Friday, April 27, 2018

Top 5 Beloved Games That I Don't Like

I think we all have a few of those games that our friends love, but for whatever reason, never resonated with you. Myself, I'm a slave to anything Hideo Kojima does, and Death Stranding is already my game of the year in whatever year that games comes out, but I understand why a lot of people don't appreciate the insanity that is Metal Gear.

We all have our personal preferences, but if we disagree with someone else's opinion about our favorite games, we let them know it, and vice versa. So, here are a list of five games that are beloved by both critics and gamers that I completely despise. I know many will disagree, but hey, it's my opinion, and if you like some of the games on this list, I'm glad you like them.

But first, some honorable mentions.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

I know. I'm an idiot, right? The reason the "greatest game of all-time" shows up on a list like this is because I haven't finished it, but I didn't like what I've played of it. I didn't play it as a kid, and didn't try it out until the 3DS remake. It's hard to go back and play the N64 these days. I know its popularity is on the rise right now because the people who grew up with it now have jobs and money, but I think the N64 is Nintendo's worst home console. While I enjoy the 2D Zelda games quite a bit, I haven't much cared for the 3D iterations outside of loving Breath of the Wild and liking The Wind Waker.

Ocarina of Time is in the honorable mentions because I'm sure that if I played it all the way through, I still wouldn't like it.

Super Smash Bros.

The Super Smash Bros. series is an amazing party game franchise. When I have a few friends with me and we're going after each other with our favorite Nintendo characters, it's a whole lot of fun. But when I try to play Smash as a single-player game, it's one of the most average games I can find.

Now, get ready to disagree more vehemently than you already have.

5. Flower

There have been so many beloved indie games that I've completely hated: Gone Home, Proteus, and pretty much any other game that has a "message." Many times, that message is "this game is terrible." The reason I chose Flower over other indie games is because Flower actually angered me, and to this day is the worst $15 I've ever spent on a "video game," if you can even call it that.

It has an environmental message, but the developers, ThatGameCompany, were so invested in their message that they forgot to make a fun video game. You know what else has an environmental message? Ori and the Blind Forest. You know what game is awesome? Ori and the Blind Forest. It's a beautiful, challenging, and at times, heart-wrenching metroidvania. In Flower, you're a flower petal caught in the wind. How very beautiful stupid.

4. Ico

Oh, hey, it's the escort mission game. We love escort missions, right? Plus, it's made by the guy that made Shadow of the Colossus, so we have to like it. Nope, that's not how that works.

Fumito Ueda is heralded as a legendary game director despite the fact that The Last Guardian is mediocre at best and Ico is hot garbage. It definitely helps that Shadow of the Colossus is one of the best games ever made, but that makes him a one-hit wonder, not a legend.

Ico features an AI girl who doesn't listen to what you say, do what you ask her to do, or even possess basic survival skills. What is that black, shadowy figure that looks like it wants to attack me? I better stand right here and see what it wants. Team ICO doesn't know how to develop a competent combat system, either. Combat was clunky in Ico, pared down in SotC, and completely done away with in The Last Guardian.

In our politically correct era, I'm surprised people still praise this game the way they do, despite having one of the most helpless damsels in distress in video game history. I thought we weren't allowed to portray women that way anymore? They should probably remake Ico and change the Yorda character completely, and while they're at it, they should try to make it a good game this time.

Ico does not deserve its cult classic status.

3. Grand Theft Auto IV

Grand Theft Auto IV won a bunch of game of the year awards in 2008. I certainly respect its scope and ambition, and I liked it enough to finish the story, but I think GTA IV is the worst game in the series since it reached mega stardom with GTA III back in 2001.

The combat was improved over previous games but still proved to be inadequate in large skirmishes. Having a cell phone that could be used to communicate with other characters was cool at first, but when you have to maintain constant contact with your peers and drop what you're doing to go bowling every thirty minutes, it becomes quite the nuisance.

Outside of a few good characters, I didn't find a whole lot worth writing home about in GTA IV. Liberty City is a very dull and drab backdrop, and traversing the city in some of the worst driving controls ever only makes it less fun to look at and explore. There's no reason to play this Grand Theft Auto game when there are so many better ones to choose from. I suggest Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.

2. Star Fox 64

If you ask me, I'll tell you that there's no such thing as a good Star Fox game. Ask everyone else in the world, and they'll tell you there's one: Star Fox 64. This one just simply comes down to personal tastes. The Star Fox games are very competently made, I just don't care much for the flight combat/sim genre.

Don't get me wrong, I still don't understand how anyone likes Star Fox 64, but at least it controls well and allows you several paths to choose from when making your trek across the galaxy. It has the quality game design that you come to expect from Nintendo, but for me, provides nothing more than a wasted 45 minutes.

1. Red Dead Redemption

I don't care. Red Dead Redemption is not a good game. I don't care how much you love it. I don't love it. I don't even like it. I played it for about 8 hours, and if you tell me I need to play more before it gets good, then that's a poorly paced game. Many games start slow, but something usually happens within the span of a normal full-time job work day.

All I did in those 8 hours was hang out with some broad, ride a horse, look at dirt, clumsily shoot a gun, watch a ten second animal-skinning animation, look at different dirt, and wait for the game to grab me. I waited for a long time, and it never happened.

I like the idea of Red Dead Redemption. By now, I've had the story spoiled for me, so I'm familiar with a lot of the major plot points. I love the John Marston character and how he's a man with a shady past who just wants to get back to his family. I love that he's a pure character and is faithful to his wife. I love the final standoff and the payback that comes from Marston's son. But I'll never make it to that point myself because the game plays so poorly.

I consider RDR to be on the same level as GTA IV, and hopefully, since I loved GTA V because of how much it improved over its predecessor, I'll enjoy Red Dead Redemption 2 the same way. I definitely look forward to finding out.

So, there you go. Please be sure to tell me how wrong I am in the comments. XOXO.


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Friday, April 13, 2018

Let's Get Stressed: The Most Nerve-Racking Things In Games

A phobia is defined as "an extreme or irrational fear or aversion to something." Even though we may not readily recognize it, I believe we all have something in our lives that the very thought of causes us to have a mini panic attack. For me, it is heights. While it may be one of the more common phobias, that doesn't settle my nerves one iota. Seeing a picture of someone at the top of a building with or without a safety harness is cause enough to make my heart to skip a single beat.

I'm also not a fan of wooded areas during the nighttime. This is mainly caused by my utmost certainty that every serial killer in the United States is currently waiting in those woods to turn my skin into a mask at that very moment. That's not irrational. That's fact.

But the same could be said of me and video games. Certain scenarios and situations raise my heart rate a dangerous degree. The typical jump scares found in survival horror games are the easy whipping boy for an article such as this, but this is supposed to be about irrational fears, and I have a few.


I'm not a particularly big fan of swimming in large bodies of water; I've always preferred swimming in pools. The reason for this is simple: God put all of the monsters in the ocean. Ever heard of Leviathan? Sea monster. The Kraken? Also a sea monster. Jason Voorhees? They should play The Toadie's "I Come From the Water" when he shows up. Have you ever seen all of the crazy things that wash up on shore after a tsunami? It's like staring directly into the Underworld.

Being forced to go underwater in a game is probably the absolute most stressful thing that it could make me do. I skipped several missions in The Witcher 3 because it wanted me to dive underwater. I don't care if I need that treasure to complete a mission, whatever it is in isn't worth the gray hair it's going to give me.

Even less serious fare like fighting Kingfin in Super Mario Galaxy is enough for me to question if I truly love that game as much as I think I do.

I've often wondered why I've had this aversion to video game water, and the best conclusion I can come up with is that usually swimming is such a minor portion of the game but still requires you to learn a new control scheme that never feels immediately intuitive. I constantly feel like I'm wrestling with the controls, even in games that I've played several times.

Water also makes you move slower, causing me to live my recurring nightmare of trying to escape from something but unable to move at full speed.

Conclusion: Ecco the Dolphin is scarier than Dead Space.


One of the most diabolical things someone can do is make a short level in Super Mario Maker with a 005 time limit. They give you just enough time to beat the level with no room for error. Many games will give you a limited time frame to beat a section or boss, only exacerbating the tension of the battle. The Resident Evil team was particularly bad about this. All three of the PSone trilogy games had a countdown during the climactic battle; it practically became a staple of the series. Evil corporation? Check. Zombies? Check. Time limit to beat the final boss? You better believe it.

What's even more frustrating is when games place hidden collectibles or treasures in sections like these, and while you usually are given more than enough time to find what you're looking for and still escape/proceed, the simple addition of a ticking clock can add a whole new dimension of panic.

For me, however, I could be given ten minutes to run fifty feet with no enemies between me and the goal, and I'll run straight for the exit. Take no chances, I say. The most notable experience I've had with this is with the finale of The Secret Armory of General Knoxx DLC from the original Borderlands. You've already defeated the big bad and gained access to his titular secret armory, so why limit my looting? Just let me grab all the guns and I'll be on my way. This was hectic because you aren't given enough time to open the insane amount of loot chests available, and you're frantically scurrying to try and open another one in hopes of finding new and better gear.

Timers are a pointless gaming device. Not once have they ever added to the enjoyment of a game's overall experience.

Escort Missions

No one likes escort missions. Literally no one. If you say you do, I will call you a liar to your face and then pray for you because you're a sinner. I hate the cult classic, Ico, because that's all the game is. However, let me contradict myself by saying that Resident Evil 4 is in my top 3 all-time games, which also relies heavily on escorting another character. What's the difference, you ask? Nothing really, I'm just being a bit of a hypocrite on this one. At the very least, RE4 allows you to stuff Ashley into a dumpster during major encounters, negating the need to protect her.

While typically only found in action or survival horror games, one of the greatest offender in this category is Yoshi's Island. For the completionist, Yoshi's Island can be one of the most frustrating games you can play. One hit causes Baby Mario to drift away from you, making you go on the chase. It doesn't sound that bad on paper, but that one hit has the potential to ruin your perfect run of a level, requiring a restart.

The only games that do the escort mission right are games like Bioshock Infinite and the 2008 Prince of Persia, where the person you're "escorting" is incapable of being hurt, which, at that point, prevents it from being an escort mission in the traditional sense.

Choices With No Good Outcome

I remember watching a movie called Escape From Sobibor in junior high school. It's based on the true story of a group of Jewish refugees who stage an escape from the titular concentration camp. There's a scene where a group of Jews are about to be executed and forced to choose another person to be executed alongside them. If they refused, the Nazis overseeing the camp would kill even more people. That movie--and that scene specifically--have stayed with me for twenty years now.

I'm certainly not trying to equate meaningless video game decisions to the real life horrors that took place during World War II, but whenever a game forces me into a decision with no possibility of a positive outcome, I always think about that scene.

Story-heavy games like Until Dawn, Heavy Rain, Mass Effect, and the various Telltale adventure titles often force you into making decisions you're not particularly fond of. Do I want to kill this deplorable member of my team, or do I want to kill this other utterly reprehensible person? Flip a coin, I guess.

I'm not crying. You're crying!

Not all decisions are of the life-or-death variety, though. Sometimes, death is an inevitability. Take the final decision in Telltale's The Walking Dead Season One for example. Lee is going to die regardless of what you choose, your only real choice is if he comes back to life as part of the undead. In hindsight, the decision doesn't matter, and in a real-life scenario, the smarter decision would be to just walk away. One bullet could be the difference between life and death in this world, and a loud gunshot could attract a horde to shamble your direction. But after how much I had grown to love Lee and the relationship between he and Clementine, I simply couldn't allow such a good man to turn into one of those things. Lee had been absolved of his past crimes in my eyes, and deserved peace in the next life.

The Worst of the Worst

Despite its shortcomings, I really love Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. I enjoy about 98% of that game from a strictly gameplay perspective. The other 2% is an underwater escort mission with a timer. That covers three of the four scenarios I discussed.

Again, the swimming controls are mangled, and I've never been able to nail them down in over a dozen playthroughs. Now combine that with Raiden's O2 meter, which acts as a de facto timer. Lastly, rescue Otacon's annoying little sister, who can't walk because of an injection given to her by the enemy, now swim back with Emma Emmerich holding on to you. Oh, by the way, her O2 meter is half as long as Raiden's, so have fun with that.

In my eyes, Hideo Kojima is a genius, and I like to look at MGS2 as the greatest trolling in video game history. You think this tanker section with Solid Snake is amazing? Well, screw you, now you're a pretty boy with an annoying girlfriend! 

I've forgiven Mr. Kojima because he gave us MGS3 a few years later, and while I applaud the ballsy-ness of it all, this ten minute section of Sons of Liberty will serve as a reminder that those you love the most are the ones that have the ability to hurt you the worst.

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Top 5 Backwards Compatible Xbox 360 Games

The real title of this article is "The Top 5 Best Backwards Compatible Xbox 360 Games You Should Play If You Never Have" but that seemed a little long-winded. It's actually pretty rare for me to take advantage of the Xbox One's backwards compatibility feature, as I always find myself buying more current games and don't have much desire to return to older ones. But, to me, these are the five games that are more than worthy to get a playthrough on your more current and fancy console.

There are some rules for this list, however. First, if a backwards compatible game has received a remaster or port to the current home consoles, it's out. So that means you won't see games like Bioshock, Borderlands 2, and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood. All are great games, but they have more current versions available. Secondly, the game had to have been originally released on the Xbox 360/PS3/Wii generation of consoles, so early XBLA classics like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Contra are also eliminated since they appeared on systems prior to that generation.

As always, let's start with a few games that were in contention but just barely missed the final list.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

There are better fast-paced action games than this one, the parrying mechanic isn't always easy to pull off, and the controls for any weapon other than the sword are wonky, but the frenetic action and trademark Metal Gear insanity make this compact game (about 4 hours) a blast to play. Also, nanomachines, son!

Portal 2

I loved Portal. Like everyone else, I'm sick of "the cake is a lie" jokes. Also like everyone else, I was curious how they were going to take Portal and turn it into a full-fledged, $60 release. The mind-bending puzzles combined with amazing writing, a separate co-op campaign, and secrets that are very fun to find make for one of the best puzzle games of all-time.

Dead Space series

Dead Space picked up the ball that Resident Evil had dropped in the latter half of the generation (before Dead Space dropped it and Resident Evil picked it back up again). Dead Space 3 suffered from EA's intervention of trying to shoehorn in microtransactions (though I still enjoyed it), but the first two entries are survival horror royalty. The first game took everyone by surprise, delivering claustrophobic corridors, scarce ammo pickups, and a twist to the combat that made the genuinely scary enemies even more of a threat.

Dead Space 2 leaned more toward action, but still had plenty of scares, and is my personal favorite of the series. I liked how the story had a heavier emphasis on the Unitology cult, and the game starts with one of the best opening sequences ever. As of this writing, Dead Space 2 is currently a free via Xbox Live Games With Gold, so go get it!

SPOILER ALERT: One thing that I wish they would have done is went with what appeared to be the ending, with Isaac Clarke having completed his mission, but realizing that there's no hope of survival. The moment where he sits there with his head in his hands was a really powerful one, but I feel they ruined it with the last minute rescue.

Now, on to the top 5.

5. Split/Second

Unless it features a gorilla throwing a turtle shell at a ghost, I'm not usually into racing games. I took a chance on Split/Second because I had a genuine interest and managed to pick it up for only $20 the week of release thanks to an Amazon sale combined with a coupon. Split/Second is a different type of racing combat. Rather than weapon pick ups, you fill a meter through various means, such as drifting, drafting, or narrowly missing debris, and use the meter to trigger events in the world to attempt to crash your opponents. There are different levels of things to trigger, and some tracks even feature course-altering actions that will change the course layout on the next lap.

The story is set up like a reality show and there are several types of events outside of normal races. One event sees you dodging missiles from an overhead helicopter while another continually eliminates the car in last place until there's only one car left standing. The game's ending set up a sequel, but unfortunately the developer, Black Rock Studios, was shut down before that could ever happen, which is a shame, because I would gladly tune in for a second season of Split/Second.

This one just recently became backwards compatible and is very affordable, so check it out if you want a different spin on the racing combat genre.

4. Ghostbusters

Being in my 30s now, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Ghostbusters is one of my all-time favorite films. I grew up with the these movies, and it was practically an inevitability that Ghostbusters 2 was playing on a basic cable channel at all times in the 90s. I was also huge into The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series, and I wanted nothing more than a third Ghostbusters movie. We never got it, but this game is the canonical continuation of the series, and even Dan Aykroyd stated "This is essentially the third movie."

The game has you playing as an unnamed rookie working with the Ghostbusters, featuring the voices of all of the original actors, and has so many throwbacks to the original movies that it'll bring a smile to the face of anyone who is a fan of the property. The fact that you can crack jokes with Vigo the Carpathian in your downtime is just one example of the attention to detail that was lavished on this game. It's obvious that the developers were big Ghostbusters fans.

As far as the game goes, it plays and controls like Gears of War, and it does a great job of mixing comedy and horror. There are some parts in the game where you'll need to use a PKE meter, and it feels much like a survival horror game a la Dead Space. This game has managed to hold its value pretty well, so I say pick it up if you find it for under $30.

3. Deadly Premonition

If you've ever played Deadly Premonition, you have one of two minds about it. It's either a shoddy, bargain bin, wannabe ripoff of Resident Evil 4, or it's one of the most bizarre yet incredibly enjoyable games you've ever played. I'm the latter.

It was Jim Sterling's infamous 10/10 review on Destructoid that made me take notice, and when I realized that it was released at only $20, I figured I didn't have much to lose and picked it up. The first chapter is very much an RE4 knockoff, but the rest of the game is Twin Peaks. Literally. It takes quite liberally from David Lynch's bizarre supernatural comedy-drama television series: an FBI agent that gives exposition to an absent second party, a small town traumatized by the death of a young girl, a cast of weird but strangely lovable characters, and a protagonist that really likes coffee. Not surprisingly, the game was directed by Hidetaka Suehiro, better known by his alias SWERY, who also has a penchant for the bizarre and outlandish.

What makes Deadly Premonition so interesting is that it's not just a third-person shooter, it's a weird hybrid of shooter and life simulator. Your character needs to eat, he needs to sleep, he needs to shave (unless you want a wicked beard, and who doesn't?), if he doesn't shower flies will begin to swarm around him, when you're driving you need to stop and get gas. It sounds tedious but somehow it works. Even if you don't want to play it, I really do suggest watching someone else play it. Everyone needs to experience this game.

2. Borderlands

I talk about the Borderlands franchise a lot, and that's because there are a lot of good things to say about it. The game was such a pleasant surprise back in 2009, as the Game Informer cover story did nothing for me. It looked like any other generic shooter that was coming out at the time. Fallout 3 had just released the year prior, Rage was also in the works, and it looked very similar to both of those games. But once they changed to the cel shaded art style, I suddenly became interested. It gained personality. Combine that with some coworkers that were really into the game, and I decided to give it a go.

I had never played a western RPG prior to Borderlands. I shied away from anything that had leveling up, stats, and perks, which is funny now considering how much I love the genre. This was my first taste, and I was very befuddled about what I was supposed to be doing, but luckily I had friends to play with to help me along. I immediately fell in love with the people and locations of Pandora. The game was full of design problems and bugs that somehow added to the wackiness and charm. Before I knew it I had logged over 100 hours into the game, and that was before any of the season pass content was released.

Speaking of which, with the exception of Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot, all of the DLC for Borderlands is top notch. The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned was a fun diversion while The Secret Armory of General Knoxx and Claptrap's New Robot Revolution felt like natural extensions and brought the story full circle (quite literally). It's not as great as Borderlands 2, but the original is still a great game that any fan of shooters or western RPGs can appreciate.

This game also has the distinction of being the thing that made me start liking that stupid Cage the Elephant song.

1. Alan Wake

I think Alan Wake is one of the most underrated and underappreciated games of all-time. If there is any game that I want to get a sequel, it's Alan Wake. Though there was a follow up in the form of Alan Wake's American Nightmare, developer Remedy stated that it's more of an "in universe spin-off" rather than a true sequel.

The game follows acclaimed thriller novelist Alan Wake as he tries to solve the mystery behind his wife's disappearance while vacationing in the pacific northwest. Over the course of the game, you discover pages from Wake's latest novel (which he doesn't remember writing) that predict the events that soon take place. I think it's such a great premise for a story, but not only that, I loved the twist to the combat we see in most third-person shooters. Rather than just pumping your enemies full of bullets, all of the enemies are covered in "darkness," and you must remove the darkness before you can damage them by shining your flashlight on them, at which point only a couple of shots will take them down.

The game is laid out like a television show, with six episodes that start with a "Previously on Alan Wake" segment, as well as a "Next time on Alan Wake" at each episode's conclusion. It pays homage to things like Twin Peaks, The Twilight Zone, Stephen King, Alfred Hitchcock, The Shining, etc. If there's one gripe I have, it's that each episode begins with the "Previously on Alan Wake" cutscene and uses it as a way to take your weapons away from you. You do get the weapons back over the course of the episode, but I just hate when games do this. In horror games, you usually hold on to your more powerful weapons for bigger enemies, but in this case, you may as well use them because they'll just be taken away from you.

There are many memorable sequences in Alan Wake, though none more so than the battle at the Old Gods of Asgard concert stage. The game also has a great soundtrack with many songs from European band Poets of the Fall, who I wouldn't normally listen to but their music fits so well with the tone of the game. Sometimes I listen to them just because it reminds me of Alan Wake. They're kind of like the band HIM, only less terrible and less affiliation with Bam Margera.

The greatest tragedy in all this is that the planned sequel was scrapped and turned into Quantum Break. I want my Alan Wake 2! #AlanWake2

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