This was a decent year for the PS4. With many older exclusive franchises being remastered for the system, plus some great new exclusives, the PS4 stood out from the rest. I would feel comfortable saying this is by far the best year for the system.
Sony ruled this generation, once again, due to the fact that they still know what gamers want and that’s beautiful well-told single-player games. God of War isn’t just the best game of the year on PS4, but the best game that’s come out this entire generation cycle. The acting, visuals, art style, combat, and characters are phenomenal and the bar has been reset for what video games should be.
When you think PlayStation you usually think God of War or Kratos. God of War was a game-changer back in 2005 with cinematic fluid combat, memorable characters, and intricate level design, as well as the birth of quick-time events. 13 years later the entire game is reinvented not just to change the way we play as Kratos, but to reinvent the action-adventure genre itself.
I really want to go into detail about the story, but it would contain so many spoilers I have to refrain. For starters, you do play as Kratos but as an aged man, a father, now living in an entirely new world set in Norse mythology. Yes, the Greek mythos of God of War is now done and we get a whole new set of Gods and enemies and a beautiful new world. Kratos is living humbly as a woodsman with his family until his wife dies and he and his son, Atreus, must venture to the highest mountain of Midgard to spread her ashes. It feels like the most humble story and a stark contrast from past games with Kratos’ rage and anger tearing down Gods and endless Olympians.
I can’t stress enough just how well evolved his character and personality are. Being revoiced by Christopher Judge who is best known as Teal’c (Tee-ULK) from Stargate SG-1 TV series, he has a more calming, aged, and tired look to him. He is extremely wise, quiet, reserved, and has learned all these years to control himself, however, he still struggles. Santa Monica Studios did an astounding job of developing his character and Atreus’. I was fully immersed throughout the entire game and loved hearing Judge’s voice on screen and soaked in every cutscene and spoken line of dialog. It’s one of the most well-written characters and scripts in gaming history and goes from a simple story to blowing up into the expected epic mess that Kratos usually gets in. The story does end on a cliffhanger and there are a lot of unanswered questions but fans will know that means more is coming, and more is better.
The next thing you think of when you hear God of War is the amazing and well-made combat. It is one of the top five best action-adventure combat systems ever created and just improved over time. Santa Monica Studio not only reinvented God of War’s combat but action-adventure combat itself. Instead of using a cut camera like in previous games, we are now behind Kratos in an over-the-shoulder perspective with similar combat mechanics to past games. Some would say this seems impossible, but they pulled it off. Light and heavy attacks are now mapped to the R1 and R2 buttons with your Leviathan Axe being used to solve puzzles as well. This is another amazing twist to the weapons in God of War, they aren’t just for chopping off heads. The Leviathan Axe is an amazing tool that is powerful, used as a ranged weapon, and for various other reasons. The main attraction of the axe is that it can be thrown and returned to the player anywhere in the world. The Triangle button is permanently mapped to just returning the axe which is an interesting game mechanic never seen before.
I can’t go into further detail about weapons as it’s actually a huge story spoiler, but the combat feels very familiar to past games while also feeling fresh and new. I can’t think of the combat being done any other way. On top of chopping off heads, the magic system was reinvented with new enchantments and rune stones that you can collect in the world. These can be socketed to armor and weapons and add various moves to certain button combinations for each weapon. These are key to surviving in battle and without them, you just plain wouldn’t be able to finish the game. I always changed them up and upgraded them as there’s a huge variety of magic moves in this game.
Epic cinematic kills are also back, but less quick-time event heavy. While I did miss them I understand why they were excluded. It does get repetitive and you constantly relied on seeing that circle button pop up to gain health, magic, or experience orbs, but the animations went from awe-inspiring to shrug-inducing very quickly. The game does harken back to the first God of War in the sense that the game isn’t heavy on epic giant bosses. There are a few, and they are scripted and beautifully animated, and jaw-droppingly epic to see. You still feel like you are taking down these giant creatures but in a different way. There are larger smaller enemies like trolls and elemental golems that can be defeated similarly to past games but it’s changed just enough to feel new and different. The combat is still cinematic, epic, and enjoyable with awesome slow-down and gore everywhere.
Atreus himself is also a great combat tool as he’s a companion that actually works and never gets in the way. He’s mapped to the square button and you can use him no matter what Kratos is doing and that includes death kills, being knocked down, etc. He shoots various types of arrows that can stun enemies and bring their stun meter up. Unlike past games, you can’t just deal so much damage and then the kill button appears exactly the same for every enemy. You need to use various attacks to bring that meter up and it’s difficult on tougher bosses. It keeps you from relying on quick-time events like in past games. The well-invented and amazing enemies also help as each one stands out and is unique and you will learn what moves work with what enemy.
If the combat wasn’t enough to hook you then the world will. The third major part of God of War is exploration and puzzle-solving which makes up over half of the gameplay. They took the secret chests of past games and blew them up tenfold with various types of chests from simple small treasure chests full of Hacksilver (currency) to actual puzzle boxes where you have to hit various bells with runes to match the box. These can get tricky and require using all of your skills to solve. God of War is also an open world, yes, open world. Midgard contains several realms you can explore, two of which are only for trials and challenges, but Midgard itself is a giant lake with various islands full of puzzle goodness and amazing challenges that will keep you hooked for dozens of hours. There are so many tasks in God of War that it really feels like an awesome open-world RPG thanks to a leveling system and a brand new upgrade and crafting system.
The last part of God of War is going from using red orbs to upgrade things to finding various items in the game like any RPG and using it to craft and upgrade armor, weapons, enchantments, and even Atreus bow and his armor. There are certain armor sets that require various items from certain realms and this can be a challenge, but it’s possible I actually finished the story before reaching the max level and acquiring the best armor. That’s all reserved for bigger challenges seen elsewhere in Midgard.
Overall, God of War is the single best game to be released this entire console generation cycle. This is what we needed more of from every console maker. It took Sony too long as it was, but here we have it. The game is literally perfect and I can’t think of any flaws in God of War that is detrimental to the overall game. I could say the game is too hard in spots, but that’s because I ventured too far too early and needed to come back later. I could say there are a lot of hidden items and they are hard to find, but I need to explore more and look more carefully. I could say that the story is too short and the lower amount of epic bosses is what made God of War and hurts the game, but it just doesn’t. God of War is the best game I have played in the past 10 years and many other developers need to take note.
Note: The game plays best on the PS4 Pro. It looks really awful on the standard PS4, but the Pro is running in 4K checkerboard and the textures and added effects are well worth a purchase just for this game.
God of War was once Sony’s unstoppable powerhouse that helped sell consoles and push them to their limits. While God of War was revolutionary at the time it is starting to show its teeth, and it’s never more apparent than in Ascension. While the game shines in production values the quality and content are seriously lacking compared to past games, even the smaller PSP ones.
You play as the angry Spartan demi-god, Kratos, once again. This time you are playing through a prequel of the first game. Kratos is trying to free his bonds from Ares after swearing and giving up his life to defeat his enemy. He has to defeat the Furies along with his living prison Hechatonchires. The game starts out with an epic giant boss fight as usual and even a cinematic torture scene where you get to start beating down one of the Furies right off the bat. It starts out with a bang and quickly fizzles out once the combat system is introduced to you. Honestly, it’s nearly ruined. The combat engine has been tweaked so much that it just doesn’t flow like it used to. It’s now based on a momentum system where the more you hit without getting hit the more damage you do. I honestly hate this as it sets you back in difficult areas. What’s more, is that the magic system has been screwed with too much and the same goes for the upgrade system.
I like the idea of having four different blades with elemental abilities but they don’t mean anything. Should my fire blades be strong against an ice enemy? Doesn’t seem so. Each sword is supposed to have one magic attack by they are acquired at certain upgrade levels which I really hate. The rage meter has been turned into a bar that slowly fills as you hit enemies. If you get hit it rapidly drops and your damage dealt is reduced along with your more powerful moves. The game is hard enough as it is with enemies wailing on you so your best moves are locked away until you can get enough hits in to “acquire them” temporarily. A horrible system that needs to go away in the next game.
With that said, Ascension has the most cerebral puzzles in any God of War game which is a nice change. I had to actually think about nearly every puzzle and some were completely stumped. Some new passive abilities are one where you can decay and heal objects. Another ability allows you to duplicate yourself to solve puzzles and do extra damage in combat. These are probably the only thing in the game that show an overall evolution.
With that aside let’s talk about bosses. God of War is famous for its epic and memorable bosses that are larger than life. Ascension has the weakest bosses in the entire series. First off, there’s a lack of them. Most are small and about the size of regular enemies. The only exceptions are the beginning boss and the end boss. That’s nearly 7 hours in between with weak fights. The overall flow of the game just feels messed up and broken. I kept looking forward to amazing boss fights that blew me away, but I just kept getting regular fight after fight. This really brings the God of War experience down quite a bit. Ascension just feels like a basic bare-bones God of War without all the memorable moments.
Like I mentioned before, the production values are at least here. Ascension is probably one of the top five best-looking PS3 games or even games of this generation of consoles. The game just looks freaking fantastic and will blow you away. However, you start to not care if there aren’t those amazing boss fights and fast fluid combat. Ascension is a step in the wrong direction for the series showing that tweaking something to the point of nearly breaking it isn’t the answer to innovation. Should Ascension have never been made at all? We certainly wouldn’t miss it if it completely disappeared, but what’s here is a decent game with some experimental multiplayer that will last for a few weeks and you will move on to the next game.
There are hundreds of thousands of games out there, but only a few hundred are considered masterpieces or classics. These are my personal top ten. I know it’s to everyone’s taste, but you can’t deny that these games are great. I have played hundreds in my 20 years of gaming, I have played through three generations of consoles, so at least I can speak on experience. I will try to be non-biased and even address some flaws in the games I pick because I have no problem with that. Flaws are flaws, and not a single game is perfect. There are more that are my favorite, but I would have to make a top 50 list.
This was one of the first games I had ever played at 2 years old. It helped introduce me to the gaming world and I just fell in love with the fast speed and intense gameplay. StH2 had some of the best level designs out of any game in the series and one of the best soundtracks to date. I remember never being able to actually beat the game because it was too long and too hard. I could never get past the factory level with all the grey orbs floating around Robotnik. I had to beat it many years later using an emulator and quick saves, but I still enjoyed it every time I played the game. I think I actually ruined my cartridge from taking it in and out of the Genesis so many times.
In fact, I even remember my first Genesis for Christmas of 1992. The copy of StH2 it came with kept freezing up in the system, so my mom took it back to Circuit City to exchange it. I remember throwing a tantrum because no matter how many times I blew the cartridge it kept freezing after pressing Start. The series has fallen off the deep end in the past ten years, but nothing can ruin the memories of this classic gem.
9. Gran Turismo
This game changed everything for me when it came to cars. My very first racing simulator actually made me think about every turn and what car I had to choose. I always played arcade racers before because consoles didn’t really have the power yet for realistic physics and graphics. I actually learned some things from this game like how to recognize cars on the street, and basic ways on how cars operate. I was sitting in front of my TV at 8 years old tuning my car and adjusting things like camber angle, toe angle, stabilizers, sway bars and gear ratios like a champ. I then followed the series all the way to Gran Turismo 5 today and have witnessed one of the greatest evolutions in gaming history.
I remember the skepticism from PC gamers because of the greatness and expectations from System Shock 2. I didn’t have a PC capable of playing any major games throughout my early gaming years. My computer didn’t even run Flash very well, so I solely relied on consoles. BioShock’s narrative and atmosphere made a huge impact on me and the gaming industry as a whole. The first time seeing a Big Daddy and Little Sister was just shocking. You felt trapped in this underwater utopia, but you were also memorized by how it could have been accomplished in such an early time period. The game just worked so well and felt different from the standard military shooters at the time. BioShock 2 was too similar to the first game and just didn’t make the same impact.
The second game was so much better than the first because it created a whole new world and a much more likable character Ezio is one of gaming’s most familiar faces and the game itself was revolutionary for its time. A huge open world in a historically accurate Rome, Italy was just unheard of. There was so much attention to detail that you had to sit back and just take it all in. The characters were likable, and the story was memorable with a deep and tangled political plot. The game was also violent with a fighting system never before seen in an action/adventure game. This game was almost perfect in so many ways that the rest of the games have yet to capture.
6. Syphon Filter
Syphon Filter was criticized a lot for ripping off Metal Gear Solid plot-wise. The game had unique characters, a memorable plot, and some of the best-level designs ever seen for its time. The stealth was perfectly executed and had some memorable moments. I have played this game numerous times and was actually my first-ever third-person shooter. I remember how confusing the game was because I didn’t understand how shooters worked. I was so used to platformers, adventure games, and puzzle games. After playing this game I felt like I was part of the grown-up crowd. The other two games on the PS1 were just as good but not as memorable as the first game. This has grown to be one of my favorite games of all time just due to the wonderful memories I have had.
I used to beat the game once a week using the one-shot-kill code then again without it. I memorized every enemy, and how to get every kill without being seen in stealth missions. I even went as far as replaying certain dialog scenes because they were just that cool. Syphon Filter is a mostly underappreciated game because of the lack of releases the series has seen. The last game came out three years ago on the PSP, but thankfully Syphon Filter 4 was announced for PS3.
5. God of War
God of War changed my way of thinking about action/adventure games. I remember driving to K-Mart to buy my copy after reading reviews and hearing the game blow up on forums. I didn’t really expect much other than Greek mythology-themed Devil May Cry. I was dead wrong. The game had one of the most thrilling and epic combat systems ever created. I never really even knew what quick time events were until God of War made them cool and did them right. It added a whole new layer of depth and connection to the combat that has never really been done before. The huge boss fights, gorgeous (at the time) visuals, and unabashed nudity and sexuality that few games dare tread. God of War still impresses to this day and with each iteration in the now 5 game series. Kratos is also one of the most memorable and recognizable characters to date. Make sure to pick up God of War Collection and God of War Origins Collection if you missed out on those four awesome games while waiting for God of War: Ascension.
Gears of War changed my mind on shooters the way God of War did for action games. The gameplay was just so different from your standard shooter. It was heavy-hitting, atmospheric, and featured some of the most memorable characters and stories to date. For a futuristic military shooter that’s a huge achievement. The weapons were memorable, it was perfectly balanced, and everything had a dark crunchy hit to it. The game was nearly perfect, and the graphics were out of this world at the time. I remember this being the first next-generation game I ever played when I got my first Xbox 360 for Christmas of 2006. Each of the three games in the series is amazing, but nothing compares to when I first played the first game. It wowed me like no other, and Gears of War is one of the few games I have played multiple times.
Sure this series along with Rock Band single-handedly killed the band instrument rhythm genre, but nothing compares to the first Guitar Hero. This game is the reason why I currently own and play the guitar today. Pulling off complicated riffs, solos, and chords with the then high-tech guitar controller was like magic. I spent dozen upon dozens of hours replaying songs and getting high scores. Sure it cost a lot, but it was well worth it to me. While the songs weren’t originals they were masterfully re-created and the guitar controller responded perfectly. The games later in the series lost sight of the value of mastering songs and just start pumping them out uncontrollably after GH3. This game redefined the rhythm genre and took the entire world by storm. Most people nowadays never played the first game, and they were missing out on a lot.
This was the first game I spent over 100 hours on. The world was so rich and fantastic that I felt like I was playing in one of my favorite fantasy novels. The lore, characters, quests, and loot were just so addictive and engrossing I couldn’t put it down. I remember one play session going on for 12 hours when no other game has kept me in front of the TV for that long. The expansion pack was even more amazing, and the graphics blew me away. Of course, there were a lot of technical problems, and the PC version was better, but I sure had a ton of fun with this game. Skyrimis just as good, but it didn’t wow me like Oblivion did because this was my first Elder Scrolls game. To be honest I picked this up for $60 expecting not to like it much and I was dead wrong. Anyone who has just played Skyrim needs to go back and play this. It revolutionized the action RPG genre in my eyes and a lot of games have tried to copy it to this day.
Yes, I am talking about the 1992 Sega Genesis/Arcade classic. This is my favorite video game series of all time and this is because it was the first video game I ever played. I remember my cousin babysitting me and seeing him control these characters on-screen at 2 years old. I remember seeing him pull off Scorpion’s mask and burn a character. It was something I saw before, and soon enough I was mastering the controls and beating him at 2 years old. I never knew how to pull off a fatality until years later when the internet became more mainstream, but I loved beating this game constantly. To date, I own almost every game in the series on several different platforms and have pre-ordered every recent game since 2004’s Deception. I don’t think I have played a game more than Mortal Kombat, but I still enjoy Japanese fighters. I find Mortal Kombat more accessible with more interesting characters and a story because they aren’t cliché and generic like most Japanese fighters tend to feel. There’s a whole giant story behind each and every character and they are all unique.
God of War is one of the best action-adventure games ever made. It pioneered everything we see in the genre today and there are dozens of copycats. God of War helped pave the way for cinematic gameplay and pretty much made quick time events an everyday thing in games. God of War also has one of the best combat systems ever created, as well as memorable mythology and one of the most recognized characters to date. Origins Collection puts two of the PSP’s best titles on one Blu-Ray disc. These are remastered in 1080p HD and look great. While each has its own issues, this is well worth a purchase for any God of War fan.
This was the first-ever portable God of War game and it blew everyone’s expectations out of the water. Not only for the game itself but the PSP. No one knew the system could pull off this great technical feat. You can read my review on Olympus for the PSP itself and a more in-depth look, but after playing it again on the PS3 I noticed that, compared to Ghost of Sparta, it doesn’t stack up. Even after playing God of War III, I notice a lot of things that annoy me in Olympus.
Firstly, the game lacks the huge epic set pieces of the console games, as well as a lack of bosses. Sure there are a few memorable moments in Olympus, but there are only three boss fights and they aren’t that amazing. The first boss feels pretty boring compared to other first bosses in the series, and the locales are pretty generic for a God of War game. Olympus stuck to the basics of God of War and kind of played it safe. There are some interesting magic items like being able to reflect projectiles and Efreet. The combat system is almost exactly like the first game, which isn’t a bad thing, but longtime fans will be disappointed about this.
Secondly, the game is super short. You can beat it in about 4 hours which is two long sit-downs. The story isn’t as detailed or in-depth as other games in the series. Kratos is just trying to find his daughter Calliope while still seeking revenge on the Gods. Overall, Chains of Olympus is a warm-up for the more epic Ghost of Sparta.
This is more like it. More bosses, more memorable moments, and completely different locales. There’s even a whole new gameplay element here which is Thera’s Bane. Like in God of War III you have a red meter that sets your blades on fire for extra damage and makes you invincible to some attacks. Right from the start, the game feels like a better, heavier God of War game than Olympus. Olympus started off kind of weak, but Sparta throws you right into the water (literally) with a pretty epic boss fight against a Scylla. The game has more puzzles, and the boss fights are pretty epic. The final boss against the God of Death, Thanatos, is pretty epic because you fight with a certain someone.
The story is even more memorable because you are searching for your brother Deimos while still seeking revenge on the Gods. There are some memorable moments here that top even some of the console games in the series like giving Kind Midas a beat down. The new magic items, however, aren’t as interesting as I had hoped this time around. Boreas’ Wind freezes enemies, but I rarely used it. The Eye of Atlantis felt kind of weak and didn’t do as much damage as hoped even fully leveled up.
Overall, Ghost of Sparta is much better with memorable moments involving more enemies, longer gameplay (about 6 hours), and more bosses. The fights system is tweaked to feel different from Olympus. The game even looks better because Sony finally unlocked the full 333Mhz of the PSP processor so Ready at Dawn was able to push the system to its full limits. Ghost of Sparta is a memorable God of War game and will probably become a fan favorite.
Overall, the entire collection is excellent and well put together. I was disappointed in not seeing any extra features exclusive to this collection, but each game has a Challenge of the Gods that will keep fans busy for a while. With full trophy support for each game, you are bound to have a couple dozen hours of fun here.
There are things in games that no one thinks about because it has been embedded in our minds since we first picked up a controller. Why does the bad guy always lose? Why are loading screens so repetitive? Things like this are things we just don’t think about because it has always been. I came up with a list of 5 annoying things no one thinks about because you will probably be surprised that you never thought of it, but once you do notice it you will realize it!
1) Loading Screens
No one ever notices that the same images or hints play across the loading screen forever. Why don’t developers diversify this? We see a loading screen almost more than anything else so why not implement being able to add your own screen? Why not let users share hints online and have them show up randomly on the loading screen instead of the same 5 tips forever? It’s either that or you just get a black screen with some sort of logo that spins or does some strange animation. Wouldn’t it be neat if we could just use a picture slideshow? Loading screens are so simple yet they are so familiar to use on every device we use.
2) The Good Guy Always Wins
Why is it that the bad guys always lose? This usually only changes in games that give you multiple choice endings, but most of the time you know you’re always going to win. Games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest are typical. Most JRPGs are, but even western games like Ghost Recon and Splinter Cell, the good guy always comes out on top. Sure they struggle, but why not let them loose? Why not after all the trouble you went through be for nothing? That would be more shocking and memorable than if Cloud Look-a-Like #245 saved the random princess from typical bad-guy #4,324 and got a few boo-boos. Let the protagonist lose! Fall into a pit or the last boss fight you get defeated. Let the health bar drop to zero then watch as you die a horrible death and the bad guy wins. I know this is so there are more sequels, but someone needs to have the balls to do this!
3) You Are Always the Good Guy
Leading right out of #2, you are always the good guy. There are some games that give you the choice like Mass Effect, DC Universe Online, Skyrim, and the freest choice-based games. Why can’t we be the bad guy in an FPS? Show the dark side more often and let gamers know that things don’t always have a happy ending. Make a shooter where you’re trying to destroy humanity instead of saving it. This may sound sick and twisted, but games are known for pushing out mental boundaries more than any other media. Instead of just choosing to be good or bad in dialog let’s just go the whole 9 yards and make us do the actions as well.
4) Bodily Functions
Obviously, it would be boring to implement it, but doesn’t anyone realize that the characters can save the world in a few days and never eat, go to the bathroom, or shower? The only game that really used outside of a parody is Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and most people hated it. Sure, this shouldn’t be in all games, but does anyone ever think about it? Can Kratos really bring down Olympus and never get thirsty and want to stop for a Chicago Deep Dish? If you think about it, something as simple as needing to do bodily functions would make the heroes feel too human and make them feel less like incredible beings who will stop at nothing…not even to pee.
5) Only the Worst Can Happen
Why is it that only the worst possible thing can happen? A mountain explodes and blocks your path for miles around, the only person who can give you critical information conveniently dies right when you need it. Why not something like you fall and break your leg and now you can’t go on? It’s funny how things that would normally happen to people would impede heroes in games from moving on, but things that happen to the heroes would keep us, humans, from moving on. The impossible can always be fixed, but the probable will stop you dead like explosive diarrhea. Can’t save Earth today guys the store is out of Pepto!
In other worse…video game logic! While the reality would be boring, it is funny how a lot of people don’t think about this because it has been the norm since Pong was invented. Next time you boot up your favorite game think about all the things that are annoying about the game that you normally would think is normal for a video game. You will be surprised.
There is no such thing as a perfect game. There never will be and that’s just the cruel hard truth. Very few games come close and that’s why I have only ever given one 10 (Gears of War). If I could go back and give games a 10 what would they be? Some almost felt perfect, but there was something there that didn’t quite make it that high. Games that get 9.5’s are usually amazing and probably the best games out, but sometimes games will sit as perfect to you whether they are technically or not. This is part 1 of 2 because there are just too many to list in one sitting. These are the game I have reviewed and sit as 10’s in my heart (in no particular order of course!)
This game pretty much changed narratives from here on out because BioShock really blew me away. Not only was the pacing perfect, but the story was dark and terrible and something imagined in nightmares. It wasn’t monsters popping up out of the closet, zombies shambling towards you, but it took humanity’s imperfections and let them loose. The gameplay had an array of amazing weapons to use, the EVE powers were great to use, and who can forget seeing a Big Daddy and Little Sister for the first time? That demo really blew me away and it was one of the few games that I could play over and over and never get bored. At the time the graphics were fantastic and helped you feel claustrophobic in that underwater utopia. With BioShock Infinite coming along I hope it hits me the same way.
Who can deny the fact that this was the true return of Mortal Kombat? The game was everything fans wanted with the best characters, excellent graphics, a simpler fight system, and the inclusion of great content for single-player users. The X-Ray moves were shocking, plus the return of superb and original Fatalities that have been lacking since MK: Deception. The game was silky smooth in the controls department, plus the addition of four DLC characters and a slew of classic costumes. I truly felt like a kid again and was basking in the feeling that MK was back and felt just like it did 20 years ago.
A puzzle game usually doesn’t get as much recognition as Portal has gotten. It has become a household name thanks to one thing that the game is named after. Portal 2 completely turns the game into a full-fledged adventure through different areas complete with scripted cinematic events. What makes Portal 2 as great as it is the voice acting and characters. Never have characters been so memorable, and being game staples is hard to become. The pacing was perfect, there was just enough content not to overwhelm you, but to make you feel like it was new and fresh. The puzzles were laid out perfectly and gave you that “AHA!” moment when you finally solved it. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed playing through the entire game and laughing through the entire thing. Portal 2 will always sit with me as one of the best games ever made.
Red Dead Redemption
Not only is Rockstar the best at making worlds you can totally get lost in, but RDR also made you believe it was real. When I played through RDR I felt like the game came to life with such accurate landscape, wonderfully played out characters, and some great missions that make you feel like they were different every time. The atmosphere was rich and bursting at the seams with depth. I never played a game where I felt like a real cowboy and felt like I was doing cowboy things that made a difference. RDR will always sit as a game that many should be based on especially open-world games because this one was perfect to me.
God of War III
God of War is the father of a lot of things. Cinematic action/adventures, quick-time events, and huge giant bosses in said action/adventures, but nothing could prepare me for GoW3. The graphics were way ahead of their time (even in this generation) and the pacing and story were just perfect. The combat was so smooth and just ran like butter across the screen. The powers you held, the weapons you got, and the puzzles were so fun that you actually savored each moment in the game. Sure, the first game made me think differently about how games should be made, but GoW3 set the standard and still is today. GoW was the first game series I could play over and over again and never get bored, and GoW3 is probably on top of all of them.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
If I had to pick my favorite game of all time this would be it. I had never spent so many hours on a game as I did in Oblivion. It set a whole new standard for RPGs. The interaction with characters, the looting, the lore, the dungeons were all just fascinating and mesmerizing. Over 100 of just minute detail that I had never seen in any game. All the books could be read, random quests from people who actually mattered because the effects would impact you later on. Being able to pick plants, the number of swords, magic, spells, tomes, shields, armor, and riding horses? It was truly a fantasy book come to life and it had never been done before in that much detail. I actually would get lost for over a dozen hours without putting the controller down and no other game could make me do that. Oblivion sits in my heart as something more than just a game, but a world I could escape in and forget about all my problems.
Assassin’s Creed II
AC2 really hit home with me because of the grand scale of the characters, story, and the just sheer amount of content in the game. I really got sucked into this world that beautifully recreated, and for once I felt like I was playing a piece of history. No other game has been capable of that, but what got me more than anything was how free I felt. Running from rooftop to rooftop and seeing and hearing shingles shift under my feet, climbing grand buildings, unfolding a deep mysterious plot, and using awesome kill moves is something of most kids’ dreams (if you’re a psycho kid like I was). The graphics were unbeatable at the time, and it still holds up as the pinnacle for free world action/adventures to this day.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Arkham Asylum set the standard for superhero games and is declared as the best one ever made. Not only was the combat silky smooth, and the fact that you were Batman, you actually did everything you could in the comics! It was unbelievable using the detective mode, swinging around with your bat claw, and scaring the daylights out of enemies by tossing a Batarang at them. How cool is that?! The excellent voice acting and all the characters from the comic helped make it the greatest superhero game ever made. EVER.
When I found out Bethesda was making Fallout 3 I knew I would be sucked into another amazing world for over a hundred hours, and I was right. Fallout 3 sucked me in just like Oblivion with tons of memorable characters, a great overarching story, but the setting and environment was the main character and drew me in. I actually felt lonely and scared walking The Capital Wasteland, and no other game made me feel that way before. I looted every corner with caution because the game felt so close to home, and you could wonder about this giant apocalypse. I really felt a sigh of relief when I found a new town and almost dreaded going back out in the wasteland alone. What kind of game can you think of that made you feel that way? Probably none.
I have wondered this for years since its slow demise in 2008 when the good games started coming in at a slow drip. 2005-2008 were the PSP’s peak years, but towards the end of 2008 the good games started tapering off and just the crappy console ports were in abundance. The PSP is still doing strong in Japan with lots of AAA titles over there being released but never seeing the light of day here. With God of War: Ghost of Sparta and Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together being the last great PSP titles you wonder where it’s going. Nowhere really, but there is still a great library for newcomers hopping on board with the PSP-3000 and PSP GO.
That’s also another problem: Too many hardware iterations. The first PSP (a.k.a. PSP Phat) was bulky and had lots of dead pixel issues due to high-quality LCD screens being new in portable electronics. The PSP Slim & Lite came out that added a new brightness option, better battery life, as well as a better wi-fi card, and sturdier hardware. Due to the crappy LCD screen that showed ghost images on-screen it was quickly pushed off the market and the PSP-3000 model came along with super light (and cheap feeling) hardware, a redesigned UMD door, some rearranged buttons, and switches, as well as the TV output option, but this didn’t really help the software any. By this time games started going digital due to the PSP GO which was a smaller more compact slide-out model that didn’t have a UMD drive and completely failed due to Sony scrapping the goodwill model for UMD owners. If Sony were had used cards like the DS, to begin with, it could have saved development costs and probably saved the hardware from being a failure in the end.
The UMD movie business ceased in 2009 due to the PSP GO coming out and smartphones, tablets, and other streaming services coming onboard so physical media was just too expensive outside DVD and Blu-Ray discs. The PSP was just a big mess of successes and failures, but there is still some good to be had on the system. Some amazing games were released like both God of Wars, Syphon Filters, a slew of Final Fantasy games as well as a Kingdom Hearts game, plus dozens of others that are considered gaming classics. The PS Vita should remedy this problem and hopefully, Sony will succeed more (like the second analog nub is a freaking start). So if you plan on still buying a PSP go ahead if you are a new owner, but people who are thinking about jumping in stay put because the PS Vita is right around the corner.
“Fatality!”, “Finish Him!”, “Flawless Victory!”, “Get Over Here!”. These are just some famous quotes from the infamous Mortal Kombat that everyone knows and remembers. What everyone mainly remembers is the fast-paced fighting that has been missed since 1995’s Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. It’s been over 15 years since we got a really good and classic feeling MK game, but it’s finally here and back with all its bloody gore. Yes, the game is still in 3D, but it’s what fighting fans like to call “2.5D”. The game plays on a 2D playing feel and as soon as you start hammering away on those classic moves and combos you feel the nostalgia seeping into your blood.
The most surprising part of the game isn’t the new level of gore, but the amazing story mode. Yes, Mortal Kombat actually has an awesome story mode that plays out far better than last generation’s story modes. Instead of some ridiculous adventure mode or scrolling text, we get a fully acted, scripted, and voiced story about the actual Mortal Kombat tournament and back story on almost every classic character. The voice acting is actually good and Netherealm Studios actually took the time to bring out each character’s personality such as Johnny Cage’s smart lack of Hollywood attitude. Liu Kang’s eagerness, Kung Lao’s jealousy, and Sonya’s hotheadedness. The story is done beautifully despite picking up where Armageddon left off. Raiden travels in time to his past self to stop the destruction of Armageddon. There are plot twists and even some seriously tense moments in the story that is quite gripping. I can actually say it’s the best story mode in any fighting game ever made.
However, fans came for the fight and this seriously delivers. Not only are the animations smooth and great to look at, but the controls are as tight as ever. The game responds without any delay and that’s what a fighter is all about. Not only is the usual gore back, but the game just packs a serious punch and feels punchy. The hits transfer amazingly well into feelings and that’s never been done in an MK game before. The newest things brought to the series are X-Ray moves. Fill your super meter up all the way and you can execute an extremely brutal move that shows your opponent in X-Ray vision and you can see bones crunch, snap, and organs burst. The anatomy is done superbly well with muscles, organs, and everything else in the right place. Each character has its own special skeletal structure so it stays true to the anatomy. I say bravo on Netherealm’s part instead of doing it cheaply.
This super meter actually does one other thing that I love and these are enhanced moves. Forget the crap from DC Universe completely. When you fill one section of the meter up (it fills up faster when you are getting your butt whooped) you can do the special move while holding down the “Attack Modifier” and it’ll change the super move up a little bit and make it more powerful. For example, Doing Jax’s Gotcha Grab will only do two hits, but if you enhance it he’ll punch them five or six times and do more damage. Do Scorpion’s Spear Throw and he’ll throw two out for extra damage. These are great and each special attack has its own unique enhancement. This is great for strategists who want to give their fight a little extra kick. The second thing you can do with the meter is the usual Breakers, but this requires two pieces to be filled.
For the first time, Tag Teaming was put into the game and it works just as great as you’d think. Each character has a special tag-out move and it makes the game more intense and just that much more fun. Of course, the single-player story mode will have you fighting against two people for a challenge, but when you play online or with a friend it’s an absolute blast. Of course, this could have gone all wrong but the team learned from games like Marvel vs Capcom to get it right. This is just one more feature the team got right but could have gone horribly wrong or made the game too unbalanced.
The Fatalities are gory and each character has two plus a Stage Fatality combo. Each character’s Fatality can be viewed in the move list in the pause menu, but you have to unlock the second one in the Krypt (more on that later). One thing I have to mention is that Babalities were brought back, but only certain characters can do these. These haven’t been since UMK3! When it comes to fighters there are no characters in here past UMK3. Classics only here and that’s for the better. You won’t see Kenshi, Kira, Drahmin, Hsu Hao, or any of those guys, but there will be DLC add-ins later on so who knows. Each character is beautifully rendered and they fight just like you remember so fans can feel relieved about that. There is one new character and that is Cyber Sub-Zero to tie into the story mode, and he plays differently from the regular Sub-Zero and has some unique moves. Kratos is also an exclusive character for PS3 owners and he plays just like he does in the games complete with some quiet time buttons and moves from God of War III. He even has his own unique stage with three different stage fatalities to choose from.
Mortal Kombat has always been known for adding a ton of content since Deadly Alliance, but this time you’re going to like the extras. The Krypt is back with just one type of kurrency this time around and the Krypt has five different sections. Each one has uniquely animated item containers and some are extremely gross, brutal, and gory. I won’t spoil it but it’s very creative. My favorite extra is the Challenge Tower. There are hundreds of challenges that consist of fights that have different parameters such as zombies coming toward you and you have to use Johnny Cage’s special Energy Ball move to kill them before they get to you. There are so many I would spend days explaining them but they are great fun and you earn kurrency doing them. One thing I wanted back so bad were the mini-games Test Your Might and Sight last seen in Deadly Alliance. They are back just as great as before, but two new ones were added. Test Your Strike is just like Might but you have to hold the meter inside a box for a few seconds before striking. Test Your Luck has you spinning a wheel and decides the fighter and fighting conditions for you.
Lastly, Kombat Kodes was brought back last seen in UMK3, for people who don’t know, each character gets three boxes during the loading screen and there are different codes such as headless combat, armless combat, dream combat, upside down combat, X-Rays disabled, blocking disabled, and it just goes on and on. These are used a lot in the challenge tower that I was talking about, but having them in VS is a blast. Lastly, the online modes are a must-have for any fighter these days and MK was the very first one and seems to be one of the best. While Tag Team and regular 1vs1 are expected a new King of the Hill mode lets you pick an avatar and puts everyone in a room that looks like a theater. The winner keeps fighting everyone in the room until he loses, but people can rate the fight based on a number score and can even cheer or boo the fight. This is a fun mode and is greatly welcomed.
My only big issue with the game is that the combos aren’t as crazy as MK3 and you still have to memorize most of them and a lot of people don’t like that. This still really isn’t a button masher so strategic minds are still needed to fight well here. I really wanted to see more crazy combos that aren’t complicated to pull off, but if you are hardcore enough you will find a way. Besides that, there really isn’t too much to complain about unless you want to gripe about characters from MK4 and on not being included.
Besides all this amazing content the game looks superb using Unreal Engine 3 and every background is greatly animated, and they are all from classic MK games all the way back to the first one. The classic Stage Fatalities are also back but they are upgraded to pack more of a punch and are gorier. Overall the game looks and sounds amazing with lots of content to unlock and many modes to play. This is probably one of the best fighting games of this decade so far and definitely my pick for the best fighting game of the year.
Kollector’s Edition: For hardcore fans, an extra $40 gets you two beautifully crafted bookends of Scorpion and Sub-Zero in gory Kombat, Ermac’s classic outfit, a well-put-together art book, and PS3 themes and avatars. The big box is also nicely made if you want that too.
Tournament Edition: For an extra $90 you get a wonderfully created arcade stick but it does not come with any of the other stuff besides the extra outfit. It’s up to you which one you get, but I preferred the Kollector’s Edition since the stick can be bought separately elsewhere.