Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Jamie's Top Ten Must Have PS2 Games

This is a list that I have compiled of games that I actually own, have played, and would recommend to other people. I know there are a few other possible must haves out there, but I havnt played them and therefore do not feel justified in recommending them to other people.

So here you go, in no particular order.........well, maybe alphabetically.

Armored Core 2

Sometimes you just need to blow stuff up after a long and frustrating day. And nothing helps amplify this experience than blowing stuff up while flying around in a giant robot that is armed to the teeth. There are tons of parts you can acquire which lets you customize your tool of destruction to your own personal liking. You can paint it too.

Guilty Gear X2

Quite possibly the best fighting game I have ever played. All the characters have a unique feel and playstyle that can be catered to your personal tastes. Its fast paced, aesthetically pleasing, relatively balanced, and nothing is more satisfying than pulling off Chipps overdrive attack and landing it while playing with Jordan.

God of War

Not to be played in the presence of wee ones! This one is rated M and it means it! Sure, its linear, but at the time God of War came out, its method of play was different and new. Unfortunately, since it was relatively successful, everyone and their brother in law has decided to make a game with quick time events rather than coming up with something original themselves.

Katamari Damacy

Its different, its weird, its fun. What more can be said of a game that plays Japanese pop music in the background while you roll anything and everything up into a giant ball. And when I mean everything, I mean everything, ranging from someones pet cat, to houses and skyscrapers.

Legacy of Kain: Defiance

Im a huge fan of the LoK series. Such is that whenever I am reminded that EIDOS is currently not working on another installment, a part of me dies inside. Its a different take on the whole vampire thing with an interesting setting, terrific voice acting, cool story, and fun gameplay that is split up between two characters that play very different from the other.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

This is a sneaking mission. Even after trudging through MSG4 on my PS3, I would have to say that this is the best installment in the series in addition to being a must have for a PS2 owner. The sneaking gameplay is fun and challenging at times, it has a great story line with a cinematic feel (its a Hideo Kojima game after all) and there are some truly innovative boss fights that you get to take part in.


Courtesy of Tim Schafer and Double Fine Studios. Psychonauts is one of the few games out there that wanted to do something different and unique. How is it unique? Well, youre a psychically gifted individual who gets sent to psychic soldier camp and after everyone elses brain is stolen, its up to you to get them back. You explore the strange lanscapes influenced by certain characters minds and personalities and even have a run in with a telekinetic bear!

Resident Evil 4

The best Resident Evil to date in my honest opinion. Rather than run around in a ruined city infested by zombies, you are in an isolated Spanish village where something aint right with the people who live there. The weapons have a cool method for upgrading, the game is filled with genuinely scary moments, and the voice acting in this installment isnt horrible!

Shadow of the Colossus

Another game that gets praise for being different. Its just you, your horse, and 12 gigantic bosses that you have to defeat. Nothing else. No annoying little trash monsters that you have to grind through to get to your objective. Each Colossi has a unique way of being fought and the art direction in this game is absolutely spectacular.

Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner

Another title by Hideo Kojima, but gone is the sneaking gameplay. Instead, you pilot a giant robot and lay waste to everything you see. Its more than just mindless destruction though, there is an interesting and engaging story, cool music, and you learn new weapons and attacks as you progress through the game.

There you have it. I would strongly recommend checking out any of these titles. They are definitely worth it and have earned the Jay Duke Seal of Approval.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Console Games: Making Time to Play

I own a variety of gaming platforms and as a result own a lot of games. However, I have not finished, or even played, a somewhat large amount of titles in my personal library. This problem is more so related to my console gaming experience rather than with my PC and in this post, will discuss why I think this is.

For one thing, I tend to get myself spread out too thin when it comes to games. I purchased Fallout 3 on its release date and even though Ive managed to make significant progress throughout the game, I still have yet to finish. Why is this? I attribute it to the PC games and real life commitments that I currently involve/involved myself with. Last year I had a few bouts with that insatiable beast known as World of Warcraft. Even though I dont consider myself to be someone who spends a gratuitous amount of time playing games, ALL the time I set aside for game playing was devoted to WoW. As a result, I never spent much time on my consoles. I also spent time playing multiplayer games like DOTA, Team Fortress, and Warhammer Online and I think the multiplayer aspects of these games are one of the significant factors as to why I didnt peel myself away from my PC to play a console.

As we discussed in our last posts, PC gaming allows for a certain advantage in the FPS, MMO, and Strategy genres, and this benefit spills over into their multiplayer aspects. You are able to get so much more of a kick out of playing with other people because everyone plays differently. Things arent as predictable online due to the human element, and as a result, things become much more exciting and more fast paced.

This isnt to say that you cant have a good time playing titles on a console. I purchased the majority of my console games on recommendations from friends and acknowledge that they are indeed great titles, I just need to set aside the time to play them and perhaps do so with a different mindset.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Preferred Gaming Platform: Console

PC pros:
Keyboard and mouse allow for control that is need in various genres (fps, strategy, and mmorpgs)
Highly customizable platform
Easy to update games where available

PC cons:
Expensive to upgrade and maintain
Controls are bad for other genres such as platforming and fighting
Not very many games are developed for the PC in comparison to consoles

Console pros:
Large variety of games
No need to upgrade
Lots of options to purchase used games

Console cons:
Swapping between consoles is tedious
New games are overpriced
Bad controls for some genres (mmorpgs, strategy)

I prefer consoles as a gaming platform mostly due to the larger game selections.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Preferred Gaming Platform: PC

For this post, we are discussing our favored gaming platform. Since this is a VIDEO gaming blog, that pretty much limits us to PC or Console gaming. Note that this topic isnt meant to express rabid fanboy tendencies, but to explain why you like a particular platform over the other. What are its pros? Cons? That sort of stuff.

I'll kick things off by talking a bit about the PC as a gaming platform.

As far as Pros would be concerned, I would start with control and interface. For certain genres (First Person Shooters and Real Time Strategies) I feel that a keyboard and mouse is superior to any controls that can be offered on a console. Whenever Ive played a shooter on a console, I couldnt help but think of how clunky and slow the controls felt as opposed to a PC counterpart. This is partly due to the fact that I was originally introduced to games of that genre on PC to begin with, dating back to titles such as Doom, Duke Nukem 3d, and Marathon to name a few. Its quite possible that the same could be said of someone who learned on consoles and is more comfortable with a controller in his hands than a mouse and keyboard, but from my perspective, I favor the latter. One other thing Id like to mention is customizability (if that is even a word, spellcheck isnt going off so Im assuming it is!). While its true that you can assign different buttons to do your bidding on a console controller, the keyboard has more options available to it. Regardless of whether or not youre the most anal person in the world when it comes to controls, youre bound to find some scheme that works for you on a keyboard.

Game type flexibility. The PC is capable of fielding just about any sort of game type. This can be a bit of a double edged sword however. Just because you CAN make a certain kind of game for the PC doesnt mean that you SHOULD. PC ports of Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy 8 are good examples of this.

Post release support. Most games released for the PC have patches that go live some time after their initial release to either fix bugs and/or add more content. This is both a pro and a con as I feel that under some circumstances, PC developers get lazy and adopt the "we will just patch it later" mentality instead of just fixing the problem or being more observant of bugs to begin with. Its a pro due to the fact that its impossible to find ALL the bugs associated with your game and some of the best playtesting can be done after the release when oodles of people are playing it. Forum posts are made, feedback is sent, and a solution to the problem is usually underway. In some cases, after a game has been abandoned by its developers for whatever reason, certain fan based communities have made "fan patches" to fix or add items to a game that the developers never did. Good examples of this are titles like Fallout 1 and 2, and Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines. I do understand that consoles are slowly developing the capability to patch their games, but this is something that has only become accessible with next gen hardware and titles. With PC games, its much more mainstream.

Platform price. This is a HUGE con for a PC because PC's aren't made solely for playing games like consoles are. They have numerous other applications (like actually MAKING games) and as a result, have a higher pricetag. Performing upgrades on your PC to keep it running those next gen titles can be a costly endeavor as well.

While there are significant advantages as well as disadvantages to gaming on a PC, I feel it all comes down to personal taste. Identify what you like when it comes to your game playing experience, do a little homework, and make a decision.

Still wish I had purchased Fallout 3 for PC rather than my PS3 though.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Factor of Fun: Real Time Strategy (RTS)

Ahh, the RTS. Often associated with hourly commitments, obsessive Korean gamers, and the loss of several years of my step brothers life. Games in this genre typically have a steep learning curve and sometimes require a portion of your brain specifically dedicated to memorizing strategies, tech trees, and build times. So why would you play something that asks so much of you as a gamer?

What makes an RTS so appealing is the sense of control it provides. Unlike games in other genres, you arent in control of just a single individual, or in some cases, a small party of individuals. Instead, you are put in charge of an entire army. From the lowly footsoldier, to rumbling tanks, to the giant battlecruisers, they are all yours to command. You have all the say in what every unit under your control does, and its up to you to decide how you are going to accomplish the task at hand. In an RTS, there is no set formula for victory (aside from kill all your opponents stuff) but you are the one that determines how the other guys stuff is going to get destroyed. Due to a commanders playstyle and favored units, how they play the game can greatly differ from someone else.

Its the control over how you are able to play the game that keeps you coming back for more. Whats that? Youre getting bored with a certain strategy? Feel free to try a new one which can freshen up the game for you. Have a problem with Zerg Guardians destroying your base defenses? There are several strategies you can use to get around that. RTS games are a tacticians playground, and you can experiment with differing strategies to your hearts content. Its all about how you play the game, not how the game plays you.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Factor of Fun: Role Playing Games (RPGs)

For the next topic, we'll take a game genre and discuss what is the unique factor of fun that separates it from other genres.

I'll start with the RPG. Why do people play them? Why is walking around continuously, fighting the same monster over and over fun? When people would watch me play WoW, they would always say, "Why do you walk around so much? That doesn't seem fun."

The unique factor of RPGs is a sense of accomplishment. You invest time into a character that grows and improves over time. The core mechanics of RPGs are usually not entertaining. In fact, I had a great discussion with a coworker that argued most RPGs are not good games because they rely on the sense of accomplishment so much that the game, stripped of this, is a chore that could be seen as a second job.

MMORPGs are especially guilty of this. To keep interest, as the player has to pay a monthly fee, the developer has to continue to create content. Therefore an infinite sense of accomplishment is established. It is amazing that a person can happily constantly play a game 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, and still enjoy it. But what can I say? I've been there.

The sense of accomplishment that is necessary and unique in the RPG genre needs to be created responsibly by the developer.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Greatest Game Ever Created? Half Life 2.

It was rather difficult for me to decide what game I was going to dedicate this post to since I have a handful of titles floating around in my head that I feel are worthy of such praise. Hopefully Ill be able to find ways to squeeze some of these fine specimens into other posts as I will be limiting myself to one here. I have decided on Half Life 2. A title produced by one of the few gaming companies out there that maintains a strict "When its done" release policy, and one that fills my criteria of Greatest Game Ever in most respects. Plus, I have a fetish for dystopian settings.

Picking up roughly 20 years after the first Half Life, you return in the shoes of everyone's favorite MIT graduate with a penchant for weapons, Gordon Freeman. Humanity has since been enslaved by malevolent beings from another dimension known only as "The Combine" who were attracted to Earth by the events that took place in the previous game and now lord over the remaining population from various Cities (City 17 being the current setting). So its up to Gordan Freeman, the last Free Man with his trusty crowbar and Hazardous Environment Suit, to bust some heads and save the day.

So what makes Half Life 2 the greatest game ever? It has a terrific story that is told in a rather unique way. You progress through the various chapters as if you would a book, with bits of story and information being fed to you as you go along. Also, much of the story is left to the player to figure out, while other bits can be discovered by paying close attention to what certain NPC's say to each other in what appears to be casual conversation. All of which lead to a very unique and innovative way of presenting story and background. Environments in HL2 are another contributor to its greatness. Ranging from the deserted city streets of an obscure eastern european city, to the zombie infested ruin of Ravenholm, to the futuristic facilities of the combine, each has a unique look that keeps you from feeling like youre running around in the same place the entire game. Valves Source Engine (which was created solely for HL2), is hard at work here as well. Textures, lighting, character animations and even facial expressions are represented wonderfully in the game, making it very easy on the eyes. One more thing Id like to add is the character depth. Im pretty big on voice acting, and if a game has bad voice acting, chances are Im not going to enjoy it. Not the case with Half Life 2. The voice acting is superb and you can actually detect the emotions of the characters through their well written dialogue. As far as gameplay goes, its fun! The controls are tight and easy to manage, and you arent scrambling all over your keyboard for some obscure command or ability. There are several weapons that allow you to dispatch Combine in fun an interesting ways whether it be pinning them to a wall with super heated rebar, or crushing them with a tub launched from the extremely innovatinve Grav-Gun. Its not all run and gun though, sections of the game are broken up by small puzzle oriented tasks that must be completed to allow you to progress. Along with these "puzzle breaks" are some interesting battles that usually require the proverbial big gun to make it out alive. Lastly, I would like to touch on the artistic design. Valve spent a lot of time on this game (about 5 years) and went to great lengths to keep the art work from feeling generic. The metrocop (one of the main antagonists) for instance, went through something like 20 different designs before valve felt it was right. Combine computer terminals, bio-engineered gunships and striders, Overwatch troopers, they all have a very unique look that helps set them above enemies found in other games.

To me, Half Life 2 is one of those few precious gems in the gaming industry. It wasnt crippled by some suit's decision to throw it on store shelves when it wasnt ready. Or a producers inclination to overlook some flaws to meet a deadline. Instead, it was given polish and plenty of TLC from its designers and was released "When it was ready" and is worth every minute you devote to playing it.