Tag Archives: Valve

The Future is Now…..or soon….or at least ongoing.

2014 is a go ladies and gentlemen, we are rolling. The Earth continues to complete a single revolution on its axis roughly every 24 hours AND simultaneously orbit our Sun at around 67,000 miles per hour. Mash those to astronomical factoids together and you get science, apparently. But you also get time, or more accurately our method of measuring it. Anyway, what was I talking about? Ah yes, games…..

So as we stride forth into the 2014-shaped yonder, your Bioshock Infinite’s and your Shadow Warrior’s are but distant memories, replaced instead with things in the shape of Titanfall and Dying Light. Yes folks, let us look forward to what meaty juices the rich world of games, gaming and gameage has to offer us lucky monkeys this coming 365 planetary revolutions (which is a year, I’m reliably informed).

I won’t do a list of most anticipated titles – only idiots do lists. Besides, there are too many games I’m interested in to do any kind of meaningful list, so I’ll spit my words and see what comes out.

So, not a list, and in no particular order.

Thief-Logo

One of the first games dropping this year which has got me reasonably flustered is Eidos Montreal’s reboot of Thief. The first in this series came out back in ’98, with a sequel in 2000, both of which were great games (I didn’t play the 2004 instalment). They almost, sort of, started their own sub-genre in the First Person arena, with the onus almost entirely on stealth, plus as I recall the medieval steam-punk setting was pioneering at the time. I can’t help but feel like this reboot is somehow competing with Dishonoured which in many respects actually felt like a reboot of Thief in its own right, or at least was surely heavily influenced by its legacy. Various reports of a troubled development is always the sort of thing to set the nerves on edge (first announced back in 2009 but reworked from the ground up thereafter) however Eidos Montreal did a pretty good job with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, so here’s hoping.

titan

There’s no doubt Titanfall is personally one of my most anticipated titles of the year. This bad boy is the first game from Respawn Entertainment, but fear not, those guys are seasoned vets, with co-founders Jason West and Vince Zampella both coming from Infinity Ward and can claim to be chiefly responsible for arguably some of the best titles in the Call of Duty franchise. This game looks to be First Person Carnage at its finest, with the added dynamic of jet packs enabling you to scale buildings in a single bound thus adding literally another dimension (that being vertical) to the battlefield. Oh, and there’s also huge fuckoff mech suits (Titan’s in fact) for you to climb in fight against and oooh it’s all exciting. Please be as good as I hope.

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The other title REALLY tickling ones floppy bits is Elite: Dangerous (Frontier Developments) which I’ve written in detail about before. Strange thing this, because it seems as if my gaming family and I are the only human beings on the face of the frickin’ Earth who are in the slightest bit excited about it. How exactly is this possible? I have trawled a dozen “Most Anticipated Games of 2014” run down’s and not a single one gives it a mention, not even Games Radar’s 100 Most anticipated…… I mean, are they seriously saying there are at least 100 other games scheduled for release this year which they are more excited about? Really? Elite was nothing short of pioneering and changed the shape of gaming forever, so why aren’t people getting giddy about the reboot, especially when the Alpha release looks so saucy? What irks me more is the fact that games like Star Citizen (Cloud Imperium Games) and No Man’s Sky (Hello games) are both similar in theme and are both regulars on said lists. OK, the comparison isn’t entirely fair but you get my point.

star citizen

As it happens, Star Citizen does look pretty sweet. From what I can gather it’s a kind of double-release in that the game is actually comprised of ‘Star Citizen’ which is an MMOG, first-person, space-combat game with trade elements (like…er, Elite) but also ‘Squadron 42’ which is more of a single-player/drop-in drop-out co-op campaign typa’ thing (and we looooooovvveee co-op campaigns in these quarters).

no mans sky

No Man’s Sky also looks tasty, but in all honesty I’ve only seen a wee taster trailer from VGX and from what I can gather it’s still early days, although the ability to explore the universe from the deepest oceans right through to the furthest reaches of the galaxy is certainly a USP to keep an eye on.

Dying-Light-logo

Dying Light is another title high on my list for 2014. Techland have a lot to answer for after the woefully disappointing Dead Island, and Dying Light could – could – right those wrongs. All the elements are there; zombies, fluid free running, day/night dynamic, co-op (although presently un-specified what co-op elements it will offer) and although the above sounds like a mash up of Brink and Dead island – two awful, awful games – I have hope for this game.

mad max

Mad Max from Avalanche studios is next up. Big fan of George Miller’s first two films that follow ole’ Max Rockatansky in a post apocalyptic down under. I’ve often thought it’s the basis for a good game setting and indeed I would wager id Software were influenced more than a bit when they made RAGE a couple of years ago. Open worldy, survivaly, post apocalypticy; what’s not to get excited about?

the-evil-within

Let’s talk horror. More accurately, survival horror from the Godfather of the Genre himself Shinji Mikami. The gameplay footage and trailers from The Evil Within (Tango gameworks) look suitably unbelievably-horrific with all manner of totally effed up shiz  going on. In fact, I’m not ashamed to say it, when I saw the gameplay trailer showcased at E3 it was dark and late and I was tired and yes fine it made me feel reasonably uneasy and getting to sleep that particular night wasn’t a pleasant experience. I look forward to many more nights of equally uneasy sleeping experiences this year.

wolfenstein

Wolfenstein: The New Order (Machinegames) will hopefully be a solid FPS with B.J. Blazkowics back in the saddle, this time in a mech-infused alternate reality future where Ze Pesky Nazi’s won the war or something. This is the first instalment since waaaaay back in 1992 that doesn’t have id Software involved although Machinegames are using the id Tech 5 engine, so there’s that. What can I say, I can’t help but get excited for this, and the teaser trailer set to Jimmy Hedrix’s All Along the Watchtower just set the moody mood. Plus, I mean, Nazi’s, big guns, c’mon.

Sniper-Elite-3-Logo

Sticking with Ze Nazi theme, Sniper Elite 3 developed once again by Rebellion has us in North Africa doing the obvious. Sniper Elite V2 was an awesome game which included full 2-player co-op campaign and then went and upped the stakes with Nazi Zombie Army 1 and 2 to the oh-so-brilliant 4-player co-op. There’s been no official statement on just how co-op SE3 will be but I think Rebellion will have missed a trick if they don’t make it 4-player drop-in drop-out. Plus I’ll be pissed off with them, which I’m sure they will be devastated about.

TheDivision

Ubisoft had to make the list didn’t they? Will this be another year, with yet another disappointment from them? Let’s hope not. The Division, like soooo many Ubisoft games before it is brimming with potential. Don’t get me wrong, Ubi do make some brilliant games (Far Cry 3 a case in point) but they also have a habit of doing the worst console ports ever and just lazily dumping out PC versions without a care in the world and ruining what could be such amazing games. I am currently in the throes of wrestling with the PC port of Splinter Cell: Blacklist which has all the frustrating hallmarks of a Ubi port. I hope hope hope The Division isn’t the same because it looks like one of the few titles which could be considered ‘next gen’ (even though that phrase doesn’t apply to PC’s, but you get the idea). Plus it’s co-op and…..well, need I say more.

tales from the borderlands

I may have mentioned once or twice in previous posts that I’m a Borderlands fan. Have I? Well I am. A big fan. To say the least. Whilst we don’t have a new Borderlands game as such, we do have an episodic game ‘series’ in the vein of The Walking Dead and in fact developed by the same guys over at Telltale games. Tales from the Borderlands should begin sometime in 2014. Yay.

evolve

A recently announced title has immediately registered highly on my excitometer – Evolve from Turtle Rock Studios pits 4 players (in co-op, of course) against 1 almighty alien (also player controlled should you so desire). Said alien starts off in an almost infant like state while the 4 players try and hunt it down and murderlise it before it grows (or ‘evolves’….see) into its adult form. A sort of hunter-becomes-hunted element is one of the games strong suits, but also the idea of every level kind of revolving around ‘a boss’ in some way is intriguing. Not to mention the possibility of having a human in the shoes of the boss in question. All very delicious.

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Another recently announced title also sounds and looks like it has absolutely ooooooodles of potential. Alien: Isolation from The Creative Assembly. I don’t need to go over the history of Alien related games and how they have on the whole fallen so very, very short of their potential (the wounds of Colonial Marines are still raw for me…..) but this looks…..different. Whilst we are still looking for a worthy successor to Rebellion’s 1999 masterpiece Alien Vs Predator in the form of a James Cameron-a-like action-fest, Isolation appears to be taking a different approach and is instead taking its lead from Ridley Scott’s classic 1979 horror-in-space. Still early days on this but it looks like The Creative Assembly have nailed the atmosphere (which is exactly what I said about Gearbox and Colonial Marines prior to its release). Please don’t be shit.

metal gear

Rounding off the list is kind of an also-ran for me but I do have the odd pang of excitement when seeing some of the visuals. Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes (Kojima Productions) serves as the first instalment in a double-release comprising Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain. All that doesn’t really interest me if I’m honest, the Metal gear games have been solid console performers since day dot but always felt very frustrating and repetitive for me, however early gameplay footage from ground Zeroe’s and an impressive film-like cinematic trailer just about gets it on the list.

So that’s it really. Or at least that’s the bulk of it.  There are other games which I am GAGGING to know more about and if they aren’t released this year then hopefully we will at least get some news on them. Such titles include Rainbow 6: patriots which underwent a root-and-branch creative overhaul after most of the senior players were ‘let go’ from Ubisoft. Rainbow 6 games always have potential and the premise for this looked outstanding, so let’s see what happens.

Furious 4

Gearbox has been schtum on Furious 4 for a while now but hopefully they will be ready to get the ball re-rolling on their 4-player co-op Inglorious Basterds-esque Nazi-killing romper stomper.

Among The Sleep is an indie-title I blogged about many weeks ago from Nordic Independent developers Krillbite Studios. I haven’t heard anything on this for a while but now that I have schooled myself in the world of non-violent first person games I am more eager than ever to get my hands on this.

Talking of Indie-games, The Dead Linger is a kickstarter project from Sandswept I’ve been backing and once again has so much potential.  Currently in its Alpha state, it’s a full-on, open world, 4-player co-op zombie survival game in the vein of Day Z. Who knows when this will be ready to hit shelves, but when it does, let’s just hope it’s good.

Lastly, and not leastly, this one is for Valve. This could be their year what with the imminent arrival of Steam OS and the Steam Machines, but must we go another year without any news on Half Life 3? What about Left 4 Dead 3? Will we see another sequel to possibly the best co-op series of all time? Do something amazing Valve. You know you want to.

And so that’s that. What more will the year of gaming offer us mere mortals? Hopefully lots of lovely stuff for me to play and write about.

You may now return to your lives.

P.S. I have never forgotten about Hidden & Dangerous, I just dare not utter the words…….

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The Age of the Steam Machine….

With the general lackluster reaction to the next gen consoles – (a bit of opinion passed off as fact there) – the world of all things gaming is starting to get sweaty about Valve’s intriguing and potentially game-changing Steam Machines.

I’m primarily a PC gamer it has to be said, but the plan for this particular installment in the blogosphere is to be as objective as possible. The Steam Initiative (as it henceforth shall be known) is bold, intriguing and exciting for me if for no other reason than to see what The Mighty Valve can do to get a shoe in on the ‘living-room’ market.

Valve-logo-the-bald-guy

I think that’s a good starting block as it happens: Valve. They are really the only ones who could initiate such bold attempt at cracking a notoriously tough nut. They have been a pioneering game developer for a long time now; Founding Father Gabe Newell is considered an industry behemoth and revered with almost Yoda-like admiration and respect within the gaming world. Valve themselves are known for their innovation and pioneering initiatives not only in game development but also in their general ethos to the industry and their company, and in turn seem to breed excellence as standard. Steam is an example of this, and while it was a rocky start for the digital distribution platform it was the first of its kind and is now, basically, standard-issue for any PC gamer, with the likes of EA and Ubisoft et al only now attempting to emulate their success with varying degrees of terrible. Oh, Valve are also known for taking f**king ages with everything as well, but that’s an aside.

Indeed Valve’s entire approach to infiltrating the living-room space seems so very, typically, Valve. It doesn’t seem like an aggressive invasion, or a declaration of war that you might feel from the mighty electro-giants of Sony or Microsoft. Imagine if this entire scenario was perpetrated by Apple or Samsung, it would feel much more of a cold, corporate attempt to muscle in, but with Valve you get the distinct impression they aren’t trying to start a fight, they just genuinely believe there is a gap which they are best equipped to fill. A gap which, if successfully filled, could change everything for consoles.

So, the gap then. Does it even exist? Tough one that. Personally, I think yes. For sooo many years now I and other PC gamers have oft remarked on the fact that consoles by their very nature can never really be cutting edge in terms of processing and graphical capabilities and are instead very quickly out of date and left behind by the march of technology. I won’t dwell on the same old arguments though, this is in no way an indictment on consoles, just merely pointing out a factor which Valve appears to be addressing. On the flip side of that coin of course is the plethora of potential issues that can occur with having a PC. Compatibility, software, cash, all become factors in the PC Gaming world, especially if, like me, you want to try and keep up with the technology at least to a degree. For these reasons it can be a lot simpler to have a machine that you simply press ‘go’ on and boom, you’re playing.

Steam

With those reasons (and others) in mind I think the Steam boxes do fill a gap. The question ultimately will be, is the gap a problem enough for gamers to want to get the gap filler (if that terrible sentence makes any sense)?

It’s a tough call, because on one hand, this gap is getting smaller. The Steam boxes are effectively going to be PC’s for your living room in a console-shaped box (not effectively, that’s actually what they are). But isn’t that the way consoles are already going? The Xbox One and PS4 seem to be crowing about how they are ‘media-centres’ which I would argue in part is because they are struggling to define and justify themselves in a tech-savvy market who is only too aware their gaming capabilities do, and will always lag behind their PC counterparts. On the other hand however, maybe it’s the perfect time for this bridge between the PC and living room. Maybe the relatively unimpressive impact (not in units sold, but in favourable reviews) the new consoles have had on the gamersphere illustrates that, in fact, the time of the console is coming to an end and the current incarnations are living out console’s last generation and that their struggle to find their own place in the universe has afforded the opportunity for Valve to come in and smash the shit out the industry.

That’s really the key issue; can a Steam Machine exist in the same world as a console? Can they co-exist? And if not, who’s going to go? Xbox and Playstation have good pedigree and loyal (oh-so loyal) fans that would likely never turn away from their beloved games machines even in the face of utter, incontrovertible defeat. But then, gamers want to game, and if the Steam Boxes do it better than the consoles, what’s to say a slow and steady migration won’t leave the consolers adrift and dwindling in numbers before the generation is out. The gaming-road is strewn with the corpses of dead consoles and once-mighty titans of the industry that have been forced out into oblivion. Sega, Atari, even Nintendo who were so successful in staying out of the Xbox/Playstation wars a decade ago with one of the greatest consoles of all time, the Game Cube, are starting to slip as the overwhelming tide of cash generated from your CoD’s and GTA’s begin to force them into the realm of a second-class console, and no-one lasts in that realm for long.

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Valve also have some very powerful weapons in their arsenal, not just their reputation and track record on innovation: The games. Not least the calibre of their own games; Half Life, DOTA, Left 4 Dead, Counter Strike, Portal – not many developers can boast a roster like that.  It may seem counter intuitive citing games as a big pro in the Steam Box corner, after all exclusive AAA titles are rarely exclusive to PC’s. But that could change were Valve to release Steam Box Exclusive titles – can you imagine Half Life 3 exclusive to Steam machine? That would be enough to put the shits up Sony and Microsoft. In addition, game developers would surely relish their games being fully compatible with everyone’s device should the Steam Boxes draw gamers away from consoles. Instead of having to adapt or port multi-platform titles, with the various restrictions and parameters that come with that, I can only assume dev’s would be far happier developing for one platform, unrestricted by the glass ceilings that consoles demand. In addition, Valve’s OS being open-source can only add to developers licking their lips with anticipation.

But the weapons cache doesn’t end there, oh no. Valve isn’t manufacturing any hardware, they have left that to the hardware experts, and as I write this Valve have just announced 14 individual Steam Machines from various manufacturers. And this surely has to be one of the main selling points. Steam Machines range from around $500 up to the ridiculously high end $6000 (no GBP prices as yet). And judging from some of the proposed specs the lower end models are easily comparable to the latest consoles. The CyberPowerPC rig comes in at $499 and boasts a GTX 760 GPU, 8GB RAM, 500G storage and an Intel i5 CPU (AMD GPU and CPU variables available). That is the lowest tier Steam Machine and quite frankly it easily competes with the Xbox or PS4, and don’t forget, these things are upgradeable!

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^ Alienware’s entry into the Steam Machine world

Low tier not for you? Fancy splashing the cash? The Origin PC Chronos boasts an i7 Intel CPU and a twin 6GB Nvidia GTX Titan GPU’s (yes, twin). Falcon Northwest have their Tiki models in a range from around $500 up to a monstrous $6k with up to 6TB of storage and again rocking the mighty, currently-unrivalled GTX Titan (I want one…..).

I could do a whole blog just on the variables, but the point is Valve have concentrated on the software – the thing they excel at – and left the hardware up to the experts to produce an entire range of Steam Machines to fit any option you may desire. If any operation were ever to be successful in changing the current way of things, this approach must surely be it. Valve at the helm, multiple hardware options, but all basically plug and play.

controller

Of course, the other big difference between consoles and PC’s is the input devices, i.e. mouse & keyboard vs joypad. I’ve written a little on this before in previous articles but suffice to say on many games – First Person Shooters primarily – the precision and speed of a mouse & keyboard is of course unrivalled. Whilst some modders have managed to get the mouse and keyboard rigged up on their Xbox’s – which is totally cool by the way – Steam have not ignored this obvious difference and once again have provided what appears to be a ‘revolutionary’ mid-way solution. Anyone remotely savvy about the subject of this article will by now have probably seen the Steam Machine controller and whether you are excited by it or not, I would like to think most of us can agree we are at the very least intrigued. Haptic feedback on two smooth, circular trackpads which boast high fidelity resolution approaching that of a mouse, much greater than any traditional joypad that has come before. These pads are also clickable, acting like buttons in themselves, and the central console is due to be a customisable touch-screen for various buttons, although current prototypes have a 4-button configuration rather than the touch-pad.

All of this adds up to something very exciting if you ask me. The thing that stimulates my loins the most is just to see what impact this will have on the industry. Maybe it will be a complete non-starter, with PC gamers sticking to their rigs and consolers eschewing the Steam Machine’s in favour of what they know. Maybe Steam will annihilate the competition and leave Xbox, Playstation and even traditional PC’s fighting it out for the pitiful scraps left in its wake.

If it does strike a chord with gamers I think the effect would likely be more subtle. People who have recently forked out a fat stack of green for a new console – and there are many as Microsoft’s 3-million-Xbox’s-sold announcement shows – are unlikely to be doing the same again for a Steam Box any time soon, but if it’s as good as it could be I would guess the shift away from consoles (or indeed PC’s) and toward Steam Engine’s will be more of gradual migration rather than a tidal surge.

Whichever way it goes, I’ll be here, shitting my word-guts all over the interblog in a pitiful attempt to get people to like me and trying in vain to convince people I know what I’m talking about.

I don’t. All I do know is, I love games, and the Steam Machine’s excite me.

Now go, for I grow weary of you.

This One’s for Doom

In celebration of Doom’s 20th anniversary I am completely copping out and doing the laziest bit of blogging I can get away with short of leaning on the letter G for 8 pages.

I hereby present my top 10 bestest FPS shooters. None of these, I’d argue, would exist if it wasn’t for el Doomerino.

doom

The Rules: As with all lists, there must be rules dammit, otherwise the whole Godforsaken thing turns into a chaotic shitstorm and we all end up just crying and dribbling in a corner, defecating into a bucket and shovelling cold, ‘own-brand’ beans into our faces straight from the tin. No? Ok well anyway there needs to be rules.

First up, no Doom. This is a legacy list, so the Godfather itself can sit this one out on its mighty, bloody throne and survey the proceedings.

Next, this is strictly FPS in the truest sense of the word. You won’t find games like Hidden & Dangerous and Skyrim on here because although these games and more display elements of FPS in them to varying degrees, they aren’t considered FPS Proper. Counter Strike also isn’t counted because it’s strictly multiplayer, otherwise it would be in.

Also, I have blatantly cheated in that I have grouped up certain franchises to a) free up space on the list and b) ensure I don’t have to pick between more than one game in a series which may be too close to call. Just to add to that blatant disregard for standard list rules, this particular cheat is used on an ad-hoc basis, so it may go for one franchise, but not another…….you’ll see what I mean.

Nothing released this year can qualify. Games need time to settle.

Lastly, this is MY list. This isn’t the BBC so everything you will see is how these games affected me and my personal opinions on them, there’s no impartiality here.

So, in no particular order….

Half Life (Valve)

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It had to be, didn’t it? A towering masterpiece in gaming history which has been arguably as influential in the genre as any other game next to Doom itself. This goes for both Half Life and Half Life 2. Gordon Freeman’s silent protagonist is as iconic as they get, and not only did game mechanics take a step up for this, but so did story. Half Life 2 went on to do the impossible and equal it’s predecessor’s brilliance, this time setting the bar in terms of depth of story and character development. Half Life 2 was released in 2004 and though many games have reached up to try and equal or better those dizzying heights in terms of story, in my opinion not a single one has succeeded. 2 masterpieces in 1 franchise, plus a couple of extra episodes which are excellent in their own right. Half Life 3 will be with us one day……please.

Goldeneye (Rare)

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This remarkable game was reason enough to own an N64 (notwithstanding the other classics on that brilliant console). For a film nut like me this was a rare (see what I did there) beast, a game that was as good as it’s movie counterpart, and the recreation of various film locations gave this game plenty of replay value. The zooming sniper rifle was nothing short of a revelation and this mechanic very quickly became standard issue in any FPS worth its salt – whether it existed before Goldeneye or not, who the fuck cares, it was this game that made it a requirement in all other shooters to follow. The roster of guns was impressive and the multiplayer was one of the first times I can really remember feeling like a boss owning all my mates as they struggled to defeat me. Hahaha, noobs.

Duke Nukem 3D (id)

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If we’re talking gaming icons, we’re talking Duke. A cigar chomping, world saving, Pig Cop slaughtering, womaniser cracking wise in his unique, smarmy way. It was Doom on steroids with a bad motherf*cker leading the charge. Released 3 years after Doom it helped kick the FPS genre in the nuts and ensure its continued rise to dominance. The levels were a little more open if I recall and slightly less linear which kept the explorer in me and other gamers happy, but there was no shortage of mental carnage, tough enemies (suck it down!) and of course mighty fuck off boss fights. And as if defeating them wasn’t reward enough, id gave you the added bonus of a little cut-scene which had The Duke desecrating the monsters corpse with something debasing like ripping off its head and taking a dump down its neck. That always made me giggle.

Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (2015, Inc.)

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American spelling aside, this instalment of the MOH franchise will always be the one that sends shivers down the spine. Before Call of Duty was all conquering, the Medal of Honor series was THE FPS franchise that threw you head first into World War 2. Steven Spielberg was directly involved with Allied Assault (among others in the series) and it’s no accident that the game recreates some of the most visceral and harrowing moments form it’s unofficial film counterpart Saving Private Ryan which was released in 1998. The D-Day landing is one of the single most memorable moments I have had in my gaming life. As well as the big stuff which it got so right, Allied Assault took some of those little details from Private Ryan which for me made all the difference; things like the authentic report of the weapons. I’ll never forget hearing that tommy gun and thinking it just sounded…..real. The multiplayer was also outstanding, and I remember chewing up many, many months of my life on this before the current Call of Duty sprouts were out of nappies. I think it’s undeniable that the Call of Duty series – at this time very much the lesser of the two rivals – learned a lot from MOH games like Allied Assault on its journey to world domination.

Bioshock (Irrational Games)

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Of all the games on this list, this is perhaps the hardest to write about. Why? Because to summarise the depth, the detail, the authenticity, the sheer, utter splendour of Rapture – The City in the Sea, in this short paragraph is an exercise in futility. Rapture drew me in like almost nothing else has before or since. For me, Bioshock is the first example I give to highlight how only gaming can combine the level of immersion AND interaction like no other medium can. It was sublime. The gameplay too was just completely satisfying and serves as one of the greatest examples of the genre. Weapons aplenty, tons of them with secondary fire modes and varying ammo types, not to mention Plasmids which were in themselves a hefty and satisfying variation of killy shit. The atmosphere was tangible, with asylum-mad residents wearing animal masks and chatting utter shit to each other which echoed through the corridors. Big Daddy’s; tough-as-nails brutes, but which also possessed something, somehow sad about those poor lumbering beasts, sentenced to a life they never asked for, forever bound to their haunting ‘Little Sisters’. Instantly iconic. And the major players too were brimming with character (helped in no small part by the plethora of audio reels you picked up along the way). All this plus so much more, it incorporated RPG elements in the form of skill upgrades, plus a bunch of peripheral extras like research cameras, hacking mini games, ‘U-Invent’ rigs which made weapon upgrades and the such like from spare parts you picked up along the way. See, I’m rambling…………

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (Infinity Ward)

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Unarguably a seminal moment in gaming came with the arrival of this. Possibly the most recent game changer we have seen. 2007 saw the arrival of this mighty and amazing thing. Modern warfare….why the fuck hadn’t anyone done this properly before? Maybe it’s a good thing they didn’t, because Infinity Ward nailed it. For a gun nut like me I hadn’t had this much fun since Counter Strike. M4’s with Eotech sites, M14 EBR’s, M82 Barrett fifty-cals, and that was just the tip of the iceberg (don’t get me started). It felt so fresh and exciting. Set largely in the Middle East at a time when there really were boots on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, this game felt authentic and relevant. The character-hopping between SAS, Navy Seals and US Army Rangers et al gave an excuse to skip around the globe and utilise a ridiculous array of weapons. It had all the console-heavy Call of Duty hallmarks, regenerating health, ultra ‘on-rails’ linear levels, all of which I would usually be the first to scoff pompously at, but it didn’t matter. At all. Having to constantly move under fire kept the blood up, and levels like ‘All Ghillied Up’ that had you crawling through a deserted Chernobyl marked this game (and that level in particular) as an all time great. And then there was that mushroom cloud. Crawling out of the downed Chinook and witnessing post nuclear destruction as you drew your last breath….epic isn’t even the word. All this plus a multiplayer system that got the masses shouting obscenities down their Xbox headsets at one another. Aaaah gaming……

Left 4 Dead (Valve)

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I’m big on Co-op. Let me just try and articulate how big. I’m BIG on co-op. Nope, can’t do it. Co-op gaming at its best is pretty much the pinnacle of gaming in many respects as far as me and my clan are concerned. With Left 4 Dead Valve got things so exactly, precisely, effortlessly right it’s actually hard to comprehend. It pulls of that trick of being almost so perfect it appears simple. 4 players. Zombies. A few guns. A few melee weapons. Medkits. Pipebombs. Molly’s. Push Mechanism. Revive Mechanism. That’s pretty much it. Oh, except it’s not is it. No. Left 4 Dead is simply one of the best games I have ever played, as is its sequel which did everything exactly right in that it changed almost nothing. As long as Valve keeps making these games, or levels for them, we will continue to play them and fall in love with them all over again and again and again. Mixing up the madness with some crazy Special Infected mutated fucks each with their own unique way of killing your face off helped to make sure it wasn’t just the ole zombie hoards that you were fighting. But oh what hoards they were. The first time our group was rushed by a hoard was something I know for a fact will stay with each and every one of us as long as we live, and ensured that every time thereafter we heard that music rise we got a chill running down our spines all over again. The inclusion of The Director which essentially just randomised pickups and special infected throughout the level every time you replayed it meant that there was never really a time during Left 4 Dead 1 or 2 where you felt anything was predictable or by the numbers. An absolute masterpiece.

Alien Vs Predator (Rebellion)

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The 1999 one released for the PC, not one of the other billion Alien/Predator games released throughout the 90’s and 2000’s. I think in all honesty this was the last Alien game to get it right….in fact, this might be the ONLY Alien game to get it right. Colonial Marine. Predator. Alien. 3 for the price of 1. And this wasn’t 3 games each of which was a third as good as a standard single player FPS is, no, these were 3 solid games in their own right. Each of them lengthy and meaty enough to stand on its own two feet. Each character had their own particulars. Marines had guns and kit, plus backup (at times), but kept you on the ground, and drenched you in the feeling that you were always being watched. Predators had oodles of kit, plus stealth, and the ability to extend your playing field vertically by giving you a fat jump capability meaning you could stalk your prey from the rooftops or rafters. Aliens had raw and uncompromising stealth, moving freely like a shadow through air ducts, on ceilings, and up walls. All of it executed so well and authentically to their film canon counterparts it is a wonder how Rebellion got it so wrong for the 2010 reboot. Perhaps the thing that was done so well in the ‘99 version, the thing that set it apart from all the others was the fear it provoked in you during the marine missions. This game scared the shit out of me like none had before and few have since. When people talk about scary games, I think of AvP. Back peddling blindly as fast as I can down corridors firing my pulse rifle into the relentless Xenomorph-shaped shadows crawling at me on the floor and walls and roof faster than I can escape. That memory will stay with me forever.

Borderlands (Gearbox)

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Borderlands isn’t a game. Borderlands is my other life. Pandora is my other home. I live there. I love Pandora. Mordechai has become like a member of my family. Like Bioshock above, I’m not sure how I’m going to say all the things I want to say about Borderlands without writing an epic tome. I could easily do a top ten of ‘Things I Love About Borderlands’. I remember during the run up to its release seeing various things about it, the four-player co-op aspect caught my eye, and I thought it looked OK, but it was never really hugely on my radar. Then, due (if memory serves) to the unexpected disappointment of another 4-player co-op game, one of my clan said “Why don’t we give that Borderlands a go, it looks pretty good”. So we did. Nothing was ever the same again. We didn’t just play Borderlands, we merged with it. Each of us independently bonded with this game, this world, our characters, to such a degree that it was almost a spiritual awakening. This in turn meant that our bond as a team was equally enhanced. We share this thing. This precious thing that others know not of. We would speak in hushed tones when we socialised in the real (boring, less shooty and looty) world “When are we going back……I need that new gun”. Yes indeed. I don’t need to break down the mechanics of what makes Borderlands so good – I shan’t highlight the array of weapons, the looting, the critical-hit satisfaction, the skill trees, variety of enemies, DLC’s….no, I shan’t go into detail. The point of Borderlands is, if you need someone to explain why it’s so good then you either haven’t been or shouldn’t be there. And if the latter, and I catch you, I’ll blow your fucking head off with a Jakobs.

Unreal Tournament (Epic Games)

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This one is personal. Despite me proclaiming at the beginning of this list “…in no particular order….” this could perhaps be me subconsciously saving the best ‘til last. Unreal Tournament is possibly my favourite game of all time. There, I said it. Ok, so it’s not as simple as that, catch me on another day and some other games here present in this list and some which aren’t could claim that crown, but when people ask me “what’s your favourite game” (a stupid fucking question I know……ahem) this is usually the first thing that pops into my head. For me, Unreal Tournament is the very pinnacle of hardcore, adrenaline fuelled, out-of-breath gaming. The kind of thing that makes you sweat. It’s like an extreme sport, making you gasp for air when it’s over and 40 minutes of your life has just evaporated in the blink of an eye. I have probably put more hours into this game than any other. From the very moment I played the demo and rinsed it over and over and over I was hooked. It is the very apex of First Person Shooters. Carnage. Mayhem. Annihilate, kill, kill, destroy EVERYFUCKINGTHINGTHATMOVES. The satisfaction of topping the leader board is unrivalled. It makes Call of Duty look and feel like an embarrassing joke. You do not know gaming until you have ventured into this world. Defeating Malcolm in single player mode was like a badge of honour among me and my kin. The array of weapons was among the best of all time (Flak Cannon…….Mummy, hold me). Achieving Godlike status, racking up a M-m-m-m-monster kill, hearing that announcer hail you as UNSTOPPABLE and even getting the odd ‘Flak Monkey’ all go toward making this game possibly one of the greatest achievements in mankinds history……ok, maybe that’s too much……..is it?