2014 had the potential to be the greatest year in gaming since Nolan Bushnell brought video games to a home console. Developers had two brand new game machines to play with, and a third console was catching its second wind. Cloud processing was available, the ability to utilize tablets as peripheral devices was now a reality, and kick-ass AAA titles were lined up on the horizon as innumerable as grains of sand, each promising a next gen level of gaming nirvana. Did we achieve gaming nirvana this year? Nope, instead we got buggy messes that were rushed to gold, network vulnerabilities exploited, idiotic policies, predatory practices, and gamer misbehavior. They blew, we blew it...everybody blew it. Here are the culprits, in no particular order.
2014 will be remembered as the year that Ubisoft could not get its shit together. Ubisoft showcased Watchdogs at E3 2013, and the stylized hacker/shooter hybrid generated a ton of hype. The game looked great and featured the ability to hack Chicago’s cTOS network to the player’s advantage, and even infiltrate another player’s game world and hack that player in real time: the possibilities were very exciting. Watchdogs was delayed, presumably to polish the game and add some last-minute awesomeness...but this was not the case. When the game finally shipped in May, it looked like shit, wasn’t any fun, and the story was a disappointing Deathwish-inspired revenge fantasy retread featuring a bland protagonist. Fuck you Aiden Pearce.
Watchdogs also brought the phrase “console parity” into the gamer vernacular, by making every version of the game, regardless of the individual machine’s processing or graphical power, look exactly the same as its lowest common denominator, in this case the XB1. Do not compare the actual game to the clips shown at E3: it will almost certainly make you vomit with rage, if you’re a PC gamer.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity hit much later in the year, but it hit with a wet, messy thud. The follow-up to Black Flag contained a lengthy list of progress-impeding bugs and, as if to add insult to injury, assaulted the consumer of this $60 AAA title to buy more shit, to join Ubisoft clubs, and to add Ubisoft apps to other devices. Take a break, Ubisoft, but I’m not done with you yet.
Microsoft’s Tiny Balls
Microsoft announced some very grand plans concerning policies of game sharing, persistent online authentication, and adding a fully integrated and updated version of the Kinect with every console. The backlash over these policies, as well as what many perceive as a poorly presented product at the XB1 reveal and E3 2013, put their funny black box way behind Sony’s machine at the start of the new gen console war.
Instead of sticking to their guns, the Xbox guys buckled under criticism and reversed these policies almost overnight. Maybe Microsoft sees themselves as quickly responding to the needs of their customers; I see it as gutless acquiescence and a lack of conviction. While I’m not incredibly keen on DRM, it can be problematic (as we have recently witnessed with Far Cry 4), but I don’t pirate games and I expect this policy to materialize again in the future. That being said, the game sharing thing would have been cool.
Later in the year, Phil Spencer steps into the position left vacant by the departure of Marc Whitten, and suddenly the Kinect is no longer a vital part of the XB1 console, and Microsoft shaves $100 off the retail price of their new console to compete with Sony. I can only imagine the impending annoyance of gamers who bought this watered-down version of the console. You saved a hundred bucks, and got half a console. Sucker! This is the equivalent of buying a 360 with no hard drive.
This decision is now having a ripple effect in the development community for folks who were making Kinect games. These are companies who have invested money in making Kinect games for a game system where every single console should have the hardware necessary to play the games that they were developing. I personally feel that Kinect games are uninteresting, but there is a market out there for those types of games and they’re getting better all the time. Microsoft’s lack of testicular fortitude has almost guaranteed that only the most popular Kinect games will continue to be developed. I hope you guys like dancing and exercise games, because that’s what you’re going to get. Here’s a tip for Phil Spencer and his team: the next time you’re on a stage telling gamers about the newness, say what you mean and mean what you say. It’s just that easy.
SimCity players got an early taste of the failure to come. Always online policies are greasy, steaming piles of shit and completely unnecessary for single player. The first inherent problem with an always online title is that it relies on distant servers and connectivity to function. Why the fuck do we need to be connected to the internet to play a single player game anyway? Here’s what I expect from my single player game experience: to play the game, by myself, whenever I want to without being at the mercy of my ISP or a publisher’s inadequate server network. I ran into this problem while trying to play The Crew: I spent as much time trying to connect to Ubi’s shitty servers as I did playing the game.
The other downside to always online is that I was forced to play with other gamers. This was not voluntary participation with friends or other 2o2p members, this was mixing with the dregs of gamer society in the most painful manner imaginable.While this was a natural fit for many gamers, the rest of us felt like we were thrown into the deep end of the pool with in a full-body bathing suit made of bricks: it sucked. I got my ass handed to me in Titanfall, completing the game as both factions, while never winning a single match. Not one. I’m not a social gamer, and if I wanted hear a twelve year old describe a highly improbable sexual escapade with my mother I can pop in Midnight Club LA or MW3 and deliberately choose multiplayer. This type of practice also makes the ESRB rating invalid. Sure, the game would be completely appropriate for a kid, if you don’t take into account the online element that is always there and cannot be circumvented by even the most cautious and diligent parent. Every always online game should have, at the very least, an MA rating.
Shitty Racing Games
After 2013 disappointed us with Forza 5, and NFS Rivals had run out of gas, racing game fans were ready for some next-gen racers to fill the void. Grid Autosport looked promising but ended up being a last-gen only title that had a lot of tracks but was short on car choices, livery options, tuning, and fun. What the hell happened to Codemasters? They used to make good games.
The Crew was hyped as some kind of open-world racing game of the gods, but like other Ubisoft games this year, was a turd in a shiny box. I spent more time trying to connect to a fucking server than I did actually playing the game. When I did manage to get in, I was disappointed in the miniscule car selection, track diversity, and all the non-racing activities that had to be endured to actually get to the racing parts.
DriveClub did not fare much better with Playstation racers. A small car selection, arcadey handling, and an huge environment that could not be explored left the Sony exclusive at the impound yard. The only saving grace came in the form of the surprisingly good Forza Horizon 2 and its overpriced but highly rated Storm Island DLC.
This Game Blows
2014 was the year of the full retail beta. How many broken-ass games got shipped this year? The Halo MCC multiplayer was broken, Assassin’s Creed: Unity was unfinished, DriveClub had QC issues, and Far Cry 4 has some sort of authentication error that doesn’t allow players to play the game that they purchased.
Last year was also a breeding ground for full-on idiotic concepts that had no business being sold as entertainment. Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes was boring but mercifully short. Duck Dynasty was probably the worst concept ever for a video game: take a shitty cable television show and make it worse. Mission accomplished. Murdered: Soul Suspect would have actually made an interesting movie, but it wasn’t fun enough to be a game. When the most exciting part of your game is crawling through air ducts as a cat your stupid game is in trouble. The Amazing Spider Man 2 had an interesting take on killing a successful game franchise: take everything that people like about your games and remove it all. I am officially done with pre-ordering games.
Reuse, Recycle, Remaster
A lot of the “new” games that came out last year weren’t new at all. GTA V, Limbo, Halo: MCC, Minecraft, Castle Storm, The Walking Dead, Terraria, Metro 2033, Metro: Last Light, and Tomb Raider are all games that I have just finished playing on the old console. These games aren’t old enough for players to be nostalgic for and there’s nothing new to warrant another run through, much less another purchase. Yeah, they may have DLC from the original and updated graphics, but how is a slightly sharper-looking game worth another retail purchase? Microsoft sent me a free code for Limbo, and I gave it away because I haven’t finished the fucking thing on the 360 yet. Too soon, amigo...too soon.
Gamers Sucked in 2014
Gamers placed themselves in the critical spotlight of public opinion last year by swatting their online rivals, sexism, racism, misogyny, camping, glitching, doxxing, spamming, and hacking themselves into society’s gutter. Online gaming empowers normally docile and pleasant people with the bravado of anonymity, allowing them to do or say things that they would never dream of in real life. Picking a fight online is nothing new: I have picked several fights, even here in the forums at 2o2p, but being an adult I either apologized when I was wrong or rubbed it in when I was right. I said I was an adult, I never said I wasn’t a dick. However, it’s hard for me to conceptualize being so angry that I send a SWAT team to somebody’s house or put someone’s personal information out on the internet. Maybe this behavior is indicative of a new breed of sociopath that doesn’t have a name yet, but it needs to go away.
Female gamers have historically been treated like shit, for no particular reason, since the inception of gaming. If anyone reading this can explain why a woman is incapable of rolling dice, pushing buttons on a controller, or rolling a killstreak over their male counterparts, please enlighten me in the comments below...I would love to hear that explanation. The flip side of this particular scandal is that gamers are blaming their misogyny on game journalists. How does ethics in game journalism equate to treating female gamers like shit? What is the connection? Somehow, these Gamergate guys have justified their behavior by blaming the press. Is this mass idiocy or classic misdirection?
Yeah, Christmas sucked. Somehow, our game networks are extraordinarily vulnerable to hacking and DDOS attacks. Playstation gamers had their credit card information stolen a few months back, but we all got fucked on Christmas by some wannabe hackers playing the Grinch to get their lolz.
Resolutions for 2015
2015 may have started off with a whimper and a reskinned Saint’s Row IV and Resident Evil HD, but there are some promising games on the horizon. Silent Hills, Telltale’s take on Borderlands, Project CARS, Forza 6, Evolve, and a console version of The Elder Scrolls Online are all slated for the near future. As excited as I am about gaming in 2015, I am not pre-ordering games and I’m not buying anything without a preliminary rental. I also promise to be nice to girls, not blame my shortcomings on IGN, and to treat my fellow gamers with the respect that they deserve...except maybe for Dixon.
2014 was kind of a weird transition year for video games. I guess we are still in the throes of the console generation switch over and no one has stepped up to wow us and really make use of new hardware and combine that with compelling gameplay. When I went to kick off the annual Game of the Year debate with our writing staff I had to google what the heck came out this year to seed the list. Then, even with my Google results, it was like: does Destiny just get it by default since it’s the biggest “blockbuster” of the year complete with Paul McCartney song? Or wait, can we just give it to GTA V again since that came out for next gen? Our democratic voting was feeling kinda meh on everything as well (thanks congress for setting a strong example) so instead of working out a single game of the year here’s what topped the writing staff’s playing hours in 2014.
I Coulda Been a Contender
Each us had a take on some games we were expecting to love but kind of fell flat. As Sarcasmo put it:
2014 was kind of a weird year for games: they were either extraordinarily good or unbelievably bad, with very few games in between. I played a lot of games this year, and I had to wade through a ton of shit to find the good ones.
Or ZenMonken’s take:
The world of video games had very few unique thoughts last year. Most of the big releases were sequels, reboots or spiritual successors (AC: Unity, Far Cry 4, GTA V, Wolfenstein, Dark Souls II, CoD: Advanced Warfare, DA: Inquisition, Diablo III, Bayonetta 2, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Pokemon Omega/Alpha, Master Chief Collection, Civ: Beyond Earth and basically everything Nintendo has released except for Toad Treasure Tracker). Even the indie darlings Binding of Isaac and Don't Starve had sequels. Most of these were perfectly good games, but it's nice to see just a bit of innovation now and then.
We pretty much universally said meh on this one other than Sarcasmo giving it a decent review after some early gameplay: clearly he hadn’t yet put enough hours into it.
I gave Destiny a shot and was wowed for a couple of days by the graphics and story following around robot Peter Dinklage but i got bored fast.-ErinAS
Destiny seemed to be Bungie’s attempt at Halo on the PS4 ported to the other consoles. That would have been fine if the relationship between Guardian and Ghost had any dynamic near that of Master Chief and Cortana. It didn’t. It would have been fine if you don’t essentially play the same exact same 4 locations with the same quests/bounties over and over again to the point of monotony to get beyond level 20 (I am a level 29 Warlock for what it is worth). Is the multiplayer any good? I don’t know. I suck so bad I have yet to be on a winning team or have a KD ratio above 0.5. I can tell you I don’t have fun. Then again multiplayer does not count in my assessment. To be game of the year for me you have to have a good single or co-op player storyline that I can invest in. Destiny doesn’t.-ChunkySoup
And my personal is fav Loki’s take on Destiny (among a few others sums) it up perfectly:
There were quite a few games this year that were victims of their own hype. Destiny and its repetitive loot/upgrade mechanics, Watch Dogs and its less than expansive open world sandbox, Destiny and its repetitive loot/upgrade mechanics, Halo Master Chief Collection and its inability to simply work, Destiny and its repetitive loot/upgrade mechanics, Assassin’s Creed Unity and its scary and humorous bugs, and finally Destiny and its repetitive loot/upgrade mechanics. Did I say Destiny and its repetitive loot/upgrade mechanics a few times? Yeah running the same missions with very slight variations for loot that is slightly better or 10x worse than what you have can do that to you. –Loki619
Smash Bros WiiU
Super Smash Bros. has proven to me that I am old. While I was never good at fighting games in general getting my ass kicked by everyone in the Nintendo universe became so frustrating I have not played it in months.-ChunkySoup
I kept meaning to buy this game since I liked it on the Gamecube but then I looked over at my collection of dusty WiiU titles and thought about how it kinda used Amiibos and I do not need to collect more action figures so I couldn’t bring myself to buy it.-ErinAS
Sarcasmo gave Sunset a price drop review and we were all pretty much in agreement:
Sunset Overdrive is fun but in small doses and doesn’t keep me coming back for more. Another game that tries too hard to be smart and funny and doesn’t quite pull it off. It was like the developers took Borderlands “Bajillion guns” idea, tried to make them more outlandish and then kept piling on the ridiculous. Games are like cooking. Not enough spice and its bland (Destiny), too much spice and it’s overpowering and not appealing (Sunset Overdrive).-Chunky Soup
A teddy bear with a gun inside your gun might be the first sign you are trying too hard…
Onward to our favorites of 2014
ChunkySoup GOTY - Valiant Hearts: The Great War
ErinAS read this review, watched the trailer, cried a lot then immediately logged into steam to purchase this game.
ZenMonken GOTY - South Park: The Stick of Truth
South Park Digital/Obsidian Entertainment
My absolute favorite game of 2014 would have to be South Park: The Stick of Truth.
The Stick of Truth had it’s narrative seeds planted in a 3-part episode arc in South Park at the end of 2013 about the kids getting split between two factions: Those that wanted a PS4 on Black Friday and those that wanted an XBox One. It was a great story and an in-no-way-subtle Game of Thrones satire that paved the way for an even better game.
Something about Stick of Truth was just so completely charming. It made me happy from start to finish. The gameplay was solid and unobtrusive, the experience was heavily seeded with perfect references to the show’s 17 year history and the story was engaging and true to the source material. Stick of Truth proves more than any other licensed game that a good show can be made into a good game, but it has to have the talent from the original thing PLUS real game designers. What Obsidian did with the world of South Park alongside Matt Stone and Trey Parker was Perfection.
ErinAS GOTY - Scurvy Skallywags for Android
I was kind of with ZenMonken on Stick of Truth. It was the only console AAA title I even gave consideration to and I did really enjoy it. But ultimately I couldn’t bring myself to give it GOTY since it didn’t match up to the caliber of last year’s nominees like Bioshock Infinite, GTA V or The Last of Us. So instead I’m gonna go way to the other end of the spectrum with my pick.
When I thought long and hard about what I spent the most hours playing in 2014 I remembered there is one game I play pretty much every day. And while I kinda feel dirty for choosing a free to play mobile game as my GOTY, in my defense:
a. I think the industry is finally almost over that stigma
b. It was designed by my all time favorite game designer Ron “Grumpy Gamer” Gilbert
Gameplay is your basic match 3, which I’ve been meh on, but this one also has added game elements that are more RPG-like. You defend your pirate from monsters on the board (the matches move the characters around) and collect items to build ships, satisfy quests, or purchase weapons. There’s also a story to go along with it all where you are trying to save a theater from calamities, and you have to collect clever pirate punny sea shanties for the show. You never feel like you have to spend money to play as, if you are patient, enough you can just wait for your daily loot drop or your lives to regenerate. I did sometimes give in to my inner need for an oompaloompa now though.
Spoilers for some of the shanties you’ll collect
L0KI619 GOTY- Forza Horizon 2
Microsoft Studios/Turn 10
The one game, IMHO that dodged the hype bullet and really stood out was Forza Horizon 2. This game allowed you to step outside of the FPS arena, strap yourself into a 220 mph rocket and drive ANYWHERE in the European sandbox world the game is set in. Unlike Forza Motorsport 5 that was more of a simulator, FH2 brings more arcade fun to Xbox One racers. Don’t want to follow a specific route to get to the next venue? Drive through European fields of wheat, weeds, wildflowers, and grass. Tired of racing in the solo campaign? Play a virtual game of tag online with other racers. Feel like hitting a turn at 70 mph? Do it with the best drift that you can manage. FH2 brings on the fun!
My favorite game of 2014 was the one game that Ubisoft got right: Far Cry 4. Ubi gave us a cool protagonist, an interesting and personable bad guy, and they expanded the fun stuff from previous games then covered it with drugs, booze, guns, and wild naked titties. I had a blast infiltrating fortresses, hunted endangered species to near extinction for a better wallet, kidnapped a bad guy from his own party and then drove around with him in my trunk, and lobbed grenades at DC Jamison while he swam around in a river looking for a fish to skin...good times. Far Cry 4 is one of those games where the player can be attacked from any direction at any given time and getting to the mission was an adventure in itself. While a game like Forza Horizon 2 will certainly win out on longevity, Far Cry 4 was always fun, all of the time. If there’s a better reason than that to play a game I’d like to know what it is.
No real winner
From reading summaries, if we really made everyone vote, I think Forza probably would have come out on top as it was a runner up on a lot of lists and no one had a disparaging word about it.
2014 wasn’t necessarily a bad year for gaming, it just showed how varied the gaming landscape is these days and the usual heavy hitters still seem to spreading themselves a little thin trying to satisfy the market on both new and old gen consoles for another year. Cheers to 2015 being the year I finally feel like my PS4 and XBone are more than a BluRay player and pass through to my cable box.
If you pay even slight attention to “games journalism,” you’ve probably heard of the term #GamerGate in the last few months. Every major news outlet has published an editorial denouncing it. It became such a story a few weeks ago that Anita Sarkeesian, the feminist cultural critic behind Tropes vs. Women, was even a guest on The Colbert Report.
Sarkeesian was targeted with a terrorist threat at a speaking gig in Utah and was forced to cancel when university officials refused to screen for weapons under the state’s concealed carry laws.
What’s been discussed heavily is all the #GamerGate anti-women stuff. Vocal, prominent women in and out of the games industry have been threatened, forced to leave their homes over safety concerns and had their personal information leaked online (This charming trend is referred to as “doxxing”). These attacks are attributed to #GamerGate (Even though they don’t necessarily hoist that banner when they’re carried out) because the people behind #GamerGate largely advertise their problems with strong, female voices in the games industry trying to shine a light on the ways games aren’t terribly welcoming to women. Leigh Alexander, Anita Sarkeesian, Mattie Brice, Jenn Frank, Zoe Quinn, Maddy Myers, Patricia Hernandez and others that try to speak out for inclusiveness in a historically and overwhelmingly male industry have all been disproportionately targeted for being what they refer to as “Social Justice Warriors.”
The Seeds of Sexism
The whole thing was spawned from an attack blog a guy named Eron Gjoni wrote about his ex-girlfriend, Zoe. She’s an indie game developer that is pretty outspoken when it comes to feminist stuff in games and tech. She’s not above making the people she disagrees with angry, so he has more than a few people online that despise her. Those people latched onto the personal chat logs and details published by Gjoni on his blog “The Zoe Report” that claimed she had cheated on him with five other guys, one of whom had written about her game, Depression Quest, for Kotaku.
Using images of the burger chain Five Guys Bugers and Fries and gleefully posting “Five Guys” all over Twitter and various comment threads, the people that dislike Zoe shared nude photos of her, review-bombed Depression Quest (A free game designed to help people cope with serious depression) and shared her physical location among a community of anonymous strangers that hated her and spoke openly about wanting her to die.
This is where, oddly, Jayne from the cult sci-fi hit Firefly makes his appearance. Actor Adam Baldwin, who has virtually no connection to or even interest in the games industry, tweeted links to two YouTube videos with the hashtag “#GamerGate.” Baldwin, a hyper-conservative ardent anti-feminist, led this creepy charge against a feminist dev that had her dirty laundry dragged through the street by a jilted lover.
That’s the origin of this movement, so it’s easy to see why people conflate sexism with #GamerGate. To deny that connection is to deny the reality of the situation. #GamerGate is a movement of people that saw private chat logs posted online by some wronged 20-something and took his word as gospel. Those people became irate because a female developer that published a free game to help people cope with depression might have gotten better coverage because she slept with someone. Super-classy. Respectable.
But let’s set all that aside for a moment and examine the other side of this thing.
Ethics in Game Journalism
Born from this quivering morass of bandwagon slut-shaming was a second monster: The Knights of Ethical Game Journalism. The people throwing around the #GamerGate hashtag started denying the existence of any overt harassment and even claimed to be feminists themselves (Shocking that they would use the tag of a fervent anti-feminist, but whatever) started claiming their cause was about ethics in game journalism. Accountability. Responsibility. Ethics.
GamerGate, as much as they can be considered a unified front, has made claims that the world of game writing is far too close to the game developers they cover. They assert that money changes hands to alter the perception of a game in the media to manipulate consumers. They cherry-pick details out of context and make every little transgression against their outsider view of what ethics should (and must) be out to be a world-ending terrorist attack against their precious, precious games.
Instead of trying to present their points logically and engaging in a reasoned discussion, they assembled a number of different enemies lists and said to their anonymous army of followers, “These are the people that have wronged you. These are the people that want to destroy your way of life. Attack.”
A few things these people don’t seem to grasp:
Video game reviews are not objective, every review of media is an opinion piece.
Game websites are free to publish whatever they think their readers want to read.
If you don’t want to read what has been written, your greatest weapon as a consumer of media is to not read it.
Contributing to a Kickstarter or Patreon is a way of purchasing content, like buying a game at Best Buy. It is not an inherent conflict of interest.
Likewise, receiving a free copy of a game from a publisher is not a conflict of interest. Reviewers want to provide their opinion in a timely manner and publishers want coverage of their games. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement that only serves to provide timely coverage for readers.
Nobody. Owes. You. Anything.
It’s All About Entitlement
Recently, the makers of the game Monument Valley released a set of new chapters. The game is a great little indie artsy puzzle game. It’s a little short, but it’s gorgeous. The new chapters are $1.99. Because they put a pricetag on it and didn’t just give it away, the game was given hundreds of one-star reviews, dropping it’s rating in the app store. These reviews came from people that enjoyed the game and wanted more, but didn’t want to pay. They thought they were owed more content, even though no promises were made to provide more.
All this #GamerGate nonsense is rooted in that same entitlement. I don’t want to see someone calling into question the gender politics of a thing I like, so they shouldn’t be allowed to speak. I want to see my media cover some specific story that isn’t being written about, so they should be forced to write it. A person in a disadvantaged group is asking to be treated the way people in the majority get treated and I don’t want to see anything change, that person should be publicly shamed and called names.
If you dislike something, disengage. There is no righteous cause here. There is no war to fight. If you only want to see your own views reflected back at you, open a text file and start typing. Start your own thing, it’s not hard. Having an alternate opinion of something doesn’t make you a villain. Trying to cajole others into behaving how you want them to behave does, especially when how they’re behaving hurts exactly zero people.
Just to be clear, this is not contained to the #GamerGate ‘movement.’ Both the people that fly the flag and the ones that fight against it are guilty of going out of their way to be offended by things, taking things out of context to make people look tremendously bad and generally seeming incapable of just looking away from the things they don’t particularly like.
It’s pointless, entitled whining on all sides and it needs to stop. Games journalism is fine. If you disagree, make your own. You aren’t owed a better class of journalism, especially when that is a vague, moving target being demanded by an angry, anonymous mob.
Play your games, be cool, or go away.
As video games have evolved throughout the years, they have become an interactive storytelling medium. Players aren’t just shooting pixellated blobs anymore. We are progressing storylines, forming alliances, and affecting the outcomes of the games we play. There are few things more despicable than a video game turncoat, and there are few things more satisfying than bringing a traitor’s life to an end.
Here are the ten biggest backstabbing dicks in video games along with ten huge spoilers. You have been warned.
10. Admiral Havelock, Dishonored
The Admiral seems like a good enough guy: he aids Corvo’s prison break, seems to have Dunwall’s best interests at heart, and conducts his loyalist business in a tavern. Ultimately, Havelock poisons Corvo, murders most of the loyalists, and sets himself up to rule by controlling the assassinated Queen’s daughter, Emily. It’s probably not a good idea to cross a man bent on revenge and Havelock’s demise at the end is particularly satisfying.
9. Keith David, Saint’s Row IV
In Saint’s Row IV, the player, naturally, is elected to the top office in the country and Keith David is the #2 guy. However, aliens enslave humanity, Keith makes a deal with an alien named Zinyak, and then stabs the player in the back at the worst possible time. The President teams up with Roddy Piper (yes, that Roddy Piper) to beat some sense into the VP in a throwback to the John Carpenter movie, They Live. Looks like I’m all out of bubblegum.
8. Albert Wesker, Resident Evil
Although most famous for its top notch vocal performances and smooth character movement, Resident Evil was the genesis for video game and movie franchises that have nothing to do with each other. Near the end of the first game, STARS leader, Albert Wesker, falls in love with the Tyrant and tries to take his own team out. Despite his treachery, Wesker is actually the least threatening thing in the mansion. Suck it, Albert.
7. Atlas, Bioshock
So, the polite Irishman who helped the player through some of Rapture’s toughest spots turned out to be backstabbing Frank Fontaine. Not only does the phrase “would you kindly” compel our protagonist to follow instructions, Frank also has a death phrase that he attempts to murder our hero with. You’re going to need more than words to kill me Frank, I’m coming for that spliced-up ass.
6. Dr. James Whitman, Tomb Raider
Throughout the Tomb Raider reboot, Whitman acts like a petulant diva. Although Lara gets suspicious when she spots him at the temple while she’s saving Sam, Whitman shows his true colors later in the game by selling out the Endurance crew for fortune and glory. Enjoy your grisly demise, Dr. Whitman, you’ve certainly earned it.
5. Pavel, Metro: Last Light
Artyom rescues the amiable Pavel during his quest to destroy the last of the Dark Ones. In an act of reciprocity, Pavel promises Artyom safe passage through the Communist-held Metro Red Line. However, Artyom is drugged, imprisoned, and tortured for information. Naturally, our hero escapes and has the good fortune to cross paths with his former comrade before leaving Communist territory. Nice knowing you, Pavel.
4. Wheatley, Portal 2
Wheatley starts out as half comic relief, half helper in Portal 2. He does suffer a drastic, and decidedly unhelpful, personality change after Chell defeats GLaDos and installs Wheatley in the captain’s chair. This forces Chell and her potato-powered former adversary to team up for the final act of the game. Wheatley doesn’t stand a chance.
3. Lance Vance, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Lance is one of the first guys that our protagonist, Tommy Vercetti, meets upon arrival in Vice City. Lance helps Tommy build his drug and vice empire, then stabs Tommy in the back over perceived lack of respect on Tommy’s part. Lance should know better than to cross a guy who can carry 20 guns at one time. Click, click, boom.
2. Anna Grimsdottir, Splinter Cell Conviction
We played though Double Agent with the understanding that Sam’s daughter was dead...Lambert himself told us she was dead. As Conviction begins, Sam is no longer a part of Third Echelon but his former handler, Grim, tells us that not only has Sam’s daughter been alive the entire time, Grim has her. After Sam uses her for a punching bag, Grim wisely chooses to Skype in her next meeting. Needless to say this makes for a bit of tension during Blacklist.
1. Astrid, Skyrim
There’s a lot of backstabbing going on in Skyrim. Mercer Frey betrays Nocturnal and the Thieves Guild, the Blades turn on our protagonist to kill Paarthurnax, there’s that dickhead elf at the College of Winterhold, the lunatic Cicero gets stabby in the Dark Brotherhood sanctuary, and folks are lined up in Markarth to give the Dragonborn a raw deal. However, the harshest betrayal comes from the leader of the Dark Brotherhood, Astrid. After Cicero shows up at the Falkreath Sanctuary with the Night Mother in tow, things start falling apart for Skyrim’s Dark Brotherhood. Astrid, jealous of the Dragonborn’s Listener status and under pressure from the head of the Penitus Oculatus, betrays the Dragonborn during the assassination of the Emperor’s double. This leaves the player in the hands of Maro, whose son was assassinated by the player in an earlier mission. However, Maro’s word is nearly as worthless as Astrid’s and he orders the Sanctuary burned. Astrid finds peace in death and the Brotherhood moves to Dawnstar for a fresh start on the coast.
General Shepherd: Modern Warfare 2
Bastila Shan: Knights of the Old Republic
Edgar Ross: Red Dead Redemption
Dana: Dead Space 2
Michael De Santa: GTA V
If you feel that I have omitted your favorite backstabbing dick, feel free to leave your comments below.
I've noticed a trend lately and it is really starting to upset me. Actually that’s being nice about it. I don’t want to be nice about it. I am starting to get pissed off! Co-op games, and in particular those that allow for single console co-op are being hunted and killed. There are a number of games that say they support single console co-op but there is only a handful that do it right. The Halo franchise, Borderlands 1 & 2 and Diablo III are shining examples of how to do co-op properly. these games shine at co-op play online and on single console couch. They also will allow you to do both at the same time! I shouldn’t be shocked by that but sadly I am.
Back in the good old days
I grew up with consoles but turned to PC gaming and online play with Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem 3D and endless sessions of Warcraft II over a 56k modem. That changed in 2001 when a buddy of mine bought an Xbox. He invited a couple of us over for game night and we played Halo on 4-player co-op. The next day I bought the game and the console and we rotated our game nights. We had lan parties and death matches but the most fun we had was when we were working as a team against the Covenant on legendary.
With the advent of Xbox Live, online gaming exploded into the console world. Even so, Mrs. Soup and I spent hours playing Baldur’s Gate and other RPG/ Hack and Slash games together. Halo 2 changed that. Co-op was still supported but we didn’t have to leave our houses. That actually worked well for me at the time as we were expecting our second Souplet at the time. Staying at home with the first and a very prego Mrs. Soup while still being able to play with my friends worked out very well.
However I would single out that the success of Halo 2 and Xbox Live meant that it became harder and harder to find good games that Mrs. Soup and I could play at home or that friends could play co-op online. The focus turned from gaming together to online deathmatch and all of it’s iterations.
That is where I come from in terms of co-op, and likely many of you had some of the same experiences. What is really pissing me off is that for those games that could benefit from it, same couch co-op seems to be a complete afterthought (if it is actually there) and punishes those people who play with you. I now have a family of four that loves to play games and we love to play together as a family. Our choices of games to do that is an increasingly short list but worse yet is a trend that actually deters people from doing so. I will give you some examples.
Disney Infinity, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, Rayman Legends, Child of Light and Disney Universe have one single fatal flaw. Whoever starts the game is the ONLY one who gets recognition for playing the game. The other players don’t get any achievements or trophies. I still have fun, but I feel cheated in the end. If I am doing the same thing my 8 year old daughter is doing and I hear that little bock sound I expect both of us to get the achievement.
Sadly, not one of those games recognizes that. PvZ:GW comes right out and says it. The player playing with me is a guest and gets no recognition. When it’s me and my 11 year-old playing and I am the one holding up the team, she gets the achievement. WTF!?!? You know what PvZ:GW? Fuck you! Am I being greedy? Selfish? Admittedly, yes, but I am also a believer of credit when credit is due. When they hand out team medals they don’t pick one player at random to get the medal. Each player on the TEAM gets a medal in recognition of their combined effort. You could argue that there is only one Stanley Cup, Super Bowl or Grey Cup and you would be right. However, you failed to remember that each player on the team gets a ring and likely a healthy sum of cash to go along with it.
New Super Mario Bros Wii, Rayman Legends, Little Big Planet and Disney Universe also like to punish the weak and slow, or those that are helping the weak and slow. If the one person goes too far ahead, the people behind either turn into bubbles or die. In NSMB and RL, if everyone is in a bubble the level starts over. This usually ends our fun family time with tears and yelling. Awesome...so awesome. My oldest daughter used to race for the end of the level while my youngest would have trouble navigating some of the obstacles. This devolved into at least one in a bubble yelling at the other to stop or if we went back to help that meant we likely ended up in a bubble only to watch helplessly as we die. Now everyone under the age of 12 is in tears and those over 12 are frustrated as fuck! Well done game designers! Well fucking done!
What’s Your Definition of “Design”?
From a game design standpoint I understand you need an element of expediency to push the player through the level. However, if you are making an E for everyone or E10 game keep that audience in mind! Pushing a player through a level works when you have a game that is built for the more seasoned players. When the game is designed for kids why punish them and in turn their parents? Here is a tip. When I watch my kids play sometimes they could give two shits about getting to the end of the level but would rather screw around and see what they can do...or as some may call it...play!
Neither the lack of recognition nor the “if you’re too slow you die” rule are fun. Can you hear me UbiSoft? EA? Nintendo? games in general should be FUN! Co-op games should be fun and rewarding for each player not a big ol’ F.U to the face when you work together to bring down the final boss! This latest trend is killing the fun and killing House of Soup co-op night. Sadly I find these games are at their best as single player. I don’t have to endure yelling or tears because someone missed their jump and is now dead. I don’t have to endure my or others disappointment that they didn’t get the achievement or trophy. I am master of my own destiny.
Problem is, that gets lonely after a while.
We’ve all spent countless hours shooting the shit out of each other with shotguns, miniguns, assault rifles, pistols, BARs, DMRs, SMGs, and RPGs. Lah de fucking dah. Sometimes a developer has to go sci-fi, surreal, or just fucking weird to deliver a unique trigger squeezer. The criteria for this list is that the weapon must be a gun, it must be unique, and, above all, it must be cool.
10. Demon Laser: Doom 64
The Demon Laser has only appeared in the Doom crafted for the Nintendo 64, and resembles a red biomechanical demon phallus with a trigger. The Demon Laser can be upgraded, using demon artifacts, to shoot three lasers at once, capable of taking down a Cyberdemon in mere seconds. BFG...big fucking deal: the Demon Laser is the only Doom weapon with Satan’s personal seal of approval.
9. Fat Man: Fallout Series
Bethesda upped the arsenal when they took control of the Fallout series and turned it into a FPS/RPG, providing players with an array of conventional firearms and more than a few futuristic goodies, like laser and plasma weapons. However, nothing quite matches the firepower and awesome destructive bliss of a Fat Man and a sackful of Mini-Nukes. When absolutely everyone has to die, nothing matches the crowd pleasing destructiveness of this mushroom cloud laying hand catapult. Don’t leave the vault without it.
8. Radar Range: Bioshock Infinite
During the Burial at Sea DLC for Bioshock Infinite, players get the chance to harness the power of a microwave oven in gun form: just point and cook. Those unfortunate to be on the receiving end of the Radar Range are briefly cooked then turned into a living bomb, taking out any baddies unlucky enough to be in the blast radius. As an added bonus, the radar range is fairly efficient with ammunition, so feel free to share the warmth.
7. Dubstep Gun: Saints Row IV
Why drop the hammer when you can drop the bass instead? The crowd pleasing Dubstep Gun incapacitates entire blocks at a time, giving President Sarcasmo Jones a little elbow room when aliens and rival gangs try to crowd the man. Warning: Dubstep has no effect on giant energy drinks.
6. FarSight XR-20: Perfect Dark
Perfect Dark, on the N64, contained a fair share of unique weapons, like auto-aiming SMGs and a Laptop Gun that doubled as a protective turret. However, the weapon of choice for those seeking the ultimate dick move in deathmatch was the FarSight XR-20: a railgun that could shoot through any obstacle. Not only could this weapon shoot through walls, it had an x-ray scope, which allowed assholes to kill you all the way across the map, regardless of how many walls stood between you and the perpetrator. Kill em quick and don’t let them reach a camping spot.
5. RYNO V: Ratchet & Clank- A Crack in Time
The Ratchet & Clank series is famous for its batshit-crazy guns, but the RYNO V is the batshittiest gun in the series. Is batshittiest even a word? Who cares. Imagine a gun, comprised of two overlapping gatling barrels that fires rockets from a center barrel to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture: that is the RYNO V. Nothing kills like a classic.
4. Portal Gun: Portal/ Portal 2
Guns are generally simple things to operate: point it, squeeze the trigger, and something dies. Yeah, the Portal Gun doesn’t do that. The good folks at Aperture Science have developed a gun that creates dimensional doors. Create an entrance, then create an exit. How hard could it be?
3. Shrink Ray: Duke Nukem Series
Duke had all the cool shit: chain guns, SMGs, heat guns, freeze rays, but the best gun in the game shrunk even the mightiest foe down to rodent size. The effect was, of course, temporary, but gave you enough time to Duke stomp them into oblivion. Make sure you keep the safety on when not in use...you do not want this one going off in your pocket.
2. The Gravity Gun: Half Life 2
This is Valve’s second entry on the coolest guns list, and the Gravity Gun is one of the coolest. The gun emits a beam that allows the player to hold and project almost any object in the game: explosive barrels, humans, circular saw blades, whatever. The Gravity Gun requires no ammo, so it’s always there for you. Players pick this one up right before heading into Ravenholm, and I can’t imagine going there without it. Okay, you can call it the Zero Point Energy Field Manipulator if you really, really want to.
1. Cerebral Bore: Turok 2- Seeds of Evil
Before the series self destructed in the reboot, Turok was one of the better game franchises. The dinosaurs were especially problematic, until players got their hands on the mighty Cerebral Bore. Part explosive, part Phantasm Ball, the Cerebral Bore fired heat seeking ammunition that drilled into the victim’s brain, ejecting blood, gore, and brain matter out of the entry wound. Once the bore ran out of grey matter to pump out, it exploded, taking most of the head off in the explosion: extra special fun in deathmatch. Turok 2 may have had some of the shittiest cutscenes in gaming, but the Cerebral Bore more than makes up for that. Drill, baby, drill!
Fellow gamers, we have all bought into the hype on a particular title at one time or another, only to be disappointed by the game once we actually started playing it. Aliens: Colonial Marines is a good example of a highly anticipated turd, GTA IV was way overrated, and I personally shelled out eighty bucks for the Duke Nukem Forever: Balls of Steel Edition... it happens to the best of us. Titanfall is another game that, despite its “believe the hype” ad campaign, wasn’t worth all the drooling and nipple twisting over screenshots and trailers. Titanfall does not live up to to the hype.
Where’s The Rest of the Game?
Many developers have received criticism for releasing a game with only single player content. Even 2K was slammed for the lack of multiplayer in Bioshock Infinite, despite the fact that the multiplayer side of Bioshock 2 was a bit on the blah side. If a single player experience is only half of a game, why would gamers be satisfied with only the other half of a game?
Very few games are able to balance the MP vs SP experience. Concentrate on a compelling single player campaign and the multiplayer suffers. Great multiplayer games generally feature shallow, abbreviated single player experiences. I would have enjoyed Titanfall more if I didn’t have to play it with other people every fucking time I wanted to play it.
Hey, Let’s Gang Up on Sarcasmo!
The lack of any type of single player means a trial by fire in online lobbies. I’m no slouch at shooters, but getting my ass handed to me on every single match tended to devalue my Titanfall experience. Inevitably, I would be paired up with people who were just as shitty as me or with dickheads who quit two minutes into the match, leaving me and some eight year old to fend off a cohesive clan of veterans. The learning curve is appallingly steep and there is no place to get better at the game without the humiliation of being serially executed in public. I was on the losing side of every single match and never even made it to an evacuation point. Fucking backshooters.
Titanfall could benefit from a rating system that paired players with opponents of similar skill and experience. Let the noobs fumble around until they get their bearings, then upgrade them to the next tier.
You Call That a Campaign?
In lieu of a single player campaign, Respawn has provided a multiplayer campaign experience. I played the campaign, as both Militia and IMC, and still don’t know what the fuck happened. There were two guys chattering over the radio, but I’m pretty sure one of them was already dead. Maybe he was just playing dead. Didn’t he die again later near the end? I’m pretty sure they knew each other but it was kind of hard to tell with all that dying going on. That guy died nearly as much as I did. I would have expected to have a better understanding of what happened by the end of the game, especially since I completed both campaigns. So much for the art of storytelling.
I had the same problem with Titanfall that I experienced during my Crysis 3 playthrough: there was just too much shit for me to remember. I thought I had it all down, but during the course of the campaign I forgot how to do that jetpack wall thing and how to change grenade types. I never really knew when to use burn cards and had trouble differentiating between friend and foe titans at close range. I wasn’t real sure how to capture one of the building things: was I supposed to just guard it for a while or something? There were computers there and some guy yelling at me over the radio. Was I supposed to hack it? Fuck it.
Is Titanfall Really That Groundbreaking?
What innovations doesTitanfall bring to the genre? The non-existent plot thing has been done. There have been other mech games. I’ve been shot to death in other online shooters. The cloak thing has been done. Sonic had a wall run thing, and he did it faster. Metal Gear and Fallout had people babbling over a radio, so that’s been done. I guess the only new thing I can think of is being able to eject from your Titan. Yeah, that was worth sixty bucks.
Titanfall is an immensely popular game right now, but I cannot see folks playing it for years like Halo or other shooter games. It’s lopsided, it’s short on environments, and provides a very weak case for continuing to play other than just shooting shit. If the game hadn’t launched when it did, it would have found itself struggling against some more formidable competition, and Respawn should be thanking the gaming gods for the "rush to gold" tactics of Battlefield and CoD Ghosts, and their disastrous launches. I’ve played all three games, and I’m still waiting for the must have shooter of the Xbox One generation: Titanfall ain’t it.
The gaming landscape is peppered with with moments and images that will stay with us for a very long time. Few gamers who have played the original Bioshock can forget seeing Rapture for the very first time. MW2 gamers who chose not to skip the Terminal sequence were treated to an event not easily forgotten.
While some of these pieces of games are memorable pieces of digitized art, some hit the nostalgia button, and others are just standout moments: the greatest hits of a lifetime of gaming, none of that shit has anything to do with this list. The “Oh Shit” list is the moment when gamers realized that the situation was much more dire than previously estimated. These are the moments when we realized that we may have been in way over our heads, but kept playing anyway.
Warning, this article contains spoilers.
10. Tomb Raider: Shantytown
Just over a year ago, Crystal Dynamics rebooted the Tomb Raider franchise, forever changing our perspective of Lara Croft. In an effort to save her friends, Lara attempts to cross a powerful river, but is swept away. After a deadly swim down the rapids and impromptu parachute ride, Lara lands at the entrance of a makeshift village, in need of medical attention. Not only does this sprawling complex house two separate tombs, but the main force of bad guy island dudes is armed, waiting, and ready for business. Lara is low on ammo by this point in the game, and must singlehandedly fight a war against an army of psychos in order to make a high-altitude escape from the town. Shantytown is jarring, disorienting, and nearly hopeless; if you cleared this level with your controller intact then the rest of the game is yours for the taking. Kudos, amigo.
9. Metro 2033: Fresh Air
Living in Moscow’s Metro subway system can be a difficult experience. The entire game is a mix of over the top difficulty and a disastrous organic interface that, for me, resulted in a broken controller and subsequent disc fling. But that is nothing compared to when those doors open topside and the protagonist wanders into the poisoned air of the ruined city. The player is forced to wear a gasmask, which means that you can’t see shit. This is unfortunate because the water is toxic, the animals are aggressive and mutated, and the air filters have a very limited life span. In Metro 2033, going outside meant that I was out of the game and short one controller.
8. Forza Motorsport: Fujimi Kaido
Turn 10 has presented racers with some challenging tracks over the span of 5 games (no, Horizon still doesn’t fucking count) but nothing compares to the drifter’s paradise of Fujimi Kaido. Players are first introduced to this metal-bending peak of despair in the original Forza, early in their career, during a race against AI drivers in AWD Evos and a Tommy Kaira Scooby, who promptly left you behind with treadmarks on your nutsack and a bruised ego. Fujimi Kaido challenged players to upgrade their ride and tuning abilities or go back and play in the sandbox with the rest of the shitty drivers. The mountain returned in Forza 3 and 4, but was no longer the career hurdle that it was in the first game.
7. Skyrim: The Western Watchtower
The protagonist, the Mighty Sarcasmo Fjones, meets his first dragon in the opening minutes of Skyrim. However, the first actual dragon battle occurs later in the game. The Dragonborn has just presented Balgruuf, Jarl of Whiterun, with physical evidence of his success in raiding his first tomb, when some dipshit guard rushes in to whine about a dragon attack on a tower just west of Whiterun. The Dragonborn follows a rather bitchy Dark Elf, named Irileth, and a complement of guards, to the tower to slay the dragon. Clever gamers will save at the rendezvous point before investigating the scene, because the Dragonborn is short on weapons and abilities at this point in the game, and has yet to receive his first shout. It is at this precise point in the game when the player realizes that iron arrows don’t do shit against dragons. Good luck, amigo.
6. Far Cry 3- Blood Dragon: Here There Be Dragons
Rex “Power” Colt regains consciousness in a cave on an island after losing a battle with his former commander. As Rex approaches the exit to the cave, an avalanche of gore pours down the mouth of the cave. Rex expresses his dismay and looks up to behold what appears to be a T-Rex munching on a human. That’s no T-Rex amigo, that’s a blood dragon: a huge lizard that shoots lasers from its eyes. The good news is that they possess very poor eyesight. The bad news is that they are everywhere and consider Mark IV Cyber Commandos a delicacy. It’s probably a good idea to stay out of their way.
5. Dark Souls: The Asylum Demon
Dark Souls has earned the respect of the gaming community for its apparent disdain for the people who play it. The game’s incredible difficulty is showcased in the tutorial level, forcing a player to combat a giant demon almost immediately...and it only gets harder from there. You will die, and die often, but this is why you play. I gave up on Dark Souls, but I’ll never forget that giant son of a bitch guarding the asylum exit.
4. Bioshock Infinite: The Handyman
Columbia’s Fair gives Booker DeWitt a preview of things to come later in the game. There’s a carnival game booth with a Vox Populi shooting booth, another booth displays the attributes of the Bucking Bronco tonic, and there is a Handyman on full display. The Handyman is a hulking mechanical man with an organic heart, huge porcelain hands, and a whole lot of fight. The “oh shit” moment occurs while Booker is in pursuit of Elizabeth, after losing her trust. The Handyman beats the shit out of Booker and knocks him off the city, leaving him to plummet to his death. Reminiscent of the Big Sister introduction in Bioshock 2, the Handyman seems to be an unbeatable character that you have to put down anyway. He’s big, he’s bad, and he’s surprisingly fast and agile. The heart is the Achilles Heel of this biomechanical menace, but its glass casing is only about the size of a tea saucer. Good luck putting that big bastard to bed on the 1999 difficulty setting.
3. Dead Space 3: Belly of the Nexus
Isaac Clarke’s third installment of “Fun With Necromorphs” delivers the biggest “oh shit” moment of the series when Isaac must go inside a titanic necromorph to drive sensors into the beast’s synaptic clusters in order to locate some machines and end the necromorph menace. The beastie is thought to be “quite dead” but it starts moving anyway...oh shit! Isaac escapes and the necromorph wanders off, but I wonder if he will have to fight that thing later. I’ll ask my Magic 8-Ball. Signs point to yes.
2. Mortal Kombat: Raiden vs Shao Khan
The single player campaign in the Mortal Kombat reboot is nefariously difficult, often pitting the player in unfair fights or against multiple opponents. However, Raiden’s fight against Shao Khan after the third tournament is one of the biggest WTF moments in gaming. Not only is Shao Khan ridiculously overpowered, Raiden’s attacks do little or no damage to the blatant cheater from the Netherrealm. Khan will beat you with his hammer, taunt you, and kill you repeatedly...and there’s nothing you can do about it. This fight is a kick in the crotch, quickly followed by despair. Keep your distance and hit him when he starts his taunt animation for any chance at winning. Abandon all hope, ye who enter.
1. Fallout 3: Welcome to Old Olney
At some point during Fallout 3, the player will be tasked with retrieving a Tesla Coil from the defunct power station in Old Olney. What the player is not told is that Old Olney is a city of Deathclaws who have taken a stab at urban life and thrived. Deathclaws inhabit every building, patrol the streets, and infest the sewers. Strolling into Old Olney is a death sentence: you will need a tactical, preferably stealthy, approach. Never, under any circumstance, fast travel directly into Deathclaw City. It’s worth the walk to strategically plan your ingress. Old Olney has to be seen to be believed.
This list is, of course, only one opinion. If you disagree with any game on this list, or feel that I have neglected to mention your favorite moment, feel free to leave a comment. We dig feedback from our readers.
The Xbox 360 is an amazing machine. I watched movies on it, used it to share achievements to Facebook, communicated with friends across the world over XBL, bought and played games without having to leave the house, watched other people play games, accessed YouTube, and even used it to surf the interwebz. I kept it clean, maintained it, and added parts to soup it up. Now I have a new machine in the man cave, and I feel like I parked a brand new Corvette next to my old Camaro. My new machine does more, looks better, and outperforms the old machine in almost every way. However, I am not ready to put my 360 up for sale or cart it off to storage just yet. The old girl still has plenty of life in her, but her relevance is waning and she is no longer the Queen of the Streets. So to honor the achievements of my beloved Camaro I invite you, dear reader, to sit shotgun as I take a drive to some of my favorite places that the 360 has taken me. These are the 10 games that, for me, defined the Xbox 360.
I led my silent protagonist into an underwater Ayn Rand dystopia, met a nice fellow with an Irish brogue and a family in peril, got juiced up on some plasmids, and made my way to the medical center of Rapture where I came face to face with my first Big Daddy. After I dispatched the big guy I was presented with a moral choice about the fate of his Little Sister: harvest the girl for her Adam, destroying her in the process, or cure the girl, receiving only a drop of the stuff in return. The nice man on the radio urged me to harvest her and assured me that the Adam would be necessary to save his family and escape the city. There was also a lady German doctor who reminded me of the girl’s humanity and ultimate importance. Although I have happily played the villain in numerous games, I could not bring myself to destroy the squirming, dirty little girl that I held firmly in my grasp, and found that the paltry drop of Adam was enough to get me by.
As I progressed through the game, I spliced away my humanity one shot at a time until I became the most terrible thing in Rapture: the deadliest Big Daddy of them all. In Andrew Ryan’s underwater paradise, no one is who I thought they were, even me. Especially me.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Infinity Ward dropped this bombshell of an online military shooter back in 2007, and it is now considered to be the FPS archetype that almost every modern shooter patterns itself after. Modern Warfare innovated the killstreak, airstrike, cover and heal, multiplayer XP, and the three position stance. I would like to say that it changed the way that online teams worked together to accomplish a common goal, but the backstabbing bitches willing to fuck their team over for a better K/D ratio was much more prevalent. This is also the game that introduced the word “camper” into our modern vernacular: we had them before, we just didn’t have a name for it.
This is the game that convinced me that online multiplayer shooters were not for me: I had a hard time differentiating friend from foe, I died a lot, I was laughed at, and I was cussed at by thirteen year old punks. Nothing tests my patience and temper more than being called a “faggot cunt ni**er” by some kid who hasn’t had his first shave yet. However, I was very good at the single player campaign, which in turn helped my foul-mouthed preteen son destroy campers and confused dads like me. Iconic moments such as the shootout at an abandoned Russian amusement park and getting nuked to death are standouts in a game that excelled both in online gameplay and single player satisfaction.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Although Skyrim is the fifth game in the series, Bethesda’s glitch-riddled masterpiece stands out as the very best. Focusing more heavily on player choices than Morrowind or Oblivion, players could choose to be the good guy, the bad guy, or the very bad guy. Playable beast classes, like the Khajit and Argonians, were able to utilize the same armor used by humanoids, dual-wielding was improved, and there were fucking dragons. Dragons, I said!
Skyrim added powerful shouts, obtained from the souls of vanquished dragons, to an impressive arsenal of weapons and magic to transform the Mighty Sarcasmo Fjones into the most formidable hero, or villain, ever to ply his trade in the land of ice and snow. The opportunity to become either a werewolf or a vampire was an added bonus, and the two excellent DLCs were icing on the Cake of Awesomeness. For those of you counting DLCs, Hearthfire doesn’t count, and if you bought it after reading my review then I cannot be responsible for you pissing away your money. Jackass.
Fans of the original Fallout games cried foul when Bethesda whipped out this action RPG, casting players into the postapocalyptic Capital Wasteland, until they actually played it. The Wasteland is an inhospitable place for the vault-dweller looking for Daddy, voiced in epic fashion by Liam Neeson, and is full of radioactive hotspots, irradiated food and water, mutants, Deathclaws, psychopathic raiders, ghouls, slavers, and dangerous robots: no place was truly safe.
In typical Bethesda fashion, players were rewarded for being good, bad, or Switzerland, which encouraged me to play through the game multiple times. I mini nuked a Behemoth Super Mutant into dust, cured a suburb of its fire ant infestation, collected all the bobbleheads, met a talking tree named Bob, followed Liberty Prime into battle at the Jefferson Memorial, and killed President John Henry Eden. Yeah, I’m a badass. The four DLCs were all fulfilling expansions to an already awesome game that I still play from time to time. Don’t forget to visit me at my house in Old Olney.
My first introduction to this hidden gem of a game occured after I completed the Half-Life 2 content in the Orange Box. I gave Team Fortress a cursory look, then turned my attention to the silent protagonist, Chell. What seemed like a kid’s game at first very quickly morphed into something both dark and addictive. Since Chell has no voice of her own in the game, the lone voice of the increasingly malevolent GLaDOS, voiced by Ellen McLain, sets a perfect atmosphere of isolation and imminent mortal peril inside the Aperture Life Enrichment Center.
The game almost perfectly progresses the difficulty of each test, which you must pass if you want to continue living, because GLaDOS wants you to fail...and then kill you. Armed with my portal gun, I was able to push through with the help of my trusty sidekick, companion cube, and the promise of cake. Portal 2 would have also been a great game, if Wheatley hadn’t ruined it. Fuck you, Wheatley, I hate you.
If I were to number the games on this list, which I intentionally neglected to do, Forza 3 would be number one. This is the game that brought me to 2old2play, so naturally it is particularly important to me. So if you’re one of the folks who doesn’t like me, this is the game to blame. It is a magical game steeped in the land before AWD was nerfed, Positano was a particularly long and challenging road track, Camino Viejo was extreme in reverse, and Fujimi Kaido came back in a big way.
This is the game where I discovered the 2old4forza clan. These guys taught me how to tune, made me faster on the track, and taught me humility. I was ranked in the top 50 on the Forza leaderboards when I joined 2o4f, but I wasn’t even close to being as fast as these guys. I made friends with some of the fastest virtual racers all over the world, and we’re still friends today. I’m sure most of the folks here at 2old2play have a similar story to tell about their clan and drug of choice. My drug is Forza, and there are a lot of Forza addicts running around this site. It must be good shit.
I am not a Halo fan. I played through the first two games on the original Xbox and had enough. I played the third installment some time after I finally acquired a 360, and only played about fifteen minutes before I decided I didn’t like it and traded it in for Mercenaries 2. However, the importance of this game, in particular, cannot be denied, especially since it happens to be the game responsible for the genesis of 2old2play.
I eventually played Reach on my own accord, and hastily purchased Halo 4 at a Gamestop in Schaumburg at the last LAN, with the intention of playing it at the LAN, but being lost and hopelessly outgunned I hid Master Chief in my gym bag and went back to Forza 4 and deep dish pizza. I love this site, and most of the people here, but Halo 3 is not one of my favorite games.
The Walking Dead
The television show was a hit, so naturally a game based on the show would be a hit, right? Nope, but the game based on the source material was surprisingly deep, emotionally touching, and terrible to behold all at the same time. My time with Lee, Clementine, and Kenny forced me to make some hard choices. Would I save a man trapped under a tractor instead of the annoying child who caused the accident? Yep. Would I allow Clementine’s friend to fall to his death to give Kenny some closure over the death of his family? Yep. Would I abandon an ally in the zombie-infested darkness over a fatal misunderstanding? I’m afraid so. I hope you packed some running shoes, bitch.
Telltale Games delivered on a zombie game that, on paper, shouldn’t have worked. The game looks like a comic book and isn’t exactly chock full of zombie headshot action. The Walking Dead compelled me to look around and interact with the other survivors of the zombie apocalypse. It was a game where the murderer could be the hero, where a little girl could survive and be as lethal as any adult, and a game that taught me that any old slab of meat on a plate wasn’t necessarily food. The Walking Dead gave me very little time to make some hard choices that carried consequences for the rest of the game, and then told me what kind of guy I was at the end of each episode. Thanks Telltale, I already knew I was a dick.
Mass Effect Trilogy
Yeah, I know the ending was a huge kick in the crotch to Mass Effect fans all over the world, but the original Star Wars trilogy has a shitty ending too and I still like the movies...fucking Ewoks. Anyway, there are no Ewoks in Mass Effect, but there is a whole lot of heroic action RPG goodness. I liked Commander Shepard, and whether you started as a guy or FemShep, your reputation in the ME universe was legendary. I liked the fact that Mass Effect 2 and 3 remembered that I played the game before, and carefully omitted the folks that were killed because of my actions in the previous games. It made Mass Effect more personal to me, and I redoubled my efforts to keep everyone alive on every mission. Voice acting from Jennifer Hale and Mark Meer as the two Shepards, Lance Henrickson, Martin Sheen, Keith David, and Seth Green delivered a familiar authenticity to the folks trying to save the universe from extinction. Does anyone else think that Garrus could have been an awesome protagonist?
I felt like I always had my hands full playing this game. I was dealing with Reapers, fulfilling my Spectre duties, punching reporters, keeping morale high on the Normandy, trying to finish off the Geck, deciding the fate of other races, dealing with political squabbling, and doing my best to insure humanity’s place on The Citadel was deserved. Never a dull moment, never a lull in the action, and rarely have I had more fun playing video games.
Assassin’s Creed II
There was nothing wrong with the first Assassin’s Creed, aside from the fact that Altair was an unlikeable dick and every environment was a dreary shit hole. Assassin’s Creed II greatly improved upon both issues: I thought Ezio was charismatic and fun to play as, and the Italian cities he worked in were both beautiful and (mostly) historically accurate. Florence and Venice lent themselves to video games quite nicely, and the inclusion of historical figures, like Leonardo DaVinci, only made the game more appealing.
Scouring the tombs of my assassin predecessors, stalking the Venice street festival, and the ambush at the ruins stand out as classic AC II moments, and some of the very best in the series. Although the difficulty bar may have been set a little high for a sim racer like me, I did eventually finish the game, which is more than I can say for Connor’s stab (see what I did there?) at Assassin glory. If you missed out on this one while it was free on XBL Games With Gold, then you missed a milestone in gaming history.
Grand Theft Auto V
Splinter Cell: Conviction
Keep in mind that this list is just one gamer’s opinion. If you think a game doesn’t belong here or I committed some sort of injustice by not including your personal benchmark 360 game, let me have it in the comments, amigo!
All games have characters. It’s pretty much the one unifying trait of every videogame ever made. Some are as utilitarian as Doom’s space marine, whose soul expressive outlet was the occasional grunt or scream. Others are damn near fully realized humans with realistic personalities and intriguing stories and lives, such as John Marston from Red Dead Redemption. Boring or entertaining, fully-formed our merely a bare outline, most characters serve the singular purpose of putting you, the player, into the game. They’re there to give you a more enjoyable experience.
Then you have the occasional character that is so messed up, so freaky and disturbing, that they leave you with no proper response other than to pause the game, step back and ask “What the fuck did I just see?”. These are a few of those characters. As always, this list simply reflects my own opinion. If you disagree or want to put in your own example, then get to posting in the responses.
5: King Hippo (Punch Out & Mike Tyson’s Punchout)
Both the original Punch Out! and its ear-bitingly rebranded follow up are full of insanely cartoonish, stereotypical characters. All of them, however, make sense as boxers. You have lightweights (Glass Joe), middleweights (Great Tiger) and the heavyweights (Bald Bull). Then you have the “whafuk” weight class. King Hippo can jump around the ring like he’s on a pogo stick, but is unable to shift his massive bulk up from the canvas when knocked down even once. Also, while punches to the mouth have no effect on him, a quick jab to the gut has him pissing blood for a month.
We should all be eternally grateful, by the way, that the Punch Out! games have been relegated to 8 and 16 bit systems or cartoony Wii games. I shudder to think what King Hippo’s moobs would look like flopping around in the uber-realistic graphics engine of the Fight Night games. Hell, I still have occasional nightmares about his big mushroom nipples in the Captain N cartoon. How that got by network censors defies reasonable consideration.
4: Shade (Borderlands 2: Captain Scarlet’s Pirate Booty DLC)
Shade is a supremely messed up man. He lives in a dried up, desert, ghost town, and his only companions are a surly shopkeep who won’t even talk to you unless you have some seraph crystals and five corpses. Corpses that Shade has wired up with speakers that spout out creepy one-liners that were recorded in barely altered voices, and tied up into poses, making them into gruesome mannequins being used as characters in a one-man play. It also doesn’t help that Shade looks like the Joker if he were on his way to a Hunter S. Thompson convention.
3: King Of The Cosmos (Katamari Damacy) & Captain Kabuki (Jumping Flash! 2)
I put these two characters together at number 3 because they are, essentially, one and the same. They’re both gigantic, bothe have over-sized faces with the unsettling, pouty of a serial killer whose newest victim just learned the rule about the lotion and the basket, both are mystic creatures who live in deep space and both wear disturbingly tight unitards. Captain Kabuki’s game may have come out nearly a decade before his majesty’s, but I’d be willing to bet that they graduated in the same class at Creepy Bastard Academy.
2: The Entire Cast Of The Cho Aniki Series
I don’t pretend to be an authority on Japanese culture and art, but videogames have taught me that subtlety doesn’t seem to be a requirement in Japanese storytelling. I’m not saying that American games, movies and television are beacons of low-key entertainment (if that were so, the entire Wayans family would be homeless), but while an American TV show might have a character run on screen and scream “A shark just ate Uncle Joe!”, on a Japanese show that same line would be delivered by a grown man, who’s wearing a diaper, that’s riding a dragon that shits gold coins. Also, the shark would only eat Uncle Joe after it had finished raping him with its many tentacles. Tentacles which ejaculated rainbows.
What I’m trying to say is that, in Japan, if you want to make a point, you have to make it clear enough that Helen Keller couldn’t fail to get the message. Therefore, to portray someone as being homosexual, you have to make them the gayest person that has ever existed (search for “Super Gay” on YouTube for a prime example). They have to be so over the top gay that the cast of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy would be tempted to seek membership in the Westboro Baptist Church after being exposed to them.
Enter the cast of the Cho Aniki. Rather than try to describe them, I’ll just show you.
1: Tingle (The Legend Of Zelda Series)
Ahh, Tingle. Volumes could be written chronicling the night terrors that this guy has inspired. Tingle first appeared in The Legend Of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, where he fawned over Link’s “fairy” clothes and expressed his desire to find his own fairy and live like the “fairy people”. He reappeared in The legend Of Zelda: The Windwaker. This time he had apparently enslaved several men, whom he forced to dress like he does and work at his map-making light house. After being rescued from prison by Link, Tingle proceeded to stalk the young boy, following him around for the rest of the game and spying on him as Link worked his way through the game’s dungeons (if you ponied up the cash for a Game Boy Advance and a link cable, that is). Tingle’s creepiness was even strong enough to get him his own spin-off game for the DS.
Everything about this guy screams “molester”. His picture should be use to educate children about what signs could indicate that someone is to be avoided. His weird, green body stocking, his John Waters moustache, his obsession with Link and Link’s clothing and his strange private language. All of these things, when put together, say “I’m a predator, and I’ve got a van full of lollipops, comic books and small, K-Y scented corpses to prove it.”