672nd played so far

Genre: Adventure/Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Playstation 3
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

On our first outing in the Uncharted series, we had a good time exploring some great venues, but had some issues with the shooting in the game. We felt strengthened hearing it would be better in the sequel and that’s what I’m looking to explore today.

Our Thoughts

When a game starts in media res, like this game does, it really needs to show off what it does best. And in that, Uncharted 2‘s opening scene succeeds well. It starts with a climbing section that felt so satisfying previously, made cinematic by the train and its cold surroundings. There are a few secrets hidden early on, some small gains to be made, and after that some decent gunplay.

After that, we got to what’s really a tutorial break in – stealing an artifact with plot relevance from a museum. It repeats a few bits about jumping that you’ve done before, but then shows up more of the climbing, breaking in and, more important, stealth and gun fighting sections. The latter have improved a lot, with a lot more small groups and far less infinite respawns – even where they exist, there are better end conditions than reaching a point on the floor.

But as the break in into the museum shows, stealthing through the game is a lot of fun and works decently well. A lot of it overlaps with the climbing and free running sections, so you’re relying a lot on movement to take out your enemies. There are some really tense moments that use it and it makes the game’s combat sections mostly far more palatable.

Beyond that, the story is fine and the characterizations are good again. The interactions between Nathan and the other main characters are well written and relatable, making for a game that’s a lot of fun to play through. The animation is also really good – in particular where Nathan is concerned. He looks really good and moves so fluidly, it’s clear they spent a lot of time on it and man, does it help leave a good impression of the game, especially when he walks through these lovely looking, varied environments.

Final Thoughts

It feels like this game improved on the issues that were a problem in the first game. Combat still isn’t the game’s strongest point – exploration and climbing work better – but it’s smoothed over a lot, and having seen the more complicated combat areas as Peter played through them, it was a fun option to watch.

#820 Burnout Paradise

Posted: 15th February 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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671st played so far

Genre: Driving
Platform: Playstation 3/Xbox 360/PC
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Criterion Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts

I mostly remember Burnout 2 as a chaotic racer whose big selling point was a big crashing mode that felt especially exciting and plainly fun to play. The racing was supposed to be its focus though, and that’s what we get in the better regarded open world big brother that we get to play today.

Our Thoughts

Burnout Paradise is a large, attractive open world racing game. Unlike others, you never leave your car (although I believe there are one or two places where you can hop between them) and instead focus on driving through a large city. Early on there’s a lot of exploration – first of all to find all the different challenges you can take on (more or less one per crossing), but just as valuably to find shortcuts, occasional additional cars, collectibles and, most important, repair shops.

That last one becomes very important, as they’re not marked on the map by default, but a number of activities seem to require them. Breaking your car is never good, but since a bunch of them involve others actively trying to ram you, you want to get a repair in but don’t initially know where to go. A bit more help would have been extra – I ended up seeking them out early to get rid of that handicap.

It still marred my enjoyment of the challenges and, at least for this playthrough, I focused on finding those where I wouldn’t be held back too much by this. That was fine anyway – there was a lot to explore, and driving up to the observatory was a fun enough challenge. Playing more would likely see me make even more use of that.

Final Thoughts

The difficulty curve is a bit counteracted by having to learn your away around – not to learn the different (main) streets, but because the location of repair shops matters a lot and you can’t easily find those. It’s a negative I felt all the way through, but it was a lot of fun regardless.

#169 Final Fight

Posted: 11th February 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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670th played so far

Genre: Fighting
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1989
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

Final Fight is not a one-on-one fighter (as I thought for some time) – instead it’s another beat ’em up like Double Dragon. I guess it’s just one to experience.

Our Thoughts

This mostly felt like a pretty straight forward beat em up. You get your enemies storming you, you beat them off and keep going until they’re dead or you move ahead far enough. It uses props – showing how there’s more sophistication and use of the environment here – including chandeliers, but it’s not extensive enough to really have an impact. I never felt they helped me much, it was just an extra hit that got me.

It didn’t help here that I felt locked into my animations several times, with the game forcing animations to finish before I could continue acting. It made the game feel sluggish and frustrating, rather than fast as you want in situations where you get swarmed. Add to that a slightly awkward control scheme with not enough buttons – attack and pick up on one button being one of the compromises that don’t feel right  – and I had were a bunch of times where the game just felt frustrating.

There’s some interesting things – health pickups in the form of food feel a bit rare in this game – but despite some good ideas and a good basic setup, the game never took me from fine to memorable. To me, that’s unforgivable for this list.

#986 NBA 2K10

Posted: 7th February 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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669th played so far

Genre: Sports
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports

I’ll be honest, I feel like a lot of these sports games are ones I have to cover – the yearly entry of the time was put on the list as the best representative of football, hockey, baseball or football, but it’s partially because that happens to be the one that was out then, rather than completely the best. It’s fine, but not being a big player of sports games, they are always a bit more awkward.

I’ve already played NBA Jam, which was an older, but seemingly streamlined basketball game. This is years later, of course, but I’ll see how this works out.

Our Thoughts

So as all sports game do to me, I had to take my time to get into it. Unlike other games in the genre, though, I did get there. I mean, I started off with big name teams I recognised – like the Chicago Bulls – so the game was clearly on my side, but that’s what I needed to start. The controls and gameplay felt incredibly intuitive, and while I’m sure I missed some tricks, I managed to do okay getting through the game – far better than I expected and certainly better than I did in other sports games.

I didn’t jump into career mode as much, which is mostly again because I’m worried about not making it, and not being able to make it through these is what put me off the games earlier. The quick play mode feels so good to play and really rewarding, which was a good reinforcement and a good way to show how these sports game can stay accessible, even to first time players – and it’s something that carries through to these game modes.

It still feels like a good basketball game as well – at least as far as I can judge – and from other games, I feel like they might be perfect as an introduction to the genre. Here, however, it’s pulled off well in a way that doesn’t force you to deal with a legacy of years.

#578 Half-Life 2

Posted: 3rd February 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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668th played so far

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2004
Developer: Valve Corporation
Publisher: Valve Corporation

The Half-Life series is one of the big ones that revolutionised story telling in games and really pushed the FPS genre forward. We noticed this when playing the first game already and I know it’s been said about its sequel as well. It’s also the second part of a trilogy that will likely never be finished, but it seems like it has reached heights that might be difficult to equal at this point.

This game also required Steam and was responsible for getting that on every PC, meaning it gave it to chance to change and dominate PC gaming as it does today. That, however, has little to do with the actual quality of the game – whatever that quality might be.

Our Thoughts

I enjoyed jumping into this world. I still feel that, on some level, the train ride of the first game sets up the world better than the loose fragments of this game. At the same time, we’ve moved from starting in an industrial complex to an occupied city. It’s very dystopian, different from what I expected and showing the larger, open areas we’d been encountering in this game.

What follows, initially, is a story in this dystopian world where you are constantly chased. You meet up with the resistance, but need to get from location to location without help while under attack from the army. There’s some neat gadgets that come in – a lengthy vehicle section that feels really good – but the real highlight comes with the gravity gun, at which point the game’s excellent physics move from a puzzle implementation (which happens several times and work incredibly well) to being a great combat option.

I did have trouble with some combat encounters, as progress isn’t always as clear while enemies keep respawning. It’s focused a lot on creating cinematic and exciting moments, which is annoying when you miss an entry and assume it’s a physics puzzle. While I get it’s part of the game and it can be a good thing, it’s usually so seamless that it feels weird when they get it wrong.

Final Thoughts

Half-Life 2 provides a nice cinematic experience in FPS form, combining the two pretty nicely. The seams do sometimes show between the two, with some less impressive bits when they join – some of it felt quite empty or tedious, while others are still pretty exciting and fun to play. Still, for the most part it connects and it does create a bunch of great moments.

667th played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: Massive Entertainment
Publisher: Sierra Entertainment/Ubisoft

See that number up there? Two thirds of the way through. Making progress y’all!

It feels like a while since we last covered an RTS. We’ve had some games, like the amazing Star Control 3, that mixed it with other genres, and there have been tactical games like Faselei! with a smaller unit count, but the last one focusing on large scale battles with plenty of units and unit building would be Age of Empires, maybe, although that too is focused more on the economy than games like this are.

It’s good to come back to it, though, as I do feel a lot of affection for the type of play.

Our Thoughts

World of Conflict is a game focused on tactics, dense with objectives – rather than the one or two I am used to from most RTS games, you have several per map as well as optional ones. There’s a feeling of this forcing you down a path at least, leaving no room for exploration, but that works with the setting.

Imagine if the cold war hadn’t ended, but instead led to a third world war. And imagine that in this, the US got invaded by the Russians. Here, you fight that off – working in friendly territory and, at least initially, your role is defensive – trying to stop the invasion and save civilians.

One of the interesting parts of this story is that you have a definite protagonist who shows up in in-engine cutscenes. Always from the back, mind you, so they can stay faceless, but it is interesting to actually see you get addressed in some way. It does well in setting up the illusion you’re dealing with something more real and personal.

So the game itself then takes place in these city areas and large towns. You don’t actually have to deal with the whole map at once – AI players keep the enemy at bay in other corners, while you deal with the problems in a specific area, shifting as the level goes on and creating multiple smaller sections that flow into each other. There’s no real base building – nor would there need to be – but there are varying options for reinforcements, which still gives you control over the units you use for parts of the game.

Final Thoughts

World of Conflict was a lot of fun to play, moving the RTS focus to strategy rather than economy while still creating the large scale battles I want from it. The setting feels a bit odd and too real at times, but it tells a decent story and lends it to far more variety that I would have expected.

#734 Tony Hawk’s Project 8

Posted: 26th January 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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666th played so far

Genre: Sports
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2006
Developer: Neversoft
Publisher: Activision

We’ve played a Tony Hawk game before, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. That was fine, a skating game in preset arenas that felt mismatched – not that natural and, even though you’d always want to create a setting with some good elements to skate off of, it wanted to make you feel like you were in an environment, which you simply weren’t.

Now there are six years between the release of that game and this one, and it’s been six years since I played the previous game. It’s a nice analogy, and I feel like I’m going in fresh because of it.

Our Thoughts

While playing this game, I was starting to wonder whether we ran into the same problem as we did with Parappa the Rapper. I found it really difficult to get the timing of the combos right, even in the tutorial, and I am wondering whether the game wasn’t adjusting enough for modern TV latency. It could be that I couldn’t quite get the timing right, but struggling with this in both the tutorial and early levels of the game, I hope it’s that rather than the game being set to too high a difficulty.

It meant that I struggled to get beyond the first area, instead I mostly explored the initial area. That was a lot of fun, finding the different places where you can do tricks and where you can interact with different challenges. But again, when I struggle to spin for long enough in the starting area, what lies beyond doesn’t matter, and you do run out of stuff to do in the initial area (which leads to me trying to break the game’s physics… multiple times).

Final Thoughts

The game’s potential is there, but – through either difficulty or technical changes – the game doesn’t give me a chance to actually see where it ends up going. It’s frustrating, because I tried and it couldn’t get out of my way.

#536 Call of Duty

Posted: 22nd January 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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665th played so far

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2003
Developer: Infinity Ward
Publisher: Activision

How have I not played Call of Duty yet? The series is now one of the biggest out there (although, with the likes of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, we couldn’t quite say that felt right) and its yearly releases always seem to be a big deal for at least some part of the gaming population.

Back in 2003, when the first one was release however, this wasn’t the case. Other military shooters were around – I think – and this just added a new one that clearly hit the zeitgeist somehow. Today’s task is clearly to find out why that is.

Our Thoughts

Call of Duty feels pretty standard, but as the first to really popularize the genre, that almost seems expected. It’s a decent quality military shooter that does the job quite well. It actually feels like it keeps things quite grounded and straight forward, with no real tricks – that’s what makes it work here.

It looks pretty decent and gets a lot of things right straight away – possibly the reason it grew. It has good gunplay and gives some good goals and basic story as you move around, making it more than just killing a bunch of people standing in your way. There are some tactics involved, even if it’s not as much as later, but it works.

What this game did was to set the standard. Others iterated on it, especially graphically, but the core here actually feels good, and the relative simplicitly actually helps it stay more playable than more advanced ‘simulations’

664th played so far

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Playstation 3
Year of Release: 2007
Developer: Incognito Entertainment/SCE Santa Monica Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

I’ve simultaneously wanted to play this game and was dreading to do so. Warhawk is a multiplayer shooter, with no singleplayer mode or content. That makes it harder to review, especially as the game is already a decade old, so there might not be as many players around.

Besides, as I’m playing, I’m home alone, so nobody to play with. I just hope I can get something out of it.

Our Thoughts

So yeah, my experience was a bit limited as I didn’t play online that much. At the same time, that was fine, as these shooters aren’t as much my thing anyway.

The game plays on multiple levels – ground, with vehicles, planes or the titular Warhawk – the coolest part of the game. You fly around and bomb things with plenty of weapons and options. It’s a decent challenge with plenty of options and it’s in the title – it’s meant to be the exciting option!

Beyond that, the game is a decent shooter/flight sim, but I suspect that you need to get into the strategy to really enjoy it. I guess I didn’t get enough into that, nor did I really care to.

#327 Wave Race 64

Posted: 14th January 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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663rd played so far

Genre: Racing
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1996
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo

Sure, we have plenty of racing games – early on it was an easy genre for multiplayer, and it’s something people still love – but few take place on the water and I swear even less use jet skis – googling it, this is the only notable one that does, with only Diddy Kong Racing offering something slightly similar.

At this point in time, Mario Kart and F-Zero were the big Nintendo racing franchise. This doesn’t quite seem like either, but it will be interesting to see where it leads to.

Our Thoughts

While the answer isn’t quite that it’s somewhere in between, it neither has the cartoonish feel of Mario Kart or the speed of F-Zero. Instead, there’s some sense of realism, but also a loose race that lets you get on with things without requiring a lot of practice early on, something Nintendo clearly does well.

You’ll easily score more than enough stars from your early races to keep going for a while, but the difficulty ramps up well enough that you have to stay on top of things and improve if you want to keep going. It’s well done and becomes a lot of fun.

Water is quite difficult to represent well in games and was even harder two decades ago. This game does it well – perhaps not with perfect physics, but it looks good and realistic enough. It’s quite impressive, needed for a game that relies so much on water, but done better here.

Final Thoughts

Wave Race 64 is an interesting racing game – not too high intensity, but with plenty of challenges in keeping up with the track and making it through the game.

It looks decent, too, with enough focus on the water to make it feel right. Sure, it’s not realistic, but so close enough that the game feels right.