Here it is, the beginning of a series of blogs I’ve been threatening to write for many many months – My rundown of the best games I’ve played in the last year (these aren’t necessarily games released in 2009, some are five years old, other released as recently as November).
2009 turned out to be one of my most prolific years in videogaming, both in terms of games bought and games completed. Not even in my ’90s heyday had I managed to complete so many titles. Before I start the rundown proper, I must give mention to those games that I didn’t find time for, to those which fail to make the list through mediocrity or sheer awfulness.
In the unplayed pile :-
Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and Okami. These are highly regarded PS2 action/adventure/puzzler classics that hardcore gamers insist “must be played”, yet I haven’t. I WILL play them sometime this year. Promise.
Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2. Again, highly rated, these are zombie first person shooters. The innovation and key to the enjoyment comes from their online co-op modes. The problem for me, though, is I haven’t any friend to play online with (Well, there is one, but he’s too chicken to play. No, REALLY). And there’s no way I’m going to play with strangers. What am I? Gay?
Killzone 2. A must-have PS3 title. I downloaded and played the demo. The graphics definitely showed off the power of the console, but it was all so grey and brown, and well, depressing, that it didn’t inspire me to play the game one little bit.
Fallout 3. This is a massive FPS RPG, and it the 40+ hour playing time needed to finish it that’s putting me off. Kinda like when you wanna watch a DVD, The Godfather Part 2 is just sitting there, everybody says it’s a masterpiece and you know you really should watch it, but the running time scares you off and you end up watching Three Men and a Baby instead.
The Orange Box. This a collection of the apparently awesome Half-Life games and spin-offs all on one disc, and it’s the number of titles and where to begin that’s putting me off.
Ghostbusters The Video Game. It came, I saw, I never got around to kicking its ass.
And now the games that I did actually play :-
Gears Of War. This is considered a must-own on the Xbox 360, though I beg to differ. It’s not a bad game as such, the third person shoot and cover mechanics work well, what i saw of the story rattled along at a pace, the set-pieces suitably big and bold. Graphically, it’s all in pristine HD, but it suffers from a modern-day phenomenon where the everything in the game world is a dull sepia brown, or grey and murky. I can only assume is to give a more grounded, grown-up feeling to the visuals, to escape the multi-colour garishness of gaming’s past generations. That’s all very well, I suppose, but for me, one of the joys of gaming is to escape into a new world, to avoid the dull greys of the trudge to work, not to get home and do it again.
That is not what stopped me playing the game through to end. Oh no. What stopped me was the characters. Urgh. They are the worst kind of macho American jock types from which every other word that slips from their mouths is a swear. I’m no prude, quite the opposite, but the dialogue felt like it was designed to appeal to the most moronic of children. I mean, didn’t swearing in videogames stop being edgy and cool about two generations ago? It certainly can’t be seen as a substitute for character. Anyway, it wasn’t long before this really began to grate with me and I just gave up. And, of course, if I haven’t finished this, there’s no point me even beginning the sequel, Gears Of War 2.
Call Of Duty 5 – World At War. Ironically, this has to be my most played game of the past year, yet I’ve never finished it. Heck, I didn’t even make an attempt at the single player campaign. It was the online multiplayer where I got my jollies. This was less down to the game and more to do with the company I kept, mainly that of one of my very bestest best friends. There we would sit, blowing the shit out of digital versions of Nazis, Ruskies, Japs, and Yanks while whispering sweet nothings into each others ears. That’s not to say the game wasn’t enjoyable, it was, in a solid, unspectacular way, it’s just the game became a means with which to spend considerable amounts of time in the company of my friend. It’s that company which led to the most enjoyment while playing and this is why the game doesn’t make it into the final rundown.
Street Fighter IV. I bought this on the back of the good reviews, but mainly down to fond memories of its predecessor from the ’90s, Street Fighter 2. The game itself is undeniably brilliant, amazing graphics like a cross between CGI and cel animation, a return to the “easy to learn, complex to master” controls of the earlier Street Fighter games, and the addition of the online battles allowing you to fight people from all over the world. The problem is I’ve changed from those obsessive days in the ’90s, I’ve become a very lazy gamer. No longer do I want to have to play through a game x amount of times to unlock every character and all the bonus content. I want it all and I want it now. And in that way, Street Fighter IV is resolutely old school. If you want this stuff, put in the time and get good at the game. This is true of online too, you have to put in the effort or you will have your ass well and truly kicked. Nobody likes losing all the time, and that’s all I bloody did at this game.
Chrono Trigger. Got this on a whim for my DS after reading a review of old school titles which called it one of the best role playing games of all time. I put it in, wandered around for 30/40 minutes, furthering the story, before getting to my first battle. I die instantly and it sends me RIGHT BACK TO THE BEGINNING! ARGH! So I plough through the same 30/40 minutes again only to die at the exact same point as before! Fuck me, games were hard back in the day.So me being me, I gave up. It didn’t help that the game has a turn-based fighting mechanic, something I loathe. I know this is something that’ll anger the RPG purists out there, but turn-based fighting sucks. I’d rather my progress in a game was down to my own ability and skill, not some random throw of a computerised die. So, file Chrono Trigger under “never to be played again”.
Right, that’s it for the “nearly, but not quites”. Here are my favourite games that I played in 2009!