Saturday, January 1, 2011

Short, short memory (best of the year)

First of the year, so I suppose it is about time for me to talk a little bit about the things I enjoyed most lost year. I play a lot of games and it is very easy to lose track of what was good and what was bad, as I tend to forget the really shitty things and remember only the unexpected gems hiding in the middle of terrible games. There is also the problem with recency, as the games that I have gone through in the last month or two are just closer to the top of heap in the giant pile of gaming knowledge that eats up most of the space my head. (Side story: my daughter got a DS for Christmas, and a few licensed titles of questionable quality. One of them stars the penguins from Madagascar. She didn't understand what to do with it and asked me for help. I played it for thirty seconds and proclaimed, 'Oh, this is just Lost Vikings in 3D,' assuming she would know what I was talking about. She's eight, and I am a fool.)

Since games boil down to good moments and bad moments I feel that the best way to acknowledge the best games I played this year is to just list the first two that come to mind and run with it. I am almost ashamed to admit that the game that comes up first is Red Dead Redemption. I have not really enjoyed and of the Grand Theft Auto games, have never finished one, never even played San Andreas for that matter, so I was not expecting to lose myself so completely to GTA in the old west. But I did. It was all I could think about or wanted to play for quite some time because it was a good western with interesting characters and good writing first and a sand box game second. The death of John Marston was the single most emotional event in gaming all year, right up there with the ending of Metal Gear Solid 4 or Shadow Hearts 2 (manly tears, bro, manly), but his sons subsequent revenge was even better. That duel was as great a moment of catharsis as you can get in a game; I shot that bastard until my gun was out of bullets, reloaded, and shot him some more for good measure. Red Dead Redemption deserved to sell however many millions of copies it sold. It is the only sandbox game I have ever gotten to the end of that left me wanting more.

Amnesia, as a horror game, starts out pretty slow. As a veteran of the big hitters in the genre like Silent Hill and Fatal Frame I was prepared for anything and frightened by nothing for the first several hours. That is not to say that the game was not very good, there just wasn't anything that raised my heart rate or forced me to turn on all the lights in the house. Then them monsters showed up. Monsters that you cannot fight, are randomly (for the most part) placed, and that kill you in one or two hits each time. The first time I saw one I ran for my life, hid in a corner, out my light, and waited for him to go away. He didn't, opting to pace back and forth in the room making terrible, terrible sounds. Eventually I could stand no more and made a break for it, rounding a corner and hid in a shadow. After an eternity I peeked out, hoping to see an empty hallway. Nope, he was right fucking there. I died, then I turned around to make sure there was no one else in the room with me. Well done, Frictional, well done.

Going back further I am sure that God of War III should make the list, but I am trying to remember anything from the game that stood out and all I am coming up with is nailing Aphrodite while her topless attendants watched and fondled one another, and while that is a nice picture it is not a ringing endorsement for the game. Limbo was of course an excellent little title and I would play more if there was more of it to play, but the greatest joy of it was showing it to other people and watching their faces as the boy is killed in various and disgusting ways. It was the game equivalent of a shocker web site: fun but after the first time it is never the as good.

Two more. Zombie Apocalypse was an excellent twin stick shooter that managed to be addictive from the fist moment I turned it on. It is nothing more than Smash TV again, but it worked really well, and it made me want a XBLA remake of Loaded more than ever before. Finally (for now) there is Metro 2033. The first STALKER is one of my favorite games of all time, bugs and all, and the Clear Sky being unplayable at release was a terrible blow. It has probably been fixed, but I have never worked up the courage to download it again. Metro 2033 was STALKER on a console: better looking, streamlined and linear. It was the best parts of STALKER, the terrifying underground sections, strung together into an excellent shooter that not a lot of people played. Only some rather poor monster animation the tiny jello blobs of doom held it back from being excellent.

That's it, one more year down. There are many games that are missing, two of which (Fable III and Fallout New Vegas) are already in house and waiting to be played. I need to get through the mediocre action game calling itself Castlevania first, and it has not been an easy time so far.

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