Resident Evil 4 (Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
Despite its dodgy accents and incorrect Spanish, the Wii edition of Resident Evil 4 suitably refreshed the title and gave it a control system that felt marvellous. It didn’t matter that shooting became easier in comparison to the GameCube and PlayStation 2 versions, because the difficulty settings were amped up enough to make you realise that every bullet counted. Every last one of them. My recent Hex Play shows just how nuanced the meld of action versus difficulty was maintained in the game.
Having played the PS2 version extensively, the reimagined controls really did offer something and I got a huge kick of replaying this again and again. Playing the HD version on the Xbox 360 left me feeling disappointed by the graphics “upgrade” being non-existent. But if you wanted to feel like you were Leon or Ada kicking ass and taking names, then the Wii version was what, and still is – to me – the definitive version. And anyone who tells you headshots are easy, remember this: each successful shot you land in that game increases your difficulty and once you’re past the first bits of the first level, there are no one hit kills 99% of the time. This is one of the few times I have ever been passionate about a control system.
The Darkness (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
In terms of comic book adaptations in videogames for this generation, most will refer you to Batman: Arkham Asylum or The Walking Dead, but my favourite adaptation was The Darkness (and its sequel). With one of the most convincing romantic moments in a videogame I have ever experienced, the story of Jackie Estacado is poignant, because you start out thinking that a mob enforcer can’t sink any lower.
Combing a tale of misery with attainment of near god-like status, Jackie’s quest for revenge and redemption was heavy on the mafioso dramatics and yet restrained when it needed to be. This further reflected the source material – Jackie’s achilles’s heel of not being able to use his powers in the light meant that you couldn’t just breeze through the game, you had to shoot a bullet occasionally. Its slight sandbox nature also meant that you didn’t necessarily want to just move from one area to another. From phone numbers you could ring in-game for bizarre conversations to just talking to people on the street – you were given a deep sense of the kind of community Jackie was from and his life before and after joining the mob.
Deadly Premonition (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
I played this game to get over Fallout: New Vegas. Pure and simple… at first. Falling in love with Deadly Premonition was a strange process – at first put off by the events during the game’s opening, I quickly found myself becoming fascinated by the inner workings of Agent York and the small town he had come to. And while not a Twin Peaks fan at the time I started playing it, it made me seek out the David Lynch creation.
Many found this game inaccessible due to the controls it originally received and its extremely dated graphics, even for 2010. But what made the game enjoyable was the vastness of what you had to explore and the characters that had been used to populate it with. The bizarreness of their links and York’s to a strangely supernatural world was fascinating in the sense that everything seemed to be justified by just how damn weird it all was, which worked because it was all so out there. This game also had some outstanding dialogue that wasn’t even in the main story, but was encountered during car journeys as you explored the town. Based on real conversations the development team had had about 1980s films, it was one of many intricate and delightful touches in Deadly Premonition.
Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)
The Legend of Zelda games have been with me through most of my childhood. Starting on the NES, I got to play both Legend of Zelda and the sequel Link’s Awakening. In the N64 era, I played to death one of the best games in history – Ocarina of Time and although I enjoyed them, Majora’s Mask, Winder Waker and Twilight Princess still felt like there was some pizazz missing. I found it and more in spades in Skyward Sword. Everything felt so good about the game. But the one thing that left me feeling really good after it, was the story and how it entered into the Zelda timeline.
It built into its story many things that made it feel like I wasn’t just beating the game, but starting on an epic quest. And I mean EPIC! The beginning of Ganon, Zelda, the Triforce, The Master Sword, everything just went together so perfectly, it went on to be equal first in my favourite Zelda outings.
Bioshock (Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 3)
For me, Bioshock came out of the blue. It was a unique take on the FPS genre and was absolutely amazing at telling the story. It also incorporated certain RPG elements that have since almost become standard fare for FPS today. While Bioshock Infinite was good, I do feel that the freshness and the atmosphere in the first outing pipped it to the post.
To me, it wasn’t just another “go here, do this, go there, blow up that” type of game. You genuinely had the ability to be tactical. The story was very well done and was authentic surprise at the twists. The political and cultural aspects surrounding even the concept of Rapture were gripping. I felt “This is what happens when people are allowed to run amok in their own small worlds”. It was definitely the best adventure I’ve experienced in the ocean.
Driver: San Francisco (Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 3)
I remember thinking when I saw the trailers; “this is bizarre”. I’d never played a Driver game before, but this one captured my imagination, and it went with it. You’re actually able to switch cars on the fly. While I could see the reasoning coming a mile off, the mechanic was purely brilliant. Some developers would have left it at that, but this one ran with the story and also with the concept.
“If you’re able to switch between cars, how about winning races in two cars?” one excited designer said to the other. “Heck, we could even make you defend against cars trying to crash into you from multiple directions”. Brilliant. “Oh and what about the main bad guy? What if he had the same ability?” – stunned silence… Fantastic! Brilliant concept, and my only gripe is I would have wanted the main story to last a little longer.
Journey (PlayStation 3)
When we were discussing our choices for game of the generation – only one title instantly hit me in the face. It was a game that made me redefine what I wanted from games. It took me on an emotional, spiritual journey. Shaking me to the very core. It showed us all that you can tell stories in games in an abstract way, making it a deep emotional journey – one that makes you reflect on everything for days after. Leaving you with a high feeling, which has never happened to me before. Add to this mix one of the best musical scores ever to appear in a game and a visual style that just blows your mind – there was only one game that came to me and that is Journey.
Batman: Arkham City (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
The second game was more difficult to decide upon, this generation has seen some wonderful amazing games. After tormenting myself I settled upon a game, which offered one of the best comic book experiences of this and any generation before. It offered a strong story, some great voice work and a massive city to explore, well part of it at least. I am of course talking about Arkham City – Rock Steady’s second game featuring the Dark Knight. For me this sequel just about topped everything we saw in Arkham Asylum. The combat, the gadgets and the love it showed for one of my favourite comic book characters just shined like a beacon. It’s very rare that I will play through a game once I’ve finished the story….yet I’ve found myself going back to City several times – never getting bored.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
For my third game I looked to one of my favourite genres, the humble platformer. Although this gen has seen some very strong contenders – my personal favourite has to be Mario Galaxy 2. A game that delivers a classic platformer but with glorious 3D graphics. The levels were, as usual, expertly designed and delivered by Nintendo. It was a joy to play through and in my humble opinion one of the best games on the Wii – in fact it was the main reason I bought a Wii!