Last week I started to write a short piece about a handful of games that I’ve been high on this year. However, the article turned into a full scale attach on this years games and the titles we see coming out in the near future. I didn’t really want to be part of a chorus of like minded opinions (both IGN and Gamasutra had similar articles the week before last) but before I wrote about the games I’ve enjoyed this year I felt the need to put some context around it. What I have legitimately enjoyed this year has come despite some seriously boring titles. Of course, they weren’t all bad and below is a brief write up of some real gems. Note: some of these games are layovers from 2011.
The Walking Dead
There is an interesting debate — that I won’t get into in this post — about how video games should aspire to NOT be like movies. I am not one of those people who support this idea. People have been searching for ways to make movies interactive for years. It’s a great idea if you can make it work. We’ve seen this in the Mass Effect series with their intuitive approach to dialogue. David Cage gave displayed arguably the best example of an interactive movie with Heavy Rain. And, evidence that video games can mimic movies and be good for it is Telltale Games excellent The Walking Dead.
A prequel to the comic book and television series, Dead puts its emphasis on decision making, puzzle solving and dialogue rather than the shooter heavy gameplay of Left 4 Dead, the absurd customization kills of Dead Rising or the gorefest of last years Dead Island. Telltale focuses on what we like best about classic horror: ordinary people placed in extraordinary circumstances. These stories are appealing because they force us to ask ourselves what would we do.
The Walking Dead arguably works best as a video game than a comic book or a television series because it forces you to make the decision. Also, Telltale uses the best parts of the two mediums such as a monthly episodic release, a comic book inspired art style, and Hollywood voice actors while retaining the feature that makes it unique: choice.
I highly recommend The Walking Dead series. Episode 1 is a little pedestrian but by the end of episode 2 you’ll be scratching your neck like a crack head for the rest. I hear the series has been a big success thus far, so hopefully we’ll see more games like this in the near future.
Resistance 3 (originally released in 2011)
Resistance 1 was good. But, it felt like it was trying to be too clever. It felt like developer Insomniac Games was trying to appeal to WWII shooter fans who were into Call of Duty and sci fi shooter fans who were into Halo. Shortly before its release those two titles ruled the shooter genre but shortly after its release Call of Duty 4 came out and dramatically changed peoples expectations.
Two years later Resistance 2 drops and Insomniac removes the open environments, med kits, and weapon wheel for a more Modern Warfare military feel while maintaining the Halo-ish spin. The result was a game that didn’t feel like it was built on the foundation of the first game.
Now, Resistance 3? This is a unique game. In this terribly under appreciated last entry in the series the aliens have won. More than half of the human population are dead . The planet is almost unrecognizable and its eco system has adjusted to the now dominant Chimera. These characteristics make for an unpredictable ride from the midwest to New York as Joseph Capelli attempts to shut down a terraforming device.
Resistance 3 is dark, brutal, and bleak. It still possesses a hint of that 1950’s American charm and the developers thankfully brought back the weapon wheel from R1 which makes for some fun gameplay amidst a slightly more mature approach to an age old genre.
PixelJunk: Shooter 2
The music is fantastic. The gameplay has more variety which makes it longer than the first game. It feels retro but the fresh coat of paint (HD Graphics, better physics and that soundtrack) reminds me of when Ford released the Mustang 5.0. Developer PixelJunk never disappoints and their latest release in the perfect summer game for people who are planning to spend most of their time outside but want something short, simple and fun while they’re trying to cool down.
What can I say about this game that hasn’t been said before? Oh, I know. I bought it the day it came out but haven’t played it yet. I was so blown away watching my girlfriend toy with it that I’ve been scared to press play. Journey has officially become that immaculately wrapped present that you’re afraid to open because it might kill the presentation and the promise of what’s inside.
I’m working on it!
Max Payne 3
Now, this is a fucking game. Max Payne is what would happen to John McClane if you made him a hired gun slash raging alcoholic and dropped him in Brazil. This is a Hollywood style blockbuster filled with epic gun battles, huge explosions, plenty of cursing, loud noise and T & A. Handed off to Rockstar Games (my favorite game development studio) by [name] who have been spending most of their time on the overrated Alan Wake, this third entry into the series is delicious neo-noir set in Sao Paulo.
Last week I wrote about how video games over the last few years have started telling better stories — aimed at the young male demographic — than Hollywood. And, although I think the industry has begun to wane this is the type of experience that I’m talking about, the kind of experience that I miss and would desperately like to see more of.
Catherine (originally released in 2011)
Catherine is a puzzle-platformer psychological horror adventure game in which players control Vincent Brooks, who begins having strange nightmares after his girlfriend, Katherine, begins to talk about marriage and commitment. This matter becomes more complicated for him when he meets a girl named Catherine, and begins an affair with her, and the nightmares get more and more intense.
But, I’m not done with the game yet but therein lies the problem: it suffers from what I call the Okami effect (a classic PS2 game that annoyed the Hell out of me). It over stays it’s welcome and it has moments of extreme difficulty. There is nothing worse than a really good story sandwiched between a really hard game. No, I’m lying. There is something worse. A story that is a few scenes longer than it needs to be sandwiched between even harder gameplay. Just end already!
But, it’s really good.
Little Big Planet 2
This series is one of the best to come out of this console generation. I think it is a mark of absolute genius. However, here are the problems that I had which were very minor, I might add. Media Molecule wanted to give LBP 2 a story. They did and the story doesn’t make any sense. Also, LBP 2’s gameplay is still floaty and its clearly aimed more towards kids.
This sequel is a creative and funny tour de force! I was a little bored and it took me a while to finish which had absolutely nothing to do with the game. I’m just getting old.
Just around the bend…
Jonathan Mak’s debut title Everyday Shooter was the first PSN title I fell in love with. It was like playing a cooler version of Astroids to an even cooler soundtrack. His sophomore effort takes a similar art style, a platform game aesthetic and combines that with music from deadmou5, Jim Guthrie, Beck and others in a very similar way. The reviews so far have been through the roof. I can’t wait to get my thumbs on this one.
Papo & Yo
On the surface it is a puzzle/platforming game about a young boy, his experiences in the favelas and his relationship with a monster name Monster. But, according to creator Vander Caballero of Brazils Minority Games (their url is awesome: wereaminority.com) Papo & Yo is a metaphor for his relationship with his drug/alcohol addicted father.
Proving that Sony is on a roll this year and that indie titles have become far more interesting than the $40 million + titles that line the walls at Gamestop, Dyad has been grabbing headlines since it released last month.
Although I’ve played the demo I haven’t the slightest idea how to describe it so I’ll use the quote from the creator himself:
Dyad is an abstract racing game that has influences in many genres including racing games, fighting games, puzzle games and classic arcade shooters.
Dyad does away with the traditional racing game mechanics of break and accelerate and replaces them with puzzle-like mechanics. You must interact with your enemies in unique and varying ways in order to gain speed.
It felt like a cross between old school Tempest and Wipeout HD with a psychedelic coat of paint.