Top 5 Flawed Gems! Or, the best of the meh of last generation.
Games have flaws. Really, everything has flaws when you dissect it enough. But I find the most damning thing to affect the games we play is hype and word of mouth. I say it’s damning because as opposed to playing games that we think we might be interested in, many people, myself included, look only at the games that get big marketing, or get covered by major review sites, or something our friends are hyped about. Conversely, word of mouth and those same review sites warn us about horrible, broken games, and often warn us to stay the hell away. They are useful in protecting us from the horrible games, like say… Aliens: Colonial Marines, but I find that too many games get bunched together with the bad when they are more than passable, or when they have one shining concept that makes them worth looking at regardless. Sure they are flawed, but that doesn’t mean they should be lumped in with Colonial Marines. On that notion, here are 5 games that I think get a bad rap when they really shouldn’t, and perhaps deserve a second look, especially given the age of the games and how little they cost these days.
5. Brutal Legend
Brutal Legend is kind of a cheat on this list. Mostly because it actually was well received critically, averaging scores in the 8’s. So the critics didn’t hurt this one, so what did? I can’t say for sure, but if I had to guess, it was the fact that this game was a RTS. First off, it wasn’t advertised as having RTS game play, EA actively saying to Tim Schafer that RTS is a naughty word in the console space, and it’s not apparent until after the first hour or so of playtime. It’s a dirty bait and switch, considering even the demo of the game makes it look like a standard hack and slash game, God of War style. But, despite that fact, I deeply love this game for two reasons. First, Brutal Legend makes no secret about its inspirations, and while it is silly fantasy, the game still feels as metal as possible! Racing demons, using your axe guitar, meeting ozzy for upgrades and Lemmy for… well, no spoilers, and just… it’s something that can’t be put into words, you have to experience it. The second thing is the awesome metal soundtrack for the game. Let me list some of the bands that lent their songs to this soundtrack: Children of Bodom, Motorhead, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Lita Ford, Scorpions, Black Sabbath, Manowar, and Motley Crue. I could keep going, but I think you get the point. It also benefits from having that classic Schafer writing and humor, and awesome voice work by the likes of Ozzy, Motorhead’s Lemmy, Jack Black and Tim Curry, just for examples. I’m so sad this game didn’t sell better, because a sequel was planned, but EA scrapped it due to low sales. It never broke the top 10 in sales in the month it was released. Even with the RTS game play, I still believe you should play it. It is indeed a epic legend, and it did not deserve its fate.
4. Dragon Age 2
Speaking of EA… this is another game that I find myself defending every time I bring it up, as I seem to be the only person who even remotely enjoys playing it. Much like Brutal Legend before it, the game was well received critically, earning 8’s, but as soon as it was released, the fans chewed it apart in a way that would not be seen again, until Mass Effect 3 came out the next year, proving that even the golden goose can lay a rotten egg or two. But, I find a lot of the criticism against this game to be… well, overblown and unfair. While I can agree that the recycled areas are disappointing, I don’t have the same issue that people have with things like combat, or story. Combat wise I think the game is rather spot on, giving it a Mass Effect edge of being action oriented, which is in no way a bad thing, but it is very different. I find the difference between Origins and 2 is more or less like this, Origins was all about preparation. If you were unprepared in any way, be it an injured character, underpowered gear, or things like that, you were screwed. 2 was more focused around reaction, allowing for bad situations to be salvaged more frequently than in Origins. It also helps keep the player more involved directly in combat, as opposed to feeling like someone watching from outside. Now I’m not saying the original game, or games that play the same (ie. Baldur’s Gate) are bad, just different in how they approach gameplay. I find the story is only disappointing when you compare it to the first game, which defiantly had a sense of urgency that 2 does not have until the last act, but I do feel that Hawke’s overall story was a perfect fit, given that the world built around him/her was well done. Yes, I have nitpicks with the story as well, but those little nitpicks don’t change my opinion on it. 2’s story was all about setting up the third game, like many stories that have to contend with an all but guaranteed sequel to wrap things up in a trilogy. Hopefully Inquisition will find a balance between Origins and 2 to satisfy everyone, and considering the Mass Effect fiasco, Bioware could use a solid gold hit now.
And before you ask, No, Mass Effect 3 is not on this list. A) I find myself agreeing more with the issues with it than DA2. And B) I know more people that enjoyed ME3 than DA2. I have yet to speak to a person who says they even like DA2.
3. Game of Thrones.
Yep, a licensed title, the bane of all video games. Many of these games deserve the bashing they get, but I think GOT is at the very least should be played regardless. It came out to average review scores, and was quickly forgotten. Many modern licensed games get this fate and deserve it, and on the surface so does Game of Thrones. It’s an average looking game, with muddy and unpolished visuals, an interesting but flawed approach to combat, and mediocre voice acting. What sets this one apart though is its story, hands down. Written By George R.R. Martin himself (who of course gets a Stan Lee like cameo), the story does not shove you straight into the events of the TV series, but rather plays very naturally alongside it. People often forget that the world of Westros is massive, and while the decisions and lives of its royalty are probably the most interesting things in it, we often see very little of the world around them. This game helps bridge that gap, in a small way. If nothing else, it is an excellent companion piece to the Game of Thrones TV series, and on its own is a well written RPG. Martin put some real effort into it, and it shows. If there had been more time to polish it up, the sky could have been the limit. But of course, as a licensed game, it had to be shoved out the door as quick as possible.
Reboot of a well known sega classic? For shame! It must be terrible! After all, many remakes are… like… huh, I can’t think of any now, but it’ll come to me I’m sure. The game came out sadly after Halloween in November of 2010, to little fanfare. If only it had been a month earlier. But in any case, Splaterhouse is a reboot of the original game, but damn if it isn’t impressive. It certainly captures the spirit of the original game by being over the top and gory, living up to its name in every way. Rick can lose limbs and beat enemies with them, and the animation of the limb growing back is really well done. Its well voice acted, if not a little campy, and the creature designs are… well, I describe them best as sloppy. Not bad, but they look messy. Given that they are corpses and the like, it’s a good look. Granted, I can also see why this one didn’t catch on at the time. On its surface, it’s a god of war clone, and unless you know the history of the series, it seems to be nothing more than that. It’s also kind of a bare bones experience, with little in the way to bring the player back to it after a rental, with the most interesting side feature is the fact the game comes with the original 3 games as unlockables, and the cheesecake factor of picking up sexy photos of your girlfriend Jennifer. I admit after buying it to add it to my collection, I haven’t really looked at it. Maybe as we creep into Halloween, I’ll play it again. Even with that in mind, I still think Splatterhouse is an excellent God of War style game that knows exactly who its target audience is, and is not afraid to give them exactly what they want. It ain’t classy, but sometimes, this is exactly what we need. Plus listening to Jim Cummings swear is hilarious if you picture any of Disney roles.
Sonic! That was the remake I was thinking of! No more remakes Sega, we don’t need em from sonic.
1. Alpha Protocol
And here we have it, the game I love to defend. Yeah, odds are you’re at least vaguely aware of the polarizing Obsidian RPG. Released in 2010, this Spy thriller/RPG was released to the widest mix of reviews I have ever seen, with some giving it 8, and others giving 2, and almost everything in between. And the home audience felt more or less the same, praising its story and narrative, while harshly berating the games broken launch and horrible combat. This is what I consider to be an underground or “cult” hit, and I am one of the people who can look past the broken combat. I can see what they were trying. Really, they were trying to ape Mass Effect. Cover based shooter, narrative choices, and a varied and unique story depending on the choice you make. This game is basically Mass effect meets The Bourne series. But they have a few unique twists on the Mass Effect concept. Decisions in conversations are no longer “good” or “bad” but each character you talk to does have an affinity with certain responses, and making friends and enemies play a huge factor in the game. But you’re not given an unlimited amount of time to make these decisions, as every conversation has a time limit on your choices, forcing you to think quickly and adapt, kind of like how a real conversation works. The game’s story also changes depending on the order in which you do the missions, making each one actually feel impactful on the overall tale. And the story itself is actually really well done as well. It’s an excellent spy movie, that you get the play! It’s a shame playing it sucks, does it ever suck. Combat is RPG based, but plays like an action game. Targeting cursors mean little, as you can miss even with what looks like a direct hit. If the game had taken a page from Fallout and the VATS systems, it would make for better gameplay. Visually the game is also atrocious, being downright ugly. It’s hard to look at sometimes, and feels lazy, with loads of texture popping and clipping issues abound. The game also has plenty of slowdown issues and freezes too. Despite all that though, I still recommend this one highly, and was one of the few games this generation I played through from start to finish over a weekend, something I find myself doing less and less as I get older. There was just this enrapturing quality to this one, making it worth checking out; especially when you consider the price tag on this one is so low.