Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Weekly Top 5: Games I Finished Out of Spite

You all can thank Occams for this topic. He asked "What games have you finished out of spite" on a recent episode of my podcast. And that caused a light bulb to turn on above my head and I decided to write this list that you are currently reading. We all have those games that we wind up completing long after we've stopped enjoying ourselves. For me, it's usually because it's the newest entry in a series of games I've enjoyed. But, as you can see from this list, perhaps I need to spare myself the pain and break the cycle.

(Dis)honorable Mention

Borderlands The Pre-Sequel

I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed...

5. Gears of War: Judgment

Oh, Gears of War. No games got more play time last generation than the Gears of War series did for me. Between the broken yet tolerable multiplayer, incredibly satisfying shooting, fantastic co-op gameplay, and the best version of wave-based battles in all of gaming, it's no wonder why the Gears games are system sellers for Microsoft (the next Gears will likely prompt me to finally pull the trigger on an Xbox One). Gears 3's Horde Mode is some of the most fun I've ever had, it didn't matter if I was playing a pickup game or playing with friends, I sunk hundreds of hours and played thousands of waves of Horde.

So what's the best way to build on that momentum? By omitting everything great from the next game, of course. I'm not going to sit here and pretend I know anything about game design, and yes, I understand that this is more or less a side story and was developed by People Can Fly rather than being a strictly Epic joint, but how can you get rid of so many things that have been in the game from the beginning? Why can't I plant grenades on walls anymore? That's how I got the majority of my kills because I suck at multiplayer. They got rid of the Locust for competitive multiplayer, now pitting COG Team Red versus COG Team Blue, and turned it into a class-based team. The Horde mode is completely removed, and in its place is the less than thrilling Overrun. Judgment is so far detached from what drew me in to the series, and I haven't even spoken about the campaign yet.

The campaign is balls. Marcus Fenix isn't exactly breaking the mold as far as videogame characters go, but he's the face of the franchise. In Judgment, they replaced him with the series' most unlikable character, Baird. They cut the campaign up into smaller chunks, which is good in theory, but totally immersion-breaking in practice. The only redeeming qualities about the campaign are the sections that are set up much like a Horde wave, and the optional difficulty spikes, which briefly put you at a disadvantage for the opportunity to obtain a better ranking when the section ends.

But despite all the negatives, I still found some enjoyment in Judgment, it just doesn't stack up to the rest of the series.

4. Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

I love Professor Layton, and I've played enough Phoenix Wright to consider myself a fan. I was so stoked when I first heard about this crossover, and knew that I would be there on day one when it came to North America. Then I started playing, and I was on board and totally captivated for the first 5 hours. I really liked the story and where it was going. Being a Christian that believes in an omnipotent, omnipresent being that's responsible for the creation of all things, I found the Storyteller to be a particularly fascinating character.

Then I started playing the witch trials in Labyrinthia. And I continued to play them because they seemingly go on forever. That's when I realized that maybe I wasn't quite the Phoenix Wright fan that I thought I was. But I continued to press on just to get to the next Layton sequence, which would then be cut short by an insane amount of reading which would inevitably lead to another tedious witch trial.

Thirty hours later, I finally reached the conclusion. That's probably the longest I ever continued to play a game after I had lost interest. It was technically a Professor Layton game (though I felt he got the short end of the stick), so I felt like I had to finish it. Never again.

3. Flower

Flower is the first game I played where I legitimately felt cheated out of my money. For every other game on this list, I can understand why some people felt about the game the way they did. I understood the criticisms and couldn't disagree, but with Flower, I have no idea why people love this game with the amount of fervor that they do.

When I say this next sentence, keep in mind that I've yet to play Journey, but I have played Flow and Flower, and hated both of them. So, just based on the Thatgamecompany games that I've played, I think they're one of the most overrated developers out there today. Honestly, I'm waiting to play Journey until I can get it for free, because I disliked Flower that much and don't want to risk any more money.

I disliked Flower for the same reasons I disliked Proteus: I found there to be no substance to the game. A game that can be "beaten" in 45 minutes for $15 whose gameplay is basically that plastic bag scene from American Beauty yet features exactly zero Kevin Spacey? I'm still scratching my head on just what it is that people see in Flower.

2. Assassin's Creed III

"Oh, it can't be that bad" I told myself as I read the reviews for Assassin's Creed III. How could it be? ACII was great, Brotherhood was my favorite so far, and Revelations may have been unnecessary but was still mostly enjoyable for me. "These reviewers are overreacting!" I mean, this is Revolutionary America, that's a great idea for a backdrop. Some of America's founding fathers like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin are featured characters, that sounds so good!

Then I fired up the game and it is so not good. I wasn't there, but I can't imagine that the Revolutionary War was this boring. My biggest gripe is that you spend so much time running around a world full of nothing. In Brotherhood, I would often forego the fast travel system because I loved traversing the rooftops and landscapes of Venice. In Assassin's Creed III, the fast travel was cumbersome and the world completely unimaginative. Where I found Altair and Ezio to be characters I grew to like, Connor is barely a character at all. I love the idea of a Native American protagonist, but Connor has the personality of a 2x4.

And unlike most people, who found the naval combat to be one of the few redeeming qualities to the game, I hated those sections with a fiery passion, and that's the reason I skipped Black Flag. The only thing that drove me to finish ACIII was seeing the Desmond story to the bitter end, and bitter it was, indeed.

1. Resident Evil 6

Prior to 2012, the idea of not picking up a Resident Evil game on launch day was completely foreign to me. Operation Raccoon City was so abysmal that it dashed all hope that I had for Resident Evil 6, and this is coming from someone that legitimately loves RE5 (in co-op mode, at least). Resident Evil is one of my all-time favorite series, and several entries in the franchise would make it into my top games of all-time list. I've probably written about RE more than I've written about any other games. What I'm trying to convey to you here is that I'm a bit of a Resident Evil superfan. Or, at least, I was.

There were RE spin-off games before Operation Raccoon City, and I always knew better than to compare them to the main entries, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that ORC was a death knell for the series. Pre-release trailers for RE6 did give me a little bit of hope, channeling the relentless pursuit of series icon Nemesis in the form of the Ustanak, but that wasn't enough to make us overlook all the things the game does wrong. Resident Evil 6 does its absolute best to imitate Gears of War and fails miserably.

I come to Resident Evil for survival horror/action, not a run-of-the-mill third-person-shooter. I'm all for taking the series in new directions, but it was just taken too far. Why do characters now have stamina meters? And karate moves? Why are there (bad) car chases sequences? Why are there stealth sections? Why are there swimming sections? Why am I in a war-torn European town? Why doesn't Chris Redfield leave the B.S.A.A. and compete in the Mr. Olympia contest? He's certainly been juicing enough.

Why is this game 30 hours long? And why did I play every minute of it?

Thanks for reading, hopefully it wasn't as infuriating for you to read as it was for me to write.

Don't forget that you can follow me on Twitter, subscribe to my podcast, and subscribe to my YouTube channel. And here's the latest episode of the Error Machine Podcast for you to enjoy.

-Dustin

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Error Machine Podcast Episode 46 - Where Old Jokes Never Die

1:20 Luke ventures into chiptunes

4:15 Dustin finally started watching Breaking Bad

5:35 Dustin scolds Erik for skipping the gym

7:00 Bloodborne talk

8:45 Erik played Rogue Legacy/Killzone Mercenary

11:50 Dustin played The Order: 1886

15:50 Luke despises Code Name S.T.E.A.M.

18:10 The weirdness of Kid Icarus Uprising

21:45 Splatoon hype

23:30 New releases

24:15 Dustin's beef with Borderlands: Handsome Collection

27:40 Is Mario Party 10 Nintendo's worst published game?

31:00 Overpriced Metal Slug 3

34:30 Ramifications of Kojima leaving Konami

42:15 Predator joins Mortal Kombat X

45:30 Questions

54:00 Outro

You can subscribe to the Error Machine Podcast on both iTunes and Stitcher Radio, as well as subscribing to your YouTube page, which features new videos every week. And we also have a Facebook page now, so go there and like the page to be the first to find out when new content is available.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Weekly Top 5: Playstation 2 Games

There's a reason the Playstation 2 is the best selling videogame console of all-time (and by a rather wide margin), and it's because it was the first videogame console that felt like it was for everybody. The fact that it doubled as a DVD player certainly helped, and I would wager that it was probably the first DVD player that many of us owned, because it certainly was for me. The system did have a very weak launch lineup, so the DVD player may have been its saving grace, but after it was given the time to warm up and dig its heels in a bit, it wound up as one of the most beloved pieces of hardware in the world.

The PS2 was the first system I ever bought with my own money, so it holds a special place in my heart for that reason, among several others, which I'm going to talk about now.

Honorable Mentions

Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy

If memory serves me correctly, the original Jak may have been the first game in the era of memory cards that I ever beat in less than one day, I was just captivated by it. I didn't play it when it was originally released, but when I saw a preview on G4 for Jak II, that motivated me to go back and play the original.

While they went more of the Ratchet & Clank route for the subsequent titles, The Precursor Legacy had a greater emphasis on lightheartedness and platforming, and for those reasons it remains my favorite game in the series, and I would love nothing more than for Naughty Dog to return to Jak after the release of Uncharted 4. It likely won't happen, but a man can dream.

Guitar Hero II

I was obsessed with the Guitar Hero series for the better part of three years. I still hold the first three entries in the series in high esteem, though I think the series was never better than it was with Guitar Hero II. I was good at the games, too. Darn good. I took great satisfaction in knowing that I was undoubtedly better than my Error Machine cohort, Luke Roberts. For those of you who don't know, I'm not better than Luke at many games, but he had no chance against me when we were holding fake, plastic guitars.

GHII also had my favorite soundtrack of the series, with songs ranging from classics like "War Pigs" and "The Trooper" to modern rock with songs from Foo Fighters and Stone Temple Pilots to straight-up current-day metal with Lamb of God and The Sword. And I spent almost two weeks trying to beat "Free Bird" on expert before I finally managed to pull it off. That was a definite fist-pump moment for me in gaming if there ever was one.

5. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

If ever there were a game tailored specifically for a gamer like me, it's this one. I remember picking it up used for about $15 back when I worked at Blockbuster after hearing the glowing reviews. The Sands of Time rekindled the long dormant love I have for platformers, and I haven't looked back ever since.

While I didn't find the combat to be anything to write home about, it was still serviceable, and there were certainly some fun enemy encounters, but what made the game so memorable for me (and likely everyone else) were the time manipulation aspects and the way the story was told. The ability to rewind time was such a great tool for helping you get through those long, difficult platforming sections, enabling you to give it another go if your timing was off.

And since I'm pretty sure the spoiler grace period is over, I loved the way the prince would back the story up if you happened to die, saying things like "No no, that's not the way it happened." The reveal at the end was also a nice little touch that I appreciated. The game is still worth playing today if you've never tried it, and if you don't want to go back to the PS2, you can buy the Sands of Time trilogy on PS3.

4. God of War

God of War wastes no time getting the action started, a trend that has continued throughout the series. I'm not sure if this would be a compliment or an insult, but the opening Hydra sequence in this game is still probably my favorite thing in the entire God of War series. That's not to say that I don't love the other games, because I certainly do, and I even liked Ascension, as unnecessary as it was.

If there's anything negative I can say about God of War, it's that there aren't enough boss battles. Outside of the Hydra, there's only the temple guardian and the final sequence of battles with Ares. I was big into Greek mythology back then, and I was hoping I would have seen other characters like the Kraken, Apollo, or a chimera, all of which would appear in later games, but I didn't realize it was going to be a series at the time.

The combat is very satisfying, and I love mixing the Blades of Chaos combos with the magic abilities you gain on your quest. The game has a fixed camera, and for the most part you'll never have much to complain about, but sometimes it does get a bit annoying while confined in close quarters. Many people consider the sequel to be the high-water mark of the series, but I still prefer the original.

3. Shadow of the Colossus

Oh, Shadow of the Colossus, my only regret with you is that I waited so long to realize your majesty. Despite the love that this game commanded, I didn't play it until the Ico & Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection became free on Playstation Plus a couple of years ago. I decided to play Ico first, and I wound up playing for about an hour before I got stuck and gave up. That wasn't a great first impression, but I went ahead and started SotC anyway, and was absolutely hooked from the beginning. It became one of those games I wasn't allowed to play unless my wife was watching, and she fell in love with the game as hard as I did.

The word "epic" gets thrown around a lot in videogames, but if I was going to attach it to only one game, it would be Shadow of the Colossus. The fact that there are no enemies in the game outside of the titular colossi leads you to feeling so very insignificant while also making you feel like the world's only hope. While I'm not the kind of person to explore in a game without a good reason, it's a credit to Team Ico that they crafted an entire world that very few people are going to take the time to search through.

Taking down each colossus is a puzzle and sometimes requires you to think outside the box, and one wrong move could result in you doing several more minutes of setup for another golden opportunity. It can be frustrating, but the thrill of victory is much greater than the agony of defeat. Despite the fact that I knew the twist at the end, I couldn't help but feel a significant amount of rage after what happened to my equestrian companion near the end of the game.

2. Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence

I say this with zero hyperbole, I've never been more impatient about a game's launch than I was with Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. I consumed every single bit of coverage I could possibly find on that game and would constantly search for more. A single screenshot, an article that had one sentence from Hideo Kojima revealing more about the game, a small piece about a new character, anything, just hook it into my veins! On release day, I went to the local GameStop I had the game pre-ordered at as soon as they opened...and they didn't have the game yet. I sat at the Dayton Mall waiting for two hours before the UPS guy finally showed up. So, was the wait worth it?

To me, the answer is a resounding yes, and I played the game nonstop for several months straight. There were so many different ways to play the game, and I wanted to see every little thing it had to offer. Defeat the bosses by knocking them out rather than killing them? I did it. Killed The End before you're supposed to fight him? I did it. Cause The End to die of old age? Did it. Scared enemies with trapped animals? Yes, sir. Shot enemy radios so they couldn't call for back up? You better believe it.

A while down the road, they released the updated Subsistence version of the game, which gave you full control of the camera as well as the MSX versions of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. The game may have been too great of a change from the previous two MGS games, but I welcomed the camouflage and healing systems, immersion-breaking as they may be at times. Despite the recent announcement that series mastermind and all-around crazy person, Hideo Kojima, won't be involved in future installments after The Phantom Pain, I may be just as hyped for that game as I was for this one.

1. Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 may not have been a PS2 exclusive, nor was it originally intended to be on the system at all, but it's the system that I played it on and was without question the game that saw the most play time on my Playstation 2. It was a game that Luke and I would spend every evening playing, and would trade the controller back and forth for hours on end, eventually turning every stone in the game. There was nothing in the game that we didn't get/find/do. Every unlockable, every shooting gallery trophy, S ranks with every character on every map in Mercenaries, you name it, and we did it.

Resident Evil 4, love it or hate it, changed the way we play survival horror games, giving us plentiful ammo (or adequate ammo, at least) while still giving us reasons to sweat. It finally got away from Raccoon City and the Umbrella corporation, though it certainly has its ties to those earlier titles. It's really quite amazing that the game turned out as well as it did when you consider just how many times the game changed. The fact that Devil May Cry originally began life as an early version of Resident Evil 4 is something that's still hard to wrap my head around, and even watching early footage of the more paranormal version of the game is hard to watch when you compare it to the finished product.

Even though a great deal of the game is an escort mission, it's a sin that can be easily forgiven after all the narrow escapes, white-knuckle enemy encounters, and various other memorable moments you find throughout Resident Evil 4.

Hey, thanks for reading. Here's all the other places you can find me on the internet.

Error Machine YouTube page (<-- you should subscribe to that)

Error Machine Podcast (<-- you should subscribe to that, too)

My Twitter (<-- you should follow me on that)

And in case you missed it, here's the latest episode of the Error Machine Podcast for your auditory euphoria.

-Dustin

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Error Machine Podcast 45 - Resident Hunk

The band is finally back together to discuss things like flea markets, WrestleMania, Nintendo's new hardware announcement, and more.

Intros 00:30

Chris' flea market fail 1:20

Dustin makes his grand entrance 5:45

Dustin is not impressed with WrestleMania 7:20

Erik does the Macarena 10:35

Erik played MediEvil Resurrection 14:00

Dustin played Hotline Miami 2 17:00

Luke played Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. 22:00

Chris played Destiny 26:45

New Releases

Battlefield Hardline 29:00

Final Fantasy Type-0 HD 30:40

Code Name S.T.E.A.M. 33:30

Resident Evil Revelations 2 34:35

Error Machine Describes 50 Pinch Barrage 36:45

Jason Voorhees announced for Mortal Kombat X 42:15

Nintendo announces code name for next hardware 46:40

DeNA and Nintendo announce partnership 51:20

Listener questions and outro 56:30

Check out our YouTube channel!

Subscribe on iTunes

Subscribe on Stitcher Radio

Follow us on Twitter

@TheDustinThomas

@FakeChrisCramer

@BygJuce

@Snedegascar

Friday, March 13, 2015

Weekly Top 5: Sports Games

Most of you probably aren't all that into sports games, or sports in general, for that matter. I, however, grew up playing sports and continued to participate in athletics up until I retired from wrestling (and yes, professional wrestling is a sport). I don't play many sports games these days, but growing up they were my absolute favorites. But I'm not going to limit this list to sports-simulation games, this will be all inclusive. And even though I just made the argument that professional wrestling is a sport, I'm not going to have them on this list, because I'm working on a top 5 wrestling games list as well, so we'll just save those for that list.

For variety purposes, I'm only including one game per sport, now let's get started with a couple honorable mentions.

Wii Sports

Don't even sit there and try to say that you didn't have a blast with Wii Sports. Even today it's a great party game. The Nintendo Wii and it's pack-in game revolutionized the videogame industry and made the system one of the most sought after pieces of hardware in history, two years after it was released it was still hard to find.

I knew a lot of people that bought the system and never bought another game for it because Wii Sports was all they needed, and there's nothing wrong with that. I would also like to point out that I'm undefeated in Wii Sports Tennis, and I'll take on all comers.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2

Few franchises have suffered from the annual release schedule worse than Tony Hawk. I was with the series all the way up to American Wasteland, which is a lot longer than most people that I knew. I remember getting a Playstation demo disc from Pizza Hut that featured the Warehouse stage from the original THPS, and that was enough to convince me to buy the game. Then the sequel came out and made the game even better.

My best friend and podcast co-host, Christopher Craig Cramer, actually wound up getting third place in the world at the game in the official tournament run by Activision, so he's my go-to source when it comes to the early Tony Hawk games, and he says THPS2 is the best in the franchise, and I agree with him wholeheartedly.

5. NBA Jam: Tournament Edition

I prefer my sports games to be over-the-top in a lot of cases. I'm much more likely to play a sequel in The Bigs franchise than I am MLB 15. Though there were definitely arcade titles that made their sports seem larger than life before this, NBA Jam was the first one I remember seeing first. It pulled it off incredibly well, also, and is one of my favorite arcade games ever. It did eventually find itself ported to the home consoles.

When the sequel came out, you better believe I put every last quarter into it. I had to have the SNES version, and I played it to death. The addition of the tournament mode gave us something to do other than just play exhibition games. Here, you pick a team and try your best to beat every other team in the league (which is not how tournaments work). It was pretty difficult, but I managed to do it thanks to the fact that I was a sore loser and would turn the game off if I lost before it had a chance to save my shame.

4. Tecmo Super Bowl

Compared to the Madden series, Tecmo Super Bowl seems like small potatoes, but to this day I still think it's the best football game ever. It improved on the original Tecmo Bowl, but it's didn't do so much to make it feel like it strayed from the gameplay that we loved. Anyone can pick this up, play it for a few minutes, and understand it completely. At least, that's what I thought. I had a couple teenagers in my youth group play it and they were complaining that they couldn't understand how to play. I wasn't sure whether to laugh, cry, or hit them.

Tecmo Super Bowl is famous for also including one of the most broken characters in videogame history, Bo Jackson of the Los Angeles Raiders. But let's be honest, Bo Jackson isn't broken in the game. If you're old enough to have been around for his heydey, you'll remember that the dude really was unstoppable. If it weren't for a hip injury suffered during a game against my Cincinnati Bengals, Bo Jackson would probably be recognized as the greatest running back of all-time. But that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes...

...okay, Bo Jackson is definitely broken.

3. Punch-Out!! (Wii)

While the original Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! is the one most closely tied to my nostalgia, the Wii update added so much more personality to a game already bursting through the seams with it and decided to let you play with the exact same control scheme from the original if you so chose. This version of the game is a prime example of a true remake of a classic title. It also added a new last ditch effort for Little Mac if you take too much damage in a round. This was a nice surprise the first time I encountered it, I had already put the controller down because I thought I had lost. We at Error Machine love this so much that we made an entire video expressing our affection.

It provides a tough but fair challenge, and the difficulty ramp is never so much that you feel outclassed, which is exactly what you want in a game like this. I would like to see another sequel on the Wii U, but only as long as they don't call it Punch U Out!! Which they definitely will.

2. Hot Shots Golf Fore!

I don't even like golf, but I'm completely enthralled by the Hot Shots Golf series. I've owned every single one of them and they're always one of my most played games on whichever Sony console they appear on. The latest installment, World Invitational, was the sole reason I wanted a Vita, and to this day is the only game I've spent money on for the system. When I decided to get one of the current-gen systems, even though I know I'll own both eventually, I decided on the PS4 first because I like Sony exclusives more, and that's due in large part to Hot Shots.

Hot Shots Golf Fore! (which is one of the best puns in videogame title history) kept the cartoony look and comedic feel from all the previous games and added more golfers, more caddies, more courses, more unlockables, and even threw in Jak, Daxter, Ratchet, and Clank as unlockable characters. And the actual golf is still top notch. As we've already established, give me an over-the-top representation of a sport rather than a straight simulation any day of the week, and the same goes for golf.

1. Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball

I've frothed over KGJPMLB (which is what I'm going to forever refer to it as now) in several past blogs. Baseball has always been my favorite sport, and Ken Griffey Jr. is my second favorite player of all-time, trailing slightly behind Pete Rose. There's no denying who the best baseball player of the 90s was, Junior is the unanimous winner. Then he came home to Cincinnati, and all the Reds fans like myself rejoiced because we finally had the player that was going to lead us to the Promised Land...then he spent the next 8 years injured 75% of the time. Nevertheless, he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer and a legend in the sport.

His videogame is pretty good, too, I guess.

Seriously, though, the game is 20 years old and I still play the game semi regularly. I'm in the middle of a season on the game right now, and as soon as I finish one season, I start up another one. The game doesn't get old to me. One of the things I really like is that you can finish a game in under 10 minutes, but it's still an accurate portrayal of the sport. It's a simulation of the on-field play only, and cuts out all the boring stuff like warming up for relief pitchers, mid-inning transitions, and the twenty seconds it takes between pitches.

KGJPMLB is easily my favorite sports game ever made, definitely worth picking up if you enjoy the sport at all.

Thanks for reading everybody, I promise not to make you read about sports games again.

Don't forget you can find me on all these places:

Twitter

Error Machine YouTube

Error Machine Podcast (which OpiumHerz says doesn't suck)

-Dustin

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Error Machine Podcast 44 - Adventures in Retail

After a week off, the Error Machine crew returns (sans Lucas) to bring you some Pax East previews, Erik frothing over his new Playstation Vita, and Chris getting pumped for the upcoming flea market season. The trio also covers some news and recounts some of their more odd--and sometimes scary--moments while working in retail. All this and more. Time marks below.

Intros - 0:00

Dustin's Pax East game previews - 2:30

Erik got a Vita - 8:20

Chris' pre-flea market adventures – 11:25

Erik's GOTW: Helldivers - 14:50

Dustin's GOTW: Hotline Miami 2 - 19:00

Chris' GOTW: Rayman Legends/Destiny - 21:45

New Releases - 28:50 OlliOlli2 - 29:00

Resident Evil Revelations 2: Episode 3 - 30:45

Ori and the Blind Forest - 33:20

Ironfall Invasion - 34:40

Mario vs Donkey Kong Tipping Stars - 36:10

Police officer killed in GameStop robbery - 39:00

Our scary retail stories - 39:40

Turkish ministry attempting to ban Minecraft - 47:15

Outros and plugs - 50:00

Follow us on Twitter

@TheDustinThomas

@FakeChrisCramer

@BygJuce

@Snedegascar

You can also see all of our video content on our YouTube page.

And do us a solid and rate and subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes, Stitcher Radio or wherever you get your podcasts from.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Weekly Top 5: Open World Games

Whenever I make a top 5, I always do it the same way: I choose a topic, create a list of games that I think may make the final cut, whittle it down to the five (plus an honorable mention), rank them as I see fit, and then write the short blurbs that go along with them. That's how I've always done it, and that's how I did it here. I knew from the get-go what my top 3 were going to be, so I thought this was going to be easy.

Au contraire, my friends. After getting 60% of the list done, filling in the other 40% was a tall task. I was left with 15 games that I love and only 2 spots available. I felt like if I left out a certain game that I discrediting it as a fantastic game. But then I remembered that these lists aren't really a life-or-death kind of deal and I could just make all of the games that didn't make the cut an honorable mention.

So, here are the 13 honorable mentions that I have for this list, in no particular order (sorry, Jim, no Goat SImulator here):

Honorable Mentions

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood

Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars

Grand Theft Auto Vice City

Sleeping Dogs

Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon

Far Cry 4

3D Dot Game Heroes

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

Batman Arkham Asylum

Bully

Red Faction Guerrilla

Shadow of Mordor

Based on what games didn't make the list, you can probably infer a few games that did make it, but I think there will still be a couple surprises. So let's get to it.

(And for those wondering, Red Faction Guerrilla was the last game to get cut.)

5. Crackdown

Ultimately, when it came down to choosing between Crackdown and Red Faction Guerrilla, I asked myself one question: Did I enjoy the destruction of Red Faction or the superhero-like empowerment of Crackdown more? And you obviously already know the answer. I picked up Crackdown on a whim, I just wanted something new to play. This was early 2007, and I had only had my Xbox 360 for about a month at the time. After the thrills of Dead Rising wore off, I headed to the local GameStop and grabbed Crackdown with very little prior knowledge about the game, kind of like how I did in the NES days. The only difference here was that this was going to be a much greater monetary investment. Luckily, the game turned out better than most had anticipated, myself included.

I'm not a Halo guy, so the added bonus of the Halo 3 demo did nothing for me, I just wanted a fun action game, and I definitely got that. The game reminded me a lot of RoboCop in that it felt futuristic, but not too futuristic. And Pacific City was so ravaged by crime and gang activity that I felt a genuine need to rid the streets of these hoodlums.

Throughout my playthrough, I very rarely drove a car. I loved going around on foot, traversing the rooftops, grabbing every agility orb I could find to level up my Agent's abilities. I could go on and on about Crackdown, but one of the things that really stood out to be was that it has great achievements. Rather than just giving you achievements for simply completing tasks, they also encouraged you to play the game in different ways and try new things in order to show you just how much fun you could have in this world. And I must say, climbing to the top of the agency building and jumping off into the pond below was ten times more exhilarating than any jump I ever made in an Assassin's Creed game.

4. Far Cry 3

I was cautious when it came to Far Cry 3. I had never played any other games in the series up to the point, and from what I heard about Far Cry 2, it was the type of game that you either really loved or really hated (I did eventually play it, and it wasn't my cup of tea), and that kind of reaction isn't exactly the kind that'll make you want to go out and guy the next installment of a series. But after the reviews for Far Cry 3 were a resounding "woot!," I decided to pick it up, and I had nothing less than an amazing experience. By the time I was done with the game, there was literally nothing left for me to do. Seriously, nothing. I had done everything. Well, everything except get that achievement that requires you to win at poker.

I decided to go with Far Cry 3 over its successor for a few different reasons. For one, even though I liked Pagan Min better as a character, I thought Vaas was a better villain. Two, I like the tropical island setting more than the Himalayas. I thought the weird tribal stuff in 3 was better than the weird tribal stuff in 4. And lastly, even though Far Cry 4 was one of my favorite games of last year, it's hard to argue that it isn't just an updated Far Cry 3.

The story is ridiculous (most videogame stories are), but there are still several moments from FC3 that stand out, like your numerous encounters with Vaas, destroying a marijuana field with a flamethrower while a Skrillex song plays, Sam's death, and many more. I would tell people interested in the series to go with Far Cry 3. I also considered Blood Dragon, but the only thing that held that game back for me was because it wasn't as large, and the game is rather dark. Not in setting or tone, I'm talking about the graphics. I spent a lot of time squinting at the screen. But Ubisoft has stated that they're looking into doing something different with Far Cry 5, but I say instead of doing something different, give me Blood Dragon 2 and make it the same size as a regular Far Cry game (with less squinting).

3. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

No surprises here, I'm sure a lot of you expected an Elder Scrolls game to make it on the list somewhere, and here it is. While Skyrim hasn't turned out to be the type of game that I go back to periodically (even though I still haven't played the add-ons), it was basically the only game that I played for the entire winter of 2011. For roughly three months, every free moment was spent leveling up my Wood Elf, roaming the countryside, slaying dragons and trolls, and all the awesomeness that came in this vast package (which is what I call my junk).

I found the world of Skyrim so engrossing that I did something that I don't normally do in games, I played without purpose. I very rarely fast traveled unless I was doing a mission. I would spend hours at a time just walking around seeing what I could find. Oh, a new dungeon, better go in and kill everybody. What's this? A coven of witches? Better go in and kill everybody. The Stormcloaks need me to go kill a bunch of people? Better go in and--you get the idea.

The game wasn't without its flaws, but that's to be expected with such a large game. I actually wound up having to start a new game because something I had done had caused a bug that prevented me from progressing in the story (which has since been patched). But no amount of glitches or bugs were able to deter me stalking my enemies from the shadows, finding the exact right moment to let my arrows fly directly into their skulls. One of these days, I promise I'm going to go play the DLC packs.

2. Borderlands 2

Oh hey, Dustin put a Borderlands game on a list, go figure. Yeah, I know, I talk about the Borderlands series a lot. The series holds a special place in my heart for many reasons that I've explained in depth in previous blogs, so I'll spare you all from having to hear them again. Borderlands 2 took everything that I loved about the original and made it better. More humor, bigger and more diverse areas, more weapons and elemental types, more enemies, more, more, and did I mention more?

Perhaps that's the word that best describes Borderlands 2. It's Borderlands, but more, and that's perfectly alright with me. I need more than one hand to count how many times my wife and I played through the game. The add-ons weren't quite on par with the ones from the original, but they were still quite good, and Assault on Dungeon Keep is basically an entirely new game. It's the best DLC the series has seen thus far, despite how much I hate Tiny Tina.

Even though I hate the swerve that Gearbox pulled by telling us The Pre-Sequel was only one last generation consoles (I should have known better), I'll still pick up the Handsome Collection when I eventually buy an Xbox One (gotta get my characters carried over), and I'll have just as much fun playing through Borderlands 2 for the umpteenth time as I did the first. But screw The Pre-Sequel, I won't touch it. Okay, that's not true...Dustin's a stinkin' liar.

1. The Simpsons: Hit & Run

About a year-and-a-half ago, I wrote a week-long series of blogs wherein I explained why I felt that The Simpsons: Hit & Run was the best. Licensed game. Ever. Admittedly, I'm biased, being as big of a fan of the show that I am. The game is basically Grand Theft Auto: Springfield, and that couldn't have been a better idea than it turned out to be. At the time, the show had 13 seasons worth of material to work with, and you'll see references from every single one of them. If you know as much about the show as I do, you'll be smiling the entire time you play, because at every corner is a clever little nod to the show.

What's interesting is that the game doesn't really have combat. You have flying cameras in the shape of wasps that you can destroy, but other than that, your attack button is nothing more than a way to break things to gain more coins. Your character can't die, either, so in some ways it's not like GTA at all, but the mission structure and vehicular mayhem is identical. They split the town of Springfield into three separate levels, so it's not open-world in the sense of Skyrim where you can walk from one end of the world to the other, but I choose to look at this the same way I did old GTA games. You had to progress a certain amount before you can see the rest of the world, which is what they did here.

I think even non-fans would find Hit & Run to be a one of the better open-world games out there. It's just as good now as it was in 2003, and I still revisit it every few years or so, and I continue to notice little things I either never noticed before or had forgotten about. The Simpsons: Hit & Run, I feel, deserves more credit than just being a great licensed game or great Simpsons game, it's just a great game, period.

Thanks for reading, and don't forget that you can find me elsewhere on the internet.

Twitter

YouTube

Error Machine Podcast

-Dustin