Must Play Games Before You Move to Next-Gen
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I am by no means an expert, and don’t claim to have an opinion that is somehow more valid than yours, nor do I think these five games I’m recommending are the best five games ever, but I’ve compiled a list of games I feel everyone should try before they’re lost in the spectacle of the next-gen. In fact, I’ve placed them in no particular order.

If this piece has a thesis, and really, it doesn’t, it is that there are some games that may be worth looking into before jumping onboard the next generation. Since most of them are around three years old now, you can enjoy some quality gaming on the cheap.

I’ve also tried to pick games that are fun for different reasons. Hopefully, anybody will be able to find a treasure in this list, even if it is completely lacking in shooters.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Enslaved is a game loosely based on the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West. The same can also be said of the original Dragon Ball anime, and the parallels aren’t hard to see. The protagonist is a staff-wielding man with a tail named Monkey, for example.

I have to wonder what would’ve happened to the game had it been marketed differently. What if people knew all there was to know about this polished, 12-hour long, single-player epic?

What if they knew that Monkey is voiced by Andy Serkis, who also lends his motion-capture expertise to the role and serves as a scene director? Andy Serkis, on the off chance you don’t know, is the man behind Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films.

What if they knew that the story had been co-written by Alex Garland, the writer of 28 Days Later? Did a lack of proper publicity condemn this game to mediocre popularity? Possibly.

All I know is, the story, the dialogue, the relationship between Monkey and Trip, and the ending (oh god, the ending) are all testaments to how a game can tell a story unique to this medium. Now that it’s been released on Steam, the title offers even more accessibility. Give it a shot; it will be worth it.

Darksiders

You can call it a rip-off and probably even make a good case for yourself. You can say they stole elements from God of War, Legend of Zelda, Shadow of the Colossus, Legacy of Kain, and hell, even Portal. You can say all that, but you’d be missing the point.

The truth of the matter is that Darksiders really is all those things, but in a good way. It is essentially a formula of good ideas stacked upon good ideas where the end result is inevitably good ideas. It feels like fanfare, and it manages to be a best-hits compilation without ever feeling derivative.

With stunning visuals, a brilliant world to explore, a skillful balance between action and cerebral, and comic book legend Joe Madureira serving as creative director, it’s not hard to see why Darksiders is worth a playthrough before moving on to the next-gen of consoles.

Oh, and did I mention Mark Hamill is in it?

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Bayonetta

Bayonetta is every bit as much technical as it is charming, and within its mechanics lies a system worth mastering. Every death in Bayonetta will easily be traced back to a mistake on the player’s end and will leave nobody pointing fingers at an unfair AI.

As fun as mastering the precision, combos, and audio queues is, and really, it’s the core of this game, the icing is what pushes this game to legendary status. The references, dialogue, and general Sega flavor are present with good reason; they bring a levity to the game that is almost a rarity these days. The characters exist outside of typical stereotypes, even if they still manage to be one dimensional, and are perfectly suited to entertain.

The cutscenes, while maybe too plentiful, are often over the top in a way that doesn’t feel forced but are, instead, kind of stunning. Even when a whirlwind of the heroine’s hair is being used to topple a colossal boss, the sheer ridiculousness of the action somehow doesn’t sour the spectacle.

Play through the game twice, once on the hardest difficulty using unlocked items, and you’ll see why this game is worth every bit of praise it receives. It never slows down.

Shadows of the Damned

Here’s a game from the minds of Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil 4) and Suda 51 (No More Heroes); it has the unique flare that you’d expect.

Bordering on childish, the humor employed in Shadows of the Damned can be both charming and obnoxious at the same time. At points, players will transform Johnson, their sentient weapon/tour guide, into a powered-up weapon entitled The Hot Boner. Also, the main character’s name is Garcia Fucking Hotspur, middle name included. I’m not making this up.

The story, which is traditional man-rescues-girl fare, takes place in a lovingly crafted and delightfully weird version of Hell. As Garcia, the player must confront anything from human-esque demons who shamble in hordes to gigantic, more impressive demon lords.

The lore surrounding these bosses is surprisingly potent, exceedingly clever, and marginally repulsive. They can come across as emotionally jarring, especially when you consider the sophomoric approach present in the majority of the game.

The game, which controls exactly like Resident Evil, has a distinct road-movie feel to it and features an ending that would justify playing through a game much worse than this.

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Alan Wake

Everybody knows about it, but so few people have played it to completion. Perhaps a symptom of exclusivity and a delayed PC version?

Alan Wake is a psychological thriller, inspired by shows such as The X-Files and Twin Peaks and the novels of Stephen King. Even if you can’t fully grasp the depths of the sometimes convoluted story, which is partially concealed within collectable “scripts,” the typical heroic quest to save Alan’s wife will be made readily apparent. So as complicated as the narrative seeks to be, you will never be without some level of context.

The real horror of the game comes from the complete feeling of disempowerment. Forever at the mercy of limited supplies, in both ammo and batteries, Alan must opt to run and recharge over a head-on fight sometimes. Coupled with the frantic cranking of generators, the temporarily immune enemies shrouded in darkness, and the feeling of always being surrounded in the woods, these non-traditional mechanics ensure that Alan Wake is a game that gets in your head while never backing away from the action.

Benjamin Maltbie
Benjamin Maltbie
@BenjaminMaltbie

Contributing Writer
Date: 11/06/2013

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