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Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Something-or-Other Games of 2013(ish): Part the Second

The Somebody Made an MMO I'll Play award: Defiance
Honorable Mention: The Secret World

I've explained this before. It's usually just a couple of things that bother me most. Having to hold down a mouse button to move the camera, and spamming number keys to attack. Defiance, by merit of it being cross-platform with consoles, includes gamepad support. I didn't feel like a puppeteer, I felt like I was in the game. I wasn't spamming keys for 11 different powers, I had one power that I specialized, and I was pulling the trigger of my gun. The first night I played, I was a punky, red-headed alien girl with a shotgun and a cloaking device that was running around a terraforming-gone-wrong apocalypse turning heads and blasting mutant creatures.

teehee Not-Han Solo just hit on me. Totally not flustered.

I've tried several times to get into the honorable mention game, The Secret World. Despite the highly interesting conspiracy theory meets supernatural monsters world, the fact that it plays just like every MMO that's frustrated me turned me off again and again. I so wanted to like it, but I just can't wrap my head around how to play these games.

The Nostalgia Done Right award: Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon
Honorable Mention: DuckTales

Far Cry and Far Cry 2 were very pretty games, but somewhat frustrating in their save mechanics, and a bit hollow on the gameplay/story ratio. As a result, I was holding off on Far Cry 3, even though I'd heard it was a much more captivating game than its predecessors. In the meantime, a small spin-off game happened to be released; a low-priced title unironically named Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon. This is a game that takes a hazy memory of the 1980s, wrapping it around Terminator and Aliens star Michael Biehn and throwing everything from neon animals to dragons with lazer vision to collectible VHS tapes, book-ending sections with 8-bit style cutscenes and over-the-top guitar solos. The 1980s may never have *actually* been like this, but this is how I'd like to remember them.

It's like a He-Man playset had sex with a Def Leppard concert
Speaking of the 1980s, one of the finest platformers of its day makes a stylish return with the new Ducktales game. The maps and mechanics are preserved exactly, and  the 8-bit graphics have been updated with visuals that look nearly hand drawn, faithfully recreating the popular animated series. Tying it altogether is the soundtrack, which takes the original catchy MIDI tunes (including the greatest earworm of all time, the main theme), and recreating them as well with modern musical software.

The So Boring Its Painful award: Terminator Salvation
Honorable Mention: Kane & Lynch Dead Men

There's good games, there's bad games, and then there's games that perform the worst sin of all. There's boring games. Terminator Salvation is, possibly, the most boring game I've ever played. I've heard that it's only about 4 hours long, with no extra features at all. I couldn't tell you. I had originally planned to play the game at a high-visibility time of day, with the non-steam shortcut renamed to something cheeky, like HL3.ReleaseCandidate.exe and troll my friends list. I made it 30 minutes. Stiff, floaty animations. Weapons that had no impact. Dull, lifeless voice acting. A desaturated color palette. The entire 30 minutes I spent playing this game, I just wanted to be doing something, anything else. In a year that included the release of Modern Warfare 2, Street Fighter IV, and Batman: Arkham Asylum, Terminator Salvation is a shameful waste of a good license.

Instead of subjecting you to this game, have a screenshot of something more exciting.
Kane & Lynch Dead Men had been on my radar for a while, partially due to the Great Gamestop Incident of 2007, in which Jeff Gherstman gave the game a 6/10, and was summarily dismissed due to pressure from Eidos. I am happy to report that this shining beacon of mediocrity is deserving of the 6/10 score that it received. Avoid it.

The Oh My God They Went There award: Saints Row IV

Oh, Saints Row. You were the first series I finished after my aforementioned GTA incident. Saints Row II was a monumentally terrible PC port, with confusing controls and terrible optimization, but damn it was fun. Saints Row The Third upped the wackiness of II, and improved the port quality. Saints Row IV has gone completely balls-to-the-wall insane. It's referencing things with such frequency that, were it not still keeping the gameplay fun, would be annoying in another game. The opening of the game alone has everything from Pride and Prejudice to Conan to Zero Dark Thirty. The tvtropes page for Shout Outs is possibly the longest one I've seen. And just when I thought it couldn't get any more ridiculous, it throws the doorway scene from Love, Actually at you.

I missed you, Fun Shaundi!
The First Game To Make Me Realize Its Time To Updgrade award: Metro Last Light

So my rig is going on 3 years now. It's still pretty capable, and if I start turning down graphics options, I can run pretty much anything in my collection (almost.. looking at you, Crysis 3..). When I got Metro Last Light, the sequel to the critically acclaimed but sadly overlooked Metro 2033 (seriously, go play these games), it was the first time that I'd had to bottom out my graphics settings. This is a magnificent looking game, but it is SO demanding. You've heard me complain about optimization before? Perfect example here. I was managing to keep it in the 45-50 frames per second range, until I went onto the surface from the underground metro tunnels. The fog on the surface sent me plunging under 20 frames per second. I'm showing my PC Gamer Problems side here, as I'm fully aware that an 'amazing console game' like GTAV will drop into the teens periodically, but I can't do that. I expect more out of my games, and Metro Last Light was the first game to push my system so hard that I decided to upgrade.

Some of that GPU-killing Fog
The Surprisingly Not as bad as I'd feared award: Batman: Arkham Origins

I'll be brief, as I spoke about this one previously. Given the change in development studios, voice actors, and visual redesigns to look more Nolan-verse, I was dead set against this game, and only picked it up because of the deep, deep sale I managed to find on it. I was blown away by how good it actually was. I still think Roger Craig Smith is the least convincing Batman I've ever heard (stick to Ezio, my friend) and Troy Baker is too talented a voice actor to just be doing an imitation of Mark Hammill. I'm of a mind that the Nolan-verse aesthetics should only be applied to live-action works. But the game still won me over by the end.

The button prompt says it all. Beatdown.
The Most Adorable Love Letter to Gaming: Evoland

This is seriously the most adorable game I've ever played. I won't say much on it, because you should all experience it yourself, but it's a short little romp of a game that starts out looking like a Game Boy RPG, and slowly evolves and upgrades the world until you end up with a late-PS2 era RPG, and every step of the way it shows you just how much it loves the genre.

Hell of an unlock, if you ask me
The I Feel Terrible that this game was so underrated award: Remember Me
Honorable Mention: Mars: War Logs

Why am I so frustrated about Remember Me? Because it was a decent game. Because it got so little attention. And because the usual social justice bullies should have been celebrating a game with a mixed-race female protagonist that's out to take down an corrupt corporation in a class struggle set in somewhere that's not America. But I see no praise of Nihlin and the story here. That just cements it for me: that crowd doesn't care about progress, because it ignores what progress is made. Play this game, anyway. It's a fantastic game, and the things I mentioned earlier just *are.* They don't beat you over the head with anything. A decent game telling a strong story that more people should experience.

Such an intriguing world. More people should see it.
I'm only maybe halfway finished with Mars: War Logs. I plan on finishing it pretty soon, too. I can recommend it for anyone who was a fan of Red Faction or Dune or if you think a jailbreak on Mars with ritualistic cyberpunk might be up your alley. Just be warned: the combat is ridiculously difficult. 

The Proper GOTY Award: Shadow Warrior
Honorable Mention: Assassins Creed IV

Out of all the games I played in 2013, there's one game in particular that stood out as knowing what it was and being the absolute best at that. Shadow Warrior was originally a first person shooter for the PC back in the wake of Duke Nukem 3D, and while it was good for the time, I preferred its sister title Blood. The pedigree for the 2013 game is impressive. Flying Wild Hog is the developer, who made the awesome (and underrated) Hard Reset, and the publisher is Devolver Digital, who publish in the grey area between AAA and Indie titles, and are probably most famous for the Serious Sam series. The premise is stupidly simple. You're a cocky young thug of an assassin named Lo Wang, and shit goes wrong when you go to collect a sword for your boss. Demons start appearing and you have to kill them. You get a witty sidekick demon named Hoji for comic relief (who manages to do so without once being annoying). But the most important part is that Shadow Warrior goes about being the best damn game it can be, enjoyable from start to finish.

Nothing says old-school like a 40 story boss that you aren't going to be climbing.
Honorable mention for GOTY goes to Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag. Disclaimer: I'm not one of the ones who hated the last couple of AC games. I thought Revelations was, mechanically, the most solid game in the series, and ACIII was a fascinating look at American History. That said, the hype around ACIV was pretty much justified. Being a pirate is damned fun, Edward Kenway is an enjoyable asshole, and (ok, fine) the naval combat is pretty damn fun, too. As someone who holds the series near and dear, ACIV is a fine addition, even if I could have done with more cities and less tiny islands.

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