Alex Phillimore: (alex.phillimore-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2013-06-09 16:44:04
My Top 5 Games of this Generation
As E3 and the next generation of gaming looms on the near-horizon, I thought I'd reflect on some of my favourite games of this current generation of consoles. I'm not necessarily arguing that these games are the best games to have come out this generation, but they are the games that I have personally felt to be the most satisfying. In no particular order:
#1: Red Dead Redemption (PS3/360) - Ah, I love Red Dead. Not even for the main game - the story is pretty good but I'm not a huge fan of the single-player. It's the multiplayer that I have become obsessed with, and I have sunk more time into Red Dead's multiplayer mode than any other online game in my entire life. I can play Red Dead for weeks at a time without getting bored, shooting up other human players, lording it over people with golden guns and trying to exploit glitches and bugs in the game-world in order to do crazy things such as going 'out of bounds'. Every time me and my group boot up Red Dead we have a new experience, and even though I have my zebra-donkey and can't level up any more, I never tire of riding around the Wild West, watching the world go by and firing my pistol into the sky.
#2: The Walking Dead (Windows/PS3/360 etc.) - I'm a sucker for a great story. Telltale's award-winning title has technical flaws in pretty much every episode, but the way in which the characters suck the player into the story is almost unprecedented in gaming. The final scene between Clementine and Lee in Episode 5 moved so many people, and with good reason - whenever I'm in a particularly melancholy mood I go and re-watch the ending of the game and I still feel myself fighting back the tears. The power of the performances is enough to carry the entire game, despite the lack of gameplay therein. As a powerful piece of interactive fiction, there isn't much that compares to The Walking Dead.
#3: Journey (PS3) - Journey is a great video game because, at its core, it brings strangers together in a beautiful way. While online games quite often have unfamiliar players working together, the fact that the primary objective in Journey, especially during the first playthrough, is so dependent on cooperation makes the interactions you have with these players truly meaningful. The novelty of meeting people in the sands and chirping to each other never wears off, and the sensation of becoming a white-robed player and guiding other pilgrims on their journeys could be described as 'spiritual'. The game is a technical marvel, from its visuals to its audio, which only sweetens the deal and makes Journey into one of the most magical gaming experiences of this generation.
#4: Super Mario Galaxy (Wii) - I've got to hand it to Nintendo: Galaxy is an incredible video game. As much as I love Super Mario 64 and can see the ways in which it is superior (nothing comes close to Peach's castle as a hub world and jumping into paintings), Galaxy is altogether Mario's best video game so far and is a true testament to the history of gaming. Combining fantastic level design with excellent platforming and varied challenges, Galaxy remains at the pinnacle of gameplay-based experiences this generation. Its sequel is also pretty great, as well.
#5: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Windows/PS3/360) - I've sunk so many hours into Skyrim and I haven't even touched the surface of the main storyline. I still have two whole cities to visit for the first time, and yet my clock still tells me that I have put well over one hundred hours into Skyrim. With the active mod community generating content on the PC version, Skyrim is an almost unlimited gaming experience, and one that hasn't been equalled, in my opinion, across this entire generation. The world is a fantastic place to explore; the scope of the game, whether modded or not, is staggering to behold. Skyrim has some rough edges, but the game does so many things right that it remains an incomparable example of an enduring fantasy world in gaming.
David Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2013-06-10 07:23:46
I'm finally stepping in as editor to deface Alex's column. His post today is a blatant trolling endeavor, and I lack the fortitudinous wherewithal to resist.
I'm down with Red Dead Redemption, on completely different grounds. The single player narrative simply transcended the medium. There's never been anything like it before. It blended a literary alchemy of themes: the dying freedom of the Old West replaced by the bureaucratic stifling of civilization, the accompanying incestuous battle between violence and corruption, the hero's struggle between love and damnation, on and on. And most brilliant of all, whether you play him as a repentant sinner seeking redemption or a recalcitrant killer paying out in crimson death, the narrative works internally within the mind of the gamer with equal consistency. That is an astounding achievement of creative design. It is the closest to literature that videogaming has ever approached.
I'm a big proponent of Telltale's The Walking Dead, but it does only a FRACTION of what Mass Effect accomplishes. Yes, the third installment is a weaker entry, but we don't hold that against Return of the Jedi, do we? Mass Effect was a grand science-fiction opera with THE deepest, richest characters ever presented in the medium. It dwarfed all others in its ambitious scope and scale, and very nearly delivered on the entirety of that vast potential. I fear the industry will never produce anything like it again. I suppose I'm cheating by naming the entire trilogy as a singular work, but I'll stake even just Mass Effect 2 against just about any other game this generation.
I can't bad mouth Journey. I want to replace it with, say, Call of Duty 4 (a game that changed the face of the industry), but I just can't. Journey is the best pure work of art that videogames has ever produced. It functions as a profound metaphor for life and the fundamental yearning and difficulties of connecting with a fellow human being. It's a beautifully soul stirring videogame poem.
AAURGH Super Mario Galaxy is terrific, but I want to drop it for Uncharted 2 so badly! Hell with it, I'm going to dock SMG for its standard definition graphics (stupid Wii!) and award Uncharted 2's well written characterization, graphical verisimilitude, and spectacular voice acting stacked onto THE exuberant adventure of this generation.
Skyrim was sensational. Fallout 3 actually landed even harder for me. But in both cases, Bethesda's unevenness and inconsistent density of quality content soured me ever so slightly. I have to go with Half-Life: Episode Two. That provided a combination of stellar narrative and enthralling gameplay that never let up. No, wait. BioShock did all that, but better. Then there's Portal 2 that combined that entire package with the addition of intelligent, gut busting comedy - perhaps the single most difficult feat to pull off in videogaming. That's my last pick right there. (If BioShock Infinite had even slightly better mechanics, I would've instead gone straight there in a heartbeat.)
I know I can't add a sixth, but sports and racing games always get the short shrift in these sort of talks. If you love cars or racing, Forza Motorsport 4 is an unrelenting orgasm. It is The. Final. Word. on automobiles and racing this generation, and it does what it does better than all other games do what they do.