Playing Games Like You Watch TV Or: Why It Took Me Over Two Years To Finish Dragon Age: Inquisition

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I’ve spoken about my gaming habits plenty in the past but I’ve noticed another shift in the last year or so. If I have an hour spare now in the evening I’m much more likely to play an online game, not something single player based.

While it sounds contrary to the above, I feel like I want to invest more time in single player game sessions than ever and really lose myself in that world, which conflicts with my gaming schedule – essentially the odd hour here and there in the evening. I’m finding that I don’t want to play something story based for 45 minutes or an hour. Or at least that’s how I feel about open world games, I’m certainly still happy to play an hour long session to complete a chapter of Uncharted or a main mission in Tomb Raider. More linear games still lend themselves to that style of play. I’ve always played those kind of games like TV shows anyway, a chapter or two at a time over the course of weeks rather than days. I’ve never been a gamer who will rush through a 15-20 hour game in a weekend.

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Horizon: Zero Dawn is a good example of this new play style, a game I likely would’ve rushed through before is now a title I’m planning to play over the course of months rather than weeks. Crucially, I also feel like I’m getting more enjoyment out of the game by taking the time to explore and discover smaller content along the way.

I think there is an accompanying parallel change in multiplayer games, which are doing a much better job of getting you to come back and play more often. There has been a positive change in a huge amount of games whereby new content (new levels/maps or characters) is being added free of charge for all players. This is important because, firstly, it means the player base isn’t split (some that paid have the new content but others don’t and they can’t all play together) and secondly it gives people a strong reason to come back to games they might not have ever returned to before this trend. In addition a lot of games are rewarding players for logging in and playing, which keeps people interested for longer.  I also feel like there are a ton of pick up and play online experiences that last 5-10 minutes per game, which align perfectly with the time I have available.

If I only have 30-45 mins spare why waste my time on an open world title and have to turn it off just as I’m getting into the rhythm of the game? I’d rather play a few rounds Overwatch and a game of Rocket League. It’s also occasionally quite nice to play something that has a set beginning, middle and end. I guess it’s similar to watching a really good eight episode TV show knowing it only has one season and tells a complete story within that.

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Big, sprawling open world titles are definitely still attractive to me, Horizon is one of the best games I’ve played in the last 4 or 5 years, but I just need more time to play and invest in them. Dragon Age: Inquisition took me over two years to finish. Why? I suspect the TV season-like structure helped, along with the change in my own gaming habits. What I loved about the structure of Dragon Age in particular was that your main hub in the game was your ‘War Table’, where you and your colleagues/advisors would plan your next tactical move and which mission to take on. On this table you had a selection of smaller missions, including favours for your colleagues that would reveal more about them and strengthen your relationship with them, but also one bigger mission that moved the main story on considerably. So for me, the game became like a TV show in so far as I would spend a few weeks playing side missions, levelling up and getting some character development for my team before doing the big, climatic ‘end of season’ mission and then putting the game down for a month or two.

Another huge title in terms of scale is Fallout 4, which I’m still playing 18 months after I started. Why? Well for similar reasons to Dragon Age but with the added decision from the outset not to follow the direct path for ‘character reasons’. I decided to make my character more selfish than my usual created characters, for example my elf Inquisitor from Dragon Age or Commander Shepherd from Mass Effect. In Fallout, Bella would be a character that was, for the most part, more interested in her own current affairs than any grander goal – which has been great fun and I’d recommend everyone to try playing a character like it at some stage!

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Another issue with mainlining games is burnout, doing the same thing over and over again is certainly not fun and can severely lessen your enjoyment of a game. However, I think there is a huge difference between repetitive gameplay over a longer period of time in hour sized chunks and repetitive gameplay experienced in bigger 3 or 4 hour time slots.  I genuinely believe that the reason I still enjoy long running game series like Assassin’s Creed, where you are essentially doing the same thing in every iteration of the game in a different setting, is because I’ve never really sat down and played them for 4 or 5 hours at a time.

Episodic gaming kind of solves this play style problem, although it doesn’t always necessarily do the best job. Titles like The Walking Dead and Life Is Strange are great games, although each episode usually runs the length of a film which runs into the same problem for me time-wise. Hitman, which is perfectly suited to the episodic format, is another title with lengthy levels (a positive when I have the time to invest) although the inclusion of smaller one off assassinations does mean that is a game you can also dip into here and there.

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Some people are quick to mainline these huge games and I just don’t get it. Why would you want to rush through these big titles? Where Uncharted is like a film, games like Skyrim, Mass Effect or Dragon Age are like having 10 seasons of a TV show in front of you. Finishing these open world games as quickly as possible by doing just main quests would be like having a cut down version of the TV show that just focuses on the main character and no-one else. Sure you’d get to experience the story at the centre of the show but without any focus on other characters. Imagine a Buffy The Vampire Slayer without any development of Willow or Xander? Or an Orphan Black with no focus on Donny or anyone except Sarah? Indeed, imagine a Mass Effect that didn’t bother to flesh out your crew but just double downed on the main story.

I’m as guilty as the next person of binge-watching TV shows but I do feel that for games it is a little different – as I mentioned above my confusion isn’t really based on people playing games quickly, it’s what you might be missing along the way. Even if I binge something like Jessica Jones I am still seeing all the story the creators put in there and want us to see. If you mainline a game you could be missing a wealth of interesting content and potentially things that might be integral to the wider plot of the game.

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Even in this age of on demand binge watching it can be nice to watch a TV show week by week – one of the biggest luxuries of the ‘old’ approach to watching TV or playing games is that you have time to think about and appreciate the content you’re consuming. I’ve found that in games but also in TV. Recently, Legion was a delight to watch week by week and I actually think I needed that time between episodes to process what I’d seen. Sure, there is a rush from getting through something you’re enjoying – it can exhilarating knowing that you are just a click away from another episode or main mission but I’d recommend giving slower paced gaming a shot. It’s definitely a different experience and one, for me personally, that means I’ve gotten more enjoyment out of open world games.

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GregHorrorShow’s Guide To Gaming – Part 4: The Parent Edition

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So your kids are getting bigger, becoming small people with personalities and tastes of their own 🙂 All of a sudden they are asking about games… all their friends are playing games… can we get a console… can I play on the iPad… and so on and so forth. There is a hell of a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding out there with regards to games so we are going to discuss some of the stigmas around games and bust a few myths while we are at it.

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PEGI RATINGS

Guide Vol 4 Parents Ratings

So first things first, the most basic of all the information I have to share but also the most commonly misinterpreted. Most games aren’t made for children. That’s the best thing to get your head around. The average age of gamers is now 31. Unless it’s a game aimed at children, presume this was intended for adults to play. PEGI (Pan European Game Information) are the game equivalent of the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) for films. The age rating on the box of a game is the same as it would be for Film or TV. It is NOT a guide to the ability of your child like a puzzle or board game. These ratings are content based, not skill based. I once overheard a lady in a shop who had made this mistake and was considering buying her 10 year old son a copy of an 18+ rated game because ‘he is really good at games.’ Thankfully the shop assistant explained. So always check these ratings before allowing your child to play a game. Of course there is nothing to stop you allowing your child to play a higher rated game if you feel they are mature enough to handle it, that’s your call – my 4 year old daughter often played Skylanders with her bigger sister which was rated as 7+ and we had no issues. However, it should be a decision you make rather than just getting whatever game they ask for.

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PLAY TIME

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Gaming is no different to any other medium; a child should not be sitting down and playing their console all day. To be honest, adults shouldn’t be doing that but they are old enough to look after themselves! I wouldn’t recommend a child sits and watches TV all day, or just sits in a room reading a book all day. I’d also strongly advise against having a console in their bedroom so you can keep an eye on what they are playing but again that’s a personal parental decision. Most things in moderation are ok and gaming is no different. Make sure you explain to them what time you’re allowing (45 mins or an hour etc.) and then stick to it. You should allow a little leeway; say 5 minutes to get to a suitable stopping point. Most games now auto-save very regularly so don’t let them fob you off with tales of having to get to a save point. If they insist try googling the game to see if doesn’t have auto-save, just in case.

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IPAD / TABLET GAMING

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My area of expertise is console gaming and I don’t have a lot of experience with iPad/Tablet games so my main advice is to be super vigilant. On consoles you would need to have a credit card linked to your PlayStation or XBox to buy anything. On phones it’s a lot easier for kids to accidentally rack up costs (often without realising it). Sadly the mobile gaming space is full of titles made with the aim of getting you to pay money. Beware of Free To Play titles, they are specifically designed to prey on people susceptible to gambling/addiction by making the game ramp up in difficulty or locking things behind a timer – “Wait two days to play again or just pay 79p to jump straight back in.” These games can be very dangerous to the wrong personalities (adults included) and can often be as bad as fruit machines. Best thing to do would be to check around online and see which games are rated highly for kids. Having said that even that can’t protect you from the stream of ads running alongside the game… a well-known kids app called Talking Tom (with a cute speaking cat you interact with) hit the headlines for running hard-core porn video ads in the game while children were playing. This thing is mainly avoidable on consoles as most products don’t have random ads running in the background.

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CONSOLES

So you’ve been beaten into submission and now you’re looking to get a console! But which one? Well fortunately you only really have three choices and two of them are very similar.

Nintendo Wii-U

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Nintendo are often kid’s first game experiences as they are very family friendly. Games like Mario Kart, Donkey Kong and Legend Of Zelda have great heritage and with new titles like Splatoon, they are still delivering solid kids content. The only issue you may have here is that a lot of other companies have stopped making games for it so it is mainly just those Nintendo games you’ll be playing.

XBox / Playstation

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For younger kids you might be able to get away with giving them the older consoles (XBox 360 and PlayStation 3) which both have a wealth of back catalogue games and, while not quite up to the standard of the latest titles, will be great for playing lots of awesome games. However as they get older and need to keep up with the Jones’s, you’ll be looking more at the XBox One or PlayStation 4. These two are fairly similar and it will probably come down to what your kids friends are playing on. I’ve always preferred PlayStation, which also has the benefit of being market leader and getting the best versions of most games. Also there’s LittleBigPlanet, but more on that later!

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TOYS TO LIFE

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There is a new kid on the block in terms of games for youngsters – Toys To Life. This genre encompasses heavyweights like Skylanders, Disney Infinity and the newly announced Lego Dimensions. These games are played like others with a gamepad but the difference is that they come with a little portal. You pop the toys on top of the portal and then they appear in game for you to control. It’s pretty awesome actually, I would’ve loved this for my He-Man or Ghostbusters back in the day! My (gentle) warning on these games is not the content – they are definitely kid friendly – but more the fact of knowing what you are investing in. These games are full price (usually with a toy or two) and then further toy figures are around £10 each. Some (optional) areas of the game can only be accessed by specific characters and as you can imagine the cost can escalate quickly, especially if your kids have more than one of these titles!

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SUITABLE GAMES

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There are hundreds, if not thousands, of games out there that your kids could play. Make sure you research titles before allowing them to play. Here are a few titles that I’d recommend.

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Under 5’s

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  • Joe Danger
  • Super Rub A Dub
  • Katamari
  • Skylanders
  • Disney Infinity
  • Octodad (this is actually really difficult but the kids love the comedy element)

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These games should always be simple and not too complicated so the child doesn’t get too frustrated – I’d strongly recommend Joe Danger (video above) and Katamari from this list as they can be played on a basic level with just one or two buttons. And both are great fun!

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5-12 Years

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  • Skylanders
  • Disney Infinity
  • Minecraft (more on that below)
  • FIFA Soccer
  • LittleBigPlanet
  • Various Lego Titles (Batman/Avengers etc.)
  • DriveClub
  • Child Of Light
  • Tearaway

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There are some wonderful games in this list – LittleBigPlanet is shown above but Tearaway is also amazing and for something a little deeper Child Of Light is unbelievably good. These are games that both children and adults can enjoy (together if you’d like!)

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The ‘Teens’ .

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  • Destiny
  • Uncharted
  • Need For Speed
  • Mass Effect
  • Journey

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So included here are a bunch of game series that are higher rated age-wise and deal with violence but with a more sci-fi slant that isn’t going for realism. Another series in this vein is Uncharted, which is more like Indiana Jones than anything else. Also worth noting that Mass Effect contains (non-explicit) sexual content as you can romance a member of your crew, just in case that influences your decision.

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BIG NAMES

Guide Vol 4 Parents Minecraft

And now we come to the big names, the ones the kids will be begging to play.

PLEASE NOTE SOME OF THE VIDEOS BELOW CONTAIN EXTREMELY VIOLENT GRAPHIC CONTENT – I AM EMBEDDING THEM BELOW TO HIGHLIGHT POTENTIAL GAME CONTENT BUT CLICK AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION. .

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Minecraft

Minecraft is great for most children, it encourages building and exploration. Some of the enemies might be too much for very young children but I’d say this one is generally ok for most age groups.

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Call Of Duty

Call Of Duty is a huge franchise in which you play as a soldier killing other people. There are two elements to the game, single player and online. The online multiplayer is where they will likely be playing, in modes where killing the other players is the name of the game (literally, it’s called Deathmatch!). This tends to not be too graphic, although bear in mind you will be shooting and stabbing people. The other issue is online chat, although I’ll go more into that below. The other side of the game is the campaign in which you would play through the story. Known for its shocking violence these can sometimes be tough to watch as an adult – for example an interrogation scene in which you put glass into a man’s mouth and then crush it by punching him in the face. It’s probably most infamous for its ‘No Russian’ that sees you take part in a terrorist attack at an airport, shooting civilians. Footage below so you can see for yourself…

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Assassin’s Creed

The Assassin’s Creed games all take place in different eras of history (1400’s Italy, 1700’s Paris and 1800’s London for example). This means they can give a feel for those places at that time and you can visit recreated landmarks and go inside (Notre Dame was particularly impressive!). However, as the name suggests you will be tasked with killing targets as part of an overall Templar/Assassin storyline. Usually using blades, although guns do feature, this is probably the least graphic of the biggest games but still I wouldn’t really recommend for kids younger than 15, depending on the child of course.

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Mortal Kombat

And now I’m afraid I’m going to be really hypocritical. Let me explain. The original Mortal Kombat came out in 1993, when I was just 13. And we played it for hours at friend’s houses. While not quite as graphically impressive as games nowadays it still allowed you to perform brutal finishing moves on opponents and was, no doubt, not suitable for a 13 year old. Having said that it didn’t seem to do me any harm but I digress… The latest installment of Mortal Kombat is the tenth in the series and the games have leaned even more into the gross-out over the top finishing moves than ever before. As an adult I can differentiate between this type of ‘video-nasty’ horror/violence and real life, knowing that these moves are displayed tongue in cheek. However parents should be aware that although this verges on satire, they are still extremely, graphically, violent. Again, here’s a video showing a few of the moves in the latest game.

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Grand Theft Auto

Ah Grand Theft Auto – the bane of game headlines around the world! First let’s bust a few myths.

‘This game makes you sleep with a prostitute and then kill her to get your money back’

While this is possible in the game it is never requested as part of a mission nor are you asked to do so. The logistics of that statement are correct but this is player agency, you aren’t asked to do this.

‘Playing this game turned this kid into a killer.’

From all of the research I’ve read there has never been a proven link between games and real life killing. I strongly suspect playing GTA all day every day is going to do the player no favours, in the same way sitting and watching video nasties would potentially warp someone’s perception of the real world.

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The Grand Theft Auto games are violent, involve crime and come with a lot of baggage in terms of cultural experience. This means a whole lot of swearing (including the c-word) and possibly the most racial slurs/slang I’ve ever heard in a game. The most recent game also includes a torture scene in which you select which ‘instrument’ (pliers, wrench etc.) to use for most damage. Here’s the scene below, again it’s a tough watch but you should know what you’re letting your children get involved in.

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The irony of all this is that Grand Theft Auto is a superb game. It has furthered the media in so many ways. For all of the above negative points it is unrivaled in creating a lifelike vibrant city with an endless stream of things to do for the player. You can go to the cinema, play golf… even get a haircut or tattoo. The radio stations in the game allow players to discover new types of music and bands they may never have heard before. This game, all of the games in this section are great games. I’ve enjoyed playing them but as an adult. Not a child.

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ONLINE GAMING

Guide Vol 4 Parents Headset

Another thing parents should be aware of is online gaming in general. Gamers are able to communicate with game headsets so that they can talk to other players while in game. This can be a good thing, socially especially, and is a helpful feature when playing with friends. However you need to bear in mind that if your child is using a headset to talk to other gamers they could, literally, be talking to anyone. They could (and sadly probably will) hear abusive phrases thrown around casually. Racist slurs, homophobic slurs. It’s the same as being on the internet – if you let your child visit whatever sites are available and talk to people they don’t know there is a chance they could end up talking with some quite unsavoury characters. This isn’t a reason to panic but try to ensure they understand the dangers and, if possible, only use a headset to talk to people they know.

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So that’s pretty much it, I know it’s a *long* piece but I’ve been asked by enough people that it felt something like this could be helpful to fellow parents who aren’t as aware of games.

If you do have any other questions feel free to drop them in the comments or, of course, e-mail or tweet me. In the meantime feel free to share among fellow parents and anyone who might appreciate a heads up.

The main takeaway should be that games are not made exclusively for children but that they aren’t inherently bad for kids either. Be aware of what they are playing and monitor their progress.

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Top 100 Single Player PS3 Games: Part 10 (The Top 10)

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Well I can’t believe we finally made it – after such a great selection of titles comes the ultimate 10 games to round out the Top 100.

Before we go any further I must mention a few titles that I have played since compiling this list that would take a spot in the Top 100 so I will list those below and add to this as and when new, great titles emerge:

  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • DmC (Devil May Cry)
  • Splinter Cell: Blacklist

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)

Part Nine (20-11)

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

And now here’s the Top 10!

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10. Mass Effect 2

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

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 the Fallout games play out differently for each person, 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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9. Bioshock Infinite

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Moving the action from Rapture’s underwater city up into the skies above, Infinite is set in Columbia – a floating city that has broken away from the US to become the master of it’s own destiny. This all takes place in 1912 – decades before the events of the original Bioshock.

You play as Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton agent, who has found himself saddled with financial problems due to his love of gambling. To clear his debt he is tasked with one simple mission. Get to Columbia and bring back a girl called Elizabeth.

Bioshock Infinite is such a well designed game and you can tell a whole lot of care went into the crafting of the world. The opening is fantastic and gives you a little bit of time to explore and take part in the optional tutorial exercises if you want to.

The story here is one of the best this generation and is handled with a soft touch, which makes a refreshing change from being beaten over the head with simple plot points like some other titles do. The last half an hour of Bioshock Infinite is some ride and as the credits rolled I was busy trying to work everything out. Great stuff.

Bioshock Infinite is one of those games that I wanted to start again as soon as I’d finished it. I definitely want to jump back in soon so I can experience it all again and, hopefully, fill in any gaps in the story by grabbing all those audio logs and whatever else I can find.

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8. Telltale’s The Walking Dead: The Game

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In The Walking Dead you play as Lee Everett, a university professor on his way to prison for murder. After your car crashes, you meet an 8 year old girl, Clementine, who is alone because her parents are out of town and her babysitter… well I won’t say any more 🙂 . Lee takes her under his wing and they try to get somewhere safe and work out what the hell is going on.

The Walking Dead is a point and click adventure game, which means while you’ll have some freedom of movement you’re limited to small areas and different objects to interact with. Mainly you’ll be talking to the other characters and learning about the group of people you’ve ended up banded together with. And this is where the game shines.

I can’t praise this game enough. It’s a different style of game to what I would usually play and through the excellent characters and writing Telltale have delivered an emotionally charged and superbly crafted story that will likely leave you with a lot more emotional baggage than when you started. Play it. Now.

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7. Journey

I’m not going to discuss any story elements or really any gameplay elements here for fear of spoiling the game for anyone. What I will say is that Journey plays wonderfully and is very easy to control. It’s taxing at times in terms of challenge but this is a game that has been made to be played through to the end.

The game actually did a great job of conveying emotion and, in fact, of making me feel something for the characters and world.

I will leave it at this: Journey is one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had. Ever. Everyone should give this a shot, it may just change the way you look at games.

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6. Fallout 3

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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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5. Heavy Rain

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

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. The Last Of Us

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Released only a few months ago, The Last Of Us tells the story of Joel and Ellie as they traverse a parasite-infected United States. 20 years ago a fungal infection spread to humans, causing the death of around 60% of mankind.

The people left are doing whatever they can to survive and Joel is tasked with getting Ellie outside the quarantine zone and to a resistance group.

Tense encounters and a lack of ammo make gameplay feel physically draining and added to that is some of the best writing and acting on the PS3.

I truly feel all of the characters are so well fleshed out that it’s hard not to be impressed. The Last Of Us is one of the best games I’ve ever played.

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2. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

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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

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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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So there you have it – the end of the road in terms of the Top 100!

What would be your best game of the PS3 generation?

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Mass Effect 3 – Review (PS3)

Mass Effect 2 was one of my favourite games from this generation, giving the chance to shape the destiny of whatever version of Commander Shepard that you created. So I was really excited to see how Bioware were going to close out the trilogy.

The game takes place after the conclusion of events in the Mass Effect 2 DLC expansion ‘Arrival‘ and now that the Reaper threat is real and imminent Shepard finds herself reinstated and back on active duty.

Your decisions from the previous game carry over and any casualties your crew sustained are also mirrored here. For Mass Effect 3 you’ll be tasked with banding together a, mainly, fresh crew. There are a couple of exceptions but on the whole all of the characters from your crew in Mass Effect 2 that you bump into have no interest in re-joining you on board the Normandy.

So it’s a similar set up to before as you go about the galaxy recruiting your new crew and trying to do your best to prepare for the upcoming fight against the Reapers.

This third instalment felt a little bit more lightweight in terms of play time and clocked in at around 30 hours, whereas Mass Effect 2 was closer to 40 hours. However having said that there is more DLC upcoming that adds to the campaign and in the last game there was no multiplayer component.

Speaking of multiplayer, it’s safe to say that Bioware have delivered what we all hoped it would be – of no consequence to the single player (other than adding to your ‘Readiness’ rating – one of numerous ways to increase it) and a fun blast of online action.

It’s the same sort of horde mode seen frequently elsewhere but it’s well executed and gives players to chance to control the non-human species in the Mass Effect universe (Quarians ftw 🙂 ).

Going back to the single player campaign and it would be remiss of me not to at least mention the ‘ending’ debacle that plagued the game. My spoiler free take on it is one of pure frustration. Even with the new DLC ending added on I didn’t get the resolution I was looking for.

I didn’t have any issue with the ending itself, which was what most people were arguing about – it was the lack of clarity… If characters are dead in the ending of my playthrough show them dead! It was fine in Mass Effect 2 so why not here? Anyway it doesn’t really affect the game too much – I just found it really annoying after investing so much time in the series.

Overall I found Mass Effect 3 less enthralling than the previous game – it’s certainly a very good game but I just didn’t like the crew members as much in this instalment. The ending soured the game slightly for me just because it feels like all the other endings at least offered some sort of closure. The multiplayer is a great addition and I would definitely recommend trying it and if you played Mass Effect 2 you’ll enjoy seeing out the story and watching you Shepard do her stuff.

Rating: 9/10

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GregHorrorShow Game Awards 2011

Well I’ve been saying this every Christmas for the past few years but I honestly don’t think there has ever been a better time to be a gamer.

Once again we’ve been spoilt with a wealth of fantastic titles both in terms of first party content and third party.

As well as the big triple A exclusives, the level and standard of DLC and downloadable games has risen – giving gamers even more reason to keep playing older games, or to take a punt on a new downloadable title.

So without further ado – let’s kick things off!

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BEST GAME INNOVATION

WINNER: L.A. Noire – ‘Facial Capture’

I have to say it was pretty tough to pick between these as in their own way they could help move the industry forward. FIFA’s real time physics, while occasionally leading to comedy ‘bundles’, does add another dimension of realism to the game. Fight Night Champion gave us a great, enjoyable story mode *in a sports game*! ‘Operations’ Mode from Killzone 3 brings a touch of co-op style story to main multiplayer (shame there was only a few of them available) but looking back the innovation that stands out as something truly special was Team Bondi’s superb work at facial capture in L.A Noire. Just think, one day maybe faces in all games will look this good.

RUNNERS UP:

‘Operations’ Mode (Killzone 3)

‘Champion Mode’ (Fight Night Champion)

‘Real Physics Engine’ (FIFA 12)

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BEST DLC (CONTENT)

WINNER: Killzone 3 – From The Ashes Map Pack

While the L.A Noire and Mass Effect 2 DLC gave us more content I felt that the job Guerrilla Games did on revisiting the Killzone 2 maps for the third game was outstanding. The maps were recognisable but for the most part completely different – whether it was the crumbling Radec Academy or the overgrown Blood Gracht. Great stuff.

RUNNERS UP:

Mass Effect 2 – Arrival DLC

L.A Noire – Extra Cases

Battlefield 3: Back To Karkand

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BEST DOWNLOADABLE GAME

WINNER: Infamous: Festival Of Blood

Sucker Punch delivered an inspired slice of downloadable goodness with Infamous: Festival Of Blood – a completely stand alone game that requires no knowledge of the Infamous games or indeed no copy of Infamous 2 to play. Infamous’ hero/anti-hero Cole McGrath has been turned into a vampire by Bloody Mary and has until sunrise to save himself. While the main story is pretty short there is enough here to keep you well entertained, especially at the price. Sadly Payday: The Heist was a bit of a disappointment, which may have had more to do with a badly timed delay that meant it’s release slipped even closer to Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3. However if you get the chance definitely check out Stacking, which is a wonderfully charming puzzle game.

RUNNERS UP:

Back To The Future – The Game: Part 1

Payday: The Heist

Stacking

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MOST ANTICIPATED GAME OF 2012

WINNER: Mass Effect 3

This was between Mass Effect 3 and Bioshock Infinite – it was a very close call. While I love the Bioshock games the attachment that formed for my own Shepherd in Mass Effect 2 means that I can’t wait to see her get back into action. Hopefully she’ll be able to avenge those from our team that didn’t make it 😦 as the Reaper’s turn their attention to Earth.

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BEST GAME TRAILER

WINNER: Dead Island

There couldn’t really be a different winner could there? 😆 This trailer came out of nowhere and had one of the biggest, and quickest, en masse responses I’ve ever seen. It’s cleverly made and pulls at the heart strings, while also boasting an amazing piano piece to accompany it. Sadly it didn’t *really* represent the game because from what I’ve seen (I’m yet to pick it up) there isn’t much of an emotional aspect to Dead Island. Nevertheless, one of the best trailers for a while.

RUNNERS UP:

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

GTA V

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BEST PSP GAME

WINNER: The 3rd Birthday

There hasn’t been a wealth of new games for the PSP (the fact that one of the nominees was a Mini title says it all) but there was one title in particular that stood out. While The 3rd Birthday is heavily Japanese influenced (crazy story/really hard etc) it’s not too inaccessible and the gunplay itself is very nicely handled. Despite all this I do have say I’m looking forward to the arrival of the dual analogue sticks on the PS Vita!

RUNNERS UP:

Speedball 2 (Mini)

PES 2011

Football Manager 2012

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BEST SPORTS GAME

WINNER: FIFA 12

FIFA takes the title again and this year justifies it more than ever. With a revamped physics engine that means collisions take place in real-time (as opposed to triggering standard animations) and a bold overhaul of the tackling mechanic, EA have taken football games to the next level. Dirt 3 ran this close as it’s a superb game and PES 2012 deserves a mention as it’s a big improvement on last year’s title but FIFA wins this one.

RUNNERS UP:

PES 2012

Dirt 3

Fight Night Champion

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BEST GRAPHICS

WINNER: Battlefield 3

While you’d think (looking at Battlefield’s gorgeous single player and (to a lesser extent) multiplayer) that this would be an easy decision, take a peek at the Runners Up in this category. Killzone 3, Dead Space 2 and Uncharted 3 have some of the best graphics I’ve seen. And that’s not to mention countless others (Batman: Arkham City/Portal 2/L.A. Noire/Resistance 3 and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations to name… well, quite a few actually) that looked great but didn’t make the nominations. However when all is said and done Battlefield 3 impressed me the most. At one stage I found myself ignoring my objective to watch the rain fall on the neon bathed rooftop I was standing on – simply awe inspiring.

RUNNERS UP:

Killzone 3

Dead Space 2

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

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BEST STORYLINE

WINNER: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Whereas Uncharted 2: Among Thieves focused mainly on Drake’s relationship with Elena and Chloe, the third instalment in the series shines the spotlight on his bond with Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan. That’s a plus for me as Sully is probably my favourite character in the game’s universe. In amongst this Drake is, once more, jet setting around the world trying to beat a villianous opponent to the (archeological) punch. With a story packed full of great characters Uncharted 3 continues the high standard of story telling set by the previous titles and I found myself with goosebumps at it’s conclusion.

RUNNERS UP:

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Killzone 3

Infamous 2

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BEST SOUNDTRACK (SCORE)

WINNER: Killzone 3 – Joris De Man

Joris De Man once again works his magic following the superb Killzone 2 score. Where the second game had the grand scale that accompanied the ISA’s invasion of Helghast, this score – with it’s lamenting strings and intense highs & lows – gives you a feel for the game’s theme of retreat/surrender. Revisiting a couple of pieces from the last game with a different twist is a great touch and really adds to the depth of the music. Special mention to both Uncharted 3 (Greg Edmonson) and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Jeremy Soule) which were both also amazing scores.

RUNNERS UP:

SOCOM 4

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

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BEST SOUNDTRACK (LICENSED)

WINNER: L.A Noire

While FIFA 12 delivered it’s usual mix of current flavour tracks, Dirt 3 hit some high points with a few great choices and LittleBigPlanet 2 was close to taking this award with it’s whimsical selection, it was Team Bondi’s ill fated (for them unfortunately, they no longer exist – despite the game being a roaring success) Noir project that snags the award. Featuring the awesome talents of legends like Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong and Peggy Lee you were never short of great music to accompany you as you travelled around L.A in the shoes of Cole Phelps.

RUNNERS UP:

Dirt3

LittleBigPlanet 2

FIFA 12

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BEST VOICE ACTING

WINNER: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

There just isn’t another series out there like Uncharted when it comes to voice acting. The guys and girls at Naughty Dog do a fantasic job of bringing the best out of the actors involved and as the series has gone on the actors have become more and more comfortable ad libbing and bouncing ideas off of each other. It shows in some of the wonderful moments the characters share. Everyone involved deserves a pat on the back for another job well done – hopefully going forward more and more games will try and bring more characters to life rather than just getting someone to come in a booth and read lines alone.

RUNNERS UP:

Portal 2

Killzone 3

Batman: Arkham City

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SINGLE PLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

WINNER: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Mass Effect 2 was nailed on to win this right up until the moment I fired up The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, created a character and set off into the massive world Bethesda have made for you to shape your own story. I don’t think I have ever played a game that feels so organic before. Everything you do feels like a part of the story, indeed there is scope here for you to barely touch the main missions and just create a story of your own to play through. If you’re someone that enjoys single player games and is happy to get lost within a game for hours upon end, this was the title for you in 2011. I also have to give a nod to Resistance 3, which had – in my opinion – the best story of the entire series and seems to have be sadly overlooked by the public at large.

RUNNERS UP:

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Resistance 3

Mass Effect 2

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MULTIPLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

WINNER: Battlefield 3

As much as I’ve loved the online for Uncharted 3 and Killzone 3 the sheer unpredictability of Battlefield 3 sees it secure the award for best multiplayer. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations deserves praise for managing to refine enough from last year to make a positive difference to the gameplay. However, nothing can touch Battlefield 3 at it’s best. When in a squad with friends… rushing the objective under a hail of debris from multiple explosions… as a fighter jet ploughs into the ground alongside you, the resulting ‘bang’ knocking the sound from the game as bullets come from all directions… as you creep up on an unsuspecting opponent and knife him to steal his dog tags… shooting enemies through walls that would be impervious to bullets on other shooters… the list is endless. It’s been a great year for multiplayer games on the PS3 what with Killzone 3, Uncharted 3, Resistance 3, SOCOM 4 and, for some less serious fun, LittleBigPlanet 2.

RUNNERS UP:

Killzone 3

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

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GAME OF THE YEAR

WINNER: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

As an overall gaming experience I don’t feel Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception can be touched this year. Despite being runner up for both the single player and mulitplayer awards, the combination of the two sides of Uncharted 3 give it the edge. While Skyrim is outstanding as a single player experience I don’t feel it can compare with the variety of gameplay that Uncharted 3 can provide. Sadly for Battlefield 3 it’s campiagn was a let down and in fact it was Killzone 3 that came closest to Uncharted 3 in my opinion. Guerrilla Games third instalment in the futuristic first person shooter, had a great story and an impressive multiplayer. Uncharted 3’s  stellar campaign that, while similar to second game, provided plenty of new exposition and a few new gameplay surprises alongside a vastly improved and much deeper multiplayer offering means that for me that this is the complete gaming package for 2011.

RUNNERS UP:

Killzone 3

Battlefield 3

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

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So there we go – it’s been a challenge to get through enough of the big titles that arrived in October/November to form an opinion but the job was done in the end.

It’s crazy to think of the games that missed out on nominations – Rage, Bulletstorm, Crysis 2, Mortal Kombat, Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Dragon Age II to name a few. In another year games like Dead Space 2, Batman: Arkham City, Portal 2, Resistance 3 and Infamous 2 would probably have walked away with awards and it’s a testament to the high standard of games this year that they have gone home empty handed.

What are your thoughts? Would be great to hear what your picks for the year were!

Thanks for reading through the year and contributing in the comment sections – it’s always appreciated. See you in 2012! 🙂

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Mass Effect 2: Arrival – Review (PS3 DLC)

One of the contenders for Game Of The Year, Mass Effect 2, brings some DLC that bridges the gap between 2 and upcoming sequel Mass Effect 3.

Providing you didn’t inadvertently kill off your Commander Shepherd during Mass Effect 2 😆 you continue on as the same character.

A missing secret agent on the edge of the galaxy sees Admiral Hackett call you in for a covert operation. Get them back and find out what you can about the threat of an imminent Reaper invasion.

Firstly let me get my crushing disappointment out of the way. During Arrival you go solo for the entire mission. I was expecting to have my squadmates with me as per the rest of the main game. Perhaps indulge in some conversations about the events that concluded Mass Effect 2 but sadly this wasn’t to be.

After getting over that it was pretty much business as usual. If you liked Mass Effect 2 then Arrival is more of the same – the point here is advancing the story as opposed to improving the gameplay.

Arrival certainly does that – sitting at around the 5 hour mark it’s a great bite sized chunk to carry you over/prepare you for Mass Effect 3.

There isn’t much that differs from the main game but this is well worth it at the price on offer. I would’ve loved to have had squadmates with me as I felt without them the game lost a little bit of it’s tactical nuance but it’s a DLC pack I’d recommend if you have any interest in the Mass Effect universe.

Rating: 7/10

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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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