It’s here and back for this year! It’s that ding dong sound that comes in your ear! Also hello and welcome to my final blog of 2012. I hope these words find you all happy and joyous and filled with the general merriment of the spirit of mankind that seems to be going around during this time of the year. On today’s menu, a home cooked stew of dope video games that I liked throughout the year of 2012, made from a blend of nine deliciously different titles.
>>> >> > Everything below this point is currently work in progress < << <<<
My Nine Most Bestest Video Games Which I Done Played During The Year Of 2012
Picante, yet delicate on the palate. And yes, it really is just nine, that's all you're getting for now! These fine organically-grown video games are also in no particular order, except for the order that inherently comes from me writing about them as they spring to mind and then putting finger to keyboard so as to get my thoughts into your head. Yeeaaah, I'm in your head now.
And I shan't leave.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
As a fan/victim of the original UFO: Enemy Unknown, as well as a longtime fan of/slave to those fine folks at Firaxis, I’d been looking forward to getting my grubby little mitts on this game for a good long while. Unfortunately, as I have very little money, I’ve been unable to acquire a copy of this slick looking remix on the original 1994 flavour-filled fillet of resource management and turn-based combat. That is, until...
Father Happimass dropped in on the 25th of December and bestowed unto me a gleaming new copy of XCOM! Yaaay! He also, unexpectedly, chucked in a copy of Dishonored! A game which is appearing on lots of lists this year, and (probably) deservedly so. However, since I have only had time to play the opening sequence so far; I am, with a heavy heart, forced to omit it from proper inclusion upon this list...even though it somehow managed to worm its way in here...in XCOM’s spot! GET OUT OF HERE, DISHONORED!
Phew, now that he’s been escorted from the premises, let’s get back to the matter at hand, shall we?
In the small number of days that I’ve had with XCOM, I’ve managed to put 31.5 hours into this cast iron meat grinder of a game (where time is represented by the meat, and the grinder is the Xbox 360 controller plugged into my PC). And have loved very nearly every single minute of it, I can look past the infrequent and minor issues. I’ve never suffered anything as catastrophic as the flesh-eating virus levels of pain that some members of the Giant Bomb staff have expressed recently. There was a patch of a few hundred megabytes in size to download before I actually got into the game, so it’s quite likely that this dose of sweet patchy medicine helped fix some old issues. Some of the very minor bugs that I did experience was the occasional glitchy path-finding behaviour of some of the flying enemies, along with about one instance of a turn not ending properly, leaving me stuck in between turns, unable to make a move. Luckily, the fix for that issue is to always be saving...that’s right, you should all be making use of the single most powerful weapon in all of video games...unlimited savegame files.
Since I am talking technical, I will try to expound ever so slightly on what I thought of the graphical quality and art style. Ready? They are both great! I love the exaggerated proportions of the character models, the massively meaty weapons (particularly once you get up to the level of laser and plasma weapons), the use of slightly flat lighting combined with the ever-so-slightly cartoonesque texture work really helped to construct a visually interesting image on screen. Even though I can only run the game in 1080p on my 32 inch HDTV, I still really like how it looks, and how it runs. In fact, over these past few years I’ve found that I’ve really come to appreciate a video game which loads up and gets me into the action nice and swiftly. I also noticed this with Skyrim on the PC as well, I would be in the game world before I could even read the white text that pops up on those black background loading screens.
On a very quick note, since it’s not something that I’ve seen too many people talk about when they talk about this game. And that is...the music...it’s mad dope! I found it giving me super strong Deus Ex: Human Revolution chills in certain parts. That is, within certain parts of both the game and myself. Certain. Parts. As to the rest of the audio work, I found all of it pretty superb as well, I never got sick of the voice of the Council, or the double tap of a plasma sniper rifle.
Those things, combined with the rawdog stuff that occurs during combat really helps to sell this major part of the game (the other part being the base building and management aspects) as being something exciting, frenetic and impactful. Even though we are 'just' dealing with an auto-pausing boring-old turn-based strategic-combat model-dash. The combat puzzles that we have to navigate through during our meetings with these jolly little green men are simple enough to pick up, but allow for a huge amount of experimentation and flexibility. Once you start making real use of the combination of different abilities, weapons and equipment, you'll get to a point where you start to feel really powerful and effective during combat. And that's really hard to do in a video game in 2012 with guns and aliens and explosions and shit, and where everything just sits there on the battlefield waiting for your next input.
^ On a related note ^
Getting this game has also coincided with me getting a good ‘fibre to cabinet’ broadband connection, which has allowed/inspired me to test out high quality streaming. As opposed to my previously...low quality streams (which still included some sick games, such as the shiny MTGO beta, FTL and SimGolf, so...SCREW YOU! I’M TRYING MY BEST OKAY!?). Therefore, over the past few days I streamed about six hours of 720p/1080p footage on TwitchTV, and played around with the ‘upload to YouTube’ feature. I found out that Twitch does indeed suck down my 1080p juice and spit it out to YouTube in fine fashion, I always thought you had to be special to get 1080p streamed to Twitch, apparently not! Oh, and I got about two viewers over that period, which is a marked increase over my previous record of diddly squat.
I went ahead and deleted those test files from the Internet, because they were shit for actually looking at. IF you DID want to SEE them, well, I saved these snippets on YouTube for you (I don’t narrate or appear in any of these videos, and there are looong pauses where I go AFK to eat Terry’s Chocolate Orange).
FTL: Faster Than Light
Oh, it’s like a roguelike-like-like-rogueyliek-like-rogue? Let’s just say that I think it’s a fantastic strategic resource management video game. Which you SHOULD be playing entirely as a turn-based adventure into the cold hard vacuum of space. Nice meaty sprite-based graphics with bright pastel shades contrasting with pulsing red laser beams coupled with delightful music, makes for a pleasant time in your eye and ear holes. But it's within your brain hole where you will be required to up the ante and step up the plate; for a single slackening in concentration or slip of your steely resolve, could result in the deaths of every crew member under your command!
But then you just start again and learn from your mistakes. So that's fine too.
Two weeks after playing and completing this awesome video game I went and watched Drive on Netflix. Holy hell, they should sell those two works of art in one package. Dat visuals. Dat music. Dat story. Dat mechanics. God damn.
An utterly astonishing work of art (art, of course, being anything that is a thing that has been created by a human being and can or cannot make you feel something or think about something...or nothing). As to why I reckon it’s superb, allow me to repeat something that I’ve said earlier on in the past:
For such a small team, and for the amount of time that you can get through this wondrous experience, it has so much to offer to those of an open mind and contemplative nature. Backed up with just being a damn solid explorey platformy video game as well. From the graphical quality and art direction, to the complete lack of voice over combined with the stunning audio work, and with a story that just builds and builds from seemingly nothing into, quite literally, a transcendental finale. It's clear to me that this game was created by people who had such a well honed idea of what they wanted to create, at both an emotional and mechanical level, that they did not let anything dilute or compromise their vision. And that vision is a pure joy to plod and fly and skate and swim through.
Final Fantasy VII
Yeah, that’s right you fuckers. THE SPIRIT OF MOTHERFUCKING CHRISTMAS UP IN THIS PLACE RIGHT ABOUT NOW. Here's a great thing that I wrote in the past and which I am appropriating for use within this yummy little dish of words:
Yeah, yeah, I know, it's not about the spirit of Christmas in the traditional sense. It is, however, very much linked to that jolly holly day in my mind; due to the fanciful fact that I got this fantastic role playing game, on this very day, 15 years ago (I'd heard that it was created in a strange and wonderful land called...Japan).
Bearing in mind that this was the first Final Fantasy game that we got over here in the United Kingdom, and also the first one that was ever created on this newfangled Sony PlayStation thing. Well, let's just say there's a whole bunch of other reasons as to why this game has always stuck with me, even after 15 years have ticked by. And that's something I hope to explore in this series of daily videos, taking a stroll down this cold and frosty memory lane, warmed by the sights and sounds of this fine game.
Is anyone else on these fine forums in the same boat as me? Was it your first Final Fantasy? Your last? Did you like, love or hate it? For all the love/hate that FF7 catches (from both the Sephiroth-swooning fans, or those who are nihilist about Nomura), I'm still very much of the mind that this game holds up in so many ways that it was worth revisiting.
That was a thing that I wrote in this thread, and if you will allow me to continue in a similar vein I will add just a few new words to it:
Out of the two role playing video games that are on this list (the other game is not Mass Effect 3 either, which itself does not make this hallowed hall of fame at all, as you'll see in the next paragraph) I went and stuck a 15 year old JERPERG right up in here because it's freaking dope. Even now, I am still finding it damn good fun from top to bottom. Which is not to say that there aren't bits in its tops and bottoms that are just a little bit goofy or even a little bit crappy in some parts (translation issues, stiff interpersonal character dialogue, some aspects of the visuals), but for a game this large and ambitious they get it right on so many levels that I still had fun romping through it. In terms of where I am in the game so far, I've just stepped outside of Midgar for the first time (well, not the 'first' time, I've been through this game about a dozen times over the years) and it still visits unto me a strong reaction of just how big and wide open the whole world seems. You spend those first five or six hours running through the dark and dirty metropolis of Midgar, only to then be set loose in a massive 3D environment whereupon YOU CAN GO ANYWHERE! I know, not really, but it sure as shit feels like it when you hear that main theme pipe up and start swinging that camera all over the place.
Oh yeah, Mass Effect 3! I said we'd have a little talk about it right here inside this lovely little paragraph, didn't I? Well, let's cut to the chase, and lose these italics:
It does not make my list for two very big reasons (also maybe spoilers for every Mass Effect game ever):
1) The quality of the storytelling.
Especially when compared to the original, and best, game, this finale is but a shadow of that former self. It's mostly a poorly told affair, a twisting and winding road marked by only a few interesting plot points (resolving the Genophage issue, dealing with the Geth and the Quarians). It's riddled with a multitude of fairly minor (but annoying) plot holes and inconsistencies and lazy short cuts. The dialogue between you and your party members still remains strong throughout, but it's the huge leaps of logic that I had to make for the game, when it repeatedly failed to make a cohesive (and good) blanket of scrummy story to wrap around my head brain. This tacked on diatribe isn't going to turn into a massive ranty list, I swear, but I will just pluck from my memory a couple of things that really irked me about how some of the big story beats were handled in ME3:
- Within eight minutes of the game starting, we bear witness to a whole bunch of Reapers landing on Earth. In previous games, a single capital-class Reaper like Sovereign or Harbinger is shown as being able to dominate or destroy many thousands of individuals and subjugate entire civilisations from afar. Even during a stand up fight, they are no pushover; I don't have the exact numbers to hand but during ME1 it's demonstrated that Sovereign was able to destroy a vast number of warships all by 'himself'. He did have some Geth backup earlier on in that fight, but when it's just him inside the Citadel there are something like 25 or 30 wrecked Alliance warships floating about the place, and not a single Geth vessel to be found. Reapers are goddamn death dealing monsters, and when hundreds and hundreds of them land on your planet (which you also didn't see or hear anything about, prior to their arrival) you are done. D. U. N. This sequence was something I expected to see in the final third of the game, and it stinks up the rest of the story something fierce. I know, ME2 does this weird time-and-pace-bending thing as well, but not to this degree, not even close.
- There's a Destroyer-class Reaper (they're the lickle ones which ain't quite as big or tough as their big 'n' tough brothers) which shoots down two fleeing unarmed transports filled with about 10 people each, and yet ignores the EXTREMELY IMPORTANT escaping warship known to every single Reaper in the entire Galaxy, the Normandy. From which Shepard is able to bear witness to the innocent death of a young innocent boy innocent. Emotions.
- Drew Karpyshyn didn't work on this game. And it shows.
WORK IN PROGRESS, PLEASE PARDON OUR DUST.
2) The inverse relationship of scope and scale to the use of bombast throughout the entire narrative.
WORK IN PROGRESS, PLEASE PARDON OUR DUST.
And so here ends my talking about other games inside the spots reserved for other games.
...or am I?
Far Cry 3
A whole bloody barrel bursting with fun and frolics and fire! ARGHMYGODTHERE’SFIREALLOVERMYARMS!
Tight shooting controls, first person running and jumping that isn’t total shit, stunningly gorgeous vistas, great combat puzzles (Who/What are you fighting? How are they armed? Where are they positioned? All the Ws?), mixed in with just the right amount of silly situations sprinkled about the place for you to discover. Whereupon you can blow them up. Or set fiery fire to them with flaming arrows. Or fly a hang glider rigged with C4 into them. Or unleash a couple of pissed off tigers on them.
Wipeout HD Fury
So, I’ve been spending large amounts of my annually designated festive frivolity time playing this (damn fine) four year old video game for the PlayStation 3. A game which I got for free
As someone who remembers very vividly the day that they ordered a copy of Wipeout 2097 via mail order, when this recent hankering came over me I fell into a deep Wipeout-shaped hole and bust through the whole original campaign in a few days (no, not 100% Elite-level gold medals across the board). And man, it felt good. Now to finish off the Fury side of things!
I poured hours upon hours upon hours of hours and hours into Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn. I introduced my girlfriend to it last year, and whilst we’ve made our way through a couple of chapters, she was finding it pretty difficult to keep up at the sort of level that I’m used to (the sort of ‘level’ that comes with hundreds of hours of experience). So, earlier this month, she introduced me to the joys of Neverwinter Nights, well, reintroduced might be slightly more accurate. I had put a few hours on the clock playing this damn fine game, back in the day, but my girlfriend has much the same level of experience and skill with NWN that I do with BG2. I found this co-op method of rolling with another (good) human player there to back me up, help guide me and generally just stop me being a silly billy.
It’s still a good old fashioned D&D-based RPG, with solid mechanics and great world populated with hefty combat and witty dialogue. With an interface and inventory system that's quicker to navigate, a decent action queue and a levelling system that's much easier to get to grips with than anything found in BG2. That is not to say better, in all cases, I certainly know my way around BG2; but I can tell that quite a few refinements were made here and there to allow the player a more streamlined start in what is still a pretty mechanically dense game. Also, going fully 3D and allowing for camera control was such a welcome break from the static point of view offered by BG2, as beautiful as that view still remains.
We got a Kinect this year. I know, I know, we’re just racing along the very cutting edge over here, ain’t we? Since this is the only game that either me or my partner has put any real time or effort into spazzing out in front of, I have to say that I've mostly enjoyed it, and the Kinect has been working...well enough! I know, right!? We are lucky in that we do have just about a big enough room within which to display our grace and poise through the medium of dance, and I understand that this is a major factor as to whether or not the core 'controls' of the game will even work for you. As it stands I've been through every song on at least the middle of the road difficulty, alongside getting a fair amount of them locked up at five stars on the hardest setting as well. And it's been pretty damn fun all the way down that song list. The choice of choons are nice and varied, as is the move set (up to a certain point, I wasn't expecting to see any Thracian chain dancing in here*), and I felt the way in which they built you up from the simple steps was fantastic. It's never pushy, never negative, but it's always John T. Drake.
Maybe the best thing I can say about this game is that it's inspired us to pick up a copy of Dance Central 2 this very December, which means it'll be on next year's list, if my timing on these bloody things is to be any witness.
* They need to put Thracian chain dancing into Dance Central: The Fourth.
THE END OF ALL THINGS!?
ARGH SHIT I’VE GIVEN MYSELF AN EVENING TO WRITE THIS SO THAT’S ALL I’M GOING TO WRITE RIGHT ABOUT NOW SEEYA LATER DUDERS!
I suppose I should really close out with a proper end of year/Christmas farewell instead. Oh yeah, I went and combined Christmas with New Year's in this here blog, didn't I? I swear I got you a present! No, really, it's just...er...er...shipping, yeah, that's it! That Internet company I ordered it from are slacking on the delivery, so that's why it isn't it here yet...Internet companies, am I right?
Until 2013 (which is tomorrow, that's how short I made the loop, doing it this way really limits the length of time within which bad/unhappy stuff can happen to you duders throughout 2012) then, have a good whatever you have!