Hey. If you are reading this then that means you have found my blog. It's not hard to miss though, but it's nice to see that someone is reading it. Not much to go on than what I've written over there.
I also try not to spoil any game. No matter if it's old or new.
I think it is easy to say that The Last of Us was the best game of the year. After winning so many awards for the game, Naughty Dog is in a streak again. It must have been difficult to match what we come to expect for the first ever story DLC for Naughty Dog. Story has always been the bread and butter for Naughty Dog and this time they have proven why they are some of the best developers around. The Last of Us: Left Behind is the culmination of Naughty Dog’s work for The Last of Us. Left Behind is somber, thrilling, and a bit emotional journey that gives us more of an insight about who Ellie is. What we have seen in the trailers is just half of the story, which to ruin it now would ruin the surprise. I would just say that it does nothing to devalue what we have learned about Ellie in the original game, in fact Left Behind makes her an even better character than before. It is required to complete The Last of Us before jumping into Left Behind, with that in mind, I will not be spoiling both The Last of Us and Left Behind.
LOST IN A WORLD
It is stunning to see a DLC this polish. The game looks just as amazing as it does in the base game. There is weird hair movement and a disappearing object, but nothing to ruin the experience or break the game. The Last of Us has some of the best presentation the last console generation, and Left Behind is no different. While there are only two main characters in this DLC, Ashley Johnson, and newcomer to the series Yaani King, they both deliver excellent performances. It is just like playing a lost chapter of The Last of Us saga. In fact, you can easily play this DLC alongside The Last of Us and not miss a beat.
There was one thing that irked me about this DLC is that, just like the base game, Ellie cannot take much a beating. In the original game, I understood the story beat, and what needed to happen. When it came to the story, it was a fantastic beat, playing that section however was not as much fun. It only takes a few shots to bring her down. Even on normal on the base game, the winter section felt there was a difficulty spike in the game. Left Behind does it again. It was my only gripe in the original base game, and it is my only gripe in Left Behind. It is a bit nitpicking, but it goes to show just how excellent this DLC is.
Thankfully, in the 2 hours it takes to complete this, you are not in danger that often. Something does change the combat dynamic, but it happens in the final act. If Naughty Dog ever makes a Last of Us 2, this is something that has to be in the game. Story rules here, and the story is excellent. Not only do we learn more about Ellie, we learn more about her friend Riley. Much like Ellie in the base game if Riley were not a great strong character, this DLC would have fallen apart.
THAT HAS TAKEN SO MUCH
Without revealing too much of The Last of Us: Left Behind. Naughty Dog is a winning streak when it comes to the last generation of games. From Uncharted to Left Behind, Naughty Dog is showing to other developers what happens when you trust your fans, your developers, and your games. For being their first story DLC, it puts other story DLCs to shame. While others like to add epilogues to their games, Naughty Dog creates a prologue that does not damper the original release. If you have the Season Pass, you would be wise to download and play it. If not, the 14.99 maybe steep for some even when there is no upgrades whatsoever; it should not deter you away on playing a DLC masterpiece that Naughty Dog has created.
I do not consider myself as a masochist. I like to play games for fun, and while I do like to play games on harder difficulties sometimes, most of the time it is not worth it. Very few games on the higher difficulty change the game considerably and make you rethink all you have learned from a past play through. Not a lot of games can be hard and fair at the same time. When a game is hard, it is for all the wrong reasons. Difficulty now a days rely on enemies having more health, while you have less. It is a false sense of difficulty that does not really change anything.
A few weeks ago, I played BioShock: Infinite on hard and for the most part it was even better than playing it on normal. The way you have to use your vigors and guns to make the most out of a situation was exciting and thrilling. For the most part BioShock Infinite on hard was great, that was until the final act. From the Lady Comstock sequence to the end, the game became less fun and more frustrating. I cannot imagine what 1999 mode is like.
Other games I ended up playing on hard was Uncharted 2. Playing that game on hard was also thrilling, but it suffered from the lazy design of stronger enemies, weak player. The last game I played that had an amazing hard difficulty level was Alan Wake. I played that game on Nightmare mode, the hardest difficulty the game has, and it was a much better experience. While they still do that lazy design on health, you could never tell. What made it great was the fact that batteries and ammo was more scarce than on normal mode. Running away whenever you can became the only option and it made each encounter more exciting.
THE ONES THAT WAS CLOSE
There were a couple of games that made me feel like I was becoming a gaming masochist. The first one was Super Meat Boy. Super Meat Boy is a platforming masterpiece. Every death is your fault and you will die a lot. To make matters worse is that after you complete a stage it will run through all your lives. It is possible that you can see hundreds of Meat Boys running the same stage repeatedly dying at every inch of the stage. I kept playing this hard game. I die and instantaneously get back to the start in a never-ending cycle. I even got most of the Dark World stages where it gets harder. I never completed Super Meat Boy because my Xbox 360 broke.
Another game that almost made me a gaming masochist was Bayonetta. Bayonetta is a hack and slash game in the vein of Devil May Cry. It is a challenging game that tests your reflexes and the situations you are put in are over the top ridiculous. Once you know most of the basic dodge move, the game can be a blast and chaotic experience. The one scene that still gets to me that I will never forget was the Space Harrier sequence. In the time up to this point in Bayonetta, the game had been a challenging blast. It was a flaw move in Bayonetta’s part and the only weak spot in the game.
A MASOCHIST BEST FRIEND
Then there is Dark Souls. The game is hard, sickening hard. I nearly quit a few times due to the rage that the game was bringing out on me. I kept on playing and my original plan was that after I beaten Dark Souls that I would quit. I knew that the game would only get harder from there and there was no reason for me to continue. Therefore, I downloaded Metro: Last Light to play, but Dark Souls was sitting there. I decided to play a bit of Dark Souls on New Game Plus and see how far I would go before it officially breaks me. I knew that Dark Souls would break me eventually, and it finally did during the Nito fight. When a game gets too hard, I stop and do it later or just quit all together. I wanted to quit Dark Souls, but the game has had a hold of me that very few games have. I had to get rid of it, and so I did. I did not want the risk of breaking a controller, TV, or the console. However, for some godforsaken reason, I love it.
Knowing that I beaten something in a game this hard gave me a feeling I never felt before, pride. When I beat a game on a harder difficulty, I am relieved that I will never play this mode again, and yet here I was playing Dark Souls on a harder difficulty mode. When I started to play Metro: Last Light I debated if I wanted to play the game on hard mode. I never did that before because most of the time I play games on normal. Sometimes, depending on the game, I play it on easy to enjoy the story. I ended up picking normal because if I wanted to play a hard game I would play Dark Souls, or continue my Hard Mode run on Max Payne 3.
My love\hate relationship with Dark Souls is something I never thought I would have in a game. I both love and hate the difficulty. After beating Dark Souls, my anticipation of Dark Souls 2 rose higher than before. I know it is going to be harder and I would not have wanted it any other way.
If I had to rank these games, The Last of Us would be number one. The wizards at Naughty Dog prove once again why they are one of the gaming elite. The game is brutal and dark while delivering on a story that has real emotional weight. Joel, Ellie, and the rest of the cast has a believably that feels real and you can grow attach to them. It is not often that a game comes along that changes what is to be expected and The Last of Us is unlike anything you will ever play this year.
GRAND THEFT AUTO V
How do you top Grand Theft Auto IV? By making it better, longer, and bigger. Rockstar has made their biggest games to date and the care they have for their big franchise shows it. Having three main protagonists that you can switch between them at almost any time is a stroke of genius at Rockstar’s part. This may seem like a Greatest Hits of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, but that would lessen the work Rockstar did to Grand Theft Auto V. Fun, unapologetic, and full of verity, Grand Theft Auto has actually surpass San Andreas as my favorite of the series.
It was a bit of a risk to reboot Tomb Raider. Tomb Raider is one of those games that everyone one knows whether they play games or not. Now in 2013 Crystal Dynamics has taken the series to a bright, bold future. Unlike the past games where you play as Lara Croft archaeologist extraordinaire, you play her in the most brutal and rough games she has ever been to. Unlike the past Tomb Raider games and the Uncharted series, you see ever bruise, cut, and pain as she tries to survive in an undiscovered island. The game play is strong and you actually feel the power of the weapons at hand. It does not have the best story, but making a more human Lara Croft makes up for it. With any luck, a great new version of an existing franchise is born.
SPLINTER CELL: BLACKLIST
While some games claim they have freedom of choice, Splinter Cell: Blacklist is one of the few that truly has it. You can play the same mission repeatedly and still have new ways to complete objectives. You can shoot everything in sight, or you can sneak past everyone with them none the wiser. Upgrades carry over and you can expand on your tactics. The original Splinter Cell wanted you to sneak past everyone with a little freedom of what you can do. Conviction wanted you to kill everyone with little freedom you can do. Blacklist is the first true Splinter Cell where they found the perfect balance between the two.
SAINTS ROW IV
Not a lot of games can do over the top right. Sometimes it does not feel like they are truly pushing it, or they feel forced. Saints Row IV is over the top done right. While most games tries to be serious all the time and fails doing so, Saints Row IV is smart enough to know what it is. It knows it is stupid and is not afraid to make fun of that fact. The fact that Saints Row has reached this level of absurdity is impressive. Great, fun characters, an outstanding main villain, and a story that is actually good. The promises Saints Row the Third had is finally realized here. I do not want to miss a thing indeed.
Today Sony released their new console of this new generation with the PlayStation 4. As gamers get their new system and look beyond what is coming, I am going through my top five favorite PlayStation 3 games. These are my opinion and mine alone. The PlayStation 3 had a rocky start, but as games started to come out, it became what it is now. A great system that has some of the very best this generation has offered. As with any list I make, these are not ranked.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima must have stressed out over Metal Gear Solid 4. Released in 2008, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was one of the very first to show what the system can really do and it became a showcase of the system since. Taking place nine years after the events of Metal Gear Solid for the original PlayStation, Snake, Otacon, and the rest of the series characters tries to take down The Patriots. This was the finale story of Solid Snake and what transpires is one of the best games of this generation. While I do consider Metal Gear Solid 3 as the best of the series, Metal Gear Solid 4 is a close second. Freedom of choice, great boss battles, and a story that concludes nearly 50 years of Metal Gear Lore gave Solid Snake the swan song he deserves. With Metal Gear Solid V coming, it is going to be difficult to top this.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
When Uncharted 2: Among Thieves came out in 2009 it became THE PlayStation 3 game. Even now, it is the best-reviewed game of this generation. A sequel to 2007 Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, it follows Nathan Drake as he searches for a mythical stone against a War Lord. The game is fast, fun, and has great characters. Uncharted 2 made Naughty Dog and Nolan North a household name. The train sequence is still one of the most fun stage in all of gaming. Not even Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception matches the sheer brilliance of Uncharted 2. With Uncharted 4 just announced, it will be interesting to see what the Uncharted games looks like on PlayStation 4.
The Last of Us
While Grand Theft Auto V came out this year along with The Last of Us, I would have to say that The Last of Us is the better game. It further proves how brilliant Naughty Dog is with its fantastic story and characters. The Stealth Horror game gave something that most survival horror games in consoles has been lacking, atmosphere. Troy Baker became the new Nolan North overnight. The Last of Us is one of those games you have to play to truly appreciate what it does. Not only is it the best of the PlayStation 3, but the best game of the year.
Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time
Since the PlayStation 2 days, the Ratchet and Clank series has been a Sony Marvel, with great characters, weapons, story, and worlds. The Ratchet and Clank series reached its high with A Crack in Time. A Crack in Time delves deeper into the history of the Lombaxes and Clank. It features the return of characters like Dr. Nefarious and Captain Quark, while having new characters like Alister Azimuth. I would like to see a game that has Alister Azimuth has the main character. Insomniac Games was in top form and everything they learned from the past Ratchet and Clank games is fully realized here. It has great action moments for Ratchet and great puzzles and platforming for Clank. Along with Going Commando for the PlayStation 2, A Crack in Time is the best Ratchet and Clank game.
God of War III
The God of War series has always been a showcase of what the Sony systems can do and God of War 3 is no exception. Since the first God of War in 2005, it has been one of Sony’s biggest franchises. When God of War II for the PlayStation 2 ended, a few months after the PlayStation 3 launched, fans has been waiting to see what God of War III would look like on the new system. Their hopes was not in vain as God of War III, even to this day, is one of the best looking games of the system. While it does not do anything new in terms of gameplay, its story and puzzles is some of the best of the series. The final fight against Zeus is one of this generation’s best boss fights. God of War III is a technical marvel that only the PlayStation 3 can do.
That was my picks of my most favorite PlayStation 3 games. It took a few years, but when PlayStation 3 finally hit its stride, it went in strong. Next week, the day the Xbox One launches, I shall post my most favorite Xbox 360 exclusives.
Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly has a reputation of being one of the scariest games ever made. It is right up there with Resident Evil 2 and Silent Hill 2. Released in 2003 for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Fatal Frame 2 kind of lives up the hype. You play as one of two twin sisters, Mayu and Mio, as they try to escape a lost village and investage on what happened to the residents there. The atmosphere and setting is chilling and it makes use of the haunted feel of the game. As great as the setting is, each area can feel the same and it can become frustratingly easy to get lost in as you try to find the next objective. The atmosphere loses some of its power because of this, but the scares never lose its power and if you happen to let your guard down that is when the ghosts will appear. There are a number of types of ghosts that you will see. Some will lead you to your next destination, and others that will attack you. It does not happen often, but there will be a couple of times where a certain ghost will kill you in the slightest touch. You can defend yourself with the Camera Obscura. This camera will allow you to take photos of the ghosts you will meet in the game.
When you take a picture of a ghost, you will exercise them. The better the picture, the better the damage, and the higher points you will get. You can upgrade your camera by using sprit orbs and the points you have earned. The camera is fixed and the control feels like Resident Evil. The camera rarely becomes a problem. If you use the camera, it switches to a first person where you can move around in.
The story and the game are dark. At first, you will read about this ritual, but as you continue the game, you will learn more about the cultish village and the reason behind the ritual. Murder, suicides, human sacrifice, and the power of twins are heavy themes in Fatal Frame 2. Grim stuff only gets darker as you continue. The grim tone comes to life thanks to its excellent sound design. The voice acting of the twins and ghosts are chilling. The wind, music, and the footsteps will leave you uneasy. I would not call Fatal Frame 2 a survival horror, but it is pure horror. Fatal Frame 2 is more effective than most survival horror games that have come out in the past few years on consoles.
One of the most important aspects of horror is pacing. This is where the game slightly veers of course. It is very easy to get lost and it breaks the flow of the game. Worst yet, there is this section near the end of Fatal Frame 2 where you need to find puzzles pieces. This blatant use of padding never did any good in games. It would not be so bad if they send you to a new area, but you have to go to the same places over again. Fatal Frame 2 has a lot of backtracking, more so than Resident Evil 2 and Silent Hill. You will enter the same three houses two to three times just to find that key or map to continue. By either key or diary, there is always something to find, so exploration is a big factor into Fatal Frame 2. The puzzles are well made but you have a time or move limit to them. You can ignore them because nothing happens and if you do manage to fail the puzzles you can do it again with the pieces back to where it was.
Fatal Frame 2: The Crimson Butterfly is a good game. It may not be as good as Resident Evil 2 or Silent Hill, but it is far creepier and sometimes scarier than those games. If horror is your thing, then give Fatal Frame 2 a shot.
No one likes buying sixty-dollar games that will only last six hours or less. You get the game and beat it that day. Some people would not mind the six-hour game because it is something that they do in their spare time, and depending on their lifestyle, they might not get a lot of time. So getting short game gives them a chance to finish a game. I fall on the latter; I can complete a game in one day. When I finished Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, it took me about eight hours or so to complete it. I was playing all day and I enjoyed most of it. The ships section is a series low. To some people it can take a week or a month to complete a game like that. To make sure that consumers are getting more bang for their buck, developers would include a multiplayer aspect of the game. Some games thrive on single player, some game excel at multiplayer. The main reason I see why multiplayer is added into the games is that the single player has very little replay value. I can play games multiple times, but having that incentive to continue playing makes it that much better. It is why Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is one of the best games of this generation.
BEFORE THE HATE
You can sink hours into the game’s multiplayer, but the multiplayer has to be good enough to go through all that. There is a reason by Battlefield and Call of Duty is as big as they are when it comes to multiplayer. The developers, Dice and Infinity Ward/Treyarch respectively, take their time to perfect what they had created. As they are working long hours into the night, making great multiplayer experiences other developers look at that success and try to put a multiplayer component where it does not belong. Tomb Raider and God of War Ascension come to mind. Tomb Raider is one of the most underrated games of this year. God of War Ascension was one of the most disappointing and it was clear that most of the staff was focusing their time with the multiplayer than the single player. Tomb Raider had the opposite; it had a great single player while the multiplayer is mediocre. If there was more focus on the single player of God of War Ascension, then I felt like it can sit beside the original trilogy as one of the best action games around.
Some games does not need multiplayer, but other games do. The Call of Duty has been a juggernaut since the release of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in 2007. Apart from having a fun single player, Modern Warfare had a great multiplayer. Since then the primary focus on the Call of Duty franchise is its multiplayer. The same could be said about Battlefield. They had their big multiplayer brake in 2004 from Battlefield 2 for the PC. Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Halo are some of the biggest multiplayer games of this generation.
SOLO OR WITH A FRIEND
Next month will mark the arrival of the new systems, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and there will be a new line up of games to play. The Division, Destiny, and Deep Down will be multiplayer only; I can only hope that they will do what Borderlands and Left 4 Dead did allow for solo play. They should have offline modes where you can play whenever you feel like. No matter if you are online or not. The rocky start of Grand Theft Auto Online showed us that online will take a hit with that many people playing. It can be so bad that you cannot play it or worse losing your character progression and never getting it back. With everyone trying to play the new game, even if it is solo, every online only game is going to have a rough start. Even MMOs like World of Warcraft and Everquest had rough moments, even more so when expansion packs came out.
If games had single player the player can learn the game without fear of doing something that will upset a teammate. Alternatively, if the severs are down they can still play the game. If you are like me and do not play online, you can still have all the fun on single player mode. I played Co-Op on Borderlands 2 and had a lot of fun with it, which same feeling of fun was still there for the single player. I would not want to pay seventy for a game that might not work sometimes. At least with single player offline, I can play whenever I feel like it. As the years go by, I can see that there is going to be many games coming out that will have online only. I hope that single player games will not and co-exist with each other. With Grand Theft Auto V grossing a billion dollars and the excitement over Kingdom Hearts III, I do not think single player modes will die out.