Monday, December 29, 2008

Top Ten Games of 2008

Being realistic, I know that this list is more important to me than it is to you. With one or two exceptions, most of the people who read here really have no idea what all of this is about, but it is all good. Anyway, here are my picks for the top ten games I played this year.

10. Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rainslicked Precipice of Darkness

If I have anything that can be considered a guilty pleasure, it is Penny Arcade. I tend to have a love/hate relationship with turn based RPGs, but if all of those games played like Penny Arcade Adventures, then it would be all love. The only downside is that both episodes released this year clock in at a total time of about 11 hours at the most. Despite the relative shortness these games were still fun and caused me to laugh.

9. Rock Band 2
Yeah, this is mostly the same game as last year's Rock Band, but it is still fun. The way that the Band World Tour was revamped is a big improvement, and I am a big fan at how they allow all of the Rock Band 1 tracks to be put on a hard drive. This combined with downloadable tracks gives Abigail and I well over 175 songs to rock out with.

8. Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway
I am a bit surprised that this made my list, but as I thought about it this was one my personal favorites from this year. Brothers in Arms adds a healthy dose or realism to WWII shooters. The previous BIA games claimed accuracy by modeling the environments meticulously after real world locations. This one forgoes that but delivers a much tighter narrative and much better gameplay. Every firefight is tense, and it is very satisfying to successfully flank an enemy and land a head shot. The game's story tries a little to hard to be Band of Brothers, but it is a much better story than 95% of shooters out there. The only thing that holds this game back is its subpar multiplayer, which is a shame because on the PS2 I really liked Brothers in Arms multiplayer.

DiRT was one my surprise game of 2007, so I was excited about the street racing game by the same people. The single player was a lot of fun. Like DiRT, the game felt realistic enough to not be arcadey but was forgiving enough not to be boring. It was unfortunate, that the majority of the players online were pretentious racing snobs. Despite that, this game still managed to take up a lot of time over the summer.

6. Soul Calibur IV
I have a soft spot for fighting games, as it was the genre that fueled my video game love to move beyond Mario. My favorite fighting game series is Soul Calibur, and Soul Calibur IV continued that. I was a little disappointed by the lack of depth to the single player experience, but the online play is nice, and I have still managed to sink about 50 hours into the game (and counting). Plus any game where this can be a screen shot is instant win:

5. Call of Duty World at War
COD: World at War has gotten a lot of criticism because it is a World War II game. I find that to be an odd reason to hate on a game, but I am personally happy that COD went back to the last great war. The single player missions lack any real cohesion, but they are well designed, even if some of the levels (like the Stalingrad sniper one) have been done a bit to many times. The multiplayer in this game is the best part though. The multiplayer maps are excellent (with only a couple of exceptions), and the ranking up system from last year is still fun and addictive. I will be coming back to this game for a good portion of 2009.

4. Fallout 3
I just started playing this game, and I am only three hours into it. However, I am fairly sure I barely blinked in those three hours, and I swore I had only been sitting there for an hour tops. Fallout 3 is Oblivion with guns and that is perfect for me. I have no doubt that had I started playing this game earlier it would be higher, but it needs to be on my list of top games for this year.

3. Fable 2
Fable 2 is an action RPG that is all about the experience of being the character in a grand story. The combat system is good, and the sims-esque interaction is unique. However, there is not a whole lot that truly stands out individually in Fable 2, but when the entire package is put together it makes for a most excellent game that needs to be experienced.

2. Civilization Revolution
Civilization is a long standing and highly complex strategy game. The game invokes a strong sense of "just one more turn". I have mentioned this before but once I played Civilization 3 for like eight hours without moving. This game takes the Civilization formula and simplifies it, removing a lot of the details oriented micromanagement. The biggest plus is that a single game of Civ Rev only takes a couple of hours. This is a game I can see myself coming back to time and time again.

1. Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead nails a very simple formula for success. The formula looks like this. Zombies+Shooting=Awesome. Left 4 Dead is a near perfect Zombie game. The game is a little short on content, but each time one of the four "movies" is played it is different than the time before. The game does not cease to be tense and fun. In addition to that, the versus multiplayer is probably the most fun I have ever had playing a video game ever. I play video games to have fun, so that is what makes Left 4 Dead my #1 game this year.

So those are my top ten games. If I were to do a couple of more than 10 games, here are my honorable mentions: Dead Space, Endwar, Rainbow Six Vegas 2, Gears of War 2, and Rocketmen: Axis of Evil.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

2008- The Year I returned to Gaming

Or at least the gaming that involves dice, cards, and boards. I never left the video kind of gaming. I already wrote about this else where in a lovely list form, so instead of re-doing it here I will provide a link to follow:

take the jump

Friday, December 19, 2008

Top Ten Movies of 2008

I think I have mentioned this before, but I am a bit picky in watching movies. I really only want to commit to sitting down for 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours to watch movie if I think there is a reasonable chance I will like it. The paradox is that I will play a mediocre video game for a few hours just for the experience of the game. I never said I made sense.
Anyway, this means that I have seen a grand total of fifteen movies that came out this year. Now I am sure over the course of 2009 I will watch DVDs of 2008 movies, but if I waited until I was done watching movies from this year it would be like July of next year, and then a list like this just would not be relevant. Also, there are at least three movies yet to come out this year that I know I want to see (Yes Man, Valkyrie,, and The Spiri) . However, even if we saw one in a theater (which we probably will) it will not be until January anyway. So of the movies I have seen released in 2008 here is my top ten, in the dramatic descending order.

10. Star Wars Clone Wars
So this one gets on here just by virtue of being Star Wars related. Over all, it was not bad, thought it is hard to really consider it a cinematic release since it never quite got over its made fore cable trappings. That being said, some of the action sequences were absolutly awesome and could only be adequately pulled off in an animated movie.

9. The Forbidden Kingdom
The plot of this movie is a little hockey and predictable. However, it does have both Jet Li and Jackie Chan in it, which means the fighting was incredible. Plus, with its kids safe rating, I know exactly which movie I am showing for the next youth group kung-fu night.

8. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
I was not a big fan of the alien plot (ok technically extra-dimensional being plot), but it was really nice to see Indiana Jones again. Not that anyone who can do anything about it will read this BUT if they make another Indiana Jones movie, it needs to go back to artifacts related to Judeo-Christianity. The movies are better with that subject matter.

7. Quantum of Solace
Overall this was not bad. The action sequences were good, and the save the world plot was not bad. I think this movie's biggest strength was its biggest weakness. I really liked how it actually related to the previous bond movie. This is a big difference from all of the past ones that were essentially stand alones. However, going back to Casino Royale so much made James Bond come across as a whiny Emo-kid. They successfully brought closure and character development with Bond and Vesper, so let's move on.

6. Cloverfield
I really liked this Godzilla meets Blair Witch Project set up. It was refreshing to see a monster movie from the perspective of the people running on the ground in terror instead of the people who get to successfully kill it.

5. Iron Man
This movie was most enjoyable because of Robert Downey Jr. He played Tony Stark perfectly. I am not a big fan of when superhero movies make the villain a stronger version of the staring hero, but the performance of the lead actor makes up for that minor quibble.

4. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
I really liked watching this documentary, and it provides a lot of food for thought. I think one of the big things this movie shows (but never explicitly states) is that much of the science community's resistance to intelligence design has less to do with science and more to do with a dislike of God. For example, one scientist tries to sell a crackpot crystals theory, and when Ben Stein ask very basic questions that point out some critical flaws with what he just said he belittles him. Furthermore, Richard Dawkins, author of the God Delusion, concedes that there is evidence for Intelligent design but attributes this to the possibility of alien planet seeding! Of course like many documentaries this one has a bias, but the bias is not as severe as a Michael Moore documentary.

3. Eagle Eye
This was a fun movie to watch. I don't want to talk a lot about it because the movie is based on unwrapping one layer at a time, so to talk about the plot could be huge spoilers. Part of this movie takes place in Indianapolis, but it is painfully obvious that it is in fact not in Indianapolis, and that the people who wrote the script have probably never actually been to Indianapolis.

2. Get Smart
I don't know a lot about the TV show this is based on, but I laughed a lot in watching this, and that is really the mark of a good comedy. The scene with the mini-crossbow in the airplane is easily one of the funniest things I have seen in a LONG time.

1. The Dark Knight
I suppose that as media outlets do similar list this will often be at the top. This is easily the best super hero movie ever, and the portrayal of the Joker is spot on. This is without a doubt the best movie I have seen this year.

In case you were curious the other five 2008 movies I saw this year are: In the Name of the King, Rambo, Vantage Point, Prince Caspian, and X-Files.

Quick Life Update

For the next couple weeks any post I make will be of the end of the year variety. Since it has been almost (but not quite!) a month since I last posted, here are three biggest things that have happened in that month:

1. I got to play board games again. I have found a group of people, who are mostly twenties to early thirties, who get together once a month to play games once a month. This is the second month that I have participated in their group, and I am very happy I have finally found something like this. If you want to see what games were played this month, you can see the list here.

2. We got cable, which makes Abigail very happy. The main reason for doing this is that with the TV signal switch over to digital, using bunny ears to receive the signal can make TV almost unwatchable (the screen can pause constantly). Plus, by switching with the Internet as well, we would get rid of our speed problems (because of bad wiring our speed was a 1/3 of what it was suppose to be). So we made the switch, and part of the package is a DVR service, which Abigail is loving to no end.

3. I am done with classes for the semester! So I only have one more semester left, and that makes me very, very happy.