Wild West games blew up in the mid-2000s. Games like Read Dead Revolver and Call of Juarez really pushed the genre forward. Gun was a highly anticipated open-world game that was being watched by Grand Theft Auto fans. I remember reading about this game in magazines leading up to its release and being disappointed with how linear and simple it was. You play Colt White who is just living day-to-day life with his father, Ned White when he dies and you get sent on a mission to avenge him which leads to a road of greed and death. The story is really simple and short. It’s honestly very one-dimensional, but the voice acting is solid with major actors like Tom Skerret and Ron Perlman.
The majority of the game is made up of shooting. As the title implies, guns are the main focus of the game. You have an array of weapon types such as six-shooters, lever-action rifles, sniper rifles (bolt-action), melee, throwables, and bows. You slowly unlock these weapons as you play the story and you can also upgrade them at the shopkeep. You can acquire more gold by finding it out in the wild or completing side missions. Side missions are the second bulk of the game ranging from bounties, poker games, and overall just shooting up more bad guys. There’s no variation in mission type outside of the names. In the end, you’re killing someone or rescuing a horse.
Horseback riding is a major gameplay element here and it’s done surprisingly well for the time. They’re treated kind of like cars in GTA. They have health meters which are also tied to stamina. Overwork your horse and it will die. You can trample enemies with the horse which is great for clearing out large groups, and they are needed to travel between the two towns. This is one disappointment I have with the game. It’s surprisingly linear and the open-endedness is an illusion. This is just one large map full of brown dust, canyons, a couple of rivers, and a meadow. The game is very dull and void of any life, unlike GTA which feels vibrant and constantly moving. There’s just the wind and twanging background music playing. The towns maybe have three or four people walking around and there are no interiors to speak of. It’s a very empty world indeed.
I highly recommend just blowing through the story mode in the 4-5 hours it takes and forgoing most upgrades. Despite having this shop system they are pretty much pointless. Sure, it helps to have more damage or quicker reloads, but the quickdraw allows you to kind of cheat and constantly use it as long as you’re killing enemies to refill it. Empty the meter. Shoot about five enemies, and empty it again. I never really saw the need for most of the upgrades. This will alleviate the pain of completing these dull side missions.
The shooting in Gun is mostly stiff and awkward. It’s not amazing. There is a sticky auto-aim and you can aim down your sights with rifles, but the camera zooms too far in and you can’t follow anyone up close. Stealth is pretty much pointless outside of a single-story mission because enemies can somehow see and hear you a mile away. The explosives were surprisingly useless as well. Enemies can stand just in front or behind an explosion and they aren’t affected. This is really terrible. There are some missions that have you mounting a cannon and you have to hit everything dead on. There is no splash damage for explosions in this game. It makes no sense.
Overall, the game is very linear, ugly, and pretty repetitive. The side missions don’t add any variation, the upgrade system can be skipped entirely, and the open world is void of life. The only redeeming value of this game is the great voice acting, many cut-scenes, and short length. The story isn’t even anything noteworthy either and the same goes for the characters. With the short length, they have no time to expand or grow on us. We get no backstory. Just the here-and-now and that means nothing when characters die. I would only recommend this game if you’re itching for a Western game and need to go back in time, but this game really did not live up to the hype upon release.
Many people use video game reviews to determine how to spend their hard-earned dollars. While as an adult I don’t take this as seriously and I now make my own money I am more forgiving of games that aren’t perfect. As kids or teens, we have limited money and are usually picked through gaming magazines to determine if that one game was worth the money because we only got a few a year. For me, it was only during Christmas time that my parents bought games. I mostly rented mine throughout my childhood and teen years. Even for rentals, I was picky as I didn’t want to be stuck on my weekend with a dud of a game. Even a 7/10 or 3.5/5 would be considered a waste of time. This was the last generation in which AAA title after AAA title would be considered fantastic and with so many exclusives it was hard to keep up with. The HD era of gaming would see budgets balloon to insane heights and game releases slowed down as a result.
In my eyes, 7/10 or 3.5/5 games are mostly ignored. These aren’t always considered hidden gems either. Some are, but some are just considered forgettable. Not awful or good, but just passes under everyone’s radar. These aren’t the “so bad it’s good” type of games either. A few of these games have cult followings while a few I had only heard of while compiling this list and some I played myself growing up. I compiled this list from Metacritic with games between 74-70. I feel that’s the true blue 7 range. 79 and 78-rated games usually only have about 25% of the critics giving it a 7 to bring an otherwise 8 score down some. These games are at least rated by half the critics as 7/10. While I know a lot of people don’t listen to critics and some might feel this game should be rated higher or lower is subjective. Like it or not, critic reviews drive sales and it may be the reason why you might find a few games on this list you’ve never heard of, thought was talked about worse than you remember, or something along those lines
Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball – 2004
Paintball is an odd choice for a game, but it worked. It was a popular Xbox LIVE title that blended FPS gameplay with the fun of paintball. It was low budget but worked. The series would eventually die out in 2010 due to low sales.
The UFC series is incredibly popular. Maybe a B-tier sports title. It made its home on Xbox with stunning visuals, but people complained of the short length and lack of overall content.
Most Recent Entry: UFC 4 – 2020 (PS4, XONE)
Dai Senryaku VII: Modern Military Tactics – 2005
The Dai Senryaku is a hardcore Japanese tile-based strategy game and it was weird to see this series become an Xbox exclusive for a while. It was praised for its monumental amount of content, but this is a very niche crowd that’s mostly kept on PC. It was criticized for its ugly visuals and sound, however.
Most Recent Entry: Dai Senryaku Perfect 4.0 – 2018 (NS, PS4, PC)
Ultra Bust-A-Move– 2004
It seems every system had its own exclusive Bust-A-Move. The Xbox couldn’t even escape it. It’s the same game we’ve all played before. While slightly more colorful and childlike than other versions, it’s fun and you can play online.
Most Recent Entry: Bust-A-Move: Journey – 2017 (AND, iOS)
An interesting attempt at becoming the best racing sim on Xbox. It was liked for its great visuals and varied tracks but had very little content and no online mode.
Transworld Snowboarding – 2002
A one-and-done by Atari, Transworld was trying to grab at that Xtreme Sports cash and couldn’t catch on. SSX was the dominating snowboard title. While this one looked good it just couldn’t hang with the rest.
NFL Fever 2003 – 2002 NFL Fever 2004 – 2003
The third and final entry at a Madden killer, NFL Fever looked dated and on a budget. It was praised for gameplay that tried to be different, but many people couldn’t look past the dated looks.
Phantom Crash – 2002
This was a decent attempt at a mech game on Xbox before MechWarrior came out. It looked great but had a steep learning curve and was a bit on the dry side gameplay-wise. The sequel would later move to the PS2 and then end due to low sales.
Most Recent Entry: S.L.A.I.: Steel Lancer Arena International – 2005 (PS2)
Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball– 2003
This is a game that really needs no introduction. You ogle at Dead or Alive girls in bikinis playing mini-games. It was every teenage boy’s dream to get a hold of this game without their parents knowing. I wound up playing the sequel by renting it secretly from Gamefly as a teen. The series is fine. It spawned a couple of later sequels and remains mostly the same. Shallow gameplay and perving out.
Most Recent Entry: Dead or Alive: Xtreme – Venus Vacation – 2019 (PC)
Voodoo Vince – 2003
Microsoft was really pushing to get a mascot platformer on their system. While none of them were stellar Voodoo Vince was one of the most original. It was angst and mature enough to reel in the adults and teens while providing fun challenges. It had a wonky camera and some weird elements that turned people off. It got a remaster in 2017.
Most Recent Entry: Voodoo Vince Remastered – 2017 (PC, XONE)
Gunvalkyrie – 2002
This was one of Sega’s contracted games with Microsoft. It was a shooter similar to Panzer Dragoon, but involved puzzles. It looked good and felt unique, but there was something off and janky about the whole ordeal.
NBA Inside Drive 2003 – 2002 NBA Inside Drive 2004 – 2003
Microsoft really wanted to have exclusive sports franchises on their systems but they all felt the second rate. While NBA Inside Drive wasn’t awful it didn’t evolve as fast as the competition. It looked great, but everything else was falling behind. The series didn’t last any longer and was canceled.
Sega GT Online – 2004
A mostly online-only update to the Sega GT series. This $20 entry was great for newcomers, but previous players could import their save. It was too little for the final game in the series but was decent arcade fun.
The House of the Dead III – 2002
This was another contracted game from Sega. One of their promised 12 games. The improved graphics were awesome, and it was classic House of the Dead gameplay, but felt dated and was really short.
Most Recent Entry: The House of the Dead: Remake – 2022 (NS, PC, PS4, XONE, XSX)
Dungeons & Dragons Heroes – 2003
Heroes was well-liked for its fun co-op gameplay, but wasn’t fun solo and wasn’t very deep. The series struggled during this time on consoles and various reboots were hit or miss.
Most Recent Entry: Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance – 2021 (PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XONE)
Hunter the Reckoning: Redeemer – 2003
Being the final game in the series and exclusive to Xbox, Redeemer was a slick-looking hack-and-slash but had a terrible camera and an unpleasantly boring story. I remember playing the demo of Wayward on my PS2 over and over again and never got a chance to play this one.
ToeJam & Earl III: Mission to Earth – 2002
Another Sega exclusive on the system, this brought the beloved Sega Genesis/Mega Drive series back in 3D! It felt a bit wonky with some control issues, repetitive gameplay, and overall weirdness that either sat well with you or didn’t.
Most Recent Entry: ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove! – 2019 (PS4, MAC, NS, PC, XONE)
Breakdown – 2004
This is one of the first Xbox games I ever played. It’s a weirdly ambitious title with a lot of realistic gameplay elements thrown inside of a poorly balanced and frustrating mess. The unique elements and interesting story are worth it if you can stomach the problems.
Raze’s Hell – 2005
An attempt at a cutsey yet mature game full of great visuals and humor, but it doesn’t excel a lot in the gameplay department. It’s a unique game and has that “Xbox needs to have ‘X’ type of game” feeling that the system had in its hayday.
Blood Wake – 2001
A weird vehicle combat game with no online play. It doesn’t exceed anywhere, and looks too realistic to be memorable. It looked great, but that was mostly it.
Blinx: The Time Sweeper – 2002
Microsoft’s Ratchet & Clank. This was supposed to be the platformer with ‘tude, but didn’t sell very well. It came off at too kid-friendly and the adult manly console. It also didn’t help that the game was very dated and became a linear collect-a-thon. The sequel would radically change the series, but still wasn’t enough. It wouldn’t see the light of day after this.
Most Recent Entry: Blinx 2: Masters of Time & Space – 2004 (Xbox)
Quantum Redshift – 2002
This was Microsoft’s answer to Wipeout or F-Zero. It looked amazing, but fell short in gameplay. It’s fun, and not broken at all, but it doesn’t stand out from the other games. There’s no soul here.
Xyanide – 2006
This was a late entry shmup offering. The cheap price point was appealing and it looked great, but was hard as nails and very short. A lone sequel would appear on PS2 and PSP the following year, and surprisingly absent from the Xbox.
Most Recent Entry: Xyanide: Resurrection – 2007 (PS2, PSP, PC)
Steel Battalion: Line of Contact – 2004
The infamous Steel Batallion controller is a serious collectible. This game brought the series online and was best played there. It’s very niche and didn’t sell well. The series would be rebooted for Kinect and become a collosal disaster.
Most Recent Entry: Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor – 2012 (X360)
Fuzion Frenzy – 2001
A party game for a launch title is a bit risky but makes sense. Many people visit during console launches and this is a great game to play with everyone. It’s a cult classic and has been added as backwards compatible on every Xbox system. While shallow and lacking in content it’s a must play with real people.
America’s Army: Rise of a Soldier – 2005
The popular yet niche series officially endorsed by the U.S. of A and Uncle Sam. This realistic shooter wasn’t your yearly Call of Duty. It was slow paced and tactical and while dry and dull at times it made you think.
The original release of Doom 3 was a huge deal. It was a technical marvel with fantastic new lighting effects and textures that could fill the latest GPU and all of your RAM. It split fans due to the slower pace and focus on jump scares (that honestly don’t really work these days anymore) and a bigger focus on the story (if you can call it that). The game retains the same dark visuals and monsters from before, but being the first game in full 3D it had a lot of problems.
The first thing you will notice is that this release has no visual upgrades outside of some texture filtering and anti-aliasing and slightly better lighting. The textures still look muddy and the models are still low-poly. With this being the third official release of this game I’m surprised more work hasn’t been done to it. You play as a marine who is stationed on Mars when things suddenly go wrong. The first couple of levels is probably the best since they slowly introduce the gameplay to you and have better-designed levels. Zombies emerge from the dark, and your flashlight is a lifeline. It does have a short battery but recharges within seconds.
The main issue with Doom 3 is its much slower pace in every part of the game. The movement is slow (you have adrenaline that’s used for limited sprinting which is annoying), and the weapons reload slowly (why is there reloading anyway?). Not to mention the weapons just plain suck. The pistol is useless outside of the first couple of levels. I never touched it after this. The machine gun is useless in later levels, and everything else just feels slow. Enemies feel slow as well. The environments are also cramped with too many enemies spawning at once and I constantly backed into walls and got stuck in corners trying to get away. Very rarely does the game ever feel like a classic Doom game with more open areas.
The level design is also terrible. The game is way too long as it is and it’s just boring hallways after hallway finding PDA access cards, running back and forth activating switches, and trying to open doors. nearly eight grueling hours of this. It felt like a chore after the first two. Eventually, you do get to Hell, but it’s such a short level with a boss fight at the end, but it still suffered from cramped areas and nothing new except a couple of enemies that finally show up such as the Hell Knight and Arch-Vile which are some of the toughest enemies in the game. I mostly stuck to the strategy of using guns that shot the fastest such as the Cell machine gun being the most powerful with the chaingun being second. I used the shotgun through most of the mid-section of the game until I got the cell rifle.
There are a few boss fights in the game that all play out the same, and in the end, the entire game is just one long boring chore. It’s fun at first, but if you are a veteran of classic Doom games then most of you may just shut this off early. This is my third play-through of this game and it’s less enjoyable each time. I originally played this on Xbox, and then PC, and then dabbled in it a bit on Xbox 360 and never finished it. Now I completed it on Switch.
Speaking of the Switch the game plays fine, but there is some slow down in the larger areas and it doesn’t always stay at 60FPS. In handheld mode, the game runs fine as well, and you have the option to turn off flashlight shadows to help, but overall it’s great to just have another FPS on the Switch. These don’t come around often. Included is the Resurrection of Evil expansion which I already finished once on Xbox and a new Lost Mission short campaign which I will get around to eventually. It’s nice that there’s some new content. Overall, this could have easily been a remake from the ground up or a mode that made it feel faster-paced like the classic games. If you are itching for a mid-2000s FPS game then go ahead. Don’t come into this thinking it’s like the newer Doom reboots. This game was a specific era of id Software at its lowest point (Quake 4, Rage)
For starters, I’m no Buffy buff. I never watched the show growing up, nor did I as an adult. That’s okay though, as there are many great video games based on movies and TV shows that are fun without needing to watch the material it is based on. Buffy seems like this kind of game at first. While it’s clearly geared toward fans of the show, I have no idea what’s going on in the story. You are basically trying to stop some evil vampire spirit from ending the world. That’s literally it. You chase him around as he possesses various characters from the show. It’s dull and rather uninteresting and the game is also poorly written. Buffy’s one-liners get old as all five of them repeat constantly throughout the game and so do the one-liners from the enemies.
That’s just the beginning. Buffy has an array of acrobatic moves and they are actually quite good for such an early 64-bit era game. The animations are well done and the combat, when it does work, is pretty awesome. Buffy can punch and kick and execute enemies with a wooden stake. She also has Slayer Power which allows her to add on some powerful moves at the end of combo chains. This, again, seems great on paper, but it’s poorly executed. While the animations are nice there’s constant knockback and you can’t interrupt the enemies’ attacks. This is the key flaw in the entire combat system. There’s no dodge button, no parry, and no way to counter attacks at all. You just have to take it and fall down and get back up, but some enemies will stomp you, and then multiple enemies join in and you end up dying and losing health over cheap gameplay mechanics. The game is just very cheap all around.
Another issue revolved around this is the terrible jumping and extreme distance you get knocked back at. This leads to cheap deaths off cliffs as some of the fighting areas are tiny and are not designed around how far Buffy can be thrown. I would make it to the end of a level and die just because I got picked up and thrown off of a cliff due to the poor level design. It’s everywhere in this game including platforming segments that shouldn’t exist here. I never finished the game due to the second to last level having so many cliffs of death, tiny arenas, and platforming woes that after the 7th time dying from a cheap death I put the disc back in the box and shelved it. I’m not missing out on much anyway.
If that isn’t painful enough the level design is boring and trite. You walk down boring brown or gray hallways, fight a few enemies, flip a switch, and move on. The level design is just bad and every location is so uninteresting. A foundry, a high school, a sunken church, all just blandly designed. At least the character models look decent and the voice acting is all right. This also leads to healing and other items which leads to the biggest flaw this entire game has, and what I think, completely breaks it. All these other things would be done if you didn’t have to execute every enemy with a stake. You can knock them down to no health and they won’t die until you execute them. This leads to more cheap deaths as instead of them dying when their health is down you then have to break through their constant blocking, get knocked around more, and lose more health, just to get in an execution. They will not die unless you have a stake or the glaive. Enemies block every single move you do, making combat take way longer than necessary, and they also shouldn’t take so long to die. For a beat ’em up enemies should have more balanced health bars.
There are also items like holy water, hellfire, and a super soaker that contains both. This is a completely useless tool as it depletes within seconds and requires fonts to replenish and only a few levels have them. It’s mostly used just to take down certain force fields. Seriously, what a waste of time and effort. And that’s pretty much all Buffy has to offer. Some decent combat and animations are all the game has to go for it but is horrendously broken with terrible gameplay mechanics throughout the entire game.
I honestly can’t recommend this to anyone unless you are a Buffy fan, and even then you aren’t missing out on much at all. The story is boring, the level design is uninspired and bland, and the game is nearly broken thanks to poor design decisions.
Max Payne 2 was released a little over a year from the original and a surprising amount of fat was cut from the original. It’s the same game, but more refined and updated and feels more tightly woven than its predecessor. A lot of problems were fixed, but new ones arose as well. The narrative continues right after the first game with Max still trying to avenge the death of his wife and child, still trying to get to the bottom of The Inner Circle, and a new love blooms: Mona Sax.
The game starts off similarly to the first game, we get some weird trippy dream sequences, but they aren’t nearly as awful with zero platforming this time. Once you are in control of Max you can instantly feel the difference. He has more weight, his animations are smoother, and gunplay overall just feels punchier and sharper. More weapons were introduced with many old ones coming back. The new M4 and Kolishnokov weapons are a great addition, but unnecessary. One assault rifle is good enough as well as the addition of the HP5, but the Ingrams do just fine for a sub-machine gun. While the older weapons pack more of a punch the new weapons just feel like they were added just to add to the weapon count, less would have been fine. A new dedicated projectile button has been added so you can throw grenades and molotovs without equipping them.
Bullet Time has been refined and fixed as well. Max can now spin around in a 360-degree motion while dodging and the bullets impact harder and there’s less of a delay when you shoot. There is also better feedback on enemies when hit as they stumble more and drop their weapons so you know they’re dead in bullet time. Max can also stay lying down while continuing to empty a clip so the delay in getting up doesn’t make you completely vulnerable as the first game did. The difficulty has been dialed way back and I died a lot less than in the first game. All these great fixes and additions make Max Payne 2 the better of the two games already.
When it comes to level design, Max Payne 2 has more interesting levels like a creepy funhouse, a sprawling mansion, a construction site, and some apartment slums, but there’s a lot of backtracking and I feel the overall scope of the game feels claustrophobic. The variety is better, but you explore those few areas longer and I just feel I wanted to see more of New York inside this noire world Max lives in. Also, gone are the boss fights so the game feels better paced and I felt a tempo of gameplay going that the first didn’t have. However, the game is much shorter clocking in at 4-5 hours. There aren’t any collectibles or anything like that so once you fly through the game it’s over and there’s no reason to ever go back honestly.
Max Payne 2 is a memorable ride. The story is still told in those awesome comic strips, and I feel at the end of the game we get to know Max and Mona well enough to understand their characters and want them on screen more. Their love story is a great centerpiece for this Mafia revenge tale and it makes Max and Mona feel more human. There’s still a cliffhanger at the end of the story, and a third Max Payne game didn’t come until a decade later, but what we get is one of the best single-player shooters of the PS2/Xbox era. It’s tightly compacted and solid and while it’s short, sometimes that means quality and that is rare even to this day.
Bullet time. While The Matrix made it popular amid pop culture, Max Payne started it all in the video game realm. You play as a cop, Max Payne, who is framed for the murder of another NYPD cop. Your wife and newborn child are also murdered and you are trying to get revenge on the people who did it. The story isn’t anything amazing, but Max Payne’s voice actor, and the well-done writing, keep you hooked long enough to find out what happened behind the scenes. The game is told in a comic noir graphic-novel style and it suits the game well. The cut scenes are imaginative and different and don’t look cheap or like the developers were trying to take shortcuts.
Outside of the story, the gameplay is all about shooting because that’s literally it. Max runs around with various weapons such as Barrettas, Ingrams, shotguns, grenade launchers, Molotov cocktails, grenades, and assault rifles to mow down the Mafia and corrupt cops. Bullet time is the main gameplay element here and when activated Max does a jump dodge in the direction you move and you can see him dodging bullets in real-time. This is actually a mechanic you must master as most situations require you to use it to stay alive. You can’t stand in one spot or you will be dead in a few hits and there’s no cover system. I had to quicksave every 2-3 minutes as well because the game is so difficult. It’s cool to jump dodge around a corner, but once Max lands there’s a delay in him getting up and you are completely vulnerable to gunfire. I had to make sure I jump dodged behind cover or across a hallway so I wouldn’t die the second the bullet time finished. You can also activate bullet time and just run your meter down so you can run and gun with it too.
There are very few scenarios in which you do more than press buttons. One scene has Max driving a crate crane around an area, but it’s nothing special, and there are some interactive objects that trigger comic cut scenes, but 95% of the game is just shooting. The weapons themselves feel good and I felt I had to switch up weapons depending on the situation to make my life easier. The locales are varied, but they are a bit too stale and boring for my taste. They don’t quite capture the noir feeling of the comic cut scenes, but there is one level early on called Ragna Rock which was a gothic cult house that reminded me a lot of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, so that’s a good thing. The game really does feel like a first-generation PS2/Xbox game, but it’s very polished. The game flows nicely, but the difficulty is all over the place, you will die dozens and dozens of times in this game.
The visuals are clean and look nice even 20 years later. I installed a texture upgrade patch and some other things to make the game upscale to 4K nicely and play on modern hardware, and it looks pretty good. Even in the original, the facial textures are nice and very realistic, and the aesthetic of the game stands out over most shooters of its time. The voice acting is great, and I finished the game in about 7 hours. After you finish it there’s literally nothing else to do as the multiplayer mode was scrapped. It’s a fantastic single-player game that holds up well even today despite its insane difficulty and unbalanced gameplay. The story isn’t anything special, but Max is a great character to dive into and it makes for a fun evening.
Ghost Recon has always been a part of my childhood as it was one of my dad’s favorite games. While we only had the inferior PS2 versions, they were kind of fun to play and really challenging. The slow pace of crawling through enemy territory and deciding the best way to take them all out without dying after 3 shots could sometimes be quite rewarding especially since this is what the series was popular for. GRAW carries this over on the PC version specifically while the Xbox 360 version is faster-paced. I personally think this is a much inferior version and the slower pace feels dated and boring.
After so many Ghost Recon games, it was exciting to get a new game in the series on the brink of brand new technology. While the PC version sure looks great, it uses a slightly different engine and is in a first-person perspective rather than a third like the Xbox 360 version. Everything just feels completely different such as enemies not staying tagged with the orange diamonds and this became a real big problem. You get a drone in this game but it’s tied to a tactical map rather than viewing it in real-time overhead. You can use basic commands to send squad members to an area and take out enemies, but you’re so blind and the angle of the camera for the map is really strange and distorts your perspective. Many times my men died because I didn’t know what was ahead and unless you play at a snail’s pace you’re going to die a lot.
That also goes for your character. Two or three shots and you die and the checkpoints are so infrequent and spread apart that it leads to many frustrations. The PC version should have a manul quick save feature and it doesn’t. The character walks like a geriatric on a crutch or sprints as fast as a turtle. The maps are bland and void of any type of action or ambiance. Just plain walls, silos, warehouses, and blown-up cars. Once I did get a few bad guys tagged I would send my guys out, but stray too far and the tags disappear which is really pointless. Just on the training map alone, I died maybe 6 or 7 times because it’s just so hard to see what’s coming up in a large open map. I need something like, I don’t know, my drone’s tags to stay up and I see where every bad guy is and either skip some or avoid certain areas.
At least giving commands is rather simple as using the mouse wheel or number row tells your guys to stop, follow, attack, or carry out commands set on the map. However, the AI is weird as sometimes my guys would pop people I never even saw and then not engage on tagged targets I told them to attack. They would just stand there and stare and sometimes get shot up and tell me that the target isn’t reachable. With all of this combined, this makes for a buggy and frustrating mess of a game that doesn’t exist on the Xbox 360 version. The snail’s pace alone isn’t fun and is boring and bland and takes away all the character and amazing pace of the console version. Why Ubisoft tried to make the PC slower is beyond me as I wanted the 360 version just with better visuals maybe? Even the art style is completely different despite most of the maps and missions being the same.
Overall, GRAW on PC is a huge letdown as Ubisoft thinks we want a slower more boring game? It feels more like Rainbow Six than Ghost Recon and carries with it too many of the issues from past Ghost Recon games. Get rid of the slow pace and animations, make the AI better, and stop making up crawl around a massive map trying to pick off targets. It’s just not fun at all. Some people may love this, such as those who actually like boring tactical shooters that play at a crawl, but GRAW on PC just doesn’t cut it and shouldn’t exist when a superior version exists on Xbox 360.
The very first game I ever pre-ordered. I have never been more excited about a game in my life. Watching gameplay trailers on a PC from 1997 on a 19″ CRT monitor while I stash away allowance bit by bit to get the Premium Pack for PS2. 2004 was an exciting year for gaming and for Mortal Kombat. With Deadly Alliance receiving mostly positive reviews, but a lot of criticism from reviewers, Deception turned everything to 11 and added interactive arenas, more game modes, and online fighting. Yes, the online part was the biggest selling point of Deception.
This is the direct sequel to Deadly Alliance. Quan Chi and Shang Tsung have failed to take over and Onaga The Dragon King has decided to rise from Outworld and claim everything as his. A man named Shujinko is now the game’s lead (the first of many to come in later games) who must stop the Dragon King and reverse the actions he made during the Konquest mode that helped give Onaga his power.
Let’s talk about Konquest mode first as most people will dive into it right away. It’s awful and should never have existed. It’s an expansion on Konquest from Deadly Alliance in which Raiden just walks along a path and each “level” is a training tutorial for all the characters. This is an adventure mode where you get quests, find the treasure for the Krypt, hidden secrets, and find out the back story to Deception, as well as meet many MK fighters and surprises. Sounds great on paper right? Well, it’s horribly executed as one of the worst attempts at a free-roaming RPG/adventure hybrid I’ve ever seen. Shujinko runs around in supersonic fast forward motion, the realms are void of any life, they are terribly laid out, and the worlds rely on a grid system to figure out where every secret and item is. The problem is that the map is useless with no actual grid on the map so you run around for 10 minutes trying to find D2 or H8 only to realize it’s locked away and you can’t go there until you complete the Konquest.
That’s the main downfall of Konquest. Quests aren’t logged and the entire game has to be played with a guide. It would take dozens and dozens of hours to figure everything out yourself as locations to solve quests and even chests are incredibly cryptic or specific. Some chests with Krypt keys only appear on certain days of the month and times and you would never know without a guide. You can meditate to make time move by faster, but this whole entire game mode is just frustrating, messy, and irritating. Doing the actual main quests is fine as there’s always a large green pillar of light pointing where to go, but talking to a random character and getting a one-sentence quest saying to find a gem is not how quests should be done.
On top of all this, the world is terribly laid out. They try to force a look onto each realm such as Chaosrealm having magic portals that project to you various little floating islands that are “chaotically” made up and don’t make sense. Orderrealm is just a giant circle floating in the sky with “order” to the layout and it looks nice and dystopian. It’s a little corny with the way the worlds are represented, but it’s kind of cool to finally explore these areas despite there being nothing to do in them. The visuals are also abysmal as this looks like an early PS2 game that launched, even a little worse than that. Horrendous textures and models, awful voice acting, and laughable animations. It looks like an amateur game developer made this in a weekend.
Outside of Konquest is when things are much better when you actually get to fighting. If any game were to use realistic martial arts it’s Mortal Kombat. This fighting system and this era of games aren’t most peoples’ favorite. The realism is nice with some good animations and each character having two martial arts and a weapon style. You can branch into these styles with long combo strings, but that’s where the issue lies. This realistic slower fighting style is in contrast to the fast-paced action of the 2D games. The characters look like stiff plastic dolls and the combat is all about memorized combos. It’s fun, and it works with Mortal Kombat, but it’s also not the best way to play these games. The slower fighting pace means more strategy is involved and a new Breaker system has been added to quickly get out of combos.
The interactive environments are some of the coolest features of Deception as they are basically fatalities within a stage. There are yellow lines that indicate when a player can get knocked out and take damage to a new tier and red lines that will kill the player. The arenas are large enough to where a game of tug-of-war always ensues and it makes playing tenser, especially online. Do you just knock them into the trap or play with them so you can do a fatality? Speaking of fatalities, each character has two unique ones some are great and some are lame. Li Mei, for example, has two fatalities that are just boring. Super punches to the chest and you explode? Yawn. Kick your head off? Seen it before. Some others are rather runny and unique, but there are also Hara Kiris that allow the loser to do a fatality on themselves taking the glory away from the opponent. Whoever inputs their code first gets to take the fun.
Outside of combat, you can play Puzzle Kombat which is just Street Fighter Puzzle with MK characters. At the end of each round there is a fatality unique to the player, but getting your power level up means you can perform a special move that each character has. It can be played online as well and is super addicting and can be a game on its own. The last mode is Chess Kombat which is one of the most unique modes to ever grace a fighting game. Just like a game of chess, you can pick which character is what piece and you play chess, but instead of just knocking a piece over you fight it out MK style. Each piece gets a certain amount of health so pawns of the least amount of health. It’s a great twist that adds more skill to the game and can also be played online. It’s a ton of fun and I hope this mode returns to future games.
Besides the Krypt where you can unlock various stuff for fans like promo videos, behind-the-scenes art, and various goodies, there’s not much else. Online play is incredibly smooth with a full lobby where you can talk to other players in, challenge players, and you have a win/loss ratio next to your name. I never had any connection drops and playing online extends the longevity of the game tenfold.
I also want to talk about the new characters. Since MK4, Midway has had trouble adding interesting new characters and that trend continues for the third time. Dairou and Havik are just boring awful characters that don’t have any personality or soul. They feel forced and I’d rather have a classic character put in than these two.
Overall, MK: Deception is a fantastic fighting game that is only hampered by slower combat, and a horrible Konquest mode that must be played to unlock half the game’s roster and extra costumes. Puzzle and Chess Kombat are excellent modes that add dozens of hours of fun, and online play is always welcome.
Note: As of May 31, 2014, you can no longer play Deception online due to GameSpy servers being shut down. Even then, not a single person played this online past 2006-2007. As Armageddon and other fighters came out Deception’s user base quickly fell after the first 18 months and never went back up. Get a buddy to play next to you instead.
Vengeance was a weird experiment for the series and was exclusive to the Wii. The game engine was downgraded and crammed into a weak console and just didn’t work. The controls were awful, and the game just felt like a PS2 game, to be honest. It was ugly, clunky, glitchy, and was just not fun to play. I can only recommend this game for people only curious and want to have something to laugh at.
8. Far Cry 2 – 2008
Far Cry 2 had some big shoes to fill, especially after 4 years since the first game was released. What we got was a generic game filled with not much to do and a boring world to play in. The shooting was good and there were some fun moments, but overall the game was so boring to me and didn’t quite change enough to make this game feel like an amazing sequel.
Best Version: PC
7. Far Cry – 2004
The first game isn’t the best in the series, but it was mainly remembered as a technical marvel back in 2004 and crippled PCs like no other game before it. The insane draw distances, textures, and lighting effects were stunning for their time and the massive multiplayer maps were revolutionary. The game wasn’t remembered for its story or characters and was also bashed for its terrible stealth gameplay, but this is a fun game to go back to.
Best Version: PC
6. Far Cry: Instincts – 2005
Instincts were the first console outing for the series and it was well praised as both a technical achievement and well-rounded stealth gameplay and intuitive controls. Originally released for the Xbox and later upgrade to the Xbox 360, Instincts is just a solid game all around. While it still didn’t tread the story and characters path like later games did, the core gameplay is solid and is still one of the best shooters on Xbox.
Far Cry 4 was too little too late for the series and tried to be too much like Far Cry 3. The game looked fantastic on its updated engine for next-generation consoles, but it was mostly boring and had awful characters. The “Ubisofty” gameplay was ever prevalent here and held the game back with formulaic item hunting and boring fetch quests. Honestly, this game is probably my least favorite in the whole series and is incredibly forgettable.
4. Far Cry: Primal – 2016
Primal actually tried the change the entire game for the first time by going back to prehistoric times. It seems drastic and over-exaggerated, but it helped the series break free of the typical formulaic “Ubisofty” gameplay and tone down the bullet heavy gameplay with spears and ancient weapons of the past. It is incredibly fun and different from the other games despite still not treading too much new territory.
This is by far the best game in terms of story and characters. The main villain is memorable and vicious and the overall premise of the game just keeps you hooked. This was the first time Ubisoft changed up their game engine and started using next-generation effects and expanded the gameplay to what we see in Far Cry today. It was a well-rounded game with good stealth implementation and tons of action and things to do.
Far Cry 5 is the culmination of the entire franchise and perfects it and pushes it towards a new medium and that’s an FPS RPG. The missions are more organic and pop up as you explore rather than a map marker hunter type of experience. The story and characters are further advanced and this is the most story-rich game since Far Cry 3. The game looks beautiful, plays well, has so much to do, and is just a great shooter.
Blood Dragon is an interesting game as it was a side project and was made on a low budget. Using actors from the ’80s to voice the characters and having an 80’s action movie vibe the animations to the guns themselves just ooze personality, and I honestly wish we’d get a sequel. I never had so much fun in the series as I did with Blood Dragon and it shows that drastic experimentation can work in the series and in games in general. This remains most fans’ favorite in the series.
Reboots are usually good for a game franchise as it allows new ideas and advance the series to new heights, but sometimes it’s not successful. Medal of Honor was a hyped-up generic military shooter where you play as Tier 1 specialists in the Afghani war, and it was a bug-ridden mess. The game was also ugly, stale, and just felt like a total Call of Duty rip-off. This was easily the worst game in the entire series.
Rising Sun was riding on the success of Frontline and its newfound glory with console gamers, but what we got was an ugly rushed mess of a game. Rising Sun tried to show us the frontline in Japan, but what we had was just some dated gameplay and some of the worst level design the series has ever seen. I don’t know what happened within a year, but the development rush is obvious here.
The first game in the series to try and reboot it with little success. Using next-generation hardware, the game looked impressive but used a weird multiplayer map style layout and open-ended objectives that just led to the generic level design and frustrating gameplay. The guns were highly inaccurate, and it was ridiculously difficult and plain boring. It’s clear that this series just can’t hit the reboot stride correctly.
Warfighter was a slightly more successful game with the new modern warfare formula with a much more entertaining campaign and better visuals, but overall it still felt generic and pointless in a bloated military shooter scene.
Best Version: PC
9. Medal of Honor: Vanguard – 2007
Vanguard is a much-forgotten game in the series as by the time this came around Modern Warfare was already out and the next generation of consoles was in full swing and no one cared. Using an old engine and gameplay, Vanguard was the last in the series to use the typical Medal of Honor WWII formula. The game wasn’t awful just super generic, boring, and just standard affair that we have seen before.
Frontline was the first game in the series on consoles, and this game is one I have fond memories of. I remember the opening scene just blew my mind and was incredibly cinematic for the time. Sadly, there was no multiplayer, but at the time I didn’t care. It still wasn’t the best game in the series, and it was clear the less powerful consoles held the series back some, but it was a good start.
Best Version: Xbox
7. Medal of Honor: Heroes – 2006
A strange game stuck in a weird time. The next-generation consoles were already here and Heroes stuck to a gameplay style designed for handhelds and the Wii. It was a decent game and felt good on each console it was on, but this was as generic as WWII shooters come. Even the production values were lacking on a dated engine and gameplay.
Best Version: Wii
6. Medal of Honor: European Assault – 2005
European Assault was not so much overlooked but overstepped. Everyone was starting to wane with the WWII shooters and European Assault was a mildly generic form of the genre that played well but didn’t add anything terribly new to wow anyone.
Heroes 2 was a rushed sequel, but somehow improved upon the first game and continued to use the dated engine and gameplay style of its predecessor. This and Vanguard were the last of their kind and were washed away with the new generation of consoles and graphics that just made everyone forget about these games.
Best Version: Wii
4. Medal of Honor – 1999
The original isn’t always the best, but it was really impressive on the PS1 back in the day and helped pave the way for modern FPS games to this day. It was a little clunky and basic, but did its job well and is still fun to play to this day.
3. Medal of Honor: Underground – 2000
It was a much-improved game over the first one, but was released right when the next generation of consoles was out and was kind of overlooked by the PS2, Dreamcast, and GameCube. It looked amazing on the PS1 and added a totally new campaign, but everyone was mostly over this generation of consoles by now.
Best Version: PS1
2. Medal of Honor: Allied Assault – 2002
The game that made Medal of Honor was it was released just before its console debut. It looked fantastic on the PC and was followed by two expansion packs. AA remains many players’ favorite game in the series for its PC-specific greatness such as solid controls, visuals, and scope.
My personal favorite game in the series due to the sheer cinematic quality and visual flair of the game. It was the last PC exclusive game in the series but felt and played amazingly well with a fantastic campaign and fun multiplayer. Medal of Honor, sadly, reached its peak early on, but it did it well and with a bang.