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The Greatest of a Generation


The Greatest of a Generation

The Future or the Past

With the PS4, Ouya and Xbox whatever on the horizon, the excitement, energy and emotion is starting to froth back up among gamers. We have the next generation already here with the Wii U, so everybody around the office felt its time to get reminiscent. It istime to look back at the best of the generation.

This was like pulling teeth to get everybody to choose that one and only defining piece, but finally we all settled on the games that defined the past 8 years for us in gaming.

Image Bioshock

What is the best game of this generation? Tough one. My knee-jerk response would probably be BioShock. Sure, its graphics are dated, but I think aesthetically it’s still one of the prettiest games around. The art nouveau/art deco setting and swing-music soundtrack just hit all of my stylistic buttons. And I’m impressed, years later, by how smart the AI was (running to water when on fire, healing when low on health, etc.), especially when compared to shooters released around the same time.

I’m such a sucker for retro-futuristic, dystopian worlds. But is it the best game of this generation, or am I just unreasonably biased? Bioshock Infinite is as good, arguably better, but when it comes to “game of the generation,” I just can’t think of it as such. Maybe it’s too new, or maybe this generation is taking its last gasp, but I can’t think of Infinite as defining its genre, and games in general, in the ways that BioShock did. Let’s put it this way: there wouldn’t be an Infinite if there hadn’t been a BioShock.

Image Journey

So I feel horrible for finding yet another opportunity to write about this game, because I’ve done it on several occasions, but I simply have to choose Journey. I could write a paragraph of me babbling nonsense, since you’ll probably look over this anyway, but seriously. Let’s get serious.

This game had a seriously profound effect on me that most of my colleagues have not discovered on their own. Sure it’s a sand-walking simulator, but I learned about myself, I learned about those I love in life, and I learned how to find direction. I want to keep this briefer than brief, but seriously, I loved Journey, more so than the 300+ hours I spent in Dark Souls, or the countless nights I spent playing the original Gears of War’s multiplayer. Journey changed me, and is my absolute favorite experience from this generation.

Image Mirror's Edge

Mirror’s Edge is, in short, everything I have ever wanted from a video game. For me, this is the ultimate power fantasy – instead of endless corridor shooting and superhuman feats of gratuitous violence, it’s an intensely immersive and believable adventure through the eyes of someone you truly feel connected with due to the game’s phenomenal freedom of movement. It’s short, but I’ve found that that’s only worked in its favor; knowing the entire game like the back of my hand is a gloriously satisfying feeling, and burning through levels with such dexterity feels like I’m playing the game just as it was intended. It’s also beautiful – by God is it beautiful – and in my eyes is one of the best graphically designed games ever. Flowing through Mirror’s Edge’s city is like existing in a beautiful painting, and for all the hyper-realism in Crysis or Battlefield 3, Mirror’s Edge is a game that will still look pretty in ten year’s time.

EA, I know you’ll probably screw it up, but give us Mirror’s Edge 2. Please.

Image Rock Band Blitz

To me, no game encapsulates this generation quite like Rock Band Blitz. Where many other games have come and gone, every now and again I’ll turn on Rock Band Blitz and lose an hour or two in what seems like minutes. For me, Rock Band Blitz is a great example of how this generation allowed games to grow. DLC has been one of the most infamous new additions to this generation of consoles with fans decrying on-disc content and sometimes even complaining that later content should have been included in the base game.

Whatever your thoughts are on DLC, Rock Band never could have been the monolith it became without it. If you gave me the total figure on what I spent on DLC alone, I’m sure I would be shocked. Most of that was even before Blitz was released. Part of why Blitz was such a revelation to me was that for the price of a few songs (and, boy, did it have some great ones), I got a whole new type of game to play my old ones with.

Then came the online leaderboards, which brought out the competitor in me to an almost scary degree. Even now, I’ll periodically check my scores to make sure none of my friends have surpassed me. I’ve never done that in a video game before. Sure, at this point, most of my friends aren’t playing it very heavily, but it’s still fun for me to set even higher scores and ensuring they’ll never beat me.

The Facebook connectivity was actually pretty nifty, as well, which is a sentence I never thought I’d say. In addition, my one flaw with the game was the slow accumulation of in-game currency which allowed you to use power-ups in each song, but that was patched ridiculously quickly after release — another good example of something this generation brought with it.

Basically, Rock Band Blitz brought a lot of the new pieces this generation brought to the gaming puzzle and it did them all well. Where many giants have fallen into traps with things like DLC, Facebook, and patches, Harmonix leveraged them to make one of my favorite games of all time. It should be commended for not only being outstanding on a base level, but also for showing how these new technologies can be used in a pro-consumer way.

Image Portal 2

The Portal series is no stranger to reverence from the gaming community, but it deserves every bit of praise it receives. As with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, there aren’t many people can have a true, unbridled, justifiable disdain for Portal 2. From so many angles, Portal 2 is one of the most polished and well-made video games of this generation. Only those without a sense of humor, adventure, or a heart will not find merit in any attribute of this game.

True enough, it’s a puzzle game, but it’s also much more than that; it’s an adventure, which reeled in so many more people. It’s the writing that weaves this fun and interesting little mechanic into something much more, something so grand and unexpectedly breathtaking. From the puzzles, to the sets, to the characters, to the music, Portal 2 creates an ambiance that is nearly unparalleled in ability to immerse the player in this deadly, mechanical wonderland.

The co-operative element was the new pink in the gaming industry this generation, and Portal 2 pulled it off masterfully, with an elegance that most video games wish they had. Not only did it have a single-player campaign, but it had a completely different multiplayer one to play with a friend on or offline. Also, P-Body and Atlas are two of the most charming fictional characters ever created. In a word, Portal 2 is spectacular. It’s bursting with humility and love, things that I wish were more prevalent in this generation of video games.

Image Dead Rising 2

Let me tell you a few things about myself when it comes to video games; I hate time limits, I hate escorting moronic NPCs, and I really hate losing a bunch of progress because I ran into a boss on the way to a save point. These are things I’ve never enjoyed in over 30 years of gaming, and even though I stand by these beliefs, the following sentence is said with absolute certainty.

Dead Rising 2 is my favorite game of this generation.

As a non-360 owner, I never played the original game, but always found its distinctively oppressive mechanics to be intriguing. When the sequel was released onto PC in 2010, I decided to give it a try. After getting into it, I realized that this game isn’t fun in spite of its odd gameplay choices; it’s brilliant because of them. The constant balance of risk and reward, the terror of racing to an objective because you spent too much time screwing around, and the cathartic thrill of just making a deadline or defeating a psychopath is orgasmic.

Not only is Dead Rising 2 one of the funniest games I’ve ever played due to all the crazy stuff you can wear, use, and encounter, but it’s also got one of the best game worlds as well. The malls and casinos of Fortune City are miles deep with hidden items, people to save, places to explore, and of course zombies to kill. I’ve dropped dozens of hours into it, and every time I play I discover something new.

You know what? I’m out of here. I’m going to go re-install Dead Rising 2.

Image Orange Box

When it comes to the greatest console game of the generation, it has to be The Orange Box. It simply has to. There isn’t any one experience that you can have that can top what this little package can do in both gameplay and story telling. Portal redefined how we were supposed to view puzzle games. Team Fortress 2 brought in a bit of multiplayer fun for those that wanted it. Half-Life: Episode 2 is the game everybody has to put on “best of” lists.

Each of these games makes up The Orange Box.

No game since has replicated that value or that creativity in marketing. Plus EA distributed it so they overproduced copies which allowed the game to drop in price early on in its life making the best deal in gaming even better. If you came away disappointed from The Orange Box in any way, I feel sorry for you. It is the greatest packaged game of this generation.

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