Let's give the retro a break. For the last article of 2012, I'll be going over my favourite Modern games!
To start off, an Honourable Mention.
The Legend of Grimrock is a game that harkens back perfectly to the days of the true and proper dungeon crawl. Hard as balls, brutal puzzles, vicious enemies, moody lighting, extremely limited resources, and simple controls.
The little thing that seperates this game from others I play: That was a bygone era that I hadn't taken part in.
So playing through Legend of Grimrock is a strange sort of nostalgia for me. It's so reminiscent and similar to the dungeon crawlers of old that those who had played those games when they were in vogue would likely enter some kind of deep trance state where there's nothing on their mind save the game at hand and some fond old memories.
Sadly, I wasn't part of that small group. I can, however, appreciate the goals and aims that the developers were going for, and the means of which they achieved it. If I had some of those old dungeon crawlers back in the day, I would have played the hell out of them, as I have for this game.
But we're here to talk about the present this time around. We've had our heads in the past for a while, so let's start looking ahead for once!
10. Battlefield 1942
I'm not even that big a fan of World War II shooters.
So what makes me love this game?
Simple answer: Tank combat. GOD I love how the tanks control in this game. There's a simple innovation at work here; being able to drive and look independently, with one not interfering with the other. (screw you, Borderlands vehicle controls)
I doubt that Battlefield 1942 was the first game to incorporate this control scheme, but I still think of it as the best example of such. (the second best example you'll see later)
I should try and find this game again... I wonder if it still has multiplayer servers going.
9. Spec Ops: The Line
I'm not even that big a fan of Modern Warfare-style shooters.
But I am a fan of horror video games. But even though this isn't technically a horror game.... Augh, it's one of the most harrowing experiences of my life.
But saying more than that would be spoilerific, wouldn't it?
8. To The Moon
I'm not even that big a fan of artistic non-games.
Yet, I adore this so. There's little more I can say about this game that I haven't already talked about.
With the benefit of retrospect, though, To The Moon still shines. Story events and the plot in general I still feel very happy about. It glows in my memory.
The only reason, and I wish to specify this point, that To The Moon isn't higher in today's list is because of the fact that it's... Not much a game. An amazing story, the best I've seen in video games yet, but it's a glorified point'n click constructed decently in RPG Maker.
So this has an odd distinction amongst other creations. Were I to ever make a Top 10 Of All Time list (don't hold your breath), To The Moon would likely strike a number 3 or at LEAST number 4 spot. Here, though, not quite so much. An All-Time list would take greater account of which games had the most impact on me, of which To The Moon ranks extremely high. In terms of this list, where gameplay is more the key of what I'm going for, well, To The Moon falls a little short.
That shouldn't impact your opinion of it, though.
An important difference between when I wrote that article and now, however! To The Moon can now be purchased on many other online venues, such as Steam, and GOG.com!
7. Borderlands 2
I'm not even that big a fan of the first Borderlands.
I mean, not the best I've seen, but y'know, it was pretty good! I enjoyed it, despite its flaws.
The sequel, however, blew me away.
The story and plot in the first Borderlands struck me as a token effort rather than a labour of love. Not so with the second. THIS is where Gearbox made it count. The first game seems almost like a testing foray into uncertain waters with a small ship. By comparison, the sequel is a great galleon, charging into the great beyond with utmost confidence.
That's not to say that it's flawless; certainly not. Some missions really drag on, the plot feels kinda padded at times, and some weapons are just 'eh'. BUT!! What Borderlands 2 gets right, it knocks out of the park.
In particular, the villian.
What, you think I'm gonna spoil it? Go play it yourself!
6. Dawn Of War; Dark Crusade
There's a simple aspect of this game that has been seen in other RTS games, but never to such a fantastic degree as this.
A campaign map, where various regions in the map give a different bonus.
Maybe it's been done before! I don't know, since I haven't seen or heard of examples prior to Dark Crusade. But even if there were others before this, it would have to have one helluva campaign map to compete with Dark Crusade's. (I know the Dune games typically had campaign maps, but those were just static regions that didn't give any different story or unit bonuses. I don't think they even really affected the map the battle occured on.
You attack an area, and a standard battle ensues. Clear it out, you get a bonus from the area. Usually the bonus doesn't do much, with a few very difficult areas giving larger bonuses, but it all adds up after a while. Your army gradually gets more and more badass, and so does your Commander, who gets better power-ups that you couldn't get in normal games.
And the masterstroke: The base you build in each map is persistant. Once you're done, it stays! So if an enemy invades, you can skip the beginning base building and just jump right into unit production and strategy. Heck, since the AI is a little predictable, you can even exploit the AI routines to reduce the monotony of an enemy attacking the same area over and over again.
Oh yeah, this is also a Warhammer 40,000 game, if that's your thing. (it sure is to me!)
5. Half-Life 2
There's simply too much that I can say about this game.
All I will say for now; Stay tuned for 2013.
4. Just Cause 2
The plot is bonkers.
The setting is a thinly-veiled political jab.
The villian is laughable, and not often in good ways.
The characters are simple, barely-faceted stereotypes with no development throughout.
Does that impact my opinion of it?
Fuck no! I have WAY too much damn fun in this game for skin-deep issues like that stuff to get in the way!
Heck, it almost works to its advantage that it has its faults here and there. It means that the focus, either the devteams or yours, is focused on where it shines the brightest above all else: Gameplay. With the plot going all over the place and the characters exchanging glorified one-liners, you kinda coast through those scenes with a vacant mind. And then, when the gameplay starts up, the fun begins!
Dicking around in this game is still one of the best game experiences of my life.
3. Metro 2033
The word of the day here: Atmosphere.
That is to say: A strong sense of setting and where you are in a game. I've yet to find an example of a game that does this better than Metro 2033. While there are more bleak games out there.... Well, I don't think there's any quite as believeably bleak as this one. Sure sure, things are WAY worse in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, but that's beyond the relatable. That's in the realm of the fantastic; Metro 2033 seems all too real and believeable.
While there's some fantastic elements, such as mutated creatures, some with terrible psychic powers, and very lethal ghosts and such things, much of it would... Probably be exactly how a sect of humanity would try to survive in the event of a nuclear apocalypse, sans the mutant psychics and the like.
It's the kind of game that makes you closely consider your living conditions. You see all manner of people trying to eke some manner of a living in the squalor of an abandoned and shoddily retrofitted underground Russian subway system.
To any of those I've engaged the interest of so far, I challenge you this; Play this game for a few hours. Optimally, in the dark, with the lights out, and with comfortable headphones on. Look everywhere you can, take your time, experiment a bit.
Then, go for a walk outside. If you live in a big city, try a ride on your local mass transit system. Look at how well it may run, how happy and well-off the people riding it are, and just... Contemplate your surroundings. The luxury of which you live in.
It might just change your view a little. It did for me.
2. Tribes: Ascend
My timing with this game was superb.
I first found out about it years before it came out. Screenshots looked amazing, and I couldn't wait.
I then found out there was an open beta!!
....For citizens of the USA only.
That's fine! I was on my annual Denver trip then!
When the game was in beta, there was a certain air of community to it. I would often recognize the people I was playing with, I would know their style of play, and I would adjust how I played accordingly. I would jump onto the game every night I could, every morning, and my skills grew vastly.
To this day, Tribes Ascend is the only multiplayer game that I've ever gotten something I would call 'good' at. In my prime, I could have probably held my own in competitive matches. (though I'd have been lower rung, definitely) I would join a game, there'd be lots of good people playing, and I would jump right in and do quite well. When a new match with the same people started, I would almost consistently be in third or fourth place, sometimes second! (never first with any regularity. There's always that one super-skilled guy in every match)
I remember having my enemies screaming at me via text whenever I got into a Beowulf tank. I was one of the best in one of those things. I could hold the line against countless foes when I was in a tank. (My Battlefield 1942 experience shone through here, as the controls for tanks in both games were quite similar)
I had a grand blast every time I played.
I wanted nothing more than the game to pick up, get popular, and be successful. The devteam deserved it.
And then... It did.
And I've been playing it so much less since.
The sense of community was gone. Everyone that plays are anonymous strangers to me. Tank controls were tweaked, and I haven't been able to properly adjust since. Some of the maps that were incredibly fun no matter how flawed they were... Gone, likely to never be played again.
I miss those days. Tribes: Ascend is one of my favourite games ever, but even though I can play it whenever, I...
I really miss it.
"What do you tell a man... That's seen too much?"
I love this game.
I don't know what else to say that I haven't already said.
Do I WANT to say more? So much of this game is how you interpret things as you play, and the actions you take in the game itself.
So the best thing I can say about this game: Play it. 8-10 hours if you're not going for a 100%, plus it's nice and cheap on either Steam, Chrome Webstore or Xbox 360.
It's worth your time, and be sure to stick through to the ending.
That's where it shines ever so brightly.