This is the continuation of my top 10 list from last week, in which I reveal the top 5 games that I’ve finished from my backlog. Starting with…
5: L.A. Noire
I have some mixed opinions about this game, but the experience of getting to play a sandbox game set in the 1940s, is good enough to keep it in the top five of this list. Historic Los Angeles was recreated to near perfection (at least, they say it was) in L.A. Noire. The game combines noire elements from the movies of that decade with detective gameplay mechanics, and brilliant scenes that use the best motion capture technology I’ve ever saw in any video game, ever. The characters in this game are ACTORS in every regard. Their body movements, their facial movements, and their voices were all used to make this epic crime thriller (check out some YouTube videos, if you haven’t already seen them). The music, and radio banter stay true to that time period, as do the racial stereotypes, and realistic depictions of life in the 40s. The interiors of the houses, the crime scenes, and the clues look amazing. The developers paid a lot of attention to detail, and it paid off. By the way, the cars are AWESOME! Some people didn’t like them, because their handling sucked, but here’s the reason: It was the 40s, duh. The cares felt heavy and metallic, just like I thought they should. In my opinion, the cars were the most solid and realistic part of the game, even if they weren’t spot-on to the originals.
I did mention having mixed opinions. The character control could have been a lot better. If Cole takes long strides during the cut scenes, why does he have to move like he’s on a Sunday stroll when I’m the one moving him? If he’s athletic enough to jump fences, climb ladders to the rooftops, and run faster than every single criminal he has to chase, why does it have to take several seconds for him to respond to the “run” command? If I’m going to be playing a character for the duration of the game, I’d like it to be fun. Onto the clues… Finding clues would have been more fun with a character that didn’t move like a pile of crap being pushed down a sidewalk with a feather duster. And who wants to lollygag around a crime scene, looking for all the clues with a sluggish main character, when the clues could be all over the place? Not to mention, I don’t want to spend all my time staring at the ground in a back alley when recreated L.A. is there to explore. Maybe a detective game isn’t for me, or maybe I have a point about staring at the ground. A big pet peeve of mine is the vagueness in video games about when simulation ends and game restrictions begins. When I first started to play, I didn’t realize I could cross the street to find a knife in the back alley. That begged the question, just how far am I supposed to Sunday-stroll down this street, anyway? I mile or two? Sometimes, I like some limitations in a game, just to keep me from wasting all damn night waiting for the controller to vibrate and let me know there’s something interactive nearby (just like a real detective!). The story wasn’t very interesting, the main character was boring, the ending was abrupt and anticlimactic, the sacrifice could have been done in a much more effective way.
4: Super Mario Galaxy
Oh hell yea, a Mario game! Do I really need to explain this? Mario is awesome, and he’s a really good jumper. He can do kicks off walls, long-jump, and he somehow manages to do a ground pound. Have you ever thought of that maneuver? It defies gravity, really. He does a little flip, pauses in midair for a millisecond, and shoots his self downward using some unknown propellant. Anyway, I digress, this specific Mario game is ALL ABOUT the gravity and outer space. I would have to guess that gravity and outer space belong on their own top ten list of my all-time favorite things, but they work wonderfully as major players in Super Mario Galaxy. Like other Mario games of the past, this one took everything conventional, and turned it upside-down. Yea, literally. With colorful new levels, interesting new game mechanics, a new addition to the Mario family named Rosalina, some new suits with unique abilities, there was almost no way this game could fail.
I sure am fucking dizzy. The new 3D environments that twist and turn in circles around the small planets Mario has to explore can cause huge headaches if you’re not used to them. When I first started playing, I constantly found myself holding my head at an angle just to prevent disorientation. I didn’t mean to, and it didn’t work, but that’s what I did. From a top-of-Mario’s-head perspective, jumping on enemies can become frustrating. If it wasn’t for the new spin attack to keep baddies away from me, I probably would have rage quit several times. That’s hardly a gripe, though, because they did add a spin attack.
3: The Walking Dead, Season One
The characters in this game are so much more appealing than those in the sequel. The two best characters from season two are the two survivors from season one (Amid and Christa DO NOT count). Clementine is likable enough on her own in season two, but in season one, Lee is the main character. He’s one of the best characters in any game, but especially in The Walking Dead games. When we first meet him, he’s in the back of a cop car, but he turns out to be a swell guy who desperately wants to keep Clementine safe from the horrible zombie apocalypse. The other characters are cool, too, especially Lee’s friend, Kenny. The puzzles are challenging, without being too hard. I’m basing that opinion on my own level of puzzle solving proficiency, which is very limited. I found myself stuck at certain points in the game, but that made figuring out the missing piece of the puzzle that much more rewarding.
When the puzzles weren’t going well, it was hard to stay motivated. Just like in point-and-click adventures from the past, if you’re stuck, you’re STUCK. Until you find the missing piece of the puzzle, you just have to keep walking around, trying to interact with stuff. It’s a minor gripe. Another, slightly larger gripe, has to do with the illusion of choice. I say “illusion,” because when all is said and done, the story is still written, and it’s going to be told the way the writers want it told. There are some changes in dialogue, depending on the choices you make, and maybe some people aren’t going to help you out when you want them too, but the story is still there. Within the minor elements of the game that you can actually change, sometimes the character’s act in ways that don’t seem consistent with what you would expect. That’s because they writer’s had to try to predict choices, and some choices were favored by the overall story more than others. It’s a complication that I’ve discussed in previous posts, and I understand how hard it must be to create branching story-lines, but it can be jarring when you expect something, but get something extremely different. Here’s an example: I was Kenny’s friend through MOST of the game, even going as far as being the one to put his son out of misery, when Kenny couldn’t do it, himself. When it came time to help Clementine, a little girl who was friends with Kenny’s own son, that sorry SOB wouldn’t help me! He said I had been selfish, and hadn’t helped him. WTF, KENNY?!
2: Red Dead Redemption
What a great game! This one blew me away. The main character is an outlaw living in the wild west at the turn of the century. He’s trying to redeem himself by hunting down his old gang, and former friends. As a reward, a politician has offered to forgive him of his own crimes, and let him return to his family. Times are changing. Phones, automobiles, and theaters are starting to show up in the small towns that dot the regions that represent Mexico, the mid-west, and the beginnings of big cities. The setting is a wonderful place to explore, full of great characters, and one of the best stories I’ve ever had the privileged to experience. Add a justified ending and room for a sequel, and you get one hell of a great game and the potential for a long-running franchise (hope, hope, hope, hope!)
I would have enjoyed more options for horses, possibly being able to buy a donkey just for the laughs, or maybe a carriage for a different traveling experience from time to time. It would have been cool to operate the train on a regular basis, and control its speed. There were automobiles in the game, although limited to the more “civilized” areas, but it would have been interesting to actually be able to drive one. I know, Red Dead Redemption is not a GTA game, but I’ve grown accustomed to interacting with certain things. In a way, it makes John Marston a more interesting character, because he prefers horses over cars, but still… At the end of the game… you know, after… some years have passed, and it might have been cool to see a Wright Flyer in action. Notice how these are nit-picky? Yea, the game was awesome, so ignore THE BAD section, here.
1: Grand Theft Auto V
Where do I begin… The characters? There’s three of them, all with unique stories, objectives, and side-quests. The setting? Based on real-life Las Angeles, the fictional city of San Andreas is much more interactive than the historic L.A of L.A. Noire, and parodies the absurdities of real life at every turn. How about the cars? They’re fun to drive, each one feels unique, and there are a variety of radio stations with a wide range of genres to choose from. The cars are just the beginning, though, because you can use motorcycles, scooters (Scooter Brothers!), bicycles, boats, planes, helicopters, ATVs, tanks, and even a submarine. Customers who pre-ordered can take control of a blimp that floats above the city. The non-playable characters always seem to be involved with their own business, and many have humorous things to say. There are alternate dialogues for missions that aren’t even choice-based. You can watch TV, play golf, go to a strip club, get drunk, get high, play tennis, take a tour of the city, go swimming, skydive, etc. The main story-line is great, and there are smaller stories that are just as interesting as the one that ties the game together.
The game was so amazing, that my old Xbox 360 couldn’t handle it. It kept crashing, only while I was playing GTA V. It worked with everything else, except GTA V! I had to buy an Xbox Slim just to play the damn game. Grand Theft Auto V, I must really love you if bought an new console just so I could play one game! But still… I had to buy an entirely new console to play this friggin game!
That concludes my top 10 out of the first 10! Let me know if you agree, and remember to follow my blog to hear more about my backlog goal progress!