Staff Favorites 2009The Escapist Staff's Five Faves of 2009: RussStaff Favorites 2009 - RSS 2.0
4. Modern Warfare 2
What I like most about Modern Warfare 2 is that it makes no apologies for being exactly what it is: a dumb, loud, action movie of a game.
I've heard this game called pretentious in some circles, and I have to admit I have a hard time understanding that critique. At its core, the Modern Warfare formula is a wire-taught shooter built on the premise that war is a confusing, sensory-overloaded mess. You will carry weapons you may have never heard of, they will perform more or less in similar ways to their real-world counterparts, and you will probably not even notice because being immersed in this game's battlefields is enough to induce real-world PTSD.
And yet, as if unrelenting realism wasn't enough of a goal, the team at Infinity Ward decided that what their realistic shooter needed was moments unadulterated action movie insanity, like, for example, staring out the back of a helicopter at a nuclear explosion and being chased by the blast wave.
Modern Warfare 2 amps up both aspects of this formula to 11. In MW2 you will carry even more exotic weapons, be immersed in even more stress-inducing battlefields and be treated to even more outlandish action movie thrills. In one level alone you will climb a wintry slope using ice axes, infiltrate an enemy base under cover of a snow storm, shoot your way back out of said base and then escape in a super-charged snowmobile, leaping a giant chasm to safety.
If there's anything pretentious about MW2, it's you, for taking it too seriously.
3. Brutal Legend
I promised myself that I would write the entire review of Brutal Legend without once referring to the game Psychonauts. And I kept that promise, thank you. This was important to me because too often we judge a book by its author's previous book, and not on its own merits and in so doing, we short change both.
In case you don't know (and it's entirely likely you don't) both games were created by the evil genius named Tim Schafer, who has been making games since probably before you've been playing them. To the crowd who knows him, he's known for witty humor, dark, funny and touching writing and characters who, although strange, are easily identifiable. If you've played Brutal Legend, this may sound familiar.
The game stars a heavy metal roadie who's been magically transported into a land populated by demons and rock. His weapons are an axe and a guitar. He makes magic by playing solos and drives a souped-up roadster across an open world of heavy metal album cover-inspired art with mythological undertones. It is insanely fun.
And yes, it is a lot like Psychonauts.
In many ways this game shouldn't matter. It's Wolfenstein. Wolfenstein has been done and done to death. Besides, zombies and nazis has been done better. In essence, Wolfenstein is a run-of-the-mill shooter from a company known for making run-of-the-mill shooters. And yet, that company is known for a reason: Their run-of-the-mill is most people's "just out of reach."
I wasn't expecting much when I fired up Wolfenstein, but it grabbed me in minutes. From start to finish, it did nothing but satisfy. Sure, the setting has been done, and time manipulation isn't exactly a new idea, but sometimes the old and tired feels comfortable and familiar, like a well-worn pair of shoes.
Think of Wolfenstein as your fuzzy slippers, updated for a new year.
1. Dragon Age: Origins
The problem with using the phrase "long-awaited" is that it's usually followed with the word "disappointing". Expectations can be a bitch, especially in the game space since gamers, who are generally imaginative people, are fully capable of imagining - and therefore expecting - a game that would be practically impossible to realize if given enough time in which to do so. This is why many a "long-awaited" game releases to dismal reviews and enough cynicism to launch a thousand websites.
Dragon Age: Origins, happily, bucks that trend. Perhaps because the developers at BioWare have better imaginations than yours. Perhaps because fantasy RPG is hard to screw up. Perhaps because it's just a decidedly good game. Whatever the case, Dragon Age: Origins stares your expectations straight in the eye and says, "Bring it."
Come back tomorrow for Susan's five faves of 2009. In case you missed any of our Fave Fives, check out the full list.