15. Minecraft (PC)
You start with nothing so you have to do the logical thing and punch some trees and make tools out of them. I'm not kidding. As far as I know, that's the only way to begin making tools in Minecraft. You punch tree trunks until they break and pick up the blocks of wood that drop. You can then make a wooden pick and start mining. After that, you can find tons of different materials underground to create better tools and eventually construct whatever you want with what you find.
There's a variety of enemies standing between you and creating your masterpiece. During the day, creepers, explosive beasts with a talent for sneaking up on unsuspecting players, will randomly attack. At night and underground in the dark you have a wider ranger of foes to worry about. There's standard baddies like zombies and skeletons but there's also one of the creepiest enemies ever: the endermen. The endermen are slender, black creatures that are normally passive and completely ignore you. Unless you look at them. Then they stand totally still, staring at you and when you look away from them, they teleport behind your back and start attacking relentlessly. Pretty creepy for a cute game about digging.
Depending on your love of collecting and building things, Minecraft can either be dull as shit or endlessly re-playable. There isn't really a goal other than collecting a bunch of rare materials so you can activate a portal to an area called The End and fight a dragon called the Enderdragon. The game's developer, Mojang, has promised to update the game for as long as people keep buying it, so there's still a lot of content to come. As it stands now though, Minecraft is one of the best games for any sandbox fanatic.
14. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (DS)
13. L.A. Noire (360)
Team Bondi, Rockstar Games
Interrogation works kinda strangely. You'll ask a question which the suspect or witness will answer and you are given three choices: truth, doubt, or lie. This confused the hell out of my dumb ass at first. Here's how it works: If you think they are telling the truth, you or course choose truth. The other two choices are kind of ambiguous though. If you have evidence that they are lying, you choose lie and present the correct evidence, but if you only think they're lying but don't have evidence to prove it, you chose doubt. As far as I know, only one choice is correct for each question and if you get it wrong, there's no going back.
Enough about the game's flaws; let's talk about what makes L.A. Noire so awesome. The 1940s atmosphere is quite well done as far as I can tell. I'm only 24 so I can't say I lived though the decade but it's convincing enough. The thing that really makes the game stand out to me though is the animations. No other game that I've played has had such realistic movement and speech animations. There's never the uncanny valley feel that you get from pretty much every other game either. The voice acting is also stellar. Rockstar really spared no expense for this one, though their games are pretty well known for their quality voice performances. Any fan of cop shows or detective stories will feel right at home with this one.
12. Pokemon Black and White (DS)
Game Freak, Nintendo
The graphics are amazing for the DS and finally, finally, finally, the Pokemon have battle animations rather than just being static sprites. Praise the lord. They also finally took advantage of the 3d environments and did a few creative things with camera angles, like the first glimpse of Castelia City as you cross the huge bridge to it. One thing that I enjoyed was the fact that you only see Pokemon introduced in this game until after the conclusion of the main storyline. Previous games would mix in Pokemon from older games from the very beginning so it's a nice break from the norm. What else can I say? There's a ton of content, even past the story, so RPG fans will more than find their money's worth here.
|It took about 15 years but we finally broke that glass ceiling and got a female Pokemon professor.|
11. Orcs Must Die! (PC)
Robot Entertainment, Microsoft
Orcs Must Die may have the most intentionally (or unintentionally for all I know) bad sense of humor ever. The apprentice sometimes says stuff during battle like "One for you, and you, and you.", "It's like making orc salsa.", and worst of all, "Winning!" Yes. He makes a Charlie Sheen reference. Ouch. I can't emphasize enough just how addictive this game is. The combat is fun and hectic and the difficulty vamps up at a nice pace. Action and tower defense game fans will love this one.
|Somehow, this game is rated T.|
10. Terraria (PC)
9. Deus Ex: Human Revolution (360)
Eidos Montreal, Square Enix
The gameplay is stellar for the most part. You can either sneak your way through the game or go in guns blazing. There's even achievements for beating the game without killing anyone or being seen. Now, I say that the gameplay is stellar "for the most part" because of one thing: the boss fights. They are absolute shit when compared to the rest of the game and with good reason apparently. It was revealed after the game's release that a different company worked on the boss fights so there you go. Other than that, I loved the game. It's pretty much exactly what I expected: a scaled back, current gen version of Deus Ex.
8. Dungeon Defenders (PC)
Just as in Orcs Must Die, you set up a defense from invading enemies who make their way to crystals that you must protect. In Dungeon Defenders though, as I said before, there's multiple character classes to choose from and you can switch between them before each wave to combine their defensive abilities. You'll need to do this if you want to survive on harder difficulties as enemies have ridiculously high health the higher the difficulty is.
Not much else to say. There's multiplayer that I haven't touched since I greatly prefer single player games. Dungeon Defenders is only $15 on steam, so you'll get more than your money's worth in replay value.
7. Shadows of the Damned (360)
Grasshopper Manufacture, EA
|Lulz, "A Suda 51 trip". I love that his reputation has led to that being put on the cover of one of his games.|
Anyway, enough back story. The game itself is about what I expected; a great third-person action game with a dumb sense of humor. You play as demon hunter Garcia Hotspur whose girlfriend is kidnapped by a powerful demon at the beginning of the game. Garcia and his partner Johnson, who is a floating British skull, chase them to the underworld. Most of the levels are fairly linear third-person shooting sprees with some puzzles thrown in the mix. One of the most common things you have to deal with is darkness. Not just regular darkness; this stuff hurts. The only way to get rid of it in any given area is to either shoot a goat head with candles on it (and being shot doesn't faze it) or rarely you'll have to find the source of the darkness and get rid of it.
The action is very fun. It feels a lot like Dead Space, which you know I love, so I feel right at home. There's only three weapons but they upgrade several time throughout the game so they don't ever really get stale. I mostly stuck with the pistol, which seems to be something that I do a lot in modern games. For whatever reason, about 3 or so of the levels are sidescrolling shooters (where the graphics suddenly go South Park style) which I didn't enjoy at all. You die way too easily on those stages and the game is stingy with checkpoints, again only in those levels.
One thing that I have to address is how goofy the sense of humor is in this game. About half of the dialogue is a dick joke of some kind. As I said before, Garcia has a ghostly skull sidekick named Johnson who can transform into a variety of things, the first of which being a pistol called the "boner." Get it. It's because he's a skull. While most of the dick jokes are kinda dumb (intentionally), there was one that actually made me laugh out loud.
At one point in the game, the boner gets upgraded to the "hot boner", which shoots bombs that can blow up walls and enemies. The first time you get to a cracked wall that can be blown up, Johnson says, "Quick, Garcia! Fill those cracks with your hot boner!" My sense of humor is awful. Overall though, I loved the game just as much as the game Shinji Mikami worked on just before it, Vanquish. And I freakin' loved Vanquish. Anyone who likes action games and can take some dumb humor will love this one too.
6. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)
Nintendo EAD, Monolith Soft, Nintendo
Anyway, the game itself is fantastic. As someone who has played just about every Zelda game, I think it's my 3rd favorite in the series after A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time. I'll try not to spoil anything here but the story is very good. You start out in a village on an island floating high above the clouds and eventually go down to the world below. You meet an old woman who is watching over a seal that binds a powerful, ancient evil and work to create a holy sword that can vanquish it once and for all.
Just like in previous games, you have a helper who gives you advice throughout your journey. This time it's a girl named Fi who lives in your sword and talks like a robot. Her voice, which is a made up language, sounds like reversed, auto-tuned Japanese. She constantly tells you the odds of success for any given situation so she's kind of funny in a sort of unaware, innocent way.
Skyward Sword uses maybe the most in depth motion control scheme I've seen in any game, and it's done fairly well. Since it requires Wii motion plus, it follows your movements pretty accurately. Most of the enemies and bosses in the game require you to swing your sword in a specific way to hit them. For example, recurring boss Ghirahim will hold his hand out in a specific direction and if you don't attack from the opposite direction, he will catch your sword between two fingers. He's pretty badass, actually.
One thing that I hated is the flying. As I said, the game starts out on a floating island where the people get around on huge birds called loftwings. Flight is a big part of gameplay above the clouds and there's even a boss battle fought with you riding your loftwing. I HATE the flight controls. You control your movement and speed entirely with motion controls and they just piss me off in this case. You hold the remote straight to fly forward and tilt it to turn. To go faster you have to jerk the remote upwards to gain altitude, then tilt it forward to dive quickly. Sounds fairly simple, right? WRONG. Maybe I just suck but the turning controls just didn't work well for me and I swear it only registers half the upward motions to gain altitude.
Okay, back to things that don't suck. The world below the clouds is very well designed. You explore pretty much everything during your adventure so nothing feels superfluous. Dungeon designs are also awesome as always. I think there was only one time when I got stuck for a while and that was only because I missed a door like an idiot. One returning element from the last console Zelda game, Twilight Princess, is the goddess tear collecting segments. Just like in that game, you go to a dark version of an area and collect items called goddess tears. These are probably the most irritating segments other than the flying because there are enemies who come after you and if they hit you even once you have to start over.
One thing I have to point out is the music. FINALLY Zelda gets an orchestrated soundtrack, and it's awesome. The main theme song is very impressive, especially after some clever YouTube users realized that it was Zelda's lullaby from Ocarina of Time, but reversed.
I'll talk about this one much more eventually so I'll leave it at that. Is there any point to me recommending a Zelda game? Most people who like Zelda have already/will soon buy it but whatever, maybe some of you are turned off by motion controls. Don't let that impact your decision on this one. Skyward Sword is one of the finest motion control games ever made.
5. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron (360)
Ignition Tokyo, UTV Ignition Games
Anyhow, El Shaddai is apparently based on an old Jewish religious text that is no longer part of Biblical cannon for most sects of Judaism and Christianity. You play as Enoch, a righteous human who has a place of honor in Heaven. He is tasked by God to descend to Earth to kill 7 fallen angels. You'd think that I'm talking about Paradise Lost and the fall of Lucifer but this is a different story.
In fact, Lucifer, who in this game is still an angel, is your main support throughout the game. His name is Lucifel for whatever reason (possibly because of the Japanese L/R thing) and even though this game takes place thousands of years ago, he somehow has a cell phone which he uses to talk to God. I really hate how cool they made him since he's supposed to be the devil and all but I really can't deny it; Lucifel is just awesome. He apparently has control over time and can pause or rewind it with a snap of his fingers. He does it a lot in early cutscenes so you get used to the sound. The cool thing is, whenever you fall off an edge during a platforming section, the screen quickly fades to black and you hear Lucifel snap his fingers to undo your mistake. You even hear the sound when you pause the game. I just love little touches like that.
Gameplay is split between fights with enemies, with a combat system similar to Devil May Cry or God of War, and platforming sections which can be a bit annoying at times since the game has a fixed camera. You have access to three weapons which you have to take from enemies during fights by stunning them. Each weapon trumps another so it's essentially a rock-paper-scissors system. Most fights contain enemies with each weapon type so it's encouraged to beat an enemy that has a weaker weapon, then take his and beat another enemy, and so on. Once you take a weapon, you can keep it until you take another one, though a few bosses can break weapons. One other thing about combat is that you have to "purify" your weapons occasionally, by tapping LB as they become corrupted by the darkness of your enemies and do less damage.
Between fights, you navigate through increasingly difficult platforming segments. At first they aren't that bad but once moving platforms and environment hazards come into play it gets kind of annoying, especially since, as I said before, the camera is fixed so you can't move it at all. For these sections, you definitely want to have the "arch" weapon because it allows you to hover in midair for a moment as you jump; kinda like Luigi in Super Mario Bros 2. There's also a few side scrolling areas which are actually a bit too easy compared to the 3d platforming.
I cannot stress enough how crazy this game's visuals are. It uses cel shading and man, they knew what they were doing with this one. There's a lot of high contrast and areas with amazing geometry. The game manages to run very smoothly too, at least in the 360 version. The frame rate always seemed to be at a perfect 60 for most of the game, even with all kinds of shit on screen at once. One issue however is the menus. Whoever programmed them dropped the ball badly. Even though the rest of the game runs very well, for whatever reason, the menus work like shit. The take several seconds to load and the title screen in particular has a horrendous frame rate and each menu selection takes a few seconds to advance to the next screen. It's a very small gripe but it doesn't leave a very good first impression to say the least.
This gone on far too long for a entry on a list so I'll save the rest for the eventual article that I'll write on this game. El Shaddai is an amazing game with an almost unequaled visual presentation. If you're a fan of weird games, get El Shaddai now, so they'll make another game like this.
|I have no idea what's happening here and I beat this game.|
4. Portal 2 (PC)
Wheatley guides her though the dilapidated Aperture Laboratories building where they soon run into GLaDOS, the evil robotic villain of the first Portal. Thankfully she's still offline after the climactic battle of the that game but Wheatley manages to reactivate her while trying to find an escape pod because of his lack of knowledge about how the Aperture computer system works. GLaDOS then does exactly what she did in the first game: she makes Chell solve a bunch of portal based puzzle rooms.
The gameplay works much like in the first game. You have a portal gun that shoots two different color portals that you can travel through to complete puzzles. You can only shoot them on white walls so there's a bit of help given by clever wall placement. There are also three different "gels" added to bring even more to the puzzles. Blue gel causes you to jump higher than normal, orange gel lets you run really fast, and white gel can be spread around to let you place portals wherever you want.
Again, Valve really brought their A game. The story is somehow better than the first game (My opinion. Don't flip out on me.) which I thought they couldn't followed up on as far as its brand of dark comedy is concerned. The two new characters, Wheatley and Cave Johnson, are just a laugh riot. Wheatley goes from a neurotic, bumbling sidekick to a goofy villain (Stay tuned for my full article for more details on that.) and Cave Johnson (Voiced by the great J.K. Simmons), Aperture's unethical founder, has probably the best lines in the game. For example:
Even though it was made with the now 7 year old source engine, Portal 2 looks amazing. Valve really knows how to push that engine to its limits with several scenes of mass destruction taking place with debris flying everywhere. One thing that I've seen a lot of people mention and I really agree with, is just how expressive Wheatley manages to be even though he's essentially a big metal eyeball. All he really has to work with are his eyelids which he has for whatever reason, but he still expresses a wide range of emotions with just those.
One thing I must note is that I haven't played the Co-op levels. I just don't care for multiplayer, especially in a game like this where everyone probably expects you to know every level by heart and I don't wanna deal with that. Regardless, Portal 2 is an amazing experience that just about anyone could enjoy and well worth the $30 they're charging for it on Steam.
3. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (360)
|It's like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.|
I've never cared much about the story in the Elder Scrolls series and Skyrim is pretty much the same. It's all about the gameplay for me and Skyrim delivers in a way that makes the previous games all but obsolete to me. As I said before, they streamlined the game heavily by making character building easier than ever. In previous games, you would choose from a pool of skills like blades, destruction magic, and sneaking. The skills you chose would pretty much lock you to a certain character build as leveling those skills would also allow you to level your character.
That's gone in Skyrim. Now you can level up any skill and your character's level will go up, so they've essentially removed classes from the game but if you want you can do what I've been doing. For example, I have a rogue character who I have placed voluntary restrictions on in that I won't use any magic or heavy weapons on that character. I also have a mage who I only allow to use magic in combat. Little things like that can mix it up for you.I'll leave it at that. Skyrim is an amazing game that may disappoint hardcore role-players, but action-adventure fans will love it.
2. Batman: Arkham City (360)
Rocksteady Studios, Warner Bros. Interactive
Just like its predecessor, Arkham City's gameplay is about as perfect as a Batman game can hope to be. Just about all of Batman's skills are showcased in some fashion, from his peak fighting skills, his ability to move around stealthily, his detective skills, and of course, his gadgets. I'll go much more in depth about those in this game's main article.
One thing that I'll mention here though is how great the combat system is. For most enemies, all you need to know is to press X to attack and Y to counter when an enemy is about to attack you. Later enemies require slightly more advanced tactics like enemies armed with stun batons who you have to leap over with A and attack from behind or else you get shocked. There's also a great combo system that rewards you for attacking and countering in perfect timing with a multiplier that appears in the corner. Every time it goes up a few points, you can do a special attack that will either instantly knock out an enemy or allow you stun many enemies at once to get the upper hand against large numbers.
For all the good things I can say about this game, there were a few things that pissed me off that shouldn't have been a problem in the first place. During the main story, the game will sometimes switch to the perspective of Catwoman, who you play as for a short time. The problem was that this content was locked behind an online pass and my copy that I bought brand new on day one DIDN'T HAVE THE DAMN THING. And I wasn't the only one. It was all over the game's official forums. So while WB games sat around holding their dicks trying to figure out how they managed to forget to put a piece of paper in a DVD box, I was locked out of part of the story. All this because they feel the need to lock used game buyers out of content because they want money from every sale, even if many gamers can't afford to buy a $60 game every time. My point is, online passes are freakin' horse shit.
My other gripes are a bit more game related. First, the game crashes sometimes (Usually when switching to Catwoman. She's cursed, I tell you!) and it whines about its downloadable content at start-up a lot. Also, for whatever reason this game says the word "bitch" probably more times that any other form of fiction that I've ever experienced, especially when you're playing as Catwoman. This game has a real potty mouth for a licensed title based on a superhero who's very popular with children.
Jesus, two paragraphs about shit I hate in my second favorite game of the year. That just goes to show you how great it is overall. The only thing out of those gripes that I put on the developers is the bitch thing. The DLC and crash issues are all the greedy publisher's fault for trying to rush the game out too fast. All right, I'll shut up before I start whining some more. Batman: Arkham City is an outstanding game and the best superhero game ever made in my opinion. Any fan of Batman or action games needs to play this.
|I highly doubt that there exists a more perfect screenshot of this game than this one.|
1. Dead Space 2 (360)
Visceral Games, EA
Once Isaac gets to relative safety and arms himself, the real action starts and never relents. He finds that he is on a massive space station orbiting Titan, Saturn's largest moon, and spends the whole game trying to find a way off the Necromorph infested hellhole. One of the only things that the first game lacked was good characters. There wasn't a well defined main antagonist and your supporting characters only existed to tell you what to do. Dead Space 2 fixes both of these things by adding a real asshole of a main villain and a great supporting cast. The plot is also more well focused with your goal (Other than escaping.) being clear fairly early on: destroy "the marker", the monolith that is somehow responsible for the Necromorph's existence. Also, Dead Space 2 contains probably my favorite line of the year, which I will put into context in the game's main article, "You owe me an eye, you bastard!"
What Arkham City did with beat 'em ups, Dead Space 2 does with third-person shooting: perfects it. First and foremost, there's no God damn cover system. I'm sick of those. Seriously though, the gameplay is incredible. Just as in the first game, you have to cut of the Necromorphs limbs to kill them efficiently, and it never seems to get boring to me. Maybe I'm a bit sadistic.
There are some amazing setpieces too, the best being a fight against a giant Necromorph in a collapsing area of the station. You have to keep shooting its arm while huge metal beams fall from the ceiling as it keeps grabbing you and throwing you around. You eventually shoot its arm off and run down the nearby hall until you reach a window where a ship of soldiers under the command of the main villain shoots the crap outta the room, of course causing a hull breach that sucks Isaac and the monster outside. They both land on the ship and the Necromorph picks Isaac up, preparing to kill him. Some explosive containers just happen to be floating nearby which you shoot, causing Isaac to rocket away from the ship back into the station through another window where a blast door quickly seals the breach and you're safe. For now.
I'll do a big ass article on this one eventually so I'll leave it at that. Dammit people, buy Dead Space 2! There needs to be more of this franchise.
I'm gonna continue my top 5 games of 2001 next. The #3 article would already be up but Blogger's interface deleted the whole thing when I hit undo and it decided to auto save. That'll teach me to ever make mistakes. After that I'll do my top 10 games of all time as promised weeks ago. That was supposed to go up on Christmas day. So much for that.