Friday, 28 March 2014

My Top 10 PS3 Games

ps3 logo
My Top 10 PS3 Games
With the release of the PS4 and XBone at the end of last year, we’re officially in the new generation of games consoles, and while the previous generation is far from dead (and is unlikely to actually finish up for another few years) now seems a pretty good time to look back at the gems that it spawned.
   My console of choice for the previous generation was the PS3, a console which changed a lot of what I thought about video games. I’ve gone from being someone who cares most about gameplay to someone who cares most about story. I truly feel that this generation will be remembered as the one where games finally evolved to be a true narrative art form, with its technical advancements being matched by a growing emphasis on plot and character development.
   I’ve also become less intent on owning physical copies of games. Before this generation I was wary of content I wouldn’t actually “own” but in recent years, many of my favourite titles have been indie game available as downloads only and I’ve put aside my dislike of digital content due to the benefits it provides for smaller developers to deliver unusual, unique titles.

   So here are my top 10 Ps3 games. I tried not to give myself too many restrictions. I won’t be focusing on exclusives so several of these titles appear on other consoles, but I’ll not be including any HD collections or ports from previous generations of the playstation itself, I’ll also not be including anything I haven’t personally played (before anyone complains I’ve not included The Last of Us or GTAV on my list). 
   You’re bound to disagree with some of my choices, these are just my personal picks, but be sure to leave your own choices in the comments, I’d love to hear them.

Splatterhouse/ God of War III
10. TIE: God of War III (2010)/ Splatterhouse (2010)
   I found it hard to choose between these two titles as they both offer a similar experience, that brilliant, overpowered, kick-the-shit-out-of-everything-that-moves catharsis.

As you lost health, Rick's body would show gory signs of damage, a pretty neat touch.
   Splatterhouse is a reboot of the classic Megadrive-era sidescroller (the first game to ever receive a mature content rating) which sees you take control of Rick Taylor, as he uses the power of the Terror Mask to save his girlfriend Jennifer from evil.
   It’s a deliberately over the top, violent, bloody, swear-filled, immature, shameless romp and, while it’s far from the greatest game ever made, if taken for what it is, it’s just great fun.

Kratos gives Helios a splitting headache......bad pun is bad...
   God of War III is the final chapter in the main God of War trilogy and sees Kratos launch his final battle, an all out war against the gods of Olympus.
   Epic boss battles against godly foes are a series staple for the God of War series, but while the previous two games in the series have seen you face off against a god as the final boss, bringing down the whole of Olympus in one go is an entirely different matter. No other game delivers that sense of being overpowered quite like this game. From start to finish it’s a pure adrenaline rush and each boss battle just gets bigger and bigger as the game progresses.
   Both of these games have that key, pick-up-and-play quality that makes them instantly memorable. No matter what mood you’re in, these games are a blast, whether you’re happy for the adrenaline boost or needing to work out some anger, they’ve got you covered.

Sonic Generations
9. Sonic Generations (2011)
   2011 marked the 20th anniversary of the release of Sonic the Hedgehog on the Megadrive and to celebrate, Sega released Sonic Generations. Essentially a greatest hits collection, Generations sees Sonic sucked through time to revisit his past adventures, what this means for the player is a level each from each of the main games in the series. You can revisit Sonic 1’s Green Hill Zone, City Escape from Sonic Adventure 2 and even…crisis city from Sonic ’06…yeah could probably have done without that one… Each level features the key set pieces which made the original so memorable, but is completely redesigned in two new versions, one for the modern, boost to win gameplay of the recent games, the other, a 2D sidescroller which gives players control of classic (fat) Sonic.

The lush modern reimagining of Green Hill Zone
   For a Sonic fan, the game was the greatest gift imaginable, not only did it feed our collective nostalgia, it was actually good. The redesigned levels played brilliantly as both versions of Sonic and looked astonishing, the new remixes of the classic songs were great and the game was packed full of easter eggs, from references to games like Nights into Dreams to wanted posters for Nack the weasel and missing person posters for Ray & Mighty. Sega put a lot of effort into this title and it shows, it’s a real treat and one of the best Sonic games of the modern era.

Uncharted 2
8. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009)
   Uncharted 2 plays like an action  movie, from it’s opening, which sees you dangling from a train carriage hanging off a cliff, to a battle with a tank across the rooftops of a Himalayan village, to battling yetis in a series of ice caves, the action never lets up.
   What makes Uncharted so much fun though, is its impressive set pieces. Trains rocket through the jungle, explosions open up paths and temples are stuffed with gigantic puzzles to be bested. It all blends in seamlessly to provide an exciting atmosphere that lasts throughout the game.

The train level was one of the most impressive moments of the game
   The third instalment in the trilogy upped the ante even further, delivering bigger set pieces and more of them, however, the team working on the game decided on the set pieces first and worried about how to fit them into the plot second, so, while the action is even more impressive, it lacks the cohesive feel that Uncharted 2 has, everything just fits together perfectly and, while I’d recommend the entire Uncharted series to anyone who hasn’t played it, part two is definitely the best instalment.

7. Limbo (2010)
   Limbo is dark, both literally and figuratively. Death haunts it, hangs in the air. You play as a nameless child, your only goal, to survive. You awaken in a mysterious forest with no information given to you, it’s up too you to make your way out.

   At its heart, Limbo is a puzzle platformer, however, its combination of minimalist plot, haunting black & white visuals, eerie atmosphere and sparse sound design, make it something very different indeed.
   As you progress through the game, you leave the forest and cross a crumbling, decaying landscape and discover a lord of the flies-a-like tribe of children. The landscape is sinister and, while it’s up to the player to interpret, is almost certainly a vision of hell, which just makes all of the horrible things happening to this child even darker.

I swear to god, the spider is the scariest video game villain ever...
   Speaking of horrible things, you’ll die…a lot, but even though the puzzles will kill you regularly and multiple times, they’re never so difficult as to be unsolvable but never so easy that solving them doesn’t provide a great level of satisfaction.
   It’s a short game, but the length isn’t an issue, a short game of this quality is a hundred times better than a long one without any of the artistic or mechanical achievements that Limbo provides. It’s one of the most interesting, well balanced and replayable games out there.

The unfinished swan
6. The Unfinished Swan (2012)
   It’s hard to describe The Unfinished Swan, technically it’s a first person shooter, but in practise it’s definitely not Call of Duty. It’s famous for its level which sees you in a completely white space with no definition which you must splatter with ink in order see your way through, though that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Each level introduces some new game mechanic and each one is wonderfully imaginative and interesting, one sees you water plants to allow yourself to climb through a castle, one has you escape the monsters in a dark forest, while another sees you building blueprints to traverse an abstract world.
   Add to this mix of styles a charming plot told in the manner of a child’s storybook and you have one of the most charming and sweet titles around.

While the game was much more than just the paint level, the abstract, splattered environments made for some of gamings most striking visuals ever.
   It’s a peaceful game which offers a welcome break from the slew of action and violence heavy titles that clutter the market today. You could rush through it in a couple of hours, but you’re unlikely to do so. Each level is so engrossing that you want to take your time to explore every nook and cranny, soaking up the atmosphere and uncovering every storybook page and collectable littered across the landscape.
   The first time I played the game I completed it in one sitting and immediately jumped back in to start all over again, it’s a world you can’t help but return to and I can see myself returning for years to come.

Assassin's Creed III
5. Assassins Creed III (2012)
   This entry might be a little controversial as I know a lot of people really disliked this game, but for my money, AC3 is the best instalment in the series.
   The switch from renaissance Italy to Revolutionary America was a great choice and offers a totally different experience. While the time period is much closer to the modern day, America is still very much a developing country, so gone, for the most part, are the massive buildings and ornate structures, instead, new hero Connor’s abilities as an Assassin are much more in tune with nature. Instead of running across rooftops and climbing walls, you’ll leap throughout the canopies of the forests and scale rock faces and cliffs which is a cool way of providing the classic Assassin’s Creed gameplay in a new and interesting way.

AC3 provided impressive, densely populated environments
   As for Connor, he’s the reason most people disliked the game and it’s easy to see why. Compared to the previous lead Ezio, a charming, humorous man who knew how to be serious when he needed to be, Connor can appear a much duller character. He’s deadly serious throughout and there’s little to no breaks in his façade, no comic relief, no light moments. From the start, he is consumed with revenge and never strays from the path all the way to the end.
   However, despite his serious demeanour, I found much more subtlety in the character than most people give him credit for. Most interesting to me were his interactions with his Father Haytham, who you also get to play as briefly. Connor and Haytham are bitter enemies and clash several times but there’s also an unspoken bond between the two. You can sense the begrudging respect and love that each has for the other. It’s an interesting and complex relationship and what’s most interesting about it is how much of these nuances are played out in silence. The facial animations in AC3 (when they work at least..) are wonderful, offering detailed expressions and providing a lot of extra depth to the characters. While Haytham may appear to hate Connor, a twitch of the eyes or a smile forming at the corner of the mouth suggest otherwise.
   Connor may appear on the surface to be bland and emotionless but there’s a lot more too him that goes unsaid.

   Assassin’s Creed III is an epic game spanning the entirety of Connor’s life and several key moments of the American Revolution, we’re also given some brief but enjoyable levels with Desmond that show him evolve into a full blown assassin. I really enjoyed these sections even if the final payoff and conclusion to Desmond’s story is woefully disappointing.
   If you haven’t played it already, I’d recommend you do and make your own mind up, it’s a pretty divisive title in an overall tremendous series, pretty much any AC title could have made this list (apart from the first one, which is terrible) but, in my opinion, Connor’s chapter is the strongest.

Portal 2
4. Portal 2 (2011)
   Humour is a hard thing to right in video games. While many games manage to have good jokes pop up to break up the tension, that’s quite another thing from making a game that funny from start to finish, but that’s exactly what Portal 2 does. More than any other game I’ve played, Portal 2 had the ability to make me laugh out loud repeatedly throughout.
   From Glados being turned into a potato, to Wheatley’s thirst for power to Cave Johnson’s rage filled rants, one of the best things to do in Portal 2 is to stop playing the game, to just stand still and wait for the various characters to start talking to you. It’s the only way to hear all the dialogue and with dialogue this good, it’s worth making the effort.

Portal 2 made use of several interesting new game mechanics
   Of course the gameplay is fantastic too. Taking the same basic mechanics as the original game and adding a bunch of new features to spice things up. The great thing about Portal 2 is that it avoids the puzzle game pitfall of simply bamboozling the player with difficulty. While Portal 2 can be really hard in places, no puzzle ever feels undoable. There’s a constant feeling that you’re moving toward the solution, that you can get there if you just keep trying and while you’re likely going to suffer the occasional rage quit, it just serves to make the victory all the sweeter when you finally figure out the solution on your own.

   Portal 2 is a game which took everything that made the original great and doubled it. The game is longer, the plot and characters are fleshed out, there’s new features and the puzzles are even more devilish and inventive, it’s genuinely hard to find fault with it.

Arkham City
3. Batman: Arkham City (2011)
   Superhero games have always been a bit of a mixed bag, good games in the genre such as the genesis era scrolling beat-em-ups featuring the X-men to the Playstation era spiderman games, were usually good, but nothing too special while bad examples like Aquaman for the Xbox or Superman 64, are so terrible that they become infamous.
   So, when one of the greatest game series of the last generation turned out to be about Batman, it was, surprising to say the least.

   Spanning two main entries and one (unjustly bemoaned) prequel, the Arkham series may well be the best example of a superhero game we’ve ever had, and Arkham City is the best of the bunch.
   Taking both visual cues and voice actors from Batman the Animated series (arguably the greatest incarnation of the character), the game lets you loose as Batman in a wonderfully realised, decaying Gotham that has been turned into one giant super prison to house the city’s criminals.

The Joker returned as one of the game's main villains
   Over the course of the game you gain access to several of Batman’s key gadgets such as ziplines and Batarangs, and meet tons of your favourite characters from the Batman universe, from series mainstays like Joker and Two-Face to lesser known rogues like Calendar man or Ra’as Al Ghul.
   Batman himself controls brilliantly during all facets of the game, whether it’s gliding around Arkham, luring enemies to their doom during stealth sections or going all out against twenty foes in straight up combat. Playing this game is likely to be the closest you’ll ever come to actually be Batman and it’s a truly awesome experience.

   Arkham City is one of the most detailed game environments I’ve ever seen and is littered obscure references to villains and events from the Batman mythos, so much so that still, three years after the game’s release, there are still a dedicated community of people continuing to scour the environment for easter eggs that might remain undiscovered.

   The story is well written and does a good job of working the multiple villains into the game in a convincing way. Few of the encounters feel shoehorned in, there’s always a convincing reason to be doing whatever you’re doing.
   The Arkham series because an instant classic from the first instalment and is set to conclude in the PS4 outing Arkham Knight. If you’ve not played any game in the series, I’d recommend you start at the beginning and go through them all, you won’t be sorry you did.

The Walking Dead
2. The Walking Dead Season One (2012)
    The Walking Dead is one of the most intense emotional experiences I’ve ever had from a piece of media.

   The game puts you in the role of Lee, in the middle of the zombie apocalypse, as he struggles to survive and take care of a young girl Clementine, whom he has rescued.
   During the game, you are forced to make several tough choices that affect the outcome of the story. Characters can live or die based on your decisions. You might not get on with someone based on your decisions, who will later turn their back on you because of it.
   Because of these consequences, the choices you make feel very real and their impact can weigh heavily on you.

   One particularly memorable scene, sees a child bitten by a zombie. You need to choose between killing the child yourself or letting his father pull the trigger. When faced with this choice, I genuinely didn’t know what to do. Over the course of the game I had grown fond of the child and didn’t want to be responsible for ending his life, but at the same time, I didn’t want to make his Dad have to bear that burden either.

The game seamlessly blended action with storytelling.
   It sounds silly talking about making choices like this in a video game, but the characters in The Walking Dead are so well rounded and so brilliantly written and the outcomes of your decisions so effective, that the choices feel real. There’s no easy answer to most of the questions, no good choice and evil choice, whatever path you choose has consequences both good and bad and you’re given a lot of nuances to deal with in your decision making process.
   More than any other game, movie, book or show, the characters in the Walking Dead felt real. I felt an affinity with them and a responsibility for them. There were times during the game where I made the wrong choice and the mistake haunted me through to the end. I had genuine regrets about my choices.

   The game builds to a bitter but inevitable climax that genuinely left me in tears. It’s a remarkable experience that’s unlike anything else I’ve ever played and one that you owe it to yourself to try out.

1. Journey (2012)
   I mentioned that the Walking Dead left me in tears, it’s not something you’d generally expect of a video game and you’d be right. Few games offer the gamer such an emotional connection to a character or setting. In fact only two games have ever managed to make me cry, one was The Walking Dead and the other was Journey.

  Journey is one of the most beautiful games ever created. While we should all understand that it’s not the graphics that make a game, it’s impossible to talk about Journey without mentioning them.
   Swinging the camera around randomly and letting it fall anywhere in the world will provide a vision that could easily be a painting. Journey uses a slight, minimalist approach to its visuals, nothing’s ever overly detailed, instead the landscape is painted in thick bold patches of colour.
   The colours are beautiful too, you can see the care put into the palette, the transitions from hot reds and yellows as you cross the dessert to cold blues as you make your way through underground  temples. It all adds up to a uniquely beautiful landscape unlike anything you’ll find in any other game.

The multiplayer seen you connect with a random player and make the journey with them. You were left with no method of communication outside of ingame chirping.

   I mentioned minimalism in regard to the visuals, but it’s a practise used throughout every facet of the game. It’s a stripped down experience, there are some minor gameplay elements you might recognise, they’re all presented in a unique way. There are no real enemies in the game, those you do encounter are creatures you must simply avoid rather than defeat. There are some puzzles, but they’re basic, designed to be easily completed, in fact the whole game is designed to be simple, no player left behind, anyone who plays Journey can complete Journey.

   The story too, is minimalistic. As you awake in the desert at the beginning of your adventure, you see a mountain in the distance and must head toward it. That’s all the info you’re given, and you’re never even explicitly told you have to do that either…
   As you progress you’ll discover murals dotted throughout the landscape and some which are revealed in cut scenes. These murals deliver the back story of the world you inhabit but it’s up to you to make sense of it. There’s no voiceover, no text, and the art style is primitive and abstract, deliberately left open to interpretation. Are you the lone descendent of a fallen race or something completely different? Are you seeking to restore the world to it’s former glory or are you questing for knowledge? Will your actions provide a greater purpose or are you simply…walking to a mountain?
   It’s totally up to you and several great theories have popped up online. Some see the game as a straight forward narrative, believing the contents of the murals to be the history of the world, some see more allegorical meanings behind them. The beauty of the game is, there’s no right answer and it’s entirely up to you to provide your own explanation.

The visuals in this game are stunning
   It may feel at points in this review, that I’m being overly vague and there’s probably some truth in that. The reason for it is, tat Journey isn’t a game you can simply “get” by reading a review, you have to play it for yourself to understand how it works. My description of the limited gameplay might make the game sound boring, the deliberately abstract storyline ma make it sound confusing, the fact that, start to finish the game is only around the two hour mark may make it sound like a game not worth bothering about, but you’d be wrong.
   There’s simply no way to describe Journey other than as an experience you have to take in yourself. Everyone who plays it will find something different in it. It’s a marvellous, beautiful, touching creation that easily stands out as the greatest game on the PS3, if not one of the greatest games of all time. 

So what do you lot think? What were the best games of this generation? Let me know in the comments. Remember this is only my personal top 10 and it's made up of games I've played. Chances are, if there's something obvious I've missed out, I've just not played it so leave your ideas in the comments and I'll be sure to check out whatever i've not played.

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