Michael Fincham's 20 Favourite Games of All Time: A List. #15-11.

Michael Fincham’s 20 favourite video games of all time: A list. #15 – #11


Apologies, it’s been a long time coming. We’ve got a couple of big guns creeping into the lineup this time. I’ll try to make the next update before too long.

 

#15 – Age of mythology (PC, 2002)

It's my meteora. My meaty aura.


My favourite section of Age of Mythology will live long in my memory. It comes in the game’s surprisingly engaging campaign, whereby the hero Arkantos (tough spear-wielding Greek soldier) and his hero-friends have to kill quite a lot of Trojans.  You build your army and play out the inspired climb-inside-of-a-giant-wooden-horse-and-pretend-to-be-a-gift ordeal to get them inside the walls of Troy before you orchestrate the bloodthirsty slaughter of as many on-screen Trojans the game can technically cope with. As an added bonus you have these “god powers” that can be called upon at any time to dish out merciless brutality in the shape of raining down vollies of meteors, starting earthquakes, lightning storms and hurricanes, or just resurrecting hoards of the dead, all while those stupid Trojan bastards lay trapped inside their own kingdom of ostentation. It’s great fun.

The main character, Arkantos. In this picture he's recording a vocal track. In the game, he doesn't do that.


In the skirmish modes you can play as Greek, Egyptian or Norse civilizations, choosing one of their respective gods to worship, advancing through the ages unlocking god powers and more advanced units. Keeping you company as you strive for domination on the beautifully crafted maps is an original soundtrack, parts of which I still find myself humming despite the years since I last played it. In hindsight it’s a pretty standard RTS, but it charmed my socks off, and I daresay I’ll return to it sometime.

 

#14 – Die Hard Trilogy (PlayStation, 1996)

One of the game's many positives: This man WILL be splattered all over the screen in a brilliant crimson, and your windscreen-wipers WILL slide his gooey remains off of your car in one dismissive swipe.


So, get this: in 1996 some tiny UK-based development company called “Probe” decided they were going to create a game that spanned no less than three genres- the third person shooter, the rail-shooter and the driving sim- all in one ludicrously ambitious project fronted by the Die Hard movie franchise (In case you didn’t quite follow that, it’s fucking 3 games in 1).

The developers took a unique approach to placing the game’s story within what I am now dubbing The Die Hard Universe. Rather than take you off on some redundant escapade into some shitty side-character’s tiresome existence (as innumerable movie-licensed games have done in the past) Die Hard Trilogy shows you a short series of clips at the start of each episode that remind you what happened in the corresponding movie from the actual trilogy. After considering that for a short while, you forget it andkill all of the terrorists that there are, completely free of any half-assed asinine storyline elements. Oh, God, glorious freedom.

Those blue numbers correspond to the amount of terrorists you've killed with your Man-Gun.


The first episode sees John McClain ascend Nakatomi Plaza from basement to penthouse killing all the terrorists with guns. The sound team did well in recruiting the best Bruce Willis voice-double in existence but their real achievement comes in the second episode, where the excitement with which you are doubtlessly awash with on your rail-shooting expedition through Dulles Airport killing the terrorists is complimented deliciously by an epic electronic musical masterpiece that’s as good as Tubular Bells inThe Exorcist. Give it a listen:

(Did you see that? Shoot a terrorist while he’s on fire and receive a MERCY SHOT bonus- probably more bullets to put in your gun).

Also worth mentioning is that in episode 3, Die Hard with a Vengeance, you can drive a car through hoards of unsuspecting pedestrians, caking the windscreen with blood and brains as you go. More exciting even than that is the inspired inclusion of windscreen-wipers that allow you to target the next set of pedestrians before you wantonly splatter their innocent (and basically infinite) carcasses all over the pavement. All of this is in the name of charity and good will as you drive at reckless speeds into bins in the middle of the road that contain bombs to deactivate them. That’s bomb-disposal, folks.

 

#13 – Championship Manager/Football Manager series (PC, 1992 – present)

While spewing out one of my many, many impassioned tangents onFootball Manager, most of which are aimed inconsiderately at the vulnerable and uninterested, I’ll get a variety of strange looks, ranging from expressions of vague curiosity and ill-acted enthusiasm to flagrant scorn and outright disbelief. The overwhelming reaction to my hours spent tirelessly tweaking my tactics, analyzing the moving dots on-screen that represent my players, is one I’ve come to identify over the years as genuine, unwavering pity.

There's a new 3D match engine in the newer versions, but I prefer watching this to get the most out of my tactical analysis of the game. The ball gets bigger when it's in the air and everything.


See, Football Manager isn’t one of those so-nerdy-it’s-cool games. It’s justsad. It’s not even a game; it’s more of a poorly disguised interactive database that only clinically ill people can enjoy. Imagine someone made a game completely within the bounds of Microsoft Excel and then you enjoyed playing it. You sick person.

This is Djibril Cissé. Everything about him is wonderful. This includes (but is not limited to) his name, his hair, his beard, and his £6million buy-out clause in Championship Manager 4.


In Football Manageryou create a personality to take charge of a real-life football team with all their fully licensed players in any one of about 50 leagues from across the globe. This means you can jump right into the Manchester United hot seat where you’ll attempt to mount a title challenge in the Premier League and reach the latter stages of the Champions League, or begrudgingly manage The Melbourne Victory in Australia where you’ll likely fail in your attempt to nurture some modicum of enthusiasm amongst a group of woefully talentless amateur footballers playing in a widely disregarded cesspit of a league for shit fans who don’t even like football anyway. What I tend to do is choose a team on the cusp of greatness, sell the deadwood, buy in cheap and undiscovered talents from South America, set up some tactics, establish my media-handling style, send some scouts off to Africa, and advance through season after season, year after year, decade after decade, disappearing into a dark hole, resting only to sleep and dream of my new criminally inexpensive signing from Bolivia smashing in the goals past my clueless opposition.

I once bought an Atletico Madrid shirt, in real life, for $40, purely because I’d spent 3 of my most successful seasons there in Football Manager 2007. I’ll leave you with that… now back to the video games.

 

#12 – Hogs of War (PlayStation, 2000)

Squeal, piggy.


The opening cut-scene to Hogs of War sees a rotund anthropomorphic pig, dressed in high-ranking military uniform from the First World War era lecturing a roomful of terrified pigs on how to conquer the pig-shaped landmass of Saustralasia in the South Pigcific. It’s certainly an original opening sequence, and a very funny one, owing mostly to the voice-acting of one of my personal comic heroes Rik Mayall (The Young Ones, Blackadder). From there, you pick from a selection of colour-coded pig teams; red for Soviet Russia, yellow for the Japanese, muddy green for the Brits, etc. You start off with a team of mere privates, or grunts (ha), and as you advance through the game you can level your grunts up into grenadiers, spies, medics and the like. The developers borrowed extensively from the Wormsseries for Hogs’ gameplay, prompting every reviewer to settle on “It’sWorms but with pigs” as their summation. Like Worms each level sees your team of five pigs and an opponent’s dropped randomly across the map, taking turns of 90 seconds to inflict as much damage as you can on the other team with one of your pigs. As you make your way through the five nations of the single-player campaign- Hogshead, Saustralia, Trottsville, Bellyopolis, and Arstria- the difficulty increases appropriately, and the carefully balanced tactical dynamic of the game shines through. I feel like Hogs of War should be a novelty strategy game with little in the way of challenge or reward; a friendly kids game with funny pigs with funny voices and big loud weapons. But, go in with that mindset and Hogs will quickly and cruelly wreck you and your small squadron of squealing piglets.

Rik Mayall in "The Young Ones". Once, when hit square in the knackers with a cricket bat, his character joyously exclaimed, "Ha-ha, missed both my legs!"


Adding to the fun- “BUT HOW?!”, I hear you wail incredulously- are the various phrases each pig delivers before firing a shot or at the moment before their death (again, just like Worms). Rik Mayall parodies various cultures (a noble art) often resulting in some hilarious battle cries. “This one’s for Uncle-frickin’-Sam!” shouts an American pig, “SCHU-NUH-ELL! SCHNELL!”, quips Herr Dry of the German pig team. It may not seem like the pinnacle of wit, but it’s lots of fun in-game. Promise.

 

#11 – Pokémon series - (Multiple Nintendo platforms, 1996 – present)

Sometimes a game can get TOO philosophical.


To this day, all I’ve wanted from the videogaming world is a fully rendered 3D version of the classic portable RPG series of Pokémongames with intricately animated Pokémon and awesome Pokémon battles playing out in front of my eyes on a big screen, crippling me into a convulsive ball of boundless orgasm. Unfortunately, Game Freak released Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue in 1996 and, bar the odd change of setting and all the new, progressively crappier Pokémon, they haven’t really looked back since. The gameplay remains essentially the same after 14 years because, well, they pretty much nailed it first time, which is more than can be said for the miserable spin-off Hey You, Pikachu! I hate that Pokémon.

 

They just fucking love being Pokémon.


I can’t say exactly what’s attracted myself and over 200 million people worldwide (it’s one of the best selling games series of all time) to the world of Pokémon, but I just can’t get enough. I mean, the TV show spent years annoying 7 year-old children, yet somehow I find myself watching it for hours, revelling in its tacky, sickening sentimentality until I begin to question my own existence… and that’s all come from my hours spent on the games. They have almost a minimalist charm; gently prodding you through the relatively linear story, catching Pokémon as you go, defeating the bosses along the way and evolving what grows into your perfectly rounded team of world-beating pocket monsters. If you’re not careful though, as my girlfriend and I discovered one summer, the Pokémon universe can seriously engulf you. We were both hopelessly addicted, spending all day at home playing Pokémon (she on Pearl, me on Diamond), researching the foundations of stats, hidden attributes and breeding techniques to create the best possible Pokémon from scratch. It was to be a thoroughly enjoyable waste of time.

…it’s not very effective.

4 Comments

Michael Fincham's 20 Favourite Games of All Time: A List. #20-16.


Stress on the term favourite. I haven’t played nearly enough video games to objectively assess which games are the best ever made, but hopefully I’ve played enough to make this list an enjoyable read. After all, I bloody love video games. These are the first 5 in the 20… in reverse order… fordrama. Pictures are clickable for larger versions.

#20 – Road Rash (Sega Genesis, 1991)


I’m certain that the developers of Road Rash realized about three quarters of the way through making this game that they’d made a huge mistake. Racing games on the SEGA Mega Drive (or Genesis) were all rolling horizons and stock backgrounds with your car locked in the centre of the screen while the road and trees moved around it. Horrible. I’d rather go out on my bicycle (which, for any video game, means a shameful failure). So the guys at EA changed it into an awesome violent-illegal-street-races game. They added a combat element (always a winner), allowing you to smash the biker next to you with baseball bats, crowbars, nunchaku, chains, and cattle prods until they fell off. If you fell off you had to run back to your bike, taking care not to get hit by traffic. Also there were cops, and if they caught you you had to pay a fine. And if you crashed you had to pay for repairs. And if you couldn’t pay you fucking died. I never even owned this game I just cried at my dad to make his mates lend it to us. I’ve only played it a few, precious times.

#19 – WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role (Sony PlayStation, 2000)

Remember “Attitude”? Yeah. This came out around that time. When wrestling was good. Back when Mick Foley would get thrown off the top of a steel cage on fire through tables onto pins up a ladder and repeat until he was nothing more than a punctured bag of flesh and blood wrapped in a torn shirt, psycho-mask and that adorable smile. Smackdown KYR wasn’t the perfect fighting game, or even the perfect wrestling game, but I spent endless school nights performing finisher after finisher and breaking all the rules of Sports Entertainment (Why did The Rock always have that jump-swing DDT in his moveset?).

 

A German suplex to Rikishi? Yeah, right, Benoit. You murdering fuck.


The Hell in a Cell was all about the sacred Chokeslam-through-the-roof-onto-the-mat-and-pin combo, but you’d always end up leg-sweeping him through it. Piss. The Create-A-Wrestler feature really picked up for this version too, allowing me to make the charismatic CannonBall King (CBK), one half of the ASDA Boyz.

#18 – Destruction Derby (Sony PlayStation, 1995)

Pure carnage. The bowl is serious man.


So, another one of those off-racing titles where instead of competing to win, me and a friend would turn the car around and drive backwards around the track looking to cause a sick accident. Everyone’s done this, whether it’s an F1 game, or Burnout or whatever. I promise you, your most sinister aspirations on the racetrack have never been so perversely rewarded as they are in Destruction Derby. From what I remember the damage engine was ahead of its time, which only further satisfied our appetite for total chaos. My most cherished memories are of The Bowl, a circle of 20 cars smashing into one another, where a particularly sweet collision would earn you points and a 50ft launch into the air. “Your radiator’s blown! … You’ve wrecked your car!”

#17 – Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (PC, 2002)

This gets into the top 20 off the strength of the level where you get to play through the D-Day Launch Operation Overlord Suicide Mission. Spielberg helped with the game (though Wikipedia thinks he “created” it. Did he bollocks.) which explains why at various points during the game you’ll feel like you’re playing Saving Private Ryan. I remember being blown away by how well they pulled off the D-Day level, even if it is just a like-for-like, first-person rendering of the scene in the movie.

Explosive WWII bullets!


It’d probably feel a bit scripted now, as I’m sure each AI character is programmed to die at a certain point, but play it once and it’s terrifying, electrifying and death-defying. For a pure sweat-inducing, anxious and unforgettable 20 minutes on the PC, MOHAA was always close at hand.

#16 - Torin’s Passage (PC, 1995)

Yeah you're going to have to navigate this situation. Good luck.


Torin’s Passage is one of the many point-and-click adventure games of the 1990s that I cherish to the point of tearful nostalgia. Torin’s parents are kidnapped by a mystical green-toothed man in a dark cloak, and you soon find out they’ve been taken to a woman named Lycentia, a super sorceress from the “Lands Below”. With the help of his purple shape-shifting cat-like creature Boogle, who comes in handy for a number of the game’s puzzles (most of which are easy), Torin leaves home hoping to find a way down to the Lands Below. From there, you advance Torin through 5 levels down to the centre of the planet, hoping to find his parents.

This is the structure. Destination centre of the planet.


The second level, Escarpa, sees Torin enter the home of The Fatheads, a family eternally locked in a televised sitcom, dropping obnoxious one-liners and catchphrases met with repetitive canned laughter. In Escarpa, Torin has to find 9 puzzle pieces to access the next world on his journey down to the centre of the planet. As he descends, using Boogle as a makeshift net to catch shrimp to trade for a key and other such delightfully obscure activities, things get stranger and stranger from world to world. Eventually you’re persuading a giant talking sunflower to dig a trapped policeman out of a marsh using honey… though I’m not sure I’m remembering that right. You get the idea.

5 Comments