You’re Playing It Wrong Or: How Ratonhnhaké:ton Helped Me Enjoy Games Again

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As things have developed for me over the last year or so, both professionally and personally, I have found myself having a little less gaming time than before. For one, as I creep into my mid 30’s, I just don’t have the energy to game until 1am or 2am like I used to. Add to that mix having children (no daytime gaming at weekends), the fact that I’ve been watching more TV & reading more books and it’s easy to see why. So am I in danger of giving up on my favourite hobby?

Nope, far from it, in fact. While my time has been cut down a bit, I’m actually enjoying games more than I have for a long time. A decision I made last year about this blog was that I wouldn’t rush through games just for the sake of getting a review up quickly. I’ll review games as and when I finish them, which eases the unconscious pressure a review deadline can bring. What has happened is that over the last few years my gaming style has changed from mainlining most games (just sticking to the main plotline) to fully delving into the wonderful worlds created by game devs. And in the last 6 months the scales have finally tipped fully in favour of exploration.

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Let’s rewind a little bit though as I can tell you when and where this all started, in the American Northeast back in 1754 – 1783. Or more precisely November 2012 while playing Assassin’s Creed III. There’s no nice way to say it but despite a few clever touches Assassin’s Creed III is the worst entry in the series of games. It starts strong but quickly loses its way after an interesting plot twist. The main character Connor, or Ratonhnhaké:ton to give him his real full name, was a whiny, uninteresting protagonist and midway through the game it became a slog that I simply wasn’t enjoying. But instead of either ploughing through until the end or giving up and playing something else, I took a road very much less travelled (at least by me)… I started doing side quests. Even hunting missions, stalking animals and taking them out. Next time I played the game I spent 45 mins doing side stuff, played a main mission and did a few more side bits before logging off. And suddenly over the next few weeks I found myself really enjoying the game! Sure the main story missions were still fairly terrible but by breaking things up with side quests they were a lot more palatable.

Don’t get me wrong, in some of the bigger/more interesting game worlds (Fallout, Bioshock, Red Dead Redemption, The Last Of Us, GTA and the like) I have often explored the environment but those games were few and far between and while playing titles like Assassin’s Creed, Hitman, L.A. Noire or Mafia II I would usually just play the story missions and do one or two side missions. And some games don’t require you to do anything but the main story, titles like Uncharted or Killzone, which is great and I love those games also.

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It’s just that even with less time to play I find that I’m drifting in between story and side quests in a lot of titles. I’m currently breaking my own ‘only-have-two-singleplayer-games-on-the-go-at-once‘ rule spectacularly by taking on Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor, Alien: Isolation, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Far Cry 4. None of these are small games but whereas before I would’ve burned through something like Shadow Of Mordor, I now soak up the world and enjoy simply being in it and travelling through it. It also helps in that specific case to have the nemesis system which helps keep the world feeling ‘alive’ and constantly changing. Far Cry 4 is another good example in that I’m more than happy to do a few side quests on the way to main mission sometimes. And I think a huge amount of credit has to go to developers for finding that balance between sparse pointless side quests and overloading the player with map icons in a lot of recent titles.

There are of course exceptions, I really enjoyed Infamous: Second Son but the world felt so… quiet. With side quests that were minimal and not that interesting, it left the game feeling empty a lot of the time. From the little I’ve played of Assassin’s Creed: Unity it seems to have the opposite problem. You can barely see the map for a flood of different icons (see below) and the kicker with that seems to be that when you try to do some of the side missions they are actually locked in the game until you sign up for some Ubisoft service or companion app. But that is a conversation for another time.

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I think it’s interesting that my gaming habits have gone in completely the opposite direction to how I would’ve expected. As my time playing decreased I would’ve thought I would be avoiding side quests just to get through and finish titles. Don’t get me wrong, even my reduced game time is probably still more than a lot of people that play games so I will still be completing a lot of games, I guess it’s kind of the best of both worlds? Perhaps stepping out of the review ‘arms race’ has given me a new perspective? Regardless, the simple fact is I’m playing less but enjoying it more – I believe quality over quantity is the correct term and its great.

Have any of you noticed any changes in your gaming habits over time – have you followed the same pattern as me? Or even gone the other way? I look forward to hearing in the comments below.

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Top 100 Single Player PS3 Games: Part 9 (20-11)

Top100 20-11

Well it’s Top 20 time – not long to go now until we finally hit the top spot.

If you’ve missed the previous installments, catch up here!

Part One (100-91)

Part Two (90-81)

Part Three (80-71)

Part Four (70-61)

Part Five (60-51)

Part Six (50-41)

Part Seven (40-31)

Part Eight (30-21)

Please bear in mind this list doesn’t take into account multiplayer aspects of games, it’s based solely on single player experience.

Strap yourself in – here we go…

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20. Dead Space 2

Continuing the story of Isaac Clarke, Dead Space 2 picks up three years after the first game was set, with Clarke now finding himself as a citizen on the Sprawl – a huge space station development on one of Saturn’s moons.

Sadly for Clarke he has no knowledge of the last three years and discovers a situation has arisen that only someone with his expertise can deal with.

Visceral continue their great job of creeping you out by NOT throwing stuff at you. I would’ve liked to have seen slightly more of the insanity that featured in NPC’s during the original game but on the whole the Sprawl is definitely somewhere you wouldn’t want to find yourself and this is a game well worth playing through.

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19. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

It has to be said that a lot of people were wondering whether Naughty Dog would be able to improve on the superb ‘Among Thieves,’ a game that walked away with awards for ‘Best Voice Acting,’ ‘Best Graphics,’ ‘Single Player Game Of The Year’ and the biggie – ‘Game Of The Year’ in my end of year round up for 2009.

Where both ‘Drake’s Fortune’ and ‘Among Thieves’ concentrated more on the relationship between Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher, this installment focuses on Nathan and Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan. As a big fan of Sully that’s a plus in my book.

The plot is great and throws up a few curveballs but nothing like the backstabbing double-crossing of the last game. ‘Drake’s Deception’ is the story of Nate and Sully and it was great to find out more about their relationship.

The gameplay itself isn’t anything new, a mixture of climbing, shooting and solving puzzles but after the success of ‘Among Thieves’ refining, rather than changing, was probably the best route Naughty Dog could’ve taken.

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18. Infamous

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So good it’s the only game this generation I’ve played through twice (seeing it’s rating bumped from 8/10 to 9/10), Infamous is a great game.

You control Cole McGrath, a courier who just happens to be carrying a package containing an electronic bomb when it goes off, devasting the city. Somehow Cole survives and, after coming out of a coma, realises the explosion has given him electrical superpowers.

From there on out the city is your oyster and there is plenty to do as you try to track down the people behind the explosion.

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17. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

Brotherhood continues the Assassin’s Creed story with Ezio Auditore in 1499 and Desmond Miles in 2012, picking up exactly where the second game left off.

The changes Ubisoft have made to the game feel subtle but really they have honed this title so much it really doesn’t do much wrong.

There are lots more side mission types and your map will be chock full of things to do if you fancy a change of pace away from the main missions. This is a monster of a game that will keep you entertained for ages.

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16. L.A Noire

L.A Noire takes place in 1940′s L.A, with you taking on the role of Cole Phelps – recently returned from the war and starting out as a cop on the beat.

While a lot of people felt that this would be a 1940′s GTA (much like Red Dead Redemption was a Western version of GTA in many people’s eyes) Team Bondi have crafted a much more linear experience than expected.

The game this most reminds me of is Heavy Rain, stunning captures of the actors and an interesting, if flawed, story. Unfortunately it doesn’t feature the numerous different endings that Heavy Rain does so you don’t ever feel the story is in your hands.

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15. GTA IV

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One the biggest selling games of this generation GTA IV features the fortunes (and lack therof) of Niko Bellic – an immigrant arriving in the US at Liberty City to find empty promises and broken dreams from his cousin Roman.

As you work your way up the criminal ladder you’ll encounter all sort of dodgy characters and befriend even more.

Liberty City is a wonderful, if run down, place and Niko Bellic’s story is one you will enjoy playing through so make sure you pick this game up as soon as possible.

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14. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I’m not sure if I’ll *ever* finish playing Skyrim. Not because the game is bad – quite the opposite – but because, well… to be honest… I’ve never played anything like it.

The content itself isn’t unique. It’s a first person, middle earth type, Elves and Orcs affair in which you pick from a selection of races and build your character to take into the World.

What Bethesda have done an amazing job on is making Skyrim feel like a blank canvas for your character. It’s this aspect of the game that is like nothing else I’ve ever played. You could have a thrilling, intense gaming experience for tens of, possibly hundreds of, hours without even doing much in the way of the ‘main storyline.’

If you’re looking for a game to sink hours and hours into then Skyrim is perfect for you. The sense that you can go anywhere and do anything is unlike anything else out there. This isn’t a game to play for a quick blast but if you can invest the time you won’t regret it.

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13. Metal Gear Solid 4

Metal Gear Solid 4

Hideo Kojima’s tale of Solid Snake’s final mission is a brilliant showcase of the Playstation 3′s power.

This is a game that often gives you three or four different ways of approaching things – whether you realise it or not.

Metal Gear Solid 4 rewards those patient enough to stick with it by giving them a great gaming experience, with some memorable boss battles, that they won’t forget.

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12. Killzone 2

Killzone 2′s biggest achievement is, possibly because of the brilliant graphics, sound and AI, that you feel involved and become embedded in the Killzone universal whenever you pick up the pad.

It’s not perfect by any means but at the time it was easily the best first person shooter I’d played and I recommend anyone with a remote interest in this genre to check this out immediately!

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11. Bioshock

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Bioshock has a great story to tell and it does it well with some interesting objectives and brilliantly designed levels.

There are several twists and turns in the plot, most of which are not obvious and it’s no surprise to me that a film version is in the works (although I believe currently suspended due to budget concerns).

Dark worlds like Rapture aren’t to everyone’s tastes but you really would be missing out on an awesome story if you decided not to book a trip to the underwater city.

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So, it’s time for the top 10 – any guesses on what’ll be in there? Any games we’ve already had that would’ve made your own top 10?

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Most Wanted 2012

Following on from a fairly muted E3, that only held a few unknown announcements, I thought it’d be worth updated the games I’m keeping an eye on.

The list is pretty large so I’ll start with the ones I’m most excited for:

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1) WATCH DOGS – Release Date TBC

This one blew me away at E3 and was easily the most impressive thing I saw. Just watch the video and this one will explain for itself. Hopefully it’ll look that good and deliver that immersive an experience when the game arrives.

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2) BORDERLANDS 2 – September 2012

The first Borderlands was a great game, which delivered so much more than was expected of it. (Seriously it’s cheap now so check it out!) The sequel looks set to live up to and maybe even exceed what came before – guns galore and exquisite cell shaded graphics combine for a brilliant experience. And it’s 4 player co-op! 🙂

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3) BEYOND – TBC

Heavy Rain was one of my favourite games this generation, so anything new from developer Quantic Dream is always welcome. After showing us a tech demo called ‘Kara‘ earlier this year, Quantic blew the lid off Beyond at E3 – revealing the casting of Ellen Page and showing off the above trailer. Definitely one to watch.

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4) GRAND THEFT AUTO V – TBC

It’s a new Grand Theft Auto – what more do I need to say? 😆 Looks amazing and you can always count on Rockstar to deliver something special. Expect the hype train to begin very shortly.

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5) BIOSHOCK INFINITE – February 2013

This made the last list I did and has now, unfortunately, been pushed back to 2013 so here it is again. The prequel to the original Bioshock title sees you out of the water and up in the sky – check out the footage above to refresh your memory.

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6) THE LAST OF US – 2013

The Last Of Us is the next game from developer Naughty Dog, whose Uncharted franchise has gone from strength to strength. Telling the story of Joel and Ellie, two survivors of global pandemic that have teamed up, this looks like it could be something totally different. A game with a change of pace is always nice and this one looks gritty to boot.

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7) RETRO CITY RAMPAGE (VITA) – Imminent!

Oh yes! 🙂 Can you feel the force of a new title based around all your old favourite 8 Bit titles? There are even nods to newer games thrown in. This looks so good and a perfect fit to the Vita’s pick up and play type gaming. Believe it or not this is the work of ONE MAN! Brian Provinciano take a bow… and then get straight back to work on finishing the game 😆

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8) HITMAN ABSOLUTION – November 2012

I still can’t believe we haven’t had any sort of Hitman title on the PS3 so far! This looks like it could be fantastic. IO have been shaky in the last few years with the Kane and Lynch franchise but hopefully this will be a return to form.

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9) KILLZONE (VITA) – TBC

I love the Killzone universe and having seen the initial potential of a FPS on the Vita with Resistance Burning Skies, I’m hopeful we’ll get a great handheld version of the franchise. We’ve barely seen anything (see above) but I still can’t wait for this. And this time we play as the Helghast… right Studio Cambridge? RIGHT? 😉

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10) ASSASSIN’S CREED III – October 2012

Ezio Auditore has finally taken a bow and Assassin’s Creed heads to a new time period in the third fully fledged game in the series. This time you’re slap bang in the middle of the War of Independence between the US and England. This looks absolutely stunning and the change in main character/setting adds to the excitement.

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11) DISHONORED – October 2012

Steampunk is on the agenda for Dishonored – set in an alternative universe in which steam powered machinery is the norm, the game sees you fighting to clear your name by taking on (and killing) various powerful political figures. It’s all in the first person and the time manipulation mechanic (among others) looks really interesting.

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12) DEAD SPACE 3 – February 2013

I’m still a touch concerned that co-op play may ruin the atmosphere that the Dead Space series has crafted but I’m willing to give it a chance based on how good the last two games were. This time Isaac is tackling the frozen planet Tau Volantis, I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do with some more open environments.

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13) SPLINTER CELL: BLACKLIST – 2013

The last few Splinter Cell games have skipped the PS3 so it’s nice to see Sam Fisher returning to our screens. 3rd Echelon have been disbanded by order of the President. Never fear though, Sam’s set up 4th Echelon in secret 😆 so the adventures can continue. Looks really cool and will be interested to see more on this one.

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14) RESIDENT EVIL 6 – OCTOBER 2012

A lot of people didn’t but I actually enjoyed Resident Evil 5. Sure it wasn’t the best game in the series but it was still decent enough to play through and I liked the different setting. 6 goes back to Resi’s roots a bit and features several stories that cross over. This could be a dark horse for Game Of The Year if they get it right.

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15) ASSASSIN’S CREED: LIBERATION (VITA) – October 2012

Yes it’s *another* Assassin’s Creed game but but there are some differences here – firstly a female lead character (and a realistic, non sexualised one at that 😯 ), secondly a new time period to mess around in and finally the game looks like it’s taking full advantage of the Vita’s power to provide an open world experience on the go. Great stuff.

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So those are my ‘most’ Most Wanted 🙂 But there are still a whole host of other games on the horizon that are worth checking out – here are some more that it’s worth looking out for this year and next:

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16) METAL GEAR RISING: REVENGANCE – 2013

Dropping the ‘Solid’ from it’s title and shifting developers to Platinum Games (who made the totally insane and great Bayonetta) might be the smartest move this title made. Raiden is the star here as you control a CYBORG NINJA with a SAMURAI SWORD. That is all.

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17) SLEEPING DOGS – August 2012

Rescued from the dumpster of Activision, Sleeping Dogs is in fact True Crime Hong Kong – except with a new title and more development time. Influenced by Hong Kong cinema, this looks like a lot of fun.

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18) RAINBOW SIX: PATRIOTS – 2013

For goodness sake Ubisoft give me my Rainbow Six! It’s been 4 years! The two Vegas games were great and I expect this to be just as good – don’t let me down!

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19) TOMB RAIDER – 2013

Finally XBox 360 owners will get to play Uncharted… Oh sorry I meant, look it’s a new Tomb Raider game! 😉 Eidos are giving Lara Croft a reboot ‘Dark Knight’ style and this looks like it could be really good. And it’s some climbing, treasure based action to tide us over until Uncharted 4.

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20) NEED FOR SPEED: MOST WANTED (VITA) – November 2012

The Vita really needs a top draw driving game in my opinion. As it appears there are no plans for a Gran Turismo on the handheld the mantle falls to Criterion (of Burnout fame) who will be bringing Need For Speed to Vita alongside it’s PS3 brother. Should be great.

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21) FAR CRY 3 – September 2012

Unfortunately Far Cry 2 was one of those games that I started but ended up getting lost in a deluge of other great titles. The third instalment certainly looks great, hopefully the gameplay will be smooth as well.

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22) ALIENS: COLONIAL MARINES – 2013

Another game that’s been pushed back to next year is Gearbox’s love letter to the film ‘Aliens’. This one could go either way I feel, I’m hoping it veers towards the action based set pieces of the film and does the universe justice.

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23) DUST 514 – TBC

Dust 514 is a free to play FPS that will hit the PSN later this year. It ties in with a PC title called Eve Online – some missions in Dust will be given by people playing the PC game. Interesting idea, will be keeping an eye on how this one does.

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24) CALL OF DUTY BLACK OPS: DECLASSIFIED (VITA) – November 2012

Rumour has it this will be the missions that were made for Black Ops but that didn’t make it into the final game. Sounds cool to me – I enjoyed Black Ops but please Treyach, no poorly implemented exploding barrel sequences this time ok?

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25) PREY 2 – 2013

I don’t know much about the first Prey as I never played it but the trailer for the second game (which you can see here) looks pretty sweet. I’m looking forward to hearing more about this one in the upcoming months.

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So there you go – 25 games to keep on your radar. Anything I’ve missed? What games are you guys most excited about?

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GREAT GAME OPENINGS (VOLUME 1)

A strong opening can define your experience with a medium, whether that is a film, a book or indeed a game.

What follows here are some of the best openings in games I have experienced. That could be an opening cinematic or even the beginning of the game that you play through.

This is volume 1 as, quite frankly, I could’ve had a ton more in here but will do a follow up blog at some stage in the future with more additions.

These are as spoiler free as possible athough obviously bear in mind some sequels may recap the events of the first game!

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Dead Space

One of my favourite ever openings. A great start to a great game. Just watch it 🙂

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Bioshock

This is one of those openings that stuns you completely. The game paces it perfectly, taking minutes where others would take seconds, and provides you with the rich setting of the world you’re about to inhabit for many hours to come.

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L.A Noire

L.A Noire spent so long in development that we wondered whether the game would ever actually make it out of the door and onto shelves. Eventually we got our hands on Team Bondi’s great work and while it certainly had some issues, I don’t think anyone can deny it’s a game that all gamers should at least try. The opening sets the scene and helps to create that feeling of a time gone by.

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Borderlands

Borderlands was one of the more surprising games in the year it came out – having played it a bit at Eurogamer the previous year I wasn’t blown away but the game turned out to be great when you were getting inolved right from the start. This intro sums the game up perfectly – big, brash and fun.

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Prototype

*WARNING CONTAINS SCENES OF FAIRLY EXTREME VIOLENCE*

This doubled up as a trailer as well as an intro video for the game – looks amazing and gives you a good idea of the carnage you can cause in the game itself.

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Killzone 2

Ah Killzone 2. I must’ve watched this a hundred times. Graphically one of the best looking intros on this list, the tone is set early with Visari’s speech and the great music enhances the overall experience. One of my personal favourites.

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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Drake’s adventures continued in Among Thieves, with the game blowing away most of the competition when it was released. This should give you an indication of why – we hadn’t quite seen anything like it.

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Battlefield: Bad Company

The first time we were introduced to Bad Company and immediately we fitted right in – “the new guy’s dead?” 😆

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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City remains my favourite of all the GTA games. The 80’s setting and a memorable (if not *entirely* original) story were high water marks in gaming style. This opening gets you in the mood to take a trip back to the 80’s.

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Resident Evil 2

This is one of those openings that doesn’t quite look as good as you remember when you see it now but the punch it packed remains the same, especially as at the time we were expecting a more sinister, slow paced game.

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Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty

As Snake walked across the bridge, I remember thinking that rain couldn’t look more realistic. As he got himself onto the boat it was the character animation that stood out for me. Metal Gear Solid 2 remains a fantastic game and if you were interested in playing it a Metal Gear collection of games on one disc that features this title is coming in February 2012.

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Red Dead Redemption

As a way of setting the tone this is top notch from Rockstar – managing to cram in some thoughts/beliefs of the time all the way along the train journey John Marsden finds himself on him.

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Medal Of Honor: Frontline

As an opening to a game this cut and paste of Saving Private Ryan, while not original, caused gamers to sit up and take notice. A truly immersive experience at the time.

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Homefront

*WARNING CONTAINS SCENES OF VIOLENCE*

While the game failed to live up to the hype this opening remains a slightly unsettling watch. If only the game could’ve carried this feeling through it might have been something special.

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So there we have it – hopefully if you haven’t played some of those games the clips above may give you enough of a taste to give them a try. (Though maybe skip Homefront 😆 )

As I said at the start of this, I’ll be doing a follow up piece with more great openings at some stage so feel free to suggest your favourites (spoiler free please :smile:) and I may add them in.

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Most Wanted 2011/12

While we currently sit in the traditional summer games void, it won’t be long until things start ramping up.

So I thought it was time to take a look at what titles are coming along in the near future and what games have caught my eye.

Kicking things off in just over 3 weeks (August 26th) is Deus Ex: Human Revolution…

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DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION

The original Deus Ex was a great game and while I missed the other titles in the series it finally arrives on next gen consoles in the form of Human Revolution – a prequel to the first game. You take on the role of Adam Jensen and will be using a mix of stealth and more direct measures to take the fight to Sarif Industries… your former employers. With augmentation upgrades aplenty and lots of scope for choosing how to approach situations this is definitely one to watch.

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UNCHARTED 3: DRAKE’S DECEPTION

While we had a (most enjoyable) bit of time with the multiplayer beta, the single player of Uncharted has always been it’s selling point. This entry in the series is no different. If you haven’t already, check out the trailer above for an idea of what Drake will be facing this time around as he sets off on another adventure with Sully in tow. With a hugely improved multiplayer and proven track record of single player excellence, Uncharted 3 is a must buy for every PS3 owner this November.

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RAGE

Rage has been on the radar for a while now and this post apocalyptic slice of fiction is shaping up quite nicely. It’s a first person shooter with some third person driving thrown in for good measure. It’s running a new game engine called id Tech 5 which allows it to shine graphically. It’ll be interesting to see if this one can live up to the hype – at the moment the gaming community seems to be evenly split between optimism and pessimism.

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HITMAN ABSOLUTION

It seems like an age ago that we last stepped into the shoes of Agent 47 and carried out some well prepared sneaky assassinations/got caught and shot the place up ( delete as appropriate 😆 ). Last time out was on the PS2 and so the balding hitman is preparing to make his PS3 bow. From the trailer above it seems Agent 47 is more deadly than ever.

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GHOST RECON: FUTURE SOLDIER

Future Soldier caught a lot of flak at E3 after what was deemed a lacklustre demo and the game has been pushed back once again. For me personally I liked the look of it. It didn’t blow me away but it reminded me of SOCOM, a solid game I thoroughly enjoyed – so this is one I’ll be keeping an eye on.

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BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY

Arkham Asylum was such a great game that any follow up would have to bear close scrutiny but it appears, based on the opinions of people that have seen it in action, that Arkham City has pulled it off. Moving the action to a bigger, city setting and giving the player a lot more freedom means that this could be a massive step forward for the series. Rocksteady have also added a cast of villains this time, as well as Catwoman and the rumoured Robin as allies to Batman.

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TWISTED METAL

NB. This footage is filmed off of a TV so obviously the game itself will look a lot cleaner in reality.

Twisted Metal is one of those franchises that people either love or hate. I’m in the love camp, having spent hours playing the original on PSOne back in the day. This game looks pretty dark and the sinister vibe gives it a nice edge but this is all about the driving. Some of the arenas look huge and if the online take up is decent Twisted Metal could be absolutely awesome.

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RESISTANCE 3

Another of Sony’s flagship brands, Resistance 3 may not have the graphical prowess of a Killzone or Uncharted but it makes up for it where it counts… gameplay. The insane but well designed weaponry lends itself perfectly to an alternative time line, in which an alien invasion has seen Earth overrun by a species called the Chimera. If you haven’t played the first two games they are currently available as a double pack – well worth investing in to catch up on the story.

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MASS EFFECT 3

Mass Effect 2 was a stellar title and has to be among the front runners for Game Of The Year. Telling the story of Commander Shepard, the game had an overall story arc but you were in control of the character’s main actions and decisions. Decisions which could skew the game in a number of ways. Mass Effect 3 looks to continue this space set drama and with the invasion of Earth as the back drop, it looks like it could be one not to miss.

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BIOSHOCK INFINITE

After creating the original Bioshock, Ken Levine and his team set to work on the prequel – handing duties on Bioshock 2 to a group of the 2k studios (who did a decent job in my opinion). Bioshock Infinite is that game. With the other Bioshock games set underwater in the city of Rapture, Infinite takes to the skies and the flying city of Columbia. You play as Booker DeWitt, an agent sent to rescue Elizabeth – a mysterious girl with special powers who is being held against her will. This won so many awards at E3 I suspect Irrational Games may need a new office building just to house them all.

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BATTLEFIELD 3

Not sure what more needs to said about Battlefield 3. It looks stunning on PS3, it has a single player campaign and the multiplayer boasts a heap of improvements over Bad Company 2. Widely regarded as the game that could break Call Of Duty’s annual dominance (it won’t – but I suspect it’ll put a healthy dent into it), Battlefield 3 is shaping up to be the best first person shooter on the market.

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OVERSTRIKE

Overstrike comes from the makers of the Resistance series (see above) and looks like a whole heap of fun. Hopefully they can transfer the fun weapons from Resistance into this world and it seems co-op will play a big part as well. Overstrike looks to have a good sense of humour and it’ll be nice to have a game lighter in tone to get stuck into.

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PAYDAY: THE HEIST

This is a PSN download title that has really impressed me. Sure it looks a little rough around the edges in places but a co-op game where you have the opportunity to do a bit of planning for the heist beforehand? Hell yeah! Little touches like being able to tell hostages to get down or tying them up to restrain them seems cool so hopefully Payday: The Heist won’t disappoint.

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UNCHARTED: GOLDEN ABYSS (PS VITA)

I can’t wait for the Vita to arrive (although it seems I’ll have to, as the confirmation arrived today that 2012 will be the release date for Europe) and I think the above video speaks for itself. Check out those graphics! Thankfully the touch based stuff can be avoided by just using the control stick and X so we aren’t being railroaded into all that. The game is a prequel to the original Uncharted game and I am very interested to fill in some back story on all the characters and universe.

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ASSASSIN’S CREED: REVELATIONS

A lot of people are beginning to suffer Assassin’s Creed burnout, what with Revelations being the third game in three years. I’m looking forward to seeing Ezio’s trilogy come to a close and finding out how that leaves the franchise. It’s certainly time for a different assassin but one last swan song is the least Ezio deserves. It looks like Ubisoft are tightening up the multiplayer as well, so Revelations could end up being a very attractive package indeed.

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ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM

I’m not big into my fantasy games, although I enjoyed Dragon Age: Origins, but Skyrim is a game that makes you sit up and take notice. A vast world to explore and rumours of hundreds of hours of gameplay have many RPG fans drooling already. It’s not a day one purchase for me but it’s definitely a game I’m looking forward to trying out.

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DUST 514

I haven’t heard of EVE Online – the PC game that this title ties into – but the trailer above caught my eye and I think this could be a decent little shooter. Early days as the above is all we have to go on but this is one I’ll be watching keenly. Hopefully we’ll have some more info soon.

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STARHAWK

Unfortunately Warhawk completely passed me by as I wasn’t online when it came out and none of my friends owned it, so it sank into the abyss. Which is a shame as by all accounts it’s a great game. Starhawk is the follow up and promises more multiplayer mayhem (as well as a single player campaign, which is a first for the series). They have added in some elements of tower defense. I’m intrigued to see how this ends up playing.

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ALIENS: COLONIAL MARINES

Ah Colonial Marines. Promised so many times and *finally* it appears you may be on the horizon. Gearbox is a great games studio with a good rep, which means this could be the stand out Aliens title we have all been waiting for. As you’d expect you’re a bunch of marines investigating a potential problem which turns out to be alien based. The pressure is on and I’m hopeful Gearbox can deliver.

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So there we go – have I missed anything else that you guys are looking forward to?

Let me know!

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Top 50 Single Player Games: Part Five (The Top 10)

So we’re finally here – the Top 10 single player games. The cream of the crop.

If you’re just tuning in here are the previous entries:

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PART ONE (50-41)

PART TWO (40-31)

PART THREE (30-21)

PART FOUR (20-11)

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Which brings us to the final part of the list. The last two times I did these single player lists the Uncharted games had a strangle hold on the top two positions… has anything come along that could dislodge them?

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10. BIOSHOCK (8)

Bioshock has a great story to tell and it does it well with some interesting objectives and brilliantly designed levels.

There are several twists and turns in the plot, most of which are not obvious and it’s no surprise to me that a film version is in the works (although I believe currently suspended due to budget concerns).

Dark worlds like Rapture aren’t to everyone’s tastes but you really would be missing out on an awesome story if you decided not to book a trip to the underwater city.

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9. GRAND THEFT AUTO IV (7)

One the biggest selling games of this generation GTA IV features the fortunes (and lack therof) of Niko Bellic – an immigrant arriving in the US at Liberty City to find empty promises and broken dreams from his cousin Roman.

As you work your way up the criminal ladder you’ll encounter all sort of dodgy characters and befriend even more.

Liberty City is a wonderful, if run down, place and Niko Bellic’s story is one you will enjoy playing through so make sure you pick this game up as soon as possible.

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8. MASS EFFECT 2 (NE)

Mass Effect had always been the one XBox 360 franchise that I’d wanted to play – Gears Of War? Alan Wake? Halo? All good games I’m sure but not tempting to me. Mass Effect? Yes please :smile:

I won’t discuss the story at all as I don’t want to spoil anything for people that haven’t played it yet. Needless to say it’s your standard save the universe fair and with the game set in space that’s literally the universe you’ll be saving!

I can safely say Mass Effect 2 is one of the deepest games I’ve played. In much the same way as Fallout 3 plays out different for each person that plays it, this is a game where your overall story will be the same but the variables between start and end are numerous. It says something that I had minimum frustration and didn’t really get bored at all with a game that clocks in at over 32 hours.

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7. FALLOUT 3 (6)

After a tough few hours at the start you will find yourself rewarded greatly for sticking with this awesome FPS / RPG.

The story line sprawls across the world depending on your actions and you’ll find yourself taking a break from main missions to explore the wasteland or help out other characters.

I could go on and on about various things that happened and how cool it was, how great the story was or whatever.

But Fallout 3 is a game that needs to be experienced first hand and your story will no doubt play out differently to mine.

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6. METAL GEAR SOLID 4 (5)

Hideo Kojima’s tale of Solid Snake’s final mission is a brilliant showcase of the Playstation 3′s power.

This is a game that often gives you three or four different ways of approaching things – whether you realise it or not.

Metal Gear Solid 4 rewards those patient enough to stick with it by giving them a great gaming experience, with some memorable boss battles, that they won’t forget.

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5. HEAVY RAIN (4)

Heavy Rain is the spiritual successor to Fahrenheit, a fantastic PS2 title, and it’s creators have used the lessons from that game to help form the experience that is Heavy Rain.

And I say experience because Heavy Rain is unlike anything I’ve played before.

Telling the story of the Origami Killer, who kidnaps young boys and drowns them in rain water, Heavy Rain sees you controlling four main characters and through their actions – whether everyday stuff like carrying in the shopping or a frantic fight for their life – you get a real feel for the characters.

It says a lot that as soon as I finished this game I wanted to play through it again straight away. I want to give the characters a slightly different personality, experiment to see what happens and find out how it changes the story.

Heavy Rain is by no means perfect but it brings a whole raft of new ideas and innovation to the table.

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4. DEAD SPACE (3)

Coming on somewhere between Event Horizon and Aliens, Dead Space is a third person survival horror game.

You take on the role of Isaac Clarke, a ship engineer who finds himself trapped onboard a stricken spaceship infested with an alien outbreak which is threatening to take over the ship.

This was one of the best games I played in the year it was released and it’s use of sound is immense. The fear of the unexpected they create is awesome.

I am not a big fan of horror movies or being made to jump all the time but Dead Space kept on the right side of all that by being unpredictable enough to be enjoyable as a ‘horror’ experience.

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3. UNCHARTED: DRAKE’S FORTUNE (2)

Uncharted maps the journey of Nathan Drake as he tries to find the lost treasure of El Dorado encountering, among other things, rival treasure hunters and mercenaries.

The graphics are unbelievable and the gameplay is well paced and well thought out. The characters and story and really well conceived and Nolan North, who voices Drake, is absolutely spot on with his irreverent humour and wisecracks.

At its heart Uncharted is an action adventure game much in the vein of Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider but, and I say this as a fan of both of these, it is better than either of them.

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2.  UNCHARTED: AMONG THIEVES (1)

Uncharted 2 is a complete gaming package. There is plenty of taking out bad guys, lots of puzzles and some wonderful dialogue.

Naughty Dog really have done a great job on the voice acting and the expressiveness of the character models. It is easily the best I’ve come across (though Heavenly Sword was a close second).

I won’t spoil the story but for those who don’t know, Nathan Drake gets pulled back into that murky world of treasure hunting for hire. I loved the story of this game – with a few twists I saw coming and a few I didn’t.

If you own a PS3 there is no reason not to own this game – if you only have an XBox 360 or Wii then get yourself a PS3 Slim and enjoy one of the most finely crafted games I’ve ever experienced.

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1. RED DEAD REDEMPTION (NE)

Red Dead Redemption tells the story of former gang member John Marston and how he is forced onto a quest to track down his old ‘buddies’ on behalf of the US government.

I don’t recall a sandbox game with such a fascinating and well realised world. The way the world around you continues regardless is reminiscent of GTA games but everything here just makes you feel a part of something larger.

The positives are numerous, for one the story, voice acting and characterisation in Red Dead Redemption is fantastic. This is up there with the Uncharted series for me and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment.

There is so much to do in the world that it is crazy. There are a whole host of side missions to undertake and mini games as well. I’m not a big player of cards but I found myself spending 40/50 minutes at a time playing poker or blackjack. Or horseshoes. Or arm wrestling. The list is huge.

It has been a while since a game had me smiling, eyes wide and with goosebumps on my arms at what was unfolding in front of me but Red Dead Redemption managed it. This for me is the best game I have ever played – not an accolade that I use lightly but one that is fully deserved.

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Well, it was always going to take something special to knock Nathan Drake and co. off of the top spot and cowboy John Martson takes home the plaudits this time around.

There have been some great games released even since I started compiling this list, with plenty more to come later in the year and beyond. Perhaps one of those will edge it’s way to the top next time.

Let me know if any of your favourites were missing from the list. Do you agree on Red Dead usurping Uncharted? Was there anything you were surprised made the Top 10? (or even Top 50!)

As always thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment.

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Top 50 Single Player Games: Part Two (40-31)

So here we go with Part Two of my Top 50 Single Player Games, appreciate the comments on the first part (which can be found here) so keep ’em coming. As I said before I’m mainly focusing on good story based experiences, so things like Gran Turismo 5 won’t be appearing on the list.

Let’s get started:

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40. BIOSHOCK 2 (NE)

Bioshock 2 brings you back 8 years after the events of the first game (1968) to take control of a Big Daddy who has no memory of the last decade and wants to find the Little Sister he was originally paired with.

A sequel to such a unique title was always going to be tricky to pull off. However 2k Marin have done well to recreate the atmosphere of the original game while keeping it different enough that you can tell time has passed.

At the end of the day this is definitely a title that revels in the world created for it by the previous game. You don’t have to have played the original to enjoy this game but you’ll probably get more of it if you have.

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39. BULLETSTORM (NE)

Telling the story of Grayson Hunt, a space pirate in the 26th century, who crash lands his crew’s ship on an alien planet following a (failed) drunk attempt at revenge on a huge spaceship. As you try to battle your way off the planet all hell breaks loose, with various factions taking each other on as well as fighting with you.

The game mechanics work well and some of the ways you can dispatch foes have to be seen to be believed.

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38. BORDERLANDS (24)

Borderlands has a distinctive cartoon, tongue in cheek style that is perfectly suited for the game and while the story isn’t particularly amazing, the colourful characters will have you chuckling along.

Borderlands is all about the loot. The game creates random weapons as you go along so it’s unlikely two people will ever get the same set of weapons throughout a playthrough, which is pretty cool.

It’s one of the longer games I’ve played recently – clocking in more towards 20 hours for a first playthrough – but it’s definitely a universe that should be experienced.

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37. MORTAL KOMBAT (NE)

After a fair few lacklustre versions, culminating in the widely derided Mortal Kombat Vs DC, Nether Realms Studios decided to go back to basics for this, the ninth Mortal Kombat game.

For the first time in a long time the storyline of a fighting game ties together nicely. Rather than choosing a fighter and playing through their story, in Mortal Kombat you play as various characters (usually for 3 or 4 fights each) as the story progresses.

This is a great idea. Firstly because it means the overall story is the focus as opposed to one character, and secondly becuase it forces you to use characters you may never have chosen and therefore before a better all round player. Recommended, even for people with only a passing interest in fighting games.

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36. VANQUISH (NE)

From the makers of Bayonetta, Vanquish tells the story of Sam Gideon, a member of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), who is tasked with rescuing a scientist that was working on the O’Neill Cylinder Space Station when it was hijacked by Russia. Russia are holding the USA to ransom, destroying San Francisco and targeting New York next unless the Americans comply with their wishes – total surrender.

Got all that? Right now forget all about it and SHOOT THOSE ROBOTS! 😆

Vanquish is certainly an experience I’d recommend and for a few sessions of a couple of hours each it is a blast to play. It doesn’t quite have the same depth as Bayonetta with regard to the characters but it can hold it’s head high in terms of a single player experience.

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35. RED FACTION: GUERRILLA (23)

Red Faction: Guerrilla is a bit of an underrated gem. It’s your basic David vs Goliath battle with the Red Faction resistance (you guys) taking on the evil Earth Defence Force who have taken advantage of their position in power on Mars.

But the main part of the game is the destruction. Buildings fall realistically and weakening them structurally can often mean a delayed collapse.

I heartily recommend Red Faction. It’s not massively difficult but it has a good solid story and is insanely fun. You can pick this up for about £15 pre-owned in most places and it will be money well spent.

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34. RESISTANCE 2 (22)

After saving England in the previous installment Hale is back in business to rescue the U S of A – since his incapacitation the Chimera have launched a full attack on America and Hale, as part of the Sentinal squad (made up of soldiers injected with the Chimera virus but kept under control), have to step in and stop them in their tracks.

A hard hitting but fun first person shooter.

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33. MAFIA II (NE)

Mafia II tells the story of Vito Scaletta, a returning war veteran who comes home to find life has changed while he’s been away and soon fins himself mixed up in the world of the Mafia.

This game is an interesting beast, as during a lot of the promo leading up to its release we were led to believe it would be open world (ala GTA) at least in some parts. In reality this is a very linear experience and that has led to some negative feedback.

Personally while that discovery came as a disappointment if you can look beyond it then you will find a strong, solid single player experience with a well crafted and immersive story.

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32. JUST CAUSE 2 (NE)

Just Cause 2 is like the evolution of Mercenaries 2 – it excels in many ways and also has the added bonus of the carnage you can create with Rico’s grappling hook, which can hook enemies as well as grappling to walls etc.

With a story featuring rebels and dictators, Just Cause 2 doesn’t tread any new ground in terms of narrative but you probably won’t care as a mountain of explosions gather behind you. As well as the main story missions you’ll need to complete lots of side missions to create as much Chaos as possible.

As an example of how crazy this game is one of the side missions involved me stealing a fighter jet 😎 and then using it to shoot down a recently launched SPACE SHUTTLE 😯

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31. MIRROR’S EDGE (21)

Mirror’s Edge wowed everyone with it’s crisp, clean graphics and it’s unique first person perspective. The view takes a while to get used to and it had a few really annoying parts where it was difficult to time jumps etc because of the view but Mirror’s Edge is certainly worth playing through as it offers a style of gameplay that is totally unique in the current games market.

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So there we go, another part down and we’re hitting the Top 30 next!

As always thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment on the games so far and whether you’d have placed any of them higher/lower.

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