Monday, October 28, 2013

Adieu, PS3!

Last week, our PS3 finally died.

It was probably the first thing I bought when I first got a job a few years ago so I guess it's safe to say I've gotten a lot of value out of the old machine.

In remembrance of the seventh generation of consoles dying out very soon, I've listed the most notable games I've had the pleasure of playing.

MMA Games
I don't really bother with many sports games. As a former classmate once told me, there was no reason to play a video game of a sport if you could play the real thing. Hence my first game, bundled with the console when I bought it, was UFC 2009 Undisputed. It was nearing the height of MMA popularity during those times, especially when Brock Lesnar drew ridiculous pay-per-view numbers from his legion of prowrestling fans. I was hooked when my brother showed me the game in a mall back then.

My favorite, however, would have to be EA Sports MMA. Why? Because it had Fedor Emelianenko, then considered to be the top heavyweight on the planet, in the same vein as prowrestling's Sting due to the fact that they never set foot in the biggest promotion of their respective fields. I liked the game because the graphics were better (at the time), the controls were slick and the combat was brutal.

A Lighthouse, A Man and A City
While the second and third games were amazing in their own rights, the first Bioshock game would be my favorite. It was the first time that I saw a developer get water physics correct in a video game. Rapture was as original a setting as one could get - and the creative combat mechanics were merely secondary to an engrossing science fiction story revolving around Ayn Rand's objectivism philosophy.

The Cintamani
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the first game I borrowed from a college classmate. Out of the three PS3 titles of this series, Uncharted 2 has been the most immersive. Don't get me wrong, all three games are amazing but there is just something about the second title that seemed like a genuine, awe-inspiring Indiana Jones adventure from start to finish - from Istanbul to a temple city in Nepal to an expedition into the Himalayas and the city of Shambhala beyond, it is nothing short of awesome.

Origami Killer
To say that Heavy Rain is merely a game full of quicktime actions would be entirely correct - but it would be seeing the glass as half-empty. This game is truly unique in that it is a video game that plays exactly like a movie, whose sequences would be affected by how good, bad or deliberate it is played. It has all the trappings of a crime drama - a killer broken by a tragic past, a sense of urgency for the protagonists and a sick reveal at the climax. What's not to like?

La Resistance
Assassin's Creed has fallen out of favor from me (although I'll still buy Black Flag when the PS4 version rolls out). Even if it didn't, The Saboteur would still be my favorite sandbox game. The setting is France during the height of World War 2 and the developers made excellent use of color to highlight the sense of oppression as the player moves across Nazi-controlled areas - trying to free the region via the sabotage of key targets (whether these are structures, key personnel or just general acts of disturbing the peace). Sleazy nightclubs, unsafe back alleys and the imposing visage of the Eiffel Tower add to the game's atmosphere.

Technology is always in the forefront of many game developers but the vast majority merely use it to make their games prettier at the cost of gameplay length. For L.A. Noire, it is the exact opposite - they harnessed the technology (in the form of very detailed facial motion capture) and turned it into the game's highlight. In this game, players would have to closely observe NPC facial cues especially during interrogations to correctly deduce clues which would help solve crimes. In other words, it's mostly guesswork for most people. Personally, the game's highlight is the casting of John Noble as corrupt real estate tycoon Leland Monroe - and they got everything to a frighteningly realistic level. Good times.

Clandestine Operations
I've had my fair share of excellent roleplaying games in the vein of Dragon Age and Mass Effect, but my choice by far would have to be Alpha Protocol. Widely considered to be a technical failure due to its seemingly evident lack of polish, I feel that Alpha Protocol's concept was a resounding success. It's a sad fact that a lot of critics attack the game with such harsh reviews - I myself found it to be perfectly playable. It's a game where every single choice actually has repercussions and building up my own 007 was a test in weighing options while planning ahead at the same time. I appreciate action games where violence is merely an option - and Alpha Protocol delivers.

Prepare to Die
Games these days have mostly fallen on the easy end of the spectrum and difficulty is defined by a slider that pits players against overwhelming odds instead of being tests of skill. Demon's Souls would be an exception. This game's difficulty is nothing short of sadistic but it lets the player know that from the very start. It's one of those games where losing can't be blamed on the game being unfair but is instead a testament to how far a player must go before they reach the required level of skill. Also, the Tower of Latria is the epitome of gloomy dungeons - something that I won't easily forget. I would have to admit something though - the only reason I didn't give up on this game is the regeneration mechanic of some pieces of equipment. And yes, that's why I don't like Dark Souls. Even I have a limit.

Always Be Batman
Don't get me wrong, Arkham Asylum was an amazing game in its own right but Batman: Arkham City pushed the limits of a Batman game. The developers made full use of the gritty version of Batman (a la Christopher Nolan) and drew from the title's extremely deep rogue's gallery comprising of seventy years' worth of lore. I don't know how this year's Origins would live up to its predecessors, to be honest.

The Transhumans
It's no secret that one of my favorite PC games is the original Deus Ex. Hence, I was excited when the third game (which is ironically the sequel for the entire series), Deus Ex: Human Revolution, was released a couple of years ago. Like all the other games in the series, Human Revolution highlights player options as its main selling point - where one often has multiple paths to accomplish their goals (or skip them entirely). I think it's a very difficult feat to realize a futuristic dystopia in video games (hence the popularity of zombie apocalypse-themed games as an alternative) but Deus Ex gets it done with extremely detailed world building. There are a lot of things tucked away in unseen corners of the game which have been placed there by the developers with the knowledge that a vast majority of players would never notice them in the first place. It is this level of detail that makes each playthrough unique and each experience worthwhile.

Dead Island
Let's face it: games revolving around the zombie apocalypse theme are starred by superhuman survivors. While realism is a steep demand for these games, I think 2011's Dead Island comes closest to depicting a more realistic zombie outbreak. Weapons have to be created and repaired, players have to scrounge for supplies and most importantly, they run out of breath. It could be very difficult at times and there were plenty of situations where flight was way more important than a fight response - it's these times when Dead Island shines the most.

Into The Heart of Darkness
Spec Ops: The Line is the ultimate antithesis to video games. Its narrative is mentally and morally exhausting and this is amplified by the near-monotonous drone of enemies to defeat - perhaps in the most generic ways possible. Yet somehow, Spec Ops managed to get to the player's head and have them thinking about the consequences of their actions in a way that was never seen before. Everything has a subliminal message - from the enemy chitchat while the players remain undetected to the load screens themselves - and this culminates in perhaps one for the most disturbing endings in video game history.

Swan Songs
The Last of Us, as I've said before, is perhaps a most fitting crowning jewel for the PS3. It sits on the end of the narrative spectrum opposite of nonlinear games like Deus Ex and Dragon Age. However, this is not a weak point. Rather than feeling railroaded, we were shown a story that was told the way it was supposed to be told - and in that vein we were shown that it was still possible to be attached to video game characters whose stories were not weaved by the players.

I guess that's about it. I'm excited for the possibilities that the PS4 could bring, and I'm looking on getting a 3DS sometime next year - that Pokemon game looks better than it ever was.


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