Top 64 Games: 32 to 25

By Shamus
on Oct 29, 2014
Filed under:
Video Games

Reminder: Try not to stress out too much about the order of the items on this list, what games made it and which ones didn’t. Just use this as an excuse to talk about / praise / eviscerate games we might not get to discuss very often. Read the intro to learn why we’re doing this.

32. X-Com

In the not too distant future…

The game takes place in the distant future of… 1999. The premise is that you are in charge of the Extraterrestrial Combat Unit (X-Com) which has been created to counter a dangerous and growing threat from a race of aliens in flying saucers. Your job is to shoot down alien craft when you can, and then send in a squad of specially trained soldiers to engage them in a a little turn-based, hide-and-seek gunplay. The force you lead is multinational, and individual nations will adjust their monthly contributions to your coffers based on how well you protect them. You can try to protect clusters of small countries if you like, or you can put all your eggs in one basket and suck up to one of the big, rich countries. You’ll probably want control of the whole globe at some point, but it will take you a while before you have the budget and technology to pull that off.

Usually when they say a game was “before it’s time” they mean it was visionary. I suppose that’s true here. But X-Com was also before its time in the sense that computers weren’t really up to the job yet. Back in the day, the AI would sometimes take the better part of a minute to take its turn. (This process is little more than a single-frame screen flash on modern machines.) Even today, a proper game of X-Com can take days to complete. Back in 1994 the same game might take weeks, with most of the time spent waiting for the AI to do its thing.

The reboot wasn’t bad, but it’s been 20 years and we still don’t have anything that can hold a candle to the original in terms of high tension and engrossing depth.

31. Quake 3 Arena

IMPRESSIVE

The people at Epic Games and the people at id Software both realized the same thing at the same time: We spend a fortune making these content-heavy corridor shooters, but players consume them in ten hours and then spend YEARS playing multiplayer deathmatch on user-made maps. So instead of making another story-game, why don’t we just make something designed to be a multiplayer shooter from the beginning?

Thus Unreal led to Unreal Tournament and Quake II led to Quake III Arena. I always preferred the more diverse game modes of UT, but Quake III Arena was the more popular. Also, Q3A lives on today with its original feel preserved, while Unreal Tournament continues to prostrate itself to a console audience that doesn’t careUnreal Tournament is supposedly getting an overhaul to bring it back to its roots, but to me this sounds like the empty, desperate promise of a habitually womanizing husband. I’ll believe it when I see it..

30. Tie Fighter

Star TIE FIGHTER Wars. The stylized Star Wars marquee has always confused me a little.

I really like how the “Space Sim” genre is a giant formless blob of everything that has space and lasers in it. I suppose we can differentiate by calling this a “Space COMBAT Sim”, to differentiate it from a regular “Space Sim” like Elite.

Like Freespace a little further down the listWhich is actually UP the list, since the list is in descending order. We apologize for any confusion, but hasten to add that we didn’t make these rules. this is a game where you’re part of a fighter squadron and you shoot down other squadrons in epic space battles with lots of visible space-lasers, audible space-explosions, and a complete lack of Newtonian space-physics.

The beginning of the game has you flying useless brittle mass-produced imperial TIE fighters before chickening out after a few missions and letting you fly something with shields. Be Vader’s Wingman for a mission! Do sketchy stuff for the sketchy guy to advance your career! Run a checkpoint and scan for smugglers!

This entry is probably pretty good evidence of how corruptible this process is. TIE Fighter is only ranked above Freespace because I knew Josh would give me a hard time if I ranked this too low.

29. Borderlands 2

Screenshot from the DLC Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep, which is so good you should buy the game, play through the first 30 levels, then get this DLC. I’m not kidding.

The original Borderlands presented you with a goofball world of mayhem and carnage, but never did anything with it. It felt like the set-up for a joke with no punchline. Borderlands 2 delivers the punchline, expands the scope, refines the gameplay, and gives us a deliciously detestable Bad Guy to hate. Okay, the part where [spoiler] is killed for cheap melodrama doesn’t make any sense at all and comes off as more dumb than anything else. But there’s a great payoff for that moment in the DLC expansion Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep, which is some of the best DLC ever made But maybe I’m biased because it’s kind of a videogame version of DM of the Rings.

Borderlands 2 gives us great characters, nails the tone that the first game couldn’t quite sort out, and refines the gameplay. Also I guess it has some stuff about shooting and looting.

28. Unreal

One of the last shooters to support SOFTWARE ONLY. Like, no graphics card needed. Crazy!

Conceptually, Unreal is the last of the old-school 90’s shooters in the lineage of Doom, Wolfenstein, and Quake. You’re a nameless protagonist pushing through a linear sequence of semi-sensical locations and mowing down its inhabitants with a vast collection of completely impractical hardware. There are no voiced characters. Your only motivation is “survive by way of going forward”, with no clear end goal. As this game arrived, a new aesthetic was taking over that favored a more character-focused and story-driven approach. Perhaps that’s just as well. The “plotless shooter” thing doesn’t seem to go very well with photorealism, and feels more at home in the low-fi world of pixelated abstractions.

Also noteworthy: Unreal is massive. The sheer number and variety of levels is daunting. They just don’t make them like this anymore.

27. Grand Theft Auto III: San Andreas

A Grand Theft Auto game SO GOOD, it’s nearly as fun as Saints Row 2!

San Andreas is the last of the “real” Grand Theft Auto games before the series lost its soul and became a grim, joyless, embittered screed against a strawman version of the American culture that made this series possible to begin with. After San Andreas, the series forgot how to have fun and seemed to become ashamed of its capacity for emergent mayhem, and became even more devoted to scripted sequences and DIAS gameplay.

San Andreas was a remix of the early 90’s gang movies (South Central, Boyz in The Hood, Juice, etc.) but still retained a bit of the gleeful mischief that made this series such a hitAlthough I always thought the turf war mechanic was in pretty bad taste. Just a little too close to the real thing for me.. It would take Rockstar until GTA V – a full decade later – before they could offer us a playground as large and as varied as the one in San Andreas.

26. Doom

You want story? We put it in the README.TXT

It made id Software into an industry giant, turned the developers into rockstars, generated a wave of game-violence panic, launched a huge and still active modding culture, established a distinctive newNew to games, at least. design aesthetic, and solidified a set of mechanics based around high-speed projectile avoidance.

Also, it was pretty fun at the time.

25. Silent Hill 2

Don’t gaze too long into the abyss, because that’s rude and the abyss doesn’t like it.

The haters say that we don’t need another game about a slightly crazy man who goes to a haunted town to work out his inner demons. I say if we have room for a thousand games where you Save The World by Shooting All The Guys, then we have room for at least one more of these. Sadly, the Silent Hill franchise keeps mistaking itself for a monster-killing empowerment fantasy.

It’s a deeply disturbing game, but rewarding if you’re willing to dig down and try to figure out what it all means.

Enjoyed this post? Please share!

Footnotes:

[1] Unreal Tournament is supposedly getting an overhaul to bring it back to its roots, but to me this sounds like the empty, desperate promise of a habitually womanizing husband. I’ll believe it when I see it.

[2] Which is actually UP the list, since the list is in descending order. We apologize for any confusion, but hasten to add that we didn’t make these rules.

[3] But maybe I’m biased because it’s kind of a videogame version of DM of the Rings.

[4] Although I always thought the turf war mechanic was in pretty bad taste. Just a little too close to the real thing for me.

[5] New to games, at least.


2020202018There are now 98 comments. Almost a hundred!

From the Archives:

  1. Jokerman says:

    4. Mass Effect 1
    5. Hitman Blood money
    6. Rage
    7. Bioshock Infinite
    10. Dues Ex Human Revalution
    11. Alan Waje
    12. Bioshock Infinite…again.

    Im bad at this.

  2. Gary says:

    Did you know that GOG.com just released X-Wing and TIE Fighter?
    I bought X-Wing last night, and I’m have trouble getting it to do its thing properly, but I am very hopeful.

    • Matt Downie says:

      Ah, yes, getting X-Wing to work. I’m pretty sure you do that by editing config.sys and autoexec.bat to allocate enough EMS memory when booting into DOS. Try to avoid allocating any of your base 640K to running your CD drive – that should leave enough to run your Soundblaster card.

      Or am I showing my age here?

      • MichaelGC says:

        Superb work, Alpha One.

        • Humanoid says:

          Hopefully the demo floppy that came with the latest copy of your preferred PC gaming magazine has a new mouse driver that takes up 1kB less conventional memory than your current one. It might even fit in your upper memory area. (Confusingly, the LOADHIGH command loads TSRs into the upper memory area, and *not* the high memory area)

          If you’re extra lucky, you might even have enough left over for DOSKEY.

    • Jabrwock says:

      Dammit GOG, stop bringing back awesome games from my childhood!

      Now shut up and take my money!

      I remember playing those missions where you’re in the standard TF or interceptor, even glancing shots that you could laugh off in X-wing were instant death.

      I spent a lot of time during the missions jinking like a madman.

      One feature I liked though, was the ability to call in reinforcements from the Star Destroyer that brought you. X-wing was a lot of solo missions.

      • JGostick says:

        This was a fantastic game and I spent about 500 hrs on it. Got to the point where I could “complete” the Top Ace challenge in the training simulators while flying a basic TIE; only thing preventing me was the unlimited waves of TIE Defenders at the end of it, so you pretty much fly until you get sleepy and have to go to bed.

        • MichaelGC says:

          Superb-er work, Alpha One.

          PS Mission-critical craft: under attack. Could you maybe hold off on beddy-byes briefly, Alpha One? I mean – mission-critical craft: shields down. Whenever you’re ready, Alpha One. Not to pester, but mission-critical craft: hull condition critical. Ah, screw it: mission-critical craft: fully boned. Night-night, Alpha One.

  3. Tobias says:

    I’d say Doom is still fun today, and this is not coming from nostalgia. I played for the first time when it was old already – back in 1997. New to videogames, at the tender age of 12 and deep in the late 90s mindset of “Everything older than a year is ancient and not worth playing”, all I could say was: “This looks dated as hell. Also, you can’t jump. Screw this.”

    I played it again a few months back and had a blast. It’s got such a wonderful sense of movement, timing and pacing that I can’t help but have a good time. And the absence of anything but running and shooting that bothered me more than 15 years ago? After playing a gazillion bloated games, it feels like a breath of fresh air playing a game like this.

    • lethal_guitar says:

      I can only agree. It simply is a very fine-tuned game, with very refined mechanics and level design. I replayed it recently after getting the Doom 3 BFG edition on a Steam sale, and still had a blast.

      And show me a single one of today’s shooters where you can still backtrack all the way back to the beginning of a level after reaching the exit..

  4. lethal_guitar says:

    Maan, I loved the old Unreal. To this day, the Skaarj warriors still have one of the best enemy behaviors I’ve seen in a shooter. The AI is probably not even that advanced, but there’s something special about the way they move and evade your shots. The whole package of AI, animations and model design is just spot on.

    Also, Unreal was one of those games which featured both a basic software renderer and an advanced hardware renderer which required a shiny new 3DFX Voodoo card. If you had one of those, you’d get really impressive and amazing graphics. If not, you could still play, but it would look pretty dull and pixelated.

    So together with qlQuake/Quake 2, the game is probably among the main catalysts for the whole graphics hardware arms race that followed (and continues to this day).

    • Falling says:

      To this day, Unreal’s opening level is perhaps my favourite introduction into a creepy sci fi world. I saw it played at my friends house when I was maybe in grade 7? Totally creeped me out. Tonally, The darkest game I had played up to that point was Warcraft II and its game manual. So this game… I just had nothing to compare it to.

      But that prison sequence was a great introduction to the game. No weapon, and death screams off camera. Then just ahead and around a corner, a prisoner is brutally torn apart by aliens, who promptly disappear down the hall. Even when you get a weapon, you are never flooded with enemies, but they are tough to take down, so there was this creeping dread that built into terror when they charged.

      I have since bought it from GOG and play it as a fun twitch shooter combined with puzzles (so much better than the sluggish reaction of many modern shooters), but I still love the atmosphere even it doesn’t affect me in the same way. I still think that if a game wants to create a sense of horror, less enemies but individually tougher is the way to go. There’s something about exploring a largely empty world and then getting charged at by an enemy, firing into them, but they just keep coming, forcing you to flee while firing.

      Of course those dang rolly Skaarj are annoying to deal with.

      • Bryan says:

        I play through it again about once every 18 months or so.

        You didn’t like the rolly Skaarj? Well, I’ll take them over the giant rock-throwing Titans with X thousand hit points. (And when I got dropped into that arena for the first time, it was … unnerving.)

        Or the little Predators with far fewer hit points (than the Titans) but that move so fast they’re rather hard to hit, and still enough hit points that the flak cannon secondary fire (my weapon of choice) isn’t enough to kill them. (Although the Predators were in the Return to Na Pali expansion pack, not the original Unreal.)

        Or the little Pupae, which are super hard to hit with the powerful weapons as well.

        (Of course, the hitscan weapons are pretty easy to hit most of these smaller creatures with. But hitscan weapons are also a lot weaker than stuff like the flak cannon alternate fire, or the rocket launcher multi-fire. The only one I ended up using was the RTNP combat assault rifle…)

        On the upside: walking out of the prison ship is still one of the best views I’ve had in a video game. As well as the overview of the Sunspire. As well as the Bluff Eversmoking, which is nice to look at but a little emotionally hard to play.

        • lethal_guitar says:

          Ah yes, the Sunspire.. I forgot about all that “here’s total darkness, now go find your way through this maze and fight lots of annoying small enemies”. Meh. But after finally leaving it, the next beautiful sight (that floating rock city, don’t remember the name) felt so rewarding, and was great to play, too.

    • Pyradox says:

      I actually feel like the original Unreal held up extremely well.

      I’ve been replaying it myself and paying attention to the lore and the world and I’m surprised at just how well it works. The low res environments continue to be breathtaking, while the series has always had one of my favourite arsenals ever to be featured in a First Person Shooter.

      I would love to have another game with that kind of beautiful, alien atmosphere again. I haven’t seen anything like it, particularly in a sci-fi game since maybe Beyond Good and Evil.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Star TIE FIGHTER Wars”

    Heh.Title artists think they are so smart,but I am yet to find one of these that hasnt been (usually intentionally) misinterpreted by figuratively everyone and their mom.

  6. poiumty says:

    For those of you who’d like to try out (or replay) X-Com but think the new version would be preferable if only it was more like X-Com, I heartily recommend the Long War mod. It stuffs an incredible amount of complexity and difficulty into the Enemy Within base game, makes pretty much everything more significant and strategic, adds assets, classes, missions, mechanics.

    It’s a blast to play, and every bit as difficult as the old incarnations (supposedly – I haven’t played any of them) and would certainly bump the game up several spots in Shamus’ list just like Baldur’s Gate 2 would certainly be #1 if only Shamus had played it.

    • Humanoid says:

      On a replay, sure, but diving straight into Long War? You cruel, cruel person. :P

      For what it’s worth, I ended up playing LW for more combined hours than the unmodded game, sure, but I don’t think it brings the game design any nearer or farther to the original X-COM than Firaxis’ own efforts did. It’s just an expansion of the newer game’s mechanics – its strengths, its weaknesses and all its random little quirks – and personally I think that’s a good thing.

      A more direct recreation of the original experience would be OpenXcom (which reuses and requires the original game assets but makes it quite a bit more flexible, customisable, and generally less annoying) or Xenonauts (which I’ve never played admittedly).

      • ehlijen says:

        UFO: Alien Invasion is another more modern XCOM remake. Still under development, but fully playable. Just missing some late stage game mechanics and the final(?) mission.

        It’s harsh, though (and has no tactical saving).

        • HiEv says:

          I heartily second this recommendation. UFO: Alien Invasion is quite good. I last played it about a year ago and it was pretty good then, though a bit of a slog in the later portion of the game. However I see they’ve continued to add to and improve it, including some rebalancing do deal with the earlier overabundance of UFOs/invasions that made the end game bog down.

          Give it a shot if you’re looking for some XCOM nostalgia.

      • Cordance says:

        Having played Xenonauts. It is a lot more like the original than the remake. That is not always a good thing but it is what I was looking for when I got it. There are a few changes from the classic but it feels similar with a few upgrades in it. Scott Manly has a lets play of it on youtube, in which is changes to the community edition after about 5 episodes. That has a few things improved like knowing where cover covers you, the wall of shame (I mean honor). I havent touched anything beyond normal yet, I am a little scared. Im a little shocked how under the radar the game has gone considering how much people where hot on the remake.

    • Dev Null says:

      UFO: Afterlight was a pretty good remake of XCOM. Don’t make the mistake of wanting to play the whole series though; the second, Aftershock, was also pretty good, but the first, Aftermath, was pretty terrible.

      • Josh says:

        UFO: Afterlight is pretty spectacular. My only gripe is that, like the reboot, they seemed to think that punishing difficulty was necessary for the genre.

        • Felblood says:

          My only gripe is that the auto-balancing bases the difficulty of fights on the highest level member of your squad, so if you want easier battles, DON’T sent your best soldiers.

          This severely punishes any strategy that doesn’t allow you to send the same 7 soldier on every single mission. What you wanted to play with these cool robot or alien soldiers you unlocked later? Good luck with that.

          Also, defensive installations actually make you more vulnerable to certain explosive weapons. I hate that.

          Still one of my all-time faves. I even have a legit copy.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        I wouldnt call the ufo series remakes.But afterlight is a good spinoff,offering some great stuff,like levels for scientists and technicians,as well as different races for your operatives.And the pressure of that game is intense.

    • Josh says:

      Seriously? I can’t believe he’s never played it! It’s like the #2 game of all time. After X-Com.

      On the other hand, if there’s one thing the X-Com reboot absolutely does not need, it’s more difficulty.

      • poiumty says:

        Yeah that’s what I thought too. Until I saw Long War.

        • Decius says:

          Punishing difficulty isn’t required, but being forced to choose between taking a high-risk mission and leaving it is strictly required.

          I remember one case where I took the Skyranger and a crew of experienced troops to a terror site, and landed right in front of a floater (meaning that there were chryssalids around, and I would likely wipe if I continued). I shot the floater… and knocked it unconscious. Inspecting it I found it was the first leader I ever identified. Since my scientists were nagging me to capture an alien leader, and I knew it would either bleed out or wake up sometime during the mission, I put in in a soldier’s backpack and aborted with no soldiers lost.

          Many civilians were killed by aliens as a result of that abort, and it might have caused me to lose a funding nation, but an “easier” game would not have had that choice come up.

          Long War comes close to matching that by making even a flawless mission have a fatigue cost, but what it mostly does is make the game drag on too long and force the player into unfair fights. Sorry, but two squads of sectopods and a cyberdisc are not a fair fight until there’s been enough time to research and build plasma weaponry.

          And LW has too many weapon options that aren’t clearly described before you build them.

          • Humanoid says:

            They’ve made some decent steps towards alleviating the late-game tedium – primarily by fixing the speed at which Psi troops are levelled (passive Psi XP, Vortex armour eliminates fatigue) but also changing the way aliens attempt to gather resources late game, reducing supply barge (harvester) spam on your covered countries.

            That said, my two biggest issues with balancing are with Exalt (enemy rocket launchers are hard coded in the engine to be 100% accurate, the LW devs have tried and failed to change this), and with Base Defense (where the types of alien troops generated is random and again, out of the control of the modders). Frustrating as hell if an Ironman game comes up against something like that, but ultimately it’s a result of modding a fundamentally unmoddable game.

          • poiumty says:

            Sectopods and cyberdisks are manageable without Plasma. I’ve found it’s more of a case of alien research vs your tech level than specific enemy appearances. As you go on enemies get more HP and perks depending on what you let them do.

            Also, you can press the “?” button on the engineering screen before you build a weapon to see all the specifications you would normally see after you built it.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Awww,you picked q3 and unreal in front of ut.That makes me a sad panda.

    I love the original ut.Its a great arena shooter like no other.Also,modern shooters all seem just slow as snails compared to ut.I mean,Ive just watched some footage of the pre sequel and that jumping around is sloooooow.Nothing like stuff you get in low gravity in ut.

    “Conceptually, Unreal is the last of the old-school 90′s shooters in the lineage of Doom, Wolfenstein, and Quake.”

    Weeel,technically serious sam and painkiller are as close as modern shooters can get to those.Shame you put neither of those on your list.Id put either of them instead of borderlands myself.

  8. Dreadjaws says:

    Hey, Shamus, have you tried GTA V? I can assure you, this one has severely dialed down the DIAS gameplay, and not just because of the introduction of checkpoints. It did wonders to take away the bad taste that GTA IV had left on me. To this day, V is one of only two GTA games I’ve played in its entirety and the only one I’ve actually replayed.

    You should give it a try when it comes out on PC.

  9. Thomas says:

    The number of games I’ve played seems to be getting lower the closer we get to 1 :P

    In the first chunk I’d played five and a half. In the second, two and a half. In the third one (but I played that game a lot).

    Now it’s just San Andreas. And I don’t know if I ever actually did more than mess around in it every now and then.

    • MichaelGC says:

      Sounds like the authentic GTA:SA experience! I was surprised to find things moving in the other direction, for me:

      64-57: 1
      56-49: 1, sorta
      48-41: 1
      40-33: 2
      32-25: 4

      I’ve still got my pitchfork at the ready in case that trend reverses, though…

  10. Josh says:

    Two things. I have over 500 hours into Borderlands 2, and I love it to death, but I’d be wary of including anything so recent. It looms too large in the consciousness. Personally, my judgement wouldn’t be reliable enough.

    Second, GTA Vice City blows San Andreas out of the water.

  11. Tychoxi says:

    The bit about XCOM being ahead of its time reminds me of Fallout 1/2. Yeah it was ahead of its time in the sense that we seldom saw that level of roleplay and reactivity after ’98 but I remember waiting several insufferable minutes for AI in populated areas and also for loading levels. The longer you went along the more the savegame had to keep track of and the worse it got. Good times. Also, HUMONGOUS installation! Ain’t nobody got HDD space for that!

    Also, TIE Fighter is finally available at GOG!! Alongside other LucasArts classics!!!

  12. Jakob says:

    Hi Shamus, I have the same nitpick as last time. I expect the title to be “Top 64 Games: 32 to 25”, since you start at title 32 and end at 25.

    • Shamus says:

      Heh. Last time I thought, “That’s a really good point. I’ll change the ones I’ve posted. I probably don’t need to fix the future posts. I’m sure I’ll remember to do that later.”

      Let’s see if I remember any others.

      • Jakob says:

        You could always give me advanced access…

        More seriously, I expect you have the list already and are merely writing a few notes about the game. So, you could simply make the rest of the files now (“Top Games 64: 24 – 16.txt” and so on). That way, the mistake wont happen again. Then fill em out as you go along.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        And this time you didnt screw up and post the next entry at the same time:(

    • JGostick says:

      Why can’t I Like/Thumbs Up/+1 this?!?

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Is that a prequel to tie break?And a remake of deuce?

    • John says:

      Yes. Tie Fighter is wonderful.

      A lot of people tend to think of Jedi and lightsabers when they think of Star Wars–and those can be fun, as my many playthroughs of KOTOR attest–but I remind you that the climax of the original film is a tremendous space-dogfight rather than an awkward fencing match with over-sized glow-sticks. I also remind you that space-dogfighting is better than regular dogfighting because you don’t have to deal with pesky things like gravity or the ground. Consequently, X-Wing is not only the Star Wars game best calculated to appeal to my inner 5-year-old but also a really compelling flight, er, sim.

      And Tie Fighter is better than X-Wing. Despite the fact that X-Wing is way, way less complex than any other flight sim that I have ever played (with the possible exception of Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Trainer on my Apple IIe), there’s still a bit of a learning curve. I mean, you have to learn how to toggle deflectors, toggle from one weapon system to another, and shift power between systems in an emergency, all while trying to shoot other space ships. I’m sure there were tutorial “simulator” missions, but geez. Tie Fighter has all those things too, but not right off the bat. You start out in a rinky-dink Tie which has one whole system for you to manage: guns. And that’s it. Even if you skip the tutorial levels (of which there are many), the campaign lets you get the hang of staying on the tail of an enemy ship while blasting it to smithereens without having to worry about anything else.

      And, of course, Tie Fighter also has improved graphics–640×480, hooray!–voice acting, and comes on a CD-ROM. So there’s that, he said, only somewhat facetiously.

      • Isaac says:

        Tie Fighter and X-Wing are also on GoG now!

        • John says:

          So I hear.

          Several years ago, my wife, the most wonderful woman in the world, was nice enough to give me a copy of Tie Fighter CD and a Logitech flight stick for my birthday. It took me a while(i) to figure out that I needed DOSBox to get Tie Fighter to run well (or at all) on my XP machine and (ii) to figure out how to get DOSBox to work. I’m a little jealous of all the people who will be spared that hassle thanks go GOG’s DOSBox wrappers. Learning (a few of) the arcane secrets of DOSBox has helped me get a couple of DOS games running on my Lubuntu netbook, too.

          • Humanoid says:

            If Star Wars was more about TIE Fighters and all that jazz and not about the mystical magical mumbo-jumbo, I wouldn’t hold the IP in the utter contempt I have of it now. With that in mind, I’m going to buy TIE Fighter and give it a fair go because it would be hypocritical of me to do otherwise. I assume there’s no real point in splitting my effort between TIE Fighter and X-Wing?

            Always been a Wing Commander person – indeed replayed Privateer+RF from beginning to end a few months ago – so hopefully shouldn’t take long to adapt. I’ve even got the retro equipment ready, a CH F-16 Fighterstick would have been more or less contemporaneous with the games.

            • Bryan says:

              I wonder if the Linux dosbox will work with my MS FF Pro joystick. Of course, to get that joystick to plug into my machine, I had to build one of these:

              http://code.google.com/p/adapt-ffb-joy/

              but the electronics wrangling is half the fun! (Sadly the last sound card with a DB15 port on it started flaking out when I went to 2 cores, and the 8 in my current CPU are highly unlikely to work with it I think. Really too bad, as well, because that card did hardware mixing, and basically no other one does.)

              If it does work, that might be worth breaking out that joystick again… hmm…

              • Humanoid says:

                I relented and just bought the USB version of the CH stick I already owned, as adapters aren’t ideal apparently not having the full motion resolution of native devices. It’s literally the exact same design except with a USB connector instead.

                It’s a shame that aside from the ultra high-end Warthog (and its predecessor, Cougar) HOTAS systems, post-buyout Thrustmaster hasn’t seen fit to follow up on its classical 90s designs (I prefer the F-4 sticks to the F-16 sticks).

            • John says:

              I don’t think that there’s any compelling reason to play X-Wing before you play Tie Fighter. Tie Fighter is a sequel in the sense that it has the same mechanics as X-Wing, not in the sense that it continues the same story. The two games’ stories–not that either has much in the way of story in the first place–aren’t directly related at all. (In X-Wing, you are a rebel pilot sometime before or during A New Hope. In Tie Fighter, you are an Imperial pilot sometime between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.) And, as I said earlier, I think Tie Fighter introduces the game mechanics more gracefully. If you don’t like Tie Fighter, you almost certainly won’t like X-Wing.

              Conveniently, a lot of skills from Privateer transfer neatly over to Tie Fighter and X-Wing. In the dark days of the early 90s, I didn’t have a PC and could only play X-Wing and Tie Fighter at irregular intervals on a friend’s computer. I was terrible. When we finally got a PC, it came with a copy of Privateer for some reason, and I got the chance to practice space-dogfighting on a more regular basis. The next time I played Tie Fighter at my friend’s house, he commented that I had gotten a lot better.

  13. Otters34 says:

    That image of James Sunderland looking at himself in the mirror is just one of Those Moments. Really, the whole game is an extended version of that first few seconds of the guy regarding his face in the filthy restroom.

    And none of the other games are like that. You don’t learn anything about them by seeing the monsters conjured from the mist between worlds, or the kind of person they might be to venture into deeper and deeper darkness to face horrors anyone else would run from, but they seem almost familiar with.

    With regards to the ‘turf war’ deal in San Andreas, do you suppose that it might have been intentionally aimed at being off-putting, or was this too far before games started more frequently doing that stuff to the players?

  14. Amarsir says:

    Borderlands 2 is better than 1? I didn’t like it, so I assumed it was riding something else’s popularity.

    I played like 3-4 hours of Borderlands 2. The dialog was cute but i wouldn’t sit down and watch it. The combat was slow “clear a dozen guys from a room, then another room, then another room…” The same as all the other games I don’t play, except slower. If i’m playing this kind of game i need fast, exciting combat broken up by meaningful build choices. This offered neither that I could see.

    • Humanoid says:

      My only exposure to the series has been a couple hours playing BL2 solo. My overriding thought during those two hours was “man, I wish this game didn’t have any loot” because as with dozens of games before it, gratuitous inventory management was the death of it for me.

    • Patrick the Pumpkin Spiced Vandal says:

      Borderlands was slow?!?! I suppose the first hour or so when the game was still basically in tutorial mode, but all games are a little muted/simplified to begin with to teach game mechanics and give narrative. Especially games in which goals are need to be met to advance the story or open new areas. You can’t just throw a player into a blender. But after the initial glacier area the game is anything but slow….

      There are a lot of potentially negative adjectives (none that I personally would use, I loved the game)I would think people could attach to BL2, but slow isn’t one of them.

    • Kalil says:

      I liked BL1 a lot better, although I felt it actually got weaker with each patch and DLC. They really fucked up the singleplayer in pursuit of the co-op experience, and people who like co-op tell me they nailed that aspect. I found co-op a thoroughly miserable experience which was so off-putting I quit the game for several months after my first experience with it. When I gave the game another try (solidly in offline mode), I found it tedious. They made what was a clever and fun loot system into a negative by restricting inventory space, fucking up the UI, and making most of the loot totally irrelevant. The characters gameplay failed to interest me. The plot and humor was fun, but not enough so to keep my from wandering off. I never finished my first playthrough, and had absolutely no interest in a second or third (unlike BL1, which kept my attention through 2.5).

      I think it’s one of the most disappointing games I’ve ever bought. It’s one of the few games I can get really mad about, because of what a let-down it was.

  15. Bryan says:

    On Quake 3:

    http://media.tojicode.com/q3bsp/

    Yes, that’s right, it’s Quake 3 in a browser. WebGL is quite good enough now, I think. :-P

    (Works in any recent Firefox I know, as long as your video card isn’t blacklisted from the browser’s WebGL support. (Some of them have bugs that allow webpages to do things like read pixels from other pages, or other programs. Or allow webpages to crash the video card.) I bet it works in recent Chromes as well, subject to the same video card issues.)

  16. Dude says:

    Saints Row 2 is going to be number one, isn’t it? :D

  17. Noumenon72 says:

    Shamus, can you not use the same blurb to introduce every entry, so I can tell if I’ve read this one or not? Maybe put the first game name above the fold?

    Also, could you consider putting the spambot checkbox on the same line as the Post Comment box, so I don’t get the nag popup caused by something that isn’t even on my screen?

    • MichaelGC says:

      Pretty sure the simplest solution to both of these problems is “scroll down a bit.”

      • Noumenon72 says:

        I have posted four times since you made this reply and on every one clicking Comment scrolls the screen down purposely until the checkbox is just off the screen. That’s the behavior that needs to change, perhaps. If you could hit tab twice and check it with the spacebar, that would be okay, but I gather that tips off the spambots.

        god dammit, I just did it again on this post. Terrible design.

  18. Wray says:

    Was Silent Hill 2 ever on the PC?

  19. Friend of Dragons says:

    Is there any particular reason X-Wing Alliance seems to be much less of note than X-Wing/TIE Fighter? It’s the one I played, having missed the earlier ones, and I loved that game.

    • Joe Cool says:

      See, I always thought X-Wing Alliance was the pinnacle of the series. Hyperspace jumps to different mission objectives, manning the turrets on the Millenium Falcon, far improved graphics, the X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter-style mechanics (faster lasers, turning radius that varies with throttle), capital ships that were actually worth a darn and dangerous, mid-mission re-arming, multiplayer, and SUPER STAR DESTROYERS. It was always my favorite.

      I kept waiting for the expansion, like X-Wing, TIE Fighter, and X-Wing Vs. TIE Fighter had, but it never came. I wanted to find out the end of the story line involving your uncle.

      • MichaelGC says:

        I feel the need to quote one of the leading scholars as regards this particular debate.

        Forgive me: I forget his name, and even the exact provenance of this quotation (however, even if apocryphal I think it speaks for itself):

        TIE FIGHTERRRRRRRRR

  20. Galad says:

    It’s not just you, Shamus. Tiny Tina’s DLC IS One of The Best Things Ever done in video games. It has quests poking fun at Dark Souls, One Other Famous Videogame I Don’t Remember Right Now, it has a quest about what eating salad is for Tiny Tina herself and how this is more symbolic and deeper than you might think at first, and it has the best bits of Tiny Tina’s humor in it. Just look at the quest titles and you’ll get an idea – http://borderlands.wikia.com/wiki/Tiny_Tina's_Assault_on_Dragon_Keep_mission_flow.

    Also, killing giant skeletons with machineguns doesn’t get old easy, even if they are bullet sponges.

    • Patrick the Pumpkin Spiced Vandal says:

      You know…that would be an awesome addition to a BL DLC somewhere along the way. Sponges that walk around and cannot be killed with “bullets” but only with laser/elemental damage.

      Like Spongebob squarepants meets freddy krueger. He would literally absorb bullets.

      Bullet sponge? Get it…?

  21. Patrick the Pumpkin Spiced Vandal says:

    True story:

    At a time when I was squatting…err…living in his basement I was working midnights. One day around 6amish when i got home i could see through the window the familiar glow of a TV that meant someone (Shamus) was playing a game in the office. As i approached the house i heard through the window a recognizable conversation from Silent Hill 2. I knew that in a bout a minute 4 of those “nurse things” would jump out and provide one of the more creepy/tense moments in the game.

    So I stood at the window…waited for the appropriate time…and when the nurses appeared i clawed and pounded on the window 6′ away from where Shamus would be sitting.

    Scared the F@!%^&G S&!T out of him. It was awesome. He cried like a girl.

    • MichaelGC says:

      The other day Shamus was talking about how he likes to keep up a constant stream of content so as to push “old” posts off the front page.

      I think I’m beginning to understand one of the reasons why!…

  22. purf says:

    *ahem*.
    Nitpick: There’s no III in San Andreas. If GTA numbered all of its games, SA would be the one with a V (or VII even, counting LondonX)

  23. Someone says:

    Picture guesses 32-25:
    1 – Space Quest 3
    2 – Dishonored
    3 – ???
    4 – Mass Effect 1
    5 – Hitman Blood Money
    6 – Rage
    7 – Bioshock
    8 – Strong Bad’s Cool Game yadda yadda
    9 – Champions Online
    10 – DX Human Revolution
    11 – ???
    12 – Bioshock Infinite

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