So! Here was my year, essentially, as I finally gave up on PC gaming.
Persona 4. Times a lot. I very nearly played it twice. It’s so great. If this had come out on the Wii, say, it might be the game of the year on that console. It’s funny, cool, it’s sooooo Japanese and weird, and it takes itself seriously too, and the characters are great (and kind of hilariously stupid), and combat is deep and interesting (and challenging throughout)… loved it. I didn’t think I would, either, and I was utterly won over.
Fallout 3. Still. Hated the crashes, hated the whole Windows Live experience w/DLC.
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood. I’d heard a lot of good things, and it was Zero Punctuation-endorsed, so I was in. But it’s… it’s not good. It’s a Western shooter where you end up killing 100, 200 or so people while making your way through a town of 12 people. And the cover mechanic is okay but I never quite got it, so I spent a lot of time in controller frustration land. Also, I don’t understand how the South lost the Civil War. They could have just sent the worthwhile brother north to rend destruction all the way up the coast until the North surrendered. I know, that’s not the point, but when you and an NPC can kill off huge units of organized, heavily-armed military units, it raises some questions.
Red Faction: Guerrilla. There’s just something about taking down buildings with a sledgehammer that makes my soul smile. And it had a sense of humor I just loved. “Given enough explosives, any moron can destroy a building. Don’t you want to be that moron?” Yes. Yes I did.
Grand Theft Auto 4. I gave it up for being tedious and boring when it came out, and finished it off. It had its moments, but I kept wishing I was playing GTA3, or GTA San Andreas instead. Or something actually fun. The bugs didn’t help. I hated all the driving around: it really just sapped the fun out of it. If you have an hour or two to play a game, the last thing you want to do is spend it driving to a mission start, from there to the mission, and then losing. Some of those missions required so much driving it made me hate the game. I hated the friend mechanic, especially because it required so much driving. I hated that at several points your success in a mission depends largely on amazingly stupid AI-controlled characters (“There’s a boathouse full of guys with automatic weapons firing at us! Chaaarge! Hey I’m dead and you fail the mission and have to go back and pick me up and drive me here so I can do that again it’ll be awesome!”)
Prince of Persia. It’s fun, it’s gorgeous. I don’t like the Street Fighter-style combat system (I’m old, I don’t have time or energy to memorize combo sequences, sorry). I loved playing it, and I never got frustrated because I found the partner-saves-you mechanic charming. The hero does look… dumb. And the dialogue is both great and a little too self-aware and clever sometimes. I ended up giving up when I needed to go floaty-white-blob-hunting to advance agaaaaaaain, and it felt like makework, going back through sections collecting McGuffins for no good reason. Also, I got
Dragon Age Origins. I like it, and I’ve liked everything Bioware’s ever done, but it is a little Knights of the Fantasy Republic. And on the console, I can’t control stuff as well as I used to on the PC, and the difficulty of some encounters is just crazy. And I’m constantly broke. And the other characters are jerks and the companion-soothing part of the game makes me want to scream sometimes. But it’s sooooo deep and often wonderful. That got put on pause for
Assassin’s Creed II. What a game. It’s a testament to how beautiful and well-done the world is that I often find myself wandering around the cities, getting in trouble, running around the streets taking side missions, rather than advance the plot (which is quite nice). I hate when the free-running mechanic fails (and it does), causing Enzo to veer 30 degrees off-course from the post I was heading straight for and instead into the five-story free-fall the game thinks I wanted to do. And the combat sometimes doesn’t make any sense to me, and I’ve spent some time trying to figure that out. And the Tomb Raider sections require me to take blood pressure medication.
But then there are moments where it all comes together and feels so perfectly natural. I was on a mission going after some guy across rooftops, and a guard got me, knocking me of and into the street below, and I started to run alongside the buildings, knowing that if he kept going in that direction he’d have to drop down in a hundred yards or so, and if he did, I could catch him there. So I barreled through the crowds, knowing if I tripped or missed a turn he’d get away, not really sure if I was even right about the geography… and I made it, came around just as he dropped onto the street, lept, and as I stood and cheered Enzo tackled him. It felt perfect: a payoff for all the time I’d spent wandering around, running the streets, learning the controls, all of it turning this slim chance of success into triumph.
I played the first game and found enough of it annoying and broken to make me give it up early, and this… it’s an amazing achievement.
Rock Band Beatles is great, too. Whole other thing, though. I played Gears of War 2, it was… Gears of War 2. Had some great scenes and set pieces. Plot doesn’t make any sense. Or the world. Or… never mind. I know that’s not the point. Also, the biggest bad-ass on the planet has a death allergy to water, which sucked.
Oh, DS-wise: Scribblenauts was pretty great for the first bit and then I grew to hate the controls, how so much stuff doesn’t work how it’s supposed to, and how you’re reduced to using the same six objects over and over. And the controls, oh, how I hate the controls.
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box was Layton-y and the plot doesn’t make a lick of sense. It has a plot that makes less sense the longer you play, and the least sense when it’s all supposedly resolved. The fact that one of the characters is absent for– I’ll stop.
Game of the Year as played: Persona 4. In terms of hours of enjoyment, it’s on the all-time list.
Game of the Year as released: Assassin’s Creed 2.
Games I still need: Batman, Borderlands, a PS3 and a host of PS3 games. I uh… also still want to play 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand. YO FIDDY. I’ll play Halo ODST when I can get it for $30. Or $20. I may never play it. I went back to play some Halo 3 and it didn’t go well.