Over at Computerandvideogames.com they’re working through their Games of the Decade year by year, so far taking the honours are: Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker (2003), Halo (2002), GTA3 (2001) and Half-Life: Counter-Strike (2000). Of these I’ve only actually played GTA3 (though I’ve played Halo 3 once if that counts for anything?)
So I’ve decided to do my own little Games of the Decade, it’s probably going to be quite PC-centric but in my eyes that’s no bad thing. Just to set a few ground rules before we start, I’m classing the decade as 2000 to 2009 – for anyone who feels like chiming in with the whole, “The ‘decade’ should be from ’01 – ’10 because there wasn’t a year 0 so you should be doing this next blah blah…” Whilst that does make sense it would also mean that 1930 was in The 20s and so on, which would just be weird.
So without further ado…
The unashamed lovechild of John Woo and the Matrix with the best facial expression a gaming protagonist has ever had. I’d be almost scared to play it again for fear of how it may have aged but for such a short game it’s had a lasting impression – one of my few memories of first year.
Medieval: Total War
This was a difficult one, it could so easily have been Medieval II but I think I have to go for the first one. My first experience of Total War was watching a flatmate play Shogun and from then on I was hooked.
Rome didn’t do much for me, not helped by my use of an inadequately specced machine no doubt, but there was something about a game that was equal parts Risk, Warhammer and Resource Management (yes ladies, I am single) that really chimed with me. I think Rome acted as a nice buffer between Medieval I and II meaning that by the time the second came along I was happier with the new mechanic.
Given the choice right now I would probably play the second over the first but for my game of the decade has to be the first for kick-starting a slew of games (ok, 2) I adore and making, in my eyes at least, great leaps from Shogun. I still think Medieval Europe is the best theatre for the Total War games, this is probably in part due to my Eurocentric historical education but you’re always going to enjoy what you can relate to and none of the more recent games have quite captured the fun you could have with a stack of heavy cavalry heading off an a merry chevauchée through France.
A very late entry as I only played it yesterday but I had to have a puzzle game in here and I think this might be it (sorry Portal!). If you haven’t played it go and buy it on Steam now (£1.74), it takes puzzle platformers and adds a variety of nifty game mechanics to give the grey matter a bit of a workout. It can be frustrating at times but there’s (mostly) no punishment for messing up as you can simply reverse time and try again. It even has layers of allegory.
- Portal – If I’d’ve written this a week ago Portal would’ve been in there, it’s everything you’d expect from Valve – very funny and very very clever.
- Peggle – I think like a lot of Peggle players my first introduction was to Peggle Extreme in the Orange Box and if you don’t want to play a game featuring a unicorn packing twin miniguns then you do not want to live my friend.
Team Fortress 2
My first experience of online multiplayer gaming – I’ll be honest, the first few times I was crapping myself, just waiting to get my ass handed to me, but you can’t go too far wrong starting out as a Soldier or Medic until you learn the ropes and you’ll be pwning n00bs before you know it (or like me still generally getting your ass handed to you but enjoying it all the same).
I think TF2 is my definitive game of the decade, mainly because I still play it. It was released 2 years ago around the same time as Crysis and Bioshock and in the meantime I’ve bought FC2 and Empire: Total War but I dread to think how long it is since I’ve touched any of them.
At its heart the game is fairly simple but it’s the intransitive balance between the classes that make it work so well. As the game’s evolved various upgrades and unlocks have become available, followed shortly after by cries of classes being overpowered or nerfed but ultimately everything kinda works out and it’s the constant (and free) updating that’s kept, what is a simple, though cleverly executed, premise fresh.
- Battlefield 2 – now I’ve popped my online cherry this is a game i need to revisit.
- Left 4 Dead – I was briefly the owner of this on my XBox and it was pretty much all I played but TF2 pips it for being a game I’ve always returned to, I do now have L4D2 for PC which I have a feeling will be dominating the next few years of my gaming life
<insert RPG here>
And so we come to the gaping hole. I’m not sure I can definitively pick an RPG. I don’t dabble in the online variety which thankfully rules out those but I’m still left with Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Morrowind, Oblivion and Fallout 3. Bioware vs Bethesda, 1st vs 3rd person, sci-fi vs fantasy, being a freakin Jedi – there are many factors to consider. I think, in a move that’s surprising even me, I’m going to go for Mass Effect.
I think I have to pick a Bioware game over a Bethesda game mainly because I love having multiple characters to customise – the advantage the Elder Scrolls games and Fallout 3 is that when you replay you can retool your character for a whole new experience whereas in the Party-based games to a certain extent you’ve played a lot of the class/skill combinations, but given that I rarely complete large sprawling RPGs it’s nice to get a lot of it on the first run through.
The main reasons I’m choosing Mass Effect over KOTOR and DA:O is the combat. Swishing swords/lightsabers through each other and having a number float upwards doesn’t have quite the same feeling of contact as shooting something and it blowing up. You can still pause combat and assign targets/special abilities but it has more of an immediacy to it. The force-like Biotics also help make up for not being KOTOR. Also you can get it on with a blue alien.