Weekend Gaming and What I’m Playing

So after finishing Mass Effect 2, I felt liberated and wanted to get to some new games. Funny thing is, I really wanted to get back to Borderlands. So I talked a couple friends into trying out the game themselves and the three of us have been running around Pandora at least once a week. I started a new character (Lilith) and am really liking this play through. I still mess around with Mordecai, but playing with friends is infinitely better.

I also started a couple online dynasties in NCAA 11, again with a different friend. I have a lot to say about NCAA 11, but for now I’ll just say I love all the additions to this iteration and the online dynasty tools are really, really cool.

Gamefly finally sent me Crackdown 2 and I’ve spent a few hours back in Pacific City. It feels distantly familiar but ultimately hollow. It is still fun to collect orbs and cause mayhem but I don’t know how much more I’ll be playing.

At a recent Gamestop Sale I picked up copies of Metro 2033 and Final Fantasy XIII. James is currently playing FFXIII, so along with Borderlands, I also started 2033. I’m only about an hour and half in, so I don’t really have an opinion yet.

I’m ashamed to admit I still haven’t played Blur, even though I picked it up weeks ago.

So I have quite a bit on my plate. That’s not counting how badly I am resisting Starcraft 2. What will you be playing this weekend?

General Knoxx Arrives This Week

Giantbomb is reporting that the biggest DLC for Borderlands releases tomorrow and Thursday. It’ll be $10. Who’s in? I’ll be there via Steam. [Kotaku has screenies.]

Fun Games of the Year 2009

Finally, capping off the long list of Fun Games of 2009 is our final list, the coup de grace of lists, the absolutely definitive “These were the Fun Games” list: The games we had the most fun with in 2009:

James – I think I’ll have to go with Killing Floor for the most fun I’ve had with a game that came out this year. The gameplay is fun because of the teamwork required (up to six players), the variety of weapons, and the amount of action you get out of it. There is nothing like welding a door shut while the monsters try to break the door down and needing to cover your rear from the monsters charging you and your friends. Not to mention the perks you get that level up the more you play. Very, very fun game, can’t wait to get back to it!

Jason O – Let’s just get this out of the way and announce that Red Faction: Guerrilla was my game of the year. However, Batman: Arkham Asylum follows close on its heels. Overall I think this was a great year for games. Phantasy Star 0 has become my goto game for defeating boredom with the power of the Nintendo DS, while Wolfenstein, Borderlands, and Dragon Age: Origins have all become welcome additions to my library. Also, at the point where XBox Live Arcade was beginning to feel like a novelty we had Shadow Complex this year. For me, 2009 was the year of incredulity. Borderlands, Batman, and Shadow Complex each represent three distinct genres or gameplay styles that have little appeal to me and yet all won me over in a big way.

Nat – This was a stellar year for me. Every new title I purchased but one was a complete winner in my book. It’s Batman: Arkham Asylum that was the overall winner. It was close between inFamous and Assassin’s Creed II, but something about being Batman was pure joy. If I were to rate this game it’d be a 9.9–almost perfect. I continue to go back to the challenges and I’ve contemplated a second play-through. I really cannot say much more about this game than what’s been said, but it is a blast to play.

Will – My overall Fun Game of the Year for 2009 is also my winner in the Xbox 360 category: Borderlands. I enjoy FPSes, RPGs, and cooperative play. I also appreciate when I can play a game alone, but have the experience enhanced when others join in the fun. I had two sticky points during the single player campaign: Mothrakk and Old Haven. I sent an invite to a friend in each instance asking for help. They joined my game, we got through the mission, then they dropped out. That kind of flexibility in Borderlands‘ game design is something that goes a long way with me.

Tony – If we went on shear amount of time played, Spider Solitaire would be my FGoTY for about the eight year in a row. But, since this is the Fun Game for 2009, It doesn’t qualify. That being said, I’m going to call Batman: Arkham Asylum my Fun Game of the Year, 2009. I mentioned some reasons why in the Xbox 360 FGoTY post, so I won’t rehash them here, but I forgot to mention how much I enjoyed the ending. It may have been a bit over the top, almost cheesy, but I loved it nonetheless. In a year of great gaming, Batman was the cream that rose to the top. I do worry that a sequel will lessen Batman’s impact on gaming but I’m also anxious to see what more we can expect!

So I think we can give, by virtue of two and a half votes, Batman: Arkham Asylum Buttonmashing.com’s 2009 Fun Game of the Year, with Borderlands garnering a respective second place. And let’s be honest and cliche about it: with all these fun games, the real winners are us gamers.

So that was our list for 2009. What games topped your list? And what has you most excited about 2010?

FGotY 2009 [Xbox 360]

Wrapping up the individual console posts is the Xbox 360.

Jason O – 2009 was definitely the year where the XBox 360 was the dominant platform in my house. A lot of good games graced my disc tray. Borderlands was bordering on greatness but couldn’t quite pass cross into becoming a classic. Lego Rock Band was solid but uninspired. Modern Warfare 2 brought us more of the same but was still quality entertainment. Shadow Complex gave me a brief and enjoyable foray into a game genre that I consider well past its prime. While I may not be playing it any longer, I think the most fun I had with a game this year was Red Faction: Guerilla. All I really ask from an “open world” game is to be open enough to let me solve problems with my own style. Red Faction: Guerrilla delivered on this. The real pity is that once you’ve beaten the game and levelled most of the buildings on Mars there isn’t much reason to keep playing. Lack of replayability aside, I don’t think there has been any game this year that has been so much fun from start to finish.

James – I think the game that I had the most fun with would be Prototype I wasn’t expecting more than to be able to run around and destroy everything HULK-style and I pretty much was able to do that. It did get repetitive and I never ended up finishing it but I think I had the most fun with it while I was playing it.

Nat – The Xbox sat a little bit on the back-burner in our house this year. However, it did get some play time. I’m going to go against a lot of gamer’s ideas and say that I had the most fun with The Beatles: Rock Band this year. Not really knowing much about the group, it was a great interactive, historical trip. ‘Splosion Man gets and awfully close second for laughs alone.

Brock – The 360 has been gathering dust a lot around our house especially during the last half of this year. That said, I’d have to give my pick for the most fun game I’ve played on the system this year to ‘Splosion Man. Even when I was hurling the controller around the room in a fit of rage after dying yet again thanks to some of the most sadistic platforming I’ve ever done, I couldn’t help but smile while doing so. The crazy antics, awesome music (did you know that everybody loves donuts?) and mind-bending ending made this my pick of the year when it comes to fun on the 360. Plus, Twisted Pixel were the first to give away free Avatar awards for getting achievements. How cool is that?

Will – The Xbox 360 gets the most use around my house. When I look back at the games that were an obsession for me, the ones that had me thinking about them when I wasn’t playing them, I came up with the following list: Halo 3: ODST, Borderlands, Shadow Complex, and Dragon Age: Origins. I give my FGotY 2009 [Xbox 360] award to Borderlands. I spent a lot of time trying to sell this game on fans of console FPSes. I told them that its four-player cooperative play was a great deal a fun. I told them that there was something very gratifying about constantly collecting loot and comparing that new shotgun to your good old reliable one that got you through that epic fight with Skagzilla. I told them that four different classes, each with multiple skills trees, made for a decent amount of customization. I think I spent as much time trying to sell the game on others as I did on playing it; my Soldier character has fifty-two hours devoted to him alone! I enjoyed this game so much that I also have a copy of the PC version. I spent all that time marketing the game for Gearbox because I know a lot of gamers who would get a lot of enjoyment out of Borderlands‘ unique blend of FPS and RPG, but they deprived themselves of the opportunity to partake in its fun because they were waiting for Modern Warfare 2 to be released. Hopefully Gearbox will release a GotY edition that includes The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned and Mad Moxxi’s Underdome to capture the gamers they missed the first time.

Tony – My 360 definitely got a work out this year. I think I’ve finally hit almost every major release this year on the console, and it definitely was a great year for the 360. I thought long and hard about which game I had the most fun with. In the running were many of the titles already mentioned here by my co-bloggers and I’ll also mention having a lot of fun with Forza Motorsports 3 and Left 4 Dead 2. but in the end, the game I had the most fun with was Batman: Arkham Asylum. It took me a few hours to get into the game, but after the first Scarecrow level, I was in – hook, line and sinker. Then, once I got used the fighting system and felt comfortable and in the flow, the game opened up ten fold. There is nothing more satisfying than stringing up a bad guy from a gargoyle, drop silently behind his buddy to take him down and then take out a third with a batarang in quick succession. After I saw the 2005 Batman Begins, I wanted to be Batman. As Nat mentioned in the PS3 post, in Batman: AA, I was Batman. It doesn’t get any funner than that!

Borderlands First Impressions

I’m not good with first impressions because I usually play games too long for a good “first impression” but not near long enough for a review. I want to write about the experience, but I’m usually well past the point where I know if I love or hate a game when I’m ready to talk about it.

The other issue with Borderlands, aside from the fact I am not supposed to have this game, is that I am finding it impossible not to compare it to Far Cry 2 or Sacred 2. The similarity to Far Cry 2 being the overland travel and open-world shooter concepts. Sacred 2 is merely the most recent serious offering into the “RPG-Lite” dungeon crawl loot droppings of Diablo fame.

(Author’s Note: “As for not supposed to have”, I have an annual birthday moratorium where I am not supposed to buy any games, movies, or books. The reason why is unknown seeing as how no one ever buys me games, movies, or books despite that being all that is on my wish list.)

I am so far not encouraged in the ways that Borderlands resembles Far Cry 2. The problems of Far Cry 2 were all about poor execution of potentially good ideas, adding minutia to solid gameplay mechanics, and essentially making sure that anything that could be fun had some element of tedium. I think this was supposed to add tension, but it added frustration and monotony. Shortly after reading the article I just linked to I gave Far Cry 2 another go. After driving for nearly an hour to get to an objective I got out to do an assault. I literally panned 360 degrees to make sure no one was about to ambush me, then as I moved forward I heard that tell-tale engine roar and was run over by a truck that literally spawned out of nowhere! Half my play session for the night ruined by an incredibly poor design. I got rid of the game after that incident.

Borderlands is far more forgiving even if you get killed. Enemies tend to be far less random and it’s usually easy to tell where they are coming from. Maps are sprawling but oddly well contained. I still feel the lack of quick travel is a hindrance. This is the biggest resemblance to Far Cry 2, and the long map load times are going to become a problem compounded by a lack of quick travel. I think quick travel may be unlocked later as there is a “bunny” icon on one of the interface screens that is disabled. Why not have it unlocked from the start is beyond me. I have to slog through the same enemies but at least the respawning is a lot less aggressive and there is some reward for doing it. One of the big issues with Far Cry 2 is that killing random enemies was rarely a reward. Getting a new gun in poor repair or a downgraded vehicle was not an incentive to engage in random encounters.

On to Sacred 2, I think it is safe to say that I am not in agreement with the Buttonmashing official review. This is not a slight to the other writers, in fact it’s a strength of the site, but I found Sacred 2 entirely too boring. Most of it was a feeling of disconnectedness; the game offered too little information and yet had way too much going on. I could never really tell if my actions or decisions were having a discernable impact. There was very little strategy, or maybe there was but the game imparted so little information that it was difficult to tell. My biggest gripe, though maybe not the reason I put the game down, was that loot drops felt way too similar. Improvements were often incremental, there was very little change. Why use that sword instead of this sword? For one, the game was not great in how it communicated to the player as it was, but when you did parse the details it often felt like very little reward was being given. Instead I was hauling a lot of junk that I ended up selling most of the time.

Here, so far, I feel like Borderlands has improved. They have asked me to make tough choices, but they give you the information they need. Furthermore, the weapons are more than their stats. The stats may say “Weapon Zoom 2.0” but you can test that for yourself. A zoom through a scope may be easier to aim then down iron sights for example. There is a lot of repetition of models, which shouldn’t be surprising and isn’t. There is a lot of junk, but thanks for making it clear that it’s junk! I don’t like how stingy the game is with inventory though. I can only store 12 items at the start? No long term storage? For a game that is all about loot, the inability to keep anything long-term is a huge letdown. Again, maybe this is unlocked later, but why?

Borderlands is not a perfect game, but I will say that it is the game I wanted with Sacred 2 even though one is a first-person shooter and the other is an isometric dungeon crawl. The presentation is simply fantastic in Borderlands, not just the art style but how it does every little thing. I love the graphics on the vending machines, the way that the red chests fold out and present your findings, and even the few characters you interact with. There is some creeping doubts about how it is similar in all the wrong ways to Far Cry 2, and I can only hope that as I continue Borderlands will not fall into the same traps.

My one regret is that I went with the PS3 version of the game, and that’s going to limit my multi-player options. I haven’t been doing much multi-player these days, but I like keeping my options open. As soon as I hit that “installing” screen I remembered why I typically buy for the 360. Fortunately, it too less than 5 minutes to install. I will say that PS3 games do actually look better than their 360 counterparts, but will anyone be able to tell the difference with cel-shaded art?

Weekend Gaming!

Man, it’s the weekend again! Where did the week go? Who cares?

This weekend should probably be all about Borderlands, but I am still sitting on a copy of Fight Night Round 4 from Gamefly, so I should probably at least make a token attempt at playing it before I send it back to. There’s something about boxing that instantly relieves a little stress, so I may play that to let off some steam (but I’m not really stressing at the moment, so who knows.)

Speaking of Gamefly, I also picked up a copy of Halo Wars on a whim during their most recent sale. I got it for a song, so I’m in no rush to play it, but if Borderlands gets boring (pshaw, as if) then I’ll give HW a try.

What’s on your gaming agenda this weekend?

In (apparently) everbody’s hands

In (apparently) everbody’s hands:

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