Microsoft versus Sony, Battlefield versus Call of Duty and Forza versus Gran Turismo. These are some of the rivalries that can get people talking about console wars. “Game On or Game Over” is your place to get inside the minds of Nicholas and Andy as they seek to find the true meaning of gaming and tackle some of gaming’s most controversial subjects. Both are award winning authors – although the awards haven’t been mailed or created yet — but trust them. Would they lie to you?
Andy: Wow, we are quickly coming to the end of the year – it’s amazing how fast it has gone really. I think I can speak for both of us in saying that we played a lot of games over the past 12 months. I know what you’re thinking, here comes the Game of the Year/Best of the year article. Nope, sorry to disappoint you. This time of year everyone talks about the best of the best, and it usually is the same handful of games being talked about over and over again across all the sites, pages and videos. That’s fine, I get that a great game is a great game, however this week I wanted to do something a little different. This week I want to talk about the games that we played this year (disclaimer: they don’t necessarily have to have been released this year) that really stick out to us. Either those hidden little gems that we really enjoyed and not many people are talking about, or those games that were disappointing. The games on both ends of this spectrum seem to get lost in the shuffle of the GoTY talk but they were all part of this year, and really should be talked about, even if just a little.
Just looking at my games played list for the year I can see a handful of titles that fall into each of those two categories. Some I really enjoyed, while there were a few that I could not get out of my Xbox soon enough. One of those games that I didn’t like was more painful because it was one I was looking forward to, so when I ended up not liking it the sadness was much more pronounced for me. On the flipside, there are a couple games I played this year that I enjoyed a lot more than I thought I would. Those games that you play on a whim expecting to not like it but by the end you’re surprised by how much fun you actually had with it.
So, before I ramble too much here let me throw it to you. Looking back at the games you played this year are there any games that stand out to you due to the level of disappointment you had with it? A game(s) that you were looking forward to only to realize you absolutely hated it? Maybe a game that you would actively tell people not to play?
Nicholas: Starting off with the negatives I see. Hahaha. The first game that comes to mind is the recently-released reboot of Need For Speed. I definitely wouldn’t tell people not to play it, hell, I recommended a friend pick it up on a sale just two weeks ago, but it’s one that definitely has an air of disappointment around it. It ticked all the boxes of games I was looking forward to playing, and dare I say it was on my ‘most anticipated’ titles of 2015 list, but when it finally came out, it seemed lacking. It has a lot of the elements that made Underground great, but it never seemed to cross the line completely. The always-online aspect definitely kills it, but I think it’s also the same-ness of the physics that Need For Speed has been relying on since the Hot Pursuit remake from the last generation. Yes, drifting is fun and going fast is fun, but it’s been the same ‘feel’ for the past 4 games or so. I tried to play it last weekend and get back into it after the updates, but not only did I struggle to just get into the game, but once I did it felt boring. I wasn’t motivated to really play and switched to Rise of the Tomb Raider within 30 minutes.
Rare Replay was also a slight let-down too if I’m honest. The classic titles like the HD-remakes of Banjo-Kazooie and Perfect Dark still hold up, but it was all the other games that I was hoping would have received more love than a simple port over. The biggest culprit and dare I say the main reason I’m even talking about this game in this section of the article is Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Solely, and I mean solely, because the developers left the game with inverted controls and no option to change it! It seems like such a massive oversight and it honestly prevents me from playing the game because I’m forever getting confused with the controls. It seems like a simple switch that they should have included so all gamers could enjoy it.
So ultimately there are no games I’ve played this year that I’d actively tell people to avoid (which rarely happens to begin with), but those are the two which come to mind that just fell short of expectations. How about you though? Any games that let you down or that you place a warning sign on so gamers don’t fall into the same trap you did?
Andy: Well, yeah you can’t end this article on the negatives right? We may as well get those out of the way as soon as we can. If I am being completely honest I did play one game this year that I honestly wish I had never played. A game that I would never recommend to anyone. Ironically enough it was a title I got for free as part of the Xbox Games with Gold, and it’s How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition. Even for a free game, I still found nothing about it that made me want to play it again. I tried it in single player and was unimpressed all-around. Then I tried it in co-op with a buddy and the lag was horrendous. I quickly deleted it off my hard drive the day I started it. Even for free it is still too expensive.
In terms of games I was looking forward to, there are two that fell completely flat for me. The one that disappointed me the most is actually a game I had on my ‘Most Anticipated’ list coming into the year. It was supposed to be a revitalization of a dormant series. It was a series I remember very fondly from my early gaming days. When February 25th rolled around I was downright excited to play Thief, the trailers and hype machine made me believe this was the game I had waited over ten years for. I ripped open the game case and started playing and quickly realized that this reboot was a mere shadow of the greatness that came before it. In fact I was so disappointed in it that I never did finish it. I see that it is now available via the Games for Gold games and I’ll be sure to download it and revisit it hoping against hope that something has changed, but sadly I’m not expecting anything much different than my first go with it.
The other game that I was most disappointed with this past year was another game that relied heavily on the hype machine. It promised something new, but after playing it for a little bit there just didn’t seem like there was all that much substance to it. Unless of course you bought tons of DLC and character packs. That game would be Evolve. Our article last week ties perfectly into much of my disappointment with it. It didn’t take me very long to feel like I had done everything the game had to offer, and I just didn’t feel like playing something “just because”. I have often described Evolve as a one-trick pony, and I can really think of no better way to describe it. Once you do it, if you don’t love it then there’s not much left. Unfortunately I just didn’t like it.
Enough of the negative stuff though, there were a lot of fun games I played this year so let’s shift gears and touch on some of them. I want to know about a game or two that you played this year that you fully expected not to like, only to find out that you actually enjoyed it quite a bit. A game that maybe a friends wanted to play co-op with you, or talked a lot about and begged you to at least try it. Finally relenting you gave it a go and sat back and were really happy that you gave it a try. Did you play anything this year that would fall into that category?
Nicholas: You know, the only thing that really comes close is Batman Arkham Knight. I say that not because I expected I wouldn’t enjoy the game, but more so because I didn’t expect I would enjoy it as much as I did. I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll say it again, I really loved Batman Arkham Asylum, and even having completed Arkham Knight I’m still unsure whether it’s been toppled as my #1, but after Arkham City didn’t meet the same expectations I wasn’t sure I would enjoy the subsequent Batman games. Low and behold though, I really found myself enjoying the latest title and was completely engrossed in the Batman lore and universe. I’m never a big comic book guy, but I found it hard not to love Batman again after having played through it. Despite all the talk about the batmobile being overused I felt it was used perfectly and there isn’t really much I’d change, had I the option to make it any different. It was a fantastic game that exceeded expectations and for that reason, I’d say it’s the one that surprised me the most when I didn’t think I’d enjoy it like I did.
I must admit though, as I think about my answer for this question and as I look at the games I’ve played this year, I’m fairly conservative. I tended to pick up games that I knew I’d most likely enjoy, so I didn’t find myself stumbling across many ‘sleeper’ hits in 2015. How about for you though? You’re undoubtedly the more adventurous and varied gamer of the two of us, were there any that came at expecting disappointment or mediocrity that completely surprised you?
Andy: I’ll admit thaat I play a lot of different games. Sometimes it’s because I hear there are easy achievements, other times it’s because a friend wants to play co-op or even I just see a game that looks interesting and different enough that I think it may be fun. Since I purposely put the disclaimer in the first part of the article that we can include games we played this year that may not have been released this year I get to talk about two games I played that were much more fun than I thought they would be. The first one is Dead Rising 3. Now, I know it was a release title with Xbox One, but honestly it was a game I never paid attention to. A friend wanted to play it co-op so I relented and picked it up. Honestly, it was a game I begrudgingly picked up. Yet, we ended up playing through the entire game and I really enjoyed it. If not for my friend wanting to play it, I probably never would have and would have missed the fun ridiculousness of it. The other game I played this year that I wasn’t expecting much out of was Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare. Literally the only reason I played it was because it was included in the Vault for EA Access. Again, really surprised by how much fun it was I played it for over 70 hours and enjoyed every minute of it.
In regards to games that were released this year the one game that really comes to mind is Dying Light. Another zombie themed game I know, but – much like Dead Rising 3 – it was a game that I just didn’t think would be all that fun, or really hold my interest. I really did enjoy it though, aside from the atrocious quick-time-event ending, I really enjoyed it. Easy combat, the parkour and down to the good size map, I just enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It was actually one of those games I thought I would play for a half an hour and hope to convince my friend to find something different to play but man was I wrong on that one. I think if I would have played it by myself I wouldn’t have had as much fun, but playing it co-op or with two friends made it that much more enjoyable.
Over the past couple years of gaming I have been more and more willing to give different games a shot. Partly because the games I usually played for a long time *cough* Call of Duty *cough* have not been as good as in the past so I have more gaming time to play other things. Gamers like to brag and talk about the games we play, especially with social media it’s easier to do it now more than ever. Thinking about the games you played this year do you have any of those guilty pleasure titles? Those games where not a lot of people you know have played them, or at least admit to playing them, that you just really enjoyed? It’s easy to talk about those awesome AAA games, but like Dust: An Elysian’s Tail from a couple years ago being willing to take a chance on a little known game can lead to some pretty cool gaming memories. Did you play anything this year that would fall into that type of category?
Nicholas: Interestingly enough, or perhaps boringly enough, as I look back at my list of games that I’ve purchased in 2015, it’s quite tame. It’s not to suggest that it’s been a boring 12 months of gaming for me, but I don’t think I’ve strayed too far away from the AAA titles. Perhaps the furthest thing from ‘mainstream’ that I’ve played this year are MotoGP 15 and WRC 5, but I wouldn’t classify them as guilty pleasures. If anything they just aren’t popular racing titles, but I will admit, I did enjoy them both. I do mention this whenever I review either one of those series, but it’s a shame they don’t have as much backing as titles like Forza Motorsport because the gameplay is there, they just lack some of that finer polish. I guess the only guilty pleasure that I really have comes in the form of about 20+ boxes of Amiibos that are stacked in various positions in my cupboard. I told myself I wouldn’t get swept up into the craze but when that golden Mario figurine was launched it sort of sent me into a spiral and I ended up buying whichever ones I thought looked nice. Keep in mind they aren’t displayed anywhere, they’re just stored in a Tetris-like style wherever I can fit them. I guess that’s something I’m actually guilty about.
I’d of course like to flick the question back to you and ask whether there are any smaller/not-as-popular titles that you played this year that you really enjoyed, but there’s another question I’d like to ask you too. Why do you think gamers (like myself) tend to not stray from the AAA titles and try something different? Do you think it’s purely financial, the threat of being disappointed or do you think it has anything to do with how they are covered (or not well enough) by media outlets? What’s the main reason you tend to stay away from an indie-esque title?
Andy: Let me hit on the first part of your question. There is a game that I played this year that I think only two or three people on my friends list played, and I never really heard many people talking about it, but I loved it to death — Zombie Army Trilogy. It was a game originally released on PC in three separate chunks but found itself on consoles earlier this year. It’s made by the same team that developed the Sniper Elite series, which I enjoyed as well. Admittedly the visuals weren’t top of the line AAA standard, the controls were average, voice acting was at times hilarious and the story was batsh*t crazy… but I loved every minute of it.
To answer the bigger part of your response, I don’t think it’s purely about money honestly. I think a large portion of it is how those AAA games are marketed and released. What I mean is when someone gets hooked on a series, especially a series with annual releases, there is an inherent timeframe for when they play it. When they are done with it, they either move to the next in the series that will be releasing soon, or they jump to the next game in another franchise. Publishers strive really hard to determine what a gamer plays next, and at times for how long. Gamers are creatures of habit more often than not. We get into predictable patterns and it’s hard to deviate from those patterns. I have friends that only play shooters or sports games, they’ve never enjoyed some of those awesome platformers or puzzle games. I honestly feel bad for those gamers who never stray off the path that they know in picking new games to play.
That’s one of the reasons I really like Games for Gold and PlayStation Plus with the free games they offer each month. It encourages gamers to be willing to try something new, and for the perfect price – free. There was a point a couple years ago where I was in a rut with what I played game-wise. Everything felt the same and I was really starting to fade on how much fun I was having. So I started intentionally branching out with what I played. Some of them went back to the store pretty quick, but others quickly endeared themselves with me and are still games I recommend today. In my opinion if I hate 19 games I try but that 20th one is absolutely amazing then I’ve added more fun to my game collection.
As we wrap up another discussion here you mentioned that 2015 was pretty tame for you. Is there a reason you don’t try many new/different games instead of sticking to the same ones every year? With so many games out there, there has to be something different than what you have played before that you would enjoy is there not? Not all of them require large chunks of time either. Many are short fun experiences, but there’s no real harm in trying them is there? Who knows, maybe you’ll be the one to dethrone me from the top of the Pinball FX2 leaderboards once you give it a shot.
Nicholas: I think it comes down to three factors – money, time and the fear of being disappointed. Starting with the former, when a game costs on average $80AUD I’m going to be reluctant to just throw money on it. I was looking over games to buy for Christmas and there were titles like Toad’s Treasure Tracker which was retailing for about $70. Perhaps I’m being a bit tight, but it just seemed like too much for a Wii U game released so many months ago that I thought was a simplistic platformer. If I’m honest though, this is perhaps the weakest of the three reasons.
The next reason why I’m reluctant to deviate from what I know I’ll like is time. At the moment I’ve not finished (as in, 100% campaign mode) any of the racing titles on the Xbox One, but putting those aside, I still haven’t touched the Wolfenstein expansion or Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. I am trying to finish Rise of the Tomb Raider, but once I’m done I’d like to play through Donkey Kong 64 on the Wii U Virtual Console. The problem is that there are all these games that I’d like to play, but with my limited time on the weekend, I get through them quite slowly. What really stops me from just buying games willy-nilly is adding to a pile of shame. It’s the one thing I really wanted to avoid with the new generation of consoles, and I feel guilty if I start buying too many games without finishing what I have first.
And finally, the last reason why I’m reluctant to buy new games or give them a chance is because I’m worried I’ll be disappointed. A great example is Metal Gear Solid V. I’ve heard completely positive reviews about it, but a part of me is still worried that I won’t like it given that I’ve never played previous titles, and combined with the financial and time factors above, I’ve still yet to pick it up. So if I can’t even deviate and buy proven AAA-titles, those smaller indie ones or which aren’t as well-known definitely don’t stand a chance.
All this said though, I think what you’ve said raises a valid case for gamers to get out there and try new titles. 2015 is almost over but there’s still some time to squeeze in some gaming fun before we kick off 2016. So get out there, check something new out and have a blast… maybe just not with How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition though.
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