Nick's Gaming Blog

Nick’s Fast Four Picks

Recently some of you have come to me (and by “some of you,” I mean myself) and said “Nick, I need something to play, and while I deeply respect your thoughts on what is/isn’t a good game, I’m afraid that if I sit down to read one of your reviews, the store will likely close for the night before I’m done scrolling through one of your in-depth digital tomes of arcane knowledge.”  “Would it be possible for you to do something a little more succinct for those of us who, though it brings us much shame to say it, cannot dedicate all of our waking hours to laughing excessively at your carefully crafted witticisms?

“Whoa,” I say.  “Why don’t you (and I) get a room?”  Calm down.  But because you the customer are always right, I’ll see what I can do.  Which brings me to this feature, “Nick’s Fast Four Picks,” within such I’ll give you a very fast breakdown of four games that I think one might enjoy, though for budgetary reasons, do not expect all or most of the four to be extremely recent releases.  I’m also going to try to give as much lip service to “underground hits” as possible.  So without further ado, let’s begin.

Pick #1–DiRT

Unlike many of those oddly titled "Happy Joy Action Fun Time" Japanese games, DiRT has quite the self explanatory one.

Unlike many of those oddly titled "Happy Joy Action Fun Time" Japanese games, DiRT has quite the self explanatory one.

A “Must Play” if:

  • You enjoy racing games, but are tired of making the same old oval-shaped laps over and over again.
  • Like me, you’re weary of any game that forces you to “get under the hood” in order to win.
  • Admittedly, you happen to be a “graphics whore” who enjoys a spectacular audio/visual presentation, as well as a real-time damage modeling feature.
  • You’re looking for an affordable and competent “arcade-esque” racer, but want something that isn’t published by EA and doesn’t tend to resemble anything of the Fast and Furious variety.
  • If you happen to have a thing for slick, glossy menu interfaces, DiRT (aside from DiRT 2) tends to have any competition in this category.
  • Watching dust and mud slowly cake and dry during a lap, only to watch it come washing off when you fly through a puddle gives you the disturbingly simplistic sense of enjoyment that it gives me.

But…avoid at all costs if:

  • You happen to have some deep-seeded discontent against racing games for one reason or another, say, if, racing games killed your parents.  (But seriously, if there’s no way on God’s green Earth that you’ll pick up a racing game, then there’s nothing I can do about that.)
  • Somehow you’ve been infected with the “Gran Turismo” virus: an unyielding craving for having an outright excessive amount of cars in a game (despite having no intention to actually drive them all), along with the desire to calibrate them down to the last spark plug…oh, and for flesh.  They also crave flesh.
  • You believe that the oval is the underlying symbol of perfection that has brought about Western Civilization as we know it…as well as NASCAR.

Pick #2–Dead Space

A “Must Play” if:

The vertical bar on his back is a health gauge, and note that there is also a holographic counter for ammo above the gun.  Immerson is something Dead Space has down pat.g

The vertical bar on his back is a health gauge, and note that there is also a holographic counter for ammo above the gun. Immerson is something Dead Space has down pat.

  • You are a sci-fi fan, who also happens to be a horror fan, who also happens to have not been thoroughly impressed by some of the latest attempts in said category: Jason X, or that new Dennis Quaid rubbish, Pandorum.  The game seems eerily similar to Event Horizon in some ways, and trust me, that’s a good thing.  Here you’re an engineer named Isaac Clark, whose gone along on a mission to fix the comm array on the USS Ishimura, with whom contact has been lost for abnormally wrong.
  • HUD displays are not your thing.  Rather than keep an eye on several bars and counters and notifiers, the developers of Dead Space have cleverly integrated Isaac Clark’s (the main character’s name is a combination of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clark, two of the greatest science fiction writers) health bar, ammo counter, holograms emitted from your mask display your map, as well as transmissions from other characters.  Rarely ever will you be taken out of a state of perpetual fright unless you want to, and some of the best graphics and animations of this generation only assist this further.
  • Somehow you are willing to give EA the benefit of a doubt that they are indeed willing to try new franchises, and that they won’t be the sequel-churning monster of the past.  (Dead Space has already spawned a prequel, and a sequel is in the works)
  • You have a soft spot in your heart for “Survival Horror” games, as well as recognize that they’re few and far between in this generation of gaming.
  • You’ve always dreamed of: a successful implementation of zero gravity sequences in gaming, reducing mutated reanimated creatures to “Torso Boy” because headshots don’t work, and the odd sensation of having your character watch a screen, while you watch him within a screen.  Now that’s eerie.
  • The logic that an amazing looking survival horror game in space, with production values through the roof and immersive gameplay strikes you as sound.

But…avoid at all costs if:

  • You genuinely refuse to play any sort of horror game.  Though, to be honest, Dead Space is not the scariest game out there (cough…Condemned and Eternal Darkness…cough) nor the goriest (do I even need to make a list for this?).  Its more of an action romp in space with strong horror elements.  That didn’t “sell” you, did it?  Didn’t think so.
  • Like some of my gaming associates, you demand a great deal of replay value from your games.  Sure, you can play through again with your upgraded weapons, and there’s a new suit to unlock, but that’s about all you’ll find here.
  • You suck.  As a human being.  (By the way, how well am I masking the fact that this might have been my favorite game of 2008?)

Pick #3–The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena

A “Must Play” if:

If you don't enjoy the deep rumblings of Vin Diesel's voice, completing this game might be a struggle for you.  On the other hand, hearing him tell people that "The dark is afraid of me" tends to make everything better.

If you don't enjoy the deep rumblings of Vin Diesel's voice, completing this game might be a struggle for you. On the other hand, hearing him offer up such snippets of wisdom as "The dark is afraid of me" tends to make everything better.

  • The “it’s a stealth game, but not to the hardcore/downright frustrating extent that Splinter Cell is” genre appeals to you.
  • You’re perfectly okay spending most of the game killing guys with guns that you can’t pick up because they’re genetically encoded to their users.
  • Getting a good deal is what you’re about.  Butcher Bay alone, even with the HD overhaul, is still too much to play for a remastered game.  Dark Athena, while it is a slight improvement in the audio/visual department, is too short and rushed to stand on its own.  Combined for 30-40 dollars is more than reasonable, though.
  • Visceral combat of the “Mr. sharp shiv, meet enemy’s eye” variety is something you are interested in.  If you like jabbing crudely-fashioned prison shanks into places that…such things shouldn’t be, and have no inhibitions to taking an aluminum bat to the back of someone’s head.  It is a simple enough system to pick up, however, it never quite clears up how counters and special moves work.
  • Great voice acting is something you look for in your titles.  Granted, Riddick has a couple “groan-worthy” lines in this title, but they’re delivered with such seriousness that you can’t help but go along with it.

But…avoid at all costs if:

  • “Run and gun” is the only way you know how to function in video games, and you don’t know what to do when your protagonist isn’t heavily armored/shielded or sporting super powers of one variety or another.
  • Shoddy lip syncing (on almost everyone save Riddick) can “make or break” a game for you.
  • Riddick killed your family (which based on the body count of this game, isn’t entirely out of the question).
  • You somehow think this is an FPS.  It’s that for about 25% of the game.
  • Calling the shots on when and where you save you game is of the utmost importance to you.  Riddick uses checkpoints.

Pick #4–Mirror’s Edge

A “Must Play” if:

Again, as I've stated before about other pictures of Mirror's Edge promotional screens...you almost NEVER see Faith in the game, it is NOT a third-person title!

Again, as I've stated before about other pictures of Mirror's Edge promotional screens...you almost NEVER see Faith in the game, it is NOT a third-person title!

  • The phrase “first-person platformer” doesn’t scare you.  Along with this, despite the developer’s mostly successful attempts, if you have a fear of heights, or tend to get disoriented by that “shaky cam” technique famously utilized in the Bourne films, demo it first.
  • The “grays and browns” color scheme of most next-gen games is starting to grate on you, then this contrast of sharp hues on a background of “eerily too clean” white will show you that, indeed, this generation’s consoles can render something other than Gears of War armor, or anything resembling such.
  • A game centered around controlling one’s speed, balance, and momentum (all with the C-sticks) instead of memorizing what 32+ button combinations do sounds appealing.
  • You’ve always wondered how a game focused on freerunning/parkour could be properly made.
  • Your ipod is currently stuck on ambient and electronica music…Mirror’s Edge delivers in both respects, and has my vote for the best video game soundtrack in a long time.

But..avoid at all costs if:

  • “Trial and error” is not in your wheelhouse.  You’ll be playing the role of the “prey” instead of “hunter” in most missions, and, as such, expect to be dodging bullets while simultaneously attempting to figure out the right combination of maneuvers to get from Point A to Point B.  This, of course, means you’re going to die.  A lot.  This, combined with some semi-sparsely paced checkpoints can make for more than a handful of “controller-flinging” moments.
  • You think in any way, shape, or form that this game is about extensive gunplay.  Yes, you can pick up guns from enemies, but you’ll have to toss them when your maneuvers require the use of both hands.  And oftentimes, its a lot more cost-effective just to run.  Think of them as a temporary power-up.
  • Multiplayer and replay value factor highly for you.  Mirror’s Edge runs around 7-10 hours of gameplay depending upon how much time you spend in the time trial challenges for each stage.  Beyond that, you can post these times to online leaderboards.  But that’s it.  If you have a real competitive urge, you might want to pass on this one.

5 Comments

    the only game on your list that i liked was Dead Space, all the rest are eh.

  • I quite like that sepia toned color scheme in Assassin’s Creed, as it works for me there, but agree with you that it is getting boring in many of the new games.

    I am one of Jim Landes’/Saxondragons members of the Dev Team – he said to check your page. Cheers, MP

  • I can tell you like Dead Space. Your bullets for that game are much bigger and more detailed than that of the other games, though I feel you didn’t add enough of the “must play if” and “Avoid at all costs if” that actually applied to the game rather than summarizing the story or that quip about EA.

    However, I have seen the game and know that it is made of the awesome sauce you say it is. I definitely need to play it at some point.

  • Needs more real substance pertaining to a game’s content, mechanics, gameplay, etc. to justify why anyone should, or shouldn’t, play a game

  • So does your mom…

    (and with that let the flame war commence)

    (oh, i forgot! another comment on the same level as yours!)

    First!

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