2007 was a banner year for video games, at least for me. With Bioshock, Call of Duty 4, Mass Effect, and Halo 3 all coming and all being, in general, “big” games, it was a great year for the consoles. (I didn’t do any PC gaming at all last year.) I’m not so sure about this year.
I’m playing some very good games, don’t get me wrong, but Bioshock and COD4 still stand out to me as some of the best games I’ve played in my life and I don’t think anything from this year really stands up. (COD4 will always get props from me for its emotional post-nuke level. You just don’t see emotion like that in a FPS. It was so deep I didn’t quite know how to react.)
First off - Grand Theft Auto 4 was a bit of a disappointment. The graphics were great, but the game play was a bit overly complex. I tend to judge games by how close they are to Ghost Recon. I played GR for about 15 minutes and got so thoroughly confused by the controls that I never played it again. GTA is about 60% of the complexity level of GR and that’s a bit too close for my taste. I think the control scheme really began to bug me when I had to learn how to pick up and throw objects. It took me about 10 minutes to throw crap through a store window in order to progress through the mission. The story was well done, and I do want to eventually finish it, but right now it’s gathering dust. The best thing I can compare it to is Saints Row. While SR had weaker graphics, a weaker story, it was just more fun to play since it was somewhat simpler. (Still waiting to get Saints Row 2 on my wish list and see how the sequel came out.)
Fable 2 is pretty darn good so far. I’ve got about 3 hours into it and was impressed with what I’ve seen so far. The game has a charm to it that reminds me a bit of Harry Potter. I also really like the mechanics of the 3 basic attributes (melee fighting, archery/bullets, magic). It reminded me quite a lot of Dungeon Siege, one of the last PC games I ever played. You basically advanced in whatever fighting style you prefer, but can change your mind and mix it up as much as you want. What I don’t like, and what bugged the heck out of me, was the juvenile handling of sex in the game. I get that the game simulates life and the decisions you make, but did it really need to include condoms? And the sex scenes act out like they were designed by an 11 year old. I’m not against sex in games at all, but it adds nothing here and just prevents me from playing it in front of my kids. Of course, that part of the game is optional so I don’t have to worry about it again, but with everything else being so well done, it was kind of surprising how poor this aspect was thought out. I
Fable 2 was about to consume all my console time until I got addicted to Fallout 3. I’ve been waiting for a good post-nuke game since I finished Wasteland back on my Apple 2. I never got to play FO1 or 2 so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but wow, what a great game. It’s got a wonderful sense of humor, an odd 50s-ish style to it, and is just plain fun to play. The scenery is incredible. While it is a bit monotonous (if you squint your eyes you basically just see gray from horizon to horizon), the weight of all the destruction (rubble, fallen monuments, destroyed homes, etc) is oppressive and really drives home the fact that this truly is a destroyed world. My only complaint about the game is that I don’t think it will be very replayable. While you have many options to customize your character, you are essentially playing one class: the survivalist. You can be a smarter survivalist or a tougher one, but your still the same type of character. It’s not like you switch to magic and radically change your character. I’m really enjoying FO3, but I don’t think I’ll play it again.
This year marked the return to “PC” gaming for me, if you count one game, and a Mac game, as PC gaming. I finally picked up World of Warcraft and saw what the fuss was about. The game is certainly fun, and I can see myself playing it for quite some time, but it certainly does not have the impact of other games I’ve played. I think just the fact that it’s never ending kind of lessons the impact of it. I enjoy playing it - and can see playing it for probably years to come, but it won’t hold a special place in my heart like other games have.
So - I’ve probably rambled on a bit longer than I intended. My main point is - what is the game for you this year? If I was forced to pick one game as the best - it would be a toss up between The Force Unleashed and Wasteland 3. How about you?