04 July 2007


My 7 Favorite Video Games


07: Burnout: Revenge [PS2, EA Games]

I figure there should be at least one racing game on this list, and even though the wicked cool Crash Events keep this title from being a 100% pure racing game, Burnout: Revenge is definitely my favorite racing game of all time. The illusion of speed this game creates is positively stunning at times, and when ya add in destruction to the races, it can get utterly insane. I'm not a huge fan of racing games, but if I mention another one, I'd say Midnight Club II just for the incredibly fun Paris level. But no, I'm sticking with Burnout: Revenge all the way...

06: Far Cry: Instincts [XBOX, Ubisoft]

Far Cry: Instincts is the best representation of what the XBOX did best and most - the First Person Shooter. Oh my...Yr Jack Carver, a dishonorably discharged soldier who ends up on some forgotten, secret island somewhere in the Pacific, where he encounters a militia belonging to a mad scientist who is working for the CIA, trying to develop a serum that will essentially create "super soldiers". The thing is, this serum literally unlocks man's animal instincts, and as the game progresses, not only do you encounter nocturnal mutant animals in the jungle, but eventually a huge, barely human beast who takes forever to kill. But that's not all, because along the way, you yrself, Jack Carver, acquire and develop yr own Feral Skills, such as being able to see odors at night, jump huge distances, and attack with the ferocity of a lion, ripping out throats in one deadly strike. There's also the level where you hanglide through deep, deep tropical canyons that is a thing of absolute beauty.

And there's still things like knives and machine guns and grenades if yr content with that basic FPS stuff, but there's also a substantial stealth element to this game, crawling through the jungle underbrush and setting tree snares, throwing rocks to send guards sniffing around said snares, or crawling on yr back under the floors of bamboo shacks, killing enemies from below, and then later, sniping clean an entire compound from a tower. I like stealth games.

I also like cool vehicles, and Far Cry: Instincts' got all manner of land sea, and air craft to tool around on, many of them equipped with weapons big and small...Even the hanglider's sporting semi-auto, yo!

Anyways, in the end, the graphics, gameplay and story all come together brilliantly, and I can't even tell you about the multiplayer online component, cuz I haven't tried it, but I imagine it's just as pretty and twice as sweet.

05: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas [PS2, Rockstar]

First, I love the GTA franchise because of the radio stations, and the music, programming and mersh therein. In a sandbox as incredibly huge as San Andreas, one might do nothing but tool around in a vehicle of one's choosing just listening to the radio and checking out the sights. For hours. No gunplay. No missions. No pimping. Say what you want about GTA: SA, including that whole Hot Coffee thing, but this game is really only as vile and crass and violent as one makes it. I've killed hours just doing tricks and jumps and whatnot with the bicycle alone. There's in-game video games. There's offtrack betting. Dance contests and lowrider competitions. You can amass a wicked wardrobe, and get all manner of tattoos and kicks...And if ya stick with the game long enough, and explore every corner of San Andreas, you just might encounter Bigfoot himself, or get messed up with the CIA, UFOs, and aliens. I haven't yet, but I know those things are there.

Anyways, I don't know about other GTA players, but whenever I start a new title in the franchise, like San Andreas, I don't start missions and/or indescriminately killing people, from the git-go. No, I grab a car and start exploring the city...Cuz the thing is, the moment you finish yr first mission, you've been pulled in fully and for real...Then you've got enemies, and the game is on...The beauty and innovation of GTA, to me, is the fact that you can hold off on getting the game on, for real, for as long as you want, really...

04: Megamania! [Atari 2600, Activision]

8-Bit slide and shoot goodness from 1982. The first game I ever beat cuz I reached 999,999, at which point the game ended due to a programming error. A colorful, fun and simplified variant of Space Invaders and Galaga, really. And like most 2600 games, the music got annoying and even outright maddening in a huge hurry, so naturally we hit mute and cranked the stereo...LAZER 103...QFM...I recall my friends and I trying to "turn the game over" with the fewest lives lost. I remember not being the champion. Nostalgia, more than anything, makes this #4 on the list. 'nuff said.

03: Thief II: The Metal Age (Gold Edition) [PC, Looking Glass/Eidos]

In the Thief franchise, you play Garrett, a thief/assassin, and the gameplay is "First Person Sneaker" because rather than run around blowing everything up and making a big egotistical racket, success is achieved in this game through stealth. Set in a world that is mostly Middle Ages, there is a steampunk quality to the game achieved through some of the weaponry and devices, and even some of the impressive architecture, that you'll encounter as a contract player for political players and secret, mystical sects based heavily on Freemasonry and Rosucrucianism. Shades of the Templar, the pagan underground and whatnot. Because you spend alot of your time eluding guards and primitive robots, Thief tends to move a bit slower than a usual guns-first FPS, and I like this slower action better, personally. Crawling around a huge castle, snuffing out torches with water arrows and looting the place, well, it only gets better than this twice.

02: SimCity3000 Unlimited [PC, Maxis]

I'm afraid of heights. Not deathly afraid, mind you, but afraid, nonetheless. For example, I enjoy the speed and dips and thrills of rollercoasters, but that initial ascent, and those 10-20 seconds when yr slowly rolling around that curve towards that first, huge drop...Man, that scares the shit outta me every time. Or take the Sears Tower, which is the tallest building I've ever been to the top of...Well, the view was amazing and unforgettable, but I had to inch my up to the glass, and I had to have Sweetpea hang on to me, and I had a hard, hard time looking straight down, preferring to fix my gaze somewhere a bit further uptown, downtown, out towards Cabrini Green and the western Burb horizon through the haze of 3pm in August...

So, I've established a certain fear of heights, and now I'll tell you that I have a fascination, bordering on obsession, with aerial photography, maps, and architectural drafting - images from a bird's eye view, all of 'em, or should I feign ego and say they're all like looking down as a God from on high. Is it ego, or is it compensation for this fear of mine? I don't particularly like to fly, but I'll hang around Google Maps for hours a month...

You see where I'm going this SimCity 3000 rant. It's really the most perfect game for ME, though not quite as universal as #1 on my list, so here we are.

Where we are is a city of our choosing and our naming, and the first great thing is that we get to terraform the landscape we get to build our city upon...And that's what this game comes down to - building and managing an ever growing city and many of the infrastructure, budgetary and civic difficulties that come with the territory. Great fun stuff, and a game that's insanely easy to fall into a weird sort of trance with if ya got the right kind of kind...Ahoy!

01: Super Mario 64 [N64, Nintendo]

I was already a huge fan of the Super Mario Bros. game franchise [aah, dorm life] - the old 2D sidescrolling platformers on the NES, and then this amazing and enormous 3D platformer came along on the N64 in time for Christmas 1996, and everything changed. The SMB franchise itself had evolved and exploded, and really, this is probably the 3D platformer against which all subsequent 3D platformers are judged. Further, I'd say this is still the most perfect video game ever made, as it's art and design are creative and beautifully rendered, the gameplay is challenging, but not too much so, making it playable for ages 5 to 65, when sensible people should probably give up gaming to travel or knit things. Like I already mentioned, the game is enormous, with 22 ample and adventurous levels/maps to get through...Jumping, flying, mild violence against Koopa Troopas and Goombas and whatnot. It all adds up the one single game, in my opinion, that best represents the best that video games have to offer as far as accessible, creative fun for a wide range of people.


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