Games of Christmas: Also-rans

By The Monster That Killed Kieron on January 2nd, 2010 at 8:34 am.


Hello! You won’t believe how tricky RPS is to digest. Well… maybe you will. I’ve been looking at this website thing, and there’s some dense indigestible paragraphs in here. I thought games were supposed to be fun! Anyway, I was rooting through my faeces earlier and I found amidst the healthy dung of a well-fed monster a load of notes in panicked hand-writing on old bus-tickets. I’ve typed them up, because I thought you may be interested. They appear to be some manner of “also-considered” games which they missed out of their Advent Calender. I bet they just forgot.

Anno 1404 / Dawn of Discovery – A rich and engaging take on the explore/build management genre, this time using your little ship to splendid effect as a kind of quest-romping avatar within the world itself. Probably best in its sandbox mode, but nevertheless fulfilling as a grand campaign packed with tiered challenges that introduce the concepts of the game to beginners, and the weak.

Braid - Released on the PC, but slipped our communal memory. I suspect because most of us actually had played it in its Beta state back in 2008. Hyperclever 2D time-based platformer which picked up all the acclaim in the world, and totally justified it. Everyone’s just waiting to see what Jon Blow does next.

Modern Warfare 2 – The biggest game of the year, but this seemed to entirely underwhelm the RPS Hivemind. Are we bored with FPS games? Or just with faux-militarism? We really did seem to think it was bullshit. Unparalleled production values, shame about the cynical hole it left in our gut.

Mirror’s Edge - Running and jumping for the modern age. Deeply flawed in many ways, there’s nevertheless a kind of design freshness to the game. It’s the kind of beautiful failure we’re hard-pressed to recommend, and yet keen that nobody ignore. If this had been more like Canabalt instead of being too cowardly to drop the tepid, irritating combat, it could well have been a true champion of modern gaming.

Armoured Princess – In any other universe it would be have been Splendidest Of All Things, but it just couldn’t match the invention and freshness of its 2008 predecessor – it’s almost as if Katauri’s divine madness had burned out by this point.

Gridrunner Revolution – Sleek and elegant and lovely. The sister game to Space Giraffe, it’s good cop to its ungulate sibling’s bad-cop. Ironically, it perhaps goes too far the other way – in that it takes a long time before you’re forced to really step up your game. However, it is mainly a game about maximising scores – as such, the after-release addition of online scores finally completes it and gives it meaning. A mass of ideas, beautiful, crazy.

Gravity Bone – Played to death – both literally and figuratively – in the first days of the year, this is one of the finest stand alone short-form indie 3D games. Just an incredibly charming James Bond parody with an unforgettable ending. And that music! Man!

The Void – Probably too weird for anyone except Quinns to truly love and/or get around to playing… but filled with weirdly wonderful moments. Killing monstrous bats with colour, and killing yourself as the colour drains out of you. Sinister, beautiful, and out-Arting any Art game this year.

Demigod - Utterly crippled by its networking failure in the months after launch, Demigod was probably the technical mishap of the PC gaming year. Behind the problems was a brilliant strategy game that had been meticulously sculpted by what is clearly a highly talented team. What a shame it was never allowed to bloom to its fullest.

FEAR 2: That there’s barely any writing on it on RPS should have probably been people’s hint as to what we thought of it.

Dirt 2 - Fuck yeah, it’s just a brilliant racing game. Not realistic by any means, but who cares about that? The trailblazer modes make for the kind of hypnotic high-speed racing that very few games are able to cough up. It’s a shame there isn’t more genuinely rallying, but, well, kids these days, eh?

Fuel – Not a great racing game by any means, but instead just a great act of videogame creativity. The colossal post-apocalyptic terrain, about half the size of Wales, gave Jim an excuse to spend an entire day racing across a kind of fever-dream America, where the forests were on fire, and the cities were abandoned to deserts and flooded valleys.

Trine - A storybook brought to life through physics puzzles and astonishingly well-constructed co-op play. This is the modern age returning to the 16-bit era platform game with the technology of our era, and the comfortable knowledge of the intervening years.

The Path - Something about growing up? Someone had a difficult adolescence, but aren’t they all? The hardest are the ones that end in untimely death. In terms of the debate around it, the most controversial indie game of the year. And if you take RPS as the whole gaming universe – and if you don’t, what’s wrong with you? – the most controversial game of the year. Except Left4Dead2, and that was controversial for boring old capitalist reasons.

Prototype – Freewheeling, super-powered ultra-violence in a vast city, with a character able to dropkick helicopters and dress up as old ladies. Buckets of bloody fun, but ultimately its city and protagonist alike were too lifeless to burn a lasting scar into our collective memory.

Time Donkey – Flashbang continued their High Concept + Creature game naming/creation experiment in ever-confident fashion. Not as evergreen-outrageous as Minotaur China Shop or Offroad Velociraptor Safari, but you can’t grumble about playing as hip-hop donkey in search of time-lost tacos.

Serious Sam HD – Not in our actual, gong-giving list by dint of it in fact being a game from 2001, but with better graphics. But if we’d somehow discarded the whole Not Being Eight Years Old criteria, this would have been somewhere near the top. As impressive as it is silly, it’s a bug-eyed beast of a thing – standing atop a mountain, tearing off its shirt and bellowing LOOK WHAT GAMES CAN DO.

Bookworm Adventures 2 – The return of the spelling game proved to be one of the most entertaining casual/puzzle games of the year. Not since Typing Of The Dead have we so enjoyed getting a word right.

Section 8 – Ludicrously ambitious Unreal-powered shooter from TimeGate Studios. This was one of those games where we felt humbled by the deliberation with which the sci-fi world was put together, if not slightly disappointed that there wasn’t more of a game for the community to get into. A solid, old-school shooter in many ways, this was one of the best combat games of ’09.

Champions Online

Darkfall: Except not.

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104 Comments »

  1. Web Cole says:

    Hurrah for Braid (and the Void) :D

  2. MiniTick says:

    I think Shattered Horizons deserves a mention. Another interesting experiment, especially for a company that only made benchmarking software hitherto.

    And I’m still looking forward to playing the Void. Pathologic was too poorly translated for me to really enjoy.

  3. Mac says:

    Nice list – Armoured Princess is the game that got me into the genre (bought it on a whim in the Steam sale). I had tried Kings Bounty before and never really got into it (quit after 4-5 fights), but playing Armoured Princess i’m like a man obsessed with turn based games now … i’ve just purchased the HOMM 5 complete package for when I finish Armoured Princess and the original …

    • damien says:

      heroes of might and magic iii would be a much better example of that series than v is.

      disciples ii if you’re looking for something similar but less garishly coloured.

    • archonsod says:

      HoMM V is better than HoMM III. In fact, it’s what HoMM IV should have been, at least once you hit Tribes of the East (though to be fair, it’s only really the caravan system that’s really missing from the original HoMM V).

    • MWoody says:

      I’m a little surprised RPS didn’t seem to like it as much as the original. As a game, it’s far, far superior, with better balanced factions, more interesting unit abilities, and a more open game world. And the animations for the dragon are simply adora- *ahem* totally awesome and manly and sweet.

    • Taillefer says:

      That reminds me, Disciples 3 must be this year, right? That’s one for my 2010 list.

    • Vanger says:

      Taillefer, well, D3 is already out if you can read Russian.

      Don’t run to the shop for text-books, though, we’re actually beta-testing it for our money.
      Yep, list of bugs is already two meters long in 12px font.

  4. Alteisentier says:

    Wow, did Champions Online really destroy your ever little hope that badly?

  5. Inigo says:

    I would have been much more enamoured with Prototype were it not f-LOADING.
    LOADING.
    LOADING.
    LOADING.
    LOADING.
    LOADING.
    Prototype encountered an error and needs to close.

  6. sfury says:

    Gravity Bone!

    I was compiling a list of my favs for 2009 yesterday and was unsure if it qualified – I played it somewhere around the 2008-2009 holidays. Judging from Kieron’s January 6th 2009 post ,which I remember referred me to it, I’m now sure. :)

    That said, I’m off to play it again.

    [edit] oooh, what’s this fancy new Edit system, me likey!

    • Captain Bland says:

      Hell Yes. I love Blendo Games so much.There was a brief period this year where I went through my games back catalogue playing all the mods he’s made and it was joyous. I think Brendon Chung was with Pandemic, so It would be interesting to see what his plans are now (Please Interview Him).

  7. LewieP says:

    I think I liked Mirror’s Edge a lot more than you lot did.

    I still think a lot of it’s problems could have been fixed by adding the sands of time. I didn’t have a problem with the combat being there, but I certainly think it should have always been avoidable, not just mostly avoidable.

    I also think that they should have done the half life trick of never taking the player out of control of faith. When they’ve made a first person game that looks like that, switching to the bad flash style cut scenes was crazy.

    But it’s still one of my favourite games of recent times.

    The only omission that springs to mind is Time Fcuk, which I haven’t played yet, but my future self told me it was excellent.

    Edit: I played Prototype on the 360, and really enjoyed it. Radical are a pretty great dev (Scarface was shockingly incredible) and it was nice to see them have a decent stab at their own IP. Not unlike Mirror’s Edge, if it was less story, and more doing the stuff it does well, I think the game would have benefited.

    • kwyjibo says:

      Mirror’s Edge was awesome. A game about modernism. Yet RPS and the collective blogbrain have still managed to throw more words at Cannabalt, that 1 button game like all 1 button games.

      Time Fcuk was pretty cool, there’s quite a lot of indie platformers to choose from. Runman was awesome, even just for showing that MSPaint is still the daddy. Moneyseize was a very satisfying platformer too.

      But I worry a bit at the amount of 2D puzzle platformers coming out of the indie space. They’re supposed to be bold, doing new stuff, exploring the medium – yet, they’re all 2D puzzle platformers!

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Mirror’s Edge may have been my game of the year (hard to say…just finished DAO which was surprisingly good given my hatred of high fantasy, and I haven’t played most of my 2009 purchases). Actually, my game of the year in terms of playtime was probably Fallout 3, but since that didn’t come out in 2009… Anyway, Mirror’s Edge was awesome, and it’s something that’s short and varied enough that I can replay it every few months when I’m not quite ready to dedicate 2 weeks of my life to DAO or whatever. The overall aesthetic was great, but I really enjoyed the gameplay itself. There is nothing I’ve played that I could really compare it to, and it’s the only game I’ve played that puts me in the same total-concentration-trance that stuff like Papyrus race sims or iRacing do (or uh, real life activities like tennis).

      While I love indie gaming, particularly original games like World Of Goo, The Path, The Void, etc. there’s so much stuff out there that’s just retro garbage (er, I mean, PIXEL ART, sry m8) that it’s depressing (this previous sentence can also apply to indie music, or indie anything I guess). If I want to play a one button platformer there’s always the original Activision Pitfall games, mirite. And if the gameplay of something can be described as [insert 80's game here]-clone then I see little point in not just revisiting the original, genre-defining game. I’m a bit of what you might call a snob, I guess.

      Oh yeah, and I also liked FEAR 2. Everybody complained about the inability to lean, but frankly that gave me a nostalgia-stiffy for the original NOLF and AvP2. The environments were generally better than the first game, and the “hit-slo-mo-and-pop-out-of-cover-and-headshot-fools” gameplay was practically identical. When people spend so much time complaining about a title being “consolized” or DRM-ized or whatever the idiot-PC-gamercom-majority is angry about that day, as opposed to offering an intelligent critique of the gameplay/narrative/aesthetic elements, I tend to find that I’m more inclined to go into a game focusing on the good stuff. Or, alternately, I go into something like Dragon Age or Arkham Asylum with my skepticism cranked to full only to be startled by an actual great game.

    • Don says:

      Have to agree. When it came out I wasn’t enthused but it was in the Steam sale for a couple of quid so I thought I’d give it a whirl. Was pleasantly surprised, haven’t finished it yet but it’s good fun and worth it even at a less bargain price. The combat bits are irritating – feels like the developers didn’t have enough confidence in the parkour side so chucked in some FPS stuff in the hope folks would be more comfortable, but it feels like Portal would if halfway through you’d been given a machine-gun and had to fight off waves of Combine, takes you out of the moment.

    • Robin says:

      Mirror’s Edge would have worked if it had been presented from a third person view and was in any way likeable. And the PC port was exactly the kind of minimal-effort bodge that RPS should be calling developers out for.

    • Muzman says:

      Robin speaks utter madness. So madly contrary to reality I’m wondering if he’s joking (but I can’t think of any reason why such a joke would be made).
      First person is the whole point. To do it any other way would be absurd The PC “port” is perfection. The thing was clearly built for PC from the ground up. It loads and runs better than games from years ago.

      btw; I thought the cutscene style was great. Reminded me of Thief. Why dabble in the uncanny valley if you don’t need to. More games should do this.

    • DarkNoghri says:

      @Muzman

      I dunno. I just played through Mirror’s Edge. For the life of me, I couldn’t get the game to feel smooth performance-wise. Dropped the resolution to ~1200xsomething, dropped the graphics levels. Tried turning vsync on. Raised the graphics again without getting a performance drop. It just stuttered, and felt horribly rough. I thought the screen was tearing even with vsync. I don’t even remember the Crysis demo feeling like it ran this bad, and that was before I upgraded my graphics card. Mirror’s Edge is Unreal Engine 3, as I recall, as is Bioshock and UT3. Neither of which ran this badly. It just felt bad.

      Maybe it’s just my system.

    • Muzman says:

      Noghri

      Curious. I was amazed how well it ran for me. It loads faster and runs smoother than Bioshock or Stalker for that matter. I assumed it’s because there’s not a great deal of content loading necessary.
      You haven’t got an ATI card by any chance? I think it was billed as a bit of a demo for nVidia and PhysX. Not sure though.

    • bill says:

      Got it on the steam sale a few days ago (thanks to friends helping me circumvent the regional restrictions). Played it in two days.

      Day one: This game is so awesome. The visual style is stunning. Parkour is amazing fun. Crashing through doors is awesome. Anime cutscenes aren’t half as bad as I heard. Can’t believe a game this beautiful runs this smooth in full resolution on my poor laptop. Game of the year!

      Day two: God I hate this game!! What the hell is up with it sticking me in a room with 15 swat guys armed with heavy machine guns, and then making me replay the whole building if I die once. What happened to the smooth, flowing gameplay that felt so good? Why are the checkpoints suddenly so far apart? Where has all the parkour gone? I really don’t want to restart this section AGAIN!!
      Finally, finished it. Ok, so now there are lots of snipers… sigh.

      So, in summary: Day one = PoP meets Portal. Day Two = Driv3r.

      Sands of time style rewinds would have helped a huge amount… Better level design in the second half would have helped more.

    • DarkNoghri says:

      I do have an ATI card, a 4850, in fact. Flipping graphics settings from low to medium to high (I think) had no noticeable effect, and if there was a way to get an fps counter showing, I didn’t see it. So I assume it was CPU limited. My CPU is two years old (Athlon x2 5600), but not that old. I turned the Physx options off, so that should have helped the CPU.

      Load times were fine, took all of 10 seconds. It was just the performance in-game. I can’t remember the last time something seemed to run that badly.

    • terry says:

      Chalk another one up who bought Mirror’s Edge on the cheap and being pleasantly surprised. I have to say most speedrunning type games drive me up the wall. I mostly want to chill and absorb the scenery and setting in a game, y’know…. immersion and all that. Not be hurled through the game at maximum speed and shot at from all sides and repeatedly bashed over the head waiting for some goddamn mythical helicopter to arrive. Which is weird because pushing you through the game at maximum boost is exactly what Mirror’s Edge does, but the difference for me is that the core gameplay was so exhilarating and satisfying that I got in the zone and instead concentrated on never, ever letting my speed drop, even in the absence of anything particularly threatening, never sticking around to gawp at the buildings, hell, not even attempting to attack anything or pick up its weapon. And I loved every second of it (seriously, my biggest gripe in the game was a goddamn drainpipe that you have to crouch jump off and I failed about 40 times before realising). For someone who hates platformery of all kinds (unless its 2D) and would rather carve out their own eyeballs than play a game with walljumping, that’s some feat.

    • Boldoran says:

      I too got it cheap in the christmas sale and I liked it very much. The art style is fresh and in its good moments it does put you into some kind of speed trance. Combat if they really wanted it should have been about knocking one or two guys out. The possibility to pick up weapons does not do the game any good. Oh an put in less indoor levels next time. They aren’t bad but make it 30% indoor levels not 50.
      Still I liked what I saw.

  8. Feet says:

    No Section 8 to make the almost list then? I’ve bought it in the Jan sales and it’s TIGHT. And fun, in a way that the original Enemy Territory and Battlefield 2 was fun, and yet on it’s own as well. I recommend it, and for £6 you can’t go wrong even if you never take it online as intended.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Feet: TO THE BAT-EDIT!

      KG

    • Feet says:

      Hooray!

    • abhishek says:

      How big is the Section 8 online community right now? I recall they had a fairly comprehensive stat tracking page but they never showed how many people were playing online.

    • Feet says:

      There were about 7 people playing at around midday today. :( Not sure if that’s the UK or Europe. I hope it manages to sustain a community since it’s a game for team play and clan play and even league\ladder play I reckon.

    • Lilliput King says:

      I know this isn’t the place, but where can I find it for £6?

    • Feet says:

      It was £5.98 on Gameplay.

    • kromagg says:

      The problem with Section 8 really is how badly Timegate fucked up its launch. Not only did they switch to GFWL at the very last minute, it didn’t fucking work. You’d be unable to find servers to play on, if you were even able to launch the game at all (there were huge threads on the forum about this). In the end, those that could play the game ended up playing against bots a lot, which kinda sucks really, takes away the human aspect of a multiplayer game. It really is a case study on how to properly mess up your own launch.

      By the time a patch finally came out, most of the community had given up. The server browser still sucks and hides loads of servers btw, but usually I can only find about 10-20 people online at any one point. This is supposedly worldwide(?).

      To add insult to injury they then released a map pack with 3 maps to a non-existent community and had the gall to charge money (fake microsoft money but still money) for it. What could’ve been a great opportunity to kickstart the community after finally patching some of the issues became just another shameless money grab.

      I’m staying away from timegate titles in the future.

  9. Ragnar says:

    Anno 1404, Braid and Mirror’s Edge together with Empire: Total War (which underwhelmed me) were the only games on this list that I bought last year. I played a couple of demos too (AI War for example) of the games in the calendar, but this must have been the most disappointing game-year in a long time for me.

    Hopefully 2010 will be much better!

  10. Heliocentric says:

    I know its only a micro expansion but any reason to mention sword of the stars (specifically argos naval yard) is a good reason. The game has been not just polished but crafted to be many times more than it was at its orgin.

    • Dominic White says:

      Now we just have to hope that Kerberos apply that kind of dedication to Fort Zombie, which (despite looking like a PS1 game in places) STILL runs like a dog on my machine. A PC which can run ArmA2 and Crysis quite soundly on the upper detail levels.

  11. Xercies says:

    Mirrors Edge is one of those games which annoys me and makes me feel happy. Its a very unuasual game in that sense both annopying and fun. I hope they do a sequel because I can see some future for it.

    The Path was..interesting.

  12. Zwebbie says:

    I liked Mirror’s Edge a lot. Not only does it have that freshness, it has some great production values and absolutely gorgeous art direction. Yeah, it’s short, its story is awful and the combat is far from a healthy change of pace, but when the game does shine, it’s one of the most fun experiences of all times – and reminded me somewhat of Portal.
    When I think about it, in fact, I don’t think the combat is actually that bad; you’ve got more moves at your disposal than the average Gordon Freeman or Master Chief. The thing is that the running and jumping is just that much more awesome.
    Considering it was priced down to about $5 on Steam twice this year, nobody should have missed out on Mirror’s Edge.

    • LewieP says:

      A lot of the set pieces did have a bit of a Valve quality to them. They managed to always keep you guessing, and despite the game being pretty much a straight corridor (with lots of branching paths) there always felt like there was a big city out there.

  13. Lacero says:

    oh man, every run and jump game needs sands of time. Assassin’s Creed, Uncharted, the end of PoP:SoT where they take it away.

    It was perfect guys! perfect! What are you all thinking!?!

    • Lacero says:

      @myself

      I’ll always remember this year in games for the post where Keiron snapped and tried to show us how to use the reply feature. I’m doomed to always remember it just a little too late.

  14. AndrewC says:

    The end of the Anno Domini entry is presumably a very clever way of saying the campaign is full of period detail? Yes, I shall take it as being very clever.

  15. Dominic White says:

    Oh yeah, my vote for last-minute surprise of 2009: Mechwarrior: Living Legends.
    http://www.mechlivinglegends.net/

    An enormo-mod for Crysis that could easily stand as a full retail game. Currently in beta, launched on December 26th, and kicking all kinds of ass. In at the 11th hour and wow, I’ve already put a ton of time into it.

    Fantastic gameplay video (oh lord those explosions are delicious) with possibly-questionable choice of music:

    It’s easily better than any of the retail Mechwarrior games, as far as multiplayer goes. The mixture of power-armored infantry (who play a bit like Tribes with shorter jump-jet burn time… at least on the higher gravity maps), planes, tanks, VTOLs and mechs really gives it a lot of variety and depth.

    You can get the Crysis complete pack off a bunch of stores for about £15 these days, and you should, because they’re great games and this mod is worth that money by itself. When it comes out of beta, we shall all bow down and worship.

    • mrpier says:

      @Dominic White Can you use a joystick to play it?

    • Dominic White says:

      MW:LL supports Joystick, gamepad, whatever you want. I’m doing very nicely with just mouse and keyboard though.

  16. Matt W says:

    In further defense of Mirror’s Edge (as that seems to be the theme these days), the “challenge mode” is at least as good as – and arguably better than – the main campaign. For one thing, it gives a much purer experience without any of the combat stuff. For another, it generally has an extremely well-judged difficulty ladder.

    One star is almost always fairly straightforward; getting the second requires not only a much better understanding of the course, but also usually demands that you step up your game in a particular area. One level might require you to really get double-wall-running sorted, while another makes you look much harder for alternate routes. With a few exceptions (that horrible Atrium series, which just makes you learn the course perfectly), it consistently improves your skills and offers a pretty engaging experience.

    (Three stars I find you can generally just ignore, unless you’re going to learn to do ridiculous stuff like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7B7qyNnaDCo)

  17. TheSombreroKid says:

    mirrors edge was exceptional i’d've bought it full price if there were no install limits instead i waited around and got it from the steam sale, same with dead space, crysis would’ve got my money too except for the part about them not removing the drm from the steam version.

  18. Carra says:

    Anno 1404 continues the series and brings one great addition: the muslim party. Now you get to build and manage two cities. Meh, makes me want to play it again.

    I just finished playing Mirrors Edge. It’s a fun game and I’m glad to see that EA dares to try out something entirely new from time to time. It’s been a while since I played a triple A game that feels fresh. For that reason alone it deserves your £3.

  19. Tei says:

    I think I grow bored of platform games with Manic Miner or Pitfall 2. So a game like Mirrors Edge is not my tea cup. Worse, theres more “accurate pressing keys” in ME.

    Braid feels more like work, than play.

    Serius Sam HD is not the SS that I remenber, maybe is remenber the 2th comming?

    Section 8 is on my “to buy” list, but I would pay less than 20€.

  20. Mike says:

    Hooray for Mirror’s Edge! Very happy at least somewhere loved it a bit.

  21. Oak says:

    Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood. I know most tuned it out since it’s a big, loud thing with ‘Call of’ in its name, but I had such a good time with it. The multiplayer is similarly thrilling, when you can find someone playing it.

  22. Casimir's Blake says:

    RPS and RPS readers, I assure you, Stalker Call Of Pripyat will make up for all the – frankly rather pathetic – FPS releases on PC as of late. CoD6 is very much an over-hyped also-ran.

  23. Monchberter says:

    I actually thought if you relied only on melee’s or disarms, then the games was surprisingly fresh with a good range of melee options.

    Shame that you could only take 2 hits from any copper and you were dead. Then what do you expect when you’re a slip of a girl against machine guns?

  24. Nova says:

    RPS sure loves Mirror’s Edge. Of course it was flawed like most games are but ‘deeply flawed’ and ‘beautiful failure’…?
    It seems you guys judge it mainly based on Alec’s underwhelmed WIT, just my impression.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      No, we’ve all played Mirror’s Edge, and we all come to similar conclusions. It’s a game with problems that outweigh its (not inconsiderable) successes.

    • Dominic White says:

      My only problems with it were a largely skippable plot, and a handfull of combat encounters that you couldn’t get around (but were easily beaten just with the slide-kick combo). Beyond that, it was about the best parkour-racing game imaginable.

  25. Vandelay says:

    Prototype would definitely be one of my favourites of the year. It had faults for sure, mostly the main story missions, lengthy boss battles, and the cliched and infuriating removing of powers moment, but they got the feel of movement so right that just travelling from one end of the city to the other was enough to keep me entertained. When they gave you the ability to hijack helicopters by using your whip power it just got even better.

    And Braid, which needs no explanation.

  26. KindredPhantom says:

    Wow, just spent the better part of Saturday catching up with the last week and half worth of RPS news/blog posts. I need to remind myself not to let that happen again..

    Despite the opinions of the hive mind, i think Fear 2 was a pretty decent FPS and i am looking forward to the next instalment.

  27. keroton says:

    Agree with not including modern warfare 2 its total bullshit…on the other side , dirt 2 and mirrors edge were great for me, only mirrors edge too short :(

  28. Theyos says:

    Demigod wasn’t crippled entirely by the network failure. That was fixed up relatively sharpish after release. The crying shame for me is that it was so massively neglected, methinks for the admittedly impressive looking Supreme Commander 2. Promised a year of updates, we’ve still to get two new demigods fully released, this after its April launch. The community is great, Stardock’s handling is great, it just didn’t get the attention it deserved.

  29. Dominic White says:

    As for Prototype, it was decent, but while there were about fifty different melee moves that you could buy, only a couple of them were useful, as anything meant to use against human-sized targets was pointless due to you automaticaly killing in one punch anyway.

    The studios previous game, Hulk: Ultimate Destruction on the PS2/360/Gamecube was far better in its combat mechanics. You got to fight a lot of hulk-scale enemies, and combat was often long and brutal brawling, trading punches and slamming each other all over the environment with a range of awesome wrestling-style moves.

    Wrestling becomes very impressive when you powerbomb a guy from a hundred feet up into a building, demolishing it entirely.

    Prototype did ranged/vehiclular stuff way better, but I really missed my puchy kicky smashy fighty time. If I’d been able to steer development of it at all, I’d have had more of an escalation in terms of combat around the halfway point – introducing more big, brawly enemies, and given the player a Combat Form power where you grow in size and toughness in exchange for the power to stand and go toe-to-toe with anything in classic Hulk style.

  30. Kadayi says:

    With respect to Mirrors Edge, my feeling is that like many other new IPs (Mass Effect, Assassins Creed spring to mind) it suffers from it’s teething problems (lousy forced FPS combat & absurd difficulty spikes) but I’m optimistic that the sequel will address the shortcomings and broaden the canvas of the game.

    With regards to Modern Warfare 2. I actually finished the single player last night. What an utterly absurd and baffling storyline. I really don’t know what Infinity ward were up to save to undo all the good work that went into the original title….

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Which part of Mirror’s Edge required combat, with the exception of one scene? I’m fairly certain the only time I did any sort of melee attacks was the one time that you absolute have to, and that’s an easy fight once you figure out the key-combo for sidestepping punches and kicks.

      My first playthrough I never touched a gun, and just disarmed anyone I couldn’t readily avoid. My second I disarmed one guy in the parking garage level, IIRC, just because I was having a hard time luring him away from where I needed to go, and just avoided confrontation otherwise.

    • Dominic White says:

      There’s an achievement on the 360 version for beating the entire game without firing a gun. This really is the ideal way to play the game – the combat flows SO much better if you’re not trying to shoot people, because that breaks up the flow of the gameplay really badly. It’s much more fun if you just treat guards as just another obstacle to navigate around or over.

    • Lilliput King says:

      I assumed we were meant to ignore the enemies, and that worked okay for a while. But there was one section where the Faith needed to climb up a pipe to progress, which was just impossible to do while beng shot at. Very dissapointing.

    • Kadayi says:

      Double post

    • Kadayi says:

      @Jason Moyer

      I’m sorry but the car parking section was a reload nightmare to get through, and it reached a point were it became a lot easier just to disarm the first guard you encounter outside the truck take his gun & shoot your way past the rest of them, rather than try anything fancy. If I had the patience of a saint & the free time of a student I’m sure I could of figured out how to get past them all without the necessity to resort to violence, but the truth of the matter is I have neither, nor do I feel it’s good game design if you as the player find yourself having to constantly reload a section again and again and again.

    • Muzman says:

      Kadayi and others.

      I don’t think you are forced to fight in any true way except for once or twice. Merc, the radio guy, does reccommend it a few times though. And once you know the way you can usually avoid it.

      I think that’s the thing though, ‘once you know the way’. They needed to both give you the sense that you are figuring it out on the fly, not learning through trial and error, and give you enough options that once you know the way there’s ever more methods/routes of travel available according to your skill.
      They hit both these things occassionally, but more would be better. Much more.
      It’s possible that doing this is a design nightmare, but it seems do able. They should have thrown the modding door wide open. I’m sure they would have found some people who get it in ways they might not have thought of initially.

      (I dunno how i’d do Ropeburn’s office without shooting the glass though. It’s so much easier)

    • Kadayi says:

      @Muzman

      They need to adopt a Valve style approach to level design and testing essentially. I think far to many game developers stick with in house testing teams, rather than getting in people off the street to come in and give it a go under observation.

    • Muzman says:

      Kadayi

      Yeah, maybe (although Valve are rather good at it these days. I think a lot of studios could easily misapply what they learn from such things *cough*Bioshock*cough*). I’d also say a Portal style introduction of mechanics would be good in principle as well. I wouldn’t have minded at all if the first level or two contained nothing but running/jumping/sliding just to get used to the feel of it, then introduce one thing at a time (and if the game mostly involved Faith just doing her job this would be easy to work into the narrative with no tutorial at all). There were a few times when they’d thow a puzzle or manouver at me on the first play through and it’d take ages to figure out just because I didn’t know the mechanics well enough. It’d be allright if I knew it could be done but didn’t quite have the skill (although that’d probably annoy a few players as well)

      Apropos of nothing but a funny thing happened on second play: I’d been doing time trials and so forth for a while and I couldn’t get past the tutorial in the story because I’m too good.
      One bit requires you to do a wallrun, spin and grab then haul yourself up onto a ledge. Because I can do it in a single movement now and skip the grab bit it wouldn’t let me pass.

    • Dave L. says:

      The thing about Mirror’s Edge is that it’s pretty much designed to be played through more than once. That first playthrough where you got stuck all the time and hated the combat? That was the tutorial.

      And seriously, there’s like 3 places in the whole game where combat is completely unavoidable. Two of those are in ‘The Ship,’ and one of THOSE is the big semi-scripted fight with the assassin.

  31. Monchberter says:

    I too gave Modern Warfare 2 a whirl and was immediately put off by the military porn and utter chaos. The multiplayer too seems to be mouth-breathingly dated but with a few instakill perks for the skilled.

  32. Hunam says:

    Heh, I agree with Champions Online entirely, not about Prototype though, it was an amazing game of ultra violent fun with some amazing set piece battles.

  33. robrob says:

    I was also baffled by the Clancy-inspired gun porn of MW2′s plot which jumped hyperactively from deserts to mountains to space with little desire to explain why. Which is why I found this piece so utterly astonishing.

    This is a game that sends a message: Video games have something intelligent to say about contemporary military conflicts. In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, you hop around the globe, chasing the front lines of globalized, asymmetrical combat, where not everybody wears uniforms, war isn’t always declared, and the battlefield isn’t clearly marked — battles rage through suburbs, airports and people’s living rooms. There’s tons of raw, riveting military action in Modern Warfare 2, but it’s very much about how the game has changed: limiting civilian casualties and figuring out whom to fight and why are just as important as staying alive.

    Say what you will about the game itself (I did not like it very much), but to state that MW2 was making a bold statement about war is complete nonsense.

  34. PHeMoX says:

    I don’t agree that Mirror’s Edge should have been without combat, instead it should have had more!! Similar combat to a game such as Oni, that would have REALLY mixed both worlds best!!

    One of the few flaws of Oni was that it didn’t have enough acrobatics in there, in a true 3D sense. Mirror’s Edge was spot on when it came to that with the awesome free running!

  35. Frankie The Patrician[PF] says:

    The graphics, sound, abilities, gore and the big scale of carnage…everything’s fine…if only it hadn’t been so BORING! Srsly…Doubt I will play it ever again…

    • Frankie The Patrician[PF] says:

      I was replying to…nevermind, YOU KNOW what game I’m speaking about…yes, Prototype

    • dadioflex says:

      Prototype I’ll pick up when it’s really cheap. I’ve been having a crapload of fun playing Saints Row 2 as a massive jerk. It’s nice to play a game character that’s truly dangerous.

    • PHeMoX says:

      I never thought of Prototype as boring, it’s one of the few games that make you want to unlock all the cool moves, basically just for the sake of more gore. I agree the gameplay starts to become very been-there-done-that at some point, but especially around half-way through the feeling of being superstrong takes off and really makes this a worth-while game to play!!!

      The repetitive setting doesn’t do much good, I’ll give you that, but I enjoyed the game a lot!

  36. MarkN says:

    Yeah, I really enjoyed Call of Jaurez: BIB (played it on my 360 rather than PC though). As I wrote on a forum I frequent, it’s by no means the best game ever, but it’s one of the best Western games ever, and that gets it a lot of love from me. I still intend to go back to finish off my second play through of it (and I almost never replay games).

    • PHeMoX says:

      It’s also one of the FEW western games ever, so I don’t think that’s much of an achievement to be honest!

      The very outdated looking Gun is more fun to play, but I’m sure it’ll be blown away by Rockstar’s new western gem, so I’ll wait before forgetting about Call of Juarez altogether for a few more months. ;)

  37. dadioflex says:

    Armoured Princess is boring the pants off me. I stopped playing KB because it was getting monotonous, but I don’t think that’s it.

    The quests in AP assume I’m a hot girl, and the stereotypical NPC responses are annoying me. Take away the engaging quests that KB had early on, leave the monotonous (eventually) combat, and what have you left? Not a game I’m going to finished.

  38. Logo says:

    I really enjoyed the story bits that were 1st person. When Faith meets up and hugs her sister early on in the game I was hooked, or at least thought I was. It was one of the better story telling sequences I’ve seen. Just the way the hug plays out was really touching. Unfortunately they didn’t use that often and instead resorted to the cut scenes which were kinda lame (other than being pretty).

  39. Andrew Doull says:

    You’re still missing my GotY: Research & Development.

    • Kua says:

      A worthy mention indeed.

      Braid really should have been on the calendar but I’ll forgive its omission, somehow.

      I have to agree with the Mirrors Edge grumblers (though I do intend to come back to it) and like another commenter I’m also struggling to get it running smoothly and that’s with a Nvidia 260.

      As for my game of the year (because I know you care), I would have said Machinarium, until Dragon Age came into my life and swept me off my feet. And how a fantasy RPG (something that normally just doesn’t do it for me) did that I cannot tell.

      But (and I’m going truly OT here – just splurging all my Christmas-y gaming thoughts) I’m surprised so many people find it difficult. You should understand that I normally suck badly at games. All kinds of games. But I’ve had to ramp DA up to to Hard to feel the challenge (and in fact I, rather stupidly, forgot to patch the game before starting – I’m worried to do that now because I’m thinking it might spoil my savegames). That said I do enjoy pausing every couple seconds, and perfecting every detail, indulging my micromanaging side. And perhaps I haven’t got to the tuff stuff yet.

    • The Unbelievable Guy says:

      I’m actually trying to find a game that has swept me off my feet with as much giddy charm and fun as Reasearch and Development has, and all I’ve come up with is Gravity Bone. Definitely the best things to come out of the indie/modding scene this year.

  40. Shrewsbury says:

    Maybe there should be a little mod roundup, they’ve been pretty good this year.

  41. Wulf says:

    I did love Champions Online, so much… until the Roper-Pandemic hit it, and then all the wonderful ideas within started to lose their shine. The man’s a brilliant voice actor, to give him his due, but he takes the shine out of everything. He seems to be the death of wonder, and it’s interesting that Runic seem to be doing so well now without him. Man’s like a bloody plague.

    I say this because…

    Patch. Hm, it’s a nerf.

    Patch. Oh, a lot of nerfs.

    Patch. A huge round of nerfs.

    Patch. To kill class diversity, and make things more mundane.

    Patch. Another round of nerfs.

    Patch. More nerfs.

    Patch. Hundreds of nerfs.

    Patch. geoahigeagoh NERFED AGAIN?

    Patch. Incredinerfs.

    NEWSFLASH: Sorry guys, we’ve learned our lesson. Instead of nerfing, from now on, we’re going to be buffing classes up to match other classes instead of nerfing, and increasing class diversity instead of decreasing it. Honest!

    Patch. Some nerfs.

    Patch. Moar nerfs.

    Patch. Crikey, that’s a lot of nerfs.

    Patch. COR LUMME, look at all the bloody nerfs.

    NEWSFLASH: That stuff we talked about? It’s coming guys, honest! Soon. Soon-ish. Really. Honest. We’re working on it. Keep paying for our game!

    Patch. Huh, more nerfs, really didn’t see that coming.

    Patch. Gods damn it, how much more can they nerf the sets before they end up with just a billion names for the same power?!

    Patch. Oh, look at that, they’re trying to do just that.

    Patch. The death of class diversity.

    JOY: A harmless bug is discovered that allows people to become giant people, it’s completely harmless and doesn’t impact against the game in any way. Sure, there are trolls who’ll lie about it, but tests showed that it was just harmless fun. Yay for being super-giant!

    Patch. More nerfs.

    Patch. Forced-grouping event. WTF?! They said they’d never do that!

    Patch. Oh, look… nerfs.

    Patch. Lawks, nerfs!

    NEWSFLASH: We hear you, you loved the force-grouping in Bloodmoon! Oh, we know damn near everyone on the forums is saying otherwise, but they’re just the vocal minority, right? Heard people talk bad about it in the game, too? Vocal minority. People told me they thought Bloodmoon was awesome. Yeah! Bloodmoon was awesome! Dude! Not at all delusional, guys.

    Patch. Nerfs.

    Patch. Oh look, fixes.

    Patch. More fixes.

    Patch. Have they finally learned their lesson? Seems to to be more fixes.

    Patch. HUGE ROUND OF NERFS. FFFFFFFFFFF!

    Patch. Fixed the evil giant item bug? NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

    I just became disenchanted.

    I can only blame Bill Roper for this, because the game was a thing of beauty in beta, and only got worse after he took over the project. I was willing to give him a chance, but I’ve learned my lesson. People were right, I was an idiot and I should have listened. Bill Roper is a disease, and all that he touches turns to rot.

    Why did they have to let him touch Champions Online?

    WHy?!?

    /runs off sobbing.

  42. Matzerath says:

    Mirror’s Edge is a wonderful example of the schizophrenia of the gaming community.
    “Modern games, especially console ports, are too goddamn easy!”
    “Mirror’s Edge is too goddamn hard!”

    • Oak says:

      It’s not that Mirror’s Edge is too hard, it’s that it frustrates at almost every point that it starts to be fun.

    • bhlaab says:

      There’s a difference between difficult and poorly designed

    • Matzerath says:

      The thing is, I found it well-designed and lots of fun. It must be an old-school PC thing to not be so bothered by having to try a level multiple times. I’ve likened Mirror’s Edge to the original Prince of Persia, and in that they definitely have something in common. You want some frustration, just give that undisputed classic a few plays.
      Also, the idea that you can’t be a pacifist in the game until you get REALLY good at it is actually kinda cool. You have to work at it before you can move beyond snatching a machine gun and taking out some soldiers in your way.
      (Of course, there’s really no getting beyond kicking a few in the head.)

  43. geldonyetich says:

    I did a lot of looking into The Path after reading this. Woah. Deep, High Artsy-type game.

    I actually really liked Armored Princess. But then, I never played the original King’s Bounty.

    Sadly on-target for Champions Online. It’s not that the game won’t continue to improve after release (unless it’s shut down) but damn, I was really banking on that one.

  44. sinister agent says:

    I enjoyed Mirror’s Edge a lot, and can grudgingly forgive its weaknesses simply because it tried and mostly succeeded at doing something new. The perspective made first-person jumping puzzles exhilierating rather than irritating, and the art style and sound were so atmospheric and plain pretty. It’s still hard to believe it was made by EA. It was far from perfect, but there’s very little about it that couldn’t be fixed and improved upon by the inevitable sequel – of course flaws shouldn’t exist in the original to begin with, but for such a novel game I think teething errors can be forgiven. I just hope they learned from their mistakes.

  45. Patrick says:

    I first heard of LoL – Leauge of Legends – through this site, and have probably played it more than any other game released in the past handful of months. It’s my primary also-ran – I’m surprised it wasn’t on the list, but oh, well

  46. FreeBooter says:

    Mirror’s Edge was a pleasant surprise for me. I originally hought it was going to be some dumbed down shite that played itself (color-coded paths, really?) but it turned out not to be. I ended up really liking the clinical, clean look of the game and the movement felt right (didn’t get the motion sickness others did). Flawed gem for sure. Hope there’s a sequel despite Riccotello’s policies.

    • Kadayi says:

      I think a sequels pretty much been confirmed. JR is the one whose been pushing for quality titles like ME & Dead Space so I wouldn’t be too down on him. He’s done a lot to turn EA around in recent years. The problem at the moment is, that EA are suffering as a result of the financial crisis like most publishers and there is a strong possibility that they might get bought out by someone, which wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing. There is a lot of talk about Microsoft naturally (which would be a very bad thing, esp for us PC gamers), but someone else was thinking Disney might be a potential suitor as they are fairly healthy financially, and that might not necessarily be a bad fit for EA.

  47. MadMatty says:

    Hmmm 2009……. Well i played a bunch of old games, WoW, EvE, Red Orchestra.

    Had some fun with Darkfall for about a month or two, until the exploiters got to me- everyone was doing it , and the levelling up was snooozesome to say the least.

    Some of the 2009 games i did play, was:
    Torchlight- great but short lived, and just got Killing Floor which is actually great, but with sort of crappy animation.
    Got both AI: War and Gratouitous Space Battles- decent games if you can stand 2d.
    There wasn´t much to get me really really excited tho…. hoping for Elite 4, for which i´d prostitute myself for a chance to play.

    Happy new year geeks!

    • MadMatty says:

      Gratuitous? damn hard werd to spell

    • MadMatty says:

      I also played a *lot* of supreme commander…. the real genre classics only come very couple of years or so anyway, so i´d rather play those rather than “the new shit” all the time.

      I do enjoy new experiences though (ooer) so i like to try a bit of everything (here comes) –
      Originality is a plus for me, but new ideas induce risks- business type risks: so, new “triple A” titles usually go through the tried-and-tested gameplay mechanics a lot more than small fast Indie companies who can afford to try new ideas and twists, because thats the only way they´ll stand a chance MUUUHAHAHHAHAHHA!