Last week, Kat and I decided to do a "game of the year" topic for our next Cross-Examination
. It's actually sort of a two-part of sorts: One part will focus on the best game that we've yet to play; the second part will be about our personal
game of the year. Unfortunately, neither of us can play every game
that came out this year, as I don't have a Wii and Kat doesn't have a 360 or PS3, so we thought that this would end-up being a good compromise (that, or we'll end-up writing about a game that we haven't actually played).
The first part -- Best Game that I Haven't Played
-- is pretty easy to write-up. I won't spoil my decision here, but the game is pretty much a no-brainier -- especially for long-time readers of my blog -- but the second part totally has me stumped. For the past couple of days, I've been going back-and-forth between 4 games that I want to choose as my personal game of the year: Mass Effect, Orange Box, Call of Duty 4, and... Persona 3.
My main criteria for game of the year is a simple one: Any game that has kept my attention the longest is pretty much the front-runner for game of the year. Last year, Oblivion was easily my game of the year for the simple fact that I spent more time playing that game than all of the other games that I bought combined. In fact, I still play the game occasionally today. On the flip-side, Bioshock will never be on my short-list of game of the year candidates for this simple reason: After playing -- and completing -- the game in a week, I came to the conclusion that I'll never play the game again, so I traded it back in. Bioshock was a great game, but games are expensive, and I can't select any game as game of the year -- particularly a 60 dollar one -- that only gives you a week of compelling gameplay.
One thing that each of the above mentioned games have in common, is that I've spent almost an equal amount of time with them. So with my number one reason negated (length of play), I'm pretty much forced to look at each games negative aspects and measure compare them with the competition.
- My main problem with Mass Effect is that while the quest and story itself is groundbreaking, parts of the actual game itself are pretty average: Actual combat is pretty clunky, as more often than not, a bad guy will charge straight at you while your moronic teammates focus on the one guy who isn't actively attacking your party; this is compounded by the fact that the game has a habit of "freezing" for a second in the middle of a battle, causing you to mess-up your aiming/timing at precisely the wrong moments.
Speaking of frame-rate, another major problem with this game is the graphics -- mainly the ugly pop-in. Everytime a new scene is loaded, the characters will end up being a flat-shaded mess until the game load's the bump-map textures. In fact, there were times when entire scenes would play out without the textures -- ruining the entire scene. In fact, mass Effect is quite possibly the first console game that I've seen that allows you to change graphic settings in order to increases the games performance! After I turned off motion blur and the grain effect, the game actually ran much smoother!
Those two issues aside, another problem that I have is the games horrible inventory's system. basically, you get to carry 150 items, and if you go over, any extra item that you find must be destroyed; you don't even get the option of destroying any current item in your innovatory to make room!no, you're forced to destroy the item you just found -- annoying.Orange Box
-- Yes, the Orange Box is a great value, no question about it. The problem is that unlike Oblivion, the orange Box's value is based on the inclusion of five separate games -- games that would never be considered game of the year material on their own.
Two of the games automatically get disqualified for the simple reason that I played them over a year ago: Half Life 2 and Episode 1. Episode 2 -- while an incredible game -- suffers from the Bioshock syndrome: After you beat the game, there's a good chance that you'll never play it again.
So that leaves Portal and Team Fortress 2. I can't judge TF2, as I have had no desire to play the game at all since I got the Orange Box for the PC. Right now, there are just too many games to play, and Teem Fortress 2 (Read: Graphics style) just didn't appeal to me. As for Portal: It's ground breaking, innovative brilliant at times, and... 2 hours long
. The game mainly consists of 19 training levels with one large "real" level.Call of Duty 4
-- A month ago, I would have never considered buying COD4, let alone consider it as a candidate for GOTY; I was, quite frankly, getting sick and tired of 1st person shooters when the game came out in early November. The final nail in the coffin was when I heard that the games single-player campaign only lasted "five hours."
But two weeks ago I decided to subscribe to gamefly, and the first game that I received was COD4. Two weeks later, I ended-up buying the game. Why? Simple, the single-player campaign of COD4 ended-up being so good, that I ended-up replaying some of the earlier levels just to experience some of the games incredible moments. I won't get into any of them now because of spoilers, but I will say that COD4 is the first military game where I actually felt like I was in a middle of a battlefield.
The feeling of immersion was helped by the fact that the game not only looks incredible, but also ran at a solid 60 FPS, something that all future 1st-person shooters should inspire to.
Ironically, my only real problem with COD 4 is something that many people would consider the games greatest asset: Multiplayer. There really isn't anything wrong with the multiplayer mode except for one major annoyance: the games leveling system. Let's just say that I have a major problem with ant game that gives the experienced players more weapons and options than new players who are just starting out. I've been reluctant to dive into multiplayer for the simple reason that while some guy who's played the game for five billion hours will always slaughter me with the latest high-tech weapon, while I'm stuck with my simple M1 rifle -- annoying and discouraging to say the least.Persona 3
-- "A PlayStation 2 game?" Yep, not only is Persona 3 the hands-down, the best PS2 game of the year (I'm not a huge fan of God of War personally), it's also the best JRPG and quite possibly... maybe... my favorite game this year. While most RPG's story take place in either a medieval setting or a futuristic "Star-Trek" world; persona 3 is unique in that the game takes place in present day.
Everything from the characters, the story, and even the music separates this game from virtually every other RPG that I've played. You're a new transfer student who quickly finds out that you have a special power to summon Persona's -- demons/shadows/whatever. By day, you're just a regular student going through the trials and tribulations of life; but at night, you and your team/classmates travel to the dark-hour to discover the secrets of the mysterious tower: Tartarus.
A little fact: I've spent more time playing this game on my PS3 than I have playing actual PS3 games. In fact, this game would be a shoe-in for my personal favorite game of the year, save for one major problem: the battle system.
Basically, you only have control over your character -- all the other characters are controlled by the computer. This wouldn't be so bad except that your teammates are, well... total morons. Example: An enemy attacks you and leaves you with 20 HP, one more hit will kill you. What does your teammate do? Simple, he/she raises your defense. To be fair, most of the time, they do the right thing and actually heal you, but not always.
What makes this little A.I. problem even worse is the simple fact that if your character dies in battle, it's an automatic game over! Your teammates can be killed and revived, but for some reason, if you die, then that's it. Somehow, your enemies seem to know this, but your teammates seem to miss this obvious point, which makes Persona 3 aggravating at times.Which of these games will end-up becoming my game of the year? Check out Cross-Examination later this week or early next week to find out.