GAMES FROM 2011 YOU SHOULD NOT MISS: PART II

The second in our three part review of the best games of 2011 features one of the best games of all time, and two games that pleasantly surprised us. With such a fantastic line up of games hitting our consoles last year, the three games listed below really focus on a great single-player experience.

Pick one of these up new or pre-owned, you will not be disappointed!

Unchartered 3: Drake’s Deception

A rollercoaster story, visuals with beauty and depth, intuitive and riveting game play, and great character build ups makes Unchartered 3 the best single-player game of the year, and dare I say all time? If you play games for great single-player modes, then you just cannot miss Unchartered 3. Actually, if you have a pulse you shouldn’t miss Unchartered 3 (however faint the pulse) – it is one of the ultimate entertainment experiences (across all forms of entertainment). Naughty Dog have done the impossible and improved on Unchatered 2 (voted best PS3 game of all time by Play magazine).

The game starts in the wet streets of London where you end up in a pub brawl. Your journey propels you to an abandoned Chateau in France, a crusader castle in Syria, a pirate lair, and an abandoned city in the desert of Yemenon to trace Sir Francis Drake’s mysterious voyage in the Middle East. Mind blowingly beautiful sceneries often force you to slow down and admire the view. The game itself builds on the previous versions of running, climbing, hand to hand combat, and shoot offs with groups of bad guys. The hand to hand combat is seriously improved and shooting mode works seamlessly – while not at the level of a BF3, it is very enjoyable nonetheless.

Riveting Action, Stunning Landscapes, and Great Characters - Unchartered 3 Delivers

Riveting Action, Stunning Landscapes, and Great Characters - Unchartered 3 Delivers

The character building and story line immerse you so deeply in the game that it is nearly impossible to put down. The cut scenes work so seamlessly with the game and often lead to rollercoaster game sequences (whether it is escaping a burning down castle or hanging onto the ropes of a cargo plane). In fact, the character building and action are so good they are looking at turning the franchise into a movie. There is also a great coop mode and the online multiplayer is surprisingly good. This game is the answer to the prayers in our blog post (How to Ruin a Video Game in Five Simple Steps). Unchartered 3 is the one game you should not to miss from 2011 (and that is saying something with the quality of the competition), so go and buy it NOW!!!

Deus Ex : Human Revolution

Deus Ex was the surprise of the year for us. While it’s predecessor, Deus Ex, lies in the Hall of Fame, we were expecting another Duke Nukem; but boy were we wrong! Human Revolution does not have the multiplayer modes of Battlefield 3, it is not the complete package of Unchartered 3 – but it is a really deep single-player experience. Picture Metal Gear Solid meets Red Dead Redemption meets Infamous meets L.A. Noire. The game is set in a futuristic cyberpunk style world where humans can be augmented by humans. You play Adam Jensen, who (yes, you’ve guessed it), is seriously augmented as a result of a terrorist attack leaving him in near death status. Your aim is to track down the perpetrators of the attack and as you progress, you go deeper into a global conspiracy theory revolving around your lost ex-wife and your current employer.

Multifunctional Augments - The Arm Blade: Useful for Killing Enemies and Slicing Your Morning Bread

As you progress through the game, you can augment your character with some interesting features: a 360 degree grenade, the ability to jump ten meters in the air, become invisible for short periods of time or punch through walls. Human Revolution gives you the freedom to decide the style of play you want: depending on how you choose to augment your character, you can take a stealth approach, a brute force approach, or a mixture of both – and these apply also to the open world of each city. There are also a number of side missions on offer which tie in very nicely with the main story line, and don’t feel pointless like is so often the case. We preferred the stealth approach, as the brute force approach seemed to less intuitively go with the game. Though we did get a surprise when the first boss required a brutal set up…

If you like deep one player experiences with strong story line, then Deus Ex is a game you can’t miss.

L.A. Noire

Mmm - That Is A Strange Place To Fall Asleep

L.A. Noire is a bit like Shah Ruh Khan as in you either love it or hate it. You play a cop in post WW2 LA, traumatized by the war and the decisions our man had to make. This is a sleuth game with a straight story line coupled with a free world environment where you can pursue additional cases. You solve cases by finding clues and interrogating characters (using both the innovative face reading feature and the clues you have gathered). You also get involved in tailing suspects, or more hardcore car chases and full on shoot outs with gangsters.

The game play is intuitive as you’d expect from a 2011 release, and the story line is well written and keeps you hooked onto your haunted character. How you perform on each case will also modify the story line and how quickly you rise through the ranks of the police force.

If you’re looking for a very different game or love crime shows and solving crimes, then L.A. Noire is well worth the investment.

NOSTALGIC DISORDER: GAMESINC’s TOP TEN GAMES OF YESTERYEARS

As GamesINC was locked in it’s dark room for days playing the latest and greatest in Video Games, we started day-dreaming (or hallucinating, probably induced by more than 18 hours of constant machine gun firing). The dream took us back to a time where music did not all sound the same, reality TV had not dumbed down the world, there were actually four seasons, and I had launched my first game magazine at the age of 11 (no, really, it happened – first review was Starwing on the NES), and video games were…not as good. In a teary-eyed, nostalgic, and combat overdose induced hallucinogenic dream, here are my top 10 favorite video games of all time. They are in nostalgic order (read chronological) – and qualify using some very strict criteria – I really liked them!

Communism launches the gaming industry

1. Tetris – GameBoy
Beautifully simple – the premise was to rotate different tetrads (blocks of different shapes) in order to form horizontal lines and avoid the tetrads taking up your playing field. As a young boy this was countless of hours of fun (and for the parents, peace and quiet). It even made me like those family friends we could never stand, as they also had a GameBoy with a multiplayer link so we could play together (well, annihilate them–nobody beats me at Tetris!). Tetris was developed by the Soviet Academy of Sciences, meaning that communism was partly responsible for the popularity of gaming. Tetris – a true legend!

 

Defining the racing genre

2. Super Mario Kart – SuperNES
The game that defined the racing genre. The Mario Bros had already made gaming popular (Mario 3 loses out to Sonic if you’re wondering where it is), but this game was probably the best racing multiplayer game ever. Yes, ever! The death matches would last for hours and hours, and some sore losers would endure hours, days, or years of taunting. Although there were other racing classics at the time (Wipeout and Starwing were great games in their own right), all the different modes of Mario Kart were unbeatable. And nothing beats knocking your opponent out of the race with a nicely aimed turtle! In college, one of my friends turned up at my dorm and brought his Super NES and Mario Kart – no one left the dorm room for two days. This was ten years after its release – a timeless classic!

Are You Ken?

3. Street Fighter 2 – Sega MegaDrive
If you were a gamer in the early 90s, then odds are you played SFII for hours on end. It is the ultimate fighting game of all time – all other games since then are building off it, but none defined the fighting game genre as SFII. As with Mario Kart, this game ensured endless hours of gaming fun at friends houses. Being unbeaten on SFII ensures hero-like status at school and a permanent and non-refundable membership of the cool club for ever. The super moves such as Ryu’s Hadouken (or Are You Ken? as was the myth), Honda’s Thousand Fists, Guile’s Sonic Boom to name a few are timeless and still vivid in memory. SFII – the ultimate fighting game of all time.

The only time Sonic is not running in the whole game

4. Sonic the Hedgehog – Sega MegaDrive

Platform games were one of the most popular gaming genres on the 1990s, and no game brought innovation, speed, and pure fun as Sonic the Hedgehog. While other games such as Mario 3, Megaman, Rayman, Donkey Kong were great platform games, Sonic was another genre defining game (ok, the Mario Bros did their bit too). Zooming at a gazillion miles an hour through levels, the lush country sides, the evil bosses – this game was simple, bright, and a bucketload of fun. A game that made the most of the 2D mode and the MegaDrive’s processor – it was one of the rare games that parents approved of and kids love. And after hours of playing it, you didn’t have sore ears through excessive gun fire, depression through hours of gloomy surrounding, and a disturbed psyche through having butchered thousands of enemies.

FF7 - Immerse Yourself In The Tale

5. Final Fantasy VII – Playstation

In the summer of 1998, I had fallen out of love with gaming. Sports, girls, studies (yes, I actually got a college degree – shocker!) and the lack of a game that captured our imagination had pushed gaming just above cooking as a preferred activity.  A chance purchase of FF7 changed this forever. The groundbreaking graphics and movie-like cut scenes, the story (the most engrossing story ever), the deep and immersive world, the combat modes, the accumulation of the most amazing attacks ever (you could unleash dragons, tidlewaves, and all sorts of mayhem on your enemies), the endless hours of gameplay makes this probably my favorite game ever. If you have hours of free time and a small budget, getting a PS1 or 2 and playing FF7 will be worth it, even 13 years later. The RPG game by excellence!

Stealth + movie experience + great game play = MGS

6. Metal Gear Solid – Playstation
After FF7 revived my love of gaming, Metal Gear Solid ensured I was  hooked forever. As with GTA (we’re not there yet, keep your pants on), this game defined a new genre – stealth. The great story, the cut scenes, the random radio conversations made you feel immersed in a movie. The gameplay was also addictive, the continuous search for that perfect stealth level, ensured that you played it over and over again. The bonuses with finishing the game were also incredibly worth it (you could play the whole game over again in a tux a la James Bond or with an invisibility cloak meaning you could walk up to guards and plant C4 on their back – you get the rest…). A legendary game by legendary Konami studios.

Setting up the shooter segment

7. GoldenEye 007 – Nintendo 64
Another game that defined a genre, this time the shoot ’em up genre (old school I know). Both the single-player and multiplayer game modes in modern shooters are legacies of this absolute icon on the N64. The single player game brought in variety as different levels required different approach (snipe your way through on some levels, blast them to hell with a shotgun on other levels), and the multiplayer game would capture whole floors of our college dorm. Little Andy might have not been the biggest guy (it’s all in the name) or smoothest talker around, but he was a hero as no one could defeat him. Plus, you get to play James Bond – what more could you want? (Izabella Scorupco was hardly going to come with the game)

Perfect accompaniment for beer and college buddies

8. Pro Evolution Soccer – Playstation
FIFA vs PES – the battle that will continue for generations of soccer games. But when Pro Evo (as we knew it) came out in 2001, it was the bees knees and forced FIFA to up it’s game. You could build up play properly or launch devastating counter attacks, the game was finally realistic, the one-on-ones with the keeper was tricky (and chipping the keeper was the ultimate In Your Face). The gameplay and graphics are still the foundation for football games ten years later. Being a college student with a lot spare time, not a lot of money, and four male roommates – this game got more time than our studies or girlfriends. After 4 days of neglect and threat of nuclear attack from the girlfriend, the evening with her was spent checking the watch and bailing at 10:30 pm under the lame excuse “My Roommates will be worried” (and no, there was no good response to the perfectly valid question – “they’re not worried when you’re out partying until 5 am”). A game that made you break up with a girlfriend – doesn’t say much for my priorities, but says a lot about the game. (The girlfriend is now happily married to a banker and drives a BMW if you were wondering…)

Cutting edge graphics and gameplay - and cop cars on 2 wheels

9. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – PS2
Everyone has their favorite GTA, San Andreas is often regarded as the best one. I for no reason apparent preferred Vice City. Regardless of your favorite GTA, this game series created a new genre in itself – and for that, we thank you Rockstar. Despite all the controversies and the dubious moral standards, these games were an absolute blast and let out your darker side (from randomly beating up strangers, to stealing cars and helicopters, and driving around cities in a tank destroying all that came your way including the ferocious men in black). The graphics (well apart from the first 2D games  which were still a lot of fun) and the game play were cutting edge too, and some of the in games features such as the hilarious radio stations, ridiculous dialogues were more than just nice touches, they really added to the game. Most of the games on this list defined a genre, this one created one!

Keeping you on the edge a la Jason Bourne

10. XIII – PS2
This one is going to seem odd to a lot of people, but bear with me. Have you seen the Bourne series? Picture it in a comic book style with a richer plot. This was the XIII comic books released in Belgium in the early 1980s (same country that produced Tintin). Some genius decided to make a video game out of it, and it has one of the richest stories and most innovative graphics of any shooter. While the game admittedly had some playing floors, the story and graphics made the whole experience incredibly addictive! Why can’t more games keep you on the edge of your seat as XIII did?

You’ll have noticed that all these games are pre-PS3/Xbox/Wii and exclude PC games. PC games deserve a whole other post in our book, as some of the games are so fantastically different to the console ones (games such as Civilization, Indiana Jones and the Fate of the Atlantis, the Day of the Tentacle, Command and Conquer, Warcraft require their own list).

With all the new games coming out, the one thing that saddens us is all the 3s and 4s and 5s in the titles. Developers and producers all too often run to a formula that will make then money (MW3, 6.5 Million on day 1). While there is merit in improving a series, you’ll notice that very few of the top 10 games were further down than number one in the series (FF7 being the shining exception). So a message to developers – innovate!!  Give us new genres, new graphic styles, new game plays. And we know that you run to where the money is, but have a quick look at the games above if you want to calculate the risk/reward. Did they sell well? You bet they did!!! Because brilliant games will get brilliant sales.

This is my nostalgic list – so no argument allowed! But feel free to post your list…Would you have put Wipeout instead of Mario Kart? Zelda or Secret of Mana instead of Final Fantasy? Or the beautiful Lara Croft?

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and on WordPress (here!).

GAMING IN INDIA: WHEN WILL IT TAKE OFF?

Depends on how you define gaming–if you are referring to Angry Birds on iPhone, Android, or Chrome, the “gaming” industry is set to take off very soon.  If you are a hard core gamer and are offended by Angry Birds players calling themselves “gamers”, then I am afraid the Indian gaming industry is still a few years away from taking the mainstage.  For the purpose of this article, I am referring to the latter group (and yes, I am offended by Angry Birds players calling themselves “gamers”).

The Sony Playstation 3 and the Microsoft XBOX S are both very popular worldwide and have great potential in India, considering how they tend to be more attractive to the geeky kids in school–and there are millions of those in India.  The problem though is whether the average Indian parent is ok with spending about 15,000-20,000INR on a console and then splurge on 2,500INR games every month?  Most likely, the answer is no.  Companies seem to realize that though, with both Sony and Microsoft introducing stripped down versions of their popular PS3 and XBOX consoles in India.

While most newspapers and Internet articles focus on how much potential the mobile gaming market has, they tend to ignore the potential of the console gaming market.  Contrary to popular biases, KPMG estimates shows that console gaming market had 4.5B INR in revenues back in 2008 and is expected to grow to 9.4B INR in 2013.  Considering the small demographic segment that consoles are aimed at, this is pretty big money.

In our opinion, there are a few things that Indian industry and government will need to get right to really allow this market to grow:

Reduce entry-load:  Consoles, especially those with current generation hardware, cost a lot.  A lot more than what dollar-earning Americans pay for them.  Does it not sound surprising that consoles manufactured in China cost less when imported to the U.S.  than to neighboring India?  Yes, it is the government to blame.  There is about a 27% tax on gaming consoles shipped to India.  Considering that there is no Indian company that manufactures consoles (for itself or for Microsoft/Sony), it is hardly justified for the government to charge this hefty tax–who is it protecting anyway?  That said, it does lead to an interesting situation–if the current trend of reducing console prices continues, and companies manage to get enough loyal gamers in India, then they can start manufacturing in India and reduce costs as well as tax liabilities and pass on some of those benefits to consumers.

Reduce ongoing expenses for gamers: A key reason why gaming has not taken off is because gamers–typically students and young professionals–don’t always have the disposable income required to buy the newest games.  In a month, you can probably buy Crysis 2 (~2,000INR), Homefront (~2,500INR), or Dirt 3 (~2,500INR) but not all.  So gamers are forced to choose one, and typically don’t end up buying the other two altogether for a variety of reasons (reviews didn’t speak highly of the others, they chose to borrow from a friend, or a new game piqued their interest instead).  This leaves a lot of money on the table that companies are unable to capitalize on.  Companies must therefore look not at how much they are gaining from a specific game, but how much their portfolio of games is earning them in all.

The tax on imported game DVDs is about 15% (if you believe this article).  While at some point, companies may move to manufacturing DVDs in India, it still has to make business sense.  Also, console DVDs will always cost more than PC DVDs.  Check out what the good folks at Indianvideogamer.com teach us about this.

Involve the family: This one is for manufacturers and marketers.  More often than not, the decision to buy the console (and sometimes, games) is taken by a parent, not by the consumer.  So, it is essential to attract them as well.  It is obvious that our kids will have an easier time getting their consoles than we did!  The XBOX Kinect, the PS3 Move, and the Wii are all steps in the right direction as they help the family get together for some fun times together.  There hasn’t been any conclusive evidence collected in India, but Kinect definitely turned around XBOX’s feeble position in the gaming market.

The above is hardly exhaustive and there are numerous other steps companies can take to establish a console market in India.  What are your suggestions?  Use the comments below to share your opinions.  And don’t forget to follow us on facebook and twitter.