Rockstar saw fit to release GTA: Chinatown Wars for the iPod Touch and iPhone over the weekend. Price: $10.
Archives for January 2010
Another weekend is upon us. This weekend may not present many opportunities to game for me, but when they do I’ll be engrossed in Dragon Age. So far I like what I’ve seen and am looking forward to seeing a whole lot more. If I only get a moment or two for gaming it will probably be some Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer. I’d also like to get back to Borderlands, so that is always an option.
What are you playing?
Or maybe it’s an MMO. Either way, who knew? (Probably a lot of people, but not me)
I mention jRPGs because right now, I am in the thick of “leveling up” my weapons and all I could think of was Disgaea. In Disgaea, items are actually places you can “enter” and by progressing through the levels of the item, you actually make it stronger. You can also increase its attributes by taking out certain monsters (both specialists and bosses). In Modern Warfare 2, every weapon has a set number of challenges that systematically increase the “power” of your weapon. You can unlock things like sights, camouflage, and stronger ammo. It’s addictive, just like Disgaea was.
The beautiful thing about MW2‘s system is that, as far as I can tell, the improvements are small enough that they don’t knock the balance of the game out of whack. While I may have unlocked the thermal scope, heart monitor and grenade attachment, I am limited to using two (after unlocking another perk) attachments. It works perfectly. And even if I do happen to fully upgrade/unlock my current weapon of choice (A SCAR-H) I will probably move on to another weapon to continue the process.
Therein lies the hook. Raph Koster definitely had it right in his book, A Theory of Fun for Game Design. I know it’s is more complex than this but it it turns out that our brains are wired to enjoy doing repetitive things that we perceive as being fun. The designers at Infinity Ward have honed this to a razor’s edge. It’s like they looked inside my brain and tailored Modern Warfare 2 to pretty much inject fun directly into my brain.
I am a simple man who has simple (gaming) needs. I was actually going to discuss these things in conjunction with Torchlight and Borderlands, but this is just as good a time to talk about it as ever. I only need a few things in my games. I need to see little numbers popping up off the bad guys (multicolored numbers, if you are really trying), I need lots of things to unlock and I’ll take some leveling up (the more the better). Take all those simple things and throw in a robust statistic tracking system and I am in heaven. I haven’t played a ton of jRPGs, but I have played a ton of MMORPGs. Both of those game scratch that numeric itch.
So while it has its flaws, Modern Warfare 2 is almost the perfect game for me. It has these simple things I like, in spades. To recap: I need: Stats (check), Little Numbers (not quite what I want, but I’ll let it slide), constant progression (Leveling up (check)), and Unlocking (that’s a gigantic CHECK).
So I think I have a new favorite FPS on the 360. Halo 3 has been unseated and I’m not sure it (or Halo: Reach) can regain the throne. I don’t know how much I really believe this, even as I’m typing it, but if Halo: Reach doesn’t incorporate some these mechanics, I don’t know how much it will grip me.
In my (overflowing) hands:
You would think I already have enough games to play, and you would be right. Gamefly, however, would like to disagree with you and sent me a copy of Dragon Age: Origins for the 360. Of course I’m excited about this, but I really just want to play some Modern Warfare 2 and Borderlands. But I’ll make the sacrifice!
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?
I am unapologetically something of a Grinch or Scrooge around Christmas. The actual holiday doesn’t bother me and I try to celebrate it both from a secular and religious standpoint. After all, what better excuse am I going to get to buy cool stuff for the kids?
No, it’s the Christmas Season that I loathe, or really the whole generic Holiday Season that ramps up in October and doesn’t end until January. I just tend to single out Christmas since that is the holiday everything seems to be geared for. The constant sales, increased traffic, and crowds of people at the store does nothing for me. In 2007, before the economy went belly up, the mall was so crowded that I had to find a different route home to avoid it on Fridays. How crazy is it that malls get so crowded that you get the effect without actually going to one?
However, the Season of Jason O takes hold after Christmas. The first is the immediate post Christmas sales and I am usually flush with cash and gift cards. Then a series of sales in February followed by predictable permanent price drops for many games in March and April. The four months after December are my most prolific buying times of the year and I try to make the most of them since I know game companies are still stridently clinging to their increasingly failing and antiquated business model and will release nothing for the bored gamers of summer. (Note to publishers: I’ll say it before and say it again, I get the same paycheck all year!)
With Christmas finally behind us, I am looking forward to my favorite gaming time of the year.
Not only can we not play all the games that come out in a year, there are still games that came out last year (or later) that we still want to play. And play them we did. Here are the games we had the most fun with this year that did not come out this year.
Brock – This is a tie for me between Persona 4 on the PS2 and Fallout 3 on the 360. Both games consumed enormous chunks of 2009 and were incredibly fun to play. Persona 4 is probably the most memorable game that I played this year and it will be very hard to top it going into 2010.
Jason O – I don’t like ties because they feel like a cop-out, but I actually have two games. One is S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky for the PC. By the time the game hit my radar I didn’t have a machine that could run it. After inheriting a fairly powerful PC and finding it on Steam for all of $5 I decided to give it a try. This is a “survival” game that gets it right. Maybe not a “fun” game, but it is an engaging one that I keep coming back to despite how quickly I die. My other game not only wasn’t released in 2009, it hasn’t been released at all. Of all the games announced this year that was delayed, Alpha Protocol was at the top of my watchlist. While I’d much rather delay a game then release a subpar product, games that are delayed rarely come out as a decent product. I’m still holding out hope for this one though as it explores a theme that is oddly absent in the videogame industry. Open-world espionage gaming? Sign me up!
James – I will definitely go with Team Fortress 2 on the PC. When this game came out I wasn’t interested in it at all to tell you the truth. My brother raved on how much fun it was and how much I would like it. After playing it I could see what he meant. Whenever I had the chance to play a game the the one that was on the top of the list was always this one. The way Valve (the TF2 team) is keeping this game fresh with always coming out with new content and updates for FREE makes me even more eager to purchase the games they come out with.
Nat – I purchased n+ twice–for the DS and PSP. The funny thing is that I acquired the DS version in January and just received the PSP version this week. It’s really the only non-2009 game I played this year.
Will – Audiosurf wins my FGotY 2009 [Didn’t come out in 2009] award, hands down. After playing the Zune HD’s Audiosurf Tilt, I was intrigued to see what the original game was like. I didn’t think it was possible to like this game anymore than the portable version. There is a nice community built around the title. I love comparing my scores to my friends as well as other players in the area. It is a simple and engaging game, and I will continue to pour my time into it.
Tony – This one is a no brainer for me. I started Mass Effect back in 2007 when it came out and only made it about two hours in when other games caught my attention. I didn’t make it back to guide Shepard’s quest to save the universe until late 2009. Now that I’ve finished the game (in preparation for ME2) I can see why everyone was loving this game. Yes, it has some issues and it definitely isn’t perfect but it has really amped me up for Mass Effect 2 to come out. And I definitely won’t wait two years to finish it off.
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!
The Playstation 3 really seemed to come into its own in 2009. Your humble host does not own a PS3, but his blog pals do. Here’s what they had fun with:
Brock – Between playing older PS2 titles on it and working through many of the great exclusives and eventually multiplatform titles, I found my PS3 becoming my go-to game console for most of 2009. InFamous and Uncharted 2 are tied for my picks for the most fun I’ve had on the PS3 this year. Both had me hooked from the first screen and were those rare games where I didn’t play anything else until I had completed the game hungry for more. I also loved Batman: AA and Assassin’s Creed 2 on the PS3, which surprised me as this was the year when I started to switch my multiplatform purchases from 360 to PS3.
Jason O – The PS3 was a late year addition to my house and I’m still kind of struggling with what kinds of games I’ll purchase for it. For the most part, cross platform titles are purchased for the 360, but in this case I actually purchased Batman: Arkham Asylum for the PS3 purely on the console exclusive “Play as the Joker” feature. While I only did this once, I never regretted Batman as a PS3 purchase despite the quirks of the platform. This game belongs on this system. All that aside, the game itself is outstanding. One of those rare games where the genre doesn’t appeal to me but I love it anyway. I typically hate stealth games, but I love the character of Batman and this game finally gets it right. I felt like Batman. The gadgets, the combat, the ease of movement in the environment were all excellent. Yeah, the endgame is a little cheesy, but the ride getting there is outstanding.
Nat – Two years ago I hated…no, loathed Sony with a passion. This year the PS3 was my platform of choice. After the 360 had red ringed for the second time I started purchasing all my cross-platform titles on it. This was a banner year with inFamous, Assassin’s Creed II, Red Faction: Guerrilla, Killzone 2, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. However, it’s Batman: Arkham Asylum that gets my pick for the most fun on this console. I was the Batman. I still pop the title in to play through some of the challenges.
Will – Sony is pretty much unwelcome in my home, as decreed by my Nintendo fangirl wife. As a result, I don’t get to do much gaming on that console. The only two 2009-released PS3 games I played were Killzone 2 and inFamous. I give my FGotY 2009 [Playstation 3] award to the latter title; I enjoyed its comic book-style storytelling and its great graphics (which is sometimes difficult to find in a sandbox title). Its only real weakness is that I never felt like a superhero (or supervillain, depending on your choices). Cole just seems so weak when I have to fire so many bolts of lightning to put the Reapers down, yet very few of their bullets will put Cole down. That is a very minor quibble for an otherwise fine game.