Olly’s Games of the Generation
This generation has definitely been my favourite. I’ve been almost constantly wowed by the things these crazy developers have been able to do. There have been surprises around every corner, and as many fresh and original games as blockbuster sequels and reboots. It’s been as much the generation of the indie as it has AAA titles, especially with the advent and increasing popularity of online stores/marketplaces. Whittling down favourite games to a list of five is always a tricky task, but here are mine…
Okay, before I begin, here’s a long cop-out list of those that didn’t make it, but I enjoyed a huge amount. I can’t bear to leave them without a mention – Portal 2, PGR3 & 4, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Skate 2, GRID, Uncharted 2 & 3, BioShock Infinite, Limbo, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Trials Evolution, Gears of War, Geometry Wars Evolved, CoD: MW 1 & 2, Fable II, F.E.A.R., FFXIII, Dead Space 1 & 2, Rayman Legends, The Walking Dead, Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes, Mass Effect 2 & 3, Assassin’s Creed II, Fallout 3 & New Vegas, NFS: Hot Pursuit, Condemned, Tomb Raider, Hotline Miami, Mirror’s Edge, Battlefield 1943, Flower, ENSLAVED, Split/Second
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Escapism is one of the main reasons people play videogames. The illusion of being in another world, acting as another person, doing things you’d never ever dream of in real life. Skyrim is the escapist’s dream. The world of Skyrim is intoxicatingly beautiful, and is the game’s tour de force. Hundreds of miles are waiting to be explored, and every nook and cranny is as thought out as the last. The variety in geography, climate, villages and towns is impressive, and the world is so well realised and natural it seems modelled on somewhere real. The story, characters, missions and mechanics are all brilliant, but it is the world that you fall so in love with. Each location seems to have a story to it, and for those that don’t, your imagination fills in the gaps. You imagine the bloodthirsty bandit who lost his allies, to now live the rest of his life by the river in his shack, hunting nearby cave bears with his bow and arrow. Or the wargs in their wolf cave by the twilight moon, ready to hunt down any mistaken traveller who enters. The soundtrack aids exploration, with its romantic orchestral score that sweetly accompanies your steps in Skyrim. It’s a game you can keep returning to and one that will provide you with hundreds of great stories. It’s the closest you’ll get to living in Westeros, too.
Who could ever forget that opening? Unparalleled in its execution, it is an extremely exciting first hour that never lets up. It introduces the world of Rapture with a chilling tune and a tremendous vista, and a friendly Irish man you’ve no reason not to trust. What then transpires is a rollercoaster of a narrative, with one of the best twists of the generation. And it’s not just the narrative that is exceptional – the music and visuals are top drawer too. It’s all extremely unsettling and has a frighteningly good atmosphere. The set pieces that Ken Levine and his team at Irrational have crafted are often terrifying, and always unexpected. The characters you meet are all instantly memorable, and wonderfully insane, and the world of Rapture is a fantastically realised ‘high-society’ madhouse. The narrative mixed with the gameplay is hugely compelling, and you won’t want to stop playing until the very end. The final hour may disappoint, but the preceding dozen certainly doesn’t. Unforgettable.
The Last of Us
Zombie/infected games come and go, but The Last of Us is here to stay. It’s a game that lingers in the memory long after you finish, and one you’ll want to play again and again soon after. Its mechanics are solid and satisfying. Your actions feel suitably brutal and necessary. Even if the story left a lot to be desired, you’d be pulled along simply by how enjoyable the core gameplay is. Fortunately, and unsurprisingly, the story – or, storytelling, as the case may be – is perfect. Every piece of dialogue is worth its weight in gold. Even during gameplay segments, Ellie or Joel will just talk, about anything, about normal things. A lot of games use the characters to explain where to go or how to do things, and it instantly brings us back to that thought we should not be thinking – that they are playing a video game. Ellie or Joel will not repeat lines of dialogue because in real conversations people don’t repeat themselves in that way. The story takes you through the four seasons, and each one contains an almost completely new adventure and locations to struggle through. The pacing is peerless – sometimes there won’t be an action sequence for ages, and sometimes they are the best parts. It’s a blockbuster game, but not in the typical explosions and huge set pieces way. It’s polished to perfection and always gripping. It’s brutally beautiful.
Rock Band 3
If you’re a fan of Rock Band, you probably played Harmonix’s previous foray into the world of music videogames, Guitar Hero. And you probably remember the feeling you had when you strummed your first note, or finished your first song, or killed your first solo. That ecstatic, elated feeling is hard to beat. Guitar Hero 2 came around and was great, and so was 3, but was the genre starting to get tired? Then Rock Band came out, and that feeling came back. The feeling of being in a band, of being a drumming god, of singing your heart out in front of your fans. It is the ultimate party game, the ultimate game for friends. Much like the fun you have in a co-op shooter, rocking out to your favourite song with your best friends and a few beers is unmatched. Rock Band 2 came around with more cracking songs and some slick new features, but Rock Band 3 was the true evolution of the genre. It had the songs, sure, but it was the interface that rocked the hardest. Dropping in and out of a game became effortless, and signing in and out various player was no longer a chore, among other things. Add in Rock Band Network, keyboard and ‘pro’ instruments and you’ve got a recipe for the perfect sequel. The comprehensive DLC support meant your library was always growing, and sifting through songs was simple and pain-free. There’s no doubt it’s the best music game of all time.
Dark Souls is not just the best game of the generation, but the best game of all time. It’s a gamer’s game. It’s a game you can talk about for hours and hours and not get bored. It’s a game you’ll think about before bed, at work, at the pub. It’s a game where for the hours you’re playing it, you’re thinking of nothing else, forgetting even to blink. It’s a game that’ll make you cry, swear, sweat and, most importantly, rejoice. There’s beating a boss in a videogame, and then there’s beating a Dark Souls boss. The feeling of victory when you find a bonfire, beat a boss or survive a particular encounter is huge. You’ll shout and punch the air in celebration, and be excited to turn the next page in your Dark Souls adventure.
Dark Souls teaches you to be patient, because if you rush, if you’re sloppy, you’re not going to go anywhere. It teaches you to study the patterns of enemies, and understand your own abilities and limitations. Its universe is vast and overwhelming, and seamlessly connected. It never holds your hand, it doesn’t let you pause, it rarely educates you on how the world works, but then it doesn’t need to – it’s better to find out yourself, whether that be by fire or friend. It’s never unfair. It looks astonishingly beautiful at times, and the art style is exceptional. There are hundreds of weapons and armor to spend hours choosing, with hundreds of fighting styles to boot. The multiplayer is exciting, and perfectly integrated with the single player, and even the story is done well in a game that doesn’t rely on one. A truly great videogame.