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My Top Five Most (and Least) Favorite Games

  • On March 9, 2011

We’ve all have had games we’ve despised, and games we’ve loved. Games that made us stand up and cheer, and games that made us stand up and throw the controller through the nearest window. Games that are a triumph and games that are…um…not a triumph.

I’m not good with analogies. Anyway, we’ve all had games we’ve loved and games we’ve hated. It’s just the games I love are always within arm’s reach, and the ones I hate are in the bargain bins at Goodwill.


5: Black, EA, Criterion Games, 2006

This is only a small fraction of the bullets you get to fire in this game.

Man, look at that cover. Awesome. The European cover is really cool too.


Enough about aesthetics, let’s move onto the actual game. This little known FPS may not match up with the more popular Red Faction and TimeSplitters (neither of which I’ve played, but have heard good things about; and plan to play them sometime this…decade), but it is up there with the elites on last-generation consoles.

The graphics are phenomenal, pushing the PS2 (and, I imagine, the original Xbox) to it’s limits. Sound is great, particle effects are great, lighting is great. I’ll even say that it’s better looking than some early PS3 FPS games.

The plot is average, the usual “super secret black ops guys taking out Russian/Chinese/Middle Eastern terrorists in the most awesome way possible”. The story, however, is moved forward in live action cutscenes, all of which are very artistically done. The cinematography in them is better than some certain Hollywood “films”. An unnamed federal agent grills your character, Jack Kellar, on things that happened over the week, so the parts that you play in are the semi-clichéd “flashback” scenario.

Criterion Games is more famous as being EA’s Burnout-developing powerhouse, but it proved in 2006 that it could make a very good FPS. I don’t often play FPS games (GAMING BLASPHEMY!), but if they start to get as good as Black, I might actually have to start playing them. There’s been rumors of a 7th Gen sequel to Black, but that continues to seem less likely. I really do wish for a Black sequel, because the first one was amazing.


4: Saint’s Row 2, THQ, Volition, 2008

Is Saint's Row 2 better than Grand Theft Auto IV? That depends...

I’ve never played the original Saint’s Row, as it came out in that awkward stage before the PS3 release but after the 360 release, and like so many early 7th Gen games that would’ve gone multiplatform had the PS3 been out, the original Saint’s Row went 360 exclusive.

Because of SR2’s unfortunate release date just months after Rockstar’s epic Grand Theft Auto IV (which won’t be making this list, more on that later), SR2 was immediately put under the GTA microscope, and, of course, it didn’t hold up. However, I always compared SR2 and GTAIV like this: you play IV for nice graphics, a gripping, epic storyline, and realism. You play SR2 when you just want to have an unreal amount of fun.

That’s not saying that IV‘s not an insane amount of fun, it’s just that SR2 is quirkier. The vehicles in SR2 are more unique and more varied, even if there are less, as is the locale of the game. The missions are more epic, the storyline more insane, and there are more weapons than you can shake a detached hand at.

Sure, it’s not GTAIV, but it’s not trying to be. It’s just trying to be fun. From the crazy outfits and styles you can create with the games above average creation tools, to running over the frightened civilians of Stilwater in a monster truck, Saint’s Row 2 is just plain fun.


3: Mass Effect 2, EA, BioWare, 2010-2011

This looks so much better bordered by PS3 black than 360 neon green.

If you read my review of Mass Effect 2, you know I absolutely adored the game. It seemed perfect: graphics, plot, open world, great action.

But it’s so much more than that. You are literally engulfed in your role as Commander Shepard, every mission seems almost real, every character seems like your friend…or enemy.

That may have something to do with BioWare’s excellent dialogue system. I went into further detail in my review, but ME2‘s dialogue system is the very best I’ve ever seen, and perhaps the very best ever put into a video game.

The customization features in ME2 have been praised, and for good reason. They’re significantly better than Saint’s Row 2‘s customization tools. (although that may have something to do with the fact that ME2‘s graphics are several steps above SR2‘s). I said in my review for ME2, you can make a red-headed Michael Jackson if you have the patience. The fact that you can make yourself the new Commander Shepard may have something to do with immersion level I mentioned earlier.

The work that went into ME2 must’ve been massive and time consuming. In the end, it’s worth it, as this is clearly one of the most epic games I’ve ever played. My level of immersion is rivaled only by…


2: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Rockstar Games, Rockstar North, 2004

I think I spent one full month in my basement playing GTA:SA. It's that good.

A lot of people prefer the precursor, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, over San Andreas. I don’t blame them; I just love SA more.

I could fill this entire list with Rockstar games…or, more specifically, just Grand Theft Autos. I’ll go with this one because it is by far my favorite GTA. The storyline might not be that of Vice City‘s, but it’s larger and, in my opinion, twice as amazing. Everything about San Andreas is larger; it’s three major cities in one huge open world. The graphics are pretty average, but with the sheer level of content and gameplay you get with San Andreas, the graphics take a back seat.

The storyline is average Boyz N The Hood kind of stuff; you play as Los Santos, San Andreas gangster Carl Johnson who left home to Liberty City after his brother was murdered in 1987, only to return to Los Santos in 1992 to help bring the gang back (the Grove Street Families) to power after a botched hit on his older brother, Sweet Johnson, leader of the gang, lead to the death of his innocent mother. Sweet eventually gets arrested and incarcerated in an unknown prison, and Carl has to become an errand boy in order to get him out, and get revenge on the two former friends who sold out the Johnsons for their own selfish needs.

More weapons than any previous, or future, GTA game, more vehicles too; over 200.

The reason I chose this over GTAIV is that I just had more fun with San Andreas. More immersion and a bigger locale than in GTAIV, coupled with the seeming never-endingness of San Andreas (I still haven’t beaten the storyline, even after all this time) while IV can get boring after awhile. San Andreas doesn’t.


1: Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar Games, Rockstar San Diego, 2010

Pictured: My entire 2010

Like I said in San Andreas, if I had my way, this entire list would be filled with Rockstar games. I decided to whittle it down to just two. But this is, by far, Rockstar’s best. The mere mention of Red Dead Redemption will draw me into a conversation with complete strangers. From the epic music score (the official soundtrack CD is never far out of my reach), to a phenomenal storyline, to an emotional bond with a horse that only Shadow of the Colossus can compare to, RDR is truly a tour de force.

Whether it’s riding the frontier from West Elizabeth to Nuevo Paraiso, taking in the scenery, to enjoying the game’s fantastic Undead Nightmare DLC, to taking back gang hideouts, Redemption has something for everybody, even if that something is just collecting herbs you find around the frontier.

The gameplay may not give you that feeling you’re riding a horse, but it comes very close. The shootouts are electric, and the characterization and voice acting is so good that the characters in the game occasionally merit an emotional response, like when John Marston is saying goodbye to his childhood hero and adult mentor Landon Ricketts.

Red Dead Redemption is so much more than just “Grand Theft Horse” that unoriginal Internet hipsters and people with bad taste have called it. Red Dead Redemption is a truly beautiful game. Rockstar’s games are always rated “Mature”. Redemption is, arguably, Rockstar’s most ‘mature’ game yet.



5: Independence Day, Fox Interactive/Activision, Radical Entertainment, 1997

A flight simulator? Ha!

The Roland Emmerich film was decent. The Radical Entertainment video game wasn’t.

In ID4, you play as a fighter jet pilot trying to complete a list of objectives, and blow up stuff either on the ground, on a large, city-destroying alien ship or the alien version of fighter jets.

This joint Activision (eww) and Fox (EWWW!!) production, ID4 is a “flight simulator” on the PSOne. As bad as that sounds (and believe me, it’s bad), Radical somehow screws it up even worse. The controls are ungodly clunky, making me thankful analog sticks were invented. It’s incredibly difficult to even complete the simple tasks the game’s campaign gives you.

The graphics are no better. I wasn’t expecting much for a PSOne game in the second decade of the 21st Century, but when you fly into a wall into this game, your plane bounces off and starts heading into the opposite direction, only losing a bar of health. Just like a real fighter jet!

The one possible redeeming factor ID4 gives you is that you can fly multiple planes in the game. The downside to that is that each plane is utterly uncontrollable.

4: Dead Rising 2, Capcom, Blue Castle, 2010

I hate you, Chuck Greene.

Ooh, edgy. An immensely popular, well received game and MAINEiac hated it? Why?

Frustration, mostly.

I disliked Dead Rising 2 for one reason: it was damn hard. Navigating a decently sized open world with no fast travel, and 500,000 undead standing in your way, it makes it difficult to get back to your safe house. There’s still no way to even put waypoints on the map. That’s annoying. I’m not asking for an open world at the level of Rockstar. I’m asking for a fairly competent one! Luxoflux could do it with True Crime. Why can’t Capcom do it with Dead Rising 2?

It is damn near impossible to complete all of the challenges and missions in the game. You have several simultaneous challenges going on, and a certain amount of time to complete each of them. They’re all scattered over the massive open world, but there’s no efficient way to get to any of them. Some fall by the wayside, even if their important, because in the text

Another thing that annoyed me about DR2 was the health system. Eating food has always been a staple of video game health regeneration, but something about DR2‘s food system just really annoyed me. If all your item slots are filled up, you drop whichever weapon you’re holding. Normal enough. But it actually takes several seconds to eat the food, which could potentially put Chuck in danger, and thus wasting the health you just got.

The thing that made me turn off my PS3 in anger was one of the cheapest set pieces I’ve ever encountered in a game. Inside a restaurant, there were these looters that you run into around the city. I thought I could take them out easy. Turns out, one of them sprayed a spray-can in Chuck’s face, and Chuck blacks out. He wakes up, naked except for his shorts, no weapons, no Zombrex (I had two on me at the time), no anything. That really annoyed me. I got up, turned off the TV, ejected the disc and drove back to GameStop to return it. It was the final straw.

I just didn’t have fun with DR2. I know, I thought that an open world game filled with zombies would be fun. Turns out it’s just frustrating.

I’m not against challenging games, but when a game reverts to cheap cop-outs to up the difficulty, that’s where I draw the line. In my humble opinion, this game could’ve done several things differently and been fun.

Another thing is that I just didn’t have fun with DR2. I was positively bored most of the time, and the time I wasn’t, I was amazingly frustrated. Maybe I’m just a p***y and can’t handle a challenge in a game, but DR2 was insanely frustrating. At least for me.

3: Need for Speed: Undercover, EA, EA Black Box, 2008

An utter waste of time.

When I was younger, Need for Speed was my favorite series, as the PC releases of Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit and Need for Speed: High Stakes were fun racing games.

How far NFS fell. Undercover is an ugly, clunky mess of a racing game, with a tacked on open world mode and horrendous, live action cutscenes. Like I said above with Black, live action cutscenes can actually be pretty good when done right. Undercover’s live action cutscenes, instead were horrendous, and filled with a bunch of people who I stretch to consider “actors”. It’s all meant to move forward this really dumb plot, and have you go drive somewhere to race someone.

Maybe the 7th Gen versions were better, because I had this on PS2. Even so, it’s still on my list because of the sheer horribleness of the PS2 version.

NFS has started their redemption with Shift and the reboot of Hot Pursuit. As long as EA avoids the mistakes it made in the past with NFS, it could become one of EA’s premier racing franchises, next to Burnout.

2: Driv3r, Atari, Reflections Interactive, 2004

A complete and utter abomination.

Another once proud franchise that has fallen recently. Driver was Grand Theft Auto before Grand Theft Auto was even 3D. The cool plot, fun missions and great driving mechanics were all missing in Driv3r.

Instead, we have clunky, tacked on on-foot action, archaic wanted meters, and a plot as stupid as it is boring. Cutscenes are almost hilariously bad, as is most of the dialogue (sure, it’s not Resident Evil level, but it’s still pretty bad). Even if the dialogue was actually good, the sound was horrendous.

The driving system also feels old, which is weird, because the original Driver‘s driving mechanics still feel, at least partially, fresh.

The worst part is, Atari and Reflections knew that Driv3r was a bad product. Why else would there be such a thing as “Driv3rgate“? Seriously, this was 2004’s Kane and Lynch.

The series was able to regain some ground with it’s most recent release, Driver: Parallel Lines, and Ubisoft is now in charge of the eventually upcoming Driver: San Francisco, unveiled at 2010’s E3. There’s hope for a franchise that rose so high only to fall so far.

1: MLB Front Office Manager, 2K Sports, Blue Castle, 2009

Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here

I am a baseball fanatic. I love the stats, I love the trades, I love everything about the sport. But this… this is an abomination of America’s pastime.

If you’re like me and saw all the bad reviews for this game, and thought “It’s a game where you play as a GM of a baseball team. It can’t possibly be that bad!” and are thinking about picking it up, don’t. This is, by far, the worst game I’ve ever played.

In a game where you spend 90% of the time looking at menus, you’d think that the devs would try their hardest to make the menus look good and easy to navigate, right?

Turns out, you’re wrong, because Blue Castle decided to make the menus as obnoxious and clunky as possible. Seriously, the menus in FOM should be shown in developer schools as an example on how NOT to be user-friendly.

Here’s an example on how to do a trade in FOM: you go through this incredibly long and difficult to navigate main menu until you find a “team transactions” screen. You go through that until you find the trade screen, go through a clunky menu to look at players to trade…except their stats on on another screen that you have to go through, making it almost impossible to compare and contrast players. If you do get a trade proposed, you have to wait a few in-game days before the other GM gets back to you. You will receive a message from that GM whether or not that the trade has been completed. No negotiating. No counter-offer. Just whether or not it had been completed.

Another thing that makes transactions obscenely difficult and annoying: the opposing GMs are all trying to get an edge, and if the trade is tipped slightly in your favor, 99 out of 100 times they’ll reject it. You will also receive trade offers from the other GMs, all tipped in their favor. It’s like you have Joe Mauer, and they’re offering you Jed Lowrie.

Another thing that’s incredibly annoying is that you’re starting pitcher, no matter what his stamina, will only last three to five innings. If you’re not a baseball person and don’t know what it means, most starting pitchers last six to seven innings in a decent outing. Even if you’re pitcher is throwing a no hitter, he will ask to be taken out in the 4th inning.

According to Metacritic, the PS3 version is actually the best version of the game; FOM got a 49 on the PS3, a 47 on the 360 and a 45 on PC. I can’t possibly see how this game could get worse, but evidently it has. Also, IGN gave it a 66? That’s like giving Driv3r a 97.

And through it all, I honestly hope 2K comes back with a sequel to this. Sports management sims, especially for baseball, are right up my alley, and I really think this game could be awesome if done right. Until then, I’ll just stick with MLB: The Show‘s Franchise mode, which is an infinitely better GM sim than this mess.

This is also the second time Blue Castle Games has appeared on this list. You might not think they deserved it for Dead Rising 2, but for MLB Front Office Manager, they definitely do.

Honorable Mentions: Burnout: Paradise, Destroy All Humans, World in Conflict, Gran Turismo 4, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Dishonorable Mentions: LittleBigPlanet, Fallout 3, EndWar, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, Call of Duty: World at War – Final Fronts

If you’re wondering where epically well received and popular games like BioShock, Batman: Arkham Asylum and Battlefield are, I offer you this: I only have so much money and so much time, that some games get pushed to the side