In terms of games, 2005 was quite a telling year, in terms of illustrating the types of game I play most:
Let’s see…that would be four cartoonish “kids” games, one silly extreme sports title, and a story-based first person shooter. Picking a favourite is easy–Ratchet: Gladiator.
In its latest incarnation, R&C has finally become what is has been been evolving into since the first game: the perfect three-dimensional translation of an old school shoot-em-up. You’ve got your power-ups, your health packs, ever-increasing firepower, complex enemy attack patterns, and tough boss battles. The “levels” are linked by a story that is every bit as fun as the three previous games, but the platforming element is gone, and what is left is distilled essence of manic combat. The amount of explosive graphic detail the game engine renders without any slowdown whatsoever is mind-blowing. The controls are perfectly tuned, providing a sensation of fluidity and total immersion in the moment. Psychologically, the game provides quick bursts of action, peppered with small yet significant rewards at every turn. It has the “just one more” factor down to a T. I love this game.
At the other extreme of my game-playing lay Half-Life 2 on the PC. I enjoyed it, but I can’t say that it was a life-altering experience. It had some intense moments, and many thrilling and memorable sequences, but is it a game I would ever go back to? No. I am simply not an FPS kind of guy any more.
Nor am I a PC gamer any more. I appreciate that the PC is going to continue offering the best graphics of any platform, but that doesn’t really interest me. I’ll choose a fun, bright, cartoonish world over a perfectly rendered environment any day. I want simple gameplay. I don’t generally enjoy realistic violence. (Cartoon violence is a different matter, and more is generally better.) Bring on the Revolution.
In fact, I’ve even got to the point where I’m considering selling my XBox. The only games I have for it right now are Halo, Halo 2, and Burnout 3. The Burnout series is cross-platform, so I could get it on the PS2 or the Cube if I wanted to play it again. Halo was excellent, and it’s a game I might well go back to. Halo 2 I never finished, and, to be honest, I’m not sure I ever will. (I got bogged down on the levels where I had to play as the aliens, and I got bored of having to hack through the Flood again. I’ve been keeping it around on an “I know I should play this, but…” basis.) I know of no XBox-only titles currently available or in development that interest me. Given that I will probably buy myself an XBox 360 at some point in the future (“it’s the sound of…inevitability”), I’ll be able to play these games in backwards-compatibility mode should I ever feel the need.
(Yeah, I think that’s decided. The XBox goes. I can use the money from selling it to fund some games I am really looking forward to, all of which are due to land in February: We Love Katamari, Shadow Of The Colossus, and Psychonauts.)
Finally, my 2005 games roundup would not be complete without mentioning a non-videogame highlight, namely Poker. I bought myself a set of poker chips at the beginning of the year, and I’ve been getting together with a small gang of buddies every now and then for an evening of Hold’em, booze, junk food, and much hilarity. I was playing on-line for a while earlier in the year, and according to my statistics spreadsheet, I managed to get over 50 hours of raked hands and 100 tournaments out of my initial $50 stake before going bust. Not bad. I haven’t reloaded yet, because I found it was swallowing too much time in the evenings. Our gang has been talking about a real-life casino trip for a while, and maybe we’ll make that happen in 2006.