Archive for January, 2011


Game of the Decade: #1

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

Well, it took me over a year, but here it is. My favorite game of the past decade, and maybe of all time, GTA: Vice City. GTA 3 really blew everyone away when it came out with its open world gameplay, but it wasn’t until Vice City hit that it was certain that Rockstar was here to stay as a true AAA developer.

I can’t think of a better possible setting for a game such as this other than the pastel draped, new wave mid-80’s Miami. It takes a lot to pull this off, and make it believable and authentic, but they knocked it out of the park. The amount of time and detail put into making the city come to life and be era-accurate is unreal. The characters and the script are hilarious, and I don’t think they could have possibly squeezed any more pop culture references in than they did. The voice acting is also top-notch, featuring actors such as Burt Reynolds, Tom Sizemore, Danny Trejo and even Lawrence Taylor. Ditching the route of the silent protagonist; Ray Liotta does a

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great job with Tommy. Gameplay wise, maybe it wasn’t not the best third person shooter out there, but considering the nature of the open world gameplay and the melding of different genres here, it’s still impressive. Above all else its just an insanely fun game, and a blast from start to finish.

It also features maybe the greatest licensed soundtrack ever. Every hit you can possibly think of is here, backed by GTA’s patented fake radio banter and ads. Even the games original radio content, such as its talk shows are insanely well made and make just cruising around vice city aimlessly a ton of fun. The whole game is one big love letter to the 80’s and I’m sealing it with a kiss.

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Game of the Decade: #2

Final Fantasy X

2001 was a simpler time. Brett Favre had no camera phone with which to capture his underwhelming penis with, Pluto was still our little 9th planet that could,  and the Square was still Soft instead of enix. Final Fantasy X takes me back to a time when I could truly get lost in an RPG. Lost in it’s world, its mythos, it’s story and really get involved and attached to the characters. FFX was the last game I can remember that drew me in and gave me this experience. I can’t say whether this really is  due to the loss of Square”Soft” quality, or if its just a factor of me getting older and more cynical, but both the former and latter are sad conclusions.

Square went back to its roots completely gameplay wise, featuring a turn-based battle system with enough new twists on the system to keep it  challenging and ultimately very strategically delicate. Even it’s extreme linearity is a throwback to the classic days. Which is something some people can’t seem to grasp. One of the main things people harp on when talking about X, or the most recent XIII, is how linear they are, and how Final Fantasy was always about adventure, and exploring, but that was never really the case. Sure, they featured traversable world-maps, but thats just a way to mask the linearity, you never really could go anywhere you want, your hand was always held and you’re always pushed along a very specific path. X simply doesn’t try to trick you, it ropes you along its path and takes advantage of its design to engage and tell you a story in the best way they can.

The visuals were top-notch at the time, and still hold up pretty well today. It’s still one of the prettiest PS2 games out there. Uematsu’s score is also another classic, ranking up there with his best efforts.

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The voice acting wasn’t great, maybe it wasn’t even objectively “good”, but to be fair this wasn’t a time when voice acting wasn’t widely done in games of this magnitude and they do an admirable job with it, though it certainly has its awkward moments.

It  spawned the first direct sequel of the series, X-2, which also turned out to be quite polarizing amongst fans, but I am pretty fond of it aswell. No, don’t worry, it isn’t my #1…

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Game of the Decade: #3

Uncharted 2

Naughty Dog’s blockbuster sequel came somewhat out of left field for me.  Not that I wasn’t aware of it, it just wasn’t on my radar as something I was interested in at all.  After playing through (or at least trying to) Drake’s Fortune, I was unimpressed. I thought the gameplay was stale and repetitive, and the set-up was typical “Dude Raider” affair. Luckily, I gave Among Thieves a shot and I was blown away. The graphics are vibrant, the environments are lush, and the facial animation is some of the best to date. The buzz word that gets thrown around all too often when talking about Uncharted 2, is setpiece, and I’m throwing it around aswell. It’s loaded with them, and they altogether form a great action experience.

One thing the Uncharted team gets so so right when creating the series is the way they motion capture and voice record. Everything is captured with all actors on set together, which creates a real chemistry between the characters that is fluid and unrivaled in the industry. The voice acting itself is phenomenal, there’s a reason Nolan North is featured in what seems like virtually every other game nowadays, and it’s because he’s the best. He’s great at what he does; Nathan Drake is entirely his creation and a big part of why the game is so enjoyable.

Mark Wahlberg is no Nolan North.

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The aforementioned Wahlberg cast as Drake in the hollywood adaptation

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Quick Hit – Ilomilo

Very rarely is “charming” a word I get to use when describing a game, yet Ilomilo has me drinking tea and eloquently raising my pinky as I do it. The set-up is simple enough; Ilo and Milo are old friends trying to meet up at the park they used to go to, but they find that they have trouble remembering the way back, and everything seems to have shifted around. Ilomilo is a simple puzzle game that involves you navigating 2 different adorable plush alien fellows starting on opposite sides of the map, to meet each other somewhere along the way. You switch back and forth between characters and help them create paths and overcome obstacles together. Along the way you’ll unlock memories of their past time together via flashback photos and letters. The graphics are very littlebig planet, with everything looking as if it were made with real fabric, and real… “cuteness.”  The soundtrack is suitably quaint and melancholic, and employs flower-esque sound cues that work really well.

For awhile, Ilo was available for download via a “secret code” from the developer’s website, but it seems that window has passed. If you missed out you’ll just have to wait until January 5th when it hits the xbox-live arcade.

It’s also available for free on Windows Phone 7.
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