Posts tagged fuel
Normal blogging will be resumed shortly, but to mark the new year, here are the best ten games of 2009… that I played. (So no Modern Warfare 2 or Uncharted 2, for example.) It was hard to whittle it down to a top ten, but I think I got there. Unfortunately, it means that 33rd Division, Scribblenauts, Angry Birds, Ridge Racer Accelerated, Doom Classic, Borderlands and even the mighty Demon’s Souls, Minigore and Orbital got left out.
Assassin’s Creed 2 (360)
I loved the first Assassin’s Creed game, but the sequel is on a completely different level. It’s tuned to perfection, with the developers having learnt the lessons of the first game and it’s absolutely packed with things to do. You can’t move more than three feet in town without encountering a side mission, treasure chest, shop, random chase, glyph or feather. Everything’s interesting, everything’s fun, there’s a decent script that’s not afraid to be funny now and again (“It’s me, Mario!”) and it’s absolutely beautiful. Best of all, I’m nowhere near done with it, so it’ll last me well into 2010.
Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3)
If I had to choose one single Game of the Year, there’s no doubt that it would be Batman: Arkham Asylum. Influenced by the best comics and cartoons, it’s the first game that really, truly lets you be Batman. Batman’s not going to get hurt in a fight with a thug, but make him fight six at a time and he needs to be careful. And if those thugs have got guns, well, he’ll have to take them out without being seen. All the gameplay elements mesh together perfectly – with the exception of a few of the boss fights – and I’ll remember the setting and Mark Hamill’s Joker for a long, long time to come, even if I’ve already forgotten some of the details of the actual story. Brilliant.
If I were doing hardware awards, the iPhone would be running away with them. My scepticism of the device as a games machine disappeared within days of getting one. I even like virtual sticks and buttons now. But the first iPhone game to make this alphabetical list doesn’t need any of those. Instead, you just tap on the screen everytime you want to jump. It’s simple, yes, but only dimwits would see that as a bad thing. You run, you jump and you inevitably die. And then you come back for another go. The randomly-generated levels keep things tense and it looks and sounds incredible.
Breathtaking. Flower sees you become a god or spirit and takes you on a incredible journey. It’s something of a miracle that the big brick of technology that is the Playstation 3 can make you feel such a part of nature. To describe the story would be an injustice – and I expect everyone has their own interpretation. The gentle glides, the swoops, the windmills and pylons and cities and grass and flowers… it’ll all stay with me a long, long time.
The game I’ve always wanted in my head now exists in real life. It’s a huge, sprawling mess of America, where driving for hours with no goal in mind is a simple joy. It’s a game you remember. Riding bikes down impossibly huge cliffs, picking your way round the shallows of a lake at night, watching the sun break over a burned forest… like most of the games in this list, this is an exceptional game not just for the pure rush of the gaming moment, but in the way the sights, sounds and feelings remain long after you’ve stopped playing. And, you know, it didn’t hurt that many of the races were brilliantly-designed, requiring knowledge of the environment and vehicles to succeed. A towering single-player achievement, it’s just a shame that the online didn’t quite live up to expectations.
Gran Turismo (PSP)
I only got this a few days before the end of the year, but after many hours of playing on the sofa and in bed, I knew it had to make this list. The driving model is exciting (though you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise before playing with the settings) and there are a huge number of cars and tracks. What really makes it for me, though, is the structure. Instead of a career mode you’re just given some basic modes and can choose any of the tracks to race on. By racing you earn more money to buy new cars. There’s nothing forced on you, you can just buy the cars you think look interesting and take them round your favourite tracks. What to see how a 1954 2CV handles Laguna Seca? Well, off you go – and you’ll even get some money for it. Absolutely exceptional.
Killzone 2 (PS3)
You like shooting people in the face? Of course you do! Killzone 2 understands this. It gives you great guns and great enemies and makes amazing set pieces out of them. It takes a while to get into, but once you’ve wormed your way inside, you won’t want to get out. Perfectly paced and just as long as it needs to be, Killzone 2 is an absolute triumph of the simple joy of putting bullets into bad guys.
Noby Noby Boy (PS3)
Initially, it seems like it’ll probably be fun for ten minutes, but no more. There aren’t any real goals (beyond hunting for trophies, if you feel like it) there’s just a random level and the stretching, twisting, ever-hungry Boy. You move around, eat things, knock things over and just play for the simple joy of play. And it doesn’t seem to get old. You always expect it to, but every time you go back, it still grabs you and a quick five minutes turns into an hour and a half without you noticing – or caring. Criminally overlooked and incredibly cheap, Noby Noby Boy deserved much, much better.
Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? (PSP)
Hard as nails – you might well lose all your 1,000 lives before completing the game – but never malicious, Prinny is an odd game. It’s an old school platformer spin-off from a series of strategy games and shouldn’t really work. If you believe the reviewers who skated the surface without finding their way inside, it was a failure. But those reviewers are wrong. It’s a huge game, packed with humour and secrets and, crucially, death is always your own fault. Quite frankly, if you like running, jumping and pounding things with your bottom, there wasn’t a better game released this year.
Words With Friends (iPhone)
The online multiplayer hit of the year, I’ve played this every day for months now. Heavily based on Scrabble, Words With Friends doesn’t bother with any fluff, but just lets you play the game against other people with a minimum of fuss. Portable game of the year, without a shadow of a doubt.
I finally got to the part I was dreading. I’ve got two stars on all the races I’ve unlocked and it’s not enough to unlock any more areas. So I’m having to go back and do races on three-star difficulty. Going through the menus to do this means the load times are more of an issue than normal, but I’ve been surprised by just how much fun I’ve been having. Some races have been very easy, some hard, but I’ve enjoyed them all.
Bombing around Firemoor Fields, doing a two or three more career races, a couple more vista points, an Achievement for getting clothes for my driver, etc. I think I’m still quite a long way from opening up any new areas.
Got an Achievement last night. First one in a while. It was the one for collecting one hundred liveries. As luck would have it, it wasn’t just a random livery for a vehicle I never use, but a new design for my beloved Dustgrinder bike. Hooray!
Collected another livery after that, then went off to do an actual career race – this one a buggy race that took place mostly on roads. Took me three tries, but was pretty easy once I discovered a shortcut at the beginning of the race that put me far enough ahead that I could avoid being overtaken on the bits that I couldn’t do very well. There was a hairpin on to gravel which I could never quite get right, a jump it was hard to hit at the correct angle and a curved, woody section where I knew there must be a shortcut – the AI cars were certainly finding it – but which I couldn’t find. Excellent race.
Played this for a couple of hours last night while the wife played The Sims 3. Managed to go over half an hour without seeing a road or dirt track as I tried to get the Warrior to climb a mountain with a vista point on the top. Several likely looking slopes proved fruitless, but I got there eventually… then fell off. Another climb and I reached the vista point. That was a good feeling. Then found some more points of interest before trying out a checkpoint race across the top of the Dead Lady’s Lake area. Took me several tries, but I eventually won it, despite not being able to find a shortcut the other cars were using. I like races where I get to drive the General Custer. It may not be the best car I could have used, but I know how to drive it and didn’t want to spend any money on a new vehicle that may have been rubbish.
It’s funny, a few days away from the game and the scale astonished me all over again when I jumped back in. There’s also a lot of variation and character to the different areas, despite the small number of different objects and terrain styles. In a sequel I would dearly love to see many more unique buildings. Could they be generated, as the world is, I wonder?
Spent a good a few hours driving to new camps I’d unlocked on the eastern side of the map. Ended up at The Hangar, so did a few races round there, then went back to an area known as Fire Fields, or something. I can’t remember the exact name now. All great stuff, but the only thing that sticks in my mind is doing a bike racing late on Saturday night and being determined to win it before bed, despite it being well past one in the morning. I did it, eventually, but I didn’t get to bed until nearly two. Sometimes you can lave a race unwon though, you know?
Played a couple of hours last night while my wife was off playing with iTunes upstairs. I started off in Drownington Cove, doing various things. I finished off the career races there (on two stars), then did some challenges, collected some liveries, got a couple of Mavericks, etc. Best race was probably a Raid challenge there. It starts off easily enough – you can stay ahead of the AI easily enough on the way to the first checkpoint by ignoring the roads – but the second half of the race is a bit harder, as you have avoid an awful lot of water. There’s a big body of water you have to dogleg past, then the final part of the race sees you picking your way between small pools. I eventually did it, after about four tries, by watching where the AI went, which revealed a path across the shallows at the side of the lake. Then it was just a case of sticking to the roads to avoid the pools, before powering across the grass to the finish line. Excellent stuff.
After that I moved on over to Redrock Bluffs, where I did some more career races. On the way to one of them I had another great Fuel moment. I was driving across the desert at night, when a sudden flash of lightning illuminated all the terrain and great forks of lightning appeared in the sky. It gave me a vivd honeymoon flashback, reminding me of watching storms roll in across the Grand Canyon as night fell. Perfect.
Then, this morning, I played for an hour or so before work, polishing off another two or three career races and unlocking three more areas of the map in the process. Wonderful stuff. I know I keep saying that, but it is.
Did a few races last night, but by far the best was Tornado Warning, which, as the name implies, features a tornado or two. It’s incredibly impressive stuff, with some real “woah!” moments as cars fly past your head and barns get pulled from the ground. An exceptionally fun bit of racing, with the fight against the other races, the fight against the road itself and the fight against the tornados themselves. I did a few other races and had great fun, but everything else paled in comparison to that race. Awesome stuff.
(And it didn’t hurt that I’d watched Twister earlier in the evening before playing.)
This evening was set aside for an adventure – driving from Tsunami Reef in the top north-west corner of the map down to Redrock Bluffs (i.e. the Grand Canyon) in the bottom south-east corner. There’s a secret Achievement for doing it, but the best reason to do it is just because you can. I didn’t turn on my GPS for the journey and instead pointed myself south-east and drove, mostly on the Dirtgrinder bike, but I also used the Spider Wraith buggy for a while.
You start off on sand dunes, then you reach the grass, then the forest. Gentle rolling terrain becomes mountains, where I couldn’t quite go in a straight line and drive through narrow valleys, which luckily pointed in roughly the right direction. Then more hills and forests, until they give way to red desert. Driving the last few miles reminded me strongly of the drive through southern Utah and northern Arizona on my honeymoon – which was also a drive to the Grand Canyon. My wife was sitting next to me on the sofa, as she had done in the car on that drive and we talked about the music that had playing on the radio. (Shakira and the Stone Roses, if you’re interested.)
Shortly after that I reached the base camp in Redrock Bluffs, after a drive of one hour and forty minutes and ninety miles.
I didn’t celebrate for long, instead jumping into the Career race that takes you round the Skywalk, which is really quite scary. Of course, once I’d won that race, I drove straight off it and fell to my expected doom. Fun!
That was almost it, but I grabbed a nearby livery and vista point, then raced against a helicopter, which was great fun. And then I noticed my mileage was on 1,491, so I drove another nine miles and marked hitting the 1,500 mile mark by driving into a fence.
Fantastic stuff all round.
On Friday night I had my first taste of the online multiplayer, after being invited into a group of friends. We had a good time, but I saw a lot more glitches than I’ve seen in the single player game. And not having persistent sessions is an absolutely baffling design decision. I didn’t win any races, unfortunately, but I didn’t do too badly. If jochta hadn’t been playing, I might have had a chance of finishing first now and again.
The rest of the weekend has been spent in single player. I’ve done a lot of races down in the south-west of the map. Going from the Ashtray to Stagazers’ Peak and Pinwheel Ridge, just doing the career races with an occasional detour if I found myself near something of interest. It’s odd how, speaking very generally, the career races in fuel aren’t nearly as interesting as the challenges. They’re great fun, but they don’t have that little extra that makes the challenges so special.