Top 64 Games: 64 to 57

By Shamus
on Oct 19, 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. This list is just PC games, limited to the ones I’ve played and I thought were worth discussing. If you rage out because I left out your favorite game then you’re just making a fool of yourself. Also remember the rule: A particular franchise can only appear in the list once, so if Resident Evil 4 makes the list then Resident Evil 2 can’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.

64. Tetris


Link (YouTube)

Tetris only appears on the list because it feels strange to leave it off. Consider this an honorary position. Or something. Still, it’s one of the most famous games ever made, I played it back in the day, and it’s been on the PC in various forms in the past, so it technically qualifies to be on the list. Long before Angry Brids, long before Bejewled, Tetris was the original coffee-break game.

More than any other game, Tetris seems to transcend platform distinctions and eras. It’s been everywhere… except Steam. Yes, you cannot buy any version or variant of Tetris for the PC right now, short of buying used. Who owns this license, and how dumb are they?

63. Homeworld

Pew pew pew! BOOM!

Largely considered a classic, Homeworld is something of a historical dead-end. There weren’t any clonesAlthough you could maybe argue that Sins of a Solar Empire is a descendant. and the series vanished after the sequel.

I didn’t finish the game. Like a lot of people, I got bored and frustrated on the mission where you have to fly through some asteroids to shield you from radiation, or something. I kept telling myself I’d come back to it later. But then I read that the game auto-balances: The more economical you are with your forces, the more bonus units the game gives to your foes. Knowing this, I don’t see myself ever booting up the game again. Why bother mastering a game that punishes efficiency and rewards carelessness?

Still, that soundtrack was something amazing. Watching an epic fleet battle backed by a haunting score was deeply appealing.

62. Riven

Go through the tunnels that lead to the catwalk out to the dome that houses the book. Because bookshelves are for wimps.

Myst was a game that launched a genre. Okay, not a great genre. The “explore a fantastical world built by an obtuse obstructionist jackass via pre-rendered video clips” thing came and went in the 90’s, and it doesn’t hold up well today. But during its brief time in the sun, Riven stood out as the perfection of that formula.

It’s also, in a strange way, a defense of games built around graphical fidelity. Long before Crysis came along and tried to offer visuals in place of solid gameplay, Riven was offering a game so detailed that its screenshots can almost be mistaken for photographs.

61. Burnout Paradise

TAKE ME DOWN TO THE PARADISE CITY WHERE THE GRASS IS GREEN AND THE GIRLS ARE P-(CLICK).

I’m not much for racing games, but every once in a while something special rolls along that captures my interest. Paradise has a wonderful, immediate feel to it. You just explore the map and jump into activities as you encounter them, a bit like the mini-games in Saints Row 2. Also, your goal is to smash other cars more than out-race them, which I find more appealing.

On the downside, I used to like that Guns & Roses song, but this game drowns you in it. WE LICENSED A REAL SONG! LOOK HOW COOL WE ARE! HOW ABOUT YOU LISTEN TO IT THE ENTIRE TIME YOU’RE USING THE MENU AND WAITING FOR LOADING SCREENS AND ON THE TITLE SCREEN AND WHEN YOU LAUNCH THE GAME AND…

60. Stanley Parable

I want to see a Stanley / Angry Birds crossover called The Stanley Parabola.

It’s an extended joke, an essay, a stand-up routine and yes – a parable. Sort of. But it’s a joke that could only be told in the context of a game. It doesn’t have one-liners you can repeat to get a laugh. The only way to get the joke is to participate in the joke, and in participating you find there’s nothing for you to do, because that’s the joke. Or whatever. It’s all very meta.

It was smart and amusing and very, very charming.

59. Leisure Suit Larry and the Land of the Lounge Lizards

Leisure Suit Larry: Dick joke pioneer.

I remember discovering this game in 1989. It was my first adventure game of the Sierra variety. It was my first (genuinely) humorous game. It was the first game I ever played with risque humor. It was the first time I played a game not explicitly aimed at kids. It was, in its own way, strangely educational. The constant references to the pop-culture of the 60’s and 70’s rubbed off on meI refer to the decade right before your birth as a “Historical Blind Spot”. The stuff that’s too far back for you to remember, but too recent to be in history books.. It was where I discovered that Nixon was probably not anyone’s favorite person.

I was delighted to see the game get a re-make in 2013. At least, I was delighted until I tried to play it.

The humor had aged very poorly. It’s been a quarter century. I changed. The culture changed. Games changed. “Ha ha condoms!” was funny to me in 1989, but I can’t seem to see this game through those eyes.

Still, it was special in its day.

58. Medal of Honor: Allied Assault

I liked the part with the shooting. I guess.

This may look suspiciously like an entry to round out the bottom of my list, but… yeah, it is.

This came at the tail end of the World War II craze that happened around the turn of the century, but it’s most notable for being the genesis of the modern military shooter. I add it here not because I remember it vividly, but because I don’t. It perfectly encapsulates everything about the genre today. The only parts I remember now are the bits it ripped off from the movies it wishes it were, and the only impression I still carry with me was that the end was a bit of a slog. There was nothing particularly wrong with it, but it felt strangely ephemeral and disposable.

And in a strange way, it probably led to the next entry…

57. Spec Ops: The Line

Okay men, we’re here to kick ass and be smart. And we’re all out of smarts..

How did they get away with this? It’s a conventional bro shooter that condemns conventional bro-shooters.

Some people criticized the game for railroading you into into taking morally repugnant actions. They also rejected the options offered them by the game as invalid or unacceptable. That’s fair, but I want to use a really asinine and obnoxious defense:

I don’t think the game was designed for you.

I get that defense all the time when I criticize games, so I know how annoying it is. But hear me out. If you were questioning the morality of your character’s actions and looking for justifications for all the killing you were asked to do, then you were probably immune to the central hook of this game. This game was designed with the assumption that the player would see themselves as the good guy and therefore their actions would naturally be in the service of good. It wanted the player to just accept that everyone who ends up on the other side of their gun must therefore be “bad” and worthy of killing. It wanted the player to feel empowered and courageous, and to see themselves as avatars of justice. And then it wanted to condemn them for such a juvenile approach to violence, war, and morality, because that’s exactly how horrific war crimes are perpetrated. Don’t assume that you’re on the side of justice because you mean well. Don’t blindly trust your leaders, and don’t see yourself as a force of good simply because you’re killing people you’ve been told are bad.


Link (YouTube)

The game did this by simply allowing you to follow the exact same mechanical path that you follow in all military shooters: Weapon upgrades, grenades, vehicle section, bomb-dropping section, the sniping section, the “hold off waves of foes” section, and the “hurry through a crumbling landscape” section. You’re supposed to settle in to the familiar mechanics and blindly follow the orders given to you by the game.

Now, if you want to say this makes for a frustrating or unfair game I can’t really argue with you. But what amazes me is that the designers didn’t seem to care. This game burned all its bridges. You can’t pull this trick on players twice, and they left no room for a sequel. They had to realize when they made this that they weren’t going to get to make another one. Since the game seems to hold the intended audience in contempt, I don’t think success was ever their goal. The designers had something to say, and that was more important to them than financial success. Which makes me wonder: Did the publisher understand the game they were backing and publishing?

It’s an angry game. It’s equal parts ugly, unfair, audacious, subversive, and offensive. It’s like a version of Michael Bay’s Transformers where the human characters all realize that they’re irrelevant and the Autobots suddenly realize they’re all violent children. The only people who would enjoy it are people who would never watch it, and the people who would watch it would never enjoy it.

How did they get away with this?

Enjoyed this post? Please share!

Footnotes:

[1] Although you could maybe argue that Sins of a Solar Empire is a descendant.

[2] I refer to the decade right before your birth as a “Historical Blind Spot”. The stuff that’s too far back for you to remember, but too recent to be in history books.


A Hundred!A Hundred!208228 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

From the Archives:

  1. DaMage says:

    Tetris isn’t on steam? wow, that’s an amount of money that the owners of the license are just missing out on….then again, who plays tetris on a desktop/laptop anymore, it works better for mobile.

    • Muspel says:

      To be fair, there are probably a thousand free tetris clones on the internet, so I’m not convinced that it would sell very well.

      • According to the Wikipedia article, the owner of the rights has been issuing takedowns on the internet versions for a while, and it seems the creator and/or actual license-holders have missed out on revenue for decades, so it’s not like this would be a new experience.

        • Abnaxis says:

          That’s where Teris stands out for me–not for it’s popularity or ubiquity, but for the fact that it’s the first game I remember being unapologetically, relentlessly, and unambitiously cloned ad infinitum. I’m sure other games were cloned before, but YATCs are, for me, the very essence of bandwagon development, and I think it set the stage for all the cloning you see done whenever anything has success in games

          • nerdpride says:

            “Tetris makes a good second/third project. There’s quite a bit of logic that goes into make a puzzle game. It’s a decent size game so you’ll have to learn you to split your program into multiple source files, which you can read more about here. Don’t underestimate Tetris. I did and just look at the garbled mess that is the Lazy Blocks source code.” – Lazy Foo.

            So yeah.

            Telling people to make Angry Birds or Bejeweled to learn to program videogames just doesn’t have the same kind of ring to it. I can’t imagine humanity being at this level of technology and/or prosperity without an infinite stream of Tetris clones.

            • MichaelGC says:

              Indeed. Including Tetris clones built entirely in main(), with no function calls. I’ve never seen nor played such a thing, but if there had never been such, I may not have realised it but my life would have been significantly less rich.

    • James says:

      EA owns Tetris as far as i recall so its never coming to steam anyway. and its not on origin…. yet…

      EDIT: Sooo i did some background apprently its owned by funnily enough The Tetris Company, EA has the publishing rights on android however.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Tetris only appears on the list because it feels strange to leave it off. ”

    Thank you.Seriously,if you make a list of “Top X games of all time” and you dont include tetris,your list is automatically worthless.

    By the way,can anyone help me find that story about post apocalyptic world where the major past time is televised tetris duel to the death?

    • poiumty says:

      “if you make a list of “Top X games of all time” and you dont include tetris,your list is automatically worthless.”

      But as games are subjective, any “Top X games of all time” list would be more or less subjective. Especially since Shamus hasn’t played all games that exist and thus cannot put Baldur’s Gate 2 on the #1 spot be considered an ultimate authority on which games are best. Which makes the exclusion of any game be a matter of personal opinion. Thus, you can’t really say it’s “worthless” since opinions are opinions and all.

      What if you exclude Mario, Zelda, or Pac-Man? Should we have games that are considered objectively mandatory for any top list?

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “A particular franchise can only appear in the list once”

    Soo,does that include spin offs as well?For example,portal and half life are technically one franchise,arent they?

    • Arctem says:

      I think they would count as different franchises set in the same universe.

      • SpiritBearr says:

        Yeah most top sci fi movie lists of this type might have Alien (or Aliens) and Blade Runner with this rule in effect even though they share universes now.

        • Mephane says:

          So I walk into this thread and suddenly someone casually mentions that Alien and Blade Runner are set in the same universe.

          Was Ripley merely a replicant? o_O

        • Taellosse says:

          Wait, when did this happen? I’m not even sure that makes sense – the replicants in Blade Runner are, without special testing or equipment, indistinguishable from human. Their component parts/organs are apparently organic, despite being artificial – they even bleed red. The androids of the Alien franchise are only apparently human until they’re injured – their internals, even “blood” are all clearly non-human. Thus, if they are set in the same universe, Blade Runner would have to be significantly farther into the future than at least the first two Alien movies, and yet there is not the vaguest hint that alien life of any kind has been discovered in Blade Runner. Admittedly, Blade Runner takes place on Earth while none of the Alien movies show much of anything in the Sol system, but still, it seems unlikely to me that the events of all the Alien films would have been COMPLETELY hidden and suppressed from the general public back home.

          • Quite the reverse, I think. Alien would be further future. Replicants are I believe organic life forms, some kind of genetically engineered thing based on human genes. They’re made of meat.

            Androids are actual humanoid robots, requiring full AI operating within a human-sized frame at full realtime speed without overheating, plus all kinds of other sophisticated stuff, built from scratch using actual tech rather than piggybacking on evolution’s pre-existing genetic code. Much harder.

            • Taellosse says:

              I dunno – the movie was never all that clear exactly what replicants are. And in the story on which it is based, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, replicants are cyborgs – a combination of engineered organic and mechanical parts.

    • syal says:

      All I know is I will be disappointed if Tetris makes the list and Tetris Attack does not.

    • Starkos says:

      Hmm… Will he choose System Shock 1 or 2?

    • Shamus says:

      We’re going by franchise names and not universes, since otherwise including X-Wing would prevent the inclusion of Dark Forces, and that doesn’t make any sense.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        What about unreal and unreal tournament?Those two are very different,but carry the same name.

        And you did include riven,which probably disqualifies myst,even though they dont carry the same name.

        • Felblood says:

          I think it’s splitting hairs to say that “Riven: the Sequel to Myst” is substantially different from “Myst 2: Riven”.

          They could have written “Hula Hoop Hero” on the box and that wouldn’t change the fact that Riven was just more Myst, only moreso.

    • Naota says:

      I’m more curious about franchises like Final Fantasy which feature consistent names and perspective over the years and not much else. The story and mechanics change with every game. Similarly: Fallout 1&2 compared to 3 and New Vegas, or Far Cry’s many faces (and developers). Does Bioshock count as a continuation of System Shock’s legacy?

      As with any list defined so broadly, even the questions have questions.

      • Robyrt says:

        Fortunately, a lot of the series which have drastic changes are not competing with one another. Far Cry 2 is just miles better than Far Cry 1, while nobody is going to put both X-COM 2010s and XCOM 1990s on the same list. So we may never know!

      • Joe Cool says:

        This is what I was thinking. I understand if the games in a franchise are all similar in terms of gameplay, but if there’s a massive shift, I think it’d be fair to include two or more. For instance, Myst and Riven are nearly identical, gameplay-wise, so only one should be included. But Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness 1&2 are radically different from 3&4. I think it’d be fair to include one from each side.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Heh,doing it in byte sized chunks,80s style.

    Also,I love how all the pictures get some rollover text on them,except for mohaa.And honestly,it wasnt that good when it came out.Call of duty was much better.Retaking stalingrad was way better presented than storming the beach of normandy*(in the games,not talking about the movies these two were aping).Guns were better,and amping the difficulty to the max gave you a much better feeling.Too bad that cod2 ruined it all.

    *Though invading the beaches of normandy in unreal tournament was the king of them all.

    • Chauzuvoy says:

      Oh god. I didn’t discover UT until a bunch of my friends distributed it at a LAN party (well, there were 6 of us so more of a LAN hangout). 3 of them had played before. And they were like “Assault is pretty fun.” And we were like “k.” And they were like “Overlord is the best map for it.” And we were like “k.” And then it loaded and we were on the beaches of Normandy and it was actually a lot of fun even though I was (and am) horrible at shooters, but it was decidedly NOT k.

    • purf says:

      MoH or CoD, I *do* approve the inclusion of either one. Strange how the genesis of the genre was also its pinnacle and it’s been constant devolution since then.

      “Whenever your lost or can’t find an objective […] Noise attracts guards, and where there are alarms, count on a few to go for those. […] You can get a much better advantage with this plan. […] any order these objectives can be completed […]

      vs.

      “sniping (infinite bullets) into Markarov’s den after you locate Price […] Just don’t shoot anyone and follow Price. […] go under the metal walkway and stop when Price does […] Follow Price, place another explosive charge and head for the area where Price wires up another charge […] Carry Soap to the exit (follow Price)”.

      • CoD: Modern Warfare was my first introduction to console-style FPS, which was a bit of a shock for me. I came from the land of health packs, clearable areas, and places where there were multiple routes through, if not branching corridors. The more linear setup was something I had to get used to, but the things that threw me most were the “cover replenishes health” mechanic and the “there are infinite dudes until you move past this area” mechanic.

        I mostly remember that game for it’s surprising plot twist and that it did, indeed, look pretty.

  5. Cuthalion says:

    That’s a very interesting point about Spec Ops: The Line. How did the publisher approve that? Did it have to be snuck past them?

    Also, yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay typo police!

    It wanted the player to just accept that everyone who ends up on the other side of their gun must therefore bad “bad” and worthy of killing.

    Although really, “bad bad” should be a verb and appropriate for that context. It seems intuitive enough.

    • Jokerman says:

      I bet they were told it was a 3rd person action game set in a middle eastern country with two npc companions and a cover system.

      Oh, and multiplayer!

      • Abnaxis says:

        If I remember correctly, they forced the publishers forced the dev to add multiplayer. So they saw “3rd person action game set in a middle eastern country with two npc companions and a cover system,” and said “just add multiplayer and we’re golden!”

      • Cuthalion says:

        Dev: Oh, and it’s got a dark and gritty story, too! Teens love that stuff! Makes ’em think they’re adults!

    • Viktor says:

      I’m guessing it wasn’t so much “snuck past” the publisher as it was the devs gave them a design doc with “modern military shooter that’s a sequel to a franchise” and 2K just threw money at them. Sadly, it was a financial failure, but damn it’s good that got made.

      • Mechaninja says:

        I really kind of want to know what those devs want to make.

        Because This tells me nothing of value.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        What do you mean its sad? They made a game that gives the middle finger to its own target audience. The consequences of that should be obvious.

        I’m glad that it exists as an object lesson for other developers who might try to pull this crap. I’m just glad I already don’t like modern military shooters because I’d be pissed if I thought a game was trying to earnestly tell me that I sucked for buying and playing it (I can handle “Take That Audience” as a joke or playful ribbing but not the way Spec Ops is doing it).

        That said, Shamus thinks the bridges have been burned for a sequel but how cool would it be if either A) A sequel for the game was done that parodied cash-in sequels that miss the point of the original game OR B) The publishers just turned the franchise over to another developer and had them create a straight forward un-ironic bro-shooter? OR C) Something like B but also including lots of narrative apologies to wounded and traumatized vets who would have been offended by the first game?

        I know some of you would balk at B) and I have to admit I’d much prefer to see A) myself.

        Bottomline, is it a good message? Sure. But its not a sad state of affairs when people fail to line up to buy a product that is designed to make them feel bad for buying and using it.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          “I’m just glad I already don’t like modern military shooters because I’d be pissed if I thought a game was trying to earnestly tell me that I sucked for buying and playing it (I can handle “Take That Audience” as a joke or playful ribbing but not the way Spec Ops is doing it).”

          *sigh*

          The game never says that.It goes out of its way to distance the player from walker,and what it says to the player is “Look how horrible this character is.Now think how other games in this genre present such people.Isnt that horrible?”.

          The only time it directly tells to the player that they are horrible is when they do identify with walker until the end,even though every step of the game they are told that they shouldnt.And really,if you do identify with such a person,you deserve it.

        • So would you say this ending ruins the game?

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            I will concede that yes, if you are setting out to craft an ending that deliberately ruins the game, you can succeed as they did. If you can call it success.

            • I rather think they were setting out to say something new in this kind of game. And really, the concept isn’t that different from film and comic books (both of which feature larger-than-life heroes) where we sometimes see the protagonist discovering they’ve been doing things they would object to, had they known everything that was going on.

              If anything, the reception of the game was often praised for its story and its dark overtones (much in the same way the twist of CoD:MW was) with the gameplay coming up for only secondary praise, if any.

          • Felblood says:

            I would say no.

            Shamus makes it sound like the idea that Walker is a horrid nationalist monster is some kind of twist ending, but it’s more of a slow reveal.

            Realizing that Walker is a dick isn’t a gutpunch twist designed to elicit a cheap response. You’re intended to come to a series of conclusions about Walker in a specific order, over the course of the game.

            1. Walker isn’t nearly as smart as he thinks he is, and only gets away with that because he is so tough he can murder hundreds of dudes without consequences.

            2. Walker is enough of a nihilistic monster that he would continue to employ this strategy even if he was smart enough to figure out the external plot, which he still isn’t. (–even though many player already realize that some of these factions can’t be trusted, just because they share the protagonist’s nationality.)

            3. Walker is not going to reform or find redemption in the final act. Even if the external plot reaches a positive resolution, Walker’s internal story has no happy ending.

            4. You could say those same things about basically every other Bro-shooter protagonist.

            5. I sure would be nice if more games took the time to think about the protagonist’s internal story, and maybe give it a satisfying ending. Why don’t they do that? Are these cruel soulless cyphers we’re asked to inhabit telling us something about how publishers view us, and should we be proud of what they are saying?

            6. We should be demanding and supporting more shooters that think about their story in terms of internal struggles, and respect their audience’s ability to recognize that. to do that, we need to start recognizing when this has not happened.

            Point #6 is never explicitly enumerated, but it’s clearly the thesis that the audience is intended to support. This entire game, not just the ending, is an effective persuasive essay on economics and psychology, written in the language of it’s target audience: Young males with disposable income, who are ready to graduate to a truly mature type of shooter, but are settling for bro-shooter because they don’t realize that they have either the power to demand then, or the unfulfilled craving for them.

            Plus the game is … competent. I seem to remember a lot of complaining that nothing good was coming out right before this game dropped. What else were they going to be doing?

    • Henson says:

      I liked ‘Angry Brids’, myself.

    • Disc says:

      It really does boggle the mind. The messages themselves are something that would deserve discussion, but they ruined a good part of it by choosing the most insipid and laziest ways to deliver them. You’d really have to have extraordinary charisma to succesfully sell the idea to anyone who cares about actually making money. Or a really good con artist. Or just have lots of dumb luck. Or the people in charge really are/were a bunch of easily duped morons.

  6. Bryan says:

    Wait, is that Catacomb 3D? And Colossal Cave Adventure? And I think Doom 3? Though I don’t know how I’d rate the last one in comparison to the first two; it did have a lot of technological advances (so *kinda* like Catacomb), and is relatively well known (but not nearly as well known as xyzzy / twisty maze of passages, all alike / etc.). But … yeah, probably a ways down on both of those axes, at least.

    …Oh. You said several times that the images don’t mean anything regarding which games show up in your list.

    Well, still, I can dream. For a couple weeks anyway. :-P

  7. Michael says:

    I’m one of those people who felt Spec Ops was disingenuous. I read somewhere that the developer claimed there were actually two options: be railroaded into doing heinous war crimes, or quit the game. The idea isn’t bad- Stanley Parable did something similar- but I think it could have been done a little more tactfully than “How do you played this game you spent money on! You jerk!”

    • Thomas says:

      Or you could admire the game for the story it tells whilst dissociating yourself from the protagonists actions right?

      Or maybe not. I think that’s the most interesting thing of all about Spec Ops. Theoretically a game that gets you into the mindset of say, an Enron executive, would be an interesting game right? I’d read a book about what went on in their heads.. But can players accept driving someone they don’t actually like?

      Is that purely because we’ve been raised on games which are 100% unambitious in terms of these things and we expect our power fantasies to be fulfilled or is it an actual limitation of gaming?

      I sometimes wonder that about ‘first-person walkers’. Do we tend to not enjoy them because we arrived at computer-based interactive entertainment via Noughts and Crosses or is the lack of objectives and defined play actually boring?

      Again in theory, if someone told me I could walk about in fantastical environments that would be impossible otherwise. That sounds attractive. But it’s not so attractive when I’m made to _play_ them.

      • syal says:

        I’m wondering how much crossover First Person Walker games have with Find the Item games; the goal of both seems to be taking in the details.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        “Or you could admire the game for the story it tells whilst dissociating yourself from the protagonists actions right?”

        That is what the game asks of you anyway.

        “But can players accept driving someone they don’t actually like?”

        Of course they can.Ive brought this up a few days before,and someone pointed out that hotline miami is also one of the games where you drive someone you dont like.

        • Wolf says:

          This situation (controlling an asshole) leads to the quite interesting form of dissonance where you are kind of cheering for your enemies to succeed, but at the same time you have this base enjoyment of mechanical success when you do play well.

          Spec Ops really plays this angle quite well. One moment I honestly enjoy the viscerality of pulling of a quick takedown and the next I have to watch Walker go mental on the dead corpse for exactly that moment too long. It forces you to consider, that you just thought “Yeah! I killed that guy! Boom!” and that that is kind of weird.

        • Patrick the Butcher, Baker AND CANDLESTICK MAKER says:

          Full disclosure: I never played Spec Ops. I have no idea who Walker is, but I’m getting the vibe that he’s kind of a dick? Regardless…

          Making a preach-y game isn’t new. Making a game with the user controlling some sociopathic anti-hero is almost bland at this point (GTA? Saints Row?). Where the rub seems to be is in the packaging. Don’t sell someone tofu labeled as prime rib. Don’t sell “Transformers XIV: EXPLOSIASM!!” as a WWII docu-drama. And don’t package Spec Ops as something other than what it is. Now, I’m not entirely sure what that is, but apparently it was definitely NOT a bro-shooter.

          I don’t think anyone would object to…umm, I don’t know, whatever lesson the game was trying to teach?(War is horrible, did that need explained?) Just from the comments section everyone objects to the ” HAHA! GOTCHA F#*&@@R!” in which it was done.

          Nobody likes a smartass.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Spec ops definitely did show early on what it is,as long as you were paying attention.The small snippets you got from the collectibles showed that this is not your run of the mill bro shooter.

            Neil D describes exactly why the comments are like that:People feel that the game was somehow condemning them personally,when it was not,it was condemning the protoagnoist of the game,and by extension every protagonist in other bro shooters that is presented to be unambiguously good for no reason other than being the protagonist.

          • Tektotherriggen says:

            “Where the rub seems to be is in the packaging.”

            I think there’s a very interesting question as to how much a game, film or book can lie about what it is. I suspect nobody would complain about Portal pretending to be a semi-abstract puzzler, but in fact throwing a plot at you half-way through. And I’m sure we wouldn’t condone advertising an ultra-gory horror film as a child-friendly Disney affair. But where’s the line [no pun]?

            I think that a major failing with many genres is the expectations that we have right from the start. The first half-hour of a disaster or horror movie is spent gleefully betting on which supporting character dies first, and hoping that they don’t wait too long to do it because all this character stuff is tedious. But advertise a film as a standard drama, and have the disaster occur as a bolt from the blue after we’ve actually come to like the characters? That could be a far more effective and realistic story. But real-life drama fans will watch it without enjoying it, and disaster movie fans won’t go to see it in the first place.

            I haven’t played it, but it sounds like SO:TL had to lie about what it was to have any effect. If it had advertised itself as a deconstruction, it might as well have not existed at all.

          • Anthony says:

            Anyone who bought Spec Ops: The Line without reading any reviews, which would clearly spell out what it was, deserves what they got.

    • Supahewok says:

      “I read somewhere that the developer claimed there were actually two options: be railroaded into doing heinous war crimes, or quit the game.”

      I’ve heard that argument at some point. Personally, I think it’s bullshit. The game does not acknowledge you never playing it. If player choice is not recognized by the game, then how meaningful can it be?

      I’d consider the argument valid if you had the option, in the first level, of going back to the beginning of the level after investigating the radio station and calling to get picked up. That would have been a valid choice that would have made their point even better, because noone would think to go back like that anyway, which fits in with the theme of just going forward blindly in the rest of the game. And how hard would that have been to implement, really? Just a button prompt and a credits scene.

      Not to mention the idiocy of dumping $50-$60 on a game and then refusing to play it after five minutes. Some of us have limited income. Something about the dev smugly insinuating that the morally correct choice of playing their game, is by not playing it, AFTER I’ve given them money, REALLY gets under my skin. (If you couldn’t tell already :)

      • Shamus says:

        “I’d consider the argument valid if you had the option, in the first level, of going back to the beginning of the level after investigating the radio station and calling to get picked up. ”

        Yes! Just have the player backtrack and then roll credits. That would have been perfect.

        • StashAugustine says:

          The developers of Fallout: New Vegas considered allowing the player to just leave through the Mojave Outpost at any time and just end the game early, but decided not to implement it.

        • Jokerman says:

          Even though this was written as sarcasm, i actually would not object to such an option.

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            Yes, in spite of my bashing in my post above, an option like this would have saved the whole enterprise. Even better if there were non obvious options throughout the game not to commit atrocities (perhaps some of the later options could only be unlocked if you took earlier ones so that an early commitment to atrocities locks you into committing atrocities. Something like that.)

          • Shamus says:

            Oh, I wasn’t sarcastic. I really do think that would have been an interesting and valid “hidden” ending. It would have also been a a sly rebuke to Walker’s “We have no choice!” talk.

            • Avatar says:

              Honestly, no, it would have still sucked.

              Look, there’s room for that sort of story, but if you’re going to be subversive, don’t ambush the reader/viewer/player with it. Yes, this means you are limited in the kinds of WHAT A TWIST developments you can throw at the audience. But you know, if I’m reading a novel, and on page 150 suddenly The Flying Spaghetti Monster shows up, damns the main character for not particularly caring for noodles, and then the next 200 pages are about the Noodlepocalypse… I’m gonna be ticked off if I thought I was reading a detective novel. (On the other hand, if the story was described as “a delightfully transgressive look at the Pastafarian end of days,” well, I knew what I was getting into, right?)

              A slightly less silly and more controversial example. Say a group puts out a game in the dating-sim genre, high school romance etc. The player starts playing and soon learns that his character is plotting and ultimately executing a rape. Whoa, that’s not what we bought in for! Player, not having a rape fantasy, takes a look at the other stories. Oh, they all involve rape too! Hey, this guy wasn’t here for rape, he just wanted something romantic. He looks up a developer interview and the developer says “well, all sex is rape, so this game is just exposing that anything you thought was romance is really just rape.”

              That ain’t cool. This guy wanted something out of the game and you gave him something completely different, along with yelling at him for being an evil rapist type. But he didn’t set out to do those things – the only reason he encountered them was because of the non-choices the developer baked into the game. If he had any actual agency, he’d have gone about things differently. So it’s not the player that has the moral responsibility here, it’s the developer – for hijacking someone’s entertainment to make their questionable moral point, at the cost of -not providing the entertainment-.

              I also submit that having a “forever alone” route where the guy decides that he doesn’t want to rape anyone and thus doesn’t approach any women at all is not a solution to this problem.

              Do not, do not, do not ambush your customers. If you do, then the terrible person is you.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                Wrong.All of it.

                First of all,spec ops doesnt switch genres.Second of all,all dating is not rape,but all war is killing.

                • Patrick the Butcher, Baker AND CANDLESTICK MAKER says:

                  Wrong.

                  No deaths have ever occurred during a thumb war.

                  • evileeyore says:

                    Wrong. The Last Great Thumb War killed my interest in ever partaking of Thumb Wars.

                    • Patrick the Butcher, Baker AND CANDLESTICK MAKER says:

                      You know…in all seriousness. This would make a great phone app. two-player touch-screen app. Gotta be worth 20k+ DLs.

                      Seriously…someone needs to make this.

                • Avatar says:

                  All war is killing, but obviously the distinction we’re making here is between justified killing and killing which is not justified or justifiable. (Or rather, you COULD take a principled view that no killing is justified no matter the circumstances, but holding that position and making a military shooter based on it is every bit as warped as holding the position that all sex is rape and making a dating sim…)

                  People DO get angry when you switch genres – just look at Brutal Legend, which was marketed as an open-world GTA type game and then turned into a weird hybrid RTS. I liked it, but it ain’t what was on the label or in the marketing, and not everyone agreed that the result was something they were happy with. (And a bunch of the people who didn’t agree, had already plunked down for the game…)

                  But this isn’t so much “genre shift” as a violation of the implied social contract. If you’re making a football game, you expect it to reflect the values of people who enjoy playing football games, not to put up stat screens with “Times beaten wife (week/season/all-time)” or “Yards per conviction on drug charges”. Not saying that you couldn’t do a kind of parody game that DID have that sort of thing… but slapping the label “NFL ’15” on the box and selling it without any kind of comment is not only mistaken but incredibly rude.

                  There are mechanisms for doing this kind of thing and letting your players/readers/whatever know that you’re about to pitch a change-up. Ideally, this allows for the people who are genuinely interested in your oddness to indulge, while people who are looking for something more conventional can find other things to do with their lives. If you want to make a dating sim where the basic premise is that the power imbalance between men and women makes “romance” a thin veneer over sexual assault, and you market it accordingly, more power to ya. If you want to make a modern military Gandhi Goes to War where you resolutely advance into the enemy’s fire with empty hands and a smile, hey, could be interesting. But don’t put a guy on the cover of the box holding a rifle and grenade launcher, a knife in his teeth, spattered with blood, and name it “SOLDIER MAXIMUM” etc.

                  And maybe the fault really is with the marketing more than the developers per se. Bad things happen when the audience has different expectations than the cast. (I was at a local theater production of Rocky Horror once where an entire troop of girl scouts arrived to watch the play. Someone Did Not Get The Memo. Profuse apologies and refunds were offered at intermission…)

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    I partially agree with you that marketing is the problem.But not in the genre switching department.Ive mentioned already that the problem is that most people started playing the game with the assumption that you were supposed to identify with walker,oblivious to the attempts of the game to distance them from the protagonist.Thus they thought the game was condemning them for stuff that they were railroaded into doing.Instead of separating themselves from the protagonist when the game was telling them to,most people had the reaction of “What a stupid decision,I would never react like that if these hacks werent forcing me to”.

              • Taellosse says:

                Not having actually played it, I confess I’m speaking from a position of second-hand knowledge, but my impression of Spec Ops: The Line is that it isn’t making a comment on the morality of actual war so much as the morality of the bro-shooter game genre – a genre whose resemblance to actual military conflict is HEAVILY distorted at best.

                The message, I think, wasn’t so much, “war is always bad and games about war are almost as bad,” but rather, “is it really such a good idea to glorify violence the way these games tend to do? Real war isn’t fun, and in reality when soldiers do the kinds of things one routinely does in these games, they’re called war criminals.”

                Spec Ops strikes me as an excellent example of games as art, rather than merely entertainment or commercial enterprise. Art often contains a message its audience finds uncomfortable – and invoking that discomfort to provoke reflection is frequently the point of such art. You aren’t necessarily supposed to ENJOY such an experience, and charging money for the privilege of going through it is, I admit, somewhat questionable, but I think there’s an argument to be made that there’s value in it all the same.

                • Starker says:

                  As someone who has played the game twice, I’d say you’re mostly correct — the game does do all that you say, but I think it does go beyond it. It’s also a criticism of American interventionism and the way war is glorified in a culture in general. The bro-shooters are in its sights, yes, but it actually aims higher than that.

                  And it also condemns the player directly for playing the game. The loading screens are full of passive-aggressive stuff like:

                  “You are still a good person.”
                  “Do you feel like a hero yet?”
                  “Can you even remember why you came here?”
                  “To kill for yourself is murder. To kill for your government is heroic. To kill for entertainment is harmless.”
                  “The US military does not condone the killing of unarmed combatants. But this isn’t real, so why should you care?”

                  And more direct stuff like:

                  “This is all your fault.”
                  “It’s time for you to wake up.”
                  “How many Americans have you killed today?”
                  “You cannot understand, nor do you want to.”
                  “If you were a better person, you wouldn’t be here.”

                  • Taellosse says:

                    Holy shit, that is kind of nasty.

                    Wow, how DID this game ever get made? Shamus has to be right, and the publishers didn’t know what the developers were really up to.

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    “And it also condemns the player directly for playing the game.”

                    No it doesnt.All those messages condemn the player if they identify with the protagonist.Which the game actively tries to make you not do.

                    • Starker says:

                      Whether you identify with the protagonist or not, you can’t play a game like this as a passive observer. At the very least, it’s you who’s driving the action forward.

                      The game may aim at condemning only a specific type of player (who may or may not identify with the protagonist), but it actually ends up hitting a lot more than those people.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      But you are a passive observer for the most of it.Oh sure,you get to point and shot,throw grenades and stuff,and even get a choice or two,but walkers decent into madness?You have absolutely no say in that.You control the body,not the mind.You are basically the fourth man on that squad,obeying walkers orders even though you see the guy is clearly insane.You have no more say than the other two dudes walker drags with him.

                    • Starker says:

                      You could also say that you are the one who is giving Walker orders (how many times does Walker say that he didn’t have a choice?) and that he goes insane (like any normal person would) because there’s an unrelenting uncaring force driving him forwards.

                      The game even addresses you directly in the end scene with Konrad:
                      “None of it would’ve happened if you just stopped, but on you marched, and for what?”
                      “You’re no savior. Your talents lie elsewhere.”
                      “…you’re here because you wanted to feel like something you’re not. A hero.”

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Nope.If you were the one giving orders,you could just turn back and leave.But you cant,you face a wall if you try that.Any time you try to defy walkers orders,you face a barrier stopping you.

                      And nope,he doesnt address you.Because if you stop playing the game,you dont stop the events,you simply stop participating in them.You effectively die in that world,just like the other two teammates.

                    • Starker says:

                      Don’t confuse giving orders with having a choice. If it wasn’t for you, Walker would not shoot all these people. You turned him into a killer. How many people does Walker shoot in the cutscenes? During the course of the game Walker makes a very big deal out of how he doesn’t have any say in what happens…
                      Lugo: “There’s always a choice”
                      Walker: “There really isn’t.”

                      You not having a choice is the whole point of the game. The option of turning back would undermine completely what the game is about. Both the lack of choice as well as the choices that you do have in the game are there to comment on the binary morality of such choices in other video games. The unfortunate consequence of that is that it can feel like a cheap gotcha moment for people and it leads to some conflicting design — it tries to comment on things while doing those very things and at times it gets a bit too incongruous. And I’m not talking about cognitive dissonance here — I mean that it gets too meta for its own good.

                      Regarding the end scene, if the game wasn’t talking to you, these quotes make very little sense. What other talents would Walker have, for example? Did Walker really want to be a hero? Etc… It’s basically very thinly veiled fourth wall breaking.

                      At the very minimum, the game thinks that you’re an accomplice to what happens. The game even comments on the act of killing in video games in what’s probably the most hamfisted quote in the entire game: “To kill for yourself is murder. To kill for your government is [perceived as] heroic. To kill for entertainment is [perceived as] harmless.” The game goes to great lengths to try to make you see (and feel guilt about) how fucked up it is that killing a human being is something that you do for fun in a video game.

                    • Starker says:

                      Oh, and the loading screen quote “If you were a better person, you wouldn’t be here”. leaves very little room for other interpretations. It doesn’t say, “If Walker was a better person, he wouldn’t be here”. It doesn’t say, “If you were a better person, you wouldn’t identify with Walker”. It resents the very fact that you’re playing the game in the first place.

                      The game has to overcome two problems that are fundamental to the subject of depicting war. One of them is encapsulated in Truffaut’s famous saying that there’s no such thing as an anti-war film and the other in Samuel Fuller’s (who btw called Full Metal Jacket a recruiting film, to give some perspective) saying that the only realistic war movie would be one in which a machine gun behind the screen would fire directly at the audience. Games can bridge the disconnect between the medium and the audience better than film can, but they are even more susceptible to the first problem. Personally, I feel that Hotline Miami addressed this aspect better.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          No,it wouldnt.That would turn the story from “Hey,look how horrible this character is.Now think how other games present such characters to be” into “Hey,you had your choice,but you chose to play this horrible character,so you are as horrible as characters the other games present you with”.All those instances where the the player is encouraged to grow distant from walker would be meaningless.

          • Given all the ridiculous “Iron Man” style tech they’re putting into military shooters these days, how about this: At the end, after you’ve been told how awful you & Walker were, there’s a crate marked “TOP SECRET” somewhere containing a DeLorean with a Flux Capacitor…

      • syal says:

        “The game does not acknowledge you never playing it.”

        In the same way your neighbor doesn’t acknowledge you not throwing a brick at their house. The point is to make you realize you’ve been throwing bricks at houses without thinking about it; if you haven’t been, the game isn’t meant for you.

        Though it would have been interesting to implement a refund policy that was only valid if you stopped playing before getting a specific achievement.

        • Michael says:

          “The point is to make you realize you’ve been throwing bricks at houses without thinking about it”

          Bioshock did the same thing, forcing you to realize that you’ve been blindly following orders the entire game. But Bioshock did it with tact- instead of guilt-tripping the player, it used the fact that the player was fooled as motivation to go after Fontaine. Bioshock’s twist encouraged the player, whereas Spec Ops did the opposite.

          • syal says:

            Bioshock used it narratively, basically as a way to sidestep the people who played through the game going “All right, Atlas betrayal in 3… 2… 1…”

            Bioshock’s message was not about throwing bricks; that was just an ancillary bit of their message about what happens when you try to force a dream. And it’s the exact opposite message; “You’ve done evil things, but it’s okay, because someone told you to and that means you had no choice.”

            • syal says:

              (Purely because my mixed metaphor is bothering me:)

              Bioshock is a game about what happens when you build a house on an unreliable foundation; it was coming down before you started throwing bricks at it.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          Its definitely different in this case. To use your analogy: Its like you’re paying a guy with a sign in front of a house for the option to throw bricks at a guy’s house then the guy you gave the money to informs you that its not his house and you technically never asked him and now he’s calling the cops.

          Sounds more like trolling now that I think about it.

          • syal says:

            I don’t see the “calling the cops” part, and I don’t see a problem with the rest of it.

          • Wolf says:

            Yes it is pretty much the valuable kind of trolling, that inoculates you against bullshit.
            The game tricked you into feeling good about doing bad things and then in the end it goes “See how bad that stuff actually was and how easy it was to make it feel like the right thing to do in that moment? Are you now wondering how often you did not notice such manipulation in similar situations?” and that is a very good message to spread.

            Of course if you did not feel good about Walkers actions then the game was preaching to the choir and you can validly say it did not work for you. But the more you feel like the game betrayed you, the more the games message should meen to you.

            That being said I don’t know how The Line was marketed and how much of a betrayal of buyer expectations happened on that level. I kind of hope marketing really played up the “dark and gritty” angle, because that would be hilariously misleading while being entirely accurate.

            • Wide And Nerdy says:

              Well, it didn’t trick me. I don’t play modern military shooters to begin with. I’m not miffed with the game from some personal experience. I’m just thinking about how i might have felt.

              But consider people fall into two camps on this stuff. 1) The stuff in games does affect you on some level and it bothers you when you have to do stuff you wouldn’t do in real life. In which case this game is preaching to the choir with those guys and 2) Games are just games. You can do what you want in a game and it doesn’t matter and thats kind of the whole point. And that second group isn’t going to be receptive to a message that there are things you shouldn’t do even in a video game.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                Um,Im not bothered what any game does.But I still like what spec ops did.Trying to cram all people into just a few distinctly separate categories ends up as one of the two results:
                1.You can screw up,and miscount.

                • MichaelGC says:

                  The actual discussion you’re all having is beyond me, so I’m not taking sides, but everything Daemian L says from ‘Trying’ onwards is one of the best internet things I’ve ever read.

      • Disc says:

        I’d have definitely been happier with the game if something like this was an option. It’s something I’ve mentioned before; It would have been a better game with the option to walk away. It’d been even better if you could’ve done it at several different points in the game.

      • Anthony says:

        It’s the nature of the genre to not provide you with any choice. How much choice do you get in Modern Warfare? Who complains about that?

        But just because the story you’re being railroaded into doesn’t present you as a bland hero, it’s meaningless now?

    • Grudgeal says:

      I think that was sort of the point, and that doing it otherwise would blunt the message. The Stanley Parable was a parodic meta-critique of video game narratives and the illusion of choice, aka Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: It wanted to make you laugh and think about the limits inherent in the media and the narrative tools we grasp for by default, but ultimately there’s no harm intended in it. When The Stanley Parable openly offers you the choice to quit by closing that door, it’s because it recognizes that this is something a player exercising their desire to explore would think of, and also providing commentary on the notion of the game simply letting you walk away.

      By contrast, Spec Ops: The Line wasn’t so much about the video game media as it was about one specific narrative, that of the militarily themed modern warfare shooter, and the idea that a narrative can construct you as a hero for dumping phosphorous on someone if they are the ‘bad’ people. It’s a satire, of the Juvenalian type, closer to Jonathan Swift by being not so much comedic as outright condemning. Despite what the developers say, I believe the ‘good ending’ or solution to Spec Ops (and also the intent behind it) is to play the whole thing through, burn all those little imaginary people, and then realise how messed up everything in that narrative was.

      And then realise this kind of black-and-white morality image that led the protagonist to do all these horrible things is reinforced by an entire genre of not just video games, but books, films and music, and that there are people out there, in real life, believing in this kind of narrative, sometimes with lethal consequences. And then, hopefully, realise how utterly destructive that sort of thinking is. Letting you walk away wouldn’t work towards that end, no matter how many people in-game would survive as a result.

    • Neil D says:

      I think what many people are missing is that the game isn’t condemning the player, it’s condemning Walker. That may seem like a fine distinction as the player is controlling Walker, but it actually makes all the difference.

      Whether the player feels condemned is entirely up to the mindset of the player. When the ending came for me, I felt vindicated, not deceived.

      • Grudgeal says:

        “You’re still a good person.”

        • Neil D says:

          Man, that was the point where the game really won me over. I was really starting to feel the doubts and disturbances about what my character had been doing, then it just very casually threw that line at me, like it was reading my mind. It caught me totally off guard and completely changed my perception of the game I had been playing up until that point.

        • Starker says:

          “If you were a better person, you wouldn’t be here.”

      • Abnaxis says:

        This is where I come down on it. I’ve never feel like I am the character I am playing. It always annoys me to no end when people say the entire point of cinematic video games is “power fantasy.” Therefore, I never felt like the game was telling me I needed to quit and waste my $60, or else I was a terrible person.

        There is a tendency I have noticed in people, which I’m sure psychologists have studied and I would love to see a paper on it, to take a broad statement made about a group or a genre and to internalize it as a personal insult. For example, I have seen people get genuinely angry at researchers looking into (say) modern Neonazism, who will take affront because they are from the American south, and Neonazism is widely present and accepted in certain pockets of the American south. Their interpretation is that the researchers are saying “you are a terrible person because most skinhead hate-criminals are southerners.”

        To me, this is the same thing. Yes, the developers are criticizing the tropes and the narratives of modern macho military shooters. Some of the things you do in those games are actually pretty horrendous. In general, the body counts are so high only a mentally disturbed individual could sleep after committing all the murder that happens in an average military shooter game. That doesn’t mean you, personally, are a terrible, mentally-disturbed person, but it’s healthy to acknowledge these realities at some point.

        • Patrick the Butcher, Baker AND CANDLESTICK MAKER says:

          I’ve not played the game, but this discussion has piqued my interest.

          Does the game condemn the people who fight war, the people who decide to wage war (those in suits) the people who make games about war or the people who play games about war? Or something else?

          • Keeshhound says:

            It condemns the mindless glorification of war and moral absolutism that you see in games like Call of Duty and Bad Company. At it’s core, Spec Ops is a game that asks it’s players to think about what they’re doing in game, rather than just happily mowing through everybody between them and the level end, content in the knowledge that they are the “hero” and their victims are the “bad guys.” Many of the game’s most important elements are built with the intention of deconstructing certain recognizable sequences from the Military Shooter du jour.

    • Patrick the Butcher, Baker AND CANDLESTICK MAKER says:

      I can say with almost absolute certainty, that the number of people involved with the making of Spec Ops never once held a rifle, held a post, stood a watch and never took enemy fire. I could go all Colonel Nathan Jessup “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH” here, but I don’t think that would be something Shamus would appreciate.

      Basically, I served with lots of people. Some were dick-ish. Most were honorable men. Again, I’ve never played this game, but if Walker is portrayed as anything other than one, lone rogue soldier carrying out some personal vendetta, then the developers can go &@*# themselves with their own foot. The narrative that soldiers, sailors or marines are ordered to commit atrocities for any reason is farcical and insulting.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        He is presented as the one lone guy suffering from severe ptsd and failing to cope with it.The other two guys in his squad,while they are still obeying orders,show pretty clearly that they dont agree with his actions.All four endings show that the problem was in walker himself(the protagonist).

        “The narrative that soldiers, sailors or marines are ordered to commit atrocities for any reason is farcical and insulting.”

        Well that is the narrative games like call of duty like to tell,and they paint it as a good thing because AMERICA FUCK YEAH!Spec ops condemns that narrative and presents clearly why it is wrong.

        • Patrick the Butcher, Baker AND CANDLESTICK MAKER says:

          Hmm…I suppose I would have to just play the damn game to have a real opinion on the whole thing. Which wouldn’t be a problem if the whole FPS didn’t bore the @&#( out of me.

          Borderlands being an exception.

          • Neil D says:

            It’s not my preferred genre either, at least not in the “real war” setting. I’ve never played a Call of Duty or Battlefield. I did enjoy the Half-Life games, Far Cry (x) to a lesser extent, and Crysis to a much lesser extent. I can’t quite remember what prompted me to give this one a shot (probably Shamus talking about it), but if you can get it cheap I’d say it’s worth a look just for the discussion fodder.

          • syal says:

            Nonsense! Why play when you can read?

          • evileeyore says:

            You can also just watch a No Commentary Playthrough.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            I dont agree with the others who say that you can just read about it/watch a lets play and achieve the same result.Yes the gameplay technically is that of a classic fps,but not quite.There are subtle touches everywhere that make the execution different from what you normally get.

            So just get it,put it on easy,and play it.

      • Taellosse says:

        My understanding of it (I haven’t played it myself, only read about it, as I’m not really a fan of the genre myself) is that it’s not a commentary on real war or the people that fight in real wars so much as it is a commentary on the shooter genre of video games, wherein the protagonist (and, by extension, the player) are often asked to commit acts which, in any real-world conflict, would be considered horrific war crimes, and these acts are normally presented as heroic (or at worst “necessary”) because the protagonist is the “hero” and the victims of his actions are “bad guys.” It’s a critique of the glorification of violence and blindly patriotic jingoism that tends to suffuse the shooter genre, particularly the subset of it that are presented as “realistic military” shooters.

  8. James Schend says:

    I hope that “available on PC” doesn’t disqualify Marathon. (Originally released only on Macintosh, but you can play it on PC now using a open source implementation of the game engine.)

    Edit: Of course I don’t know if you’ve played it. If that game had come out on a more popular platform, it’d be lauded as one of the best FPS games ever made. Shame.

    • Carlos Castillo says:

      Even if it were the case, as mentioned in the intro, Shamus would have had to play it for it to show up.

      • Dan Efran says:

        And if Shamus hasn’t played Marathon yet, really he ought to grab it now and play it before finishing the list….

        I had hoped the success of Halo would call more attention to the Marathon series (as Halo appeared to be some kind of sequel, prequel, or reboot in the same universe) but it remains largely forgotten. Yet the Marathon trilogy was roughly as fun and interesting as the original Half-Life (in a somewhat different way) and just as much worth playing, even now.

        The graphics engine is dated (roughly DOOM-era) but is used expertly to create delightfully moody spaces of all sizes and shapes. The FPS combat is fluid, tense, and totally fun, the guns are cool, the story is weird and compelling and LONG…honestly just go play the open source version now, you’ll be glad you did. All three games. I’ll wait.

        Also Marathon’s map tools were released, so there were some awesome mods. For example “Excalibur: Morgana’s Revenge” is another stellar gaming experience, huge and full of delightful surprises I won’t spoil.

  9. Thomas says:

    Boo how could you leave Uncharted 2 out of your list? This is the worst thing ever since the last worst thing ever

  10. Grenaid says:

    RE: Stanley Parable: clearly you didn’t get the broom closet ending.

  11. Aitch says:

    “The only parts I remember now are the bits it ripped off from the movies it wishes it were…”

    I can’t tell if this only sounds awkward to me, but should it be “the movies it wishes it was” instead of “were”? Bit of a confusing sentence, but I’d rather know if I have the grammatical case miscatalogued in my brain. Never learned the rules, just going by feeling which leaves me unsure.

    Apologies if this seems pedantic.

    Also, having never played any of these (the closest related title being Homeworld: Cataclysm) I have to wonder how much I’ve missed out on. Hopefully I see some familiar games as the count winds down or I’m going to end up with an intimidatingly long list of purchases to make.

  12. StashAugustine says:

    If you don’t like Spec Ops’ metacommentary, I find it almost works better as a psychological horror game.

  13. GTB says:

    I really liked Riven. I liked all the Myst games, except for the ones that featured real time movement with dynamically rendered graphics. I appreciate the artwork of pre-rendered scenes with background animation much more than the later games.

    When you have to work within a static scene, it not only makes the detail that much more important, but it allows the designer to know exactly what the player is going to see which is a great level of control that I think Myst and especially Riven took full advantage of.

    End of Ages and Uru were okay but felt dull to me. Real-time rendering took away a lot of what made the first three games great.

    I also think we lost something when we quit using FMV and went to rendered models. I’m glad that Tex Murphy brought that back, I hope it inspires other people to do it too.

    Blah blah blah i’m old and I think polygons ruined gaming.

    • Exasperation says:

      Personally, I liked Exile best; the puzzles seemed to flow more naturally (for the most part) instead of just being obtuse and obstructionist.

    • Retsam says:

      Personally, if I were writing the list, I would have included Myst instead of Riven. They’re the only two I’ve played of the series, because Riven’s difficulty was just a show-stopper for me.

      Myst had a few “big picture” puzzles, i.e. how do you open a world, what do you do in each world, etc, but otherwise the puzzles were pretty much constrained to each world being its own puzzle; which made even challenging puzzles much more solvable than Riven’s “The solution is half the world (and 3 disk changes) away”.

  14. Hector says:

    *Cough*

    Not to be too huge a Spelling Nazi, but “Tale End”.

    …Sorry

  15. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    Back in July I did a screen-shot review of Homeworld. I consider the game one of the best ever made, and never really got into its major competitors: Warcraft or Starcraft (though one day I might). What apparently killed it was the take-off of Starcraft multiplayer which sucked all the air out of the room for space themed RTS games.

    The sequel didn’t help matters.

    Regarding the auto-leveling, I thought that was a major strength of the game. In the final battle I threw 4 carriers, 5 heavy cruisers, 15 destroyers, 90 frigates, plus 30 fighters, 15 bombers, and 15 corvettes -plus assorted other stuff I’m sure -almost 200 ships against a leveled fleet 3 times that size.

    I’m not sure what the punishment was supposed to be. 800 ships slugging it out in an epic final battle -what is there not to like? Check out the review for the screenshots. A Five on Three heavy cruiser broadside-to-broadside battle is a beautiful thing to behold.

    On top of that, the music and the story are gripping and the visuals are stunning even today.

    Now, the sequel’s leveling was a problem because one of the last levels requires you to stop the enemy fleet from destroying something -and destroying that something is made much easier if the enemy fleet is large. And the enemy fleet is made larger by your own fleet being larger. But that isn’t the case in the first game. Every level is beaten the same way -slug it out when the enemy. Matching the fleets in that context is about balancing for fun.

    • Florian the Myopious says:

      This reminds me that I still need to finish Homeworld’s last two or three levels. That game definitely has its moments* **.

      *I thought it was really impressive when I eventually had a closer look at the skybox in the scrapyard level and realized that I was surrounded by a half-finished Dyson sphere (or similar megastructure) that was hidden through its sheer size until then.
      **Plus I find it mechanically pleasing***, it has a good amount of variety, the graphics have aged fairly gracefully**** and the way the ships move tends to feel pretty natural. Especially the fighters. They’re just fun to watch. And the Kadeshi Beam Frigates look cool in action.
      ***A little hard at times since you carry your mistakes forward and don’t start with a lot of room for error, but it feels good when you pull something off. The scaling might help soften the blow a little when something goes wrong, but my understanding was always that it’s pretty mild in the first game.
      ****Though I wish there was an option for further view distances. It gets a little silly when you can’t see the other end of a (videogamey close range) space battle.

      • Zekiel says:

        I loved the storytelling of Homeworld. It had very thinly-drawn characters who you never see, but it still achieved some wonderfully emotive scenes. It had a very simple story but it made it work. It did a lot with emotionless dialogue (“The subject did not survive interrogation”).

        For me I think it was the first game that really captured the scope of space. The aforementioned Dyson sphere, the weaponized asteroid… these were real “wow” moments. (Actually the latter was more of an “oh… crap” moment)

    • ehlijen says:

      I finished the game, mostly thanks to the fact that the ai can’t handle cloaked fighters (Attack something, cloak and then just sit. AI cruisers and up will cease their mission script and wait for you to reappear to continue their pointless fight with you.).

      The problem with the autobalancing in HW1 was that it didn’t keep pace with the player. If the player did poorly, he’d face proportionally more than if he did exceptionally. But the only way to do exceptionally was to capture everything you could get your hands on (especially ships you couldn’t build yourself); building was only allowed up to the unit limit. It meant that to really do well, you had to go for exactly one strategy, ie capturing.

      The story was great, though, and I loved just how much background info they put into the manual.

      And I think there was one clone made? I saw a review for it at somepoint a year or two later. Can’t remember :(

      But there was also cataclysm, that homeworld expansion that was retconned away again, I think?

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      It’s a sad thing there was apparently on room for one of these types of RTS at the time because I liked the feel of majestic vessels pelting each other broadside to broadside more than the more frantic action of Starcraft, I wish there was more of that.

      I think in case of Homeworld the levelled enemy thing was meant more to protect the player than to challenge them. Far as I remember (mind you, it’s been a while) the fleet carry over thing was a major feature, not a small boost for the start of the level like in most games with that solution.

    • Exasperation says:

      I’m sure I’ve said this before on this site, but the auto-scaling could be absolutely brutal in the early game. In my first attempted playthrough, I hit a point where I just couldn’t beat a level, so I thought “I know what I’m doing better than when I started, I’ll just start the campaign over so I can be in better shape when I reach this point”. NOPE. I aced the beginning of the campaign, and in the level after you recover the cryo-trays the AI came at me with about a 10:1 numbers advantage and absolutely destroyed me in no time flat. That’s how I found out the auto-scaling existed.

    • atomf says:

      The best thing about homeworld was just snagging everything in the game with salvage corvettes and rolling into the final mission with half the enemy fleet on your side.

  16. Dev Null says:

    “but it felt strangely ephemeral and disposable.”

    Hint: If you’re using this phrase to describe something on your “Top n …” list, maybe you need a “Top n-1” list.

  17. Jonathan says:

    Yep, that is exactly why I quit playing Homeworld after about 4 missions. I got to a tough one, said “I can do better with a bigger fleet”, restarted, came in with a bunch of beam frigates (or something) and got stomped. Dumb, dumb, dumb design decision.

  18. Chauzuvoy says:

    Homeworld is actually one of the few games where I understand the decision to scale the difficulty. In most RTS campaigns, you go into each mission with set forces, and so the mission can design around the starting situation to create the desired challenge. If you’re supposed to hold out against hordes of enemies, then they can set you up in a map with decent defensive positions with some appropriate units and force you to scale up and allocate resources to reinforce your position without too much trouble. On the other hand, they can give you a large starting force with no (or fixed) reinforcement capabilities in order to turn the level into a battle of attrition. Homeworld couldn’t really do that for two reasons: relatively featureless space maps and the persistent fleet. Without the ability to use map design to create choke points and defensive positions (for you or your enemy) without just plopping down a fleet or a bunch of turrets in a location, manipulating starting forces is the only way they would have to set the ‘tone’ (to say nothing of difficulty) of a certain level. But they wanted to have the persistent fleet in order to enhance the exodus storyline. So if they wanted you to have to destroy a horde, the only way they had of doing that was to make sure that the enemy force dwarfed whatever you had available.

    I still don’t know that it worked very well, because of the difficulties inherent in designing things to be appropriately challenging for a diverse player base, but I think it’s possible for something like this to make the game’s difficulty a bit more dynamic. If you’re struggling to avoid losing your entire fleet, then you’ll hyperspace into the next level with very little, and the enemies won’t have a tremendous starting fleet to send against you. I don’t know that it did work, but if you got the scaling right you could make a really cool system out of it that I haven’t seen in any other RTS game.

    Also, if nothing else, you could game the system (at least in HW2) by salvaging your entire fleet at the end of each mission, letting you jump into the next one with no fleet (and thus a low-power enemy) and a ridiculous amount of resources.

  19. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “But then I read that the game auto-balances: The more economical you are with your forces, the more bonus units the game gives to your foes.”

    Not quite.It balances for the size of your forces,but not the upgrades and resources you carry with you.So you really dont have a problem with strong enemy forces.

    What makes me not want to replay the first homeworld is the lack of auto mining everything once the mission ends.

    By the way,everyone who likes homeworld should try nexus:the jupiter incident.Unlike homweorld though,this is an rtt game,meaning you get a fixed number of ships for a mission instead of building new ones.

  20. ehlijen says:

    Is that screenshot homeworld 1? I don’t remember those cruiser classes (I could swear no ship in that game had glow effects like those except for engines and hangar bays.) I suspect it may be homeworld 2?

  21. Jakob says:

    Can I just say I am not to fond of the title of the post? With “57 – 64”, I expect that we start at #57 and end at #64. Essentially this would have been the last post in the series.

    Changing it to “Top 64 Games: 64 – 57” better convey that we start at 64 and are going towards 1.

    But this is very nitpicky.

  22. Mephane says:

    A Riven, I have fond memories of this.

    Myst was a slog because on the computer I played it on – for whatever reason – it was incapable of playing the video files in the books. I never found out why this was (they were Apple Quicktime files and I think I did some stuff like reinstalling Quicktime to no avail), but I found some sort of system how the video files were sorted and named and could therefore play them manually with the desktop Quicktime player which oddly enough worked. So whenever I encountered a book, I had to close the book, save the game, close the game (sound was still exclusive to one app, tabbing out meant the video would play without audio), find the file, play it, close the player, launch the game again, go on with what I was doing.

    Nowadays, I wouldn’t bother at all with a game if I had to jump through those kind of hoops in order to play it.

    Wait, wasn’t I about to praise Riven?

    Unlike Myst, Riven worked flawlessly for me, so I was suddenly amazed at how such a game was like when you could simply play it. I love the atmosphere, the puzzles, and the environment. Especially the parts where you can look over the vast endless see to the distant horizon. The sound of gently crashing waves, I alone with the sea. I loved it.

    The only other game that invoked that same feeling again was Just Cause 2. I spent a lot of time running and driving and climbing around lonely beaches and cliffs just to enjoy the scenery.

    (I also played Exile but got absolutely stuck on one puzzle that I eventually simply had to abandon the game. At that time the thought did not occur to me to simply look up the solution on the internet (It is also possible this was before I had internet access at home.).)

  23. Knut says:

    Homeworld is one of my favorite games, not only because the mechanics are so good (and still quite unique), but also because I really connected with the story. I still get moist in my eyes when I hear and see this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJvYZXUT5Bk

  24. WILL says:

    You can put as much effort into it, it’ll still be another Top X List, no more relevant than the dozen the Escapist spits out every week.

    Why even bother?

    • Here’s the thing that I find is lost in the current hoo-hah over game reviews, scores, etc.: Get to know the critics and what they do/say, learn how it jibes with your tastes, and use that as a cipher for gauging if their review makes you more or less likely to buy a game. If you’re familiar with even Yahtzee Croshaw’s style, you can work out when a game has something of value to consider, even though he “hates nearly everything.”

      This works even if said reviewer is a complete corporate shill, down to their underwear being official MegaGameCompanyX merchandise.

      I’d say almost everyone here knows Shamus’ tastes, or they can find them pretty quickly by reading his blog. Based on where you agree or disagree, you should be able to tell if his like or dislike of game X stems from the same place you’ve found fault or joy with other games. Given that and the fact that he’s providing several paragraphs of reasoning behind his views makes this a better use of time than a run-down that mostly lists game features, genre, and possibly a blurb about “you get to mow down Ewoks” or something before moving on.

      You also don’t have to see each numbered entry on a separate page or in a slideshow. +5 bonus points for that alone.

  25. Gordon says:

    What is that cross-section of games at the top? how many of them can I guess?

    let’s see… System Shock, unknown, Adventure, Don’t Starve, Don’t know, Deus Ex 2… unknown, Ultima Underworld? Doom 3, Bejeweled, Leisure Suit Larry, RAGE.

    how’d I do?

  26. poiumty says:

    I can’t criticize the game (Spec Ops, specifically) for being designed for a different audience, but I CAN criticize it for not being believable enough to rope people like me into it as well.

    See, when you try to pull a switcharoo on people, you can start out with a convincing argument which gets nearly everyone to agree with your flawed premise in the first place, in which case it’s a particularly good switcharoo, or you can start with a weaker premise and then make the case that it was only designed to convince the people who see things in the more extreme spectrum. Which is just a crappy excuse for you not being able to fool your audience properly.

    So in that regard, I can say that Spec Ops: The Line could have gotten me to follow along with its premise if it was a bit better executed. If your actions were a bit more morally gray, if the villains were a bit more villainous at first glance, or if certain information was kept from the player only to come up later as a more extreme example of what happens when you act without enough information, it would have gotten an even bigger impact and even triggered a discussion on whether what the main character did was actually right, whether Whatshisface’s actions are ever morally justified and so on. As it was, the fact that the game wanted you to do Bad Things so it can rub them in your face later was pretty evident.

    I’m hesitant to recommend this, but if you’re open-minded, like reading and aren’t affected AT ALL by rampant gore and porn, I would point in the direction of the visual novel Saya no Uta for one of the most interesting, convincing and relatively justified portrayals of a descent into depravity and madness that you can, on some level, empathize with. An exploration of human nature and a critique of the idealized romantic viewpoints we take for granted using an extreme but nonetheless plausible example.

    • Tom says:

      One game you might be interested in that does pretty much the same thing as you describe in Spec Ops, only for adventure games instead of bro shooters, is the Deponia series.

      It starts out as a straight-up standard-issue adventure game, but by the third instalment you’re well into satire territory (satire of the adventure genre itself, mark you – a lofty goal!) and there are many moments when the designer is clearly messing with your expectations. The rampant kleptomania, flouting of social convention, crass stereotyping, cartoon violence, trivialisation of serious mental or physical illness and especially the sociopathic, utilitarian manipulation of other people so common to traditional adventure games all get rubbed in your face at times.

      It’s so well executed a satire (especially because the production values are really high, and the puzzles often well designed) that there are many people out there still convinced it’s just a normal game with occasionally very dark humour (and, to be fair, that may even have been what they were aiming for with the first episode, but they quickly veered in a different direction with the sequels).

      • poiumty says:

        I came across it, but never tried it in fear it’d just be a fetch-quest slog of an adventure with little I haven’t seen before.

        I might reconsider.

      • Deponia is the game where you sell one of the only black characters in it to be an organ grinder’s monkey right? Because you are not conceiving me that Deponia was a good satire.Because that was not satirical at all. It was just Bad Writers using exaggerated stereotypes without criticizing them and thinking that’s how you do edgy satire. You cant just take evil shit like that and place it into you game and not criticize it at all. And the game is not criticizing it at all its just going “Look at this very Anti-PC joke i made! Aren’t i clever and hysterical for placing a old racist joke into my game with no criticism at all!”

        • Tom says:

          A properly executed satire doesn’t openly identify itself as such. To really satirise something, you need to play the thing you’re mocking with an absolutely straight face, and exaggerate it to the point where it becomes farcical, but leaves people wondering whether you really mean it or not. That the game could include such horrendous things without apparent awareness of it is the point of the satire; it’s mocking earlier games that did crap like that, but didn’t do it to the same extreme and so got away with it.

          If you read the comment thread on the article you just linked, the lead designer of the game himself joins the discussion and explains what he was trying to do. Whether or not it was a bad idea, or a good idea that failed, (or it wasn’t supposed to be a satire but now he’s pretending it was as a means of damage control – I guess that’s possible) is a matter of opinion.

          The post on Deponia on this thread: http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/index.php?threads/what-game-are-you-wasting-time-on.50372/page-164 also puts it very well, I think.

          I’m just a bit miffed because when I bought it I didn’t WANT a satire, and didn’t know that’s what I was getting.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Um,havent the adventure games been parodying themselves practically since they were invented?

    • Naota says:

      My word, Saya was the last thing I expected anyone to reference in a discussion of Spec Ops. Good man.

      Possibly the best part is the realization that you are playing the creepy, inscrutable, presumably insane subject (but not protagonist!) of a modern HP Lovecraft story. You’re not the harried investigator unearthing the terrible tale of Sasaki Fuminori – you’re the man himself, and that guy is your enemy. It’s the story which finally gives an answer to the question of “but if they’re not just hand-waved as completely insane, why did the bad guys even do those things?”

      • poiumty says:

        Yes. The best part is when the answer is more relatable than you’d expect.

        Everyone who has ever thought “I would do ANYTHING for the person I love” should read this, and realize that from a certain point of view, they’re staring into the abyss. But it’s not noticeable until the abyss stares back with childlike eyes, smiles and excitedly says “welcome back”.

        For the more squeamish among us, I’d suggest trying to eat a brick.

  27. NotDog says:

    “I don’t think the game was designed for you.

    I get that defense all the time when I criticize games, so I know how annoying it is.”

    I can’t help but want to unpack this, what with various debates about tastes, subjectivity, audiences, etc. Especially since games can be more different to other games than, say, books can be to other books.

    Meanwhile, this video mirrors my thoughts on Tetris.

  28. someone says:

    In Spec Ops: The Line, Walker at first tries diplomacy with the insurgents. They attack him, and then continue to attack him on sight. He then tries diplomacy with the soldiers. They attack him, and then continue to attack him on sight. It’s perfectly fine to gun them all down, and there’s no moral dilemma involved there. And nobody tells Walker they’re bad; there is no “mission control” telling you anything, and Walker’s orders don’t even take into account the existence of hostile forces. They all just want to kill you so you gotta kill them back. It’s really no different from Doom.

    The famous mortar scene is completely forced. There is no reason for Walker to attack that area (he was only investigating it to figure out why the CIA regarded it as important, and that’s it), no reason why he cannot stop using the mortar until everyone is dead, and no reason why the leader of a Delta team would lack the military education to tell the difference between civilians and soldiers. The entire sequence has no valid reason to exist and play out the way it does. And since there’s no player choice involved it makes no difference how you feel about it because it won’t affect anything anyway. If you decide you’re not going to “blindly follow orders” it won’t make the slightest bit of difference.

    The scene where you’re surrounded by civilians is equally fake, because in truth they are not civilians at all, but enemy combatants engaged in hostilities against you, and if you think about the situation realistically there is no reasonable alternative but to open fire on them. Again, no moral dilemma involved whatsoever. But the game wants you to think there is, and the fans eat it up without question.

    The problem with this game’s fans is that they really, really want it to be a deep, meaningful and sophisticated art game that’s finally going to prove to the grownups that video games are serious business. But it is enough for them that the developers simply present it as a deep, meaningful and sophisticated art game; they don’t actually pay any attention to and think about what happens during the game, and will go as far as to make things up to force the story to fit their desired narrative. In reality, everything about the story is forced, contradictory, confused and poorly conceived. And the punchline is that the very games that it tries to criticize have a more nuanced and realistic approach to war!

    All this cirle-jerking over SO:TL just shows that games are never going to become the kind of “art” that pretentious gamers want them to be. Not because the grownups won’t take games seriously, but because the pretentious gamers won’t take them seriously. They just want validation.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “There is no reason for Walker to attack that area (he was only investigating it to figure out why the CIA regarded it as important, and that’s it)”

      And this right here shows why you dont get it,at all.So youve just wasted a bunch of words trying,and ultimately failing,to paint everyone as pretentious just because you didnt get it.

      • Disc says:

        How does pointing out that the plot is stupid as hell mean he doesn’t “get it”? When you look at the bare bones of it, it’s a pretty shitty and really contrived war story.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Plot is irrelevant for the overall story.Its how you tell it that matters in the end.

          Plus,the whole “No reason” thing is wrong.There are two reasons for all the actions of walker.The external one,which is “This is how other bro shooters operate”,and the internal one,which is “Walker is already a broken man”.If you dont see either of those reasons,then you dont get it.

          • Disc says:

            I don’t think he’s really arguing from either perspective. While I can’t speak from him, it’s what I’d call trying to rationalize the situation as to how it would relate to the real world. And it’s where pretty much the whole game falls apart. Walker, whatever his reasons, does a lot of dumb and irresponsible shit during the course of the game. And it was really freaking jarring to people who pay attention to that stuff, including myself. All it ever really did was completely pull me off the game and make me hate the writers and stop giving a shit about the characters. You can keep saying the plot doesn’t matter, but it’s the thing that ruined the game for me first and foremost.

            It’s been one of the most frustrating things with all the discussions I’ve followed and participated in about the game, where people keep praising and hyping it for things it supposedly does when from where I’m standing all I could see is just a product of a bunch of hack writers who went out of their way to try and make the game edgy and grimdark for shock value.

            Maybe it’s my fault that I never played much bro-shooters and thus didn’t get the joke and w/e. Hindsight is 20/20 and by now I can see and acknowledge what people say about it, but I still fucking hate the game and it still makes me feel like punching somebody in the face whenever I get stuck thinking about it.

            Only thing that I could and really have been able take away from it all in the end is what Shamus said: It just wasn’t a game meant for me.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              “You can keep saying the plot doesn’t matter, but it’s the thing that ruined the game for me first and foremost.”

              Actually,from what you said in the previous sentence,its not the plot that ruined it for you,its the execution.Which is what Im saying.Plot is meaningless.

              For example,heres a simple plot:Aliens invade earth,usa soldiers fight them back.There,Ive just given you a plot of a bunch of movies.But not all of them are the same.You have the fun independence day,and the boring battle la,sharing that simple plot,but telling it in different ways.The plot just tells you what is happening,but the story is telling you how its happening,which is much more important.

              Anyway,that tangent aside:
              “Walker, whatever his reasons, does a lot of dumb and irresponsible shit during the course of the game. And it was really freaking jarring to people who pay attention to that stuff, including myself.”

              Heres my take on why its jarring to many:When a game tries to tell a story,it often tries to identify the player with the protagonist.And once you establish that link,the protagonist doing something stupid pulls you out.But spec ops is not doing that.From the very decision to put you in third person instead of first,it tries to separate the player from the protagonist.Now obviously,it doesnt work for everyone,which leads to a bunch of people thinking the game was condemning them,that the game was forcing them to do these stuff,etc.

              “All it ever really did was completely pull me off the game and make me hate the writers and stop giving a shit about the characters.”

              Can we please stop with the extremes?I mean theres a bunch of transitional states between “the best” and “the worst”.I mean,even though I dont like the genre,and am tired of it,I wouldnt classify modern warfare 2 as “the worst story ever written by a bunch of hacks”.That I reserve for mw3(well ok,not really,Ive seen even worse than that,but not often).

              • Disc says:

                “Actually,from what you said in the previous sentence,its not the plot that ruined it for you,its the execution.Which is what Im saying.”

                Same freaking difference. Plots are usually more than just two sentence summaries and this game definitely had more plot than that. And it’s broken and stupid and collapses under logical scrutiny. You’re arguing essentially that it’s all done on purpose. Fair enough, but I don’t really have it in me to see it as a redeeming factor.

                “Can we please stop with the extremes?”

                You know, I wish I’d be exaggerating or just kidding, but this game really rubbed me in all the wrong ways. Mass Effect 3 was the most disappointing and baffling gaming experience I’ve ever had but this fucking game, few things come close to the fucking anger and anguish playing this game gave me. Call it being triggered or whatever the fancy term is these days, there’s few things I hate more than the feeling of being manipulated. Some of the tricks the game tries to pull, they’re just downright abusive. It really grinds my gears to even call that art.

                • Shamus says:

                  I’m actually surprised MORE people didn’t react this way. Being a deconstruction, Spec Ops will no doubt come off as strange to anyone not viewing it through the proper genre lens. I’m surprised there wasn’t more of an angry backlash against the game.

                  Although I guess the abysmal sales explain that.

    • Merlin says:

      The famous mortar scene is completely forced. There is no reason for Walker to attack that area (he was only investigating it to figure out why the CIA regarded it as important, and that’s it), no reason why he cannot stop using the mortar until everyone is dead, and no reason why the leader of a Delta team would lack the military education to tell the difference between civilians and soldiers.

      That’s not really accurate. By that point, Walker and company believe that the enemy forces are abducting large groups of civilians. They’re attacking the area specifically to get the civs free before the enemy moves (or kills/robs/etc.) them, making that specific time & place pretty crucial. The mortar becomes doubly useful given the numbers they’re facing, both real and imaginary. It’s one of the game’s recurring themes – “I had no choice” is bullshit to begin with, but doubly so when you put yourself in the position, as Walker did by going off-mission and trying to save the day himself.

      It’s also the setup for another common theme: namely, it’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment. Why doesn’t Walker realize that the people in the trenches are civilians? Because bullets are flying and action needs to be taken – could he take a second to get a closer read on the situation? Maybe, but it’s easy to understand why he might feel like he doesn’t have that choice.

      The crowd scene later on is specifically a callback to that. The whole point is that they’re hostile, but “they were being mean so I had no choice but to kill them all” is garbage. It’s not easy to do when your blood is pumping (or the screen is red and shaking, and there’s a loud heartbeat sound coming out of the speakers), but you need to stop for a second during a tense situation, regain control, consider your options, and not murder every single person around.

      Because frankly that “they’re not civilians, they’re enemy combatants!” line? Complete and utter bullshit. They’re yelling and shoving and it’s a little scary. It’s also not different at all from protests that go on every day in the greater western world. Your logic there condones having police gun down anyone from Occupiers to birthers to the folks outside of any political rally ever. And I find it particularly dubious that you’re condemning Walker for trusting his initial read on the mortar scene, then decrying the fact that he can do anything BUT the same thing later on.

      Not even going to stick my toe in the part about pretentiousness, but as a jerky piece of unsolicited advice, be aware that using the word is generally code for “Everyone who disagrees with me is dumb and terrible.” It’s the debate version of “I don’t mean to be racist, but…”

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        “And I find it particularly dubious that you’re condemning Walker for trusting his initial read on the mortar scene, then decrying the fact that he can do anything BUT the same thing later on.”

        Not to mention that you actually do get a choice for the scene with the mob of civilians,unlike the mortar scene.You can just shoot in the air,and they disperse.

    • Anonymous says:

      “pretentious”

      Uh oh! Someone doesn’t know the twentysided list of nono words. It’s a shame, this was a pretty decent post up until that point. But now we have to completely disregard your entire post and mock you. Next time try making a Beardy McBeardBeard joke first and then dribble on about ludonarrative dissonance for about 3 months.

      • syal says:

        “Pretentious” isn’t a bad word, it’s a handy way to admit to the audience your opposition is smarter than you.

        But “dribble on” is.

        • RandomInternetCommenter says:

          If said audience consists of people who’re still placated by “you don’t get it” rebuttals to any and every form of criticism, anyway.

          The Emperor’s New Clothes should be mandatory reading for this generation.

          • syal says:

            Nobody said “you don’t get it” in this comment chain. So you’re attempting to drag me into someone else’s argument, which is stupid. I’m not shy; if I had something to say about it I already would have.

            And I think you’re confused about who the Emperor is in this scenario; it’s the guy who presents a baseless argument in as grandiose a fashion as they can manage. And the Emperor was effectively corrected by someone pointing at him and saying “He doesn’t get it!”

            I get the feeling you don’t actually get what’s going on here.

  29. Patrick the Butcher, Baker AND CANDLESTICK MAKER says:

    All the best posts start with IMO don’t they?

    So…IMO…Leisure Suit Larry is one of the most ground breaking, influential games ever made. It challenged everything a game could do and what a game could be. It was arguably the first (mass-produced)game ever designed only for adults. Sure, there were those cheeky card games with naked girls, but those weren’t sold in Sears or Radio Shack.

    It changed the gaming industry the way Saturday Night Live changed TV, in much the same way.

  30. Groboclown says:

    I keep getting excited when I notice someone bring up Homeworld, followed almost immediately by disappointment, because I keep thinking that it’s going to mention Gateway II: Homeworld. I never think of that game as “Gateway II”, because the box text makes “Homeworld” so prominent.

    Not that it was a great game. I just really liked Legend Entertainment games. Well, maybe it’s that I really liked Eric the Unready.

  31. Museli says:

    Good old Burnout Paradise. I’ve played so much of it that the censored version of Paradise City that they use has become the ‘default’ version in my head, even though I’m also a GNR fan.

  32. 4th Dimension says:

    About MOH:AA. From what I remember it didn’t appear at the tail end of WWII craze. It is it’s grand dad. Back in the day the first WWII focused game built in a “modern” engine was Return to the Castle Wolfenstein, made in heavily modified Quaqe 3 engine. But Wolfenstein only used the trappings and the asthetics of WWII. You still were allmost a super solder capable of tanking rockets and fighting robots, SS Witches, Nazi super science and in the final boss fight undead German KIng Henrich.
    The first game that tried to replicate WWII movie asthetics and play as Saving Private Ryan the video game was Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. It also used Quaqe 3 engine like Wolfie but it was nothing like it. While you were still quite durable and could carry an arsenal, most of the time you were one of the grunts. The main heroic grunt killing allmost anyone but you were quite weak compared to contemporary PCs like in Wolfie.

    But the game that really cemented the military shooter genre was COD 1 and 2. One had much better gun handling (they were more kinesthetically pleasing), and it introduced only two guns mechanic (in MOH you could carry like a ton of weapons) and 2 introduced regenerating health. Also graphically it blew MOH out of the water. On top of it all it’s Stalingrad landing (this time stolen from Enemy at the Gates) blew Normandy out of the water.

    But MOH did start the WWII craze.

  33. someone says:

    Daemian Lucifer: “And this right here shows why you dont get it,at all.”

    Walker was there because the CIA regarded the area as important for reasons unknown. I have debated about this game countless time and this always, always becomes a sticking point yet nobody has ever actually proven it wrong.

    Merlin: “They’re attacking the area specifically to get the civs free before the enemy moves (or kills/robs/etc.) them, making that specific time & place pretty crucial.”

    The only thing they know is that the CIA thinks the place is important.

    “The mortar becomes doubly useful given the numbers they’re facing, both real and imaginary.”

    There is no valid reason why the mortar has to be used until every living being in the area is dead. If you could stop using it at will, you could spare the civilians. The game also spawns infinite snipers if you try to fight normally, so the developers knew that the fight was actually winnable without the mortar. Very forced.

    “It’s also the setup for another common theme: namely, it’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment. Why doesn’t Walker realize that the people in the trenches are civilians? Because bullets are flying and action needs to be taken – could he take a second to get a closer read on the situation? Maybe, but it’s easy to understand why he might feel like he doesn’t have that choice.”

    There’s no reason for him to be using the mortar to begin with, and no reason why he has to kill everyone. There’s also something called recoinnaisance that you’re supposed to do before assaulting an enemy camp. Also, many players realized the people in the trench were civilians, and if the player notices and the player is the one pulling the trigger then the player should have the option of not pulling the trigger. Otherwise it should be a cutscene.

    “The whole point is that they’re hostile, but “they were being mean so I had no choice but to kill them all” is garbage.”
    “Because frankly that “they’re not civilians, they’re enemy combatants!” line? Complete and utter bullshit. They’re yelling and shoving and it’s a little scary.”

    They just executed a wounded, unarmed subordinate of yours. That means that they are guilty of a war crime and legally no longer civilians. They have you surrounded, will not let you leave and are throwing rocks at you even though they know that you are heavily armed and probably itching to kill them all. If a rock hit you in the head you would become temporarily dazed and they would have an opening to rush you. Raising your gun to fire warning shots in the air would also leave you vulnerable to attack. There’s no reason to even assume they would respond to warning shots, because by all appearances they are suicidal. Thus, the only reasonable course of action is to open fire.

    “Your logic there condones having police gun down anyone from Occupiers to birthers to the folks outside of any political rally ever.”

    Uh huh.

    This is what I meant when I said that the fans don’t pay any attention to what happens in the game. They just care about their own private narrative of art games and sticking it to Roger Ebert.

    • Shamus says:

      “They just care about their own private narrative of art games and sticking it to Roger Ebert.”

      You know, I have a list of behaviors I look for in troublemakers. I’ve been doing this for almost a decade, and I’ve come to notice patterns in people that end up in the center of trouble. I can usually tell within a few comments if someone is going to end up getting banned down the road. I’ve never actually TOLD someone they were heading that direction, and I’m very curious what would happen if I tried. So let me try that now. Here are some of the things that Bad People have done that you are also doing:

      1) People who use really vague names that aren’t useful internet handles: Anon, Someone, Nobody, Some Guy, “asdfgh”, or just a simple symbol. Basically, people who don’t want to create a name or identity.

      2) People who introduce themselves by jumping feet-first into a debate that obviously makes them mad, instead of starting with some other low-key discussion.

      3) People who, once they have opened a debate and gotten a couple of people to spar with, will EXPAND the scope instead of narrowing it. Instead of drilling down to find the root of the disagreement, they keep adding new topics to argue over. (Roger Ebert and “art” both contain massive additional arguments on top of the one you’ve already got going.)

      4) People who casually throw out unpopular, provocative, or controversial opinions, as if they don’t know or care that other people will push back.

      5) People who make broad statements likely to provoke entire groups of people. “This is what I meant when I said that the fans don’t pay any attention to what happens in the game.”

      In short, you have made it look like you’re someone with no interest in joining the community, and every indication you’re a crank that wants to have an argument. Historically, people with this behavior end up in large multi-sided flamewars that slide into politics and I end up banning them.

      I don’t know if you find this at all interesting or if you even care, but that’s what I see right now.

      • Patrick the Butcher, the Baker AND THE CANDLESTICK says:

        What about those of us that have referred to you in person, online and in 3rd person as “…a complete jerk, a real kneebiter.”

        • syal says:

          I thought you did get banned at some point.

          • Patrick the Bananna Hammer says:

            Not that I was aware of. He could ban me from his website I suppose….but that would just force me to drive to his house with a dozen or so double-decker taco supremes and not let him have any.

            Or give him 12 bags of combos. 12 EMPTY BAGS OF COMBOS MUUUWAAHAHAHAHA

      • HiEv says:

        Even if he didn’t find it interesting, I did. Thanks for sharing your insights on common “trollish” (my word, not yours) behavior.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “There’s no reason for him to be using the mortar to begin with, and no reason why he has to kill everyone.”

      Mentioned it above,but Ill repeat it here:

      There are two reasons for all the actions of walker.The external one,which is “This is how other bro shooters operate”,and the internal one,which is “Walker is already a broken man”.If you dont see either of those reasons,then you dont get it.

      “There’s no reason to even assume they would respond to warning shots, because by all appearances they are suicidal. ”

      Funny,because my assumption was that warning shots would scare them off.And guess what,they did.

      Its really funny how you continuously criticize one scene for not giving you a way out,yet when the game does give you a way out,you justify your choice for not taking it.

  34. General Karthos says:

    I’ve actually played two of these games! Actually, I use Tetris in the same way I use the free online versions of games like Bejeweled with calming music (from YouTube or other places) playing in the background. I use these games to relax, to destress or defrag after a long day or just after something has seriously stressed me out.

    The other game I’ve played in there is Riven. This is another game that really calms me down.

    In fact, now that I look at it, almost every game I play (on the computer, not on the console) is calming. I play turn-based strategy games a lot. Conquering the world/galaxy/universe puts me in control of the fates of millions or billions of digital things for which I care not at all. I play casual games because they relax me.

    Even most of the RPGs I play have a turn-based, take-as-much-time-as-you-need style of combat. (Again, on the computer. On the consoles I have a lot of semi-real time combat systems.) I have a few games that can create stressful and difficult situations, but even thse wind up improving my mood and relaxing me.

    Looking at the first seven items on this list has made me actually look at why I play computer games. I’ve always made this association, but always with individual games, not with my playing habits.

    Funny. Well, you’ve done something with your list that no other list has done for me. Good job.

    • Cilvre says:

      This is the type of thing I like about Shamus and his writing, it gets you actually thinking about what games mean to you, and what the stories mean or why do they not work for you. It’s interesting to see how you can overlook something that can be broken to someone else but not an issue to yourself. I find I enjoy games with long stories that have clear separation in chapters, but when I want to wind down I play mindless shooters with humor like borderlands. For a challenge I play RTS or dark souls with some limits on myself and I know not everyone else will consider things like that entertaining.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Its interesting that you play mostly turn based games because of their relaxed pace,yet tetris calms you.Its probably due to its gradual increase of speed.

      Maybe games like total war would achieve the same effect?They are turn based on the upper world,but real time with pause when battles come,yet those battles also build up slowly.This building of momentum could be the key.

  35. someone says:

    This is what I think of as a “meta argument.” Instead of saying something relevant to the debate, you start to talk about the debate itself.

    1) It makes no difference what name I use, and a brief one-time exchange doesn’t even warrant establishing an “identity.”

    2) I commented because I had something to say on a specific part of the post. There is no reason for me to talk about anything else.

    3) It’s like you actually think you yourself aren’t drastically expanding the scope with these meta arguments of yours that are only very slightly related to Spec Ops: The Line. I also did not add new topics by mentioning Roger Ebert and art games, because I already mentioned art games and Roger Ebert is obviously representative of “grownups.” But I guess you were thinking of expanding the scope to include the life and works of Ebert, and what “art” really means. Highly relevant topics, I’m sure.

    4) What you are saying here is that people should only say things that are agreeable and inoffensive to everyone. You are therefore implying that you think your own posts are agreeable and inoffensive to everyone. That is, you assumed that everyone would agree with what games you selected, why you selected them and what order you put them in. That sure is something, and there’s probably even a name for it in the DSM.

    5) His post was a clear example of not paying attention to the game. Not paying attention to the game is a chronic problem with this game’s fanbase that I have identified. That’s just how I think it is, so that’s what I’m going to say. It makes no difference whether saying so is a “broad statement” or not, or how many people it provokes.

    “I’ve been doing this for almost a decade, and I’ve come to notice patterns in people that end up in the center of trouble.”

    So what it all comes down to is who has the biggest mob on their side. The minority becomes “the center of trouble.” This line of thinking has all sorts of implications if applied to the real world. Unpopular, provocative and controversial implications.

    • sofawall says:

      It’s probably easier for everyone involved if you were to reply to the post you’re actually responding to, instead of starting a new comment thread.

    • phill says:

      People are quite able to disagree here. People are entirely welcome to have minority opinions. Most people do ;) People can argue, and often do so quite vigorously. All these sorts of people are part of this community.

      The ones who don’t last long are the ones unable to actually engage meaningfully with the people who they disagree with, who insist on being insulting and escalating arguments.

      That’s not oppressive minority rule unless you believe common decency and basic politeness are minority opinions.

    • Cilvre says:

      i think the main issue is that you aren’t just stating that it’s your opinion, you are stating that everyone else has the wrong opinion on what occurred in the game. and you do it repeatedly to the extent that isn’t necessary. I would agree with Shamus on patterns you see working on sites like his over time and moderating forums, some people start to stand out as you see each post escalate. also to your earlier point about war crime for killing an unarmed soldier who was wounded, at that point in the game how many civilians and other unarmed people were killed by the protagonist and his group? i feel this is something overlooked in other things such as real life crime where a criminal sues the victim over injuries or other items when they were the instigators. Shamus, let me know if I’m in the wrong here at all, but I know that i do like participating in conversations that have growth and meaning to them without devolving into my opinion is the only opinion arguments.

    • acronix says:

      I don’t know how you go from “I’ve been doing this for a decade so I can notice patterns in problematic people” to “Who has the biggest mob on their side”. The only way you could come to that conclusion is if, for you, problematic people are inherently victims of mobs. Which is a line of thinking that has all sorts of implications if applied to the real world. Unpopular, provocative and controversial implications.

      In any case, if you were so worried about not having a meta-argument, you would not jump into them and would not continue discussing them for long. Specially not after someone points out that you are doing that. At most you’d have some final words about the matter before letting it slide and continue with the original topic. Yet here you are.

    • evileeyore says:

      Actually all Shamus was saying is this: “You know, I have a list of behaviors I look for in troublemakers. I’ve been doing this for almost a decade, and I’ve come to notice patterns in people that end up in the center of trouble. I can usually tell within a few comments if someone is going to end up getting banned down the road. I’ve never actually TOLD someone they were heading that direction, and I’m very curious what would happen if I tried. So let me try that now. Here are some of the things that Bad People have done that you are also doing:”

      Then he listed 6 traits and areas of your post that he identified. Maybe so you might self-reflect and see what sort of responses will eventually find you on the “Not Allowed To Post Here List”.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “This is what I think of as a “meta argument.” Instead of saying something relevant to the debate, you start to talk about the debate itself.”

      You are projecting too much.As an admin,Shamus gave you a warning,with an explanation of why.Nothing to do with the game,but with your behavior.You are the one expanding this into some unnecessary debate.

      “What you are saying here is that people should only say things that are agreeable and inoffensive to everyone.”

      You havent read the comments for long I see.

      “That sure is something, and there’s probably even a name for it in the DSM.”

      And there you go with the veiled insults because they make you seem smart and educated.Nice knowing you,and good bye.

  36. Aruges says:

    “The only people who would enjoy it are people who would never watch it, and the people who would watch it would never enjoy it.

    How did they get away with this?”

    Well, they didn’t really. Spec-Ops: The Line was one of the worst selling titles in 2K’s history. It was supposed to have a whole bunch of DLC made for it, but that plan was canned days after release. It sold that bad.

  37. Oh, man, I thought I was just a bad Homeworld player when I couldn’t get past that asteroid mission. And I told myself I’d get back to it some day, and never did. I feel like I’ve been part of a secret brotherhood for years and never knew.

  38. Adam Haase says:

    I’m pleased to see Riven made the list… I’m curious who the “obtuse obstructionist jackass” is in this instance, the fictional characters in the game or the game designers (Robyn and Rand Miller) themselves?

    It wasn’t a great genre, I agree about that… it occupied that middle-space in gaming when computers didn’t have the power to render a true 3D scene, but could do screenshots and video clips of them. And you could almost write both Myst and Riven as two-word text adventures for a 16k computer with their logical complexity and controls.

    However, it did make it easier to market to a wide audience… I think Riven was the first PC game I ever saw that had a television commercial, actually. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9KDQoznJwE)

    Favorite part of the game? The music. Robyn Miller really delivered a powerful score that was haunting and edgy and beautiful… I actually bought the soundtrack on CD way back when it first was released, I enjoyed it so much.

  39. Phantos says:

    I should have loved Spec-Ops. It says everything I’ve wanted to say about modern military shooters and the industry’s obsession with chasing after Call of Duty’s money. But it was such a pain in the ass to play. I wanted to get to the story, I wanted the condemnation of the jingoistic, fist-bumping bro-shooting douchebaggery rampant in video games. But the actual game inbetween those parts feels like it never went through any sort of QA testing.

    And I don’t “it wasn’t fun”. I mean it was excruciating and unfair in ways that can only be attributed to incompetence more than “artistic intent”. It never felt like it was like that on purpose, or to further raise the point it was making. My guess is the gameplay was a casualty of having to spend precious time and resources on that unnecessary online multiplayer segment no one but the publisher wanted.

    It’s like if you tried to watch Platoon, but every five minutes you had to beat a stage in Daikatana. Its’ message would have come across much better without that pointless, self-destructive obstacle.

  40. Richard H says:

    As I understand it, the people who made Homeworld went on to make Sword of the Stars, a niche combination turn-based/real-time strategy game involving absurdly detailed spaceships with fiddly controls (and a lot of logistics).

    I haven’t played Homeworld, although I plan to get my hands on the remastering sometime when it comes out. It doesn’t sound like it’s the same, but it sounds like the space combat part should be more similar than Sins of a Solar Empire was. (SOASE seemed to always end up with the usual RTS tropes of “mass a couple of particularly effective shiptypes” gameplay.)

  41. Someone says:

    Picture guesses 64-57:
    1 – System Shock ???
    2 – ???
    3 – Forgot the name
    4 – Don’t Starve
    5 – Full Throttle???
    6 – KOTOR???
    7 – Prey
    8 – ???
    9 – Doom 3???
    10 – Bejeweled
    11 – ???
    12 – Rage

  42. Ivan says:

    Perhaps a better criteria to include games would be how much you have to say about them in this format. If it was, Spec Ops would be in, and all the others here that got only 1 or 2 paragraphs would be out.

    In any case, I’m late to the party but this seems fun.

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *

*
*

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>