Daily Archives: April 17, 2017

My Favorite Games: A Decade Long Retrospective Pt. 2

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As you may or may not have already read earlier last week, I’ve begun to write a few posts regarding my favorite games of each year roughly from the last decade give or take a few years. You can read part one if you have not already done so and then continue with this further retrospective glance through gaming’s recent history. Essentially, this post focuses on the games that I played to 100% completion in the years 2007 and 2008 and the ones that on top of that I enjoyed thoroughly. I’ve played many games in my time and many more have come out since, however there are only a select few that I would dare to place into this category personally and these are simply some of those.

As always, please feel free to agree with me or berate my choices in the comments section below- in general just sound off if there’s anything that interests you here. Without further ado, I’ll get this show underway in earnest.

2007: Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2, Bioshock, Halo 3, The Orange Box, Guitar Hero III, Manhunt 2, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Mass Effect.

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I can say, without hesitation, that Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 is perhaps one of my favorite Tom Clancy games of all time. The Ghost Recon brand has never really hit the high notes that the game hit since and I haven’t really thoroughly enjoyed many Tom Clancy games in general as much as I did the sequel to the phenomenal Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. From the amazing tactical awareness both the single player/cooperative campaigns and multiplayer boasted to the heap of content available, GRAW 2 is truly an all-encompassing package that not many publishers could match even today.

Bioshock…man just saying the name all these years later will send shivers down your spine and conjure images of defunct underwater utopias and denizens of the deep and all sorts of odd pictures. Even though the trilogy itself has been completed and everything has ultimately come full circle in such an amazing way, the first game is what kicked it all off in all its gory glory. The thrill and horror of tackling your first Big Daddy and saving or harvesting the Little Girls, discovering your true nature and that of your friends and foes, and discovering one of video gaming’s now most well-known revelations of all time never got and never will get old.

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Before we were made aware that it was not in fact the end of times for the almighty Master Chief and before we received ODST, Halo Wars, Halo Reach, Halo 4, Halo Wars 2, Halo 5: Guardians, and all the other titles we’ve since seen in the universe, Halo 3 was truly IT. Not only was it a climatic and eventful and moving potential end for a saga but it was a thrilling and challenging cooperative and single player campaign with an equally impressive array of multiplayer opportunities. Halo 3 used to be the testament to which other multiplayer titles should and could compare themselves and is still played by plenty of players out there today a full decade later. Think on that.

Valve isn’t the greatest developer when it comes to counting things off in threes, but all bitter jokes aside they have had immense success in the video game market both creating and selling popular titles. The Orange Box was somewhat of a risk for them despite offering portions of the episodic aftermath of Half-life 2 as a sort of guaranteed failsafe mechanism, yet Portal and Team Fortress 2 ended up being easily the more popular games offered in the eclectic collection. Call me eccentric or call me crazy, but it seems as if plenty of people remember the mother of all plot twists in Portal and the better moments of frenetic TF2 matches even all this time later. Now it would just be nice to see Left 4 Dead 3, Half-life 3, and Portal 3 so…

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We’ve seen surely dozens of incarnations since, but something about Legends of Rock just truly resonates with me even today and there’s always just cause for me to replay even the easiest songs for nostalgia’s sake. Maybe it’s the fact that it was the Guitar Hero game that truly cemented the franchise for what it would soon become or maybe it’s because we had the likes of Hendrix and power ballads among our ranks while attempting to conquer the sheer insanity that was Dragonforce’s “Through the Fire and the Flames”- the world may never know for sure. But truly, this musical odyssey is a tale worth telling and a game worth enjoying.

Manhunt 2 is definitely an interesting beast, I’ll say that much. I do not condone violence or any of the horrific and barbaric acts that players can and will conduct within the bounds of the game and yet there’s something immensely interesting about the dark deviance your character takes part in. There’s definitely a twisted story and a level of creativity to combat and encounters that we’ve really yet to see in any stealth or fighting game since. Whatever your opinions on the series may be, one thing is certain- Manhunt 2 is a compelling and truly horrific and eye opening look into violence and the lengths to which mankind can and will go to get what the want and do what they feel is right.

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Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare not only threw the series into the modern era with style and gusto but it changed the fate of the industry and created a new juggernaut almost overnight as well. The FPS genre has never been the same since and may never be the same again, even if Call of Duty is slowly ceding ground to other fresher and less overdone franchises year by year these past few. Somehow fans keep coming back for more and it’s not for a lack of general quality which was first showcased by Modern Warfare which was the first and possibly most impressive of the Modern Warfare trilogy. Between an excellent story and superb multiplayer, it doesn’t get much better than a decade old game that even warranted a last year remaster.

Mass Effect 1 is sort of the Andromeda of the initial Mass Effect trilogy. It was a risky venture and one game that needn’t necessarily spawn a franchise. All things considered, it has perhaps the best story of the original trilogy even if the weapon systems and overall gameplay were eventually and inevitably smoothed out over the course of the second and third game. Without Mass Effect we wouldn’t have such fond memories of Commander Shepard and such vivid memories of the thrills and horrors brought about by the Reaper Wars. Bioware has proven time and time again that they can and will craft spectacular universes and characters and I’m truly pleased to have had this experience and to still play and enjoy the game today.

2008: Bully, Grand Theft Auto IV, Ninja Gaiden II, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Dead Space, Fallout 3, Left 4 Dead, Prince of Persia.

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Rockstar is well-known for a reason- they create some of the best and most believable worlds and characters and stories. Yes, there’s always an air of absurdity to a degree, however the ways in which those worlds and characters and stories interact and evolve over time is the reason why GTA 5 is still perhaps one of the best games of all time even two plus years after its release. Bully was a slightly less dark and more humorous take on the open world format that Rockstar has nearly perfected over the years and it remains one of their most unique and replayable titles even today. If I could get any sequel after we see the launch of Red Dead Redemption 2, it would be a true sequel to the original Bully.

Bully isn’t the only Rockstar game of import to me from 2008- GTA 4 is another and even more ambitious title that sticks out in my mind for good reason. It’s as much a satirical take on the “coming to America” tale as it is a look at the problems plaguing society from the eighties until present day, more so than any other time- crime and drama have and always will be issues it seems. Although GTA 5 has set the new benchmark for the series since, Grand Theft Auto 4 and all of its expansive support and content is still an epic story in a city loosely based upon an already epic New York City. Nico Bellic is one of the most memorable and intriguing characters in a crime drama video game and GTA 4 offered so many choices and cheats- being equal parts hilarious and serious when the time called for it.

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Before things were semi-toned down for the third and lackluster sequel, Ninja Gaiden 2 featured stylish and over-the-top action and fleshy enemies that virtually exploded upon contact. Such carnage and destruction even God of War has not necessarily seen in recent years, although that is soon to change as well. Ninja Gaiden 2 represents essentially the last great game in that series for me- Yaiba and Ninja Gaiden 3 notwithstanding of course as they are out of the running. It was and is a difficult game on most levels and a thrilling challenge once completed as well, making for a nostalgic series to return to every few years.

Before there was the surprising depth of The Phantom Pain and the mystery that accompanied it, Guns of the Patriots was the high water mark for the series and a thrilling conclusion (and still is) to the present days struggles of Snake and his allies and enemies. Although the chronology has and inevitably always will be confusing and all over the place for a series that starts with two back to back games and then flashes back to the past every other title afterwards, Metal Gear Solid 4 represented the first true “current” or “next gen” outing for Snake and co and as such was and is a truly fantastic experience. Not only was it serious but it also held the same subtly hilarious moments that past experiences like Snake Eater’s The End dying from old age as well.

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You do not know true terror until you’ve submitted a paper past its due date or you’ve played the original Dead Space. As much as the second and third games pushed the boundaries of the series, the first iteration is where the buck stops in terms of amazing science fiction horror elements that have yet to be fully realized as well in other games yet. Saltiness over not seeing a fourth game notwithstanding, I still stay up late at night to replay Dead Space on the highest difficulties because that’s just the masochistic kind of human being I am apparently where gaming is involved. Peng’s treasures and Isaac’s horrors are equally intriguing and the experience is always fresh and original.

Fallout 3 is, besides New Vegas, probably the best we’ve seen the revitalized series in some time. Fallout 4 was by no means a bad game but as ambitious as it was there are some things it still has yet to fully realize or capitalize on, newfangled hardware or not. Fallout 3 has one of the most memorable casts of characters in any RPG I’ve played and perhaps the best living breathing world as well- which is a great irony considering it takes place in the desolate D.C. metropolis of post-apocalyptic America. As thrilling as the Mojave wastes are to traverse or the vertical Commonwealth has been to scale, the Capitol Wastes have offered me over one thousand hours of fun and horror and hi-jinks in the nine years since  was first introduced to them. Consider me hooked on Bethesda’s flavor of gaming.

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Valve typically knows how to peddle the right product that we consumers want and their amazing cooperative zombie apocalypse skills are like few others can do- see Dead Island and Dying Light (aka Techland games). Left 4 Dead and later Left 4 Dead 2 offers amazing cooperative action and truly immersive and interesting combat and exploration in a twisted and dark and gritty yet humorous apocalyptic situation. Each campaign is presented in what essentially boils down to a B-movie format and each bloody theatrical poster is perfectly fitting as well as the environment and enemies are. It’s perhaps one of the most replayable games and series of all time and one of the last great gems of couch coop as well.

2008’s Prince of Persia title is the most distinct we’ve ever seen the series and also my favorite game in the entire saga despite being largely a standalone experience. I do not fault the 2011 tie-in feature that was sort of a fun albeit meh retread of the first trilogy and the movie release, yet the distinctive art direction and environment of the 2008 game pitting you against darkness rather than sands is truly the highlight of a renowned series. The story is moving, the combat encounters are meaningful and epic, and the puzzles, platforming, and parkour are entirely too good- but not too good to be true. In all fairness and honesty, if there’s one game in recent memory that I most want a sequel to it’s Prince of Persia. DLC containing a second ending doesn’t do the job.

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