The Best Games Ever! ...According to me: BRAVE FENCER MUSASHI

I can count on one hand the times I've discussed Brave Fencer Musashi with someone. It's sad, really. I figured if there was one place anyone would have any reverence for this game, it would be Giant Bomb. Much to my dismay, I was apparently wrong. COME ON, GUYS. Where is the love? It wouldn't bother me as much if it wasn't such a fantastic game, but it is. So leave it to me, because I'm going to discuss the shit out of this game right now and school you fools.

Like the game I previously blogged about, Parasite Eve II, Brave Fencer Musashi is a PS1-era Squaresoft game. For someone who wasn't into RPG's as a child and cared very little for most of Square's output, some of their more nontraditional releases from that era really stuck with me (Einhander is definitely on that short list, but I sadly never played that much of it). Brave Fencer Musashi is another one of my all-time favorites, despite having never finished it until recently. I've been wanting to write about it for awhile now, and when I finally decided to, I realized how much I really wanted to go back and play it. It's been, oh....probably at least 12 years since I last gave it any attention, if not more. So I dug out my PS2 (I think my PS1 is long gone) and the game, wiped some seven-year-old unknown sticky crud off my old DualShocks and fired that bitch up.

A rendering of the real Musashi....I'm not sure I see the difference

I guess Brave Fencer Musashi was supposed to be Squaresoft's "Zelda killer" at the time. It obviously didn't penetrate the market like Zelda had,but you know what? I think this game wipes the floor with the sorry ass of any Zelda game. That's right, I said it. Okay, in all fairness, I've never been much of a Zelda fan, not that I really have anything against them. In fact, I don't think the series was even on my radar back then. It certainly does share some distinct similarities to the Zelda franchise, like an overworld with areas that require certain items or powers to access, but it doesn't exactly lift the entire Zelda formula wholesale.

As for the story, it is very loosely based on the real-life Japanese samurai Miyamoto Musashi, who was known for his excellent swordsmanship. The character name is about all the game takes from the true legend, though not being a Japanese history buff, there are probably some other references that flew completely over my head. The plot of the game has a kingdom in peril, under attack from the powerful Thirstquencher Empire. A child version of the legendary Musashi is summoned from another dimension to save Allucaneet Kingdom via collecting five elemental scrolls with crazy powers and infusing them into a magic sword called Lumina. Like I said, I'm no history buff, but I'm like 99% sure that didn't happen in real life.

Good thing I did decide to play it again, because although I remembered a staggering amount of things about it, even parts that I had only ever played through once when I originally got to the end of the game all those years ago, there were more than a few things I probably would've overlooked and kicked myself for later. What I was most worried about, though, is that I was viewing the game through rose-tinted glasses and couldn't remember whether or not I just loved it as a kid and it wasn't an objectively good game. Somewhat shockingly, it still holds up quite well. That was a sigh of relief. Most of the things I liked about it back then I still like about it now. Other parts...don't get by as well. But I think of this game as having a mildly retarded child; it mostly performs well and is very likable, and will occasionally do something stupid like walk head first into a wall, but I love it unconditionally and forever.

Lemme give you the goods first. What stuck in my head most about Brave Fencer Musashi since it came out in 1998 is almost everything but the game part. Not that playing it is bad by any means, but it has a very cutesy anime look to it that I still find irresistible to this day. The art design is colorful and vibrant, with many of the human characters having a slightly chibi-ish look to them in-game (their concept art is more traditional), without the big dumb heads. Even some of the enemies are adorable, but the bosses usually look as badass and intimidating as they ought to. This mix of designs never clashes as the overall art direction is very cohesive.

And if the art isn't charming enough, how about the fact that many of the game's locations and characters are really food-related puns? Allucaneet Palace, Thirstquencher Empire? Princess Fillet, Steward Ribson, Mary-Nade? Imagine me repeatedly nudging you with my elbow, asking you "D'ya get it?!" Some of you may roll your eyes at this, but the game is so committed to this stupid joke that it's endearing. I mean, the castle taste-tester is named Salmonelli. That's too great not to like. Much of the game is voice-acted, too, mostly the main story beats. The voice acting is...I don't want to say good, but it's not terrible either. Okay, some of it is, but it really just feels...appropriate. I honestly couldn't imagine in any other way. The dialogue can be bizarre and is often campy, but is almost always delightful. Really, you can't get any better than this:

Also, the Wolverine himself, Steve Blum, is in this game. I was blown the fuck away when I suddenly recognized his voice for a character that appears early in the game. It's weird coming back to this game so many years later and having that hit me.

"Ah, dicktits! These shit stains got me locked up again!"

The cast of characters is interesting, to say the least. Musashi himself is a bratty, cocky know-it-all kid. Playing as him isn't nearly as bad as it sounds, I promise. Playing as a kid with a shitty attitude that must face insurmountable odds over and over is actually kinda funny. The rest of the cast runs the gamut. There's your wise, bearded sagely old man, a simple-minded muscle-head bouncer, cowardly knights, brave mercenaries, etc. There's a slutty waitress at the diner who clearly wants to bang the shit out of Musashi, who, might I remind you dear reader, is probably around 12 years old. I also suppose Brave Fencer Musashi could be considered a very progressive game for its time, as it is insinuated that the blatantly gay librarian Scribe Shanky is in a relationship with another man. But then again, Shanky is portrayed as being so ludicrously and stereotypically flamboyant that somebody somewhere is bound to be offended. I just find it funny. In the end, all of the characters come together to create a great sense of community and world that was comfortable to be in.

Oh, how foolish of me. I haven't mentioned the soundtrack for this game yet. Holy shit, it's so good. Like, really, incredibly good. For me, it's as big a part of the game as the gameplay. This music has been ingrained into my soul. Every last composition perfectly sets the tone for the epic adventure it accompanies. One of your main goals parallel to the main quest is to rescue the 35 castle residents that have been captured. One of my favorite parts of returning to the game was learning that each time you rescue one of the castle musicians, another instrument was added to the castle theme song. As if it couldn't get any better! Seriously, go check out the OST.

Is there anything you would like to pre-order? No? Are you sure? I'll give you time to think. Okay how about now?

A few other little touches go a long way in adding to the game's personality. One of the coolest things is being able to go to the toy shop and buy action figures of the game's enemies and bosses. Then you can take them back to your room and play with them, or you can choose not to open them and keep a pristine collection. It's totally incidental to the rest of the game but awesome nonetheless.

So obviously the gameplay is pretty important, as well. It's real simple and doesn't always work the way you want it to, but gets by with the novelty of its few systems. The basic combat of your two swords (Fusion and Lumina) is fast, sometimes kinda finicky, but usually satisfying. One of the biggest draws for me, especially when this game was new, was using the faster sword, Fusion, to 'assimilate' abilities from enemies. Playing it again now, I realized it wasn't as dynamic as I had remembered, as many of the abilities are used to traverse specific environmental obstacles or solve puzzles. I still think it's pretty neat, though. The other, heavier sword is Lumina. It's a key piece of the game's story, and as Musashi gathers the five scrolls, Lumina is infused with their elemental powers. This is really where the Zelda-ness comes through, because the abilities you gain from the scrolls allow you to progress through dungeons and defeat big bosses.

The game is way more of an action/platformer than an RPG. You do still gain experience levels and increase the power of your weapons, but the focus is definitely on jumping around on moving/collapsing/stationary platforms and killing dudes. The game gets quite of bit of mileage out of its gameplay, though, as it has you doing all sorts of video-gamey shit and it never really gets old. The boss battles are still pretty great, if not mostly kind of easy (until the last few, at least). Many of the main ones follow the rule of 3's, though the more skill-based ones are definitely the most fun. There are only two or three real dungeons in the game, and they're not super-inspired but they are certainly welcome in the context of the rest of the game. Environmental variety isn't a problem. Forests, mines, ice fortresses, flying sky bases, ancient underground ruins, the game has it all!

The Vambee Soldier.

That latter location is part of what is maybe my favorite part of the game. In the third chapter, the town is overrun by zombie-vampire hybrids - called 'vambees' appropriately - and it's up to you to find out where they're coming from. They only appear starting at midnight during the game's day/night cycle and clearly wander out of the village diner/bar, but to ridiculously contrive things, even when you go in there to check it out, you can't actually do anything about it until you have evidence. Anyway, for a game that's kinda super-cute and charming, the vambees walking around the town at night is a little unsettling, despite the fact that neither you nor they can deal damage to one another here. Eventually you discover the ruins hidden beneath the bar, and then you go down there and kill vambies, solve puzzles, go bowling, kill a boss, yada yada yada.

I think the game does a respectable job of mixing things up, as each section of the game tries to set you up with unique puzzles or set-pieces. It keeps things fresh, for sure, but sometimes they don't work. And other times, they REALLY don't work. The raft ride down a river or obnoxiously long mine cart ride come to mind, but they are nothing compared to the infamous Steamwood section. Well, it's infamous to me. About an hour or two into the game, steam starts appearing around the town, and you learn that Steamwood, a facility that, I dunno, provides steam to the village I guess, is about to shit the bed and blow up the village if you don't intervene. You have "24 hours" to fix it, which is actually about 12 minutes in real time. What follows is painful series of stressful mini-games connected by what should be very simple platforming. And if you mess up or don't finish one of the mini-games, odds are you will have to do them all again from the beginning.

Fuck everything about this.

Sweet tits of Mother Mary, this part was designed by complete and total assholes. It's so easy to mess up and is the prime example of the wild difficulty spikes in BFM. This segment is what kept me from progressing on most of my playthroughs when I was kid. There's a very unpleasant kind of sphincter-clenching tension that it provides. Good thing you only have to do it once OH WAIT YOU HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN BECAUSE WHY THE FUCK NOT? Unfortunately for me, I had fully forgotten that they make you do this utterly fucking rotten bullshit again hours and hours later. If there's one blemish on what I think is an otherwise wonderful game, this is it.

The end of the game is where things get truly batshit crazy. The final chapter consists of an exhausting gauntlet of combat, puzzles, and boss fights, one of which is a dancing rhythm mini-game that only comes out of absolutely nowhere. When I originally played this game, I had only made it to the end once, but never finished it. I didn't remember much about it, so after finishing it I loaded my old save and remembered it was the second-to-last boss that thwarted me. Not this time, asshole! I'm older and better at video games now! Anyway, there's a particularly awesome and extended combat sequence near the end that allows you decimate all matter of robo-knights, laser-trees, ED-209's and Contra doors with some mighty-powerful weaponry. It's exactly the kind of power fantasy the game needed before the final confrontations.

You'll never get past my four easily-avoided attacks!

Eventually I made it to the final boss, which I had never seen before. As one might guess, it had multiple forms. The first form you don't fight, just run away from. The second was dead simple once I figured out how to cheese it. The third and final form was a bit more devious, but after an intense fight I killed that bitch with just 16 health (or one hit) remaining. As I struck the final, triumphant blow, I let out a cheer and a massive sigh of relief. I really, truly beat Brave Fencer Musashi. It was like closing a chapter of my life that had been open since 1998.

One of the reasons the game means to much to me is because of how it came into my collection. I rented it once or twice when it came out, but didn't come to own it until a couple years later. In 2000, at the age of 11, I came down with pneumonia, which in turn lead to the discovery of a grapefruit sized tumor inside my chest cavity. Of course, it required surgery to remove. This was undoubtedly the scariest part of my life. One of my cousins offered me any video game I wanted while I was in the hospital, and I asked for Brave Fencer Musashi. After the surgery, I received a smattering of gifts, one of which was BFM packed in a big white, cushioned envelope. I was so happy to own it. Finally finishing the game nearly 14 years later gave me a weird sense of closure and reminded me heavily of the game's role in my life.

Sorry for getting so touchy-feely for a moment. I guess what I'm trying to say is, Brave Fencer Musashi was and still is a totally rad game. When Square announced a sequel for the PS2 in 2005, called Musashi: Samurai Legend, I was excited beyond words. It even came out on my birthday! I should've known, though, that it wouldn't be what I wanted. The sequel isn't really a bad game. It has some neat boss fights and more RPG elements, but has nowhere near the same feel of the original. I booted it up after finishing the first to refresh my memory and see if I could get into it again. I played about an hour and decided that's all I needed to remember that the combat is very, very repetitive in the beginning and that the voice acting and dialogue is almost unbelievably horrid, and not in a fun way.

For as many parts as it pulls from other games, I still feel like Brave Fencer Musashi is one-of-a-kind. The pleasant atmosphere and colorful cast of characters mixed with the diverse level design and the combat mechanics lift it beyond being just a Zelda clone. It doesn't hit every mark, and even sometimes makes me want to shatter the disc into pieces out of frustration, but I'm confident saying that it's one of THE BEST GAMES EVER...according to me.

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My Top 10 Albums and Bottom 1 Album of 2013.

2013 was an excellent year for music for me. I'm a metalhead at heart, but over the last few years I've been trying to expand my horizons and discover new artists and new sounds I wouldn't normally listen to, and so far I think I've been pretty successful. Some of them even managed to make my "Top 10" for the year, which, for someone who loves music as much as I do, is pleasing. At the same time, some of my absolute favorite bands put out new records this year, and they all turned out to be amazing. So without further interruption, here they are...

10. M83 - Oblivion OST

I recently watched the Tom Cruise sci-fi movie and liked it a lot more than most people seemed to, even though I don't think I really fully understood it at first. It had solid performances, effects, and action, but what stood out most to me was the score. It had an epic sci-fi feel and captured the tone of the film perfectly. After watching it, I realized the movie was directed by Joseph Kosinski, the same guy who helmed 2010's surprisingly cool TRON Legacy, which also had a stellar score. This director obviously really cares about proper music accompanying his films. Like TRON, Oblivion's score was composed by a French electronic house band, but rather than Daft Punk, this score is the work of M83. I sat down and listened to the nearly-two hour extended version of the soundtrack. The whole thing is outstanding, even heard independently from the film. Much of it is themed around the title track, featuring the angelic voice of Norwegian singer Susanne Sundfør. In an unexpected turn of events, this soundtrack quickly became one of my top albums of 2013.

9. Hypocrisy - End of Disclosure

The Swedish death metal legends returned this year with their twelfth offering, End of Disclosure. The album largely continues the sound on their previous album, A Taste of Extreme Divinity, and though it's not as good as said record, it's a strong effort nonetheless. The title track and album closer "The Return" are the biggest highlights with moody and epic synth-laden hooks, while songs like "44 Double Zero" and "Soldier of Fortune" are no slouches themselves. The record admittedly doesn't try to tread any new territory, but it is consistent throughout and if nothing else, shows that Peter Tägtgren's 3-piece has a lot left to offer the world of metal.

8. Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork

I've been a casual listener of this band for years, only listening to what I would hear on the radio, or in film or video games and never buying one of their records. Shame on me! I was in the mood for something a little different, and ...Like Clockwork happened to come out at the right time for me. I picked it up on a whim and fell in love after a couple of spins. Josh Homme's writing and playing styles are a uniquely delicious force to be reckoned with. "My God is the Sun", "If I Had a Tail", and "Smooth Sailing" are all irresistibly catchy, and "Kalopsia" is very reminiscent of early David Bowie. The title track is a calm and moving conclusion to this fantastic record. The waltzy, lackadaisical tempo, huge chorus and crescendoing outro combine to make "I Appear Missing" easily my favorite track, though.

7. Clutch - Earth Rocker

Clutch's last couple of albums attempted to pay homage to some mellower classic rock, but the results were honestly kind of boring. They had a few real solid hits a piece, but they failed to capture the energy and enthusiasm of much of their earlier material. To be fair, these guys have never really stuck with one sound, which is what I love about them. However, Earth Rocker, their tenth album, returns to my personal favorite era of Clutch. This record is basically Blast Tyrant Part II, but it feels so much fresher than just about anything they've done since then. It's fast, heavy bluesy hard rock and it's just plain fun to listen to. Just try and listen to "Crucial Velocity", "The Face", "D.C. Sound Attack", or "Oh, Isabella" without nodding your head and smiling. I declare, by Neil Fallon's great beard, Clutch have done it again!

6. DevilDriver - Winter Kills

I never thought that DevilDriver would get back on track to matching the modern classic they conceived with 2007's The Last Kind Words, and they still really haven't. Pray for Villains was disappointing, and while Beast was several times better, it still wasn't showing the best these guys are capable of. So heading into Winter Kills, I wasn't expecting a whole lot. To my very pleasant surprise, though, this record is one of the best they've put out and comes real damn close to matching the quality of their second and third albums. This record is tonally a bit darker than their past work and contains a few more overt death metal influences. There's some awesome guitar work from Jeff Kendrick and Mike Spreitzer on display, and Dez's signature growls and snarls sound as disgusting as ever, but the drumming of John Boecklin makes him the unsung hero here. This guy comes up with some of the most inventive and ferocious beats around, and his double bass skills are impeccable. "Desperate Times", "Curses & Epitaphs", and the title track are a few standouts. Oddly, bonus track "Shudder" was left out of the final arrangement, but it's actually one of the best songs on the album and would've made a far better intro track.

5. Big Wreck - Albatross

While this is technically a 2012 release, the album didn't make it stateside until this year. Fucking Canada, man. Big Wreck is about as "rock n' roll" as rock n' roll gets. They take a lot of cues from 70's rock and early 90's grunge. Hell, lead vocalist and guitarist Ian Thornley even sounds a hell of a lot like Chris Cornell, but I'd go so far as to say that Thornley has the superior songwriting chops. (Anyone who's heard Thornley's first solo album, Come Again, knows that he can rock a little harder, too.) Anyway, Albatross is this band's first record since 2001's The Pleasure and the Greed , and what a comeback it is. It's highly varied and jam-packed with memorable riffs and infectious melodies. Every song is as strong and different as the next. My favorites include "Head Together", the Tom Petty-inspired "Control", and "A Million Days" for its outstanding guitar solo. The melodic ballad title track is not to be missed, either. This is an album worth owning by a band worth knowing. It's almost criminal how underrated these guys are.

4. Ra - Critical Mass

It's been awhile since the last Ra album, but they came back in a huge way this year. Critical Mass may just very well be the best album they've put out yet and solidifies why they are one of my favorite bands. It's heavier than anything they've put out before, but it also contains a tremendous amount of variety. Dubstep, 80's-inspired hip-hop, beatboxing, and trademark middle eastern instrumentals are all surrounded by thick, crunchy guitars and some inspired writing and clever chord progressions. I also adore Sahaj Ticotin's voice. This guy such an immense talent and his range is flat out incredible. The entire record is amazing all the way through, but the final three tracks, "The Voice Inside My Head", "Through the Valley", and "Crawling to the Sky" are a cut above the rest and close the album out in an amazing way with some brilliant and undeniably catchy choruses.

3. Sevendust - Black Out the Sun

I firmly believe that Sevendust are incapable of writing a bad record. I've loved everything they've ever put out, easily making them my all-time favorite band, and this album continues the trend. Black Out the Sun is like an amalgamation of all of their eight other albums, but at the same time, one of best ones they've done so far. "Faithless" opens the record with a kick in the face, and then the thrashy "Til Death" continues the beating with a kind of heaviness that was previously unexplored for them. The humorously-titled "Murder Bar" also continues the tradition of ending their records with raw, heavy-ass headbanging tunes that beg to be heard live. Yes, the harder side of Sevendust is definitely awesome, but writing beautiful and instantly memorable melodies is something they've always excelled at, and the most poignant cuts from this record demonstrate those skills perfectly.

It's not often that I hear a song so good it gives me goosebumps, but the title track did just that. The amazing chorus elevates the song to soaring heights, and knowing that it's about the death of guitarist Clint Lowery's father makes it more impactful. Then there's the moving ballad "I Gotta Feeling" that comes up close behind, featuring lyrics that really made me reflect on life in a way I didn't expect.

2. Alter Bridge - Fortress

Holy fuck. AB is one of the best bands in the business right now and I knew this record was going to be killer, but even I wasn't expecting this. Boasting a way more energetic and heavier edge than 2010's AB III, Fortress barrels through its hour long runtime and then begs to be heard again and again. The opening track "Cry of Achilles" is the very definition of 'epic'. This is the song I would choose to play if I were riding into battle. "Bleed it Dry", "Farther Than the Sun", and "Cry Me a River" are also all heavy as hell. Myles Kennedy still hits those butt-clenchingly high notes. The guy's voice is just illegally good. There's plenty of awesome guitar work throughout from both Kennedy and Mark Tremonti, too, but nowhere does this shine more than on the 8-minute closing title track which features a blazing solo duel between the two of them. It's just amazing stuff. I will saw the one place this album falters is with its slower material. I generally love their slower stuff, but the tracks "Lover" and "All Ends Well" on here, while certainly not bad, are clearly the weak links, with the latter containing some uncharacteristically corny lyrics. Luckily every other song pulls the weight, and then some.

1. Soilwork - The Living Infinite

If you had told me a year ago that Soilwork would craft what is arguably the finest album (a double album, no less!) of their career without the aid of either of their original guitarists, I would've laughed in your fucking face. I guess the joke's on me, though, because that's exactly what they did with The Living Infinite. Featuring 20 songs over two discs with absolutely no filler, I am in complete awe of this album. Current guitarists Sylvain Coudret and newcomer David Andersson do an admirable job of maintaining the classic Soilwork sound while also taking it some progressive directions. There's some real fancy and dynamic guitar work, along with the lighting-fast and technical drumming of Dirk Verbeuren.

"Long Live the Misanthrope", "Spectrum of Eternity", and "Let the First Wave Rise", among others, are all furiously heavy. "Owls Predict, Oracles Stand Guard" is one of the more experimental tracks and one that took a long time to grow on me, but it's really cool and different for them. "The Windswept Mercy" is very much like what Devin Townsend is doing these days, which I like a lot. "Parasite Blues" remains my favorite track, combining every great aspect of this band, and includes a massive chorus that demonstrates Bjorn "Speed" Strid's impressive vocal range. I could go on and on about this album and how fucking good it is, but if you're a metalhead, you owe it to yourself to own this masterpiece.

Honorable Mentions

Chimaira - Crown of Phantoms, Eye Empire - Evolve, 40 Below Summer - Fire at Zero Gravity, Killswitch Engage - Disarm the Descent, Black Sabbath - 13,Clint Lowery's Hello Demons...Meet Skeletons - Choices EP

To those I have yet to hear, like the new Dark Tranquility, Darkane, or Byzantine....I'm truly sorry.

Biggest Disappointment: Sick Puppies - Connect

I was looking forward to the new Sick Puppies album, especially considering they don't put out music that often. Turns out I waited four years since the stellar Tri-Polar for nothing. Connect is simply a boring album. It expends any energy it has within the first four songs and then lazily plods to the end with a long series of uninspired soft tracks, although the closing song "Under a Very Black Sky" is pretty good. Even the handful of harder tunes, like "Die to Save You", while good, do little to progress their sound and end up sounding like textbook Sick Puppies. The album as a whole sounds like little effort was put in, as if they ran out of ideas before they really started writing. I hope there's not another four years between albums, because if anything, Connect proves that a longer wait between album cycles does not guarantee a higher quality final result.

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Just when you thought there couldn't possibly be another GOTY blog...

Here we are again, friends. The end of the year is upon us, and thus, it is time for me to reflect on my favorite games of 2013. Had it not been for these 10 offerings (and a few others that didn't make the cut), this year would've been completely fucking awful, instead of just kind of fucking awful like it was. Games are always there to pick up the slack and make things a little better, thankfully. This year in particular was outstanding, and that doesn't even take into account the excitement of the new console launches. Not that there're too many things to play on them at the moment, but it's nice to finally have the sexy new hardware of the PS4 in my hands. Those slanted edges....mmmmm....Uh...what? Sorry. So I present to you, with NO controversial choices and shocking absolutely NO ONE, my top 10 games of 2013!

10. Papers, Please

I have a confession to make. I haven't actually played the full version of this game yet, although I fully intend to. I played the beta when it was released and was just completely enamored with it. Just the very idea of a game where you work the border checkpoint of another country is so bizarre and intriguing, but the fact that this concept was somehow turned into a video game that's actually really fun and engaging proves the sheer genius of developer Lucas Pope. I can't wait to hop into the full version sometime soon.

9. BioShock: Infinite

BioShock Infinite was a disappointment to me, but not a big enough of one to keep it from my top 10 list. What it does well, it does VERY well. The art style is jaw-droppingly gorgeous and the city of Columbia is as fully realized as the original game's Rapture. Imagine if Disney World's Main Street was floating in the sky and was filled with even more magic and graphic violence than it already is, and that's Columbia. It's a fascinating place to wander around and it begs for every corner to be checked, even if there won't necessarily be something useful there.

There are two strong characters in Booker and Elizabeth, and watching them interact and their relationship unfold is really great. The story goes to some fascinating places and dabbles in some themes that aren't all that common in video games. The final 20 minutes totally fried my brain like a big ol' egg, and while I though the concept of the ending was way better than the execution, I loved how unexpected it was and the fact that it still made some sense. I just didn't really care for how so much information was presented to player all at once.

Unfortunately, the gameplay part of Infinite isn't as great as everything else about it. While better than the original BioShock, and even BioShock 2, the shooting doesn't feel on par with some of its other peers, and the combat itself isn't nearly as dynamic as that early trailer presented it as, nor does it employ a need for strategy and tactics quite like the first game. And overall, there's just too much of it. The skyhook stuff is underutilized and not nearly as fun as it should be. The Handymen are among my least favorite enemies in recent memory, being a huge pain in the ass to fight. Then there's the awful, broken, and beyond-frustrating boss fight against Lady Comstock. That singular battle put a real bad taste in my mouth that I won't soon forget. So yeah, BioShock Infinite is a better story than it is a video game, but it's a damn good story.

8.Warframe (PS4)

This is a weird one. I've never played any free-to-play games with any amount of commitment, but when I got my PS4, I thought I should give Warframe a good try. Good thing I did, because holy shit is this game great! I'm generally against the business models in FTP games, but I've played over 20 hours without spending a single penny and have been having a blast. This game is basically the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer, except way faster-paced and in procedurally generated levels rather than confined arenas. It does take awhile to get new gear without spending money, but it's not impossible and has proven to be sufficiently rewarding.

Sadly, the framerate suffers significantly whenever the game is played with others, and there are a lot of systems and mechanics that the game doesn't explain to you at all, so I ended up playing for a good 9 hours or so without knowing how to craft or get new weapons without buying them, but once I figured everything out, it was wonderful.

7. Battlefield 4 (PS4)

It's pretty crazy that the game has been (still is?) broken for as long as it has, but despite that, I've been loving my time with BF4 on the PS4. I loved BF3 on the 360, but it's amazing to finally play a Battlefield game in all its proper 64-player glory. I don't appreciate all of the balance changes and such they've made (could vehicle weapons be anymore underpowered?), but the core action remains intact and is the best it's ever been. And hey, the campaign wasn't terrible, either! At least I actually finished it unlike BF3.

6. State of Decay

State of Decay is about as close as a game has gotten to my dream zombie-survival game. It has a piss-poor framerate and numerous unsightly, occasionally hilarious bugs, but it's so ambitious and offers so much content for its meager $20 asking price that it's somewhat forgivable. Running from big hordes, fortifying buildings, and smashing absurd amounts of zombie skulls provided some good times, while having to rescue the same handful of people from my group every 10 minutes did not. The perma-death of characters added an interesting element too, but was easily avoided once I learned to play super cautiously. State of Decay is a really cool and interesting experiment and I can't wait to see what else Undead Labs can do if this game is any indication of their talent.

5. DmC Devil May Cry

I love the original DMC games in all of their ridiculousness, never having finished the incredible DMC3 due to its punishing difficulty. This Ninja Theory reboot wasn't something I expected to love, but it stole my heart. The combat is as smooth as butter while being as deep as it needed to be. Mastering the on-the-fly switching of all of the weapons and their combos was total satisfaction, while the difficulty felt perfectly fine-tuned. Never quite too easy and never reaching the insurmountable heights of some of the older games. They even somehow made the platforming elements fun, something this series was never good at. There are a handful of brilliant set-pieces and boss battles to round everything out, so it's not really a bad thing when I wish there were more of them.

I also played this game four times in a row, something very few games have ever compelled me to do. I hope Ninja Theory gets another crack at this series because their first entry showed a ton of promise.

4. Grand Theft Auto V

It's nice to finally have a GTA game that I can say I truly and honestly love, besides the original at least. I really liked certain parts of GTA IV, parts that had very little to do with its dated combat and stiff driving controls. I never played enough of the GTA III trilogy to say one way or the other how I really feel about them, either. While GTA V does little to change their established formula, it still ends up getting so many things right. For one, while still not perfect, the driving and shooting are the best the series has seen. The game's main and supporting cast are brilliantly portrayed and superbly acted, with lovable psychopath Trevor probably being my favorite character of the year.

Los Santos is a massive and richly detailed world that is quite an accomplishment itself. Popping on a good pair of headphones and listening to all the ambient city noises while driving around was strangely one of my favorite gaming moments this year. The story was compelling thanks to the characters, but sadly the heist sequences were few and far between and didn't make good use of the mechanics they laid out near the beginning of the game. That's maybe my biggest complaint about what is otherwise a near-masterpiece of a game. Unless of course we're talking about GTA Online, which turned out to be a major dud. But it's really a separate entity so I can't hold it against GTA V.

3. Saints Row 4

Saints Row has basically become the antithesis of GTA in the scope of open-world action games. Where GTA tries to craft a realistic world where the player must abide by certain rules, Saints Row throws all that in the trash and takes a huge steaming shit on it. Saints Row IV is the the most ludicrous and absurd entry in the franchise thus far, and that's precisely what I love about it. It's so fucking dumb and it embraces its stupidity to the fullest extent.

The introduction of superpowers like throwing fireballs and running at superhuman speeds, rending cars useless, makes the gameplay a blast. This is one of,if not the best playing game you'll find in this genre. Traversing the world is so fluid and fast that it encouraged me to find every last one of those collectibles, which is not something many games can pull of. Combat is chaotic and almost too easy in many cases, but who cares when you have dubstep guns, giant purple dildo bats, and nuclear explosion-inducing stomp attacks?

I've come to care about its insane cast of characters in a way I never thought possible. The glorious return of Johnny Gat is just one of many highlights. And Keith fucking David! Oh man, he is perfect in this game. The badassness of my cartoonish Jason Statham-like version of the Boss (with the cokney voice, obviously) can't be overlooked, either. And the game's filthy sense of humor is so endearing that I hardly think of it as being dirty in any way. It's just genuinely funny. In fact, this is the funniest game I've ever played. Props for making me laugh hard enough that I had to put my controller down for a minute or two. Most movies don't even get that out of me. Saints Row IV is a video game-ass video game and only cares about the player having fun. Volition are geniuses at this stuff, and wherever they decide to take this series, I'm already on board.

2. Metro: Last Light

Toning things down from open world mayhem, let's take it to post-apocalyptic Russia in 2034. Metro 2033 is game I loved to death no matter its rough spotst. The bleak atmosphere was spot-on and immersed me like few games have. Metro: Last Light was one of my most anticipated games of the year, and it delivered on nearly every front. It retains that same atmosphere, but polishes the gunplay and stealth mechanics so that you can move seamlessly between silent throat-slitting and guns blazing action without much trouble. Guns feel weighty and impactful, and enemies actually get hit when you shoot them! 4A Games really took all the criticisms of 2033 to heart and made sure they did everything possible to rectify them. Except for the enemy AI...it's still not great.

The best parts of the game are the one's involving the horrifying mutated creatures and the tension that fighting them, or not fighting them in some cases, brings. Driving a custom car down the track through a tunnel alone while being chased by nosalises, or the heart-pounding boat trip through the underground swamp come to mind. These and all of the other set-pieces are wonderfully executed. It's unfortunate that the story gets kind of silly in the final act, and it doesn't quite wrap up how I was hoping. In the end, though, Metro Last Light provided me a stunning, unforgettable experience that many more people should allow themselves to have.

1. The Last of Us

And here we are, my number one game of the year. The Last of Us is literally the reason I bought I PS3 in the first place, so I'm especially glad it turned out to great so I didn't spend all that money for nothing. It accomplishes so much and falters so little that the game seems to be the result of some sort of divine intervention. But nope, it's just the fucking masters over at Naughty Dog, perfecting their craft.

The game admittedly didn't click with me immediately, but a few hours in, I came to love the gameplay. The stealth mechanics don't always work, but I find that it's more fun when everything goes tits up and you're forced to fight your way out. The combat has a frantic sense of urgency and desperation not quite like anything else out there. This is in part due to the amazing animation work. Not just in the combat, but in the general gameplay of walking around, and the cutscenes which contain the most convincing facial animation I've seen. This is aided by the impeccable performances from Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, who play Joel and Ellie respectively.

Both of them are the crutch of TLOU's story, and it simply wouldn't work without one nor the other. I feel comfortable saying that not only does this game have the best story in zombie-related anything, but one of the best told stories I've experienced in years. It's consistently dark and grim and it never loosens its death grip on you. It's a deeply personal tale and it wants you to feel everything the characters do, and it works, damn it! In an industry where games are constantly set up for sequels and treated as products rather than try and maintain any kind of artistic integrity, the ending of The Last of Us is both incredibly risky and very satisfying, because it actually was in service to the tone of the rest of the game and the behaviors of the characters. It's hard not to appreciate it for that at the very least. This game feels complete in every way. Other developers should take many things away from this game and Naughty Dog. Particularly, if you're going to make a big budget AAA game, THIS is how you fucking do it.

Other games I enjoyed that deserve mention: Cry of Fear, Resogun, Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon, Nuclear Throne, Super Puzzle Platformer Deluxe, 10 Million, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

My 'Late to the Party' Game of the Year

Dishonored

There were a few games from last year that I didn't get around to until this one. Arkane Studios' debut gameDishonored was the one that grabbed me the most. Made by some of the minds behind Half-Life 2 and Deus Ex, I couldn't NOT like this game, and I was right. Everything about it got me right out of the gate. The stealth feels perfectly tuned, and there are so many ways to complete some objectives that it leaves a lot of room for experimentation. Not mention that the combat feels unique and really fun. I avoided combat and killing as much as I could in my first playthrough, but started a second one where I just murdered everyone. I didn't get that far into the second playthrough, but it's a hell of a lot of fun, make no mistake. The game also has a great, kind of whimsical art style and some interesting world-building that I didn't expect. My attention was taken away from Dishonored before I could finish my second playthrough or even get through all of the first DLC, but my time with it was time well spent. I would be very welcome to a Dishonored sequel.

Runners-up: Binary Domain, The Witcher 2, Hotline Miami

Go Fuck Yourself, Aliens: Colonial Marines

So I really only played 2 games this year (that I can recall) that I would actually consider bad. One of them is Knack, which I enjoyed a smidge, and the other is the far more blatantly awful Aliens: Colonial Marines. I actually expected something out of Aliens. I know it had a troubled development history, but Gearbox was riding high on the success of the wonderful Borderlands franchise, and they can't really be blamed for Duke Nukem Forever, a game which I didn't really hate. I had real hope for Aliens. But man....MAN. Not only did the game turn out to be 50 shades of shit, but Gearbox straight up lied about its development process and then pretended like nothing was wrong. I still find that mind boggling.

The worst part is that there are moments where the game shows immense promise, but it's held back by horrid enemy AI and animations for the Xenomorphs. On top of that, much of the game is spent fighting other humans. But anyway you look at it, combat in this game is just not that fun and the whole thing feels half-assed and unfinished. The story, meant to take place right after the events of the Aliens film and serve as an actual canonical sequel, is equally as lazy and even more convoluted. Then there's the multiplayer, which seemed like it could've been the saving grace of this pile of shame. After spending about an hour with it, it becomes abundantly clear that no time was spent trying to balance the xenomorphs or soldiers, the former were weak and inferior to the latter in almost every way.

Even amidst their refusal to acknowledge their royal fuck-up, I hope Gearbox secretly learned some lessons from this debacle. I know I did.

Sorry, Guys

My sincerest apologies to Rayman Legends, Tomb Raider, Brothers, Gunpoint, Rogue Legacy, Gone Home, Outlast, Antichamber, Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus, and the console version of Resident Evil: Revelations. I was not able to get to you this year, but I will try my damnedest in the months ahead.

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My Favorite Games of This Agnozingly Long Generation

So here we are, nearing the end of what seems like a never-ending console generation. The longest one so far, actually. It's undoubtedly been a wild ride, full of excitement, surprises, disappointments, innovation, and tedium. This generation has yielded its fair share of both instant classics that will likely go down as some of the greatest of all time and steaming shitburgers that were forgotten 2 weeks after their release. Either way, the past 8 years (well, 6 years since I've only owned an Xbox since 2007) have brought me great joy and endless memories. However, this is not without frustration, especially over the last 2 years or so. The age of the tech is showing, even as developers put in commendable efforts to work around their limitations. I don't know about you guys, BUT I'M READY FOR NEW CONSOLES. This is the first generation where I will be able to afford and personally buy myself a shiny, brand new console when it first comes out, and goddamnit, I'm going to do it, first-run bugs be damned. We all know that special feeling, the joy and excitement of setting up a new console. It's been so long since I've felt that that I refuse to not take part in it this November.

But really, before we head into this brave new world, I'm here to outline my personal favorite and best gaming experiences, to briefly revisit some nostalgia and because I just have a weird thing for listing things out. I guess none of this is in any particular order, but I'm going to start with games that have been released this year, because there have been a surprising amount that immediately clicked with me in such a way that I feel comfortable putting them among the 'best'.

Grand Theft Auto V

Yeah, I know, it may be early to be calling this one of the best games of the generation. But here's the thing...it IS. The game is fucking amazing. I haven't even finished it yet, but the mission design, character work, and gameplay are the best they've ever been in the series. I liked IV, but I can tell you right now that it is not one of my favorite games of the generation. Even when it came out, it didn't play very well and had severe pacing issues. Also, the last mission can go fuck itself a thousand times over. GTA V has its shortcomings for sure, but the things it does best it does so well that it makes it seem like none of that shit matters. If GTAV is this generation's last hurrah, then what a way for it to go out!

The Last of Us

Naughty Dog may well be my favorite developer around. I have very fond memories of playing all the Crash Bandicoot games as a child, and the Jak series is among my all-time favorites. The Uncharted games are technically impressive and have outstanding writing, characters, and bombastic set-pieces that invoke the biggest, dumbest summer action blockbusters. The gameplay, however, left a sour taste in my mouth, which is why I cannot include any of them on my list in good conscious. The Last of Us appears similar on the surface, but it terms of pacing, mood, and action, it is the polar opposite of Uncharted. It has one of the best told and most gripping narratives I've seen all year, not just in gaming but in all media. It ended up being so much more than just another zombie game. The gameplay took a little getting used to, but the action is intense, tough, and when it wants to be, very unsettling. I love the hell out of this game.

Saints Row IV

Saints Row IV is absolutely 100% pure uncut fun. That's all it strives or aspires to be, and it does it gracefully and stylishly, without any pretension. You can call it an overpriced expansion or DLC if you want, but then fuck you. Fuck you hard. You can't put a price on this kind of entertainment. Volition knew exactly what they were doing with this game. They took every convention of modern open-world action games and streamlined them to make sure that it was accessible and easy as possible to get into and keep on going. Just getting around the world is a total blast. The combat is chaotic in the best way possible. And all this is to say nothing of how sublime the writing and gags are. There were two moments in this game where I was laughing so hard I had to put down the controller. Therefore, I believe this is funniest game ever made, as no other game has ever done that for me. I don't laugh easy, either.

Metro Last Light/2033

I'm going to lump both of these games together just to keep things as concise as I can. Metro 2033 is the definition of a diamond in the rough. Its amazingly crafted oppressive atmosphere and interesting gameplay mechanics carry it a long way, but anyone who's played the game knows that it has quite a few issues. For one, just playing it isn't that fun. The combat is floaty and the AI is incredibly shoddy, not to mention the endless list of bugs the game launched with. I couldn't NOT love it, though, as it still did so many things right. I loved just being in the world, and the story had the perfect amount of ambiguity to keep it interesting without making the player feel lost. Last Light fixed so many of the first game's issues, most notably the combat. It was actually really fun and responsive, the way a modern FPS should feel. The AI, however, didn't seem to change at all. The last act of the story, I felt, was rather silly in comparison to everything that had come before it. But still, Last Light had some incredibly intense and terrifying moments, as did 2033, and they are some of the most memorable titles I've played all generation. Any horror fan should give these a shot.

I think that covers the newest stuff. It's been a real solid year, and by virtue of being here, I would say these are my top four favorite games of the year. But I'm hardly done yet! Let's dig into the past several years. This is going to get long...

Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 1 & 2

These are some world-class arcade-style shooters. The first game nearly ruined my life for awhile when i first played it. For what seemed like a couple of months, I was obsessed with getting huge scores, and I would get so fucking angry at this game that it would make the Hulk blush, though I don't know how well you'd be able to tell that. I'm not proud of it, but hey, it happened. What I AM proud of, though, is S-ranking this mother. One of my proudest moments in gaming, because that shit is HARD. And this game is still fun. So is the sequel, which added five new game modes and local multiplayer. It was an awesome party game. I really hope that somehow, somewhere, another one of these comes out. RIP Bizarre.

Half-LIfe 2: Episode 2

Can this really be counted as a separate game? I don't care, because I want to talk about it anyway. It's not really a 'console game', but it had simultaneous release for all its platforms in 2007 (holy shit, its been that long...) and I consider it part of this generation. Half-Life 2 is my favorite game of all time, bar none, and Episode 2 is easily the best part of that whole saga. It's not terribly long, but it wastes no time in throwing the player into another highly immersive, detailed environment to traverse. It is the most expertly paced of all HL2 installments, and it contains a tremendous amount of variety. The set-pieces are inventive as usual, and the story has an incredible ramp up towards the end. As overused as the word 'epic' is when it comes to describing games, it perfectly describes the exhilarating and heart-racing final battle. Then there's the ending...the one thing that truly makes the wait for next HL game feel like torture. It's a dark and depressing cliffhanger that raises the stakes higher than they've ever been prior to this gut wrenching moment...it happens and then it's over. It's beautiful and horrible at the same time. In many ways, I think Episode 2 is one of the most perfect gaming experiences out there, let alone of this generation.

Fallout 3/Fallout: New Vegas

I spent an unhealthy amount of time with both of these games, though I know a lot people have me beat. I think I played about 300 hours of 3 across 4 characters. I didn't play New Vegas as much, but my main character was over 120 hours, more than any single one of my dudes in 3. I can't resist the worlds of these games. They perfectly capture a dirty, grimy post-apocalypse atmosphere and are a joy to explore for hours on end. I've always felt 3 was way more rewarding for exploring random places, while New Vegas had the better story and way more quests and other things to do. They both have their pros and cons, and they both have their mix of horrifying and hilarious bugs, especially New Vegas. The DLC for these games was some great stuff, too. Point Lookout was the highlight of 3's DLC for me. Anyone remember that Chinese spy quest? For New Vegas, the Dead Money DLC was like playing an old-school survival horror game with Fallout mechanics, and I loved every second of it. Anyway, both of these games kick ass, and their jank lends them a lot of charm (except for getting a couple dozen hard locks..that's not at all cool). Fallout 4 can't come soon enough.

F.E.A.R.

I may just be including this out of pure nostalgia, but whatever. This was the first 360 game I bought, and my first venture into real online gaming. I'd played a lot of Red Alert 2 years before, and dabbled in some PS2 online games before, but this was a new beginning for me as a gamer. I loved the multiplayer for this game, and soon after playing I amassed a crew of online friends that I would get together with to play with every night. To speak more of the game itself, it's damn good, and while it may not hold up as well today, I still think it's a solid game. I never found it especially scary, but it was certainly moody and chilling at times. The enemy AI Monolith devised is still impressive to this day. FEAR also has what is perhaps one of my favorite video game shotguns. That thing is devastating and comes along with a satisfying report. The combat in general is fun to watch, just because of the smoke clouds that form from hitting walls. The whole thing looks very cinematic. Admittedly, I think F.E.A.R. 2 is a better game, but I just don't have the same memories or feelings tied to it.

Condemned 2: Bloodshot

Another Monolith joint and everyone's favorite hobo-murder simulator. Condemned 2 is a fucking BEAST of a game. I can't say enough good things about it. I will admit that the first is maybe a little more consistent with its tone, as it never tries to become a straight-up FPS by the end unlike 2, but 2's highs are so unbelievably and breathtakingly good that it's very much the better game. I also didn't really find the first game scary, but 2 has some scary shit, man. Going through that abandoned hotel for the first time is unforgettable. They also managed to make some really neat puzzles out of the game's detective sections. It felt like a true survival horror game. No game has managed to do first-person melee combat quite as well, either. You feel every single hit, and some of those executions are downright nasty. Of course, I would be remiss not to mention the infamous bear chase sequence. Everything about that part and the surrounding moments are gaming perfection. If you haven't played Condemned 2, you are really missing out. I can only hope that one day, Monolith will get to conclude this series with something at least as good.

Borderlands

Fucking Borderlands, man. Another game I put an absurd amount of time into. I followed this game since its initial reveal on the cover of Game Informer, where it sported a realistic art design and a more traditional open world. Randy Pitchford described a lot of exciting features in that article that didn't quite make it into the final game, sadly. Needless to say, the game was quite different from what it was originally described as, but I quickly got over my disappointment and embraced what it had become. I think it was my first real loot-driven game, and it had me hooked. The endless rewards, the unique and appealing art style, and the goofy sense of humor all worked in concert to create one of my favorite experiences of the generation. It was also supported with some amazing DLC. As for the sequel, well...I think it is technically a better game in almost every way. Better graphics, better story, better characters and writing, more possibilities for loot. But there are some fundamental design flaws in the loot system and combat that keep it from being as fun as the first in high-level play. I still love it, but since Gearbox refuses to do anything about its issues, it's not the game it could be.

Darksiders

At face value, Darksiders is a highly derivative action game in a long line of highly derivative action games, but that really undermines the magic that lies within. Taking heavy inspirations from the likes of the Zelda and Devil May Cry franchises, Darksiders is an epic adventure if there ever was one. There's a lot of combat, puzzles, and, big boss fights, all of which feel just finely tuned enough to feel rewarding and fun rather than impede your progress to the point of frustration. There's a solid story to back everything up, and one of the most badass, fist-pumping endings in all of video games. It's a shame that the sequel squandered all of that potential and ended up being a massive let down. But the state of Darksiders II does little to affect my love of the first. I've never really been a Zelda fan, so it's nice to have that kind of adventure wrapped in mechanics I can enjoy.

Max Payne 3

Max Payne 3 may very well be the best third-person shooter I've ever played. I've written all my thoughts on the game before in my review of the game, so I won't go into great detail here. Everything about this game jived with my tastes perfectly. The combat is brutal while the story and characters are tight enough to rival any movie. James McCaffrey's performance as Max is unparalleled and solidifies him as a true legend. This is all coming from someone who has a lot of reverence for the first two games, too. They are among my favorites, and despite being so different from them, MP3 just works because Rockstar know what the hell they're doing. I hope this is not the last we see of Max, but even if it is, I'd be fine with that. This is the highest of notes to go out on.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

The original Deus Ex is a top 10 game of mine, so imagine my delight when this long awaited prequel is finally released and it manages to keep just about everything great about it intact. DEHR managed to avoid falling into the trap of trying to streamline and modernize everything about it to appeal to a wider audience. It is a decidedly old-school game with a shiny coat of paint. It has the most fully-realized cyberpunk world I've seen in a game thanks to its stylish art design and moody electronic score. I loved just standing around looking at the gorgeous cityscapes on occasion. The story is really solid and curiously relevant, and the player is given such a wide amount of choice that it really warrants replays. I'm eager and excited to see how Eidos Montreal can top this in the coming generation.

Mass Effect

The first Mass Effect is something quite special. It's hardly a perfect game, but it has a lot of heart and inspiration, and the new world it creates is authentic as can be for a space opera. There is so much rich backstory and lore than it can feel overwhelming, but if you don't delve into that, even knowing it's there makes a huge difference. The story is grand and the start of something huge, something that unfortunately doesn't deliver a worthy payoff by the end of the series. The sequels are certainly good games in their own right, but BioWare made a lot of questionable decisions along the way that held the series back from its full potential. The first Mass Effect will always have a special place on my heart, but it will likely be remembered as what could have been instead of what was.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Call of Duty 4, aka The Game That Ruined All Video Games Forever. Okay, that's kind of harsh, but it's closer to the truth it is far. Yes, since its launch in 2007, CoD4's influence has been felt far and wide in games of all genres...but that's not a good thing. I'm not going to bitch too heavily about my feelings towards the game and the series as a whole right now. I'll just say that I loved this game when it came out. The campaign was crazy and the multiplayer was unlike anything I've played before. Now, it's like everything I've played in the past 6 years. I have a lot of disdain for the series now, and what it did to games in general, but it is what it is, and it doesn't change how I felt about 4 at the time of its release.

Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 is my favorite competitive multiplayer game of the generation. I adore Battlefield's design philosophy, mostly how there are multiple layers to every battle and how it encourages teamwork to get things done. Battlefield is essentially a giant game of rock-paper-scissors, and that's awesome. Those signature "Battlefield moments", you know the ones, are what kept me coming back. It's a shame that more games don't try to embrace this kind of dynamic design, but then I suppose that's what makes these games really unique. I've attempted to play BF3's campaign 3 times and have never finished it, so....yeah. That's not what I'm here for. That's not what anyone is here for. But it's there in case you want a CoD campaign with better gun sound effects.

Left 4 Dead & L4D2

The Left 4 Dead games offer a one-of-a-kind co-op experience, the kind of experience that brings friends together and then immediately makes you hate them and blame them for fucking your shit up. Seriously, despite all of the copycats out there, nothing has come close to offering what L4D does. The memories I have of playing these with my core crew are some of the best. They offer endless hours of tension, laughs, frustration, and anger, all of it good. Another one of my proudest gaming moments is getting that infernal 'Nothing Special' achievement. Holy shit, I went through hell and back to get that fucking thing. If you haven't played L4D by now, then shame on you. L4D1 is kind of obsolete now that all of the maps are on L4D2, unless you don't want to play them with those annoying new special Infected from 2. These games will never not be worth playing, though.

Bioshock

This game blew me the fuck away when I first played it. It was hauntingly beautiful and irresistible as that lighthouse beckoned me out of the water. The story to follow, at the time, was the best I've seen in a game, and it's still up there. The combat situations had a lot of freedom, and even though the mechanics weren't necessarily up to snuff, discovering all of the ways to take down a Big Daddy were always a huge draw. The sequel was fine, nothing to write home about, though its mechanics were improved. Infinite is one of the biggest games this year, and while I liked it quite a bit, I don't consider it one of my favorite games of the generation simply because it didn't give me the same sense of awe and wonder as the original. The ending is still conceptually mindblowing and maybe my favorite thing about it.

Red Faction: Guerrilla

Damn, I'm tired! But here we are at the end of this obscenely long blog. Red Faction Guerrilla...a hell of a game. I'd go so far as to say it's the most underrated game the generation. The technology that fuels it is spectacular and amazing but criminally overlooked. Seriously, how the hell did this game not get huge? Why can't GeoMod be in more games? This is the best destruction engine out there, hands down. The game itself is solid, too. There is a perfectly serviceable story nestled in this open-world action game. The game is structured very similarly to the first two Saints Row games, making sure you have a lot of things to do besides just finishing the main story. Most of the game's objectives are smartly designed around destroying the living shit out of everything in sight, and that never, ever gets old. Especially in the multiplayer. The MP in this game was AWESOME, man. For some reason, Volition and THQ shot themselves in the foot by releasing Armageddon after this, which wasn't a bad game, but didn't offer near the same experience as Guerrilla. Now THQ is gone and Volition no longer own the IP, leaving the future of the series in uncertainty.

Well, if you actually read all of this, then thank you. Really. But what the hell are you doing? If you just looked at my list without reading all or any of what I had to say, still thank you. Just thank you less.

I'm so glad this generation is about to be over. BRING ON THE NEW CONSOLES, BABY.

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The Best Games Ever! ...According to Me: PARASITE EVE II

I would like to take the time today to talk about one of my favorite games of all time, Parasite Eve II. Now I know the original Parasite Eve is generally held in higher regard than its sequel, but you know what I say to that? FUCK THAT SHIT. Parasite Eve II is where it's at, baby. You may be wondering "why the hell is this game one of this clown's favorites?". Well first of all, fuck you for calling me a clown. Second, if you would calm down, I would gladly explain.

The guy on the front left gives no fucks about turning into goo.

It's not that I don't like the original Parasite Eve, because I actually love it, despite never having completed it. It was the first disc-swapping game I had ever played, and I didn't understand the concept of leaving the PlayStation ON to swap discs. So the farthest I got in PE was the end of the first disc because I was too stupid to figure out how to start the second one. I was eight. Give me a break. I've wanted to play the game again for years but just never did anything about it. So I guess that'll never happen. Oh well. It also taught me about mitochondria. Well, kind of. If you asked me tell you exactly what happens in Parasite Eve, all I could say that every other goddamned word is 'mitochondria', people bleed out of every orifice in their body until they are reduced to puddles of orange goo, and that a lot of weird science shit happens. I don't think there's really much more to say about it, to be honest. And they say video games have no educational value. Pfft.

Fast forward three years. I remember reading an issue of PSM that previewed the second game, and suddenly becoming completely ecstatic at the idea of playing another one of those. Being a huge Resident Evil fan, I had no idea of the surprise that was in store for me. That brings me to the major difference between the two PE games, and the reason most fans seem to prefer the first. Parasite Eve II is, for all intents and purposes, a Resident Evil clone. It straight up lifts the tank control scheme that the survival horror genre was known for, and does away with the 2D-plane controls the first game had. It also throws in a real-time battle system and a shitload of ridiculously contrived puzzles. I bought the strategy guide and read through a lot of it before the game came out, but actually finding out what this game was exactly when I had first played it...my head almost exploded.

A face not even a mother could love.

Okay, calling it a straight 'Resident Evil clone' is a bit harsh, or at least I think so. It still retains a lot of what made the first game unique. There's still plenty of the aforementioned weird science shit, and there are still customizable weapons, armor, powers to upgrade, item shops, stats, and numbers flying off of baddies when you shoot them. I wasn't too into RPGs back when these games came out, and they were kind of my introduction to the genre. I really like RPGs now, or some of them, and having just played PE2 to completion for the first time in probably twelve years (and the first time without cheat codes...I miss you, GameShark), I have a new-found appreciation for it. A more apt moniker would be "Resident Evil: The RPG", because that is exactly what this is.

What stuck with most about the game is the enemy design. The creatures you face in this game are fucking bizarre, almost every last one of them. A variety of humans and animals mutated into disturbing, grotesque monstrosities by their mitochondria...or something. Watch this, what is one my most unforgettable moments in gaming. These are some of my favorite enemy designs of all time. For as many pages as it takes from the survival horror genre, I would not call PE2 scary at all, but it gets by with its supremely unsettling monsters. There're weird horse-camel-dogs with human faces, ugly babies, and sometimes just giant baby heads that roll around towards you, torsos with grinning faces and one limb that they use to fling themselves at you...it's all batshit insane. Oh, and there are bats, too.

And then there are the bosses. OH MY GOD, THE BOSSES. There are more than a few in the game, and some of them are absolutely massive and intimidating as hell. The boss designs, as well as the fights themselves, are some of the best parts of the game. In particualr, the "Burner" boss, or "Cannon Mouth" as he is apparently sometimes called. This is one of my favorite boss fights ever. Even his intro is fantastic. Before he arrives, the player is treated to what the game is perhaps most known for:

When I was 11, this was wonderful. Hell, it's still pretty nice now, I'll admit it. But then THIS motherfucker stomps into town to crash the party.

Yeah, I know some of you may laugh at that ridiculous elephant noise he makes, but that shit is downright bone-chilling.

The Glutton is another great boss fight. While not as big as the Burner, he's still quite large, and also makes a horrifying sound that will haunt your dreams and likely make you shit your pants in your sleep. Though if you kill him the "right" way, you are awarded with what I think is an unintentionally very hilarious death sequence for the poor guy. It lessens his scariness a bit.

The combat in the game is simple, but fun and can be rewarding if you have the right equipment. It initially appears simpler than that of Resident Evil's combat, since you auto-lock on to every enemy. As the game goes on, it becomes apparent that each enemy has its own strengths and weaknesses, and each combat scenario revolves around using the correct weapons and Parasite powers to manage the enemies effectively. After each fight, a screen pops up with your EXP and money gained. I'm a sucker for numbers, so this is probably why I like the combat so much. There is no dodge button, though. There are a lot of parts where I really, REALLY wish there was a dodge function of some sort. Some of your foes are fast as shit, and have attacks that are nearly unavoidable with the admittedly clumsy tank controls. Anyone trying to play this today with little to no prior experience with this control scheme is going to have a rough time. Overall, I don't think the game was as hard as I remembered or thought it would be going in, but like I said, I almost always used cheats when playing games like this back then. The last section of can get downright brutal, however. The first form of the final boss is butt-fuckingly infuriating if you don't have the most powerful weapons in the game, too. It should be noted that I did not have the most powerful weapons in the game in my recent playthrough.

This is exactly what it looks like.

I would be remiss to not mention the puzzles. Another thing the game ripped right from survival horror games, because there were none in the original PE. Puzzles are a huge reason why I love the genre so, and the ones in PE2 are so wonderfully stupid that they fit right in with Resident Evil's and Silent Hill's obnoxiously contrived brain-teasers, and in some cases, shows them up. I have a special fondness for puzzles that make you write shit down on a notepad to come back to later, and most of PE2's require you to do just that. The thing is, some of them would be a hair shy of impossible for most people. Unlike RE and SH, where the clues are in plain view and at your disposal, many of the clues in PE2 are hidden in the environment, and you have to scour every inch of the per-rendered backgrounds to find them. In one case, they are even MISSABLE. I can't imagine what I would've done if I didn't have the strategy guide back when I first played this. They require you to do things like count the number of urinals in the town and circumvent a computer virus that rearranges passwords. Most of them aren't that diabolical, but the ones that are could have you racking your brain for awhile. But this is the kind of absurdity that I revel in, even if I end up having to look up the answer. Before I started playing, I told myself I would not refer to the guide for the solutions. In traditional me-fashion, my patience eventually grew thin and I cheated on the last 4 or so puzzles. I should work on that.

There is a lot to love about Parasite Eve II, especially if you're like me, or even better, you ARE me. There's a good bit of malleability in the story, with three different endings. There is also a pseudo-New Game+ to unlock, as well as higher difficulties where they throw end-game enemies at you from the start. I had never tried my hand at any of these new modes until just recently beat it. I died on the first level and gave up. The bit of Japanese weirdness thrown in elevates it even more. I mean, there are about seven lines of spoken dialogue throughout the entire game, aside from various grunts, cries and screams, and they stick out like a sore thumb when everything else is text. I admittedly have little experience with SquareSoft games from that era, so that could be a totally normal thing for them that I'm oblivious to, but come on..it's still kind of hilarious.

I would love to see a third PE game (please...Third Birthday does not count). Or would I? What would a real sequel even be like at this point? I'm certain it would not be what I want it to be. Not like it would ever happen anyway. I'll just have to be content with what I already have. I have no idea where PE2 stands with me when it comes to the old-school RE or SH games, but it definitely pulls off a few parts of those games more impressively than they do, which is enough to make it ONE OF THE BEST GAMES EVER...according to me.

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One Last Song...

Yesterday did not go according to plan. I came home to a horrible piece of news that totally blindsided me. The unthinkable happened. I'm still having trouble wrapping my brain around Ryan's death. It's really weird that this made me realize how much I cared about Ryan, and care about everyone at GB, really. For the past 4 years, they've been my primary source of entertainment, laughter, and all-around joy. Even though this site, like all other websites, has its fair share of bullshit, the sense of comradery in the Giant Bomb community is like nothing else, and one of the things that makes this place special. I stuck around for probably the same reason everyone else has: the personalities that run this crazy place are profoundly endearing and addicting.

Ryan, in particular, was extremely intelligent and had this amazingly quick-witted snark. This, coupled with the fact that he was ridiculously funny in just about every way made me love him instantly. He was a gracious and masterful host of everything Giant Bomb did. This kind of made him the face and voice of GB even a little more than Jeff for me.

Giant Bomb has been more meaningful to me in the last year and half than before. I've gone through some terrifying and turbulent depression that has been the worst part of my life, and there was a time when new GB content was the only thing I was looking forward to. It was the only thing to keep me going, the only thing to put a smile on my face and make me forget about how fucked up I was for a few minutes at a time. It was awful beyond words and I'm scared to death of going through it again. But I've always felt that I would be at least a little bit alright if Giant Bomb was there for me. This place has become about so much more than just video games. It's become one of the reasons I love living, because it just reminds me of how much happiness there is to find in life.

The sting of Ryan's passing is a pain I haven't felt in a long time, or really ever. People I've loved have died, sure, but I wasn't as emotionally mature as I am now, and it didn't impact me the same way as death does now. In a way, it's a more comforting pain than the shit I've gone through during my depression. I know why I'm crying, instead of just coming home and bawling my eyes out for hours and not understanding why. I find solace in knowing that this wonderful community cares about this place and its staff as much as I do, as weird as it may sound.

The amount of joy I've gotten from this site, and Ryan especially, cannot be properly expressed through words. As someone who is going to college for journalism right now, Ryan is a significant influence on me. Not even just from a professional viewpoint, but from a personal one, too. It's not hard to tell that he loved life and wasn't afraid to be himself 24/7. He had an infectious personality and an even more infectious laugh. Hearing a man talk and watching on camera for hours every week for over four years, you feel like you really get to know him. Losing Ryan is like losing my best friend I've never met. I even stole his tattoo. I was heavily contemplating getting a tattoo last year, and just when I thought I had it figured out, I discovered what Ryan's tattoo meant (for those who don't know, it's "mom" in binary) and I thought it was a brilliant idea. I pitched it to my own mother and she really liked it, and I ended up getting it last October as part of her birthday present. Now it has taken on another meaning, serving as a sort of memorial for Ryan. I was looking forward to meeting him one day and thanking him in person, but I'll never have that chance...

Ryan, I never met you, but I know you were an amazing person just from how much happiness you brought me. You were a world-class motherfucker and stone-cold pimp. The impact you and the rest of Giant Bomb have had on my life can't be overstated. If there's another side, I know you're there right now and that your presence made it a whole lot more fucking awesome, just like it did here. I'll miss you. Rest in peace, brother. This one's for you.

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An Eye-Catching Title To Get You To Read My GOTY Blog

 
            So 2012 is just about done, and while it is only a matter of hours until we are all undoubtedly eradicated by whatever cruel fate the Mayans predicted for us over a hundred years ago, I thought "What better time than this to jot down what matters most?" Obviously, it would be my top 10 video games released this year! 
Now I wouldn't exactly call this a stellar year for gaming, as least for me personally, but there were still a number of stand-out titles, a few of which I feel strongly about, and some which I liked enough to use to pad out this list. Some simply left a feeling that can only be described as 'meh', and there are a couple that were downright disappointing. But here are my:
 

                                            Top 10 Games for Two-thousand and Twelve


 

 
 
 

10. Hitman Absolution

           I never really got as into the Hitman series and much as some may have, but I have always appreciated it. Most of my experience with it comes from Hitman 2 and a good chunk of Contracts. Maybe that's why some of the changes in Hitman Absolution don't bother me that much. For something I wasn't even originally planning on playing, I enjoyed a lot of this game, and there are plenty of classic Hitman moments to satisfy. Even though it has a dumb story, awful checkpoint/save system, and some occasionally bone-headed AI, Hitman Absolution, surprsingly (and just barely) makes my top 10. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

9. Journey

          I purchased a PS3 over the summer and while I really haven't played a ton of games on it, Journey was near the top of my list of games to check out. I have only played it once, and I'm not sure if I will ever play it again, but it was a beautiful, unforgettable experience unlike anything else I've ever played. I spent most of my playthrough with one other person and over the course of the game, we developed that strange bond that everyone spoke of. We went through a lot together, but in the final segment, we somehow lost each other and I became legitimately upset over this. Journey is a really neat experiment that gave me something I never expected out of a game, and for that it makes my list.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

8. Dust: An Elysian Tail

           This game caught my eye from the first time I saw it. It proved not only to be (by far) the best of the Summer of Arcade titles, but one of the best games to come out this year. I enjoyed almost everything about it. The beautiful art style, snappy combat, fun collectables, and emotional story come together to form as pure a gaming experience as you can ask for. The only real knock against it would be some of the rather grating voice acting, but it does little to detract from the overall product. It offers a hefty amount of content for the price, too, and 100-percenting it ends up being a good time. What it lacks in replayability it makes up by leaving a lasting impression the first go around.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

7. Mass Effect 3

          Say what you will about the ending but the rest of Mass Effect 3 is pretty good. While still not up to genre standards, the gameplay is much improved from its predecessors. There are a host of memorable missions and emotionally resonating moments, so that has to count for something, right? I had long accepted the fact that this game represents a whole bunch of squandered potential for what should have, by all accounts, been the best game trilogy of all time well before I reached the end. The end is still a massive disappointment, but I was left feeling pretty indifferent about it which, considering how invested I was in the series previously, is almost worse than simply hating it. Still, it's a pretty quality game that I feel is worthy of the top 10.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

6. Silent Hill: Downpour

           Maybe it's just because I've been a huge Silent Hill fan since the original, maybe it's just because I've been desperately wanting another 'true' survival horror game for the longest time, and maybe it's just because I'm insane, but I loved the hell out of Downpour. Even through all of it's problems (and they are certainly numerous), this game stands out to me because it feels like an honest attempt to do something new with the series. Making the town truly 'open' and throwing in weird side-quests that you can stumble across is the most logical direction this series could've gone, and for the most part, that stuff is pretty cool. The game is rich with atmosphere and offers some good scares. And the puzzles! I love me some contrived survival horror puzzles, and this game has plenty of them. They're pretty great, too. There's a reasonably interesting story with some good voice-acting to back everything up. Downpour's biggest downfalls are its actively annoying combat and bland creature design, not to mention the infuriating final level...but man, there are some absolutely brilliant set-pieces and isolated moments, and I simply can't ignore the terror and pleasure this game brought me through that stuff.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

5. The Darkness II

          The switch in developers initially had me worried about what this game would become, but seeing it in action quickly turned those worries into furious excitement. I loved the original, and in some ways it is superior, but the more focused and faster pace of the sequel works in its favor. The combat is simply a joy and the game dishes out buckets of gore by way of some very...let's say 'inventive' executions. The game is about 5 hours at the max, but it manages to feel just long enough while managing to squeeze in a really engaging story that had me hooked through to the end. The Darkness II is a game you can just feel really good about. 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

4. Far Cry 3

           Far Cry 3 manages to fix virtually every major problem with Far Cry 2 while only sacrificing a bit of the game's realism and immersion for the sake of making it more fun. It has a colorful, lush open world teeming with life, much of which wants to end yours. It's one of those games that where its multiple systems and mechanics can work together in unexpected ways that lead to unique and often hilarious experiences. Sadly, the extremely promising first act of the story only sets one up for the disappointment to come. The wasted potential is almost maddening. Many of the main characters are portrayed and voiced so well that it just adds insult to injury. The game's villain, Vaas, is perhaps the most criminally wasted asset, as he comes across as a genuinly menacing, evil dude. In the end, Far Cry 3 still serves up enough chaotic gaming bliss that I just can't help but love it.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

3. The Walking Dead

          I don't think I could say enough good things about Telltale's The Walking Dead. Granted, there are a small handful of bad things I could say, but they are so far outweighed by what it achieves that they kind of don't matter. The story and characters development are executed with a level of precision and care that hasn't been seen before in this medium. I was engrossed from the opening of the first episode all the way to the game's soul-crushing finale. I found myself caring about characters in a goddamn video game more than I even thought possible, enough for when those unspeakably awful moments happened, they stuck with me during the month-long waits between episodes, and the end of this first season is unforgettable. Now, I don't want get into the whole "it's barely a game" discussion but, really, it's barely a game. At least in the sense that it offers any kind of memorable gameplay experience. Apart from choosing dialogue options, there are some very light puzzles and wonky QTE action sequences, and that's kinda it. That's really what keeps it from being higher on my list. Even so, The Walking Dead is a landmark achievement in gaming and should not be missed by anyone.
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

2. Borderlands 2

           I can safely say that after putting several hundred hours into the first Borderlands, that it is one of my all-time favorites. Borderlands 2, honestly, is more of the same, although basically every aspect of it is vastly improved giving it the appearance of feeling totally fresh for awhile. Most notably, it not only has an actual story, but a pretty good one with one of the most memorable villains in years. The action is insane and nonstop and the weapons are even more varied and fun to use. Thanks to the strong writing, there are a good amount of really funny moments to offset the ones that don't quite work, and there are seemingly no bounds to how bizzare some of the characters can get. Like the original, Borderlands 2 has personality and charm in spades making it hard to resist for those looking for something more light-hearted than what the FPS genre usually offers. The poorly balanced single-player and the frustratingly bad loot drop rates reveal themselves after awhile, and that stuff is a real bummer, but it's not enough to keep the game from being high up on my list.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  

1. Max Payne 3

          The first two Max Payne games are something special and they will always be near and dear to my heart. God only knows how much time I spent playing them growing up. Rockstar's take on the series might not be a pill everyone can swallow (har har), but for me, it works on every level. I started out being annoyed by it due to the weird and imprecise console controls, but once I messed with the options and got a hold of it, I was having an incredible time. The combat is some of the most brutal and impactful I have seen in a long time. The Bullet Time mechanic is still fun to use and makes you feel like a complete badass, even if you do have to use it more sparingly than you did in the past games. I found the story and presentation to be utterly enthralling, which is helped further by some brilliant voice acting. James McCaffrey reprises his role as Max and gives what is easily my favorite performance of the year. He has more great character moments than I can count on both hands, and his almost-nonstop commentary and self-deprecating remarks kept me fully engaged in the experience. I played through Max Payne 3's campaign three times since it has come out, and that is something I will rarely ever do anymore, but I felt compelled to re-experience the greatness this game has to offer over and over, and it delivered every time. Max Payne 3 is not without its faults, but I feel pretty secure in calling it my favorite game of this year.
 
 
 

                                                         Biggest Disappointments

 

Resident Evil 6

           Resident Evil, what am I going to do with you? I've been something of a RE fanboy ever since I played RE2 upon getting a Playstation for my eighth birthday. Resident Evil 4 was such a huge departure for the series, but I loved it regardless and consider it one of my favorite games of all time. Resident Evil 5 took the series in an even more action-oriented direction, and while it was still a pretty fun game, it left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. When the first RE6 trailer was released, I was giddy as a school girl going to a One Direction concert. I thought that Capcom had finally gotten it right, that all my worries could be put to rest. 
 
          Oh man, how wrong I was. RE6 is a disaster on nearly every level.  It controls like garbage, with some of the most unwieldy shooting and movement mechanics I've witnessed in quite a while. It doesn't help that the camera feels like it's losing its fucking mind and working against you on a regular basis. There are also constant QTE's, most of which feel unnecessary and out of place. They can require inhuman reaction times that leave you dead if you miss your ever-so-brief opportunity. The game is always ripping control away from the player at the worst moments. Some of the boss fights are so incredibly drawn out that you question if you're even doing the right thing to progress the fight, but due to the lack of any feedback about anything, you're left guessing and using all of your ammo until hopefully something happens. There are just absolutely awful design decisions every step of the way, leaving me wondering how much, if any of this game was play-tested. A very lazy, nonsensical story that does nothing to enhance the ridiculous-but-charming fiction of the RE universe is the creamy frosting on this shit cake. Some fleeting moments of what could be construed as "fun" aren't enough to redeem what surrounds them. But hey, at least it looks pretty, right? Resident Evil 6 is not only my biggest disappoint of the year, but the most disappointing game I've ever played. 
 

Darksiders II

           I loved the first Darksiders. Like, a lot. I've never been a Zelda fan in the slightest, so perhaps it was the satisfying character action combat that helped pull me into this sprawling apocalyptic adventure of epic proportions. The art, environments, bosses, puzzles...all that stuff was great. The game also did a great job of setting up an interesting fiction with some cool characters. It did a better job of hooking me that I had anticipated. The game also has one of the best endings I've seen in a game. It's one of those fist-pumping "HELL YEAH!" endings that leaves you dying to find out where it goes from there. Sadly, where it went was not what I had hoped.
 
          Darksiders II, while not a bad game by any means, still leaves so much to be desired by the end that I can't call it anything other than a disappointment. The fact that it was a prequel was already enough of a downer to me that I went into it with some trepidation, but remained hopeful that Vigil knew what they were doing. Turns out, they didn't. Or they did and just didn't give a shit about telling a good story anymore. The easiest way to describe this game is 'bland'. The dungeons, puzzles, exploration, all bland. The story is insipid as well, which reflects perfectly on the dull and forgettable characters. The last act finally starts getting interesting, but is ruined by a mix of wasted cameos and characters that are introduced as fast as they are taken away. Also, this may be the first game that I would say has too much content. A lot of the side stuff feels like filler and serves to only make the already-poor pacing of the main story even worse. The only true improvement over the original is the combat, and there are times where even that is debatable. Combat is fluid and responsive, but at the same time feels less impactful than it did in the first game. It's good enough to carry the game, however. The inclusion of a loot system is a welcome idea, but it isn't implemented too well and you end up using only a handful of weapons throughout the game.
 
         The end is was really gets me, though. Forget Mass Effect 3 when it comes to upsetting video game endings. The original game's ending showed immense promise that Darksiders II does literally nothing with. It wasn't enough that the final boss is a pathetic anti-climactic pushover. They had to go ahead and make it feel like your entire journey was merely a side story that really had no benefit to being told. I sincerely hope Vigil gets a third shot at the series, because the idea of a four-player co-op game with all four horsemen makes me salivate wildly. 
 
 

                                                     My 2012 '2011 Game of the Year'

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Battlefield 3

Even though I'm just a lowly console gamer, Battlefield 3 is one of my favorite multiplayer games of the generation. I love the feel and sound of the guns, the constant progression, and sense of true teamwork the game gives. The game did come out late last year, but I feel like even if it came out earlier, I still would've poured in just as much time into it this year. It's an easy game for me to obsess over for about a month and put down for another month or two before coming back to it. The prospect of experiencing one of those "Battlefield moments" is too alluring for me to stay away forever. 
 

                          2012 Games That I Didn't Get to Play But Would Still Like To

 
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