By Bulby33 0 Comments
I play a lot of video games. I'm a video game connoisseur, you might say. I've always enjoyed playing them, even when I was a wee lad. One thing I love about video game is expressing my opinion on them. So I thought, what a better way to express my thought than rating them—all of them. Every game I've ever played.
- Consoles sorted alphabetically.
- Games sorted alphabetically within each console.
- Pokemon X/Y (3DS) - December 2nd, 2013
- Grand Theft Auto V (X360, PS3) - December 2nd, 2013
- Batman: Arkham Origins (X360) - November 2nd, 2013
- Resistance 2 (PS3) - August 24th, 2013
- Added PSVita Games - August 23rd, 2013
- Gone Home (PC) - August 19th, 2013
- Bulletstorm (X360, PS3, PC) - August 4th, 2013
Multiplatform (8th Generation)
- The 8th generation multiplatform section includes games from the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and occasionally, the Wii U.
- Platform in bold is the version I played
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (XONE, PS4, PC, WiiU, X360, PS3)
I really enjoyed my time with Black Flag because much of what it does has been attempted in other Assassin's Creed games but with mixed results. The open world is massive (not real 1:1 size to the Caribbean, but it's damn big), and sailing around in a ship fits the setting beautifully (contrary to the naval combat's forced integration in ACIII). Other AC games have tried the open world nature but haven't been as successful as Black Flag. You'll want to take over all the Naval Forts and complete all the naval & assassination contracts. You'll want to stop at every little island and clean out its collectibles and hunt for animal skins. You'll even want to stop and walk around outside the Animus just to take in all of the AC lore. It makes doing the side stuff fun and because the economy is finally fixed, their rewards are usually worthwhile.
Multiplatform (7th Generation)
- The 7th generation multiplatform section includes games from the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, and PC. It also may include rare, late-generation Wii U ports.
- Platform in bold is the version I played.
Alan Wake (X360, PC) • Remedy Entertainment | Microsoft Studios
Coming into Alan Wake originally, I didn't know what to expect—it was tagged as a psychological horror game developed by ex-Max Payne personnel. Sounds neat, but does that make it a fun game to play? Although Alan Wake is definitely frightening and has its moments of jump scares and unsettling atmosphere, the game ended up relying too much on its action and not enough on its suspense and terror. Therefor the game ended up being a slog to play, even if some of its more spooky moments were done well. That's not to say that the shooting mechanics were bad, per se, there was just too much of it.
Alpha Protocol (X360, PS3, PC) • Obsidian Entertainment | SEGA
Alpha Protocol is a stealth game with a heavy emphasis on RPG mechanics. You pick between classes, level up, assign points to different skills, and gain an assortment of perks which vary certain statistics. It very much feels and plays like a modern-day-setting Mass Effect—including an awesome conversation system. However, most of the gameplay is riddled with bugs and a general lack of polish, resulting in a lot of unneeded frustration. You bullets, for example, don't necessarily hit where you're aiming, as most of the shooting is governed by dice-rolls. This is why the game puts such value on sneaking around enemies, though even the stealth aspect is rather lacklustre. And I'm not even mentioning how awful the boss encounters are—yuck.
Assassin's Creed III (X360, PS3, PC, WiiU) • Ubisoft Montreal | Ubisoft
Ubisoft Montreal dropped the ball with Assassin's Creed III. I suppose it's not a bad game, but it's definitely not a very enjoyable one. The change of scenery brought fresh air into the series, and it's definitely the most ambitious game in the franchise since the original Assassin's Creed in 2007. Some new gameplay elements, such as the naval combat, was done incredibly well. But other additions, like the item trading and economy, was poorly explained and hardly made any sense. It also didn't help that the old Assassin's Creed formula is starting to show its age. Since it takes place in more open cities like Boston and New York, Conner has to move around the environment horizontally rather than vertically, resulting in a lot of frustration. Most of the mission design, too, was poor, often resetting you back ridiculously far if you fail.
Batman: Arkham Asylum (X360, PS3, PC) • Rocksteady | Warner Bros.
Because licensed video games are usually not very good it was very surprising that Arkham Asylum ended up being as fantastic as it is. It makes you feel like you are Batman with a combat system that's brutal as Batman pounds his fists into enemy's face and rib cages. But it's also incredibly well designed, possessing some of the tightest controls of any combat system. It's an adventure with more than just combat, though, as exploration and discovery is one of the best parts, allowing Batman to utilize gadgets like explosive gel and his famous batarangs. It's definitely one of the best comic-book inspired games ever made.
Batman: Arkham City (X360, PS3, PC, WiiU) • Rocksteady | Warner Bros.
Batman: Arkham City is fundamentally similar to its predecessor only with more, well... everything. More allies, more villains, more gadgets, more environments. While the combat remains untouched from Arkham Asylum, Arkham City introduced a more expansive, dense, half-open-world environment rich with exploration and discovery. Think: open-world environment on the outside, Arkham Asylum-like level design on the inside—not to mention a plethora of collectibles, and the ability to play as Catwoman at periodic times. It's a game that you must play.
Batman: Arkham Origins (X360, PS3, PC, WiiU) • WB Montreal | Warner Bros.
Even fans of the previous two Rocksteady-developed Batman games may find Arkham Origins—a Warner Bros. Games Montreal joint—a little disappointing. It's a paint-by-numbers affair, rarely attempting to distance itself from its predecessors; not to mention the general lack of polish throughout the entire thing. It's a game that starts out strong but becomes less entertaining the further you get—stark contrast to the engaging origin story of Batman and Joker told through the overarching narrative.
BioShock Infinite (X360, PS3, PC) • Irrational Games | 2K Games
The world of Columbia portrayed in BioShock Infinite is so incredibly realized and beautifully designed that it's easy to forget that the game is just a lot of fun to play. The mix of action-heavy set pieces and subtle touches that intertwine with the overarching narrative is done amazingly well. When it comes down to it, Infinite is everything I enjoy about video games: thought provoking story, engaging combat with plenty of variation, stunning visual motif, and phenomenal audio design—including an extraordinary voice cast. It's not something I say very often, but BioShock Infinite is a special game.
Borderlands 2 (X360, PS3, PC) • Gearbox Software | 2K Games
The thing with Borderlands 2 is that it's fundamentally superior than its predecessor in every way; everything from the world, visuals, story, combat, loot—there's no reason to go back to the original game. But Borderlands 2 is only a small step forward rather than a leap. There's a brand-new story, classes, environments and enemies, but you're going to be doing the same stuff over and over again. It's a repetitive experience by the time you get half-way through. It's a really fun time, no doubt, but it's a game that you've played before (almost identically). It sucks, too, that each of the 4 classes have the same starting location, meaning that you'll end up playing the same content again and again if you want to try all of them.
Bulletstorm (X360, PS3, PC) • People Can Fly | Epic Games
First-person shooters have more or less worn out their welcome over this console generation. Some developers try to tweak small thing here or there but we've all come to expect the same gameplay most of the time. Bulletstorm is one game that tries to spruce things up a bit. Killing enemies in unique ways (like kicking them into spikes or throwing them off cliffs) rewards you with skill points which you can then spend on upgrading your weapons. It changes up your tactics, since most of the time you'd probably just want to shoot every enemy you see. It's a neat concept but it doesn't add too much value in its execution. It's still a linear, set-piece-heavy first-person shooter when all is said and done, not to mention the mindless story and annoying characters.
Costume Quest (X360, PS3, PC) • Double Fine Productions
Costume Quest is a cute, little game great for introducing RPG newcomers with its light mechanics and easy difficulty. The idea of equipping different costumes to change which caricatures your player uses in battle is extremely clever and unique. The game's narrative is very basic but relatively funny, including many references of other media (like Arrested Development, for example). Although it's a great concept the execution is lacklustre and battles become repetitive only after the main first area (of three). It's great for kids, though.
Darksiders (X360, PS3, PC) • Vigil Games | THQ
As innovative as the longstanding Legend of Zelda series has been, there hasn't been too many games to completely duplicate the series that so many people adore. Although "duplicate" sounds disrespectful, Vigil Games did a phenomenal job at getting the feel of the Zelda series just right with Darksiders. It features themed dungeons, small keys, skulls that give you more life (sort of like heart pieces) as well as those tedious fetch quests near the end of the game. Darksiders knows it's extremely similar to the Legend of Zelda but doesn't care as it does many of its conventions better than the Zelda series itself—including tighter, God of War-like combat.
Darksiders II (X360, PS3, WiiU, PC) • Vigil Games | THQ
Vigil Games tried to stay away from comparing the Darksiders series to the Legend of Zelda after the original game's release, and Darksiders II does in fact feel like a much different game than its predecessor, so it's rightfully deserved. It's a more combat focussed game that relies much more on fast-paced fighting and less on dungeon crawling—though there's definitely still more of that. The dungeons are much less pronounced; rarely themed in the traditional sense and are much shorter in length. This isn't to a fault, however, as the game is just as engaging as it was before. There's colour-coded loot, and a half-open-world environment to explore, as well. Although it's quite a bit different, it's still just as engaging as it was prior. Note that my personal save file (X360 version) got corrupted on the last area of the game, so I had to wait 5 or so months before any fix was issued. It was a massive bummer.
Dark Souls (X360, PS3, PC) • From Software | Namco-Bandai
Demon's Souls and Dark Souls are a breath of fresh air into a generation that's otherwise chock-full of giant set-piece, explosion-heavy shooters and action/adventures. Dark Souls is an extremely punishing game that will test your limits as a gamer while allowing you to explore a fantastic, Metroidvania-like world all the while. From Software purposely conserves most of the game's information allowing the community to figure things out on their own—something that games have been getting away from for years. Lordran is a beautiful, brutal, seamless world, full of distinct areas that bleed together in some really awesome ways (which is much more engaging than Demon's Souls HUB structure, for example). The game features bonfires which replace the old levelling structure from Demon's Souls, allowing the player to level up and attune their magic at these various points through the world. The boss fights are incredible, the world is varied, the game is just plain addicting.
Dead Island (X360, PS3, PC) • Techland | Deep Silver
Many people were claiming that Dead Island was basically Fallout 3 only with zombies, but it's definitely not on the same level. Although the open-world and quest design is similar, the entire idea of it being a massive open world with hundreds of hours of content is absurd. It's really unfortunate, too, that the best part of Dead Island is hidden behind the options menu because killing zombies with the normal melee controls just doesn't feel right. Turning on the analog combat will allow you to swing your weapons in specific ways by pressing the right stick in certain directions. It makes killing zombies throughout the world fun and exciting, and let's you decapitate them in gruesome—and awesome—ways. The last half of the game, though? Awful.
Zipping around the environment as a masked assassin throughout Dishonored was a lot of fun, but sneaking all the way through giant castles or just prancing through masquerade parties unnoticed was the main draw. You're given lots of powers to experiment with which ultimately varies how you play the game. You could simply crawl through small nooks and crannies toward your objective or you could possess animals, like fish, to swim through sewer grates. It feels fresh. The game is short and goes by too quickly, plus it's very hard to tell whether you're hidden or not, which became frustrating on occasion. Otherwise it's great fun.
Dragon Age: Origins (X360, PS3, PC) • BioWare | Electronic Arts
The original Dragon Age is a hardcore RPG, one that many people will have a tough time jumping into. It's a very demanding game that takes a considerable amount of time, patience, and education to really get into. But once you lose yourself in the game world you will lose sleep quickly. It's a massive game with lots to do, and the tactical combat has the right amount of challenge and reward that you'll want to keep playing long after you should have stopped. It's a game with many variables, too, so you may end up playing the game more than once after you finish it for the first time.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (X360, PS3, PC) • Bethesda Game Studios
Similar to Oblivion, Morrowind, and Daggerfall before it, Skyrim is an action/RPG that is massive in scope that allows the player to explore and complete quests whenever and wherever they want. The world is overflowing with stuff; full of mystery and lore around every corner or across every mountain. It's an action/RPG at its core, allowing you to progress throughout skill trees with actions that your character performs. You play Skyrim the way YOU want to play, not the way the game makes you. This new levelling system eases in new players while veterans of the series will have no problem getting back into their grove. Under no circumstance should you not play this game.
Far Cry 3 (X360, PS3, PC) • Ubisoft Montreal | Ubisoft
There's just so much stuff to do in Far Cry 3 that it would be extremely difficult to find something that you don't like. The island is gigantic and crammed full of things to see and enemies to shoot that you could easily find yourself lost to its clutches for hours at a time. The best time to be had in Far Cry 3 is the peripheral elements (like exploring and hunting) that surround the main story since the narrative falls apart half-way through. It's definitely one of the better open world games of the generation that just lacks some sort of force to drive you forward. Once you've hunted all the animals and climbed all the radio towers the rest of the game just seems to descend on a downward spiral that at some point gets difficult to tolerate.
Fez (X360, PC) • Polytron
Fez is a solid 2D platformer with puzzle solving throughout the game. It has one major twist, though: you can rotate the world 90 degrees at a time to get an entirely new perspective on what was otherwise a 2D world. Solving the puzzles usually revolve around manipulating the perspective, and getting cubes (Fez's version of Super Mario 64's stars) is extremely satisfying. Plus, the physical platforming (which includes climbing on vines and such) feels great. It's not until you find out Fez's secrets that the game really opens up, though. You may even want to grab a pen and paper just to keep track of all the crazy stuff you find around the game world—you'll probably need it.
Grand Theft Auto V (X360, PS3) • Rockstar North | Rockstar Games
Rockstar North has put on a clinic with Grand Theft Auto V, allowing us to see that open-world games can still be fun even if they're grounded in some sort of reality. Los Santos (and its surrounding region) is one of the most diverse, beautiful, and well-crafted game worlds you can explore in this day and age. It feels alive. It feels like a place that you could conceivably live within. It's hard to argue against some of the game's "stuck-in-the-past" controls and gameplay nuance (the shooting feels straight out of GTA IV), but GTA V's multi-character campaign puts a small twist on what we have come to expect from open-world crime games. Each character feels distinct from the other, resulting in some really fantastic mission design that revolves around all three of them at once. And considering it's easy to switch between all three at any given time, it's difficult seeing Rockstar going back to its one-dimensional stories.
Hitman: Absolution (X360, PS3, PC) • IO Interactive | Square-Enix
In theory, playing as an assassin, eliminating your targets without being seen, and escaping from the scene unscathed made the Hitman series so enticing. The problem with Absolution is that this neat idea is squandered way too often. One of my biggest problems is that you're forced to sneak your way through giant environments way too often—almost a third of the game is just sneaking. It's not very much fun. The game also features manual checkpoints that you can find throughout the level that you can activate when you desire. The problem with these checkpoints is that they reset everything in the level except any targets you've assassinated. It hardly makes any sense.
I Am Alive (X360, PS3, PC) • Ubisoft Shanghai | Ubisoft
Believe it or not, I Am Alive was once being built as a retail game—it works perfectly fine as a downloadable game, though. It's concept is pretty simple: you play as a man who was on the other side of the United States from his family when "the event" struck and tore the world apart. You start the adventure as he finally makes it back to his home town. I Am Alive is an ugly game with one primary colour (gray) but its justified. Since most of the buildings have fallen apart around town, the lower regions of the city are completely covered in dust. You have to manage you grip while you climb buildings, but you also have to take you time and make sure you don't stay in the dust for too long. It's also a half-open-world game, too, as you can explore the city when more parts open up, and you can even do side quests to save other citizens around town. It has its problems, but it's fun. I enjoyed it.
LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (X360, PS3, WiiU, PC, Others) • Traveller's Tales
Traveller's Tales continues to pump out LEGO games like there's no tomorrow, and each release seems to get better and better. LEGO Batman 2 has a lot really neat additions to the tired LEGO formula, however, it continues to have some pretty significant problems, too. Instead of a small HUB seen in the previous games, LEGO Batman 2 features one massive Gotham City-sized HUB that almost acts like an open-world (which was my biggest draw, personally). It's very finicky, though—like frame rate problems and awful flying controls—and only really exists for collectibles. There really isn't anything fun to be had in Gotham City. The regular levels, though? They're standard LEGO game levels. So basically, nothing special. It's an OK game.
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom (X360, PS3) • Game Republic | Namco-Bandai
Majin feels like one massive Legend of Zelda dungeon. It's a budget game, no doubt, but cleverly designed. You play as a young boy who frees a mystical creature called the Majin. The game revolves around you commanding him to complete puzzles and attack enemies in tandem. While the game is a little ugly and has some pretty substantial presentational issues, the core mechanics are designed amazing well.
Metro 2033 (X360, PC) • 4A Games | THQ
All of the peripheral aspects around the gameplay of Metro 2033 are incredible. The game has an amazing, creepy atmosphere. The story of Russians living inside the metro system because of a nuclear winter is outstanding. The bullet economy puts a weird twist on video game currency. The Russian-accented voice acting makes it feel foreign, but cool. The game just isn't much fun to play, ultimately. The shooting feels loose and inaccurate, and the enemy behaviour can get quite irritating. The game is super-linear too—almost like a Call of Duty game—only straying from the very thin path only occasionally.
Mirror's Edge (X360, PS3, PC) • Digital Illusions CE | Electronic Arts
Mirror's Edge has a really awesome concept—not to mention a superb visual aesthetic—but the game's first-person-platforming gameplay nuance ends up falling flat. The biggest caveat is the platforming itself which is difficult to get the hold of, mainly because of the lack of peripheral vision (something that 3rd person games, such as Assassin's Creed, doesn't have). Half way through the game, too, introduces gun-wielding enemies who become frustrating to run from, especially when you have to time your jumps perfectly while also running as fast as possible. It's an OK game that needed some tweaks, but who knows if any minor tweaks would help make the game more fun to play either way.
Resident Evil 5 (X360, PS3, PC) • Capcom
It was really tough for Capcom to catch lightning in a bottle again like they did with Resident Evil 4 in 2005, especially considering games like Gears of War have come out between it and Resident Evil 5. Despite this, Resident Evil 5 is a pretty damn good game. It's built around cooperative play, meaning that you will be able to play a Resident Evil 4-style campaign with a buddy, resulting in lots of neat combat scenarios. The controls aren't necessarily as sharp and responsive as most 3rd-person shooters, but shooting, performing wrestling moves, and blasting giant monsters in the face is still just as fun as it was before. It sucks that Capcom put a big emphasis on action and lacks any spooky atmosphere (which was the staple of Resident Evil in the past), but the replayability definitely makes up for it. You'll want to play it more than once.
Resident Evil 6 (X360, PS3, PC) • Capcom
Resident Evil 6 is a disaster in many respects. Capcom has lost all perspective with the series in the last couple of years, but RE6 is the culmination of every day decision that the team has ever made. Poor storyline is the least of the game's problems, including gameplay fundamentals that are practically broken. While it feels the most shooter-esque as any of the main series games in the past, the aiming never feels right and the enemy's behaviours are laughably bad, not to mention frustrating to deal with. The game is easily 20-hours in length between the three campaigns, and you'll end up playing the same awful parts again and again since the six main characters meet up in the same places in every campaign. Avoid this ugly, ugly mess.
Rock Band (X360, PS3, Wii, PS2) • Harmonix | Electronic Arts
While Guitar Hero established the bass-line for plastic instruments across North America, Rock Band introduced the entire rock and roll experience to households with the additions of drums and vocals (including both guitar and bass) that let four players rock out at the same time. Phenomenal track-list, finely-tuned progression, sharp presentation. It's still one of the best party games out there today.
Shadows of the Damned (X360, PS3) • Grasshopper Manufacture | Electronic Arts
While I'll give Suda 51 some slack for making "unique" or "different" games, not abiding to standard video game practises and generic design, I've never actually enjoyed playing any of them. Shadows of the Damned is the most recognizable Suda 51 game—in terms of, you know, feeling like a video game you play and enjoy—but it's just not quite there. The strong emphasis on crude or vulgar jokes gets old very quickly and although the 3rd-person shooting feels a lot like Resident Evil 4 or Resident Evil 5, it doesn't quite add up to a great game. It's just goofy.
Sleeping Dogs (X360, PS3, PC) • United Front Games | Square-Enix
We're at a time now where if you're playing an open-world crime game, it's either Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row. That's why it was a surprise when Sleeping Dogs (once known as True Crime: Hong Kong) actually came out. And you know what? It's pretty good! You know what to expect from this type of game: you steal cars, complete missions, earn respect from different factions, and shoot dudes in the face. It's one of those games. But since it takes place in Hong Kong United Front has put more of an emphasis on hand-to-hand combat, similar to the Batman: Arkham Asylum, meaning you'll hardly ever see and use guns, which is nice.
Tomb Raider (X360, PS3, PC) • Crystal Dynamics | Square-Enix
Crystal Dynamics did a really good job reinventing Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider series with the newest game in the franchise. It's a beautiful game filled with amazing set-piece moments, fun exploration—especially after you finish the game—and intense firefights. It's not perfect; the storyline is hit-and-miss, the times Lara is beat up to near-death just gets ridiculous—and that's not even mentioning the brutal death scenes and animations scattered throughout the game, either. They were SO CLOSE to Uncharted-like quality and I hope the team gets another chance to prove they can get even better.
It's hard to not suggest Fire Emblem: Awakening because it's such a great fit on the 3DS. It's not a powerhouse in terms of visual prowess, but the tactical (though stressful) gameplay is absolutely fantastic from start to finish. The game boasts a multitude of characters that you will likely come to adore, and since the series puts a massive emphasis on permanent death if a character falls in battle, you'll want to keep them alive at all costs. Don't expect to master the game off the bat, though, since it's definitely a difficult game that punishes silly mistakes. But those mistakes make you a better player in the long run, allowing you to learn and grow throughout its 30-40+ hour story.
Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS) • Project Sora | Nintendo
I'm pretty stubborn when it comes to playing games on a handheld platform mostly because they're specifically made to take on the road, wherever you go. Kid Icarus: Uprising is not meant to be played on the road. The controls are pure garbage; aiming is done by holding your stylus against the bottom screen while moving and shooting is done with your left hand. This set-up is brutally painful when the 3DS is not leaning against something like a table or the dumb stand the game is packaged with. Fundamentally the game is fine—it's a mediocre third-person shooter with goofy (and really annoying) dialog and flashy visuals, but it just hurts to play (literally). It's not fun to play, either.
Mario Kart 7 (3DS) • Nintendo
Mario Kart games are par for the course for Nintendo. Although they attempt to add "new" and "exciting" things every time—like the flying and going under-water in Mario Kart 7—you know exactly what to expect from the tired series. The new tracks are mostly pretty good and the selection of classics tracks are fine, too, but the selection of characters—especially compared to Mario Kart Wii—is disappointing. The rubber-banding hasn't changed much, either, and every cup above 100cc is frustrating and not worth dealing with. Seriously, fuck those blue shells. Luckily the online play is the best yet, and even features stuff like tournaments to compete in. It's a game to play with other people, otherwise steer clear.
It's disappointing that over the years Nintendo and Intelligent Systems have lost their way with the Paper Mario series. The original game on the N64 and the follow-up on the Gamecube are some of my all-time favourite RPGs. But it was when Super Paper Mario hit the scene on the Wii that the series seemed to have gotten away from its original charm. Sticker Star was supposed to be the return to glory for the series but no—it isn't. The nuance of collecting and using stickers for battling and solving puzzles sounds clever in theory, but isn't well designed in practise. The battles become almost useless because of no real progression/experience system, and the puzzles are nothing but trial-and-error. It's one of the most disappointing games of all time.
Pokemon X/Y (3DS) • Game Freak | Nintendo
Game Freak has finally taken the Pokemon series into 3D with X and Y, but with mixed results. It's a new generation that features more Pokemon, a new region, new gym badges, and some neat online integration, but it's still the same old Pokemon we've all come to expect—and, to most people, that's perfectly fine. Game Freak has streamlined some of the grinding with a new experience share item and they've added the ability to run and use rollerblades right out of the gate (making the game go by much faster). Even catching Pokemon is still a blast! Just don't expect to be amazed, and don't expect to be challenged, either. It's a ridiculously easy game that could've used a hard mode or a general upgrade in difficulty. Considering it's one of the 3DS's biggest releases of the year, it's unfortunate that the 3D effects are mostly poor, too, which often drops the frame rate significantly during battles.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars (3DS) • Ubisoft Sofia | Ubisoft
The 3DS's launch was, let's say, mediocre at best. It didn't have that one game that made you buy-in to the handheld on day uno, but one game that didn't get enough attention was Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars. It's definitely not a looker by any stretch of the imagination, but the clever tactical gameplay was implemented surprisingly well. It's a tactics game—like Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem before it—as you command your squad around the battlefield to get the jump on enemies. It even features different classes, varying strategies, and a decent overarching narrative. For a game with absolutely no marketing what-so-ever, I was pleasantly surprised with how well it turned out.
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS) • Nintendo
Link's first adventure on the DS is much different than your standard Zelda affair, but it's definitely a memorable one. Controlling Link strictly with the touchscreen sounds like a strange idea but is implemented incredibly well. Touching enemies will automatically send Link to attack them (sort of like a real-time strategy game), but you can also make swing motions, too. Like the Wind Waker before it, Link uses his boat to ship around the ocean to get from island to island, using the Stylus to control his path. It's a hefty game with lots of content and while the dungeon design is sub-par, the boss fights make up for it.
Metroid Prime Hunters (DS) • Nintendo
Retro did such a great job with the original Metroid Prime games that it was really tough for Nintendo's Washington team to try and recreate the same idea on the Nintendo DS. It was more of a shooter, as the campaign was more about combat and less about exploration. There was even an online deathmatch mode, too, which was surprisingly OK. It's not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination but using the stylus for aiming was tough to get used to and would end up hurting only after 20 minutes (or so) of playing. There were other controls options but they weren't very good, either. It was a powerful game running on a not-so-powerful machine, too, and ultimately looked a little ugly and had frame rate issues.
Picross 3D (DS) • HAL Laboratory | Nintendo
The DS is an amazing console for puzzle games and Picross 3D is one of the best money can buy. It takes the general idea of the Picross formula and turns each puzzle into a 3D block where breaking other smaller blocks will get you closer to the solution. It's a fairly simple concept and works amazingly well. I could play it for hours at a time. It's super-addictive and brilliantly designed. One of the best games you can get on the DS, easily.
Pokemon Black and White feel like the step in the right direction for Game Freak. While I never, ever thought either Ruby/Sapphire or Diamond/Pearl were bad games, they were just par for the course. Black and White is a Pokemon game still—expect 3 starting Pokemon, 8 gym leaders, the Elite Four—but it's starting to change things up a bit. One of the biggest examples of this is the emphasis on the brand-new Pokemon. There are over 150 new critters but until you beat the Elite Four at the end of the game, you will never see a Pokemon from past games. None—not even a Pikachu. This allows the player to experiment with the new Pokemon—something that some players may never do if they're favourite standbys are already obtainable. The story, too, isn't terrible, even getting into moral debates like if Pokemon are being held against their will and should be let free. It's good stuff.
Pokemon Diamond & Pearl (DS) • Game Freak | Nintendo
Every subsequent release after the original Pokemon games on the Gameboy have continued the tradition of adding new Pokemon, introducing a brand new world to explore, and upgrading the graphical style. Diamond and Pearl isn't anything especially new or interesting, it's just more Pokemon. The Sinnoh region is really well designed (including a really cool snow/mountainous area), the new hybrid polygonal/sprite based visuals look great, and the additional Pokemon are some of my favourite since the first generation. It's just more of the same, though, and it's clear that Game Freak wasn't trying anything clever. It's just a solid Pokemon game.
Retro Studios has become one of my personal favourite development teams because they simply get it done. No matter what franchise they're given, they seem to take it to the next level every time. Donkey Kong Country Returns is Retro's first game after the Prime series and again, they've done a magnificent job at brining back an old Nintendo standby to current consoles. If you've played the previous trilogy back on the Super Nintendo, you already know what to expect: it's a fast-paced, challenging platformer, one that gives you enough challenge without feeling unfair at the same time. It's a bummer that some nuances—such as the rolling—is done with Wii Remote waggle controls, and it can become frustrating when it doesn't work at the right time. But because the rest of the game is so well designed, it's easy to forgive.
Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii) • Good-Feel | Nintendo
Epic Yarn is a fairly simple platformer with a beautiful art style. It's not a game that will test your chops and strain your thumbs, but the amazing cloth-based visual motif makes up for the lack of challenge. Like most Kirby platformers before it, the game is bright and colourful filled with happy-go-lucky themes. The story transitions are even themed as children storybooks with a suitable, soothing narrator. It's definitely a game that relieves stress and puts a smile on your face. Perfect for young children.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) • Nintendo
There's so much to like in Skyward Sword that's it's very easy to look past most of its shortcomings. While it still features that cookie-cutter, Link saves Zelda from evil, goes through multiple dungeons and gets the Master Sword series conventions, the 1:1 sword combat feels incredibly tight and fresh. Some motion controls—like aiming you bow—works well for the most part, and the game is beautiful to look at. The reliance on returning to old areas over and over again got old quickly, though, and the sky-overworld had mediocre controls and felt mostly empty. It's not the best Zelda game but the series has been so good over the years I can't help but be overly critical of it.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii) • Retro Studios | Nintendo
Developers often misuse the Wii's motion capabilities by throwing finicky waggle to compensate normal button presses. Retro Studios, thankfully, had other ideas for Metroid Prime 3. The controls are phenomenal; pointing the Wii Remote at the screen is used for aiming and—once the highest sensitivity is turned on—feels good and natural. Corruption is also a Prime game, through and through, so expect an immense amount of exploration, discover, weapon upgrades, and intense boss fights throughout the 20+ hour campaign. Corruption is also the best presented game in the trilogy complete with beautiful visuals, awesome set-piece moments, and even complete voice acting for other characters.
No More Heroes (Wii) • Grasshopper Manufacture | Ubisoft
Suda 51 makes some pretty, um, different games. No More Heroes may be more of a "video game" than his previous work, but it's still bizarre. You play as Travis Touchdown who buys himself a light sabre-like sword from the internet, then uses it to kill the most famous assassins around. It's a neat concept but the game falls apart when it attempts to be an open-world game—like, for example, Grand Theft Auto. The unique controls of the Wii are used for swinging your sword and doing wrestling moves while in combat, which was pretty fun. Most of the game is a slog, though, having you go through multiple, crappy mini-games and some very frustrating boss fights. The art style is great but the game runs poorly. I do not suggest this game.
Nintendo Wii U
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (WiiU) • Nintendo
The last thing the Wii U needs are upgraded ports of two-generation-old Gamecube games. Despite this, however, The Wind Waker HD is a tremendously good version of one of my favourite games of all time. Most of the upgrades you'll notice are visual—such as the new bloom lighting, high-resolution textures, reworked character models, etc.—but some of the best changes have been to the gameplay itself. Some of the smartest alterations are small but incredibly helpful, like being able to turn and swing at the same time with the Grappling Hook, or the Swift Sail that lets you sail faster and also changes the direction of the wind automatically. They also added Tingle Bottles (that replace the Tingle Tuner from the original game) which lets you post pictures using the Miiverse, allowing other players to collect them around the Great Sea. It's the best way to play The Wind Waker and I highly recommend you do so—it's an incredible experience from beginning to end.
New Super Mario Bros. U (WiiU) • Nintendo
I was surprised how much I enjoyed New Super Mario Bros. U, to be completely honest. It's an incredibly safe game from Nintendo—not trying to be anything new or different—but it's one of the most polished games in the series so far. The overworld design is the coolest one since Super Mario World, and the actual levels themselves are quite challenging by the end. Although the Wii U's power may be out of date by, say, 1-2 years from now, the game has a sharp look and runs silky-smooth. The Miiverse integration is awesome, too, letting you brag about beating levels without being hit or warning other players of tough sections.
Nintendo Land (WiiU) • Nintendo
Since the Nintendo Wii needed something to convince people of its fresh new motion controller, Nintendo bundled every console with Wii Sports—which, of course, has become synonymous for being one of the most revolutionary games of the past two decades. The console's successor, the Wii U, needed that game as well. Thus, Nintendo Land was born. While most of the Nintendo-themed mini-games utilize the Wii U's tablet controller pretty well—and are also a lot of fun with multiple people—the collection is simply not as fresh as Wii Sports was before it. That's not to say that it's a bad game; Nintendo Land is actually really enjoyable. Even the single-player controlled games have their nuances that will keep you coming back. It's just serviceable, though. It's not something that will convince people to upgrade their dust-coated Wii.
ZombiU (WiiU) • Ubisoft Montpellier | Ubisoft
ZombiU is a really cool game because it takes concepts from Demon's/Dark Souls—like permanent death and leaving messages for other players online—and combines them with the done-to-death zombie apocalypse setting. It's a slow-paced game; a game where running and gunning will kill you in a matter of seconds, thus, defeating zombies one at a time is your best way to survive. The map is divided up surprisingly well and will let you revisit and explore past areas in a Metroid-like way. Some of the combat—like the shooting, specifically—needed a little more work, but ZombiU is definitely a fun, albeit stressful, time.
Gone Home (PC) • The Fullbright Company
Stories told through video games have had their moments of brilliancy, but Gone Home is one of the most emotional pieces of content I've ever played. Rather than shooting your way through corridor after explosion-heavy set-piece, Fullbright (the dudes behind the awesome Minerva's Den DLC for BioShock 2) put you in an empty mansion where exploration and discovery is the only option. This seems simplistic but the minimalist approach suits the narrative structure so well that the story would be ham-fisted if told directly to the player. You uncover the mystery on your own, one piece of crumpled up paper at a time—and it couldn't be any more engaging.
Hotline Miami (PC) • Dennaton Games
Hotline Miami is a brutal game, but because the art style looks and feels almost like a Super Nintendo or SEGA Genesis game, it's easy to look past the blood and guts. The game is all about running into buildings and murdering every person you see, hostile or not, to move to the next area. Sometimes enemies will have melee weapons like pool cues or knives while others may have guns. You need to be super-fast in order to survive since enemies will rush you quickly if you're not careful or methodical. It's fun, though, and requires quick thinking and problem solving. And that soundtrack—killer.
Demon's Souls (PS3) • From Software | Atlus
Even despite some of its odd quirks, Demon's Souls manages to innovate in some really unique ways. It's well known for its punishing difficulty and its general lack of guidance, but it's a game that let's the player figure things out on their own—something that hasn't really been done since the 90's. Most veterans will mention to be patient and take your time, and it's really the easiest and most effective tip for newcomers. But where the game innovates is with its clever implementation of online play: there's no quick-play option or server browsers—instead you're given items in the world to use as you play. One item gives you the ability to leave notes on the ground to warn other players of hostile enemies (or other devious things), but you can also lay down a marker to join other people's games to help them out with a tough section (or boss). It's a neat way to allow players to enjoy the game together without actually communicating with them directly. Did I mention the game was really hard? It's really hard.
God of War III (PS3) • Sony Santa Monica | SCE
The God of Wars games usually begin very strong and God of War III is no different. The first hour of the game is one of the most intense openings to a video game ever (and not to mention one of the prettiest, too), and the game keeps up this intense pace for the majority of the game. Although God of War III continues to play like the older games in the series where you mash the square and triangle buttons to perform combos with Kratos' dual blades, it introduces new weapons to play around with (such as the Nemean Cestus—giant iron gauntlets) allowing you to switch between all four weapons on the fly. It makes the repetitive nature of the combat a little more varied. The environments Kratos visits throughout the game are fantastic, too, and the boss fights are the best in the series.
The Last of Us (PS3) • Naughty Dog | SCE
The Last of Us is a slower, more methodical Uncharted game—to be blunt. Naughty Dog has basically crafted the same type of immersive, character-driven experiences only with a melancholy atmosphere grounded in a surreal reality. The combat focuses more on scarce ammunition and stealth, with the idea that you can die very easily from normal humans and infected monsters alike. The characters are brought to life in believable ways through amazing technical graphical efficiency and an outstanding voice cast. Some parts, such as multiple swimming sequences, seem like they exist only to frustrate the player—but minor caveats aside, The Last of Us is a fantastic experience from start to finish.
LittleBigPlanet (PS3) • Media Molecule | SCE
Based on its basic gameplay fundamentals, LittleBigPlanet is a fairly simple game with floaty, awkward platforming and unresponsive movement speed. At it's core, it's not a very fun platformer. But the game is all about "Play, Create, Share"—the definition of how to handle user-created content without mucking it up with silly implementation. The level creator is what really drives the game, allowing users to generate their own levels with insane, intricate tools. While the campaign teaches you the platforming basics and generally how the game controls (or plays), the user generated content is where the game shines. Going through the Media Molecule hand-picked levels is a game all unto itself.
LittleBigPlanet 2 (PS3) • Media Molecule | SCE
LittleBigPlanet 2 is more a platform than its predecessor. That's because Media Molecule has crafted an even better creation mode that allows user to not only create intricate platforming levels like before, but actually craft separate mini-games. One game, for example, was an underwater shooter where you play as a submarine as you make your way through hostile waters. It still has a campaign (which happened to be much better than the original's because of the new gameplay nuances), but the bulk of your time will come from the user generated content—the staple of the series in the first place. Without a doubt LBP2 still has some lingering quirks—such as the sub-par platforming and clunky user interface—but it's a much tighter and more polished game than the original.
Resistance: Fall of Man (PS3) • Insomniac Games | SCE
The launch of the PlayStation 3 had its fair share of games but without a doubt the most anticipated one of them all was Insomniac Games' first attempt at a semi-realistic shooter: Resistance: Fall of Man. You play as Sgt. Nathan Hale as you and your squad of marines attempt to drive back an alien threat known as the Chimera. It takes place during an alternate version of history where aliens invade earth around the 1950's, and it's a brilliant concept. The game isn't much fun to play, though, and it's made more disappointing by the interesting aesthetic. The gunplay is loose and inaccurate, and the button layout is different than most first-person shooters—fumbling with them more often than not. The combat scenarios are poor, too, with checkpoints that throw you back sometimes 15-20 minutes, making you replay tough section after tough section. It makes you want to go slow and mistake-free, but it's incredibly frustrating when you make a minor mistake and have to do another large firefight again and again.
Resistance 2 (PS3) • Insomniac Games | SCE
Much of the same problems that plagued the original Resistance is still present in Resistance 2. The campaign is mostly frustrating, featuring poor enemy encounter design and awful checkpointing. Although the shooting feels better and the game moves much faster than before (not to mention looking better too), I couldn't help but feel disappointed by the whole thing. You're going to have to dig real deep if you want to find anything particularly fun. Resistance 2 also boasts a cooperative campaign as well as deathmatch multiplayer, if that's your thing. Too bad the game's overall feel isn't good enough to feel worthwhile.
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (PS3) • Naughty Dog | SCE
Drake's Fortune was a fantastic first step for Naughty Dog on the PlayStation 3—especially considering the drastic change of tone coming from the Jak and Daxter series throughout the PS2 era. They went from a cartoony, action/platformer to a realistic action/shooter—but it worked out very well. The original Uncharted has some quirks here and there—like the sometimes-frustrating pacing—but it felt like the first true PS3 exclusive game on next-generation platforms (unlike the mediocre, original Resistance). It was stunning, simply put, and boasted a great mix of climbing and puzzle-solving. It was a Tomb Raider game without Lara Croft, basically, even if that's an extremely blunt way to put it.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3) • Naughty Dog | SCE
Naughty Dog really hit the nail on the head with Among Thieves because it hits so many highs while barely ever hitting a low. It's substantially better than the original game: bigger, more intense set-pieces, better gunplay, more variety in combat, better overall narrative, updated (and incredible) visual motif—like most sequels, it's simply a better overall game. But Among Thieves is freaking crazy, too. For example, one firefight takes place on moving cargo trucks where you have to jump from one to another before they explode. Another has Drake fighting through a collapsing apartment building. Oh and the climbing? There's more of that, too—on a speeding train, no less. All of this at 60 frames per second, to boot. Uncharted 2 is just fantastic. I couldn't suggest it enough.
Motorstorm RC (PSVita) • Evolution Studios | SCE
Unlike the Motorstorm series on the PlayStation 3, Motorstorm RC is a smaller game that deals with remote controlled cars rather than massive dune buggies and transport trucks smashing into each other at blazing speeds. It's played with an isometric view and controlling the vehicles is done with the analog sticks. It's a clever idea to go smaller on the Vita but the game isn't fun to play. The tracks get repetitive after a while and the novelty of remote-controlled cars gets old rather quickly. It's also pretty frustrating, like most Motorstorm games.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss (PSVita) • Sony Bend | SCE
If a portable, bite-sized version of Uncharted is what you're looking for on the PlayStation Vita, Golden Abyss will mostly satisfy that need. It's not a fully-fledge entry, though, as much of the series' famous set-pieces and action has been slightly altered to fit to on the Vita. It feels a lot more like the original Uncharted than the two subsequent sequels, basically. The story is fun and the characters are just fine but don't expect this to be in the running for best handheld game ever made. It's just an OK game with sloppy shooting mechanics and tacked-on Vita-specific functionality.
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (X360) • Rare | Microsoft Studios
There are way too many people out there that still want a proper platforming successor to Banjo-Tooie. I think these people are crazy—why? Because Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts is the best game in the series thus far. I have the upmost respect for Rare for completely throwing away everything that made the previous games so successful and completely rethinking how the next Banjo game should play. Building vehicles (like cars, boats, and planes) is so brilliantly designed, letting you simply take blocks and assemble them any way you want—as long as it features wheels and an engine. Most jiggy challenges utilize the building feature allowing you to experiment with different vehicle variations to earn the fastest time. It's the most creative game I've played in a very long time.
Gears of War: Judgment (X360) • People Can Fly | Epic Games
Gears of War: Judgment is just an OK game. While it's extremely polished and makes some smart improvements to the basic Gears of War formula (like, for example, putting the grenade on its own dedicated button), it's nothing new or exciting. What makes it boring is the fact that it takes places before the original Gears of War. You play as both Baird and Cole—the two most unlikable characters in the series mind you—through the events that lead up to the original game. The campaign is set up a little bit different, however. Now you can earn stars depending on how well you perform (like head shots, executions, etc.), and you can activate modifiers that will dictate what weapons you can use or how much time you have to get to the next checkpoint. The combat scenarios are mediocre, though, and have you fight through wave after waves of enemies, which just get extremely monotonous. The multiplayer is a step-down from Gears 3, too, featuring less modes and less maps. Not including Horde Mode was a big mistake.
Halo 4 (X360) • 343 Industries | Microsoft Studios
After 343 Industries were given the reigns to Halo after Bungie set their sails and drifted off to other endeavours, they started development on Halo 4. Despite "Halo 4" sounding forced or unnecessary (it couldn't have been a subtitle of some kind?), the game ended up being fantastic—better than I ever imagined. 343 focussed on making series faster and more cinematic, upgrading the visuals tenfold and taking much of Halo's fundamentals and making them better. They even changed the sound of the assault rifle(!). The overarching narrative could have been a little better, sure, and the lack of Firefight is quite disappointing, but the amount of polish that went into the campaign, presentation, and multiplayer modes is quite stunning.