So here it is folks, the promised first edition of Bargain Binge. If you are asking asking yourself "What?" by now, I may link you to this post, explaining it all: http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/Zer0t0nin/bargain-binge-0-the-whatsit-the-rules-the-penguins-245321.phtml
So let's dive right in. We start of with:
what I liked:
I'm a sucker for cyberpunk. This world needs more of it and with upcoming titles like "Remember me", "Watch Dogs" or "Cyberpunk 2077", we're in pretty good shape there. Needless to say Syndicate's setting genuinely intrigued me. The story is basically "Cyberpunk 101", think of a poor-man's version of Deus Ex and the voice actors are doing a pretty good job with the delivery of the somewhat shallow script. The setting itself reminds somewhat of Shadowrun than Blade Runner and fans of the former will feel home almost immediately. The graphics are pretty nice with some great effects and an overall fitting art-direction that fits the tone well. The sound design is solid, guns sound distinctive enough and the soundtrack fits the equation with a blend of Industrial Rock, Electro and Dubstep. The gunplay itself is the bread and butter of the genre and it actually is nice, that nearly every firearm brings something different to the table without feeling overpowered (yes, even the target-seeking Gauss-gun) or imperative. You can finish every level with every combination of firearms. Even every boss-fight. Speaking of which: the boss-fights certainly are a highlight. Each one needs another tactic and they are far more demanding, than the normal enemies (once, because of the tactics, second because your chip abilities won't work).
You can acquire different abilities for your implant-chip that are all pretty useful and necessary to give you the edge in what are generally fun firefights.
Multiplayer focusses on a 4-player Coop-mode, that pitches you and three other players into missions against the AI. These ones can include intel acquiration, assasination, theft...everything from the colorful world of industrial espionage. Online play enables you to level your character up and then purchasing new guns, perks etc. You know the drill. While this can be a bit grindy at times, it actually encourages and the next new toy never feels too far away.
what I disliked:
For all it's worth: this game is short. If you know what to do and you're a hardened shooter-veteran, you will be able to breath through the campaign in 5 - 6 hours. There is no "New Game +" and the story doesn't offer anything like branching paths or the oh-so-popular decisions that would encourage another playthrough. In addition to that, the ending feels extremely rushed and very unfulfilling. The story itself is rather predictable and you will be able to sniff out double-crossings from miles away. So here again is the comparison to the Shadowrun universe: it just feels like "A story", never really "THE story" and what works for a deep universe with more than 20 years to build upon doesn't necessarily so in the universe of just two games with this new installment having not that much to do with it.
The graphics are nice and deliver a sterile look, but boy oh boy did they overdo it on the "bloom" side. I like it genrally in this setting, because the effect itself is fitting for it but this game really reminds me off this VGcats-strip. It hurts. It doesn't let you read stuff on Newsboards etc. This decision especially baffles me, since the rest of the game tries to evoke a deeper understanding of the world in you with news-pieces, personal logs etc. that you can find.
Gameplay-wise, the (thank god pretty few) platforming segments remind an awful lot of the parts of "Mirror's Edge" that just weren't very well designed. The enemy AI (aside the boss' ones) is servicable, but won't win any nobel-prizes soon.
Chip powers are another thing: you have your abilities but it never really feels like they matter, other than in firefights. Some puzzles would have been nice and would have served as a refresher in between the shooting parts.
Multiplayer is quite fun but like the single-player ultimately suffers from a severe lack of content like different game modes. I think publishers nowadays overdo it with DLC but in this case they really dropped the ball. The setting and world itself are interesting and would have been perfect for some additional scenarios with some more flesh.
So was it worth the reduced price of admission?
I'd say yes. I bought mine for 15,99 and considering that this is just barely more than what Activision charges for a CoD MapPack with four maps, you'll definitely get your money's worth. I think this game got more criticism, than it deserved due to the massive changes done to an established franchise. I don't get the amount of rage but I certainly DO think a classic Syndicate had worked well, if done right (I own the original on both, PC and SNES).
The campaign can keep you entertained throughout and the multiplayer is worth checking out.
HINDSIGHT: worth the full price?
Nope, definitely not. While the gameplay-flaws are nothing game-breaking, it just suffers from content in every respect. I do prefer a well done shorter game to an overblown clusterfuck (think "Journey" and FFXIII for an extreme example) but it just feels to rushed and unfuflfilling.
That was Syndicate. Next up:
What I liked:
It's Mortal Kombat at it's worst and that makes it sooooo good. Everything about it screams "I'M FROM THE NINETIES" and it just works. The story-mode especially suffers from extreme shlockage in the cutscenes that manage to watch the razor's edge between guilty pleasure and shame and I love it. Hell: the story itself suffers from the typical Nineties "Ah fuck, we gonna do it anew...in RADICAL". Shao Khan triumphed at the end of Mortal Kombat Armageddon. We all know that this is not good, so in a despaired effort, Raiden sends a message back through time to the beginning of the first Mortal Kombat tournament (yes, the one from the first game) to write the whole history again. The game then spans around an alternate story-arc to MK 1 - 3.
Is everything left retro? Thankfully not. Netherrealm Studios did a commendable job of revitalizing this franchise with a much needed infection of gameplay-overhaul. Let's face it kids: nearly nobody in the nineties played MK for the gameplay. The pre-rendered figures always controlled somewhat sluggish and slow with some strange hitboxes and not nearly the flow, that other fighting games like Street Fighter or Killer Instinct inherited. Why you think everyone hated on Pitfighter?
We all played it for it's genuine brand of ultra-violence.
Netherrealm did a great job identifying, what made it a succesful franchise in the first place (ultra-violence, interesting characters, etc.) while shelfing stuff that was just outdated (mostly all of the gameplay). The result is a game that's fluent combat with manic combos and juggles even surpasses most other fighting games currently on the market while not alienating newbies to the matter. The cast of fighters is impressive with nearly every character from the whole series in it. PS3 owners even get an exclusive with Kratos joining their ranks...a good fit.
The amount of content in this game is amazing. In addition to the story mode, single players can engage in some retro-arcade-ladder mode or simple 1 - 1 fights. Then, there is the challenge tower, which features 300 (!!!) challenges that rank from "defeat 100 Zombies" over "where is the missing eye" up to "win this fight in 10 seconds without taking any damage". Players get rewarded for nearly everything they do with points that can be unlocked on the graveyard for random stuff like character Art, additional costumes or even new finishers.
The multiplayer is where every fighting game should shine, however, and MK does so with bravado. Basically everybody can set up tournaments, the lobby system is extremely fun with players being able to rate fights or shout random profanities at the current two fighters and the netcode makes for great, delay-free fisticuffs.
The Komplete edition basically bundles every released DLC into the game. The nice thing: it's on the disc, so no download. While it's mostly buffing up the already impressive roster with the formerly missing characters from the universe and all of their classic constumes, the most intriguing thing about the DLC should be the ability to play as none other than Freddy Kruger himself.
What I disliked:
There is actually not that much to dislike unless you are not a fan of fighting games, but then why would you have bothered with buying it in the first place? If I now had to nitpick it would be the inevitable difficulty spikes in the story mode, courtesy of the differing fighting styles and the fact, that the unlockable extra finishers are actually already unlocked. All you DO unlock is the move list to do so which can be looked up on the internet.
So, is it worth the reduced price?
Absolutely. If you're a fan of fighting games you get something closely resembling your wet dreams. 32 different fighters with different fighting styles and enough content to keep you playing for months on end...only to return later for "just one more round".
HINDSIGHT: Was it worth full price
Ah, this one is hard to say. While I tend to say "yes", because of all the aforementioned stuff, I have to say no, due to the questionable business decision of releasing a fighting game another time with some added content for the same full price-tag.
This was the first edition of Bargain Binge. Feedback is always a welcome thing. I think the next issue (if it is something to be desired xD) will take a week or two since it will feature two games, that might take me a little longer to finish: Dragon's Dogma and Deus Ex - Human Revolution.
Everybody has his or her pile of shame. I know it, you know it, so quit denying it. It's only natural, especially in the months from September to November. Publishers tend to think we are made of money (or saving up all year for these special months) and subsequently release nearly every single blockbuster in these months. So we settle on one, maybe two big releases and tend to put the other ones on our infamous pile. However, when we stumble upon them on one of the feared "Saturday morning shopping endeavors" several months later, we tend to give the price tag a look and say "Holy fluffernutter, it's cheap" before grabbing our purse and having made a purchase ignoring that we have children/spouses/pets/slaves to feed. And let's be honest: nobody only buys ONE game, when we can save, so I thought I'd make a blog out of it. Ladies and gentlemen, Bargain Binge is born.
In this blog I'm looking at games that are available for cheaper than before and offer my opinion on them (think of it as a mini-review) and my personal estimation whether it is worth the reduced price of admission or not. In addition, I will then give my opinion on whether it was worth it's full price in the first place.
Opinion in this place means, that I will play it through or at least to a justifiable degree, when "playing through" doesn't apply (think: fighting games, sports games, MMO titles).
This, however, comes with a certain set of rules. I want to give an opinion here, not give publishers some free advertising space. So I gave myself a rule set that I will specify in this space to further link it in the articles (which saves me the time to type it down over and over again....HA, savings).
And without further ado:
THOU SHALT BE A NEW GAME: Used games are cheap. So much is for certain. However, their availability is not granted for everyone. I only consider games, that you can buy fresh off the presses, so to speak. Factory-sealed is the way to go.
THOU SHALT NOT BE AN INDIE GAME, NOR SHALT THOU BE RETRO: This is more of a philosophical choice here. While Indie games aren't that expensive to start with, retro games are always hard to come by except eBay or GOG.com. Since eBay is most likely used: no inclusion here.
THOU SHALT NOT BE ON SALE, BUT PERMANENTLY REDUCED: Maybe I'm a bad gamer, but I find it really difficult to get Mass Effect on a Steam flash sale and play it through, write an accompanying article and publish it for enough people to capitalize off of it in 4 hours....well you get my hint. No Black Friday sales, no Steam sales etc. Only permanently reduced games.
THOU SHALT BE AVAILABLE FOR CHEAP AT AT LEAST TWO RETAILERS AND/OR DOWNLOAD PLATFORMS: Again: I don't want to advertise publishers or retailers. They don't need it, I don't need it, you don't need it. So I'll check the price tag via common methods. If at least two retailers can claim a price according to these rules: it qualifies. Is it for cheap at Amazon and Gamestop? Come right in. Is it permanently reduced at BestBuy and on Steam? Oh in with you, fine piece.
THOU SHALT NOT COMETH WITH LINKS INCLUDETH IN THE ARTICLES: I simply wouldn't be comfortable with shitting out referral links or stuff. I trust your capabilities of using google or just writing me a message when in doubt. I'm not a marketer and don't want to be one.
THOU SHALT BE PRICED ACCORDING TO THESE GUIDELINES: What is a bargain? According to my rules for this, a game only qualifies: if it meets the certain price-tag:
- a single game: up to 20$/€
- a GOTY Edition: up to 25 $/€
- a collection of multiple games: up to 30$/€
So. These are the rules and general information. The first entry in this series will come later today, since I yet have to write it. However, I can spoil you what it will include: Syndicate (2012) and Mortal Kombat - Komplete Edition (this place was initially reserved for Yakuza 4 but it still costs 30 bucks up).
So yeah, this is going to be another one of those "End of the year blogs". However, I found it really difficult to sum it up in one or even two "Top 10" Lists. I know there are still people out there who view 2012 as a giant disappointment in gaming...I don't think these people have touched anything gaming-related in 2012 with a ten-feet pole. Every genre had highlights...even obscure japanese dating sims are said to have one of the best written games out there in years with Katawa Shoujo. It's also freeware, so maybe I'm gonna check it out sometime if only for curiosity how they made a dating sim about a boy dating disabled girls and NOT be awkward or offensive to disabled people in general.
But back to topic. I just made a list and some titles really didn't fit onto the list but stand out in some way, so I'm gonna give out some special awards, before hitting the obligatory lists.
Before I forget, let's get this out of the way: I'm a person with limited amounts of these two things: time and money. If you don't find your favourite game mentioned on here, chances are that I haven't played it YET. Also, I only recently got myself a PS3 and used it, to play the games that I really bought it for...the Uncharted Series and Heavy Rain that is, so please forgive me for the lack of Playstation exclusives on here. Playstation Vita games won't be on here, since I sadly don't happen to have one. In addition I also played some games from recent years I haven't played yet (like the excellent Darksiders) pr wanted to recap (Mass Effect 1 & 2).Here is a list of games from 2012 I have yet to play and definitely am going to play at some point (in no particular order). Again: it's not for fanboyism or anything but a lack of time and money...or both.: Tokyo Jungle, Black Knight Sword, Lollipop Chainsaw, Syndicate, Hell Yeah - Wrath of the dead rabbit, X-Com - Enemy Unknown, THe Darkness 2, Binary Domain, Thomas was alone, Dear Esther, Home, Anna, Resident Evil - Operation Raccoon City (for completionist reasons only), Legends of Grimrock, Sniper Elite v2, Ghost Recon - Future Soldier, Dragon's Dogma, Papo & Yo, Persona 4 Golden, Zero Escape - Virtue's Last Reward, Halo 4, Yakuza - Dead Souls, Hitman Absolution, Paper Mario Sticker Star, Thirty FLights of Loving, Madden 13 (YES, I'm a sucker for Football, YES, I love managing my team and giving my beloved Cardinals Franchise the success it's not really having right now...now git off ma lawn).
So on we go to the gaming year 2012:
With the arrival of downloadable games we got the great possibility of being able to relive some of the classics of days (more or less) past. Most of these games are well known so I'm not going to lose that many words about them, just some words about how they are ported and whether they stood the test of time.
Guardian Heroes (XBLA):
Tell me what you want: Sega got it right. The port of this overlooked Sega Saturn gem (ah...now I realize, why it's overlooked) is how it should be done. Reworked Soundtrack, Sounds and Cutscenes that nevertheless are true to the original; graphics are available in HD or the classic look (which holds up surprisingly nice) and the gameplay is nice, especially in Couch Coop. Has everything you wish for and more. Give it a try.
Toejam & Earl (XBLA):
Sega again...and they tricked me. I thought I was getting TJ&E for my points, but nope: despite not mentioning it, it's part 1 AND 2 of the wacky duo's adventures. Both play vastly different and are VEEEEEEERY 90s but if you happen to come from that time (like me) or have a genuine love for that period of time (like noone ever), you'll fall in love. The first one in particular is still somewhat unique. If you don't happen to know it: a rogue-like level crawler, where as one of two funky Aliens from the planet Funkotron you are trying to collect the parts of your downed ship. You collect presents that contain random stuff. Sometimes good and whacky, sometimes bad (and whacky).
Holds up and holds value since the world is randomized and the presents shufle every startup. Grab a buddy and get ready to get back to Funkotron.
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection (XBox360, PS3, PS Vita):
Well...Konami and their HD collections. This one here is one of the better examples. The graphics and effects got some rework and MGS3 is on there in the Subsistence-Version, so yeah.
However, I still don't really get, how they can call it collection if it happens to have the entirety of three games on there...in a franchise that has 10 games in it. So yeah if you want to play MGS 2 and the excellent 3 again and always wanted to know what Peace Walker would look like in HD get it when it's on sale. Otherwise I can't really recommend it, especially since MGS2 hasn't aged that well.
Sound Shapes (PSN):
Dammit, this one took me off-guard. Innovation is often used but nearly never executed in...well...innovative ways (it's especially funny, when EA used that word to promote MoH: Warfighter). Not so Sound Shapes. It flawlessly blends the intuitive Handling of a Step Sequencer with surprisingly good Platformer elements to create something that's insanely creative without abandoning gameplay elements at all (something, SUDA51 games sometimes do). It is hard to describe until you play it yourself. Having the blueprint of a song and using your character to unlock more and more notes and beats to it is really a thing of beauty and can be soothing and challenging at the same time. The minimalistic visuals are as fitting as welcome, as is the soundtrack which features original pieces, but also tracks made by Artists like Beck or Deadmau5. To top it all off, they included an editor that is easy to use while never feeling limited. If you want to play something truly original, are a sucker for electronic music, love games where you can build levels or all of those points combined: don't hesitate. Get it. Nao...
Best Dragonball-Episode never aired:
Asura's Wrath (XBox360, PS3):
What can you say about this game, that hasn't been said before. It is loud, it is stupid, it is obnoxious and it is just tons of fun. The game mechanics can really be a bit on the short side sometimes, but what you get in return is definitely worth it. The boss fights are so ridiculously presented and so many of the set pieces are simply breathtaking that you tend to forget, how simple it is, that you do: Arena Fight, QTE, Cutscene, QTE, Arena Fight, QTE, End of Episode. But come on...when you are flying through space, blasting giant mutant-elephant carriers out of the air, push the Finger of planet-sized god around or get. Stabbed. From. Planet. To. Planet.....who fucking cares? Oh, the soundtrack is excellent, mixing classical elements with japanese folklore, spaghetti-western-style music and rock...and Antonin Dvorak's Symphony of the new world never gets old either way. Don't have time for it? Okay...
Top 7 Indie Games:
This year marked finally marked it: you finally can't call every downloadable-only title "Indie". I simply refuse calling games like "The Walking Dead" or "Journey" Indie with the production values in and behind it (despite the fact that they are easily accessible without long search for millions of customers). So I'm gonna part Indie Games from the rest of the bunch. Sadly I haven't found the time to play all of the Indie Games this year I wanted, so here's the Top 7. These games all deserve your support and your money.
#7: Universe Sandbox (PC):
While the game part is arguably up for debate it's up on Steam and it's basically what is advertised: You are given two of the most fun things to mess with: the Universe and the laws of physics. Want to give our solar system a second sun and see the gravitational forces catapult Mercury out and let Mars crash into the Earth? You can do that. Want to create a Quasar between the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy to see billions of stars and lifeforms face a horrible death? You can do that. Want to fling asteroids at the earth until it's an uninhabitable Rock, cleansed by the fires of your will? You can do that. Incredibly fun, it would be higher on this list if not for one reason: you need to be a little keen in astrophysics...because it magnifies the fun to understand the horrors you are producing.
#6: Teleglitch (PC):
You happen to like the Alien movies? Wanna be able to experience some survival horror paired with some top-down action? And it all shall be rogue-like, with randomly generated game worlds and an atmosphere of tension, created without flashy graphics or orchestral scores? Look no further and DON'T overlook this gem. It's haunting, it's disturbing, it will keep you entertained and plan your moves and it's just great.
#5: Super Amazing Wagon Adventure (Xbox360 Indies):
Basically, this is Oregon Trail on Crack. You have to make the trail west...by any means necessary. So grab your three guys 'n gals and embark on the journey, hunt animals for food, cross or jump rivers, unlock new carriages, get attacked be wolves, Spiders, Unicorns, Dragons, Machine guns and whaaaaaaaat? Yup. That + the "story" is non-linear. The set pieces are randomly out behind one another, some can only be unlocked in certain carriages or by pure chance. Damnit, it's just 80 points. Get it. It will make you laugh so many times and the replayability is off the charts. Nothing to keep you occupied for weeks, but definitely one of those "Holy Shit, how did I spend so much time on this"-games.
#4: Hotline Miami (PC):
OK, troll me. Yup, it's just number four. In nearly every other year, it would have made a serious push for the one spot, but not this year. Nevertheless, this disturbing, fast paced, LSD-fueled Trip into a serial killer and his morbidly brutal ways in finest SuperVGA graphics is worth every penny you invest.
#3: FTL - Faster than Light (PC):
That's it...my crew is dead, Shields, Weapons and Engines are down. Oxygen ran out minutes ago. It all started so simple: bring the documents to the Federation HQ. So I embarked on the journey, my trusty spaceship worked like a charm. On my many travels I met strange races, merchants who sold me fine systems or crewmembers. I fought pirates, rebels and aliens, rescued space stations from Defense-AI malfunctions and navigated Asteroidfields. Every battle was a challenge. It was no fast paced action, more a Star-Trek-esque "tactics and maneuver"-battle. And now, I found my master. He countered everything we shot at him and had some lucky shots himself. That my crew wasn't well-trained in close combat was another failure, as those chitin-based bastards cut through them like grass. I flooded them out the airlocks, however. Well, I'm signing off...they just fired a missi..........
#2: To the Moon (PC):
An old man dies. His last wish: He wants to go to the moon. No problem for this new company, that's specialized in implanting memories into people's brains on their deathbeds. However, this old man can't remember WHY he wants that so bad. Not able to do it, if they don't find out, two doctors travel through the old man's mind...and find out things, that you wouldn't suspect at first glance.
Like "The Walking Dead" this year, To the Moon is more a digital story with gameplay elements. Made with the RPG Make for the most parts it tells a beautifully touching story about a big dream. I'm not going to tell you any more, because I don't want to spoil anything. It's the first and only game to make me cry. The graphics are sweet retro, the soundtrack is beautiful (courtesy of Laura Shigihara, who also made the tunes for Plants vs Zombies), but the star is the tragic, funny, goofy, heart-filled story about a dying man's wish to see our primary satellite.
#1: Lone Survivor (PC):
Here you have it folks. The best Indie game of the year. With minimalistic things it does, what all the modern Silent Hills, Resident Evils and Dead Spaces can't provide. A horrortrip so disturbing, bone-chilling and panic inducing, when you are low on health, tired, need something to drink and are out of ammo, but there's one of those faceless horrors between you and the saving appartment-door. It actually made me feel uncomfortable while playing it and I loved every second. The strange colour schemes and "scratching" Synth-Sounds and Rock tunes are only enhancing, what is a masterpiece of Survival Horror and worth mentioning next to the all-greats of the genre (and CERTAINLY above their more recent entries into their respective series)
Top 9 most disappointing games 2012:
As I mentioned above, I'm limited in time and money. Since I own several consoles I simply do not have the time for titles that are obviously bad, just to have something at the end of the year to rant about. So the premise of the following games is all the same: they don't have to necessarily be bad. However, they evoked expectations through whatever sources that were left unfulfilled.
#9: Little Inferno (PC):
After World of Goo became one of my favourite games ever, I just expected more out of 2D Boy than a firemaking simulator. The style of it follows the one of WoG to a T so if you dug that you will dig this as well...it's just so....shallow gameplay-wise.
"Consoles and MOBA? That doesn't go together all that well." That was my perception at the beginning of the year. Two games later, my perception hasn't altered one bit. Guardians of Middle Earth was as generic, as they come with some balance issues and the awe-inspiring number of 2 Maps. Awesomenauts tried to do something new but ultimately failed. Too few players actually killed, what could have been an interesting new take. And while the PC got the promised Content updates, consoles were left out. Funny thing: both games have cool intros. GoME features a nice battle between some of Middle Earth's finest and worst, while Awesomenauts is designed like a Saturday Morning Cartoon. Sadly, not really much else speaks for those games.
#7: FIFA Street (Xbox 360, PS3):
Yes, I actually had hopes for this. I played Fifa Street 2 on PSP for I don't know how many hours. FS3 was too cartoony and over-the-top, so I was really happy to see EA announce a reboot of this beloved series of mine. However, it didn't really work out that great. The presentation wasn't the problem, the look was great, but the "feel" just wasn't there. What I loved about the old games was, that you could create your four-man roster from a wide pool of world-class players, while experimenting, to find out all the tricks. NOTHING of that made it into the sequel. You create your character and are than assigned a random team of other, player created players. Tricks are also not to be found out through experimentation, but through leveling up and unlocking them. It's soooo much fun doing the same thing over and over again, to learn something new to do over and over again...oh, except not at all.
#6: Max Payne 3 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC):
Just to get this out of the way: MP3 is not a bad game. Not by any stretch. Alone the outstandingly genious soundtrack by Industrial Rock Band "Health" is worth the price of admission (like the widely known Tears, or my favorite: the darkly looming Future) I also had my fun with it, so why is it on this list? Because Rockstar tried to forge together what doesn't belong together. This is mainly gameplay-wise. They implemented mechanics from modern mechanics into this, that somehow didn't work together all that well. For example the cover system and everything that comes with it. You take large amounts of damage from every hit so you have to get to cover, but at the same time the system is in parts still made for the "old" Max Payne, in that it enhances the use of "storm into the room, go to bullet time and shoot the crap out of every motherfucker that moves". These two things can work, but there are several scenes where it didn't and that kind of killed the game as there was hardly any flow coming up, because the story just passes by VEEEEERY slowly in the first 7 hours to take up pace in the last three. That's, when the game becomes really good. The scene in the airport, where the aforementioned "Tears" from Health plays is an absolute highlight/ You want to make gaming cineastic? That's how. The character of Max is really really good, but the supporting cast is bland, cliche and completely forgettable. There is good stuff in this game and also fun to be had...but that only makes me crinch MORE about its shortcomings.
...oh, also: the Multiplayer sucked.
#5: I am Alive (XBLA, PSN, PC):
I wanted to like this game. Interaction with humans is nearly always very intense. You get the feeling, that you have to survive and the completely desaturated color palette makes it seem so overwhelming...but then it comes to the gameplay and it crumbles mightily. This game loses it appeal faster than Lindsay Lohan on a Ladies Night out at the brewery. The Stamina-meter is a nice idea but implemented so bone-headedly it's just sad. The world is designed neatly, until you come to a point, where you can't point out, where to jump, hang onto, while your stamina bar lowers and you fall to your death....ten times in a row. So much potential and it just went to waste. Well...what to expect from a game, that was supposed to be Ubisoft's AAA-Fallout-killer and ended up as a hastily finished 15 bucks downloadable title after being handled by several studios. However, I did anticipate more. The potential was surely there.
#4: Ninja Gaiden 3 (Xbox 360, PS3, WiiU):
How to treat a series, known for it's toothgrinding difficulty-level and hard, but rewarding combat? Yeah, ease up the combat, give player's more dumb cannon fodder in larger arena battles, reduce the weapons to...one, make an interesting story-arc (self-reflection of one's actions) completely unbelievable by going banananutbutters an hour in and counter all those stupid, piss-easy arena battles with ridiculously frustrating boss battles in the later half of the game. Oh, and make sure to put everything, "nerds" nowadays like into these bosses. To give examples: I fought a giant cyborg T-Rex, a ridiculously oversized attack chopper and a guy in a wheelchair who transformed it into a giant walking death machine using parts from stealth-fighter-jets while standing on the deck of a submarine aircraft carrier.....WOW....THAT is a LOT to buy game.....THAT is a lot to buy....
Ah yeah: they also took out all the gore and replaced it with "more realistic" violence. While it is still a brutal game...it's just not "Ninja Gaiden".
#3: Alan Wake - American Nightmare (XBLA, PC)
Meeting in the Microsoft offices: "People want more Alan Wake. What can we do?" - "Let's make a completely average third-person shooter, cut out all the horror-elements, give it the bare minimum of a story and just have Alan ramble weird stuff....noone will notice it anyway" - "Deal."
#2: Amy (Xbox 360, PSN)
When the first trailer went online, I was really hopeful. It looked like combining the best of the big survival-horror franchises into one game and actually being survival-horror. Boy, was I looking forward to it and BOY, did the final product SUCK. The story was a convoluted mess of an afterthought, the gameplay was one big escort mission with partner A"I" at the level of the free-roaming brick. Don't even get me started on the technical dedpartment. The sound was just bad with bad voice acting, forgettable music and bad effects...but the graphics...oh my god the graphics. I'm by no way someone who wants great graphics. I grew up with a MSX and games like Galaga...not the XBLA Remake, the original. Basically everything released since 2006 looks awesome to me. But this...I mean this...even on the PS2 this wouldn't be one of the good looking games. This game is just atrocious in every way and it would have been a deserving Number One if there wasn't this one game. This one game, where it's publisher and developer managed to fuck EVERYTHING up...
#1: Resident Evil 6 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC, hopefully not any more consoles....)
I don't know, where to begin. This is literally one of the worst games, I have EVER played. The camera is slow, sluggish and to close to you, the melee is to powerful and not fit for the camera angle, the action is bland and repetitive, the controls suck, the QTEs are atrocious, the pacing is horrible, the writing is corny, the delivery of it even worse, dramatic scenes are "laughable", the biggest WTF moments are those because of stupidity, the vehicle-sections are pointless (you can win the Hummer-section with Chris by Not. Touching. ANy. Button. Or. Stick. I'm not fooling you. Try it. I dare you), the characters are nearly all pricks, the story itself makes no sense, no atmosphere at all, no survival, no horror, not even good action....damn. This game is horrible and I am so sick and tired of people defending it, because it looks pretty and you can move and shoot at the same time. No, it is not enhancing, on what RE4 did. It's a blasphemy to say that and GODDAMIT CAPCOM HOW COULD YOU DO THIS??????
Now let's get to the good stuff. The year 2012 had many great titles...so many, that I could only bring myself to narrow them down to ten by mentioning the other great ones at well. These games are all worth your hard earned cash and maybe in other years had made the list. This was really hard and I feel really bad for alot of those titles in there to not rank them higher. So here's the
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):
Starhawk (PS3): Damn, that came out of nowhere. Why did this game sell so badly? It's a SciFi-Shooter in a Firefly-esque SciFi-Western-Setting with giant robots that can transform into flying thingies. Oh, and you can build stuff like turrets, bunkers, hangars etc. Campaign was nice, but multiplayer is where this game shines and boy does it shine. Give it a try.
Deadlight (XBLA): Yawn, Zombies again. However, this game delivers a different take on the apocalypse with a more puzzle based side-scrolling gameplay. A bit repetitive towards the end, the art-design, threatening atmosphere and awe-inspiring soundtrack make it one of the better takes on Zombies and a short, but entertaining trip.
Dust - An Elysian Tail (XBLA): This title was THIS close to making the list. Beautifully, hand-drawn graphics and animations, a great combat system and one of the best executions of the Metroidvania system, that walks the fine line between rewarding explorers but not penalizing people who just want to take the well-written story in, make for one of the best downloadable titles this year.
Fez (XBLA): A game with a twist (see, what I did there?) it makes you rotate the levels to find your way. All in nice pixel art and with fine chiptune-music it is a treat for the senses and a slobberknocker for the orientational-center of your brain.
Gotham City Imposters (XBLA, PC): Fake Batmans vs. Fake Jokers. Sounds fun? Is fun. And since it's now free-to-play on the PC go check it out. Just watch the Intro (linked in the title here) and you know, what you are up to...oh and make sure to play the tutorial. It's hilarious.
Hybrid (XBLA): A cover-based shooter without free movement, but fast position changes with a jetpack on a global persistent battlefield calls for the right tactics...and boy those better come fast to ya, because the 3 on 3 battles are paced insanely fast. Not for the weak of heart or patience because you're gonne eat dirt your first hours into it.
Mark of the Ninja (XBLA): Making a good stealth game is a difficult thing but the guy's behind "Mark of the Ninja" did it oh so well. Every kill feels rewarding, only to be topped by the feeling of sneaking by the guards undetected. What the developer stuffed into a 2D(!!) game is more than enough to make every Agent47, Sam Fisher or Solid Snake green with envy. Speaking of colours. Be in for some of the smoothest animations of the year and again a charming "Saturday Morning Cartoon"-look....with blood.
Retro City Rampage (XBLA, PSN, PC, WiiWare, PSVita): a wild and whacky trip down Nostalgia Lane that is charming for all the right reasons. If you happen to be a kid of the 80s or 90s you will feel home immediately and the referencial easter-eggs are too many to count. In the first minutes I encountered cameos of: Batman (complete universe), Duke Nukem, Skate or Die, Duck Hunt, Final Fight, Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, Back to the Future, Sonic the Hedgehog, Frogger, the Nintendo Zapper and the Teenage Mutant Ninja motherfuckin' Turtles. A wild and whacky sensory overload. Cool extra: customize the screen to your liking in the Options Menu.
Rock Band Blitz (XBLA, PSN): Compatible with the entire Rock Band Back-catalogue of songs(!!!) this gimmick-free controller version of Rock Band has some interesting concepts to show for.
Spelunky (XBLA): FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU. Remember that, because you will be screaming it constantly....just to start this great platformer over and over again.
Oh Noes 2 (XBL Indies): Avenge the Hamburgers.....'nuff said. It's just 80 points so try it out.
Trials Evolution (XBLA): I'm a sucker for "different" puzzle games. Be it a "World of Goo" or "The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom" that combine their puzzles with an intriguing narrative or be it games like Trials Evolution, that give me a motorcycle, generic NuMetal Sound, physics and batshit insane courses to master. Doesn't get better than that. Best puzzler of 2012.
Armored Core V (Xbox360, PS3): A mecha game that expands fully in multiplayer. Complex as fuck when it comes to mech building, weak in the graphics department, but every choice you make counts. And when a squad of you and your friends glide through town, each in his/her customized Mech, destroying everything that crosses your path...well....it's kinda rewarding.
SSX (Xbox360, PS3): Fifa Street sucked, but EAs Reboot of the well-beloved Snowboard Franchise rocked. There is just no comparable sports title of that quality on the market.
Resident Evil Revelations (3DS): Sigh...Capcom knows, how to make a good RE game...the atmosphere was great and...ah, what am I talking: it made nearly everything right, that RE6 did wrong + it is an impressive looking game...especially on the 3DS in 3D.
Transformers - Fall of Cybertron (Xbox 360, PS3): High Moon Studios showed us all in 2010 with War for Cybertron, that it actually IS possible to make a good Transformers game. They continued the story with "Fall of Cybertron" and what is there to say: they made better, what was bad in the first one and improved in nearly everything. Especially Storytelling. It's a great game and if you only have the slightest itch for giant robots that can transform into vehicles you owe it to yourself to play this game. It's everything a sequel should be and then some.
Now for the Main Event...this is my
Top 10 Games of 2012:
#10: Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS):
Yup, I love this game that much. What Nintendo made out of this franchise is just the right thing at just the right time. Okay, the ground levels can feel a bit clunky but nevertheless I enjoyed them. This is partly due to the creative enemy- and leveldesign and on the other hand to some of the best dialogue you will hear all year. The writing is sharp and incredibly funny, dialogues are a blast to hear and to top it off, the voices are casted excellently. The title is also strong in the technical department. The soundtrack is filled to the edges with memorable tunes, the graphics are fine and the 3D effect is the best ever seen. This makes especially the Rail Shooter parts in the beginning of each level so incredibly fun to play. Imagine Starfox with an Angel who never shuts up in 3D. Combine all that with a deep weapon-crafting system, tons of collectibles and the best difficulty setting possibility ever and you get my Number 10 Pick of the year. I've played about thirty hours (the campaign alone makes up about 10 - 13 hours) and it will only get more.
#9: Sine Mora (XBLA, PSN, PC):
The best bullet-hell Shmup this year. It combines the tight gameplay of familiar bullet-hell shooters with the new method of a time pool that depletes when getting hit and refills when shooting an enemy to create a whole new level of difficulty that provides challenge without being frustrating. The levels are gorgeous, ranging from luscious, green jungles over dusty deserts to the dark bottom of the sea. Tied together by a story about time travel and a talking bison that blackmails a racially discriminated rape victim into helping him avenge his son...all that presented in finest hungarian. The boss fights are, where every shmup's fate hinges on and Sine Mora masters this discipline fabulously. They are original, challenging and always just a blast to watch. You want Bullet Hell? It's not gonna get much better than this one.
#8: Sleeping Dogs (Xbox360, PS3, PC)
An asian-american cop goes back to his home"hood" in Hong Kong to infiltrate and ultimately overthrow the chinese mafia. Captured between his work ethic (and a boss who likes to bend the rules) and his former "friends" (who give him the feeling of family), he explores a well-designed open-world Hong Kong in which there's a lot to do. Of all the "GTA"-likes, I liked the fighting system in this game best. The melee is the heart and soul of it and it is a bit like the Batman-Arkham-games with more techniques to learn and some incredibly brutal, but at the same time incredibly rewarding, environmental kills. When you are given a gun, they always feel decisive and you don't want to waste your ammo. Car chases are some of the best in the entire genre and they just feel badass.
#7: Call of Duty - Black Ops 2 (Xbox360, PS3, WiiU, PC):
I liked it...so what? It's my list after all. The story was well paced and while some "twists" were painfully obvious the whole story itself made for an enticing trip around the world and to the future. The Strikeforce missions were a welcome novelty and are welcome to return (with a wee bit better AI please). Zombies and Multiplayer are top-notch but who expected different? The new Pick10 System allows for great customization and the ultimate creation of your uber-class. I could go on, but what would it bring. Haters gonna hate. Fans gonna....fan?
#6: Dishonored (Xbox360, PS3, PC):
A team of people that worked on the Thief-series, Deus Ex and Half Life 2 sure has some high expectations for their first project...and wow, did Arcane Studios deliver on the promises made. The Steampunk London is such a well designed place, you can't take it all in in one journey...but why should you? There are just so many ways to reach your goals, I'll bet you for money, that even after 5 walkthroughs, you haven't seen it all. Between going postal and going silent there are oh so many ways and nuances that blend into each other so well and flawlessly it's marvelous. And it is one of those rare occasions, where you are really free to do, as you like. It is first and foremost a stealth-game, but it has no penalties for being seen (well...other than being shot at). You actually CAN maul your way through your opposition if that is to your liking...and believe me: some of those bad guys are REALLY asking for less than royal ass-kicking...with a sword...and then being eaten by a swarm of rats.
#5: Darksiders 2 (Xbox360, PS3, PC, WiiU):
Darksiders was somewhat of a "hidden gem". Being snarled at for just being a plain rip-off of God of War it was in fact a plain Rip-Off of Legend of Zelda....the good old ones, that is. Darksiders was the best Zelda of this console generation...until Darksiders 2 came around and enhanced on everything, had a bigger, more diverse world, an absolute badass main-character, LOOT and some of the most creative locales in recent history (I'm looking at you giant flying death fortress). The combat system got enhanced to fit the new loot-based inventory and boy was it fun to grab your powered up scythes and slash through hordes of enemies. Darksiders 2 is beautiful, motivating and full of content that keeps you entertained.
#4: Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC, WiiU):
I love Mass Effect. I also loved the third part. The Ending didn't bother me, because I always felt like the whole game was the ending, where you tied the loose ends together and the final decision was just that...another decision. This game had so many memorable moments with all my beloved characters (given that they didn't die in previous games) and featured some of the best sidestories in the whole franchise. For example the arc when the Geth Fleet attacks the Quarian Fleet and you basically have to take a stand between them. The mechanics of the game have been tweaked over once again and while the action feels like a shooter, it's a good shooter. I happened to like the action in this game as well as the RPG elements. The new Inventory was something I also welcomed as a change. The dialogue is well-written and features some pretty intense moments.
I just found it very very satisfying, roaming the galaxy, gathering the assets you need for a final assault on the biggest threat, the universe has faced. I expected great things after its two supreme predecessors and I, for my part, wasn't disappointed, thus giving it a deserving fourth spot.
#3: Journey (PSN):
By this point you will certainly know, what this game is: one of the most gripping, beautiful and atmospheric...well "Journeys" you will ever make. Starting all alone, being joined by random other players with your only way of communicating being movement and "chirps" is a fantastic emotional bonding tool. You begin to develop some kind of speech with that and with in about 10 minutes it really happens: you are able to travel together while facing all kinds of dangers or obstacles without speaking a single word. All for your journey to the mysterious glow, far far in the distance, learning about the fate of your populace in the same, wordless way. I can't say much, that hasn't been said before but: GO PLAY IT. It's fascinating, captivating and won't get out of your head anytime soon. I'm not even starting on how great the soundtrack matches everything you do, be it lightly flying through the air or slowly crawling up a mountain....or how beautiful the graphics and the art design are. Go play it...go...like right after this article. See it for yourself. It's not jsut a game, it's an experience worth making.
#2: Borderlands 2 (Xbox360, PS3, PC):
Nearly every other year, this one would be a flawless Number One. It has everything great from the original Borderlands plus so, SO much more. First of all, there is the story by Anthony Burch, who did such an admirable Job of giving this game a soul of it's own. The characters are so well written and the dialogue is so good, you wouldn't really expect it in a game like this. Especially Handsome Jack is a villain for the ages. At first he just appears to be your typical jerk. Like a corrupted version of a Vault Hunter. However, he delivers his jerkyness so well, that you just really want to punch him in his handsome Nuts....hard. As the story progresses, however, you discover more facettes about him and towards the end it gets really dark and grim sometimes. Mashing these two things together is a difficult job and Borderlands 2 does it with bravado. In addition it features a ton of sidequests that are just a blast to do, because you want to hear the funny dialogue accompanied by it. THe shooting mechanics are nice and every gun feels somewhat unique. There are more "base models" than in BL1 and with tons of attributes and enhancements, there might not be "a bazillion" guns...but the number has to be close. The landscapes are more diverse and feature something for every taste, the Multiplayer is implemented so well, the soundtrack is neat, Claptrap is hilarious and yeah..can't say much more about it. I love this game. It's everything that's great about gaming and if you just want the most fun, content-packed game stop reading here. You found it.
As I said: in any given year, this would be a clear-cut Number One but this year had another game...
#1: The Walking Dead (Xbox 360, PSN, PC):
Just go play it. First episode is free on nearly all platforms. The character development, the pacing, the drama, the story, the choices...my god. It's all so intense and so perfectly written and executed in just every way, it's almost hard to believe. The emotional bond you're forming with the characters you choose to take with you is more intense than to most other humans you will encounter. Clementine is the best written child in all videogames and arguably all media. Telltale delivered on a level that noone could anticipate. It is gripping from the second you start episode one to the moment the credits roll. Good or bad, you decide. And sometimes that's the hardest thing to do. The game puts you in situations where you want to scream "HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO ME" at it for forcing you to make a choice you don't want to make, but ultimately have to make. After playing it you will feel exhausted. And you will feel enriched, because you encountered a game, that in this fashion only surfaces every few years. You encountered an absolute masterpiece. One that will stand long, because this level of emotional investment will be very hard to top. TellTale Studios outdid themselves and yes: every GOTY Award is well earned. This reminded me, why I love video games.
Before I close this blog, I have one more award to give out. The "Award for the game you should really play, to see, what games can be". And it goes to:
Spec Ops - The Line:
What looks like your everyday, run-of-the-mill spunkgargleweewee, develops into something so horrifying (for the self-reflecting individual, that is) that you nearly feel yourself disgusted by the person that you used to know best...you. The descent from a soldier to a merciless, hate-driven killing machine is told so fluently that you don't realize it, till it's too late. It's not a morale spelled-out, like at the end of a He-Man episode. It slithers in, gets into your head. A professional "Target down" turns into a "Kill fucking confirmed" over time. Even the loading screen messages change...from the typical "Press X to not die" to stuff like "It's all your fault", "You are still a good person" or "How many men have you killed today". The revelation comes as a shocker, not only to the character, but to yourself, as you realize your journey and your actions and for this I salute Yager studios. You made what the entire Military Shooter Industry doesn't do and doesn't want to do. You showed us the ugly face of war...and you made us experience this special kind of hell.
I just had to give this game a special spot. Not, for how it plays, but for what it is.
So...that was my year in gaming. Hope you enjoyed reading and maybe some of you agree. Some will of course disagree but hey: that's what makes this hobby great: everybody experiences it differently.
So here's to the gaming year 2013....let's enjoy it.
Surfing the Internet I just discovered, that Thorvalla had cancelled its Kickstarter campaign. This kind of struck me. It was in my opinion never a question of the "if" that would happen, but more of the "when". However, I didn't expect it THAT soon.
So what is this Kickstarter thing anyway?
According to this XKCD comic:
even common knowledge is new to about 10.000 people a day, so let me explain:
Kickstarter is an Internet platform, where people with an idea for something like a game, movie, gadget, younameit can create a project, that features their idea. This project can than be "backed" by people who assure the person behind the project a certain amount of money. In exchange, they get certain goodies or whatever, based on how much they spent on backing. THese rewards, however, are also part of the creator to clarify.
Founded originally in 2008 it gained popularity in video game circles in late 2011/early 2012, when Double Fine announced, they would start a Kickstarter campaign for an old school Point'n'Click Adventure.
"Double Fine?" you might ask. "Those jolly fine gentlemen who brought us Bruetal Legend, Trenched and other fine stuff? The studio that's run by Tim Schafer and employs a certain Ron Gilbert?" Yes, you are right. Those guys.
"But they are a major developing studio. Did they really need to do this?" It seems so. Tim Schafer really wanted to make another Adventure game and though games like "Day of the tentacle", "Full Throttle" or "Grim Fandango" are classics and received not only critical acclaims but were also commercialy succesful, Schafer found himself unable to find a publisher for this kind of game. Seems that some people were still reminiscent of Psychonauts...you know: the game EVERYONE loves but nobody bought?
So he took to Kickstarter, to tell fans about his idea and maybe get the people, who care to support him. And BOY did they. "Double Fine Adventure" gained more than eight times the money, Double Fine requested and is by now the fifth succesful Kickstarter project, with nearly three and a half million dollars.
This success did not go unnoticed and soon, more and more people from the Industry started their own projects. Several of these projects would surely have never been realised without that. We're going to see Wasteland 2 (the spiritual predecessor to Fallout, from Brian Fargo), a Final Fantasy VI Remix Album by OCRemix, a Shadowrun RPG like the SNES classic and many, many more.
And let's not forget "Project Eternity" by Obsidian Studios (Fallout New Vegas, Neverwinter Nights 2) which broke several records and wants to bring us an oldschool RPG-experience in the likes of Baldur's Gate.
"HA!" You may shout now. "I know ye so called artists. A bunch of scallywagging slackers, too lazy to work. Just raise money and do nothing"
A complaint, that certainly raised in the mind of anyone, who backed a project, but well...
Thorvalla was set to be an RPG and like Project Eternity was targeting the "oldschool-fraction". For a deeper look, I suppose you take a look at the still existent Kickstarter page Said in short: if Skyrim was to be released about 12 years ago: it would have looked exactly that way.
So what's so stunning about it being cancelled?
Well, I'm pretty sure it's not the first project, that got cancelled. But it's the first big one.
I mean: the assets look all in place. The art is certainly something purely subjective, but at least, it's there. You can even see some in game art, which suggests, there was already work in progress. Then the story seems to have been pretty far in progress and the world map was complete.
But the most important thing: it's programmed by Guido Henkel and Neal Hallford. Two guys, who brought us games like Planescape Torment, Fallout 2, Shadow over Riva, Realms of Arcania, Neverwinter Nights, Dungeon Siege or Might and Magic 3.
...not that bad a resumee, hm?
Ok, given they wanted a million dollars for their campaign, which is (to put it in relationship) more than three times the money, that Double Fine claimed to need.
But then again: DF ended up, with more than three million dollars, so did Obsidian. Wasteland 2 missed that mark by not even 70.000 Dollars and Shadowrun Returns scratched the 2 million mark. Obsidian also wanted 1 million dollars and we know how that turned out.
Did every backer of Thorvalla just grant them 1 Buck? Nope...Backers were even to be found up to the 2500 Dollar category with still souble digits in the 125$.
So now you might be "...then WHAT EXACTLY WENT WRONG?" like me. Well, the game ended up with not even 50.000 Dollars of its one million goal in two weeks. "Not enough public response" was the official reason for cancellation.
This lead me to some thinking:
Maybe we will see this more and more over the next few months.
Kickstarter was a phenomenal success, nobody can deny that. The problem is, that it has been TOO succesful. Games and related projects were crowdfunded by the dozens.
I think the question, a lot of people asked themselves "Well, this looks interesting, but am I ready to back another project in addition to the five I already have backed with results coming in...whenever?"
The idea behind Kickstarter is really nice for artists, but consumers have to have a lot of patience and trust, that their money is in good hands. The crisis from late 2008/early 2009 showed people, that even seemingly trustworthy people can fuck up big-time. So a lot of people found themselves being increasingly protective of their assets.
..and be honest for a moment: would you spend money now, to get something in two years that you have absolutely no idea about, how it will turn out?
Even if the answer is yes (and the support of Kickstarter shows that) I bet you have an "...if it's not too much" in small print behind that. And rightfully so...it's human nature.
Kickstarter pokes the curiosity center in our minds but recent developments led people to be more careful.
So even if the first Kickstarter projects made it to live. There are still too few, to have people saying "yup, that's a trustworthy platform", so they wait and see.
This "wait and see", however, is what killed Thorvalla in my opinion and what will kill several projects in the near future.
People were willing to invest in something new but now they want to see, how this turns out. Have the abovementioned Double Fine Adventure, Project Eternity and Wasteland 2 release to critical praise and I guarantee, Kickstarter will again be more succesful, but for now, the business model has outlasted it's "initial curiosity" longevity for a more "now let's see what we can reap".
I can't blame them, but of course for people like Guido Henkel, it's difficult. They decided to start at the worst moment: the growing pains of a promising new platform, that could be starting point for Innovation and greatness (videogame wise) in the future, but has to prove itself right now.
I recently visited my old high school I graduated from seven years ago. I've never been around that town much since college, girlfriends and...you know...stuff made me move out into the big big world without looking back.
However, a few weeks ago I felt that itch. This itch that tells you to "you know...just checkin' on things", when in fact you just get nostalgic and want to relive something again. So I hopped the train and went back to the place that ate up a significant amount of my youth.
To make things short(er): it was like you'd expect such a trip to be: I wandered around and met some of my old teachers. Some recognized me, some didn't (mostly the ones who started working there after I finished school which where, to my surprise, not so few). I had a coffee with my old history teacher who gave me straight As for my graduation. Several warm memories flooded my serotonine-receptors...but I noticed some changes that just stood out. The old Pavillon, where I spent 5th grade was no more, a new cafeteria was built and the whole look on the inside has changed....OUTRAGEOUS. Or so I thought at first....
What does all this have to do with video games? Quite a bit actually (besides sharing 3,5" inch Floppy discs with the hottest 386-compatible games out there), because a few weeks ago, I also reinstalled one of my most beloved classics: Deus Ex.
This game is one of my all time favorites. Maybe even THE all time favorite of mine. I think the only thing that didn't really help its success was the thick-headed business decision to release it in the same month with Diablo 2...please tell me how they didn't see it coming.
I still love nearly everything about this game, especially the soundtrack and the really large, open environments, that imho only Hitman 1 and 2 have ever reached in terms of "explore and execute"-wise.
But that's just the point. I love this game first and foremost because back in 2000 I had a blast playing it...and believe me, I played the shit out of this one. It was just the right game at just the right point of my life for me back then...pretty much like Starcraft was it 2 years earlier.
Installing it now means I'm putting myself back in that mindset but this time I asked myself: Is this game REALLY so good? If you actually never played it before and installed it now, would you love it as much?
The answer to the first question is fairly easy: yup. Deus Ex is a cold classic and one of the milestones in gaming, as well as Warren Spector's career.
The second question is the tricky one in this part, because it has to do with fandom. As I mentioned HERE I don't think fandom is about blindly following, but also a healthy dose of critique...but staying true to "your" franchise nonetheless.
When I take my nostalgia glasses off it doesn't make Deus Ex a worse game. However, it shows several things that haven't aged that well...or weren't even that great in the first place.
Take for example the AI. By today's standards (and even back then) it is laughable. Enemies have their patrol route which they follow nomatterwhat, changes in the environment don't really bother them that much and when they spot you they blindly charge towards you, guns blazing. Cover? Nope. Retreat? Uh uh. Acting like a team? Ha...you wish. Even back then you sooner or later figured the system out and it wasn't really THAT difficult to do a No-Death-run of it.
Levelling up was another thing as there were clearly skills that you needed (everybody who tried to shoot someone with a weapon on basic skill level knows what I'm talking about) and those that...well...let's just say that swimming requires water of which you won't find that much in the game. And even if it's not worth exploring.
The last thing I want to harp on a bit is the story. Yup, I said it. I REALLY like the story and it's told engaging and immersive but really...when you look at the story itself it's neither new nor really groundbreaking. It's one of those Y2K-conspiracy-dystopia-cyberpunk stories that follow "Shadowrun Storywriting 101" to the T. I like that setting and it is really told well but people who are not into cyberpunk might feel like it's something they have seen already a dozen times and to be fair: they have + some of the characters were actually VERY corny ("Zis is ze raifle reignge")
Modern games are often subject to criticism and in many cases rightfully so although the reasons are sometimes not the right ones I think.
Seeing many games getting 80+ scores is something that's really happening alot but let's be honest? Seen PURELY objectively, what are modern AAA titles really doing wrong from a technical and mechanical standpoint? Not that much.
Take Call of Duty for example. One of the most criticised franchises in recent times, yet every new iteration gets good scores? Why is that? Because they are, like it or not, good games. The campaigns are engaging and paced great so that you're experiencing the equivalent of a 6-hour popcorn-action flick. Paired with a thought-through, rewarding, fast-paced (thanks mostly to its 60Hz) Multiplayer and it's easy to see, why these games are a critical and commercial success each and every year.
When we play the Modern Warfare Trilogy in 12 years, will it matter that a new CoD was released every year at that time? No, because for the game itself, it doesn't matter.
The fact, that it's basically a patriot's wet wanking fantasy of "'MURICA TEH GREATEST" are a reason one can justify his disliking of CoD with but from a cold technical standpoint, it's a good game.
Okay, Call of Duty was maybe the wrong example. Why don't we look at something, that's related to the great classic? The recently released Dishonored will do just fine.
I played it recently before I reinstalled Deus Ex and when I played the latter, I realized something:
Dishonored plays like I remember Deus Ex played like.
That is not to say, that it ACTUALLY does. The AI is way better and the levelling makes actual sense fitting your preferred playstyle.
The story...well. Here we have a similarity (and yes, I realize that a lot of the folks working on Dishonored worked on Deus Ex way back). While it is told through interesting personas and is engaging enough to keep you playing it is not really original. Without spoilering:
The twist is something you smell from miles away and in both games, the maladie-du-jour is reason for the rich people to keep the poor 99% like dirt....Steampunk 101.
So what is my point? Newer games are superior to those from days past? No...actually not at all.
What I wanted to point out is, that Nostalgia Lane is a tricky little bitch. It lures you in with promises of sweet dwelling in the feelings of yesteryear, resting your mind in sweet memories. Some people will even flame me for the sheer mention of possible mistakes in Deus Ex. But as a fan, I have to be honest. I LOVE Deus Ex, but the AI is shite and the levelling is subpar by today's standards. The story is something, that is still not THAT great, but for the right focusgroup very enjoyable in it's own merits.
However, as a fan, I can also acknowledge things, that actually WERE better back then.
Even, with all its freedom, Dishonored doesn't reach the freedom and the long-range consequences of a Deus Ex. The ending of the newer one in particular can't match Deus Ex's one by far.
Just like my old high school. Some things were better back then (you are now actually forbidden to have earphones on in the hallways), some things stayed the same, what some people may or may not like (like certain teachers) and some things are just better now. Like the pavillon where I went to in 5th grade. It's gone now and I was a little upset about it but I thought back. The classrooms were to small, the lights didn't work properly, the toilets smelled like piss, the linoleum on the floor was so old, it started coming loose and the paint was literally falling of the wall in chunks....yeah...it's actually GOOD, that this piece of shit got demolished.
So be nostalgic, enjoy what you enjoyed in past times.
...but remember that some things are actually better in the here and now.
Oh and if your toilet smells like piss: call the plumber and don't let kids use it for several more years before a new owner can actually acknowledge that fact.