I’ve heard some people refer to me as “that guy who hates all games,” which I think is very unfair. I dish out a lot of stinking bile in the regular course of Zero Punctuation, but occasionally, and especially in the wake of videos like my 2009 awards, it apparently bears repeating that I do like games. You see, if I truly hated games, I just wouldn’t play them, and let them enjoy their societal disease in peace. I rip on games because I see potential being squandered in mediocrity and “safe”-ness. I’m like a tyrannical matriarch who demands perfection only out of love for her terrified children.
But I can understand how this makes it hard to tell if I’m just hating on something out of principle or if I’m hating on it because I want to see it killed and burnt and buried under inner city redevelopment projects, so in the spirit of clarification and awards week I’d like to take a look over 2009’s releases and list the ones that, while not as good as Arkham Asylum and despite what I may have said in the course of their individual reviews, are still well worth checking out for yourself. That’s right – I’m going to be nice for once. For everything I don’t mention in this list, just assume it sucks the pus from a burn victim’s blistered cock.
House of the Dead: Overkill
Sega’s current approach to the whole House of the Dead property appears to be to throw their hands up and say “Just do whatever the fuck you like, we don’t care.” This has led to some very strange games, and this very good one as well. Overkill was an unexpectedly hilarious Grindhouse-style parody of zombie games, with comedic interplay between two ridiculous protagonists that made it all a joy to play. Put it on at a party and I guarantee you’ll make new friends.
But on the other hand: It’s still just a rail shooter, and a pretty unchallenging one. And it’s still on the Wii, so at the party you’ll have to take a few shots to show all your new friends that you’re not a pussy.
In an industry increasingly saturated with sandbox games that don’t really get how to pull a sandbox off, the first of the year’s supervillainy twins showed everyone how it’s done. Interesting and varied sidequests with (crucially) an actual gameplay benefit to playing them, grinding along telephone wires, and zapping the testicles off psychic super hobos. Both this and the next game also illustrate a growing maturity in videogame storytelling, concentrating a little more on characters with some actual humanity, rather than just being a load of minced beef piled into a power armor suit.
But on the other hand: The sandbox fun aspect was constrained by the rather poorly-implemented morality system that I wasn’t a fan of. And the main character’s voice sounded like he’d been smoking since the womb, which must have made his mum very unpopular at aerobics class.
Infamous and Prototype present an eternal conundrum – which is the original, and which the knock-off? Surely one has to be better than the other? In truth, I’m still unable to decide. While not as well-written as its stablemate, Prototype makes up for it with great freedom of movement and the ability to act like a superpowered psychopath without being judged for it. And why should you be? Alex Mercer is elevated far beyond the level of conventional humanity. You don’t judge a gardener for spraying the greenfly.
But on the other hand: The side missions left something to be desired (like a few more that weren’t combat-based) and as elevated as he is, Alex is still a bit of a pillock.
Beatles Rock Band
Rhythm games may be on the way out, with DJ Hero tanking like a German military commander and Guitar Hero 5 basically running out of shit to do with the concept, and Beatles Rock Band will serve quite nicely as a swansong. A visually rich odyssey through the Beatles’ music, arguably one of the few Rock Band spin-offs and knock-offs to be more fun when played by yourself than in a group. Buy it for your dad if you’re rich and decadent.
But on the other hand: It’s still just slapping a plastic knob whenever the screen tells you to. And frankly I’m over guitar games now that the popular kids play it.
BAH ha ha ha ha. But seriously.
I’ve got to admit I was really trying not to have fun with Uncharted 2. It was the principle of the thing. I have this overpowering hatred for Uncharted 2‘s style of writing – that awful Hollywood, Josh Whedon-y style, full of dull-witted heroes and snarky heroines, all acting as nothing but mouthpieces for agonizingly smug ‘wit’. But if I play through Uncharted 2 with the language switched to German or something I can concede the game combines beautiful environments with varied gameplay and a revelatory approach to action movie set pieces that actually involve the player without resorting to quick time events.
But on the other hand: OH JESUS CHRIST SHUT YOUR FAT FUCKING MOUTHS.
Assassin’s Creed 2
I’ve noticed a bit of a rule of thumb with trilogies: the first one is usually fairly tepid, since they’re still finding their feet; the second is the best, now they’ve learned from experience and cut off the unnecessary flaps; and the third is where they get cocky and it starts to go downhill again. With that in mind, you should probably get on board with Assassin’s Creed before a third installment shits in the punchbowl. Screed 2 is a huge game with tons of things to do and people to kill, with the niggling unpleasantries of Screed 1 graciously plucked out.
But on the other hand: So we spend the whole game getting to know Ezio, right from birth no less, following his quest for revenge over 20 years, and then at the very end the game basically says “Piss off, wog boy, Future Desmond’s the important one.” Earth to Ubisoft: Nobody. Likes. Future. Desmond. It’d be like if The Empire Strikes Back ended with C3PO turning out to be Darth Vader’s kid instead of Luke.
Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn’t talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games and writes the back page column for PC Gamer, who are too important to mention us. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.