooled the boost gauge. Pacific Rift also had Trophies and custom soundtracks so you could race along to your favourite tunes. The racing in MotorStorm is very arcade-y but it so much fun and crazy as hell with quad bikes squaring up against big rigs. A total mis-match but that is what is great about MotorStorm, complete and utter lunacy. I hope the series continues on PS4.

Batman: Arkham Asylum 

Batman: Arkham Asylum. This game came from nowhere. I remember hearing about it but because most superhero games have been absolutely terrible, I never gave it a second look. That is until the demo came out just before the game did and it was surprising, but in a good way. No one has ever captured the character of Batman like London-based Rocksteady did in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Many groaned at the thought of a Batman game made by a no-name studio and wrote it off as another licensed cash-in. However, Batman: Arkham Asylum broke the mould. Starring Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as The Dark Knight and The Joker respectively, both of whom reprised their roles from the 90s cartoon Batman: The Animated Series, Batman: Arkham Asylum captured the essence of Batman in a game that hadn't been done before.You get the gadgets, Detective Mode, which is seemingly what the game was based around. You also get the characters, all of which that are in this game are well done and are true to their comic roots. Arkham does have more recognisable faces but that makes the game feel less focused and bloated. Not that Arkham City isn't a bad game of course. I just think it's prequel (not Arkham Origins I've heard mixed things about that) is better.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Uncharted 2 is an amazing game, simple as that. It built upon the foundation set by the first game, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and took things further. With stunning visuals, top notch set-pieces and great gameplay of course, Uncharted 2 set the bar very high for the action adventure genre and there's a strong case for it still being at the summit. The reason why Uncharted 2 is so good is because it's a fast-paced and addicting to play game. It's not perfect but everything it does well it does better than anything that has come before it. I think to truly understand why it's here it has to be played. Another thing about Uncharted 2 is that the muliplayer modes no one asked for are actually quite good, which was a worry since many felt that Naughty Dog would comprimise the single player game but that wasn't the case. Never doubt Naughty Dog is what we learned from Uncharted 2 which is probably the best game they have produced since the Crash Bandicoot days. 

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Yes, a Call of Duty game made it onto my list and for good reason, Call of Duty 4 is a genuinely great game and is undoubtedly the best Call of Duty in the series. Of course, it's also partly responsible for the series being as it is as well but that's more down to Activision milking the cow (as well as firing the main people behind this one and Modern Warfare 2, read up on it if you want to know what happened). Anyway, Call of Duty 4 was a remarkable game when it launched in 2007. It had everything going for it, great looking (Call of Duty hasn't progressed much in this area but at the time, this was a looker), had great gameplay with best-in-class feel and was without the excessive perks and killstreak crap you find today and had the best map design which helped massively. It also had a great single player campaign too with one of the most iconic levels ever created in 'All ghillied up'. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the complete package that will never be beat by the shell that calls themselves Infinity Ward today.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Metal Gear Solid 4 was one of the main reasons I got the PS3 and it didn't disappoint this long-time fan of the MGS series. It was very ambitious and feature-packed and was full of nods and references to the past games. One whole part in particular did this, Act 4. In Act 4 you return to Shadow Moses and when you arrive once again the ending song from the first MGS 'The Best is Yet to Come' starts playing and soundbites from, well Twin Snakes the MGS1 remake, also make an appearance, making the memories flood back. For example, when you go up to the surveillance camera on the stairway the camera angle goes to the same as the original and the line 'A surveillance camera?' sounds off before the camera fall offs the wall and hits the floor. There are so many references that the series creator Hideo Kojima put in for fans that are just simply amazing and for that, it deserves recognition.

Fallout 3

The second RPG in this list is post-apocalyptic first/third person hybrid from Bethesda Softworks, known for their Elder Scrolls series and Fallout 3 was their first in the series since they bought it off Interplay. The fact that two RPGs made this list when I'm not much of an RPG player says a lot about these games. It also says how I've become more willing to try out different games. Fallout 3 is set in Washington DC and stars a vault-dweller (Vaults are basically shelters from when the nuclear apocalypse hit) who escapes and ventures into the wasteland and into all kings of wacky and incredible things. Fallout's success is with it's world building. The art is inspired by 1950s vision of the future with many pieces of artwork in and about the game harkening back to that time period of post-WW2 America. The game has many things in an RPG that you'd expect: XP. leveling up, perks dialog trees, choices to be made and companions that follow you on your quest. However, Fallout 3 can be played like an FPS game but the mechanics there aren't as strong as they could be. Luckily, there's the VATS (Vault-tec Assisted Targeting System). This was a system which paused gameplay and let you target a specific area of an enemy to hit. I felt it worked better for an RPG. There's much more to the game and that's why it's here, despite the bugginess, which it definitely was.

The Last of Us

Another Naughty Dog game and a game from the last year. The Last of Us is how you do story telling in video games, it has set the bar that high. With top-notch voice acting from everyone but special mention has to go to Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson who voice main characters Joel and Ellie, The Last of Us showed everyone that a new IP this late on into a console's life can succeed right before the next console hits. The Last of Us is the opposite of Uncharted in that is has a downbeat tone, slow guitar soundtrack and atmosphere, appropriate given the theme of the game is survival at all costs. The story is also about the bonding of Joel and Ellie since the latter is intially referred to as 'the package', an object, but as the game progresses they become like father and daughter which climaxes with the end of the game. I won't spoil it since it's still a recent game but if you have played it and got that far then you'll know what I'm on about. The Last of Us gets rid of the regenerating health and traversal mechanics of Uncharted and brings in a crafting system and a less mobile style of movement with a focus on sound and stealth. The crafting system in particular adds a layer of depth since the same materials that make a health pack also make a molotov cocktail. There's a lot that can be said for this game but it never beats playing it for yourself. The same goes for all of these games I've listed. 

That's the list of games I feel are the best from this last console generation. There are some honourable mentions: God of War 3, Grand Theft Auto 5, Gran Turismo 6, Killzone 2, Vanquish, Bayonetta, Halo 3, amongst others.

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