Welcome back to OrdinaryDecentGamer, where I seem to talk about everything but games most of the time. You may have noticed the new layout? And of course the subject correlates with the title, as I’m trying out this new theme for a change. I can’t believe how long this blog has been running now. It started all the way back in the wonderful summer of ’11, with Gamescom. I remember how exciting it was being amongst all the new games, and beginning to write the blog entries in the WiFi tent in the campsite by the river. And the storm that nearly washed us away, and how our little tent survived it all. Memories are flooding back. Hopefully there will be a few more good years – I just gotta keep the spirit of how this started alive!
I still haven’t wrapped up 2012 either! But here goes nothing.
My Best Games of 2012
2012 was a strange year for my gaming career, as I didn’t actually play that many games. Most of the games I played were pretty outstanding though, and here are just a few of them.
Max Payne 3
I’m a big Max Payne fan, and I’ve been playing the games since the dawn of the series back in 2001. Since then, they have just been getting better and better, and the third game is the best yet. Combining fantastic graphics, great gameplay, and an involving story, it grips you from the beginning and takes you on crazy, if a little convoluted journey. The original was the game that started bullet time in the spirit of the Matrix, and this game has added refinements to make it easily the best slo-mo shooting action there is. Before, when you dived into objects and walls you there was no real reaction, and Max simply finished the sequence and got back up again. Now, when you mistime a dive, or hit a wall you crumple in a pile at the bottom, completely vulnerable while you recover. And dive you will! As with the others, this game is a challenge and it forces you to utilise slow-motion, but like all games these days a new cover system has been introduced. It isn’t a horrible mechanic though, and fits nicely with the ability to dive over counters, from behind walls, and through windows. Max is getting old though, and he can’t dive as much as he used to be able to – after each dive there is a brief recovery time where he picks himself up off the ground, and at that time you’re a sitting duck, ready to be riddled with bullets. It forces you to be somewhat more conservative in the approach to dangerous situations, unlike you’re me, and you can clear a whole room in one dive. I wish. The slo-mo has also been nicely integrated into some scripted events, where Max will slide down a roof and give you a few seconds to drop a guy. It happens at various points in the story, and is a good addition to the action, instead of simply adding a quick time event where you would push a few buttons to defeat all bad guys. It definitely puts you in the driving seat, and some of the harder occasions can be screwed up pretty easily, which is the kind of freedom I like in a game. It’s a game that everyone should play, if you’re into action and shooting games of course. If not, then you need to re-examine your attitude.
Metal Gear Solid 4
Yes I know this wasn’t released in 2012, and was actually released way back in 2008, but it is a game that I waited to play for four years. You know how long that is?! That’s over four years! And that, my friends, is a long time. But I can tell you definitively, that it was all worth the wait. The Metal Gear Solid series of games has always been up there among my favourites, and no matter how many times I play the games, they still find new ways to suprise me. Metal Gear Solid should have aged horribly. It should be unplayable, and a terrible game, as many from that era are now, but it just isn’t. It still draws you in instantly, and before you know it, you’ve been playing for five hours solid (Metal Gear!) even while knowing that the memory card is playing up and you can’t save any progress.
MGS4 carries on the great tradition of MGS games, and I’d say it is the best game in the series so far. Graphically it is superior to the other games (Metal Gear Solid games always seem to be ahead of their time when it comes to graphics) and the gameplay and locations are so varied there is always something to keep you interested. Even the last fight is a throwback to all the other games, and the final scene in the first game, in a way only Kojima can do things. Integrating the camo system from MGS3, along with the new OctoCamo which changes to match your environment is a really nice touch, and adds to the stealth aspect. The ability to buy weapons and customisations from Drebin also adds a new element, though I found it to be largely irrelevant after a while. The choice is nice, but most of the time I found myself using the tranquilizer gun, or M4 assault rifle which are both part of your standard loadout anyway. One thing I didn’t like was the disposable nature of silencers – they only last a finite amount of shots before breaking, which is unnecessary and annoying considering silencers don’t disintegrate after a few clips in real life.
There is a nice mix of stealth missions and also shootouts, with the usual boss fights thrown in for good measure. I’ve never found bosses in the Metal Gear Solid to be overly taxing, though they do require you to think laterally at times. All in all it’s an excellent title, and worth a look.
I’ve just realised these have almost become fully blown reviews, so perhaps I should tone it down a notch, and talk about some other games briefly. Black Mesa is essentially Half-Life recreated in the source engine, in an attempt to make a better looking, more realistic version of the original. I can safely say that they have done it well – Black Mesa is easily as engrossing as the original. For all of you who wanted to go back and play Half-Life again, but couldn’t face the idea of aged graphics, then this is the game to play.
Even though I haven’t got playing it a whole lot, what I did play was definitely something. I can’t say I’ve been disappointed in a Halo game yet (ODST was probably the closest I came), and this is no exception.
Abe’s Oddysee, Abe’s Exoddus, Munch’s Oddysee, and Stranger’s Wrath all form part of the Oddboxx, and are all great games. The first two are frustrating as hell, but very rewarding when you get anywhere with them. Stranger’s Wrath is also good, but the PC port of the game is quite broken, and not the experience it should be. I have the original Xbox version, but I haven’t got round to playing it as of yet.
Grim Fandango isn’t even from the 21st century, but it is still one of the best games I’ve played this year, and among the most challenging. It is one of the all time classics, and everyone should play it at least once. No wonder it is so good, it was written by Tim Schafer.
Such a strange game, but a gem all the same. It’s another Tim Schafer title, but this time you play a Russian doll who has to stack inside of other dolls to complete objectives. Enjoyable, and proof that a game can be fun without involving shooting and fighting.
I’m sure there are more games I played that I enjoyed this year, but this is as far as I’m going at the moment.