Tuesday, 11 January 2011

PS2 Game of the Year awards

Given that 2010 has just finished, I thought it would be appropriate to dish out some awards to Playstation 2 games for the year gone. These are based on playtime, and playtime only, the argument being that hours spent on game = a good game that has caught and continues to hold your attention.

Sure, I've spent many frustrating hours playing Tomb Raider, and it drove me nuts on occasion, but you could still argue that because it had me coming back for more, it was still good enough to hold my attention. Did it live up to the hype at the time? Not really.

So, onto last year. Games under consideration simply had to be in my collection in 2010. I've found you can now buy many used games for a fraction of the mint price, and there are a couple of shops I frequent in Brighton that have a pretty decent selection of PS2 second hand games, namely the Gamestar shops on London Road and Boundary Road, which I always pop into when I'm nearby.

In third place we have Star Wars Battlefront 2, a most excellent shoot 'em up in the Star Wars universe. Sebastian has probably played more of this than any other game in 2010. It is really rather good, and includes multi-player options letting you function either as a two man team or work against each other on opposite sides.

The game spans the Clone Wars and the Rebellion period, and lets you play a broad range of the troop types seen in the films, including clone troopers, stormtroopers, battle droids, wookies, and even some of the famous personalities like Darth Vader and Count Dooku. You can also battle across a long list of maps using movie locations like Mos Eisley space port, the Death Star, Naboo, the Jedi temple on Coruscant, and many others.

However, on top of this there is also a space-based game, letting you fly star fighters in hectic orbital battles. You can even get into and out of your fighter if you fly onto bigger ships, board enemy vessels and take them on in close combat. It really is an amazingly versatile game, and seems to be the default option for Sebastian and his friends, alongside the Star Wars Lego series, which probably got more air time in 2009.

In second place we have the Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance series, a pair of PS2 games using the Forgotten Realms background from D&D. We have played both games to their conclusion, and they really are excellent 'old school' animated dungeon bashes. We've also played Champions of Norrath, which uses the same game engine, but in a different fantasy setting.

I'm lumping all these games together, but I like them because they easily cater to two players on the same screen, they feature impressively large worlds with big levels, they capture the feel of 'old school' dungeon bashes from the 1980s quite nicely, and they let you save frequently, which is always a bonus for me. We have chalked up a LOT of hours on these games in 2010.

The original Dark Alliance game did have one irritating level which featured a jumping challenge, where your character died automatically if you missed one out of a series of perfectly timed jumps. I hate this kind of thing in games, and this really did slow us down, causing us to take a break from the game. Two bosses also proved almost impossible to defeat - a drow priestess in one game, and an orc warlord in another. We bested them both eventually, but only once Sebastian had worked his way round to them in the single player mode and figured out how to slay them that way.

So, on to the game which I enjoyed the most in 2010, which we completed, and which gets my award for best game I played last year on the basis of hours played + ability to complete + multi-player usage + general fun factor, and that is Judge Dredd.

Personally, I'm a big fan of the comics and have been since way back when. I really had to give the game a go. I enjoyed playing Gears of War and in many respects, Judge Dredd feels like a precursor to that. You play judges, working to complete a series of missions, beginning with mundane ones like a bank heist and breaking up a demonstration, to more serious problems like a gang war and rampaging vampires. Eventually, some lunatic scientist manages to release the Dark Judges from their prison, and you end up having to track them down and capture them, no easy task.

This game works well as a two player game, which is largely why it got so much play time from us. Also, the levels are groovy. It does not have the more linear feel you get from Gears of War or Call of Duty, where you have specific objectives which you move towards. There is an excellent mall level, where a horde of zombies has been released, and the judges need to extract survivors to a waiting H-wagon. You don't know where the survivors are, so you have to search the entire mall, shop by shop, making sure you don't shoot a survivor by mistake.

The Lawgiver pistols, which, like the comics have a range of ammo settings, are faithfully reproduced, including anti-personnel, explosive, heatseeker and ricochet rounds. Nice.

Another great touch is the judge's ability to make an unrelated arrest if he sees a citizen doing something wrong while on a mission. You can end up cuffing a scrawl artist while in pursuit of a vampire. Little touches like these are the icing on the cake.

Strangely, this game did not receive rave reviews from the games press, but it seems to have hit the spot with us.

1 comment:

  1. I had the first Star Wars: Battlefront and enjoyed it a great deal; I thought the engine would be perfect for something set in the Warhammer 40,000 setting, but that's unlikely to happen.

    I have the first Dark Alliance, and enjoyed it as an update of the old Gauntlet games, but was never moved to play the sequel. In fact, I don't think I even bothered to go back and play the unlockable dungeon!

    Dredd sounds pretty good. I wonder how many of the reviewers realised how well it captures the source material?

    I would recommend Final Fantasy XII, which somehow twists the familiar format of the series into something which feels far more of a sandbox. I'm also very fond of Shadow of the Colossus, which is a piece of art, and I mean that in a literal sense. It's fun to play, but it's astonishing to simply experience. There are few games which work as well for a spectator as the player, but this is one of them.

    The Katamari Damacy games are works of genius; the first two are PS2-exclusive, but only the second is available over here, I think.

    (I have most of these games, but my PS2 is American, so none of them will work on yours, alas.)

    I've not played them, but I'm told that Persona 3 and 4 are excellent rpgs, although they're quite dark, so may need to wait until Sebastian's a bit older.