Continuing on from the previous post. Here’s the next set of games I played last year:
Just Cause 2 was one of those games that I had in the back of my mind to play whenever there was nothing else pressing for my time. I think the first thing that made me pay attention to how good it could be was a post on Coding Horror but it wasn’t until I saw it on Zero Punctuation’s Top 5 of 2010 that I thought about giving it another go. Once I got started, I found a game that I wished I had discovered before.
For those who don’t know it, JC2 is an open world game where you cause mayhem and destruction on behalf of rebels on an island lead by a dictator. As well as guns, rocket launchers etc and a range of vehicles such as cars, attack helicopters and planes, you also have a permanently attached grappling hook and an open-anytime-you’re-off-the-ground parachute. The latter two tools mean that you can spend a lot of time climbing things and then jumping off, or you can just grapple and pull to move yourself around, building up a fair speed if you’ve got the parachute open at the same time. It took a while to get the hang of the grapple but now it makes me think that any other open world game would seem incredibly slow to traverse without it. There’s times when you don’t even feel like needing to steal a vehicle and think about floating to the target instead.
And it’s not just the movement that JC2 gets right, a common problem with 3rd person shooters is the aiming and firing, typically requiring you to get into cover (Uncharted I’m looking at you), before you can even start trying to aim, let alone fire. JC2 lets you shoot at the centre of the screen, adds a little aim assist and the controls themselves just feel right when aiming, being more camera than character driven. To be honest, it was harder to aim the grapple, but in most cases you have some freedom in choosing where to aim, and it’s typically not a fight or flight situation.
Spread through out the game are lots of different types of completion percentages, both in the rarer things you can collect, like the dropped drugs, and in the level of completion of a town or army base. It’s incredibly satisfying reaching 100% complete on a town or enemy base, but it does get disheartening when you get to 97% and realize that you’ve spent 15 minutes playing hunt-the-last-remaining-army-element-to-blow-up and found nothing. Conversely clearing a town by collecting all the pickups gives a very warm hoarding feeling.
Although there’s a push for collecting everything in the game, and it’s very doable, I put JC2 down after completing it to avoid it sucking me in any further. It was an enjoyable game from start to finish and it’s on my to-return-to list. The recent rumour of three new titles by 2014 has got me excited too.
Toy Story 3 was a game I chose mostly on behalf of my three year old. As a fan of the films I was hoping he’d enjoy watching me play it, although that soon turned in to him wanting to play too. One of the great things about the game is the sandbox (or rather toybox) mode they use for the Woody’s Roundup section of the game. This gave him the freedom to run around and play and actually get involved. I think it’s the first game that got him interested in playing games. I’ve since realized that any game (it was Disney Universe where I discovered this) without this freedom and with a specified objective instead stresses me out more as I try and get him to focus on that rather than letting him play. (And don’t even get me started on playing co-op games with him!)
The single player is actually a good medium difficulty challenge for a typical games player and took a few weekend afternoons to complete while sharing the controller. Watching the film before you play definitely helps to add some magic too, rather than leaving you confused as to what’s going on! Although I wouldn’t have picked it up for myself, I’d recommend it to anyone looking for something to play with their little gamer.
Borderlands is one of those surprise cult games (like Just Cause 2) that I came to late and found a great love for – hmm, having that and JC2 in this post makes me think I’ve missed some more great games too! After completing the main game, I waited for the Game of the Year edition to be released with all of the DLC before I picked it back up again. There’s actually four different parts to the DLC of which I played the first three in 2011:
- The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned. This was the first of the DLC that I played and I think it was the one I enjoyed the most. The missions were well balanced and the level well laid out – I’m biased as a fan of zombie shooters too. The limited color palette, AKA dark, meant that it was slightly harder than it should have been and some of the arena battles felt a bit claustrophobic due to the lack of space involved.
- Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot. This DLC is the one of the three that I played that I have left incomplete. Due to the levelling model in Borderlands where enemies are spawned at approximately the same level as the player, this arena combat section is rock hard and I’m going to need to take advantage of special weapons and the skill tree options along with a lot of run and gun.
- The Secret Armory of General Knoxx. This was a bit of a struggle to get through, lots of roads and road combat which was already a pain in the main game with the level in the DLC being very spaced out leading to a lot of driving back and forth. There’s bit more driving uniqueness in this DLC like having to do jumps and driving through narrow gaps – more gah! The end of DLC boss was also pretty hardcore and I really had no idea what I was going to do if I’d failed to kill him on the first go.
I can’t wait for Borderlands 2 later this year and I’ve got the remaining DLC, Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution, to keep me warm ’til then.
To be continued…