If I can be brutally honest, I wasn’t too much a fan of last year. Why? Because this list is much bigger than it should be. Settle in, folks, ‘cos this is gonna be a long one.
Dragon Age 2
Why not start us off with one of the most divisive games of the year? I myself held off on this game until a massive price drop simply because absolutely no one could agree on what they thought of this game. Whilst there will always be people disgareeing with an opinion, as there often should be, Dragon Age 2 was simply not getting any sort of cohesive opinion. So when I finally dived in, I didn’t know what to expect.
4 hours in, judging the story beyond, “It’s not very interesting so far,” would be a gross mistake. Everything else? The art design is kind of bland, even moreso than Origins (and boy howdy, does that take some doing!), the combat is miles ahead of Origins but still not nearly good enough to sustain the whole game, let alone the point I’m at. The worst of it, however, is the pure gameplay flow. It’s like someone took out the growth and community aspects of an MMO, made it heavily constricted and force you to play tons of filler missions. And I’m sorry, but 4 hours in, that’s not good enough, and I can’t see it changing up much later on.
Alice: Madness Returns
Again, I haven’t beaten this one, but I have made a hefty amount of progress, enough to justify critique of just about everything. For the first main chapter, it was great, if a little drawn out. It had a mysterious story and atmosphere, tight platforming and even frenetic, fun combat. I was loving this game. But it didn’t take too long for repetition to set in.
No new enemy types. No new puzzles. No new formulas. Even the level specific artpieces get boring when you’re forced to spend ages in them with little to do but everything you’ve done before. Eventually, Madness Returns simply became too monotonous for me to have any fun with, which is why I play games in the first place. Your technical achievements can be grand and glorious, but if the game isn’t just fun, it’s not worth playing.
Shadows of the Damned
Bring on the hate.
This was still a good game, but with three really big names and an accomplished formula behind it, this had no excuse not to be great. Shadows of the Damned was still pretty enjoyable, and it’s one of the better games on this list, but the only talent that I felt lived up to his potential was Akira Yamaoka, who has produced some of the best videogame music I’ve ever heard. Elsewhere, the shooting was too sloppy, the humour too vulgar and the story too subdued to be the smash success I wanted it to be.
I predict other people will say they had better times with it, and that’s absolutely fine. Me? It should have been a lot better than just decent.
Duke Nukem Forever
This is one we’ve already had some varying opinions about on this very site, some positive, some as far removed from it. I’m personally of both minds about this one. I think I had more fun than Kyle, but there are just some aspects of this game you can’t defend at all.
The mid-90s/early-00s feel actually caught on with me, and I liked the rather streamlined and somewhat varied approach to the flow of the game, as well as the fact that it’s a great deal longer then most other games these days, which seemingly shows that 12/15/1000 years of work actually paid off in a small way. But fundamentally, even as an “old” game, it’s a pretty shabby effort. Some of the guns do have some punch to them, but the enemies are generic in nature and style, the modern tweaks do not mesh at all, graphically it’s quite bad…perhaps not disappointing, as I wasn’t expecting much to begin with, but very unsatisfying. Still, I’m glad the gaming world’s longest running joke finally had its punchline.
Beyond the minor niggles, such as the open world being way too big and empty and some of the detective elements flat out sucking, the thing that made me put this game on this list is actually spoileriffic, so I’m not going to say it outright. I’ll just say, though, that I had a relationship with the main character similar to that of James Sunderland at the end of Silent Hill 2, but for the wrong reasons.
Saints Row: The Third
As I said in my SR3 DLC first wrap-up, if I had to rate the game, it would be a 7. Before you go all “he works for IGN” on me, I want to say the same thing for Shadows and say that given its pedigree, there was no reason it shouldn’t have been great. Saints Row 2, to put it midly, was a sandbox masterpiece. Admittedly, the recipe for success involved with that game was as hard to describe as rocket science, so I could understand if this was just a little bit worse, or didn’t quite capture the magic of the second game because the missed the point. But the degree this happened to is alarming.
The humour of the second game came from the contrast between your silly creations and combos and the altogether serious-ish world around you. It was up to you to go balls to the wall. When Volition did it for The Third, it just didn’t work. The crazy became routine and thus lost its appeal. Everything else just seems like a pure step down from its predecessor. Perhaps The Third exists simply to make the GTA series regain supremacy of the genre when it launches.
And it better, because IV sucked.
The 3rd Birthday
Oh, we’re getting to this one later. Be ready.
Marvel Vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
I believe the fate of Two Worlds was already found to be a critical spanking, so why this game exists in the first place is beyond me.
In all seriousness, this game was so utterly barebones that many people, including myself, felt cheated by purchasing it. There was simply nothing to do, not even in terms of fighting. Even its Ultimate follow-up feels lackluster when compared to games like Blazblue and Mortal Kombat. And then Capcom has the audacity to charge full proce for it on XBL Games On Demand just before Ultimate launches. If that isn’t a cheap business tactic, I don’t know what is.
Surprised I didn’t put Deus Ex 3 or Skyrim on there? Annoyed Shadows of the Damned is? Leave your comments below. I really do appreciate the feedback.