It seems that every site and their homophobic uncle is doing a top five, ten of twelvety list of their favourite games at the moment, and if I may be so cynical I may ponder that they are all stemmed from the same kind of gamer. But we aren’t like that, so prepare to be (perhaps) surprised by our Top Five Games of 2009 – Sponsored by Monster Munch*.
So yeah, Top Five lists are often an easy post, filling a bit of site space with something that is often lacking in any real quality.
This one will most likely be exactly that.
Pitched as a hyper aggressive and action focused RPG type title, taking the general scope of Fallout 3 and shoving it through the same filter that is often used in modern remakes of Michael Caine movies I was prepared to loathe everything about Borderlands, but from the bus based attract movie to fighting seemingly immortal foes with extra testicles I am prepared to take my initial thoughts, write them onto slightly mouldy Ritz crackers and eat them with a liberal helping of humble pie and gravy made up of napalm jelly. It is big, but not necessarily clever. Instead it throws a ragtag bunch of steadily increasingly insane opponents at you, whilst you level up with all the grace and dignity of Mr T doing ballet. What it does, it does very well, and throwing in four player co-op, which is as loose a term as possible. It’s not strictly a co-op experience as much as it is four people in the same world, sometimes working together, sometimes arguing over who will pick up that gun with the red barrel and can shoot fire bullets. This is EXACTLY what I need from a co-op shooter title. Just as I spent Crackdown being thrown off of buildings, and trying to get a skip to land on my face. Borderlands is one of the games that due to the shadow of Modern Warfare 2 never hit the world like it should have done, but with a steady stream of great DLC the game will undoubtedly do very well indeed for Gearbox. It really deserves to.
Trials HD (XBLA)
You may remember we covered Trials HD in our review of the Summer of Arcade II, if not here’s a recap:
The fourth week in the Summer of Arcade promo brought the game I had least interest in, Trials HD. For anyone who has ever been bored at work, insomniac etc.. they will have experienced those minigames that have you balancing a motorbike/monster truck/jetduck (delete as appropriate) over a course that gets harder as you progress. The prospect of paying 1200msp for a HD update of something I could get for free, and never really enjoyed filled me with as much anticipation as I would feel if presented with the chance of spending a holiday in Bridlington with George Lamb.
That said I am sometimes wrong.
In this case, very wrong.
Wronger than a joke about Maddy McCann and the Pope.
Wronger than kids who think that Starburst is the ‘proper’ name for fruity sweets.
Wronger than fitting a periscope in the garden to watch an elderly neighbour getting undressed.
Trials HD – or as we call it in the Lolocaust office, Trial and Error HD – is the perfect example of how to motivate a gamer into becoming a drooling, obsessed mess. Simple to play, difficult to master the game constantly taunts you with the prospect of new bikes, new track, new mini-games, as well as showing you exactly how much better your friends are than you. It’s literally like this.
“See that? They beat you by THIRTY SECONDS! You know what else, he also didn’t fuck up as often. You gonna quit baby boy? You gonna walk away or are you going to try and beat that bastard? I only point it out because I care y’know, you’ll be a better person for it.”
The fact is the game makes you want to play, even when you don’t. ‘One more go’ becomes ten, minutes become hours, and before you know it the police are knocking the door down after neighbours have reported the fact that you haven’t been out for weeks, the curtains haven’t been opened and there is a funny smell coming from inside. That scent is the stench of competition.
If you have a life and don’t want to lose it do not download this title. It will get under your skin and use you like a meat puppet.
It is excellent though.
The track editor is stunning n’all.
1200msp – go top up now!
Strong words indeed, but am I still playing it as often? No, to be honest I’ve been far too busy with new titles to allow it’s grabby little mits to hold me by the balls again, but the imminent arrival of the BIG DLC pack is certain to fill a couple of evenings over the always dull Crimbo period. Without a doubt the best Live Arcade title of the year (and there was some real tough competition from Shadow Complex, ‘Splosion Man, Worms 2, Sam and Max…) and the fourth best game of the year, in our opinion.
THREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE, Neslon Mandella
Uncharted 2 – Among Thieves (PS3)
Sony’s big black fun box has been a bit devoid of truly great titles as of late (platform exclusive ones at least) but Uncharted 2 managed to turn all that around very quickly. Drake’s first adventure on the system was a little over-hyped, but all the same gave a great gaming adventure, with a loveable rogue, a flawed best buddy and Nazi involvement guaranteeing the title got the Indiana Jones award for generic adventuring, but it did satisfy. No one could encounted the U-boat in the jungle and not be impressed. Uncharted 2 manages to recreate that moment of astonishment a whole lot quicker, hanging you off the back of a train while it hangs off of a snowy mountain. The perilous ascent to ‘safety’ is full of neat touches that skew the normal issue of cut-scene vs gameplay. You are in control of 90% of what occurs, and as such it becomes more involving. The game continues down this path, mixing genre with ease. Hell, even the obligatory truck chase sequence doesn’t feel obligatory or cliched. I could spend any number of sequels with Mr Drake and his exploits mostly due to the vocal work by Nolan North and the general storytelling involved in that game. I think the only criticism, and this is really scraping at the barrel is the lack of time spent with Drake’s life buddy Sully. Fantasy and reality are melded together well, with neat touches throughout. Were it not for the fact that the title was tied to the one platform it would be higher regarded by now, instead of championed by the Sony fanboys and reviled by the other format fanatics. Hate the gamer, not the game!
The Big Number Two (snigger, chortle, snark)
The Saboteur (Multi)
By now I assume that you are all aware of the eventual fate of Pandemic Studios, and as such will not spend time dwelling upon it, but The Saboteur is as good a final shot as the now consumed studio could ever have hoped to drop. If you read it on paper it sounds dull, but The Saboteur manages to do things that are similar, while constantly coming up with something special. If we are to break it down into a generic math problem we could say that:
The Saboteur = (Assassin’s Creed II + Medal of Honor) x Mercenaries 2
While you are clamboring up the window ledges of a building to take position before using a sniper rifle to pick off a German General you will feel like you are in a later installment of the Creed franchise, but when you make your escape aided by remotely triggered dynamite packs, sliding down a telephone cable as the pursuing Krauts explode in a blaze of vengeful fire before you stealthily kill a soldier to liberate him of a uniform that you can use to hide yourself.
What I think sets the game apart from the rest of the WW2 set titles is the plot. Never before, as far as I can remember, have I experienced the world at the brink of war, through the invasion of France and the occupation of Paris. Most games throw you in as a military figure, but The Saboteur has you playing an Irish mechanic, turned race driver who has a very good motive for removing jack boot wearing soldiers from the streets of France. He is a character who is unapologetic for his actions, and is not blessed with a ‘do the right thing’ mentality. Instead he is a flawed bastard who you know will do anything needed to satisfy his vendetta. From racing the streets of Paris, to breaking up a book burning; from chasing a Nazi through a flaming Zeppelin to ascending the Eiffel Tower in the rain the game packs enough excitement to top up Michael Bay’s wank bank.
If that were not enough, I haven’t touched upon the game’s visual stylings. Taking the oppressed Parisian streets and painting them with black and whites, with simple flashes of colour dotted about – similar to the Prince of Persia areas you fight bosses in – are stunning. WW2 in Sin City if you like. Actually I prefer the gritty, depressing style to the coloured version you unlock by inspiring the civilians in the various areas. As far as visuals go it brings the game up above the glut of sandbox action titles instantly. Sure it has it’s faults, but for a game rushed out of a crippled studio one can only imagine the greatness we could have witnessed if the title has gestated correctly instead of being delivered dangerously by EA. Another title that is effectively under the radar thanks to Modern Warfare 2 this is one to pick up in the Boxing Day sales.
NUMERO UNO – and it’s not Uno Rush, despite the hint in the title suggesting it…
Perhaps unsurprisingly if you know us, Scribblenauts is our choice for Game of the Year 2009, and yet perhaps surprisingly I do have a LOT of issues with the title, which when transcended can fade away into the background like a boring girlfriend.
Firstly it isn’t really a game.
Secondly it’s not awful amounts of fun due to some VERY dodgy game mechanics.
Thirdly the title was massively hyped prior to release thus rendering the game instantly impotent.
However, if you ignore the ‘missions’ and stick to the title screen you can have infinite fun. Perfect for ten minute breaks, bus travel and while having a particularly stubborn poo.
You see the ‘point’ of Scribblenauts is instantly rendered moot by the other ‘point’ namely the freedom to conjure up ‘anything’ while being limited to ‘something’. This is not an issue in the free modes and as such makes the game better. Exploring the world and trying words is the first ‘game’ you’ll play, before moving onto ‘I wonder who would win a fight between…’ which can last a while. After this you can make your own little puzzles which you can pass around a room for others to solve like an interactive version of I-Spy in some ways…
As far as I am concerned this is the ideal mobile gaming title. Ten seconds can be filled with satisfaction, as can an hour. You can’t do that with Zelda. It has a lot of flaws, but ultimately the whole ‘imagination is king’ factor rules the roost. Don’t build helicopters and rope contraptions to cheat your way through the game, you may as well just type out ‘Starite’ and be done with it. Try to solve things in a very complicated way, and the satisfaction is all the greater. Chopping a tree down is one mission that my don solved with an axe, my wife used a chainsaw and I drew a beaver. All of us got past the stage quickly, but I got to snigger at a beaver.
So there you have it, the five ‘best’ games of 2009. Look out for our ‘Shoulda Woulda Coulda’ Top Five later this week as we look at why I didn’t put the following games in there:
Modern Warfare 2
Batman: Arkham Asylum
New Super Mario Bros Wii