Lists, lists, lists. It seems like everyone throws together an obligatory “Game of the Year” list this time of year, because, well, everyone else is doing it. So we get all-encompassing, “comprehensive” rundowns that are immediately accused of leaving out Big-Name Game 127. It's all about "non-biased journalism," writers and readers alike clamor. But I don't think that's what game of the year should be. It's subjective. It's special. There can't be a unanimous game of the year because different games appeal to different people in different ways. A monolithic, "objective" game of the year spits in the face of creativity and - as a result - the fine folks who've striven to make it possible. If games are - in any way - art, then we can't reduce them to numbers and arbitrary rankings. And so, I present an experiment. I'm going to explain precisely why my favorite games of the past year are my favorites, and the precise moment in each game that made me realize just how important they were to me personally. I hope you enjoy each entry, and of course, feel free to contribute your own favorites as well. Lastly, as a general rule, SPOILERS AHEAD.
The original BioShock was thought-provoking, philosophical, and prone to painting in broad, all-encompassing strokes. It brazenly put its Big Daddy-sized foot down and made a far-reaching statement on both videogames and the nature of humanity. It also pitted you against an evil statue man in its final battle.
Sure, the game wasn't perfect, but its goals were undeniably admirable. Still though, it was missing something. Hard as I tried, I couldn't really feel for a sealed-up tin can full of snooty geniuses or their debatably sane dictator. Enter BioShock 2. It aimed a lot closer to home, and unlike its predecessor, it hit its mark dead-on. At least, for me it did. Although, I imagine that – in this age of extreme familial dysfunction – it very well may have played a pitch perfect solo on your heartstrings as well.
After hearing that 2K had quietly held BioShock 2's PC DLC's head underwater until the bubbles stopped, some of you may very well have considered establishing your own undersea utopia – but for PC gamers instead of psychologically unhinged geniuses. Fortunately, that prohibitively expensive plan will no longer be necessary, as the PC gaming community has managed to pull the best possible kind of “would you kindly?” on 2K.
“When we announced that Protector Trials and Minerva’s Den would not be coming out for the PC due to technical and timing issues, we received a lot of feedback (much of it understandably expressing disappointment and anger) about our decision,” 2K’s Elizabeth Tobey in a post on the official 2K forums.
“However, one of the core principles of the 2K Games community is to keep an open dialogue with gamers and listen to what they have to say. We are a company of gamers making awesome experiences for gamers - and given the conversations we've had over the past two weeks, we've decided to go back and finish the PC patch and Protector Trials.”
But those are just the warm-ups. The real main event, of course, is Minerva's Den, which many have hailed as the best piece of single-player DLC to drop this year. Unfortunately, we're not exactly looking at a quick cut-and-paste job with this one.
“When we stopped development on Minerva's Den, it was not in a workable state and needed significantly more dev time to complete. As of now, we are not certain how much longer it would take to complete the project to our standards, but we have reallocated resources to work on completing the project so PC gamers can have this experience in Rapture along with 360 and PS3 owners,” Tobey explained.
Really, that's all we can ask for, and we very much like what we're hearing. 2K, consider this the beginning of a cautiously optimistic friendship.
BioShock 2 may not have made quite the splash that its predecessor did, but we thought it was just as good – maybe better, in some ways. So it’s with a heavy heart and a dejected, Big-Daddy-like wail that we bring you word that BioShock 2’s DLC won’t be riding the bathysphere over to PC.
“We will also not be offering Protector Trials and Minerva’s Den on the PC in the future – and I want to say that I’m sorry for the disappointment this will cause to PC players out there. As always, if any of these issues change in the future, I will update you guys first, but at this point in time I don’t want to make you wait any longer and these are the most definite answers I have and you guys should deem them final decisions,” a 2K spokesperson wrote on the game’s official message boards.
The worst part? Minerva’s Den has been hailed by many as some of the most interesting single-player DLC of the year. But here we are, stuck out in a cold rain of the same old level and weapon packs while console players are snuggled up nice and warm with BioShock 2’s offerings. It ain’t right, we tell ya! It just ain’t right.
BioShock 2 was great and all, but if you couldn't help but feel a sense of deja vu surge through your synapses as you electrocuted an unsuspecting splicer in a pool of water yet again, you weren't alone. Enter BioShock: Infinite. It's the next game from BioShock creator Ken Levine (who, as a matter of fact, was not involved with BioShock 2's development), and as far as we can tell, it's BioShock in name only.
See, Rapture's completely out of the picture. In fact, Infinite's location is more or less the opposite of Rapture, floating atop the clouds instead of sinking to the bottom of the sea. Columbia, as it's known, is a steampunky testament to early 1900's American ingenuity – bright and optimistic as opposed to Rapture's thick fog of foreboding. However, all is not well. You play as an ex-detective named Booker DeWitt, who's snooping around Columbia in search of a psychic woman named Elizabeth. As previous Ken Levine games have taught us, however, don't expect things to remain that simple.
As for how the game itself works, here's the gist, straight from game design legend's mouth:
“When designing BioShock Infinite, we thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great if you walked into a room in this game and you didn’t necessarily know the dispositions of the people in it? Are they going to sit there? Are they going to attack you? What might set them off?’ We really wanted to have a notion that not everyone in the city was automatically hostile towards you. Instead it has more of that 'Wild West' feel where you walk into a bar with your hand on your pistol and you’re not sure what’s going to happen to you,” said Ken Levine.
Elizabeth will also function as your constant companion – the psychic, intelligent, actually useful Robin to your Batman. The game will also feature the return of “Daddy”-like enemies, hulking monster men who want nothing more than to escort you off the premises – which, in this case, means a thousand foot freefall.
Sound interesting? Well then, why not see it for yourself? Here's the first trailer. Real gameplay footage, meanwhile, is still a few weeks out, according to Levine and co. Here's hoping our crippling fear of heights doesn't keep us from enjoying it. Now then, we're off to spend two hours slowly working our way up one staircase, frequently pausing to cry and pray to the heavens for safe passage.
Is the summer videogame drought getting you down? Well, you know what always makes us feel better for about five minutes and then tremendously worse seconds afterward? Spending money. Lots of money. Fortunately, Steam’s price-slashing “Perils of Summer” sale has you covered on both fronts. After it leaves town on July 4, you’ll probably have plenty of games and little-to-no money.
As with previous seasonal Steam sales, Perils of Summer rolls out a new set of featured deals every day in addition to basically handing you a glass cutter and telling you the structural weak points of a treasure trove of gigantic game bundles. The deals, as per usual, are fantastic. Trine for $4.00, every Overlord game ever for $4.50, and BioShock 2 for $14.99 are just a few of today’s best deals. And don’t even get us started on the bundles. If we have to look at them again, we’ll probably just go ahead and write Valve a check that says “all our money” on it.
Nine more days of this will have our piggy banks squealing for mercy. These things add up over time, you see, and while our resolve to resist temptation is strong now, our armor can only hold up under constant fire for so long. Sharks, drowning, and mild sunburns nothing. This sale is the real peril of summer, and we’re pretty sure Valve is fully aware of that.
Fantastic news, everyone! 2K Marin’s bringing back a certain classic turn-based strategy franchise that’s been out of action since before it became uncool to have “2K,” 2000, or some variation of that in your company’s name. That’s right: XCOM’s coming out of retirement with guns a blazing. Like, literally. It’s going to be a first-person shooter.
“XCOM is the re-imagining of the classic tale of humanity’s struggle against an unknown enemy that puts players directly into the shoes of an FBI agent tasked with identifying and eliminating the growing threat. True to the roots of the franchise, players will be placed in charge of overcoming high-stake odds through risky strategic gambits coupled with heart-stopping combat experiences that pit human ingenuity – and frailty – against a foe beyond comprehension,” reads the game’s website.
“By setting the game in a first-person perspective, players will be able to feel the tension and fear that comes with combating a faceless enemy that is violently probing and plotting its way into our world.”
Before you plan out a meticulous strategy involving pitchforks and torches, though, remember who we’re dealing with here. 2K Marin met and – in some ways – exceeded expectations with BioShock 2. It won’t quite be XCOM like you remember it, but just because you’ll probably spend more time outgunning aliens and less time outwitting them doesn’t mean it’ll be a bad game. Here’s hoping we hear more soon.
The first BioShock managed quite a feat: It was that rare game that both opened and closed the book on a strange, new environment. For the most part, it left very few questions unanswered, and despite its flaws, the general consensus was that gamers’ first go-round on the bathysphere should also have been their last. For all intents and purposes, the game was a complete experience that didn’t need a sequel. But it got one, anyway.
And yet, for all the talk of BioShock 2 being nothing more than a quick cash-grab, the game is actually quite good—great, even. But is it a worthy successor to a modern classic? Yes, surprisingly enough.
BioShock 2 stuffs you into the hulking diving suit of the first Big Daddy—roughly 40 percent of which is composed of a gigantic, face-perforating drill. Yeah, you’re not just some wimpy, fish-out-of-water human this time around. And the changes don’t end there. Rapture’s been overtaken by a veritable army of little-girl-kidnapping Big Sisters, and it’s up to you to put a stop to their maniacal plan. What follows, then, is a whirlwind adventure of drilling, Splicer shooting, Adam-harvesting, and more drilling.
Listening to many gamers and critics prattle on about Mass Effect 2 is kind of like listening to a teenager talk about their first love. The game, they say, can do no wrong. It’s a pure, perhaps even blind sort of love, and at first glance, it’s well-deserved. But no videogame – no matter how much of its dialogue is delivered in Martin Sheen’s seductively raspy warble – is perfect. Problem is, many of Mass Effect 2’s detractors are picking on the wrong “flaw.”
For Mass Effect 2, the word of the day that’s got nitpickers screaming like they’re on an episode of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse is “streamlined.” Or, in many cases, its more derogatory cousin: “dumbed-down.” “Mass Effect 2’s not even an RPG anymore,” many of them hoot and holler. “It’s just a shooter with RPG elements!” Now, ignoring the fact that large chunks of Mass Effect 2 see Shepard holstering his sticks and stones in favor of words so that the player can -- you know -- play a role, streamlining the game’s combat doesn’t diminish its effect. In fact, I’d even argue that it allows for greater strategic depth. Problem is, many gamers still cling to dusty, archaic notions of what certain genres should be, which – in my opinion – is keeping those genres stuck firmly in the Stone Age.
We’ve heard many adjectives used to describe DLC. This, however, we think is a first. “Aggressive” DLC doesn’t sound like something we’d purchase, so much as we’d restrain it by luring it onto our PCs using money as bait. Then, with its fury temporarily caged, we’d try with all our might to beat the content before it could burst free from our hard drives and swallow us whole.
We don’t think that’s quite what 2K has in mind, however.
“2K Games announced today an aggressive post-launch downloadable content plan for BioShock 2 that extends and enhances the single and multiplayer experiences by adding more glimpses into the award-winning world of Rapture,” said the publisher in a press release.
Coming down the Bathysphere first is the Sinclair Solutions Test Pack, which brings a number of improvements to the multiplayer side of BioShock 2. These include new weapon upgrades, a rank increase to 50, new playable characters, five additional masks, And More ™! It’ll run you 400 Microsoft Points, or $4.99, and is launching in March.
Honestly, though, we’re more interested in the forthcoming single-player DLC, which promises “more narrative, new tools and new challenges that extend the lore and fiction of the failed Utopia under the sea.”
Still, though, a little something for everyone is better than nothing for no one, right? Regardless, it looks like BioShock 2 is here to say, and that’s a-okay with us.
There’s always a catch. Rapture was an underwater utopia, created as a permanent getaway for the world’s brightest minds… but, the place quickly degenerated into a brainpower-bolstered battleground. Which is good for us, as it means BioShock 2’s packing a fairly robust multiplayer mode. But, again, there’s a catch: no LAN or dedicated servers.
“There is always a finite amount of time for the development of a game. Bringing Multiplayer to BioShock was a daunting task between the tech (there was no multiplayer support in the codebase from the first game) and the expectations of the community. Either you try to do everything and so nothing feels finished or you focus your efforts to do a smaller number of things really well like an accessible online experience. We chose to spend the time we had creating a solid game foundation and unfortunately that did not include LAN play or dedicated servers,” says an FAQ on BioShock 2’s official site.
Instead, a matchmaking system’s been put in place to decide who stuffs whom in Davy Jones’ locker. Of course, private matches and parties will be an option for those who’d rather not entrust their fates to the whims of a jumble of ones and zeroes.
Still though, with Modern Warfare 2, RAGE, and now BioShock 2, things aren’t really looking up for dedicated servers. But screw those guys. We’re going to make our own underwater utopia where every game supports dedicated servers and LAN. And also, we’ll install about 50 vending machines that sell guns for a nominal fee throughout the compound. There’s no conceivable way that this plan could possibly go wrong!