Games of the generation. That’s about seven years of games that have come out since the release of the X360. How do you determine the games that stand out among the rest. Well I determine them as the games that, had I not played, I would consider myself very unfortunate.This can range from experiencing something new, to playing something that was simply at the top of its class. Using this criteria I’ve whittled down my list of the games I’ve played and enjoyed the most this gen and neatly summarised them below.
Borderlands initially looked like it was going to be just another fps. Then Gearbox had a brainwave and entirely changed the aesthetic – making it crazy and interesting enough for everyone to see that this wasn’t just any FPS. Borderlands took everything great about Diablo style RPG’s from the previous gen of games and mashed them into the FPS genre. In doing so they created one of the best co-op, loot-happy, gun-slinging games of the generation.
Backed up by some insanely good DLC packs, Borderlands was a great experience. I sunk a lot of hours into its co-op madness, and it often worked just as well in planned co-op, solo play or going crazy with randoms online.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Great superhero games are few and far between. The previous gen only really had Spiderman waving the flag for the genre; gracefully web-swinging with ease around an open world of comic book nasties. This gen gave us something even better – Arkham Asylum came out of nowhere. Rocksteady only had a single title to their name before Arkham Asylum. Urban Chaos: Riot Response, a unique FPS where you play a firefighter – replete with cover-creating riot shield.
Arkham Asylum was shockingly polished, amazingly deep and never relied on a single strength. The rhythm-combat would be enough for most games, but Arkham Asylum built on top of that with a full array of predator stealth sections, allowing players to fully fill the Dark Knight’s boots. Swinging from gargoyles overhead, dropping down onto armed goons and gliding gracefully – Arkham Asylum made sure you felt like the Batman. Solid graphics and excellent gameplay were married to a decent story and some top-notch voice acting – Mark Hamill’s Joker being particularly great.
Assassin’s Creed 2 (Plus Brotherhood and Revelations)
Assassin’s Creed 1 was ambitious, but fell sorely short of being a great game by virtue of its lacking content. Ubisoft had engineered this great sandbox, but left you with very little to do it. The sequel fixed everything that was wrong with AC1 and then some. Gone were the Half-Life 2 style cutscene, gone was the repetitious mission structure and in it’s place we were given Assassin’s Creed 2. Together with Brotherhood and Revelations, AC2 marks a fantastic journey from the birth to the death of a single hero. Ezio Auditore Di Firenze will be remembered as one of the icons of this generation. While Desmond’s real world story does intrude into the intrigue of AC2 with it’s soap-style plot turns, it’s Ezio’s own story that holds together the trilogy.
It may only last two hours, it’s probably one of the best two hours of the generation. Journey was incredible…journey. From its sand swept opening to its dramatic ending, its impossible to not forge a connection with your own avatar in the game world and the various companions that join you. It’s a lovely co-operative experience where it seems almost impossible to be anything but sweet and nice as you interact with other players using a simple sound pulse. There’s no voice chat, there’s no griefing, you don’t even get to see the PSN ID’s of those you encounter until the credits roll. It was an experience that I simply had to finish in one sitting, unwilling to tear my eyes away from the beautiful spectacle as the little hooded character swept through the sand, gliding over it with practised ease.
Mass Effect 2 (Plus Mass Effect 1 and 3)
Mass Effect was an absoluely riveting trilogy. The universe that Bioware crafted for the series is one of their best, steeped in history and replete with excellent characters and events. While not everyone can agree on which is the better title, Mass Effect 1 or 2, the series connects together to form a thrilling tale. The third chapter has a few issues – nothing to do with the ending as far as I’m concerned, but the sudden resolution of century old problems and moments when Shepard doesn’t quite behave as the avatar of the player that he/she’s supposed to, does set the third part a little behind the excellent second game.
That aside, the eventual complete ending was a terrific end to the series and the entire trilogy is one of the most powerful this generation. The story and the companions were great, the music was epic and the gameplay was often very great. There was nothing quite like going on a vangard rampage on insanity in ME2 – charging and shotgunning like a boss.
A lot of games set trends this gen. Gears of War made waist high cover a thing, Assassin’s Creed 2 made sure you’d have to collect lots of things and it would all be tracked in an unweildy UI, Modern Warfare made sure you’d get XP points for walking forward. Uncharted 2 is sadly going to be mostly remembered for the fact that it is one of the most cinematic games of the generation. And it’s sad, because UC2 is soo much more than that. While the cinematic moments are indeed very bloody impressive and the script is very entertanining, its ofen easy to overlook the brilliant gunplay of UC2. Enemies are fun to fight against, they don’t just stick to the first piece of cover they find and wait for you to line up a headshot – they grenade the hell out of you. The different enemy types and different weapons you can use make each arena in the game a mini-sandbox that means that the gameplay doesn’t need to always play out the same way. Hell, it was even possible to stealth sections and ensure that reinforcements aren’t called in.
On top of that the MP was darn addictive. DPD Tuesdays can attest to just how fun it could be – and the co-op was darn near perfect until the notorious 1.05 patch ruined the balancing. It’s a real shame that UC3’s multiplayer that has the LAN support, because UC2’s multiplayer would still be great fun to play, even when the servers finally close down.
It’s hard to know where to start when praising Witcher 2. After games like Mass Effect, Fallout and Dragon Age, I was becoming used to being able to make my own protagonist. Witcher 2 however gives you Geralt of Rivia, a deep character with a troubled, amnesiac past. And after a while I realised, it’s far easier to role play, when you have a role to play. Decisions in witcher are difficult – they’re not all black and white, they don’t always have obvious consequences and there’s not always just two choices. Geralt is constantly caught between forces bigger than himself, he’s on a mission to find his memory while being caught between a battle between humans and the other races, a battle between nilfgaard and the other kingdoms, and a conspiracy of sorceresses and kings. You can even choose to walk away from some important battles if you decide that they aren’t important enough to Geralt to fight. It’s a riveting story, and one playthrough will only reveal about two thirds of what Witcher has on show – a full third is hidden by the choices you make. It’s an amazingly brave choice by CD Projekt, especially when the game looks as gorgeous as Witcher 2 and you realise how much time must go into each area. The gameplay itself is also very good. You have potions, spells, sword techniques and a very good combat engine that’s refined even further by updates from CD Projekt developers.
God of War 3
The best opening of any game…ever! That’s what God of War 3 is. While the rest of the game is great, it’s fun, it’s beautiful; it’s that first segment, before being cast down into Hades again that God of War makes its mark with. The music, the scope, the narration – it’s all perfectly executed as you watch the titans assault of mount olympus, as you watch Kratos take down Poseidon. As for the rest of the game – while the trips up and down mount olympus can look wearisome, the game keeps a good pace and never outstays its welcome. The slaying of each god is satisfying and watching Kratos’ slow humanisation through his attachment to pandora sets up for a good ending to the series. It’s a great thing that God of War 3 is the last game they made in the series – I mean, it would just be terrible if for some reason they decided to cash in on a prequel with a bolted on multiplayer or some crap like that…
I have to admit, all the first trailer of Fallout 3 did not hold any interest for me whatsoever. It was a lot of wrecked buildings, dodgy third person models, shooting at big ugly mutants and slo-mo heads being blown off. I didn’t think much of oblivion, so I didn’t think I’d much like oblivion with guns. But, I’m always open to games that allow custom protagonists, even more so if there’s gender choice. After a few hours in the wasteland – I was in love. The atmosphere of the wasteland was amazing. Scrounging for scraps, hiding from mutants and bandits, avoiding travelling out in the open at night and complete freedom once you’re out of the vault.
It was amazing. Each new location in the wasteland held more mystery and reward than the last – even after three playthroughs there were areas I had not yet visited. Fallout Vegas was amazing as well, and in the usual Obsidian way, it had better characters and story than Fallout 3 – but Fallout 3 was the first time I got lost in the wasteland, and for that reason alone, it gets more kudos from me.
Nier is probably the least known, least played, lowest selling of my GOTG. But it’s magic is undeniable. From the absolutely stunning soundtrack, composed by Keiichi Okabe and performed by Emi Evans in a variety of fake langauges. The world of Nier is set in a future after the catastrophe caused in the secret ending of Drakengard. It’s a complex story of humans and souls in typical Japanese introspective fashion, built on an action RPG that isn’t afraid to explore its gameplay. Nier had platforming, bullet hell, fishing, gardening and just good old fashioned monster slaying. While the graphics were far from the best, they were solid and were more than capable of delivering an unforgettable experience.
The choice of changing the protagonist for the western release was also very welcome. Rather than the story of a brother trying to rescue his sister; Cavia changed it to a story of a father trying to protect and rescue his daughter.
The script was fantastic with some great banter between the main character, Nier and his companion, an enchanted floating book called Grimoire Weiss. The game also does an outstanding job of handling the foul-mouthed intersex character Kaine. As a final note, like Drakengard 2 before it, Nier builds on its story with each playthrough, adding more cutscenes and story as you go. Nier takes this one step further, first by showing you the entire story from the enemies perspective and then by offering you a choices which lead to a (as-designed) save file wipe!
So that’s it. A top 10 list in no order of my games of the generations. As a bonus here are my top five soundtracks this generation. Feel free to disagree in the comments below or in the facebook group 🙂
Top 5 OSTs
Mass Effect 2
Assassin’s Creed Revelations
Great games that weren’t included: This is a quick rundown of games that I thought were great, but didn’t quite make it into my top ten for one reason or another.
Dynasty Warriors 7 – It’s great, it’s the best retelling of the story of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but it’s still not as good as Dynasty Warriors 3.
Dead or Alive 5 – It’s great. It’s the best dead or alive and it’s probably my favourite fighting game at the moment. But there’s still not enough single player content to keep me truly satisfied.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and Street Fighter 4 – Both are sublime, but for me Tekken Tag 1 and Street Fighter Alpha 3 are good enough to fill the gap if they were to go missing.
Tomb Raider Legend – I loved Crystal Dynamics take on Lara and Tomb Raider, but I played Legend on PS2, making it a 6th gen title.
Gears of War 3 – The best of the series. The graphics were great, the story was perfectly pitched and the horde mode was brilliant. A great end to the trilogy. I don’t really like the main duo of the game though – big, burly, American heroes really aren’t my thing.
Skyrim and Far Cry 3 – Both great open worlds, and in many ways Skyrim is perhpas better than Fallout 3. But Fallout 3 has the advantage of being first.
DmC: Devil May Cry – A great action title. While it sported better character and story than previous DMC’s, it still fell short of DMC3’s excellent weapon switching, combo madness.
Portal: It was good, it was very good. I particularly liked the end, but puzzle games are never going to be GOTG for me :p
So did I forget anything? If it’s only on a nintendo platform, chances are I’ve never played it, and probably never will. So all those Mario’s and Zelda’s this gen are sadly overlooked. Like I said, feel free to disagree and let us know your favourite games this gen – and more importantly, why.