08 February 2013

Games I Played 2012

Unranked - Dear Esther
Unfortunately this was more of a visual audio book than an actual video game. It did not entertain me much but I wouldn't give an actual score. There was almost no interaction at all except for some locations you can choose to visit. Most of its entertainment value comes from interpretating the things you hear and see (some of which is visually stunning).

22 - Deadlight - 75%
A really nice looking 2.5D jump & run set in a zombie/infected game world. Unfortunately it doesn't bring much new to the table, but it mixes jump & run and shooting nicely. Suffered from an uninteresting storyline and too much trial & error.

21 - Sniper: Ghost Warrior - 76%
If there is one thing I love about First-Person-'Shooters" its sniping, headshots and stealth. Sniper: Ghost Warrior provides all of these three in a graphic environment that rivals the likes of Crysis. Unfortunately the game also provides an AI that can't seem to balance between 'stupid' and 'unfair' and there are levels which are classic Shoot and Run that don't fit into the overall experience.

20 - Haunted - 77%
In case you didn't know, it'S a 3D point and click adventure about ghosts set in victorian London. It's an average game and there is nothing about it that it does particilarly bad. The use of ghosts as items is nifty and the storyline is interesting until the end.

19 - Back to the Future - 78%
I played these games the same week I saw the movie trilogy, and I highly recommend doing so. The designers added a ton of references to the movies. After the excellent Sam and Max: The Devil's Playhouse Telltale proves again that they can create intriguing stories. The fifth episode offers some of the best writing, taking advantage of the paradoxon of time travel. I also didn't mind the easy riddles. So why only 78% you ask? I thought some characters and the overall look and humor were too childish and off. It didn't fit with the movies and reminded me too often of a cartoon.

18 - Secret Files 3 - 79%
Another point and click adventure that takes the player around the globe. The story revolves around the number Pi and some interesting myths. The locations are diverse and the riddles are interesting as they often revolve around the myths. On the bad side, the engine shows its age as the character movement is stiff (the game fades out whenever a more complex animation is supposed to happen) and the cahracters are too black or white.

17 - Driver: San Francisco - 80%
A spiritual journey into ones self. Uhm, the protagonist is in a coma and the whole storyline plays out in his head. This way he can take control of drivers all around the city. It makes for very interesting gameplay, because when you chase someone you can't control you can always take control of cars in the traffic going in the opposite direction to create traffic accidents. It's a lot of fun.

16 - Modern Warfare 3 - 81%
I like the linear cinematic approach of Modern Warfare 3 but I hate how so many other games copy its style. It makes the Call of Duty series seem less fun than it actually is. There is nothing special to say about Modern Warfare 3. It does everything it sought out to do. Its loud and linear, but still fun. Unfortunately not as memorable as other games in the franchise.

15 - Dead Island - 82%
Dead Island has many interesting features. It's an open-world first-person zombie hack & slay game. You can improve items and gain levels to spend on skill points. You can solve many side quests and also play it with three other friends. Unfortunately the enemies respawn way too often which diminishes the feeling of actually accomplishing something. Also the fighting is way too repetetive.

14 - Half-Life 2: Episode 1 & 2 - 83%
I never liked the Episode format that Valve approached, so I always told myself to not play these Episodes until on of the following three happened 1.HL3 is released. 2.Black Mesa is released. 3.Episode 3 is released. When option 2 finally happened I played Black Mesa, then HL2 again and finally Episode 1 & 2. Maybe I waited too long but I didn't really get that unique Half-Life feeling very often. Episode 1 seemed like a rehash except for the part when you have to guide Alyx with a flashlight. Episode 2 was better because it allowed more play time to breath and offered more variation with riddles, beating waves, boss enemies and driving.

13 - Rayman Origins - 84%
Rayman Origins is a fast-paced jump & run, with many environments, flawless controls and numerous gameplay ideas Every level seems to over something new (skate on ice, swim under water, take control of flying mosquitos, become really small or run from scary monsters). Also the comic look fits the game perfectly and its so addictive when playing with friends. It's a bit difficult when playing alone, since there's noone to revive you and the story has no real value. Nontheless, the flow of the gameplay was enough to keep me playing for hours.

12 - Risen 2 - 85%
Not many people outside Germany like the RPGs made by Piranha Bytes, hell, I barely know anyone here who likes their games. But I can easily understand why. The gameplay is slow. Fights are clumsy and the open-world environment is the opposite of limitless. Anywhere you go foes can squash your tiny character. Any quest you try seems to be either out of reach, too hard or missing a key item you can't afford or fight for. But still, there is something really satisfying about finally accomplishing a quest, finally gaining that skill point or armor to beat the crap out of an enemy. It's a bit like how people talk about Dark Souls, a really hard but rewarding game. The environments in Risen 2 are amongst the most organic in any game world. There is always something to see. Also the game world is filled with nasty pirates who swear and drink, and treasures to find, and arses to kick. If there is one bad thing to say about this game is how the developers dumped down the mage class compared to Risen 1. There are a couple of skills you can chose but not much to make you feel like an actual wizard.

11 - Black Ops 2 - 85%
Like Modern Warfare 3 its loud, linear and fun, but its also memorable. the storyline is more personal. As a player I felt more involved with the things happening around. The main villain is cool and the the plot twists really had me shocked. I'll make myself really unpopular here amonst the so-called hardcore gamers: The Call of Duty franchise is a well-oiled machine that will hopefully keep continue to produce the types of games it does. But please, dear developers of other game companies: Don't copy, do your own thing! It's not like Resident Evil 1-3 or Dead Space 1-2 sold badly, did they?

10 - FarCry 3 - 86%
Another shooter. FarCry 3 takes the best of FarCry 1 and FarCry 2 and adds a wicked story on top of that. From FarCry 1 it takes the ability to take out a camp any way I like. I can assault full-frontal, I can snipe with or without a silencer or I can hide and knife enemies from up close. It's my choice and I like it. From FarCry 2 it takes the open world but manages to fill it with interesting, albeit repetetive, side missions. I can go hunting, play poker (best video-game poker ever), liberate camps, climb radio towers or drive vehicles from A to B within a limited amount of time. On top of that the game has many crazy/creepy characters and the main missions can become almost as explosive and loud as in a Call of Duty game.

9 - Alan Wake - 87%
Probably the best told storyline I had ever experienced in a video game until up to that point. Every character is life-like, but also really movie-like. Every chapter is like its own episode in a TV show, accompanied with introductions (previously on Alan Wake...), cliffhangers, outro music and inner monologue. The visual sound effects are great. It can become really creepy at times, since you never know where the enemies will strike from next. On the downsidde, the gameplay is one-dimensional. The level design is linear and the fights are repetetive, although it took me some time to figure out that I should only shoot them when their shields were down, after I targeted my light on them.

8 - Diablo 3 - 88%
One of the most dissapointing best games I have ever played. Right from the first video I was there with the naysayers, cursing Blizzard for what they had done to my beloved game. At least visually. Gameplay-wise I was always open-minded towards any gameplay changes and I didn't mind if the ideas came from World of WarCraft or Pokémon. After some time I got used to the visuals as well, but in the end it was something different that bothered me: In Diablo 1 and 2 the levels were generated randomly, but in Diablo 3 a lot of the overground environment was not. For a game that relies so heavily on replayability this was a killer for me. I only played through the game five times. Once for each character. And I will probably not touch it again until I buy the addon. Yes, it's still high-quality entertainment but not as much as I had come to expect from Blizzard.

7 - Deux Ex: Human Revolution - 89%
I was playing the original Deus Ex until a few days ago, so I have a pretty good understanding of how the new installment compares to the original game, which is considered to be one of the best of all time. Human Revolution is an excellent addition to the franchise. The story is rich and well-told, the level design and skill design offer numerous solutions to any problem. It's really rewarding, trying to accomplish every side mission and trying to catch all the details. There is a lot to read, many people to talk to and many places to discover. It also has a lot of playtime, although I can't say exactly how much it is. The first time I played it I had to stop for a couple of months, due to my studies, and when I had picked it up again I decided to restart so I wouldn't be overwhelmed by the story. Sadly, DX:HR is not as good as it could be. Most of the boss fights don't allow to fight them the way you would want to. Direct confrontation is the only solution. Also, I'm not a fan of the graphics. While I'm notery obsessed with the lack of details, it bugs me that there is this gold-filter all over the game.

6 - Black Mesa - 90%
You all know it. You all love it. The original Half-Life, now with improved graphics and some changes in level design. I was a bit irritating when I didn't get the crowbar when I expected to, but once I had it, I understood that the creators took some liberty with the level design, and I didn't mind it at all. Black Mesa was a good reminder of the old times, when the game wasn't controlled by scripted events all the time and you actually had to use your brain from time to time to pass by a situation. Half-Life/Black Mesa also had the right mix of horror, science fiction and military combat.  After finishing Black Mesa I played the Xen levels on Half-Life: Source (the original Half-Life remake, that had only improved physics and water) to complete my Half-Life experience. I really hope the creators of Black Mesa revamp the Xen levels as much as possible. All this jumping in low-gravity wasn't fun in the original game.

5 - Dishonored - 90%
I didn't pay Dishonored much attention until after some time of its release. I thought it would be like Dark Messiah of Might & Magic. Linear level design with lots of possibilities to kill enemies. But I couldn't have been more wrong. The open level design, the readable books, the NPCs you can listen too, the possibilities to dispose of enemies and the sneaking were all reminiscent of some of my favourite games of all time: The Thief series. My favourite feature about Dishonopred is how the side missions are worked into the main mission. If you do them the game opens up more ways to approach a main objective, either through another route or by giving you more options to dispose of targets. Collecting all the items is also really motivating for a similar reason. You get more skills and more options to eliminate enemies. Also, the world, the atmosphere, the storyline are really cool. But I didn't care much for the comic graphics which looked washed-out.

4 - NBA 2K13 - 91%
I love basketball. I always told myself that it is the only thing that can take me away from video games. As a LA Lakers fan I used to watch the NBA from time to time but I missed a lot of it since the time Shaq moved away. I also used to play A LOT of NBA Live 97 and some of its follow-up titles. The gameplay then was pretty basic and repetetive, but more than once I played full seasons of 82 games With 12 minutes per quarter. With the recent aquisition of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash for the Lakers the basketball flame inside me burned once again and I have only missed about six games since the pre-season. I also got NBA 2K13 and I have played around 2/3 of a season so far (5 minutes per quarter). What fascinates me the most is how much the flow of the game and the realism has improved. In NBA Live I could beat the AI with the same move over and over, but in 2K13 each play is different and reminiscent of real basketball. The game also follows the idea of easy to learn, hard to master. You only need two or three buttons to do shooting, rebounding, passing and so on, but in combination with the other buttons you can set screens, do alley oops, steal, call plays, block out, provoke an offensive foul, do crossovers and all the other tricks you can watch on TV. I love it!

3 - Mass Effect 3 - 92%
I believe most people don't like the ending because all those choices made during the Mass Effect trilogy didn't have any effect on the end. You were basically just pressing a button to choose one of several endings. My opinion is that it doesn't matter. Those choices felt important when I made them and they never affected one another too much. The ending was merely the ability to make the ultimate choice. Ironically I accidentally made a choice I did not want to make, so I saw an ending sequence I had not intended to see (until a later playthrough). I should say that I had not played the game until the extended cut and a couple of DLCs were available, but I wouldn't rate a game solely on its ending, even if it is the most important part of a game that is so heavily based on story. Combat was repetetive, but it served its purpose so it was fun for the most part. I think there were a couple more RPG elements than in the second game, but nothing important. In the end Mass Effect 3 ends the trilogy on a high note, playing to the strengths of the Mass Effect universe, which are strong characters, a rich fictional background and all those choices. But honestly, I can't imagine a Mass Effect 4. The ending(s) in ME3 was(were) perfect.

2 - Max Payne 3 - 93%
The Max Payne games are amongst my all-time-favourites. I played each of them over a dozen times, especially in combination with different Matrix mods, a movie I am crazy for. Now, you might think If I know and love Max Payne so much, how can I rate Max Payne 3 so high, knowing tha it's so different from its predecessors. I am well aware of all the changes they made to the character, the storytelling, even the gameplay, which adopted a Cover-System where you can't bullet-time as much. The best thing about Max Payne 3 is how it dropped loading screens in favor of cutscenes. Just like the title hero the game never let me catch my breath, punching me from one level to another. There was a certain delight in playing the game as stressful as possible. Also raising the difficulty level helped a lot. I must have died over a hundred times, but I was always getting back up to try a different approach on a situation. In the end I had figured out that the Cover-System helped from time to time, but the best thing I could do was jump straight into the middle of the action to unleash pure chaos onto my enemies and myself. One should also mention how much Max has matured in this game. More cynical, but also vulnerable. In my opinion Max's voice actor turned him into the most believable character ever witnessed in a video game.

1 - The Walking Dead - 94%
I can't go too much into details with this game without revealing spoilers. You probably have already heard how this game is an emotional roller-coaster. It doesn't offer a lot of gameplay. You pick up items here and there, use them on people or the environment, but mostly you talk to people and deal with unordinary situations due to the zombie apocalypse or people having their way. I would even go so far to say that this game is on par with the series aired on AMC. the characters are as likeable and life-like, situations become more tense because as a player you feel more involved. There is also more action and less of the boring dialogue sometimes seen on TV. After some time you won't even notice anymore that this is a game with comic graphics. You'll just sit there with your mouth open and talk to yourself "Did that really just happen?".


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