It’s been a busy year, and I haven’t always got round to discussing the video games I’ve played. But it’s also been an excellent year for games, so a few that certainly deserve a mention along with some brief thoughts:
Mass Effect 2: Played round a friends house, which means time was a little limited and though we got most of the way through, didn’t complete it or truly pick the teeth like I might when sitting sadly on my own late at night. Still, played plenty enough to see that it was pretty damn good. Big, involving, with some great moments and a rare feeling that you could play it being evil and it would make some sense and actually be worth it. Side characters feel nicely fleshed out, the game world feels as vast and concrete as one would hope for from an interstellar roleplayer, I guess it just isn’t the type of game world that necessarily floats my boat – I’m more a Dragon Age type of guy from that standpoint (who knew). It also felt as if they’d dumbed down the roleplaying aspects somewhat – the skills and equipment was much simplified, and though that was an improvement in many ways and, I’m sure, for most users, I slightly regretted it. Still an excellent game, though.
BioShock 2: Hmmm. As with the first BioShock, it’s unmatched on setting, atmosphere, political commentary and underwater art-deco stylings. But one can’t help a slight feeling that this game was cobbled together out of the bits they didn’t use for the first game, and I’m not sure I actually liked the first ALL that much. Perhaps it’s that, despite some great set-pieces, some nifty characterisation, some clever plotting, and the aforementioned awesome underwater art-deco stylings, it’s always felt to me like a bit of a mediocre first-person shooter beneath the dressings. Kind of clunky and claustrophobic in gameplay and, as so often, the much-vaunted complex moral choices pretty much boil down to NICE or NASTY. But no doubt an IMMERSIVE experience. A haw haw.
Batman – Arkham Asylum: I know it came out last year, but I played it this year, so there. Film tie-ins are always shite, aren’t they? Which is why it’s taken this not directly film-related effort to finally make a brilliant game out of Batman. It’s one of those games that knows exactly what it’s after and completely nails it. The gothic setting, the range of villains, the crunching mixed martial arts action, the perennial darkness, the way the camera swoops in to capture details, the whole feel is just great and, better yet, indefinably batman. And Mark Hamil’s voice acting of The Joker is unbeatable.
Demon’s Souls: I was reading something somewhere about how one of the most common complaints voiced about films and books is that they are too difficult, whereas one of the most common complaints about video games is that they are too easy. Which is to say, video gaming seems to be the only form of media in which difficulty is generally celebrated as a virtue these days. The most massochistic gamer could not complain on those grounds about strange-o Japanese roleplayer Demon’s Souls, because it is frighteningly, punishingly, scrotum-witheringly difficult. You can die so easily that you have to keep an iron concentration at all times, and that is pretty refreshing. It’s also an atmospheric and interestingly bleak world that’s presented, though with the slightly clunky gameplay typical of the third-person “action” roleplayer (Gothic was similar in that regard). The upside is that, frequently, when you finally conquer a given section with a particularly clean and effective passage of play, you do feel an unrivalled air-punching moment of satisfaction. The downside is that at times Demon’s Souls seems just wrongheadedly, unfairly, unfeasably difficult – fighting through the same section twenty times so you can face a boss monster that for no apparent reason is only vulnerable in one tiny area that you seem to have no chance of finding because you get killed almost the instant you enter the room. You come to rely on sneaky workarounds and little cheats – fighting one boss I found a tiny pillar from behind which, because of a peculiarity of the animations, I was safe but could zap away at my enemy with impunity. Later I found a place I could rack up a mass of experience by shooting a monster from far off with arrows then throwing myself off a cliff. Dozens of times. After that it was all a fair bit easier. Though still nearly impossible. I got nearly right to the end, I think, but having been killed instantly by the final boss, I just couldn’t be arsed running through a load of monsters in order to get to him again. Maybe a game can be too difficult…
15 comments so far
ME2 was great fun and worth the effort and I agree 100% about Bioshock 2, I lost interest about half way through it just felt a bit fur coat and no knickers – great to look at but not much actual substance.
Have a great Christmas and hopefully 2011 will be a year of massive sales for Heroes.
One game I really enjoyed this year (and hope to see similar games in the future) was Heavy Rain. It really felt more like an interactive movie than a game. If you did not get a chance to play that one, I highly recommend it. Has a bit of that moral Nice/Naughty feature mixed in though you feel much more like you are having to perform the act you choose rather than the video game character.
Would love to see a game in the same genre scripted by Mr. Abercrombie. That would be a game worthy of my hard earned pre-order dollars!
BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM was frighteningly good. If ever there was a game that had no right to be as great as it was it’s that one. Especially since there’s never been a good Batman game since BATMAN: THE MOVIE on the C-64.
I can’t wait to see what they do next with BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY.
Another good game this year, even despite the monumental amount of hype it generated during its five years of development, was ALAN WAKE. The gameplay wasn’t that amazing but the atmosphere and storytelling put it up in the league of the likes of SILENT HILL 2.
Joe, I’m surprised you get so much writing done with all the gaming you seem to do. Kudo’s to you. Just don’t ever start playing Warcraft (like me) or we might lose you forever.
ME2 was good fun, but I never felt compelled to finish it. I tried the others you listed, but none held my interest at all. For me, nothing touched Uncharted 2, this year. And I can’t wait for Uncharted 3, next year.
Bioshock is my all time favorite current generation game but the sequel was sadly lacking. The original had all the intrigue, suspense, and sense of discovery that only the best fiction can manage. The little bits of philosophy and the stories of shattered humanity scattered throughout the game make it an incredibly rich experience. The sequel had much less depth and there was no reason to tack on a multiplayer mode. I am excited for Bioshock Infinite though since the original team will be making it. I’m also going to be getting a “No Gods or Kings, Only Man” tattoo here soon.
I know you’re a big fan of Fallout and not so keen on Oblivion but I thought this might peak your interest.
It’s a pretty atmospheric trailer and voiced by King Osric himself no less.
I really enjoyed Mass Effect 2, enough to play through it several times, but was somehow able to wait on ME2. I was also terribly disappointed by the game at first, especially with its svelte RPG elements, but in the end I realized that much of it, especially on Xbox controllers, was just so much window dressing, and the game itself really takes hold before too long. In the end, it’s the best game I’ve played in a long, long time.
BS2 really does feel like the cutting room floor edition of the original. The combat is improved and the trap-setting is interesting, but to be the thing that was so terrifying in the original really took away from the fear that was ever-present in the original. It’s not a bad game, really. It just didn’t feel like an original vision, but rather an outsourced sequel. Like Nick Sharps said, BioShock Infinity looks AMAZING.
I just got to Arkham this year myself, and I concur about its brilliance. It’s just an incredible game.
I think it’s super-awesome that you share about such a fun topic. I love your books and I think it’s cool that I finally like an author (at least his works) who likes video games as well.
You can kill the final boss in Demon’s Souls with another “cheat” where you carefully slowly creap up behind him and cast poison cloud or death cloud and then proceed to hide from him near the entrance watching his life bar slowly drain away! Heroic? Not one bit, but necessary to beat this hard yet amazing game.
‘Joe now lives in Bath with his wife, Lou, and his daughters Grace and Eve.’ Direct quote pulled from your Author section! What i wanna know is how you find time to play these games with a wife and 2 kids 😛
Demon’s Souls is an awesome game with an incredible amount of depth and a cool narrative structure under the surface, but it does sort of boil down to whether you can handle the idea of dying over and over (and over and over and over again) and being forced to perfect your skills. That’s the appeal of the difficulty to me – it adds a huge degree of realism to the world. Every single foe actually is just as dangerous as it would be in the game universe, and most are entirely capable of taking you out. The game doesn’t really cheap shot you IMHO, but it IS absolutely merciless if you let down your guard or make a tactical mistake. I didn’t find it necessary to use cheats, but it’s definitely a game where you’re going to be looking for advice from the ‘net pretty often.
I really wish I could remove demon souls off my list of games that I could have potentially won trophies while playing. It pains me everytime I see the 0% next to it, but I just can’t bear dying any more times attempting to get somewhere in the game.
For me Mass Effect 2 and Red Dead Redemption were pretty tough acts to follow for any game releasing this past year, and I’ve had a hard time pulling myself away from Brotherhood and New Vegas the last couple of months, but I recently picked up Amnesia: The Dark Descent, based on having heard good things, and so far I’m not disappointed.
Everybody’s saying that it’s a Silent Hill killer in the scares department, and, while I haven’t played enough yet to say whether I agree, the sense of nerve-wracking tension the game conveys is probably beyond anything else I’ve played. Great to see a small budget, independent horror game from a small developer giving the big boys a run for their money, too.
I originally gave up on demons souls but have recently started a new character (Sand dan Glokta)”the young i can beat anybody version” and really been trying my damndest to beat this game. Its so challenging but really is quite rewarding and found the multiplayer really fun. Cant wait for dark souls now.. Not sure on the name yet. Gorst really impressed me in the heroes but making a new and improved glokta would be nice as well…Jesus christ im a nerd…
[…] with the difficulty level ramped right up to INSANE from the folks who tested your sanity with Demon’s Souls. In many ways this game appears a big improvement over the last one, which was certainly […]