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2012 Year End Review

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(p) Xcom 10

(p) Mass Effect 3 10

(p) Far Cry 3 9.5

(p) Spec Ops: The Line 9.0

(p) The Walking Dead 9.0

Guardians of Middle-Earth 9.0

Borderlands 2 9.0

(p) Asuras Wrath 8.5

(p) The Amazing Spider-Man 8.5

(p) Game of Thrones 8.0

(p) Dragons Dogma 8.0

(p) Playstation All-StarsBattleRoyale 8.0

(p) Sound Shapes 8.0

(p) Darkness 2 8.0

(p) Counter-Strike: Global Offensive 7.5

(p) Final Fantasy XIII-2 7.5

(p) The Testament of Sherlock Holmes 7.0

Dishonored 7.0

(p) Kingdoms of Amalur: The Recokoning 7.0

(p) Prototype 2 6.5

(p) Battleship 6.0

(p) Brave 6.0

Journey 6.0

SimpsonsArcadeGame 5.0

(p) Rise of the Guardians 3.5

(p) Ben 10: Omniverse 3.0

(p)Madagascar3: The Video Game 2.5

(p) Men in Black: Alien Crisis 1.0

(p) Starhawk 1.0

Best of 2012

5) Asuras Wrath This spot should rightly belong to Far Cry 3, one of the best sandbox experiences ever. Or Dragons Dogma, a game I sunk a hundred hours into and a series with great potential. Or Guardians of Middle-Earth, a MOBA Im so hopelessly addicted too that if it werent for the garbage connection issues I would probably be playing it every available minute. Or Game of Thrones, a decent classic rpg with a knock your socks off story worthy of the books and show. But looking back over 2012 the one game that stands out more in my mind is Asuras Wrath. Its such a crazy, over the top, artistic game that toys with so many video game conventions while still being an enjoyable and emotional video game. Its not fake artistic or creative like the boring, not-really-a-game Journey type junk. Its truly captivating and original.

4) The Walking Dead I play games for story and I feel that video games can tell better stories than any other medium due to choice if its used correctly. Walking Dead is probably the best story game Ive ever played. The game shook me. It made me cry several times. After episode 3 I woke up and held my kids until they wondered if their dad had gone crazy. My wife, aka the video game hater, was glued to it, which is an incredible feat. Its difficult for me to say, but Walking Dead delivers on the promises of games like Heavy Rain and LA Noire by telling a more interesting story, with more realistic dialogue and richer characters. Whats even more cool is how this is an episodic game, a mature game, a low budget DLC game, and an adventure game. By showing that those four ideas can still be viable, Walking Dead does a hell of a lot more to advance the industry than garbage like Journey.

3) Spec Ops: The Line Everyone needs to play this game. It is nothing short of brilliant. It turns every violent, military game youve played on its ear. It challenges you as a gamer and makes you question assumptions that you didnt even know you made. This is gaming art, achieved not with a paintbrush look and nice music, but with manipulation of the elements that form the gaming experience. I could write an essay about all the things this game does right. Usually it takes some flax for supposedly not having great gameplay but I found it to be a solid 3rd person shooter. Certainly much better gameplay wise than most, including Uncharted. And on FUBAR it has to be one of the most challenging games Ive ever played.

2) Mass Effect 3 I play games for story and experience, not necessarily for fun, so I usually give people a hard time for picking purely fun games for GOTY. If all I wanted was fun then I would never play anything but Team Fortress 2, Killzone 2 or Civilization. But this year I was faced with a dilemma. ME3 or Xcom. In terms of gaming experience we might never see a game more epic than ME3. The best scifi universe since Star Wars. Three games and hundreds of hours worth of character driven story coming to one big conclusion. I cant see myself ever getting more excited for a game. But pure gameplay wise, ME isnt much fun at all. Pit that against the most pure fun Ive had playing a game in years and years. Fun versus experience. Normally I would give it to ME. That haunting piano theme still gives me goosebumps. But I have to give the edge to Xcom because of just how brutally terrible the last ten minutes of ME3 ended up being, not to mention the even more embarrassing enhanced ending.

1) Xcom This is my perfect game. Ive said Demons Souls is my perfect game, but its just my perfect action game. Top to bottom Xcom is my perfect game period. Everything I love about gaming in one wonderful package. I played hundreds of hours of Xcom this year and its one of the few games I can foresee myself picking up again and again and again. I love the campy presentation and graphical tone. Im sure its not for everyone but in my humble opinion, theres nothing better than this.

Worst of 2012

5) Dishonored I just dont understand why I cant get into this game. It has all the elements I should like. Bioshock was greater than the sum of its parts. Dishonored is much, much worse than the sum of its parts somehow. It could be the goofy graphics, the brutally bad voice acting, or the fact that the FPS stealth doesnt really work well, but none of those things would really be enough to ruin how good this game looked on paper. Ive restarted it five times in an attempt to get into it with no luck. The fact that it has walked away with numerous GOTY nods is fine with me though. There have certainly been much worse choices than a new IP, stealth game with a mature setting and theme.

4) Rise of the Guardians While I would love to toss Journey, FF13-2 or Kingdoms of Amalur in here. This game shares a very prestigious honour with FF13. They are the only two games boring and simple enough that Ive actually surfed the internet while playing. The combat in this game, much like FF13, involves absolutely nothing but pressing x repeatedly. There isnt even a jump button.

3)Madagascar3: The Video Game Aside from the occasional stupid mini game (most of which involve walking around), this game is made up entirely of walking around cities looking for collectibles. In fact you have to put on a disguise around crowds that make you walk even slower. This game is physically painful to play.

2) Starhawk Warhawk is one of the best mp games ever. Starhawk unfortunately falls very short. The RTS/shooter combination was interesting but ultimately flawed. People just dont coordinate or work together well enough to make this game interesting. Matches were all just lopsided, sloppy wastes of time. Toss in the worst singleplayer campaign Ive ever seen along with the worst example of video game voice acting ever and you have yourself a winner. But the real reason this game sucks so much is that they threatened to ban my PSN account for self boosting their ridiculous trophies. I bet theyre really sorry now that I gave their precious failure of a game a 1 I sure showed them.

1) Men in Black: Alien Crisis This is the worst game Ive ever played. No contest. I urge people to play this game just to give you some perspective on how bad games can actually be. This game is like the condition called word salad. Your brain is simply too organized to allow you to pretend to have word salad. Your brain would be too organized to allow you to make a game this bad even if you were trying to make the worst game ever. It would take a thesis to describe all the ways this game stinks.

Most Anticipated of 2013

5) Dragon Age 3 This is Biowares last chance for me. Will it go back to its complicated and engaging Origins roots. Or will it tumbled down the bs EA white washed, one city, press x constantly, lazy game design feces ridden slope.

4) Watch Dogs This game looks awesome.

3) BioShock Infinite I have a very bad feeling about this one but fingers crossed it can come close to recapturing the magic of the original.

2) GTA 5 I love the GTA series and I love the direction GTA 4 took. Heres to hoping GTA 5 is more of the same. The initial trailer blows by mind with the level of detail already show in what is bound to be a gorgeous living city.

1) Beyond: Two Souls Quantic Dream I shouldnt have to say anything else.

2011 Year End Review

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2011 was another outstanding landmark year. I finished articling and was granted admission to the law society in August. I began my (hopefully) lifelong career as a federal prosecutor. A job that I absolutely love. For the second straight year my wife and I welcomed a new addition to our family, our third child and second son Ellis. The twins are starting to develop their own little personalities and are ridiculous amounts of fun. I have never been happier, and aside from finding some time to workout, things could not be better.

As far as gaming goes 2011 was hands down the best year ever. Gamers tend to be a little blinded by nostalgia, but really the quality and rich experiences that games are delivering these days is incredible. There were a few disappointments like Dragon Age 2 or Resistance 3, but even the bad games were decent. In my entire gaming life I've handed out sixteen 9.5 scores. This year I handed out eight! Every one of those games was superb. Unlike most years with one or two standout games followed by some decent titles, I look at my top five (six) and every one of those games should be GOTY.

Unfortunately 2012 looks bleak. Just awful in terms of gaming. This is made all the worse because I get to take six months paternity leave starting in April. It will be amazing to get paid to hang out at home and spend time with my kids, but what will I play? My top five anticipated games are really just the only five games I plan on buying in 2012. I bought 19 games in 2011 and now I am struggling to find 5 in 2012. At least I will save some money. The Metal Gear Rising gameplay looks horrendously bad and after playing the Starhawk beta I'm turned off.

Aside from one brief relapse (Kung Fu Panda 2) I stuck to my 2011 gaming resolution to give up trophy whoring. There were way too many amazing games to play so it was made easy for me. For the most part I stopped letting trophies determine my gaming purchases and just bought games I would enjoy. My gaming resolution for 2012 is a simple one: try to find more time to game. I played 37 games in 2010 (prior to the twins), 29 in 2011 (after the twins) and even fewer 26 now in 2012. My free time is at a premium but too often I'm finding myself watching mindless movies or football or hockey instead. I always end up enjoying gaming time much more but I'm developing a bad habit of getting too lazy to start if that makes sense. For the first time in my life I need to motivate myself to game a little bit. My other resolution was to buy an Xbox and Kinect, but I accomplished that shortly after New Years. So I guess for 2012 I would like to spend some time catching up on the 360 titles that I've missed over the past few years.

Most Disappointing

5) Skyrim – This spot should rightly belong to Resistance 3 or X-men Destiny but I had to toss Skyrim in. Everyone and their dog picked this for GOTY, but I just can't get into it (most had it picked for GOTY before it even came out but that's another issue). It's like a huge house party next door but I wasn't invited… and I can see the wet t-shirt contest through the cracks of the fence. I gave up on Oblivion after about 20 hours and I was hoping that this would be different. I can't understand how any rational human being can derive any pleasure from a travesty like FF13. Skyrim, I can absolutely understand why people love it, but I personally can't get over how bad the combat is and how much I dislike the levelling system. Without exaggeration, every game I played this year had better gameplay. By better, I mean deeper, more complex, more interesting or more challenging… and that includes Kung Fu Panda 2. I can't sink 100 hours into a game where you run up to things and mash R1. Most iphone games have more rewarding combat. Everyone seems to be able to overlook this… and the glitches. I'm just disappointed that I can't appreciate all the other things this game and epic world have to offer.

4) Transformers: Dark of the Moon and 3) Spiderman: Edge of Time – Both War for Cybertron and Shattered Dimensions were awesome games that completely took me by surprise in 2010. In both cases Activision forced a garbage sequel within a year. It's not just that both these games are awful, sloppy, broken with no effort or heart... objectively they have a fraction of the content. Dark of the Moon has a broken mp with no depth. Co-op and escalation mode are completely gone. Edge of Time has literally a quarter of the spidermans, bosses, environments, etc. Where the hell does Activision get off doing this? A smaller studio comes up with a successful little game and rather than developing the franchise they murder it within eight months by forcing a terrible sequel.

2) Killzone 3 – My favourite multiplayer shooter of all time is still Killzone 2. I will never have that much fun with an online game. Beyond the amazing graphics and environments, I loved the simplicity of the class system and the focus on paced, skilled gameplay. Killzone 3 throws everything down the toilet and tries to become a CoD clone. Why would you do this? People loved Killzone 2 because it was Killzone 2, what is the justification for changing everything? The single player is shorter and some portions are so derivative they are laughable. They took an amazing and unique game and rushed a sequel to sell 3D televisions and Moves. I hope 3D and the Move was worth killing two franchises this year Sony.

1) Brink – I had my eye on Brink for a couple of years. Very interesting concept... absolutely horrendous execution. Nothing works in this game. It's not worth repeating the numerous frustrations, design flaws and nonsense. This game, more specifically the AI, provided me with some of the most infuriating game related freakouts I've ever had. I played most of this game screaming at my television at the top of my lungs. It's rare to see a game screw up this badly.

Top Five

5) Mass Effect 2 – The Xbox exclusive I was dying to play finally came to PS3 early last year and it didn't disappoint. This is Bioware at their best. Outstanding characters in an epic plot. Great music, mood and environments. I liked the more serious and focused storytelling as compared to Dragon Age, but I was actually really disappointed with the gameplay and lack of any rpg elements. Had I not picked the game up again later in the year for my insanity run it probably wouldn't be in my top 5. Playing it a second time I realized how much I had enjoyed the game. Insanity required you to constantly pause and choose abilities carefully. It played more like an rpg than my first easy run, which was essentially a poor man's third person shooter.

4) Deus Ex – This game had the coolest trailer of all time and I was doubtful that any game could live up to that hype. But Deus Ex did a fine job. This game had absolutely stellar atmosphere and mature and complex ethical decisions. I liked that choices were met with realistic and immediate feedback which felt quite different from what has become the classic Bioware choice model. I love games that are roughly linear but have tons of gameplay variety in how you can tackle objectives. Deus Ex rivals MGS4 as the best "multi-method" game. My best friend and I were playing through the game at mostly the same pace and it was amazing how different how experiences were. There are literally three or four full games packed into Deus Ex. My first playthrough was run and gun no nonsense killer. My second playthrough was all stealth and dialogue. They felt entirely different.

3) L.A. Noire – L.A. Noire is a gutsy game. They took a lot of risks and an equal amount of criticism but beyond just the novelty of the game I genuinely enjoy and was captivated by the experience. I have so much to say about this game and I've defended it numerous times so I'm not sure if it's worth getting into again. I just wish people could appreciate that they told an atypical story with a very creative, complex and deep protagonist. Cole was not a likeable guy and to base a character driven, story heavy game on an individual they were setting us up to hate is absolutely brilliant. I hold my breath waiting for games like this and Heavy Rain. L.A. Noire is the reason I love gaming.

2) Batman: Arkham City – Despite all the awesome games this year, Batman AC was my only 10. This game is perfect. This is one of the best games every made. I can be so picky and hard to please but the controls, the combat, the movement are all flawless. The voice acting is perfect. You get to live as Batman set against the background of all these rich and fully fleshed out villains. Every one of the hundreds of collectibles involves a unique riddle. Top to bottom the effort and love they poured into the game is obvious.

1) Dark Souls – Demons Souls is still the best game I've ever played and Dark Souls is bigger and better in almost every way. I absolutely love this game. The tight combat. The ridiculous bosses. The atmosphere and environments. The difficulty and how you overcome the impossible by becoming more skilled. This is a game that consumes you even when you're not playing it. It sucked up a huge portion of my life and my wife was ecstatic the day I finally beat it. Sure they dropped the ball in executing the brilliant multiplayer but looking back no game in 2011 captured my attention the way Dark Souls did.

Most Anticipated

5) Borderlands 2 - Let's be honest. Borderlands wasn't a great game. The graphics and environments were garbage. There was zero plot or dialogue. Angry Birds has more story and narrative. The mission structure was repetitive and lacked any context. No voice chat and loads of connection issues for the multiplayer. All that being said Borderlands was freaking awesome because it was such a cool idea. 4 player class based co-op dungeon crawling, loot grabbing FPS. It was a brilliant concept and the gun gameplay was so good it made the bazillion weapons feel meaningfully different driving your need to level up and horde weapons. The concept of Borderlands is so simple yet so fulfilling that for Borderlands 2 they would be hard pressed to ruin it. But on a technical level almost any change they make will be an improvement. All this to say that I can't see Borderlands 2 not being an awesome game.

4) The Last of Us – While I'm not the biggest Uncharted fan, on a technical level Naughty Dog is making the highest calibre of games out there. I can't wait to see what they do with a new IP and all of their technical wizardry. So far the game looks amazing and the concept is certainly very interesting. This game could be an instant classic if they can manage to create some solid gameplay.

3) Bioshock Infinite – With the original minds back behind the Bioshock series I'm excited to see what they come up with. If this game has even a fraction of the magic and atmosphere of the original Bioshock I will be content.

2) GTA 5 – I love the GTA series. It is a staple of the game industry and I've grown up with the series. When you mention video games GTA immediately comes to mind. I loved GTA 4 and the more serious, story driven approach. If all they did was remake GTA 4 with a couple new characters I would be happy. So much detail goes into the GTA worlds, I'm excited just to watch the apartment TV.

1) Mass Effect 3 – The thought of this game gives me goosebumps. ME2 got me so heavily invested in the story I need to see how things play out. Just having a chance to go back into that universe is exciting. And it's just around the corner...

(P) Batman: Arkham City – 10

(P) Dark Souls – 9.5

(P) Mass Effect – 9.5

(P) L.A. Noire – 9.5

(P) Deus Ex: Human Revolution – 9.5

(P) Portal 2 – 9.5

Deadspace 2 – 9.5

(P) Crysis 2 – 9.5

Battlefield 3 – 9

(P) inFamous 2 – 8.5

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception – 8.5

(P) Dragon Age 2 – 8.5

Dance Central 2 – 8.5

Elder Scrolls Skyrim – 8

(P) Killzone 3 – 7.5

(P) Alice Madness Returns – 7

(P) Resistance 3 – 7

Marvel vs. Capcom – 7

Limbo – 7

(P) Lord of the Rings: War in the North – 7

(P) Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters – 6.5

(P) Transformers: Dark of the Moon – 6

(P) Brink – 6

(P) Spiderman: Edge of Time – 5.5

(P) X-men: Destiny – 4.5

Stacking – 4.5

(P) Kung Fu Panda 2 – 3.5

Once Upon a Monster – 0.5

2010 Year End Review

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2010 was the most important year of my life. I received the two most wonderful things in the world, my reasons for living, my beautiful twins. I finished law school and the ridiculously difficult bar admissions course (it almost killed me). I left my job at the mental hospital after nearly six years and started my first career job as federal prosecutor.

In retrospect I was a little dramatic at the beginning of the year talking about how my twins would be the end of my gaming. I have still found time for my favourite hobby, albeit at a greatly reduced rate. Ahh to be back in school, skipping class and playing Killzone ten hours a day. Now I'm lucky to get a couple hours in twice a week.

As for video games 2010 was a terrible year. If 2008 was the best year yet and 2009 was the year of surprisingly good games then 2010 was the year of the disappointments. I thought it would be great, seeing as how the launch schedule looked so strong early in the year. How was I to know most of those games would be huge letdowns and pretty much nothing of any significance would be released in the fall?

So let's put 2010 behind us and look forward to what will surely be the most epic year in the history of video games. My 2009 gaming resolution was to write game reviews for all my games (kind of like a gaming diary for myself). For the most part I succeeded. My 2010 resolution is to stop playing bad games and stop avoiding games I want to play because of trophies. As per usual here is the list of PS3 games I played this year and whether or not I managed to earn the platinum.

(p) Demon's Souls – 10/10

(p) Heavy Rain – 10/10

(p) Transformers: War for Cybertron – 9.5/10

(p) MAG – 9/10

(p) Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions – 9/10

(p) Bioshock 2 – 9/10

Fallout: New Vegas – 8.5/10

(p) Mafia 2 – 8.5/10

(p) Dante's Inferno – 8.5/10

(p) Call of Duty: Black Ops – 8.5/10

X-MEN: The Arcade Game – 8.5/10

(p) ENSLAVED: Odyssey to the West – 8/10

(p) God of War 2 – 8/10

(p) God of War 3 – 8/10

(p) God of War – 7/10

(p) Prince of Persia The Forgotten Sands – 7/10

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – 7/10

(p) Red Dead Redemption – 7/10

Castle Crashers – 7/10

(p) Final Fantasy 13 – 6.5/10

NHL 11 – 6/10

(p) Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – 6/10

(p) Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 – 6/10

White Knight Chronicles – 6/10

(p) The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest – 5.5/10

Modnation Racers – 5.5/10

(p) Trivial Pursuit – 4.5/10

(p) Iron Man 2 – 4/10

(p) Cars: Race-O-Rama – 3/10

Worst Games

So much of this year was spent playing games I didn't like. Almost every release was either a mild disappointment (Bioshock 2, GOW3), a big disappointment (RDR, Castlevania, NHL 11) or a humongous catastrophe (the following list). It was actually very difficult to pick only five games.

5) White Knight Chronicles: A lot of friends and people I respect enjoyed this game but I still can't understand why. While the concept of the game sounded great, the execution was horrible. Embarrassing graphics, dialogue and tone set this game back but the horrendously dull combat is the worst part. So many flaws...

4) Iron Man 2: Everything about this game stunk. This is the quintessential horrible movie game. You know it is bad when the menus are so terrible you beat the game twice before you realise you could switch equipment. I have to take a moment to mention those turrets that automatically knock you out of the sky without shooting bullets. You hear it shoot and you are dead. You can't block, you can't dodge, you can't see anything coming at you. Those things were awesome.

3) Modnation Racers: I bought this game for a Mario Kart clone I could enjoy with my wife. Little did I know that I was in store for the most difficult, broken, cheated racing game I have ever played. For a game that wanted to be the LBP of racers the customization options were very limited and lame. Other than goofy, googly eyed monsters that all look the same, the best thing you could do is make copies of licensed characters. The whole drift and shield system was broken, terrible game physics and the load times were ridiculous. Best of all was the stupid trophy that kept me from my platinum. All I needed was 64,000 people to download my karts... I was so close.

2) Star Wars The Force Unleashed 2: This is the worst I have ever felt after buying a game. I honestly feel like they stole from me. How can they get away with releasing a game shorter than most DLC and charging full price for it? 3 hours for a purely singleplayer game is criminal. Recycling two of the three levels in a 3 hour game is sadistic. If this were any product other than a video game they would have been sued. The game has no story. The most absurd, contrived "choice" ever put into a video game ending. And the gameplay was mediocre at best.

1) Final Fantasy 13: I was a huge Final Fantasy fan. I have played almost every game and spin off. We had a Final Fantasy song for our wedding march. My cats and my daughter have a Final Fantasy names. So I would have liked nothing more than to have enjoyed this game but it is so bad no one should be able to enjoy it. I want to make it clear that I'm not a "fanboy scorned" who is pissed off because they kept out my favourite character or took out a gameplay element I enjoyed. When I complain constantly about Killzone 3, I will admit that I am a whining fan scorned, but objectively there is absolutely nothing redeeming about FF13 aside from the graphics.

It is so bad, it is insulting. This was supposed to be the JRPG for western audiences. The Japanese game industry is in toilet and so they are constantly saying, "We need to make games that appeal to the West." At some Square Enix board meeting it was decided that the average North American is barely intelligent enough to dress themselves and has the attention span of a goldfish, because that is who this game is designed for. "Western friendly" apparently means "for complete morons" to Japanese game developers. I don't mind the linearity (that's why you play JRPGs) but the entire game is played by holding x. I finished most of the game holding x while surfing the internet or looking after my infant twins. It was that simple.

FF13 is not an RPG, by any definition. No meaningful levelling, equipment, story, characters, dialogue, customization. Iron Man 2 was literally more of an RPG than FF13. The worst part is that people liked this game. What was there to like? Do you enjoy being treated like you're stupid? Do you enjoy games that don't make any sense and have no challenge? The cherry on the top of this fiasco was the end game grinding. At the same Square Enix board meeting they said, "How pointlessly, repetitive and horrible can we make the grinding without putting in any effort at all on our part?" And I answered by collecting six freaking trapezondrons and a bunch of dark matter by killing the same basic turtles hundreds and hundreds of times.

(Honorary Worst Game) Cars Race-O-Rama: When you are a trophy whore you expect to play terrible games. On rare occasions they are surprisingly good (Monster vs Aliens) but most of the time they live up to your expectations. Then there are games like Race-O-Rama that are horrible beyond what your imagination could have conceived. Due to the fact that this game was released in 2009 it cannot make my 2010 list, but it may well be the worst game I have ever played. Sometimes in games you can get hit with a spell or something that randomly inverts your controller and switches the buttons every few seconds. That's what playing Race-O-Rama is like all the freaking time. The physics just don't make any sense. I still have no idea how to control the carts in the Guido races. I'm not exaggerating when I say that you will not understand how to control the cars in this game. Every other aspect of this game is horrible but I especially wanted to mention the music and sound. I played three quarters of this game on mute. Why would your car yell the same irritating thing every time you used boost when you need to boost dozens of times in every single race?

Best Games

It was difficult to pick the best games of the year as well, but for a different reason. Normally there are three to four amazing games each year that really stand out. In 2010 there was really only one game that I would consider a really great timeless game. The rest are decent games that probably wouldn't place in my top five in any other year.

5) Fallout New Vegas: This game doesn't deserve to be on my top five due to the ridiculous number of glitches and the fact that it is essentially a big Fallout 3 expansion. But I can't help it, I love Fallout. After a three month drought with nothing good to play New Vegas sucked me right in and comforted my broken gaming soul.

4) Spiderman Shattered Dimensions: This was an awesome game! It was hilarious, it had a ton of variety and it was a lot of fun. There were some frustrating aspects for sure but it captured Spiderman wonderfully and the diversity kept me hooked. While it isn't Spiderman's Arkham Asylum, it is fairly close. It's too bad most people wrote this game off.

3) MAG: How can I not put MAG on this list when I sunk over 200 hours into this game? This game was a great shooter and so underappreciated. I can't believe it isn't at least nominated in the FPS categories when most gaming sites see fit to include absolute crap like Medal of Honour. It did things that no other console FPS even comes close to attempting. The leadership stuff was brilliant. The maps were so perfectly put together (no easy task in a game of this scope). The way they managed 256 people on a single map and kept it from becoming a big cluster was nothing short of amazing. I think this game suffered from very solid but bland gameplay basics, bland setting/story/design and a tough learning curve. That's my only explanation for why this game got no respect. No other game will capture that feeling of defending the last bunker as dozens and dozens of human controlled soldiers pour at you from all directions.

2) Transformers War on Cybertron: The only game of 2010 to really surprise me in a good way, this game is a Transformers fan's wet dream. It captures the original series' tone and characters perfectly and makes them even more awesome. Toss in co-op, escalation mode and an amazingly solid multiplayer and you have yourself a pretty sweet game. Seriously this game deserves to be my number 2 for the year, it was a blast.

1) Heavy Rain: Was there any doubt? Heavy Rain was epic. An emotional gaming experience like nothing else. There were some small issues that broke the immersion, but I would love to see more games like this to refine the genre. Looking back on my review I had quite a few technical complaints but ten months later all I remember is how this game made me feel. I am left with just the resounding emotional impact. From cutting off my finger to watching my son die to the cliff hanger ending. Heavy Rain is a beautiful game.

(Honorary Best Game) Demon's Souls: Demon's Souls can't be my GOTY because it was technically released in 2009. That being said Demon's Souls would not only have been my GOTY for 2009, 2010, 2008, it would be my game of the decade. Demon's Souls is the best game I have ever played. I can't say it is my favourite game ever because other games have had a greater emotional impact or done more to define a period of my life. But if anyone is curious as to my perfect game, Demon's Souls is it and then some. Everything about this game from the epic and varied environments, incredible design, airtight skilled controls, depth of customization and levelling, balance and difficulty is perfect. Combine all this with the most creative take on multiplayer in the last five year and this game is an absolute masterpiece.

Most Anticipated Games

There are literally two dozen absolute must have titles for 2011, I have no idea how I will find the time or money. This year will be epic! Enjoy this golden age before iphone games, DLC and motion gaming ruin everything we love about video games.

5) Portal 2: Portal was brilliant and this long awaited sequel kicks it up a notch. The co-op looked great at PAX.

4) Project Dark: Demon's Souls 2? If it's even close then I'm in. Here's to hoping they don't dumb it down like every other game that gets released for the 360 after being an exclusive.

3) Deus Ex: The best game trailer of all time. I hope it lives up to expectations.

2) Mass Effect 2 and 3: I have been dying to play this series from the beginning and I finally get my shot. Thank you so much EA and Bioware.

1) Resistance 3: Killzone 3 ruining itself reminded me of how much I love the Resistance series. The first game was the only thing I had for my PS3 for the longest time and I liked everything about Resistance 2. Resistance holds a special place in my heart and this game looks outstanding. Insomniac is the best studio out there and giving their games an extra year will yield incredible results.

Have a wonderful 2011!

PAX 2009 The Games Part 2

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Harmonix

Rock Band Lego (Nov 3) – If you already own Rock Band… why?

The Beatles Rock Band (Sept 9) – I like RockBand because it's the only game my wife will play with me. So I'll pick this up around Christmas. The three singers thing is actually pretty cool, not just a gimmick. One of my problems with Rockband is when they make really simple songs super hard to play. Like Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffet. That song is like a douchebag fratboy gently strumming his guitar but instead of one button notes they made it 3 button notes constantly changing. It's insanely tough. If a song is easy, make it easy in the game! I have no problem struggling through a crazy Who guitar solo and barely making it to the end because I feel like a rockstar but failing out on sleepy basic songs sucks. Now people will disagree with me but the Beatles (as awesome as there were) weren't very musically complex for the most part. The songs shouldn't be difficult in Rockband and I was concerned there were going to artificially jack up the difficulty so you'd be failing out like Hey Jude. After watching people play several songs on expert, it's a bit of a concern but I'm satisfied enough to buy it.

Namco Bandai

Tekken 6 (Oct 27) – I think anyone that's spent five minutes around me know I hate fighting games. So this comment might offend people but it felt like Soul Calibur but a big easier. Again I'm not a big fan so I don't really know what else to say.

Bethesda

Wet (Sept 15) – It comes out in a couple days and I see there is a demo up on PSN so you can play it yourself. Me. I hated it. The whole premise is so stupid. You go into a room with like ten enemies and they all just stand there shooting aimlessly at you while you run around like an idiot jumping and sliding to try and trigger the slow motion stuff. Even the car ridding parts don't impress me. Terrible AI. The developers were nice guys but this game was weak. The few moments of slow mo blowing peoples heads off looks okay but the thrill dies minutes later.

Rogue Warrior (Oct 27) – Really generic, low quality FPS. Why do companies even make games like this?

Brink (Q3 2010) – I had no idea this game existed before PAX. I'm definitely interested. It was just a live demo and it's being made by Splash Damage. It has like Mirror's Edge running and jumping mechanics so you can move very quickly from a FPS perspective. Fully customizable characters. Two factions on the "Brink" of civil war. It was like a Utopian city that lost contact with the rest of the world. So you're either the security force or the rebel immigrants that have come to the city. Kind of cartoonish characters. Feels a lot like Killzone, In fact the basic gun is perfectly identical (I mean even the zoom in is identical) to the ISA rifle. There is a class system and you can change your class at captured beacons. It will be 8 player co-op or 8v8 multiplayer with tons of objectives. So like you bring up a wheel and it gives you I think like 10 potential objectives with associated XP. So like switch to engineer (100xp), then you get some new ones like create a short cut (150xp) or fix that crane (300xp). Etc. it's kind of tough to explain. In live demo he had to guide a robot to a bomb and so everything you did helped speed up the process. Or you could just escort the vehicle which was an objective (10xp per second). Does that make any sense? It looks like it's trying to do a lot of things at once. Like a complex MAG objective system mixed with Killzone, mixed with Mirror's Edge. Again, definitely interested.

Ubisoft

Assassin's Creed 2 (Nov 17) – This was just a huge stage demo in the biggest theatre at the show. Assassin's Creed was for me, like most people, a game that was both excellent and terrible. The graphics, the go anywhere gameplay and story were great but the repetition was ridiculous. So after watching a 40 minute presentation I can't comment on the repetition (the guy assured us it was gone) but it looked like the same great elements of assassin's creed 1. There is a huge portion that takes place underground. Lots of hidden treasure to find (too much). You can pick up enemy weapons. The gun is pretty cool because it gets increasingly accurate when you hold down the button but it reveals you so you can't use it in combat. A lot more platforming which looks identical to PoP. Double knives. The biggest change is that there is now a money system. So you get money for killing guys and you can pickpocket people in the street. You use the money to buy potions. The one he showed us was a potion that made this lord's guard start hallucinating and going crazy. Then he threw money on the ground and people are tried to pick it up while the guard was swinging his axe around all crazy like. Again it feels like I'm forgetting some stuff.

Splinter Cell (Q1 2010) – I've never played any of these games before but it was the first part of the AC 2 presentation. Umm this game looks really silly. During the question period all the fanboys were furious about the game because it looked really easy and entirely lost it's stealth element. The presenter kept saying the main character was a panther, he was a predator, a puma. It was actually really funny in his Quebecois accent (but he didn't mean it to be, I'm sure). Basically imagine a fast paced Uncharted with **** graphics and this stupid new aiming system. This aiming system involves tagging enemies while hiding behind a corner. Then you jump out and quickly/automatically shoot all the tagged enemies. It looks so easy. Another feature is the last known position. So as soon as you break the line of sight a ghost of you shows up and the enemies head towards that spot. So as long as you are out of sight you can then sneak around them as they head towards that one location. WTF! Does that make sense at all? They could call it the Ubisoft easy button. During the demo he just hung off ledges and enemies walked right up to him so he could grab them. I can see why fans of the game would be angry. Otherwise the game looked pretty rough. Expect a delay for sure.

Avatar (Nov 24) – Got to watch this in a 3D theatre. Silly. But the game looked decent. It's a third person action game. Really cool night to day environments. Interesting customizable special abilities. You can play as humans or avatars. I guess James Cameron is trying to build like a Star Wars universe and he's had this idea for like 12 years. So this game isn't a movie tie in. It's like a completely separate game set in the movie universe. Some interesting vehicles and big creatures to fight. It looked well polished and unique enough to be given a chance. Personally I kind of like Lost Planet 2 better because the weapons are more interesting and the bosses are bigger, also co-op.

EA

Battlefield Bad Company 2 (Q1 2010) – You got to go into 4 squads of 4 and play in a special room. It was pretty neat. Good game. I'm really at a loss of what to say. It felt like a good first person military shooter. Got to ride an ATV and a tank. The destructible environments was pretty cool but didn't make sense sometimes (clearly they're going to work on it). If you're a big fan of the series you can ask me specifics I guess,

Brutal Legend (Oct 13) – I waited so long and did not get to play this game. Some demos had like organized lines and time limits while others were just clustereffs like Brutal Legend. It was super busy all the time. So I got to watch people play it a lot. Looks pretty basic, attack with the axe, lighting attack called down by the guitar. Driving sequences look fun. The best part was the dialogue. It's genuinely funny and Jack Black does a great job. People were laughing out loud in groups watching this game being played.

Dead Space Extraction (Sept 29) – Urghh horrible. If you're a fan of light gun shooters on the Wii then you'll probably like this game. But I was a big fan of Deadspace. I think it was really underappreciated. It scared the crap out of me and I still have to go back on Impossible to get my Platinum. It was a thrilling game and to see it dumbed down on the Wii breaks my heart. It's not so much the graphics but like the game wasn't mean to be a light shooter. Creeping around in the dark, moving from shadow to light, with all the strange noises, crazy aliens sneaking up behind you, crawling out of vents, running for your life, getting cornered, zero gravity, aliens coming from all directions. All that reduced to a locked screen and three monsters taking turns running at you. It's dumb.

Saboteur (Dec 8) – I was interested in this game but it really looks like the **** I talked to Tom French (the lead designer) for a while as I was playing (he was super nice). The game looks really rough. Like dead enemies floating into the sky, the camera moving into objects so you can't see anything, enemies randomly falling into walls. Graphics are not great. Shooting effects are terrible. AI and enemy detection is laughable. I guess ideally it's supposed to be like a sandbox, third person, WW2, stealth game with a lot of driving portions because the main character is a race car driver. You can steal soldier's clothes and walk around but you have a detection meter. Like there's some good ideas here and I was excited about it but the game wasn't very good. Also the fact that the Nazis look like Space Marines and they're apparently marching in groups of 8 around every corner of occupied France in the middle of the night while you're driving through.

Dante's Inferno (Feb 9) – Another surprise, this game was pretty damn cool. It played exactly like God of War but a lot tougher. Most people couldn't get through the demo on easy (I did of course :D) Static camera, same buttons roughly. Same level of graphics although I might give the edge to GoW3, same gory gameplay. Damage bosses until a button press sequence. Epic huge and creative bad guys you're fighting. There is this demon riding a Minotaur (but like a pretty crazy looking Minotaur). You have to rip the demon out of the seat and then take control of the Minotaur to pound and tear apart guys. Meanwhile you're riding on the back of some grotesque human boat. So your Minotaur (which is like five times your size) rips out the eye ball of the giant human boat and the eye ball is like the size of the Minotaur's chest. Then he sticks his hands into the eye socket and tears the head off and throws it away. Crazy stuff like that. There was another fight against a giant Octopus man. A lot of times when you fight giant bosses, they kind of sway back and forth stupidly then every ten second smash a fist down at you. This Octopus man was out to get you! He was pounding fists and dragging his arm across the cage you were in. It didn't feel like it was canned. You end up killing him by dragging his face onto a big wheel and tearing it in half. I'm not a big fan of gore but this game will be the king, and I can appreciate that. They also gave us a comic of the story and it sounds decent. It's a toss up between this and GoW for me. If you're a fan of the genre get both for sure.

Darksiders (Jan) – As good as Dante's Inferno and GoW3 were, this game was bad. Such a plain, ugly, boring game. The enemies, the environments, your weapon, your special attacks, the platforming parts, all bland and terrible. This is something you'd play on PS2 in the middle of it's cycle. Enemies just slowly hobble towards you and the weapon collision is off entirely. They had a big decorated horse/mechanical bull that you could ride. Easily that will be the high point of Darksiders.

PAX 2009 The Games Part 1

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I wanted to write down my thoughts on all the games I saw and played at PAX. Why should you care? You shouldn't really but I wanted to share my experience because it was an unbelievable. Also my reviews are shorter and more honest than like gamespot coverage of the games and I got to ask the developers lots of questions. Plus you can ask me questions. And please feel free to ask me questions because I'm just briefly touching on all the games. I know that there might be some small element that is a huge selling point for you and you need to know about it. (Like Murasame, the sort of sequel to Odin Sphere. The developer assured me there would be no stupid item system and growing plants or item limit.).

I spent over 12 hours just on the Expo floor (a lot of that was waiting in lines) but I could have easily spent 30 hours and not seen everything. So I didn't play the big Xbox games, the lines were too long, like Halo ODST, Left for Dead 2, Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age Origins (crap I just realized this wasn't an MMORPG and it's on the PS3 as well) and Forza. I also avoided all the PC games, lots of MMORPG but Diablo 2 and Starcraft did peak my interest. I'm also not writing about all the PSP, Wii and DS games I played so if you're really concerned about one coming out then just ask. The big games I missed that I wanted to see were Red Dead Redemption and Scribblenauts, just ran out of time. I also just kind of walked through Nintendo. I wasn't going to wait in a line to play Wii Resort or Metroid Collection. Big disappointments were no Konami, no Activision, and no Square.

Also when reading my thoughts keep in mind that some of the games were at a very rough stage but I still judged them all as if they were a finished product. Most of them I was using a 360 controller, which screwed me up too.

Most Surprisingly Good: 1) Borderlands 2) Dante's Inferno 3) Brink

Must Buys: 1) Heavy Rain 2) Uncharted 2 3) Borderlands/GoW3/Dante's Inferno/White Knight Chronicles (Too many games!)

Worst Games: 1) Darksiders 2) Deadspace Extraction 3) Saboteur/Wet (but give the edge to Wet because it's actually coming out in a week)

2k

Bioshock 2 (Q1 2010) – Very disappointing. You waited to go into a small theatre and all they showed a trailer for the multiplayer and a video walkthrough (that I'd already seen months ago on the internet) of the single player. So there was no playable demo and not even a live demo. So basically nothing new. The multiplayer did show a couple things. Customizable characters. Taking pictures of dead enemies. Looked pretty chaotic. And you could play as a big daddy and clobber people. The maps looked all indoors and really tight. I'm positive the singleplayer is finished completely and they're just working on multiplayer at this point (and I do release it's two different teams working on each).

Borderlands (Oct 20) – Biggest surprise of the show for me. I waited an hour and a half to play this game and it made me a believer. This game was originally completely off my radar. After playing it and talking to the developers (who were super cool) tomorrow I'm going to pre-order it. It became a must buy for me. Just imagine Fallout 3 without VATS and with an awesome FPS feel (Fallout 3 was great but the FPS parts were pretty clunky, I always fought in VATS). Throw in 4 player co-op. SOLD. It was really really fun. The upgrade tree looks pretty short but a lot of it revolves around the many customizable weapons. The developers were pretty honest and said the guns really won't feel that different but the damage levels and secondary effects will change. There's also sort of a class system with the special abilities your guys have. The feel to the game is pretty light hearted and it's got that cell shading, although went your actually playing I forgot it was even drawn that way.

Capcom

Lost Planet 2 (Q4 2009) – Just got to play that part fighting the huge salamander, which I'm sure you've seen videos of. Decent third person action game. The weapons were really cool. Co-op is always cool (I'm a huge fan of co-op if you haven't guessed). I couldn't figure out the stupid grappling hook but I didn't play the first game so maybe it's just me. Decent game.

Dark Void (Jan 12) – When you take a single element of game X and turn it into the main gimmick element on an entire other game, I think it's a pretty big complement to game X. That being said this game plays just like the flying portions of Warhawk. I usually get really sick and dizzy by game that invert the screen (like that one bloody level in PixelJunk Eden or the zero gravity part of Deadspace) so I wasn't even considering getting this game. But after playing the game it really wasn't half bad and it didn't force you into the inversion parts, you could just fly through them if you wanted. Again it controls like the planes in Warhawks and so it has those frustrating moments of going from flying to hover mode and back again. Kind of generic enemies, and guns and main character but it's not so bad. Probably won't pick this one up but it's okay. I'd rather pull out Warhawk!

Nintendo

New Super Mario Bros (Q4 2009) – It was decent. Four player 2D Mario. I didn't actually play it but watch some people for a while.

Sega (Sega had like a smallest booth of the whole show but the hottest booth babes)

Bayonetta (Jan) – A lot like DMC4 but a little crazier. In my opinion it can't even be compared to GoW3 or Dante's Inferno. Button mashing, crazy over the top combos. Static screen so right analogue is the doge. It's kind of funny because every attack has like a sexually explicit name and she goes naked for her ultimate attacks and finishing moves. You can pick up enemy weapons. I especially liked the neat, semi-angelic enemies you fight, they look awesome. I don't particularly like this type of game but it seems to me as more fun than DMC4 was.

Sony

Pixel Junk Shooter (Q4 2009) – I love the Pixel Junk games and this one seems just as funky. There was no music available but I can only assume it would be awesome. You fly around with left control stick and rotate your ship to shoot with the right. As you can tell by the video it's about breaking walls to release water to cool lava and then break that lava so the water can move through. You also rescue little dudes. I can assume there will be tons of weapons but for now I just had a shoot button that you could hold down for a rocket. You don't really take damage but instead you take "heat" from enemies and being near the lava so you have to jump back in the water to cool down. After playing it I actually might not buy it because I find these top down fliers really tough and frustrating but it seems to have all the Pixeljunk charm.

MAG (Jan 26) - I'm sure most of you have tried the Beta so there's isn't much to add but I'll just brag about the exclusive MAG Screening or whatever it was that I went to. It was separate from PAX and it was for 256 people. I thought it was going to be like a big LAN party but instead it was this super swanky event. Security in suits and dark glasses. Free booze and awesome food (crab cakes, lobster dishes, mini gourmet burgers etc). They had 8 big screens in a room and there were 3 rooms (one for each faction). So you got to play in the beta while the developers walked around and asked you questions and stuff. It was so amazing. I got to tell a few of them the problems I had with the game and my suggestions. What an experience!

Heavy Rain (Q1 2010) – Out effing standing! I lined up on Sunday at 8 am (2 hours before the doors opened) just to play this game after having watched it for the first two days. My expectations were super high and it blew those away. The graphics and design are incredible. The characters look amazing, the dialogue was so rich. I was getting pulled into the world while standing up watching someone else play in a crowd of nerds. That's how great this game is. There were two scenarios. One was a dad picking his kid up and making him supper. It was basically just to show you the mechanics. The other one (which everyone played) was the old cop questioning a shop keeper. The shop keeper refuses and you go to buy something. Then a robber comes into the store. You can do nothing. Sneak up on the robber and clobber him. Talk the robber down. Talk to the robber until he is distracted and tackle him. Or get shot. (Those are the only ones I saw.) What impressed me the most was the controls. I knew the game looked incredible but how was the gameplay? It was stellar. You walk by holding R2 and the right stick, then you use the leg stick for a lot of commands. You have the four button mapped to answers you can give when talking. Basically you walk up to things and the commands jump at you. How is this fun you ask? Well imagine sneaking up on the robber. You edge down the isle and you see a bottle. You have to carefully press the left stick to the right to grab the bottle without making a sound (if you don't then you drop it). You then sneak forward and suddenly you bump some boxes so you have to quickly press triangle to grab them. Then you come up behind him and wiggle the remote to bash him in the head. It's actually super intense and fun. Please buy this game! It's something that's actually innovative and creative, don't pour your money into another FPS copycat and let Heavy Rain flop.

God of War 3 (March 2010) – I waited close to an hour to play 15 minutes of the demo. You start off in a burning city with skeletons attacking people. You fight your way until some harpies that you have to grab onto and beat them with the circle button to make them rise a little and get you over gaps. You then fight a bunch of skeletons with a big centaur. Then you fight a huge chimera. All the while there is an absolutely massive fire titan in the background fighting a flaming guy on a flaming chariot. After you beat the Chimera you actually shoot a giant bolt gun at the flaming chariot guy (who is like smaller than the titan's hand). You hit the chariot and the titan uses the opportunity to grab the chariot and toss it into a mountain. You have the chain blades and then those massive fists that you saw in the first couple trailers. He has the icarus wings. The camera is static like Heavenly Sword and the left analogue is dodge. For the centaur and the Chimera you had to beat them enough to start a button press sequence. The Chimera had three of them. It's super gory. You cut turn the centaur on his side and cut him down the stomach and all his guts spill out. To finish the Chimera you tear out his horn and ram it through his eye. The graphics looked great. The background (looking down on the burning city and the clouds) looks gorgeous. Great game, I'm sure I'm forgetting something I wanted to say about it.

White Knight Chronicles (Q1 2010) I spent a good deal of time with this exploring the menus and stuff. It looks like an awesome JRPG, the one we've all been waiting for. It feels a lot like FF12, especially the battle system (but a little simpler version of the gambit system). The story seems a little more light hearted than final fantasy, almost a little Japanese silly if you get my drift. The main city you start in is huge just like ff12. Basically just think ff12. But I didn't get my guy to transform. Also it wasn't fully translated. It was strange too because when you pressed triangle it brought up a PSN message screen, I'm sure that has to do with the multiplayer. All around this looks like the solid JRPG we've been waiting for. Oh and the graphics looked pretty good, better than they've looked in the trailers.

Uncharted 2 (Oct 13) – For anyone that played the beta, this game will be outstanding and there isn't much for me to add. They just had a section of the single player fighting through the same city we've seen in the beta. It's Uncharted, it's awesome. Everything you would expect. The graphics were hands down the best of the entire show. Including the PC stuff. The lighting is outstanding, I don't even remember it being that good in the beta. Killzone for me is GOTY 2009 but this could give it a serious run.

Infamous review

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Disclaimer: If by some absolute fluke someone from Ubisoft is reading this, then I beg you to play infamous and pay attention to two important things. Prince of Persia and Assassins Creed were the two most repetitive games I've played on the next gen consoles, possibly ever. If you want to base your game on repetitive tasks then please use infamous as your template for keeping the tasks relatively fresh, unique and engaging.

The second thing you should please please please take note of is that a third person platformer can work without having a jump off of the wall you're trying to climb for no reason at all function. This was my number one cause of death by far in PoP and it was my number one frustration in Assassin Creed. You're jumping up a wall and for whatever reason your jump falls just short of the intended ledge, so why in both games does your character always propel himself off the wall at this point in the opposite direction. There is absolutely no purpose whatsoever to putting this in your games you freaking morons. I can't begin to describe how much more fun infamous is to play as a platformer when you miss catching a ledge and your character just slides down the wall.

So I played infamous with my roommate from 9:00pm until 4:00am last night. I finished the first city and started on the second. I think it's fair to put out my review at this point. Unless the story takes a huge turn or playing the game on hard starts to expose some huge weaknesses in the gameplay (it usually does), I think my review will probably stand.

I really had my doubts about this game but overall I'm pretty impressed. The story is decent. It's not great but it certainly tries very hard to rise about the average mailed in video game storyline. I'm not a fan of your hick buddy but the dialogue is really solid. I'm always talking about maintaining story throughout gameplay like Bioshock or GTA. Infamous doesn't do a great job of this so in between story missions you really lose the story entirely (aside from the same one liner you hick buddy repeats to you every once in a while). So the game starts to feel lonely, which takes away from the story. But all in all the story isn't bad.

I'm the pickiest and whiniest gamer when it comes to controls, especially for third person games. But I can't find much to complain about in infamous, which is amazing. He sticks to walls a little too easilly, which makes jumping down from a building slightly annoying. Also some events can interrupt you while you're holding down the R1 button and then you need to press it again, which can be slightly annoying. But that's getting really picky. The fighting and powers parts are absolutely great (I was worried they'd be a little simplistic). In fact I find myself craving more fights and bigger fights during the game because it's so much fun.

The only place where the game falls flat is graphics, and I don't think I've said that about a game in a long time. After watching the early gameplay videos I made the comment that the graphics looked like a good PS2 game and after having played the game I don't take that statement back. The people look horrible. They move and speak like robots. The textures and details are bad. The art design is boring and uninspired with a lack of detail. All the streets in one area look identical. The physics are bad. The interactions with the environment are bad. (You see a car, you hit it repeatedly with lighting, terrible looking flash, then insert shell of car. No transition or damage whatsoever. That's inexcusable for next-gen games.) There are also a ton of graphics glitches but those are mostly hilarious. Like three cars driving through a turret truck then the fourth car getting stuck inside of it and both exploding a moment later. Or bumping a cop just before he gives you a mission so he falls over. Then he gives you the briefing crumbled up in a corner with his legs coming out of his mid chest.

One thing I absolutely love about the game is the radar that helps you find the shards and satellite dishes. This is incredible and makes my OCD life much easier. It's still challenging to find the objects and it takes a little work but you can do it without printing off a 45 page guide and playing with it on your lap because there's no way you'd ever find the things on their own.

I'd give the game an 8.5. It's fun, it's above my expectations and we've been spoiled lately with graphics so I can cut infamous a bit of slack.

Best and Worst of 2008

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First off 2008 was the best year for gaming ever and I've been doing this for a long time. Never have I seen so many triple A titles released in such a short period, and they were all great games. Looking ahead, 2009 won't even compare, but that's okay because I'll still be playing all these great games into 2010 and beyond.

Best Games

The three things I love in video games are graphics, story and opened ended gameplay (in a linear environment). I'll just say a word about all three. Graphics, enough said. Story, I play video games for the story more than anything else and I believe there is a potential to tell stories through video games better than movies or books. You become a part of the action, struggling along with the protagonist literally. Also the shear amount of time you'll spend playing with them as opposed to a simple two hours movie. Traditionally it was done JRPG style with cutscenes and then gameplay, then cutscene then gameplay. But this year I've seen some amazing games combine story and gameplay seamlessly so that you're always engaged with the story and the world. This is the future of story telling and it's incredible. Gameplay, what I mean by this is games like Bioshock and MGS4 where you have a relatively linear path to follow through the game but multiple ways to go about completing the task or defeating each enemy. If the game is too open ended my OCD kicks in and I start getting overwhelmed trying to do everything (like Fallout). A game needs some structure but so long as the gameplay itself is complex, engaging and varied otherwise the game is boring.

3) GTA 4 - I originally gave the game a 9 out of 10 due to the god awful third person controls. A game reviewer once said that Niko controlled like a stoke victim and that's an understatement. I passed it to 100% after putting in a couple solid months over the summer. Then once trophies were released I picked it back up and I switched my score to a 9.5. I had forgotten just how incredible Liberty City was. Never has there been such a magnificent, living, breathing city created in a video game. The level of detail and depth, size and personality is outstanding. Niko is one of the best developed and sympathetic video game characters ever.

I feel like I have to justify not having Fallout on my list. Fallout may be better than GTA in many aspects but for me the story breaks the tie. In Fallout you travel in complete silence through desert (I realize that's part of the lore of the game but bear with me) with no feedback or interaction. Then you reach a "person" who pops up like a menu, gives you an impersonal description then pops away. The gameplay then continues devoid of any story until the next "person" pops up. Etc. In GTA the story never stops and you never stop caring about the world or the character it's created. You'll constantly getting phone calls, the radio feedback, the dialogue of Niko to himself and the dialogue and reaction the public that's constantly present. That's why I like GTA 4 more than any of the previous installments. Take your jet packs and silly customizable faceless figures and give me a living character like Niko any day.

Also the graphics and driving aspects are so damn good. The multiplayer is unique and such a blast.

2) Bioshock - I've been waiting for it's PS3 release since it first came out. What a game. I've never played a game that so seamlessly intregrated story and game play. You simply couldn't break the two apart. There is so much variety and strategy in how you can approach each situation. The environment they've created in Rapture is so engrossing you can't pull yourself away. There isn't one thing you can put your finger on specifically but so many elements come together in just such a way to create magic, like a film that moves and deeply effects you. There are so many great moments that still feel spontaneous, the best being Sander Cohen's bunny rush scene after he feels you've insulted his masterpiece. I don't know how Bioshock 2 will live up to or recreate these ethereal elements that made it so good.

1) Metal Gear Solid 4 - The best game I've ever played. Graphics are jaw dropping. The first time it went from cutscene to gameplay without losing any detail I pooped a little. I realize that it had some stop and go elements to the story that I just praised Bioshock and GTA for avoiding. However the story is just so powerful (not as good as MGS2 but I don't think many people understood 2 properly). The level of detail and work Kojima put into this game is astounding. The gameplay is as good as it gets, so much so that it's ruined all other games for me. The options you're given to tackle a single situation are endless. BBE was extremely difficult but the most rewarding video game challenge I've completed yet. Everything in this game is just so perfect, I can't say enough good things.

Worst Games

3) Soul Caliber 4 - I rarely trade games but Soul Caliber became only the third game I've ever sold after less than a week. Take this with a grain of salt because I'm not a fan of fighting games. For me to enjoy them they need to have relatively simple controls (or at least levels of complexity where it can still be rewarding if you haven't learned all the moves yet), characters I recognize and over the top craziness moves. Soul Caliber lacked all of these elements although making your own character was neat. And wtf was with the weird "story" mode. Actually I probably should have put Novastrike in this spot, that game is horrible.

2) Pixel Junk Eden - I've calmed down since I got my PS3 and my 50 inch TV but I still get pretty enraged when playing video games. I once bare knuckle punched the family computer screen off the desk out of shear frustration at a Raymond game. I think I had smashed six controllers by the time my PS2 was retired.

Eden is one of the most frustrating games you'll ever play but the visuals and music are so chill you don't realize how angry you're getting until you explode. It's like every element is perfectly designed to be as frustrating as possible. "Oh look it took me literally 12 minutes to climb this vine and then I double pressed x instead of holding it down (why the hell couldn't they map silk jump and normal jump to two buttons!!!) and down I go. Now I have to slowly and methodically move my way back up with the annoying timer constantly pressing me. But it's all good because the music is awesome." Repeat, repeat, repeat until the last sentence is changed to sobbing uncontrollably on the floor smashing your controller into your skull. And then there's garden 8... oh garden 8.

1) The Wii - I know it's not a game but I had to put it in. I realized that I did not buy a single Wii game this year. Not even rented or borrowed one. Now I didn't do this on purpose to prove a point or hate on the Wii. It just happened that a year passed with me spending hundreds and hundreds on video games but absolutely nothing on the Wii. Not a single game interested me or was worth the price tag. Frankly I'm a little embarrassed I bought into the hype and grabbed one on the first day they were released. I'm still happy to see Nitendo winning the generation and most of the people who are buying Wiis are not gamers so it's success is independent of the PS3. I've said before that it's a category onto it's own now, there is PC gaming, handheld gaming, console gaming and then the Wii.

The only thing that bother me is all these half assed games that are being mass produced for the Wii. When games are evolving and there is so much artistry, effort and creativity put into titles, the Wii's entire library is a huge step backwards.

"Fanboyism"

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Fanboyism

I know the word doesn't exist but it's clearly become part of our lexicon. As the console race moves closer to a dead heat there is a new voice of moderation forming within the community. A voice decrying fanboyism and praising the merits of both systems. This may seem like the reasonable and mature perspective. Why not own all 3 systems and partake in the strengths that they all offer?

While I don't disagree I see fanboyism as a strength of the industry and a sign of it's growth. It marks a culture that goes deeper than the electronics themselves. I doubt anyone cares about the brand of toaster they buy or have loyalty to a producer of bread. However look at clothes and cars on the other hand, both of which have a deeper cultural context attached to brands. The brand says something about you and you associate yourself with it.

At worst it makes gamers look childish and perhaps marginally decreases sales of systems (which is unlike considering most fanboys can't afford all three, or bought an Xbox initially and want to justify not buying a PS3). At best it's free advertising and leads to less than perfect products being purchased just for the sake of the brand. It also stimulates a public interest in the inner working of the industry.

I see video games as an art form and as a culture. Whether or not you agree, it can't become either without a little blind passion. So as long as we keep the discussions intelligent, and avoid insulting remarks (also I personally hate trolling of the other side's news releases) I see fanboyism as a strength.

Also who are you trying to impress by being a neutral? In the words a wise space captain; "I hate these filthy neutrals Kif! With enemies you know where they stand but with neutrals? Who knows! It sickens me."

Just my humble thoughts on why I dislike the 360...

1) Any success Xbox enjoys came from one single fact. They released their system a year before the competition. This meant no competition for the initial install base, putting the onus on Sony to prove why you needed another 400 dollar console in your living room. More importantly, an extra year's worth of time to develop more games.

The price? Rushing a flawed, slightly inferior product to the public. Most Xbox fans don't seem to care but 13 percent failure rate (conservatively) at launch is unbelievable. There would be a national outcry if any other product was so poorly constructed. Could you imagine 1 in every five cars or refrigerators bricking within one year? So the cost of the 360's head start was laid entirely on the consumers who now they applaud them for their success. This makes no sense to me.

2) Criticisms of the PS3 - Most of them are entirely unfounded. Claiming it has no games when it is a year younger. You simply cannot program for a system that doesn't exist and Sony developers are expected to basically be a year ahead. Also there are more games for my PS3 than I can possibly play, especially coming Fall 2008.

Too expensive is the worst criticism. It is the same price as the comparable Xbox model. You can't use the completely stripped down version of the Xbox's price but the abilities of the highest model when comparing features and specs.

3) Online - I have to give Microsoft full praise for investing time and money into the development of Live while Nintendo and Sony ignored online features last generation. Now that online gaming is the future Nintendo still ignores it but Sony is desperately playing catch up. I don't see the Live service fee as a big deal, it's fairly cheap but I also don't see that big of a difference between the two since 2.41.

4) Culture of gaming - This is by far my weakest argument but at the same time my biggest reason. The whole culture(*see my other blog) behind Xbox irks me. A rich American company throwing their weight around and trying to buy their way into the gaming industry. I fully realize the irony since Sony did the same thing with the PS1 and Microsoft actually had their hand early on in the failed MSXs. But Sony bought in when the industry was young and has shaped it over the past 14 years. Also I have always disliked Microsoft but that's a whole other bag of worms.

The Xbox was marketed initially at impatient American youths with a lot of flash but little substance. Keeping along this path they've succeeded in winning them over but almost no one else in the world. Being Canada the American mass media is what I have to constantly digest. To me I see the Xbox as the pop rap music of the video game industry.

Over many years of playing video games I've developed a loyalty to Nintendo and Sony. Although it's hard to intelligently rationalize I think Xbox fans will feel the same way when they grow up in 5 to 10 years and Imperial Oil decides to buy into the gaming industry with a flashy new system aimed at the youth.

The American arrogance further infuriates me. Many see it as a success story that this mega-corporation threw their massive amounts of money around. I've read so many racist comments towards the Japanese aimed at belittling Nintendo or Sony. I've even read posts of people chanting "USA, USA" on pro-Xbox articles.

5) Lousy Xbox ports to the PS3 - This seems to be the trend. The PS3 is more powerful than the 360, more so than the Xbox was of the PS2. But we keep getting last minute ports and then unfair comparisons between the systems based on these games. Metal Gear is the only recent true PS3 game and it looks unbelievable. I know this is a ridiculous example but it similar to the PSP only releasing DS games ported, and never showing it's potential. But then again the history of the gaming industry has shown repeatedly that superior hardware does not win out the day.

6) Halo - Halo is the flagship of Xbox and Halo 3 is the single most overrated game of all time. Lifeless repetitive gameplay, horrendous graphics, weak story, a completely non-interactive environment. The first time I played it I laughed out loud as I was so shocked at how poor the game was. My favourite part is whenever the General played by one of the California Raisins appeared.

It's no secret that human faces are one of the most difficult things to graphically portray in a video game. However Halo side steps all of this, lazy as can be, by making the hero a shiny green suit and the enemies shiny pink and purple six year old children. The weapons are bland and uninspired (except for maybe the Hammer), embarrassing when compared to a game like Resistance.

There are many excellent games on the 360. Many of which I wish the PS3 had but Halo is not one of them. To each his own but I can't possibly see anyone justifying Halo2 or 3 as anything more than mediocre games (although I understand the multiplayer is much of the draw and I haven't fully experience it).

7) Copy cat and too little too late - These need to stop. How do you develop an online network for a gaming console that doesn't look or work even remotely close to Live? Also too little, too late is the ignorant cry of those that have seen the end.