I made a pretty good dent in this backlog of games (part 1)

At the beginning of 2014 I made a promise to myself to finish a whole bunch of games that are sitting here unplayed. Like any project I undertake I began with a list, and that only made me more depressed. There were 43 games that I haven't completed yet, not including the unreleased games and new announcements that are happening every other week. We are now a third of the way through the year and I've only managed to complete 16 games. I'm hoping to finish the whole lot before we are bombarded with more games this holiday season.

I'm going to quickly review all of these and follow up later again in the year. I may have won the battle, but the war against this massive backlog is still not over. I'm doing this mostly for me but feel free to tell me how wrong I am about these games.

Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

If this is truly the last Zelda of this type, it's a great way to go out. I never played A Link to The Past but that didn't detract at all from the experience. Phantom Hourglass is my favorite Zelda game (yeah I'm not the biggest fan of the series) and that's probably why I like this game so much, overhead Zelda is just better! The music, the dungeons, the non-linear approach, the story, everything about this game is wonderful in its execution and simplicity. Bare-bones but finely crafted is the best way to put it.

Alan Wake

Something about the controls irked me all the way to the end. I see what they were going for but I would have preferred a stiff 3rd person camera rather than the weird floaty changing-sides-every-other-minute over the shoulder view. Ah yes, the story was pretty good, but it really dragged on towards the end. Besides a few cool encounters, most of the fights were pretty tame and not worth it. A cool premise but they fumbled on the execution.

Rainbow Six Vegas

I loved Rainbow Six Vegas 2, the sequel to this, but playing the story backwards was really weird. Both these games are a little too similar to each other, down to the UI and music, but both are extremely solid games. I like me a brainless shooter but I much prefer having to figure out how to take out a room of baddies tactically without getting shot up. I'm really hoping something new finally comes out this year with the words "Rainbow Six" on it. It's about time Ubisoft.

Pokemon X

This was my first completed pokeman game (I was big into the cards, never the games) and I finally understand what all the hype is about. Capturing the monsters, building your ultimate team and then becoming wold champion is a universally awesome concept that is brilliantly executed here. Yeah it's probably waaaay too similar to the other 12 pokemon games but you probably already knew that.

Zelda: The Wind Waker HD

As stated above, overhead zelda games are preferred, and even playing what is arguably the best zelda game of all time didn't change my mind. I'm not saying that this is a bad game, in fact it is very good, and made even better with the changes in the HD version. I had a ton of fun exploring the dungeons and killing the bosses, but being stuck in the empty overworld not knowing what to do next was awful. I thought Hyrule field was pretty empty back in the 90s, but this is almost even more pointless. The story was pretty good tho!

Batman Arkham Origins

You have to really really really like the Arkham gameplay to excuse the "been there done that" feel of this game. It's not bad, but this is the third time I've cleared this room of bad guys by way of stealth or violence, and it's gotten very stale. I found all the secrets in AA and AC, but I couldn't be bothered to do a single side mission in this. Also there are massive game breaking bugs (such as loosing all your progress) that left a really bad taste in my mouth. So not only was this a stale saltine, this saltine also had some mold on it.

Prototype 2

There's nothing really bad about this game, besides the dialogue, but there's also nothing that makes this stand out, even in a genre that isn't as overplayed as this (open world superpower games are nowhere near as prevalent as shooters or racers). It's not a stale saltine but it's not sirloin steak either, it's just mac-n-cheese: simple and quick. It ends and you're just left with a big "eh this was okay" feeling.

Fable Anniversary

I adored the original game back in the day, and this HD remake proved to me that it was more than just nostalgia. Yeah the game never lived up to the promises made by a certain British gentleman but it was still a solid action adventure game at the end of the day. The combat is simple and the story is nothing too special, but I still managed to do every side quest and find every secret because it's so much fun to just be in Albion.

Mario and Luigi Dream Team

Yo fuck this game! It starts off great with your typical Mario story but with RPG elements that are really fun and dialogue that is clever and humorous. Then it drags on for 40 hours, and you skip all the witty dialogue that pops up every 5 steps, and you restart every battle on easy mode because you're sick of the combat, and you throw your 3DS on the ground because the big boss battles aren't battles at all but rather long quick-time events that you need to perfect otherwise you need to restart the whole sequence all over again, and then you lie on the ground crying because you're 35 hours in and still haven't gotten the power that lets you break boulders. This is the polar opposite gameplay of South Park Stick of Truth.

Thief (2014)

It's really weird when your first playthrough of a game takes you 16 hours to finish and then you second playthrough takes less than 4 hours. Talk about padding the experience out....This game isn't bad or anything, it's just that the overworld is poorly designed and the story is boring nonsense. If you liked previous Thief games you're probably going to hate this. If you love Deus Ex Human Revolution this will seem like a real B-Team type of game, and if this is your fist experience with a stealth game you might go "huh this is alright, I wonder if other stealth games are better?" (yes they are).

Titanfall

This is the closest I've felt to reliving my Call of Duty 4 days. Titanfall is pretty bare-bones but the simplicity is what makes the experience. I don't feel overwhelmed by weapon upgrades, kill streaks, weapon levels, perk upgrades, attachments, etc. Yes know there are a ton of these types of games that are simple and fun but I've yet to find on that lets me call in a giant mech from the sky. And the fact that you're never more than 3 minutes away from one just adds to the crazy hyped up feel of this game. It truly feels like Call of Duty on crack, everything is running at 110% speed at all times. This is how CoD4 felt back in 2007; when most other shooters were about slow ass weapons, and slow ass players scoping each other out on oversized maps, Modern Warfare came in and gave you big assault rifles, gave you fast movement speed and put you in small maps and let you fight it out to the bitter end, and even if you died you could still fuck someone over with martyrdom.

Metal Gear Solid 2

It's weird that "Raiden" was the reason so many people fell of Metal Gear after this game and not the shit gameplay. The controls in this game are probably the worst I've ever dealt with, and the "stealth" is nothing more than a huge distraction until the next boss fight. Nothing about being stealthy is important to the game or even matters because in the end you're in a big arena fighting some...thing....and the amount of enemies you've killed or left alone doesn't matter at all. And it's certainly not a matter of "play it how you want mayne" because you can't play this as a shooter or anything else either.

Metal Gear Solid 3

Which brings me to my next point: Even if you made the controls slightly better, and made the stealth actually matter, and made the levels more than just one oil rig, it still doesn't make the series any more fun. The story and characters are still lame, the gameplay is now even more boring and the bosses are somehow worse than before. I thought I was done and shouldn't bother with the next game in this HD pack, but then something happened....

Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker

That thing was a game that actually game me options. I had the option to use different controls, I had the option to be stealthy or shoot up the place (and survive), I had the option to play with others, I had the option to go and level up before redoing a hard boss. This game is awesome, and it only sucks when I'm stripped away from having options and am forced to play a scenario in only one way (like MGS2-3 does). Maybe through attrition I finally began to like the story and characters but something finally clicked and now I'm excited for new Metal Gear, something I would have never said had I not experienced Peace Walker.

Dark Souls 2

If you've played Dark Souls before you'll know exactly why this game is awesome or why it sucks. If you haven't, well then I'm not good enough with words to explain it to you. It one of those games you need to experience to know if it's for you. For all of you Dark Souls fans, all I have to say is that Shrine of Amana is just bad, there's no excusing the design of that area. The rest of the game is awesome and much more accessible, which I really enjoyed. I finished this in 35 hours, and now feel way more prepared to finally finish Dark Souls Uno.

There's More to Come

And that's it up until today, March 29. I've still got a lot more to go, and I'll probably follow up in 3 months or so to see if I've made any real progress. The shotgun approach may not be the best way to formulate thoughtful opinions about games, but this backlog is something I need to get rid of, I just have to...

Thanks for reading.

P.S. Here's the rest of the backlog:

-Viva Pinata TIP

-Hitman HD Collection

-Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

-The Orange Box

-Super Mario Galaxy

-Dark Souls

-Forza 5

-Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze

-Paper Mario Sticker Star

-Lara Croft & the Guardian of Light

-Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

-Super Mario Galaxy 2

-Zelda: Skyward Sword

-Final Fantasy XIII

-Dead Island

-Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

-Battlefield 4

-Bravely Default

-Donkey Kong Country Returns

-Dante's Inferno

-Bit Trip Runner 2

-Castlevania Lords of Shadow

-Wolfenstein

-Civilization Revolution

-Perfect Dark

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I'll just talk about every game I played this year

I know how you like it GB, raw and to the point. So here it is, simply every game I've played this year that I can remember. There are spoilers, you've been warned.

2013 video games I've played

Dead Space 3 This game was not the shit show certain people will have you believe. It was a weak Dead Space entry and all the combat scenarios were getting real tiresome by the end. Fighting a big zombie moon was as stupid as it was awesome. Not doing anything to stand out was this game's weakest point, otherwise it played well and had no glitches. I did play through this 3 times in a row so maybe I liked it more than other people....

Crysis 3

Well....the multiplayer was fun, but I can't remember a single thing about the campaign besides it freezing after you beat the final boss. Because of this stupid bug I had to beat the last boss 5 times...that shit is fucked. They improved on what was a solid but problematic multiplayer in Crysis 2. That's really all I can say about Crysis 3.

Tomb Raider Honestly I was impressed by the first showing of this and was even ready to play the QTE interactive movie that was that E3 demo, but it was even better than I expected. It had a cool story, great set-pieces, good controls and fun puzzles. There aren't many things I can complain about here....hopefully Tomb Raider 2 has more tombs to raid.
Gears of War: Judgment I'm one of the few who actually likes the Baird character, so this was right up my alley. It's really different from gears 1-3 because it prioritizes score and single segments of campaign over a larger narrative story. All the shortcomings were a bummer (bad multiplayer suite) but I'd had my fill with Gears 3. If you can find this for cheap and you like Gears give this a try, just don't spend $60 on it.

Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon

Having never played the first, I had no idea what I was getting into. Turns out Luigi's Mansion is one of the best Mario Spinoffs. It's so much fun to just explore every little secret in this game. There are some framerate issues here and there but it never affects the gameplay.

BioShock Infinite This game....I don't care how wrote the whole "multiverse" premise was, it was still awesome. Guess what, Mass Effect 2 didn't exactly have the most original setting or plot, but it was still superb. Seeing baby Elizabeth's finger get severed because of Booker's bad decisions really hit me for some reason. This game was also way more fun to play than Bioshock, so there's hope that the next thing this studio makes will be even better in terms of gameplay.
Metro: Last Light I found Lenin's tomb in the post apocalyptic Red Square. Now imagine if they made a game on the scale of Fallout 3 set in Moscow where you could go anywhere and explore 860+ years of history.But I can't fault a game for not being what I want it to be. Luckily even if it is another Half-Life derivative shooter, it is still an amazing game. It looks great, it plays great and has an awesome story. One of the best games of the year.

Resident Evil: Revelations

I never played RE4 so I can't hate on this game for being yet another failure to reproduce the magic of that game. I can however complain about how dumb the story is in this....like holy shit if there was a category for worst story, this would be up there.

Luckily the gameplay is solid, if you have a couple of podcasts lined up and want to shoot some zambies this could entertain you for a few hours.

GRID 2

I pretty much like everything codemasters has made this generation, but they've never been able to get me into the multiplayer in any of their games. Like every other game, I played the singleplayer to 100% completion and put this game away. It's almost sad in a way....hopefully one day they'll make a multiplayer racing game I'll enjoy.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

I dunno, I haven't really finished this game yet so I can't speak too much about it....

Just fucking with ya, it's animal crossing ya'll. It's on the 3DS now. You're the mayor now. I really don't know what to say....

I guess it's cool I can go on that island and pay off my house in one beetle catching trip.

Saints Row IV Talk about trying waaaay to hard to recreate a magical moment. This is the Marshall Mathers LP 2 of videogames.
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified It's like a more complex Mass Effect combat system with allies that are completely useless. I ended up liking this more than I should, but it simply isn't worth $60. Read up on the ending to this, it's maybe as dumb as the ending to Dead Space 3 (before DLC).

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist

I loved Conviction, but I feared that now Splinter Cell would never return to the days of Chaos Theory. Turns out I was wrong. It still doesn't have the suite of abilities that made Sam feel like an unstoppable badass in Chaos Theory but it's getting there. I was seriously scared that they would drop the ball like they did with GR: Future Soldier but they did good.

Rayman Legends This is how you make a good 2D platformer. Getting stuck in a game like this because you're unable to beat a section is the worst! Also this is just super fun to play and look at. Oh and those musical levels are so amazing. I don't know if I can find a bad thing to say about this.... ...Okay when you finally get a million lums you get naked Rayman....talk about bullshit. In the words of Chief Keef: That's that shit I don't like!

Grand Theft Auto V

The fact that this game runs as well as it does on such ancient hardware is in itself an achievement. I still enjoyed the story in GTA 4 but the gameplay was so much better this time around; If I'm in the mood to just fuck around in a virtual city I'll grab this over GTA 4 any day. The story is nowhere near as good as some of the games Rockstar has been releasing recently but the gameplay is probably the best it has been yet.

Pokémon X/Y This is the first pokemon game I really played fully, and I now see why it's so popular and addictive.It's pokemon yo. The new pokemon aren't (literally) garbage or ice cream cones anymore. Froakie is awesome, and getting a bike and XP share super early makes this so much better than the old pokemon games I've dabbled in.
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag I started off hating this game. I felt duped. I promised myself I wouldn't fall for another Assassin's Creed and here I was tailing dudes, hiding and waiting for the little awareness circles to vanish. However after a couple of hours of blowing up forts, plundering ships, climbing towers and hunting animals I ended up falling back in love with this game. Its got just enough peripheral elements to make me less pissed about yet another "tail this guy" mission. I'm not big on pirates but I still like the setting, and by the end I really enjoyed the story of Edward Kenway.
Battlefield 4 Talk about disappointment. It's not even the fact that the game crashes every 30 mins. that bums me out, it's the fact that it's just Battlefield 3.1.1 and not actually Battlefield 4.This is an expansion pack to Battlefield 3. There I said it. I spent hundreds of hours playing BF3 and Bad Company 2, I don't want to play those games anymore.... I did however spend 10 hours playing Bad Company 2: Vietnam last week....which is....ironic?
Super Mario 3D World This is like the Crayon Pop of videogames. It's simple and fun. It doesn't ask much of you. Just sit back and enjoy the pretty pictures and fun platforming. What else do you need?Hey if watching cute Korean girls Mario jump around and dance stomp goombas doesn't do it for you then I understand, but there is no denying the fun this game can bring to the table if you're wiling to accept it.Fuck the last level tho, that shit is stupid hard. They could at least give you one checkpoint....

The Last of Us

This just isn't for me. I'm down to watch some heavy stuff when it comes to movies but I play games to have fun, and Last of Us is no fun.

"But that's the point!" is not a valid excuse that will suddenly make me like this game. By the time I had to shoot my way out of that hospital I felt like just giving up and watching the end on youtube.

It had some great characters and a solid narrative, but the fact that playing this felt like a chore really detracted from the overall experience. Also the story blew it's load in the intro. No other part of the story felt as poignant as that opening sequence.

It's been a solid year overall, maybe not as strong as 2007 through 2010 but still a strong showing of games. The 3DS had an amazing year as well, hopefully this trend continues.

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I played these games a lot this year

So that makes them my favorites right? That's how that works correct?

So here they are. Unlike in many years past where I could play a game once and make up my mind about it, this time I found myself going through games multiple times just to figure out what it is I liked about them. At one point while playing through Max Payne 3 for a third time I could no longer just sit there and say "eh this game is alright I guess". Something was pushing me to play these games so much. So I did a bit of soul searching and managed to make a list that resembles a GOTY list.

Mark of the Ninja

Ninja > Assault Rifle

Look at that dude. His insanity tattoos are way cooler than Jason Brody's. I love stealth games and this is one of the better ones on the market. This game does drag on towards the end, but once I finished the mostly forgettable story I went right back in and started playing missions in new ways with new toys but nothing was as satisfying as beating every level without killing anyone ever. I beat the game once, then I beat it in NG+, then I went and got all the suits and am now working on getting every seal. I spent a lot of time as a virtual ninja this year.

Syndicate

Get up buddy, so I can murk you

I really like this game. If Syndicate is the tip of the spear on this "sci-fi future shooters" then I welcome the next 5 years of futuristic murder simulators. But what makes this special is the cooperative gameplay. Once I beat the bland singleplayer I found myself replaying the co-op over and over and over. With a team or with randoms, with or without voice chat, I found the experience consistently enjoyable. It's a shame nothing came of it and the sales were so poor. I want more of this and I can only play the same few levels over and over again before I master them. I spent a lot of time in the corporation controlled future this year.

Trials Evolution

Geronimo!!!

There is almost nothing as satisfying as crossing that checkered line and seeing attempt number 436 in the top left corner of the screen. As frustrating as this game seems sometimes, it's never cheap. It rewards patience and technique better than almost any other game around. Once I completed the hardest track in the game, after my 200th attempt or so, I went right back and tried to gold medal every track. Then I found out you can get platinum medals too and proceeded to fall deeper into the Trials wormhole. I also didn't help that there are literally infinite user created tracks too. I spent a lot of time on a virtual bike this year.

SSX

I secretly wish this game actually had guns.

I completely understand if you were disappointed by this game as an SSX fan; there was no multiplayer to speak of and that's a big bummer. But that wasn't me. My last snowboarding game was 1080 Snowboarding on the N64 and this game just brought back all those awesome memories. The descents were great, the music was awesome, the controls were fluid and the autolog inspired "multiplayer" kept me coming back to beat my friends....records. It was so satisfying to be number one on your friends list after trying to beat their score for hours and hours. I spent a lot of time on the virtual slopes in 2012.

Forza Horizon

You should probably slow down before you hit that crowd

If you told me a new Forza game that came out just a year after Forza 4 would be one of my favorites just a year ago I would have laughed in your face. Many open world racing games don't work for me because there are just way too many events and they are all way to similar to one another, but with Horizon I found myself racing and enjoying every.single.event. without exception. Once I ran out of things to do and cars to buy I proceeded to play online against others and had a ton more fun. Safe to say I spent a lot of time in virtual Colorado this year.

Mass Effect 3

Is that supposed to be Shepard?

There was a lot to be disappointed about in Mass Effect 3 but there was a whole lot more stuff to be stoked about in the final chapter to one of this generation's best trilogies. As much as the ending bummed me out, I still went right back in and played again as a giant douchebag Shepard, then as a Ice Cube lookalike, then as an adept, then on insanity and so on. Yes I like ME2 more than ME3 in almost every aspect but when compared to other sci-fi RPGs, Mass Effect 3 is still an awesome game that plays well and has cool characters and settings. Despite the many hours I've already spent playing ME3 I'm still dying to see what that final DLC is and I want nothing more than to play this game again with all the DLC and new ending. I spent a gang of time traveling through the galaxy this year.

Darksiders II

It's weird that "death" is in better shape than I am....

Darksiders wasn't exactly a game I enjoyed or even wanted to finish at one point in time. I eventually finished it and found myself really liking it's dark take on the Zelda concept. However I was extremely glad when Vigil games threw all that bullshit out the window and started fresh with Darksiders II. This game outclasses Darksiders in almost every area if you ask me. The gameplay is much more fluid, the enemies are better, the environments are cooler and the music is absolutely fantastic. Jesper Kyd did some of his best work here, it's such a shame that so few people got to experience it. I beat this game twice, found all the collectibles, beat all the bosses and got all the achievements and still wanted more. I hope Vigil continues this great series after all this THQ business is over. I brought death to a lot of dudes this year.

Far Cry 3

Mission of the year?

I hated Far Cry 2....at first, but then I went back to it, learned its many intricacies and minimized my bad design moments and ended up kinda liking what Ubisoft did. However Far Cry 3 pretty much fixes whatever problems I had with FC2 and does so much more. Yeah the story is mostly pointless (I still liked it though) and some of the enemy AI is downright laughable but everything else is so great. The shooting, the missions, the driving, the open world, the drugs, the fire, the wingsuit, the takedowns and the awesome characters all come together to craft what is one of the funnest experiences of the year. I spent way too much time hunting for collectibles in the south pacific. I totally understand now what Ryan meant when he said he was disappointed that there wasn't more to do in Saint's Row the Third.

Max Payne 3

That skyline....

This is the game I spent the most time with this year. I played through the story three whole fucking times, then beat the New York Minute challenge, got every single grind and then proceeded to play the solid multiplayer for many hours. I'm not sure what hooked me so bad; was it the shooting, the story or the characters, or a combination of all three? Whatever it was I loved every minute of Max Payne 3. The haters will give me a million reasons why this game is a pile of flaming garbage but their arguments will always fall of deaf ears because love is greater than hate, and love is blind, and none of that makes any sense, just like my love of Max Payne 3.

Halo 4

I secretly wish this game had snowboards

My love of Halo pretty much only extends to the games themselves and not the extended fiction. If anything I would rather read the Gears of War wiki pages that anything related to the Forerruners. Yeah I enjoyed the narrative of Halo CE, being trapped on a mysterious world and discovering it's many secrets made for cool premise, as simplistic as it may have been. But when Halo 2 tried to tell me what was really going on I could not care less. This is perhaps the reason I enjoyed the setup of Halo 4 so much. You were the master chief and you were being sucked into a weird metal planet. Simple and elegant, a story for the ages. Yes what happened between the librarian reveal and the second to last mission in terms of story was garbage but Halo 4's strength lies in its gameplay being able to overshadow all that nonsense. It may not be your favorite flavor of shooter, but it is definitely mine. Very few FPS games are able to provide this level of satisfaction when it comes to shooting dudes in their alien faces.

Notable Mentions

  • FEZ: it was alright, it didn't grab me.
  • Sleeping Dogs: I did not like this game and it's lame story
  • Black Ops 2: probably is the best multiplayer since COD4 but I just couldn't be bothered anymore
  • Dishonored: It failed to deliver
  • Assassin's Creed 3: The honeymoon phase is over; get out of those sweatpants and put on some makeup and maybe I'll call you again
  • Hitman Absolution: I actually liked this, but there were better games this year.
  • Ghost Recon Future Soldier: What happened Ubisoft?
  • Borderlands 2: This is the secret 11th game on this list. Congrats on making it this far. Borderlands adds wonderful variety to a formula that is fun and addictive. No longer will you see the same desert for 60 hours and no longer will you fight some of the lamest bosses in video game history. I salute you Gearbox, and now humbly ask you to finally release a new god damned Brother in Arms game....pleeeaaaase I'm dyin' over here.

I didn't play Journey or The Walking Dead, I ran out of time. Also Driver San Francisco is my 2011 game of 2012 and I'm really excited for Metro Last Light, Bioshock, Gears of War Judgment and new consoles in 2013. Okay that's it have a happy new year duders.

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I made a blog about games I'm excited for back on Jan. 1st, 2012.

What's the year been like since? Looking back, I can't say everything went according to plan. There has been some delays, some silence from the games media, some poor reviews and some "cancellations". The year is not over though, and some news from E3 definitely gave me a lot to think about. Honestly this blog would have made way more sense back in June or July but I do what I feel like, so August 10th it is.

Here's the original blog: http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/vinny_says/what-im-looking-forward-to-in-2012/30-89636/

1. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

What was said: From what I've heard so far, this game is an Oblivion clone in 3rd person without the completely open world. Sounds like a mix of Elder's Scrolls and Fable, and I'm down for that. It's supposed to come out early 2012 but I believe Skyrim will release DLC at the same time and it would be a shame for me to forget about this. Rich is always talking up this game on the bombcast so it's time to see if there's anything there.

Well we all know how this story played out. It's a bummer that the entire staff was laid off because from everything that was said about KOA one could say this game was pretty good. I wouldn't actually know because I haven't played this yet. I have played that Skyrim DLC though. From Jeff's and other people's reviews the whole "fable meets oblivion" thing turned out to be kind of true. A large world with plenty to do but not exactly an open map. The thing this game does very well (again, from reading reviews) is the combat and that's the one thing that still makes me want to play this, everything else just seems generic to me. I can say that the hype came and went pretty quick, and I feel slightly responsible for people loosing their jobs. Then again, I'm not the one who forced them to work on a MMO for years and years.

2. Syndicate

What was said: One time Jeff came back from a preview and said it was a bit like Deus Ex, that's good enough for me. I have no previous history with the series, I seriously have no idea what it is but apparently this announcement pissed off quite a few people.

This I actually played, and boy was it good. Maybe it's the fact that absolutely nothing else was out at the time but I had so much fun with this. I have no prior history with the franchise, but I still felt like I knew what was up. The atmosphere was done well, and the missions were fun and engaging. The best part though was the co-op; all the upgrades, the mission variety, the difficulty settings and the awesome weapons make for probably some of the best multiplayer of 2012. Unfortunately reaching the level cap comes pretty easy, and a lack of DLC didn't help. Overall this was a pleasant surprise; like I said I was excited but only because it was going to be kinda like Deus Ex, it was actually way more than just that.

Oh and those weapon sounds....this and BF3 are up there when it comes to the "feel" of firearms. Now the only thing BF3 needs is a sniper you tilt in close quarters. Genius!

3. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier

What was said: It's about time this came out, seriously what the fuck has Ubi been doing to this game? I've seen it in a million different states and each time it looked worse and worse. Honestly I'm more excited to see the result rather than play it. This is my Duke Nukem Forever.

So this is what Ubisoft has been making this whole time? I remember so many things from E3 and previews and I swear none of it made it into this. Remember when the bombcrew was talking about a multiplayer mode where you got active camo if you stood next to a sniper? What the hell happened to that? What happened to all the cool stuff?

I'll be honest, this game is average at best, it's really nothing special. It's no Duke Nukem Forever but if I compare this to the original PC Ghost Recon it might as well be. There are some stand out moments, like the stealth mission in a Russian base but the rest was just your run of the mill "let's save Russia from internal strife, because we are American and we love being the world police"....but without the awesome open maps and squad management that made the first game awesome. Also the faces looked like garbage.

4. Mass Effect 3

What was said: I'll be honest, I'm scared to play this. Scared because I have 2 characters in ME2; one was my original playthrough of ME2 without a previous save and the other is the Shepard that's been through ME1 and ME2. I want my first ME3 game to be the true story of Shepard but I feel like I'll miss out on stuff, stuff like Wrex being there because he was dead in ME2....It's a confusing mess but my excitement remains everpresent for the series.

Oh brother....do I really want to open this can of worms? I'll just say that I played as my ME2 Shepard, finished it, saw the ending, then played it again to get all the achievements. Yes everything was wrapped up a little too neatly (except a few things), but really that's what we wanted and that's what we got.

5. Borderlands 2

What was said: Borderlands was ssssoooooooo boring, holy shit was it ever boring...but somehow I spent 50 hours playing it, alone. I'm excited because I know Gearbox will take the original complaints and its shortcomings and will make Borderlands 2 the greatest game ever made. Weird how these things can work out...

Every time I see footage of this I get more and more excited, it seems like Gearbox are just doing whatever they feel like with this game and that's a philosophy I can truck with. I'll probably end up spending my 50 hours playing solo again and that's how I want it, and with the news of infinite levels I might just end up spending more time than that.

6. Assassin's Creed

What was said: This is really the last chance I'm giving this series. If it's not Assassin's Creed 3 then I'm done. I love Assassin's Creed, I love the original and it's glorious setting (perhaps the greatest setting in the history of videogames), I love AC2 and the myriad of improvements they made to the series. I love ACB and it's refinement of the AC2 formula and I even love Revelations despite it's lack of innovation. The ending to Revelations sets up AC3, not another spinoff...get it toghether Ubisoft!

Logic prevailed in the end, and we finally get the proper third game of the beloved Assassin's Creed franchise. I still don't like the annual sequels but I reeaally want to play more Assassin's Creed, and with the reveals since January, I reeeeaaaalllyyy want to play Assassin's Creed 3. I mean c'mon! A native dude fighting templars in the middle of the american revolution? Awesome, just awesome.

7. BioShock Infinite

What was said: This is a game I'm looking forward to playing today, but ask me again tomorrow and I'll tell you how this game looks super stupid. Bioshock was a true achievement in games. I wasn't as impressed at the time but looking back I can easily say that it is a masterpiece. I have a feeling the team responsible for it can do it again, I just wish they had named this something else.

Today? Today my feelings on this game is that it's probably going to be a disappointment. Ask me again tomorrow and you might get a different answer. It sucks that this was delayed, but there are probably very good reasons for Ken Levine to hold this back. Will this be received like Bioshock was back in 2007? We'll just have to wait until 2013 to find out.

8. Far Cry 3

What was said: This right here is my most anticipated game of 2012. I never played Far Cry but I did play Instincts and it was glorious. Far Cry 2 had the major issue of playing like shit until you figured out the right way to play it, which is the worst thing a game can do. Far Cry 2 lacked the "trapped on an island and must survive" formula that made the previous games great, which doesn't seem to be an issue here. I'm looking forward to sneaking up on dudes and breaking their necks...

Nah man....those boobs were....artistic brah.....it was art.

Hey at least this game has a release date, so that's a positive. I still want to play this, but I'm hoping the whole game is a drug induced fantasy and at the end you find out you're just a dude who did too much meth and fell into the monkey cage at the zoo.

9. Grand Theft Auto V

What was said: Worst kept secret in videogames in recent memory. In a world where SR3 has managed to nail the over the top antics of GTA SA it's going to be interesting to see what Rockstar has cooked up for us. Will they continue the serious tone of GTA4? Will they revert to the crazyness of San Andreas, and if so will it take a piss on Volition's best game or just look like a sad attempt at humour?

So I'm just going to come out and say it, as much as it pains me, this is probably not coming out in 2012. That trailer confirmed our suspicions about the setting, but told us nothing else about the game. If I had to guess, this game will stick with the "serious" tone of GTA 4 but we'll have to wait until 2013 (or later) to find out.

10. Hitman: Absolution

What was said: I loved Blood Money more than I had any reason to, and it's been a while since Agent 47 was in a video game. I remember watching "how not to play hitman" on gamespot.com, those videos were awesome. A recent trailer had the youtube comments proclaiming stuff like "RIP Hitman" and "Well there's another series killed off" so we have yet to see what this game is truly about.

So we got the gameplay in chinatown, then we got the nun trailer, then we got the confirmed chinatown gameplay at E3, then we got the "the nuns aren't part of the game" news, then we got the gameplay where you assassinate those jocks and then we got the "the nuns are part of the game" news. I'm not sure what's going on in the marketing department over at square enix but what I do know is that this game is coming out this fall and I really want to play it.

11. Halo 4

What was said: This is still called Halo 4 right? They should change that. Iconic series like this one aren't often just given to a brand new develloper with the intent of starting a whole new trilogy. I'm excited to see what 343 studios will acomplish with Halo....4....ugh what a dumb name....

It looks like they aren't going to change the name of this game.....oh well. At least all the footage they have shown has been solid. An entirely new campaign for John and Cortana is exactly what I want, and as launch day creeps closer and closer it seems like 343 is doing exactly what needs to be done to Halo.

12. Max Payne 3

What was said: Wait actually I don't care about Max Payne, why is this on here? Oh right because I'm an idiot and will simply buy anything that has a Rockstar logo on the box.

After playing this, I actually do care about Max Payne, or at least more than I did before. This game was really divisive, and the vitriol from some of the people on the internet was really crazy. So far this game is probably my favorite game of 2012; I played through it 3 times and got hooked to completing those mini challenges, and had a lot of fun playing the multiplayer. It's impossible for someone to spend as much time with a game as I did and not like it. I hope the shooting mechanics and refinements find their way into GTA5. So far Rockstar games' record is perfect this generation (yeah that ping pong game was pretty cool).

13. Metro: Last Light

What was said: Metro 2033 is an amazing game, especially when played entirely in Russian. More games should just let you play in the native language of it's characters. The struggle for survival of the Moscow citizens is something I want to experience again, few game can manage to pull off a feeling of helplessness quite like Metro does.

Just go watch that gameplay footage from E3 and be amazed. It sucks that this game is also delayed but at least the devs confirmed that I can play the whole thing in Russian. I still can't wait to hit up the Moscow metro and have to scavenge for batteries and filters and ammo.

14. Prey 2

What was said: E3 made this game sound like mass effect 2 where you are a dick for the space police, that sounds awesome.

Yeaahhh....this is probably cancelled. A huge disappointment because I was really looking forward to this. I haven't been this bummed out since they cancelled season 4 of Bored to Death. Being a detective for the space FBI is something I'm still waiting for someone to deliver, unfortunately it doesn't look like Human Head studios will be doing it.

15. Paper Mario 3DS

What was said: I though this already came out. But seriously it's about time Nintendo put out some games. Super Mario 3D Land made me feel slightly better about spending $300 on a 3DS, and I realize only Nintendo will release the games that make me care about the handheld. Stuff like Luigi's Mansion 2 is great but the Paper series is my favorite mario format. If they keep on bringing the games, and finally release the true 3DS Zelda then maybe I will stop proclaiming that the 3DS is a failure...

Paper Mario: Sticker Star is the title we got from Nintendo after E3, and it looks like the they are going back to the RPG mechanics instead of the real time combat of Super Paper Mario. What else is there to say?

It's still a bummer that the 3DS has barely anything worthwhile on after all this time, and my statement still stands to this day. Yeah it's finally making money, but the games just aren't there....

Those can't be the only games you've played so far right?

Well fellow duder, you are right! I did play other things and there were some pleasant surprises and some unpleasant disappointments. Here's a few things I left off my list back in January:

SSX

SSX Cover (Xbox 360)

This was one of the pleasant surprises that came out of nowhere. I bought this on a whim and immediately fell into the addictive routine of beating my friends records on RiderNet. I heard this was also pretty divisive but I was too busy at the time having a blast to pay attention to internet comments. Recently this game added full on multiplayer and there has been some significant updates to the game. If you still own this, dust it off and give it another go; don't listen to what Ryan has to say.

The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings: Enhanced Edition: Arcade Remix: The Lost Tapes

US box art

This on the other hand was one of the disappointments that reared its ugly head about 10 hours into the game. Maybe I was just too caught up in the hype machine. At one point I just didn't even want to finish this at all. I eventually did and was left completely confused as to why so many people called it the game of the century. Maybe I just need to play it on PC....that's what it is! PC has fast travel right?

Alright....so objectively this is probably a good fantasy RPG but subjectively it just seems like a generic fantasy story with boring characters and a lot of boobs. The political aspects would of been so much cooler if not for the dumb magicians and witches, but then again this is a fantasy RPG. I'll give it another go in the future before passing final judgement (because I only did the main quests) and maybe I'll really like it upon a second playthrough.

Darksiders 2

360 box art (cropped)

So back in January I had not yet played the original Darksiders but ever since finishing that bad boy I simply cannot wait for Darksiders 2. Darksiders had its share of problems but it was just so damn fun and set up a sequel so well; Darksiders 2 literally skyrocketed up on my interest meter the minute I finished War's adventure through post apocalyptic earth.

Well that's it for now. Maybe I'll look back at this in December and see how things panned out, unless there's a terrible videogame apocalypse and nothing is actually released....that would suck, but at least the bombcrew can still entertain me with stories of dirty bathrooms and crawlspaces full of scorpions.

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Six Years too Late....Part 2

I recently took it upon myself to play the original Gears of War and see why this series exploded into the phenomenon it is today. This series has always been written off as nothing more than a good 3rd person shooter with no story but the franchise has somehow ended up with 3 games, 4 books, graphic novels, DC comics and a wiki with over 1500 pages. There has to be something about the first game that caused all this. So I drove down to the video game store and bought the terribly named "Triple Pack" after being unable to find a copy of the original (It would look way nicer on my shelf that way but whatever....).

I've finally completed the game and here's part 2 of my thoughts on Gears of War.

Here's part 1

Controls

As I was playing throug the game I could not get over the fact that Marcus can't roll and switch weapons at the same time. Such a trivial thing resulted in so many deaths because each time a Wretch charged me I tried pulling out a shotgun while rolling back but nothing happened and I got killed. The controls are smooth and work well but the sequels improved greatly in this aspect. This was one of the only things I found lacking in the game (besides Horde mode).

Narrative

Seriously, why the fuck did I jump on this train? Like out of nowhere I'm in a train station and have to get onboard a train, no explanation at all. Why was the bomb on a train headed for the locust tunnels? Maybe I missed out on a conversation with Anya during a firefight about how the bomb was already on its way, I don't know. At least in the sequels I could follow along and know why I was suddenly underground, or in a submarine.

Music

Again, the music and score are absolutely awesome. I've already talked about the music in part 1 but I just wanted to say: the combat music on the train level is some of my favorite video game music ever.

Horror?

I know the game isn't promoted as a horror game but a whole lot of the middle part seems like a horror game. An abandoned refinery, scary beasts you can't see, spooky rain, eery music....sounds like a horror game to me. I was genuinely startled in some spots of the game. I wish the sequels had some of that but they were good enough as is.

Difficulty and Final Boss

I'm just going to claim that "hardcore" is the default difficulty (most of the achievements are for the hardcore difficulty) and say that the final boss isn't that bad. I died a few times but then I found his pattern and defeated him. As long as you're quick on your feet you can avoid his troika. There were much more difficult parts in the game and even though I died countless times I was never frustrated, it's rare that a game can do that. Getting killed by a lonely locust after taking out his entire squad might seem frustrating but not to me. The game never felt cheap; if I died it was simply my own fault. I wish more games were like that.

Multiplayer

I was not a big fan of Gears multiplayer until the third game. Everything GoW3 did to make the multiplayer accessible and fun to play for a newcomer isn't in the prequels. You will either hate or love the multiplyer in the original game, there's no real way of knowing until you play. Luckily this isn't an EA game so you can still play online 5 years later. Also there is co-op and it is very good because the game is designed for it.

Final Thoughts

Playing this game answered all of my original questions. I now know why so many people enjoy the series: the first game is fantastic that's why. Epic built the franchise on a solid foundation. Playing through this felt like playing through the original Halo, or the original Splinter Cell, both games laying a strong foundation for their respective categories. If you somehow haven't played any of the Gears of War games this is a good a place to start as any.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed. I want to do this for another older game I come across and see if it holds up as well as this did. Maybe I'll pick up Kameo: Elements of Power and do this again. If you have any suggestions feel free to tell me.

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Six Years too late....Part 1

I recently took it upon myself to play the original Gears of War and see why this series exploded into the phenomenon it is today. This series has always been written off as nothing more than a good 3rd person shooter with no story but the franchise has somehow ended up with 3 games, 4 books, graphic novels, DC comics and a wiki with over 1500 pages. There has to be something about the first game that caused all this. So I drove down to the video game store and bought the terribly named "Triple Pack" after being unable to find a copy of the original (It would look way nicer on my shelf that way but whatever....). I've reached the part where you drive the APC at night and decided to write down some of my thoughts about this ancient game.

The music

One of the first things that jumped out at me was the music in the game. This aspect never stood out to me in Gears 2 and 3 but here it's almost impossible to ignore. Yes it does have the usual "battle gong" or whatever the bombcast called it but the combat music is way better than anything in the sequels, or at least more memorable. The aspect that really stood out was during the quiet moments. When night falls and you're walking through an empty city the ambient music really enhances the post-apocaliptic feeling. The sequels, from what I remember, had no ambient sounds or music during their limited quiet moments.

The graphics

For a game that came out in 2006, I must admit that it doesn't look dated. It's not on the levels of Unchated or The Witcher but whatever lighting trick Epic used makes the game still totally presentable in 2012.

The Kryll

I haven't finished the game but I really want to know why the Kryll aren't around in the sequels. Getting through that city at night was really fun. It made the combat much more interesting in spots. When you can't stay in the dark for more than 5 seconds it really makes you think about where to take cover and where to retreat.

The difficulty

This is the one aspect that feels dated. This game has only 3 difficulty options. Can you believe this? Your options are "Casual", "Hardcore" and "Insane". I sat at the menu for a few minutes wondering what I should play it on. Where was the "normal" option? I was seriously wondering why my only options were easy or hard (insane is only unlocked later). Luckily the "hardcore" option provides you with plenty of challenge, and the combat puzzles really feel like...well....puzzles. Gears has always been good at this so I wasn't to surprised. Some people (Brad Shoemaker) say that the end boss is a pain in the ass but that's for later.

So those are the few of my thoughts on the original game so far. I really appreciate the set up; the military posters on the wall, the stranded, the destroyed cities, all of that really sets up a world where humans are really on the verge of loosing it all. They are still holding on to some weird military regiment but eventually you can see it all about to fall apart and turn into a true post-apocalypse. I'm too early into the game to recomend you to play it (if you're like me and somehow missed out) but so far I'm really having a blast.

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What I'm looking forward to in 2012

Guess what, they are all sequels (with the exception of 1 or 2 relaeses)

Another year, another round of games. 2012 will be the last year of the current gen (and of our entire civilization apparently) and hopefully Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft go out strong. Most of 2012's releases are just sequels and reboots but such is the nature of this industry. Here's a look at what I'm looking forward to in 2012...

1. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

From what I've heard so far, this game is an Oblivion clone in 3rd person without the completely open world. Sounds like a mix of Elder's Scrolls and Fable, and I'm down for that. It's supposed to come out early 2012 but I believe Skyrim will release DLC at the same time and it would be a shame for me to forget about this. Rich is always talking up this game on the bombcast so it's time to see if there's anything there.

2. Syndicate

One time Jeff came back from a preview and said it was a bit like Deus Ex, that's good enough for me. I have no previous history with the series, I seriously have no idea what it is but apparently this announcement pissed off quite a few people.

3. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier

It's about time this came out, seriously what the fuck has Ubi been doing to this game? I've seen it in a million different states and each time it looked worse and worse. Honestly I'm more excited to see the result rather than play it. This is my Duke Nukem Forever.

4. Mass Effect 3

I'll be honest, I'm scared to play this. Scared because I have 2 characters in ME2; one was my original playthrough of ME2 without a previous save and the other is the Shepard that's been through ME1 and ME2. I want my first ME3 game to be the true story of Shepard but I feel like I'll miss out on stuff, stuff like Wrex being there because he was dead in ME2....It's a confusing mess but my excitement remains everpresent for the series.

5. Borderlands 2

Borderlands was ssssoooooooo boring, holy shit was it ever boring...but somehow I spent 50 hours playing it, alone. I'm excited because I know Gearbox will take the original complaints and it's shortcomings and will make Borderlands 2 the greatest game ever made. Weird how these things can work out...

6. Assassin's Creed

This is really the last chance I'm giving this series. If it's not Assassin's Creed 3 then I'm done. I love Assassin's Creed, I love the original and it's glorious setting (perhaps the greatest setting in the history of videogames), I love AC2 and the myriad of improvements they made to the series. I love ACB and it's refinement of the AC2 formula and I even love Revelations despite it's lack of innovation. The ending to Revelations sets up AC3, not another spinoff...get it toghether Ubisoft!

7. BioShock Infinite

This is a game I'm looking forward to playing today, but ask me again tomorrow and I'll tell you how this game looks super stupid. Bioshock was a true achievement in games. I wasn't as impressed at the time but looking back I can easily say that it is a masterpiece. I have a feeling the team responsible for it can do it again, I just wish they had named this something else.

8. Far Cry 3

This right here is my most anticipated game of 2012. I never played Far Cry but I did play Instincts and it was glorious. Far Cry 2 had the major issue of playing like shit until you figured out the right way to play it, which is the worst thing a game can do. Far Cry 2 lacked the "trapped on an island and must survive" formula that made the previous games great, which doesn't seem to be an issue here. I'm looking forward to sneaking up on dudes and breaking their necks...

9. Grand Theft Auto V

Worst kept secret in videogames in recent memory. In a world where SR3 has managed to nail the over the top antics of GTA SA it's going to be interesting to see what Rockstar has cooked up for us. Will they continue the serious tone of GTA4? Will they revert to the crazyness of San Andreas, and if so will it take a piss on Volition's best game or just look like a sad attempt at humour?

10. Hitman: Absolution

I loved Blood Money more than I had any reason to, and it's been a while since Agent 47 was in a video game. I remember watching "how not to play hitman" on gamespot.com, those videos were awesome. A recent trailer had the youtube comments proclaiming stuff like "RIP Hitman" and "Well there's another series killed off" so we have yet to see what this game is truly about.

11. Halo 4

This is still called Halo 4 right? They should change that. Iconic series like this one aren't often just given to a brand new develloper with the intent of starting a whole new trilogy. I'm excited to see what 343 studios will acomplish with Halo....4....ugh what a dumb name....

12. Max Payne 3

Wait actually I don't care about Max Payne, why is this on here? Oh right because I'm an idiot and will simply buy anything that has a Rockstar logo on the box.

13. Metro: Last Light

Metro 2033 is an amazing game, especially when played entirely in Russian. More games should just let you play in the native language of it's characters. The struggle for survival of the Moscow citizens is something I want to experience again, few game can manage to pull off a feeling of helplessness quite like Metro does.

14. Prey 2

E3 made this game sound like mass effect 2 where you are a dick for the space police, that sounds awesome.

15. Paper Mario 3DS

I though this already came out. But seriously it's about time Nintendo put out some games. Super Mario 3D Land made me feel slightly better about spending $300 on a 3DS, and I realize only Nintendo will release the games that make me care about the handheld. Stuff like Luigi's Mansion 2 is great but the Paper series is my favorite mario format. If they keep on bringing the games, and finally release the true 3DS Zelda then maybe I will stop proclaiming that the 3DS is a failure...

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Favorite Games of 2011 Go!

Dragon Age II

 I went into Dragon Age 2 with no previous experinece with the series, and from an outsider's perspective what Bioware offers is a fantasy Mass Effect type of game. I love Mass Effect to be honest so what I got from Dragon Age 2 filled some weird need for one of those games. Yes the dungeons were all the same but after going through Dragon Age Origins later on it didn't seem like dungeon variety was a major theme there either. I'm not going to apologize for it's short comings because I understand perfectly why the fans may have been dissapointed but overall it's a pretty fun and competent product.
 The fast past combat is an improvement over Origins
The combat was fun, the characters were mildly interesting and the universe seemed fleshed out but didn't leave you lost. I had a great time with the game and thus it deserves a spot on this list. But hey, I might be singing a different tune had I played Origins beforehand.

LA Noire

  I was fairly excited for LA Noire last spring and when it finally came out it met most of my controlled expectations. The basic gameplay was a bit over-simplified with the sound and vibration cues and the interrogations were video-gamey enough, which made the investigations lack any serious consequences. Locking up the wrong dude made your captain yell at you in a cutscene but 2 seconds later have dinner with you as if nothing happened. What makes this game special is everything surrounding the actual procedural. The characters were great, 1943 L.A. was well realized and the feeling of being a police was great. Story is a big part of the game so it’s hard to talk about it, but it’s definitely worth a go. Rockstar excels when they decide to work in a different state of mind from the usual generic crime story (see: Red Dead Redemption & Bully).
 There's murda afoot!
I am extremely glad they got onboard this project with Team Bondi. In the distant future when they release a semi-related sequel I just know it will be amazing thanks to their ability to iterate.  

Assassin's Creed Revelations

  When Ubisoft decided to annualize Assassin’s Creed many were sceptical it would work. Fortunately they built this franchise on a solid engine backed by a strong narrative wrapped in solid gameplay, all of which still hold up in 2011. The jump from AC2 to Brotherhood was significant in terms of advancements but the same cannot be said about the jump to Revelations; some of the minor adjustments like seeing a guard’s path and the hook-blade work well but the den defence just seems out of place. I played through 5 or so DNA sequences wondering if I still like Assassin’s Creed but then sequence 6 began and everything changed. Then ending just kicks into 6 gear and has you stabbing dudes on horses from a parachute. The Altair moments are handled very well; those memories are perhaps my favourite in the game.
The Hagia Sophia overlooking beatiful Constanti...uhh Istanbul? Konstantinye? Not sure anymore
The reworked multiplayer is often overlooked when talking about Revelations and it's a real shame, the stuff you can get up to and the uniqueness of the experience go a long way in prolonging your time with the Creed. There's also a whole bunch of new unlockables and perks which work surprisingly well. I saw the multiplayer potential back with Brotherhood but felt like they missed the mark only slightly, it's safe to say they nailed it with this one. If you’ve enjoyed the previous instalments and the story you should play this game. 

 

Batman Arkham City

  Arkham Asylum was a great surprise in 2009 for me, but my lack of interest in the Batman character made me sceptical about a sequel. Luckily the gameplay still holds up thanks to its uniqueness. The gadgets, the baddies, the combat, the stealth and the Batman are still great. Vinny put it best when he said it felt like making house calls but Rocksteady does justice to the characters making everyone of those house calls fun and rewarding. It’s not really an open world but the “city” is still fun to explore and the 12 side missions were mostly fun too, I just wish there were less collectibles (yes I did find the Riddler).    
 Spoiler! You get to play as Bruce Wayne

 

Portal 2

  I never played Portal and I don’t have some crazy boner for Valve games so my love of Portal 2 comes entirely from what a great game it is. They made a hell of a game in Portal 2, the puzzles are great in both singleplayer and co-op and the story manages to hold your interest throughout. Also that ending was fucking amazing. Technically it’s a great game and it’s just fun and rewarding to figure out the levels, perhaps the most rewarding game of the year. When a game so original manages to entertain you for its entirety it’s almost criminal to not put it on your list of favourite games of the year.
Gosh that ending!

 

Dead Space 2

  Remember how amazing Dead Space was? Well this is the sequel. Everything that was good in the first is still here and all the inexistent bad parts in the first are still inexistent. If anything the minor improvements just made the whole thing better. Just a polished piece of entertainment that deserves all the praise it received. One minor complaint: it wasn’t as scary as the first, and the first wasn’t really scary to begin with. 
Isaac Back!

 

Dirt 3

Dirt 3 is simply an amazing racing game. The variety of cars and tracks gives it the edge over my other favourite racing series that had a release this year. (I enjoyed Forza 4 tremendously, it's the best Forza game yet but I kept it off this list for the sake of variety.) The controls are tight but at the same time you feel just on the edge at all times. My best memories with Dirt 3 were getting that mini cooper down the mountain in time and jumping cars over the trains in the gymkhana practice area.

 Dirt, Far Cry 2 and a few others are the rare games that take it to Africa.
Not a lot of games have those types of moments and not a lot of games have you rallying a Subaru on a wet and muddy track followed by a gymkhana event in a Ford Focus followed by racing a dune buggy in the snow, in the dark!

 
 

Gears of War 3

  I have a terrible secret: after finishing the campaign I went and read Cole Train fan fiction. I feel terrible shame about this but for once a Gears game had a semblance of a story and it made me want more. As a trilogy it’s nice to see a story wrap up, it doesn’t happen much in this sequel driven industry. The Gears of War series is the king of TPS’s in my view, the mechanics and the shooting are top notch and the engine runs smooth in-game.
 Shit is all fucked up
It focuses on one thing and does it outstandingly. Graphically it pushes the limits of the console and leaves you awe-struck, making for one of the best looking games on the market. The multiplayer is improved in many ways with one major difference being accessibility. Finally anyone can play and enjoy themselves in the multiplayer even without having mad skills. Like every competitive shooter it has its balance issues and whatnot but overall Epic nailed it this time. Oh and horde returns with many improvements, making it the best survival mode on the market. Gears of War 3 is like the husband who doesn’t let himself go just because he knows you love him unconditionally; even if he’s amazing he’ll strive to improve just for your attention. 
 

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

I put Deus Ex in the same category as Portal 2; they are just amazingly well made video game-ass video games. This game does the right things at the right moments and doesn't shy away from borrowing from past and present video game conventions. The gold and black theme works so well and there's a certain charm to this beauty, I can't quite put my finger on it but throuout both my playthroughs I just felt so enamoured with the gameplay, the characters, the story and the universe. It was a joy to play non-stop and where many video games will have their low points here and there, this had none.
 Honey and licorice
Oh and letting me play the whole campaign without a single kill? Yes please!
I love freedom, like a lot, and when a developper alows me that freedom I am always grateful. I tip my hat to the gentlemen and women at Eidos Montreal for providing one of the slickest experiences of 2011.
 

The Elder Scroll V: Skyrim

Freedom....as I mentioned just above, I love freedom and I love it when it extends to my video games. Skyrim is the very definition of free will in a game. The moment I got out of Helgen and was told to hit up Riverwood I wandered off and got killed by a bear. Now you might think that's poor design but the very opposite is true, Skyrim gives you that freedom to do what you want, when you want and where you want. 

Took me forever to figure out the logo was actually a dragon

Brad Shoemaker put it best: This is the best one-of-those games Bethesda has made. The engine ran well, the world was well realized, the main story was interesting, the characters felt like actual people, dragons, the UI improvements worked and the lore was well defined. All of it made for a game I simply could not put down.
I can appreciate when a game world is good, and Skyrim is nothing short of amazing. I can barely wrap my head around the massive task the folks at Bethesda had to accomplish in order to make this thing a reality, and even then they somehow managed to fit it all on a single xbox disc.

Skyboxes and Nord Heaven

I understand that some things will mess up in engine when so much is going on in the background and I can forgive Skyrim for the small bugs; but a lot of people wont feel the same and I also understand. I played for 100 hours on the xbox and experienced only 1 or 2 bugs (one being a dragon wall not activating, the other being a harmless freeze on a load screen) so I feel like I got the optimal experience but I feel terrible for PS3 owners. Still I judge Skyrim on my personal experience and feel like Skyrim is the best game of 2011, bar none.


The Year in Review

 Best year in video games ever? Well that's subjective but there's no denying it was an incredible year. Simply put there were too many games in 2011 and too many of them were of exellent quality. There's a lot I left out on this list mostly because I could not find the time to play all the new releases. Stuff like Saint's Row 3, Uncharted, Bastion, Dark Souls and Zelda I haven't gotten around to. Then there's also all the other great games that came out like Bulletstorm, which was surprisingly good, Forza 4, Crysis 2, Battlefield 3, Call of Duty and Killzone 3 which were all very good as well. Too many games! Just too many! And 2012 isn't showing signs of slowing down. 
I wish everyone here at GB a happy new year and hope you take the holidays to be with family or to catch up on a year full of gaming.
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In anticipation of Mobb Deep

**Note: I was inspired by GB user Bruce and his album reviews so I decided to look back at one of my favorite albums**

 
With the recent release of Albert "Prodigy" Johnson from prison for weapon offenses, the release of his autobiography "My Infamous Life" and the announcement that Mobb Deep signed with the indie division of Sony records  I though it would be great to look back at the album that defined P and Hav as underground kings in the rap world.  
 
I don't claim to be an expert on Mobb Deep, and I wasn't "betrayed" by them when they signed with 50 cent, but I really love this album. I think Havoc is extremely underrated as a producer, but that's also his fault in a way. Prodigy's new book reveals a lot about how they came to be and how Mobb Deep operates, and also talks about P's fight with sickle cell, his thoughts on homosexuality, his Jazz background and just a bunch of other stuff relating to his life. Some claim that the audiobook version deserves to win rap album of the year, it's definitely worth a read if you're even remotely interested. Nevertheless, here are some of my thoughts on The Infamous....
 

 
Released in 1995, it was backed by a promotional single called Shook Ones Pt I which the group releases soon after signing to Loud records. It is basically the same song as Part 2 but with a different beat and different Prodigy verse:     
  
   
  It was on the B-side of Shook Ones pt II and on the international release of Hell on Earth, their 3rd album. It introduced the world to a grimy, dark and haunting underground sound that differed from their previous songs such as "hit it from the back" and "peer pressure". 
 
  
  The album starts strong with "The start of your ending", a macho description of what Mobb Deep will do to you if you fuck with them. They are from the hood and will shoot anyone (even at the hoes). I has perhaps one of the eeriest beats ever put on wax and is backed by a great drum loop, this songs sets the mood for the rest of the album. If you came for a brutal description of urban life surrounded by drugs and murder then this song is the perfect way to set it off. 
 
  
  
"Survival of the Fittest" is a classic in my mind. The dark piano loop will probably remain with me for the rest of my life. The song is similar to Shook Ones in terms of music and video. All of their videos are pretty much the same, you'll see Prodigy and Havoc hanging around their crew in the streets and rapping. I blame it on lack of imagination but at least it was fitting, there was no dancing and no girls but it did have a cameo by P Diddy and Nas. Speaking of Mr. Jones, before his feud he was recording with the Mobb regularly and contributed a verse to "An Eye for an Eye" along with Raekwon from the Wu Tang. 
 
 The Mobb with Nas and Raekwon

The Infamous isn't particularly filled with guest spots but this one stands out. The first 3 songs have no sample credits and I'm unsure why, I know Havoc is good at sampling and keeping it secret but maybe these are completely original beats.
 
  
  "Give up the goods" was the final single released and it contained a verse by Big Noyd who would later be a big part of the Mobb Deep....euuhhh....experience. He claimed that that one verse on the song landed him a $300 000 deal with another record label. The video follows what I wrote above but this time in a club. Seriously, just go watch the Murda Muzik movie if you want to see a hour long version of this formula. They should watch that on the next BLLSL. Q-Tip knocks it out the park with an awesome sample of Esther Phillips' "That's all right with me".  He also produced the next track "Temperature's rising" which similar to Nas' "One Love" is told in a letter to an incarcerated friend. In this case it was Prodigy's brother Killa Black who had been caught by the authorities while both were on their way to the studio where they heard the news. The Patrice Rushen sample works great just like every other track. Seriously, if you can find a sample tape on the internet I suggest you check it out. 
  
  Some will tell you that 2Pac's song of the same is better....firstly: that is irrelevant and secondly they are crazy. "Cradle to the grave" is one of the best stories told in hip hop. This is up there with the stuff Kool G Rap, Rakim and Slick Rick were doing in terms of storytelling. The synergy between P and Havoc is ever-present on this track, and the deep base added to the overwhelming feeling of despair I got when I first heard this track. " Drink away the pain" is similar to songs such as "I gave you power" and "me and my girlfriend" where the narrator will talk about an inanimate thing but acting as if it were a person. I'm sure there's a term for that but I don't have a PhD in English literature. 
 

Shook Ones Part II



    
  This is the one, the one song that defines a rapper or group. This is their "paranoid", their "thriller", their "crazy train", their "Straight outta Compton". It is their greatest song and greatest video. I had the jersey Prodigy was wearing custom made with the miss-pelt Hennessy and all. If I was forced to only listen to one song for the rest of my life, this would be a strong candidate. Only listening to it will do it justice.
 
The sample used was uncredited for the longest time because Havoc kept the secret so well, it was only in March 2011, some 15 years after it's release that an internet user finally discovered what it actually was. Havoc made such a good job of disguising it that it took some clever music majiks to finally uncover it. Check out the video below of how Shook Ones Pt 2 came to be:
  
  
Ive watched this video over and over and still am amazed by it. Just a great random internet video! 
 
A score you ask? 5 mics, 5 stars, 2 thumbs up, whatever it's a classic where every song is amazing!
 
 
 

The self titled album

 
So here's to hoping that whatever Mobb Deep works on next will be great again. Prodigy released a pretty decent EP after his stint in jail and the group once again recorded with Nas after their long feud. I truly believe Havoc can still produce haunting beats like he used to. His production on the Bad Meets Evil Ep is proof:
 
  
  This was my favorite song on the album before I even looked at the production credits. However pissed he may be at Prodigy, Hav just needs to put that aside and make music again and get their cash flow to return, as they like to put it.  
 
Here's to hoping....for better photoshop skills.
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