Monday, 30 July 2012

Top Ten Games 2004

Well they’re coming thick and fast now aren’t they! The Top 10 Games for 2004 are here, although it’s not a stellar year looking back it still boasts some top quality games that are still played thoroughly today.

As is the norm, I must emphasise that the list is based on games and platforms that had their release date in the EU in 2004. Not the US, Australia or Japan. The EU. Got it?

That is why one of the games on here, that was released in other areas in 2003 is on this list, and why another game from this year that was released in North America in 2004 will not make this years list, but next years. Anyway, I digress…

7 of the games in the top ten were available to buy and play on the PC, while there were 2 each for the XBOX and PS2 and 1 for the GBA. There were none for the GameCube and you can tell that this year and 2005 were transition years for the console world due to the impending release of the Xbox 360, PS3 and Nintendo Piss. Also the Nintendo DS was released in North America in November 2004, meaning that the GBA probably makes it final showing in these lists.

2004 was a year for shooting things with guns, as 5 of the top ten games were FPS games and September through to November was the popular period, with 6 of the 10 games being released in this timeframe.

Without further ado, I introduce game No. 10 on our list. It’s a PC game, it’s a First Person Shooter and from 2004 this game broke boundaries in gameplay and graphics that could possibly be seen as the first in a new wave of graphical wonder games…

10. Far Cry – FPS – PC (Mar 04)
Developer: Crytek
Publisher: Ubisoft

Developer Crytek, who you will know more for the Crysis series of games comes their first full game – Far Cry. As you can expect, it was a graphical marvel, paving the way for the next generation of FPS games that played smoothly, had alternate ways of being approached and looked graphically incredible. It’s arguable that without the advances that Far Cry introduced, that games like CoD and Battlefield would not be quite the games they are today.

Following the tried and tested route of being stranded on a strange and unchartered island, with lots of bad guys and some other things Far Cry isn’t the greatest game so far as story goes, but it’s gameplay mechanics and graphical advances more than deservedly places this game in 2004’s Top Ten.

Next we go from being in a strange island to being sent to Paragon City, where Superman can kiss my arse and Spider-Man is a pussy…

9. City of Heroes – MMORPG – PC (Apr 04)
Developer: Cryptic Studios
Publisher: NC Soft

City of Heroes – still going strong today, with its latest update coming in March 2012, this has always been a fascinating game, and with it’s regular updates has kept die-hard fans hooked for over 8 years. Being able to decide on your archetype, primary and secondary powers, your superhero name, your battle-cry and maybe most importantly how you look baby are all fun and creative ways to start your superhero career. You fight through different zones, levelling up and fighting harder and harder enemies, culminating in some mega bastards in alternate dimensions. Definitely worthy of a Top 10 place, and still a popular game today.

As we leave Paragon City we travel to Elibe, where a demanding quest awaits the stars of…

8. Fire Emblem – RPG / Turn Based Strategy – GBA (Jul 04)
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo

Many an addictive hour has been spent playing Fire Emblem, and for me personally the Red Hot Chili Peppers By The Way album became my personal soundtrack to the game. Strangely addictive game play, taking you back to an age when gameplay and story meant more than graphics (before No. 10 came along to blow that theory out of the water!)

With a story driven quest, this game (which is the first of the series released outside Japan) makes you think about each move, think about defence, attack and strategy with each level. Throwing different obstacles and powerful foes in your way as you attempt to traverse to continent of Elibe to prevent the Black Fang from plunging the world into conflict and dooooooom!

Staying in the fantasy genre, we go from a Japanese constructed RPG/TBS to a thoroughly British RPG with massive elements of Open World structure thrown in…

7. Fable – RPG / Open World – XBOX (Oct 04)
Developer: Big Blue Box
Publisher: Microsoft Games Studios

Yes that’s right, Big Blue Box bring you gallivanting into Fable. It’s a big open world RPG game, from the mind of British gaming guru – Peter Molyneux.

Basically, it follows your kinda typical RPG game – you perform quests, side-quests, chat to people, level up and advance the story. But following on from 2003’s MonkeyBoxGaming GotY – Knights of the Old Republic, it’s not as cut and dried as that. You can choose whether to be nice as pie, or a complete arsehole. The choice is yours, and depending on your alignment your ending will be different. The gameplay is easy, meaning there’s no long learning curve with playing it and the dialogue and script of the game is very British. With a good bit of British humour and a well written story, Fable is a good game to represent the quality of gaming from these fair isles.

From Fable and its lovable characters and chucklesome dialogue, to Mars…and some scary shit to boot…

6. Doom 3 – FPS / Survival Horror – PC (Aug 04)
Developer: id Software
Publisher: Activision

If you consider yourself a gamer, and you’ve not (at the very fucking least ) heard of Doom then go back to knitting you prat. The Doom franchise is one of the most influential and popular in gaming history, from the masters of the FPS – id Software – the 3rd incarnation of Doom comes with more scary moments than the majority of horror films ever released. Obviously much more graphically advanced than the original 2 games, and with that extra amount of amazing graphics comes with it the ability not just to use them, but in a way not to use them. Large parts of the game are entirely pitch black, with the player relying on his flashlight to traverse the level and find the nasty enemies. Fair enough I suppose, makes it a bit more real…oh yeah while your flashlight is equipped, your gun is holstered.

This part of the gameplay alone adds an extra dimension of shit your pants panic that cements Doom in the 21st Century as a horror game as much as it is a FPS.

As we enter the top 5 of 2004, have a bit of a think. Think of games you played, or play now that you’ve been playing for years from 2004 – there really can only be 5 choices and I hope you agree…

From one FPS by the innovators and inventors of the genre to another by giants of the genre, who don’t need to re-release the same tat year on year to prove anything to those who know…

5. Counter-Strike: Source – FPS – PC (Nov 04)
Developer: Valve
Publisher: Valve

The remake of MonkeyBoxGaming’s 2000 GotY, Counter-Strike, Counter-Strike Source or CSS is a fantastic game, and can be seen on such sites as Pure Pwnage – awesome web-series…BOOOM HEADSHOT!!! The gameplay is pretty similar as the original and the goals are the same – Terrorists vs Counter-Terrorists in deathmatch, diffuse the bomb etc. Purely about the multiplayer the way only Valve can do, CSS is a brilliantly social game, and can create and also destroy friendships…or so I’m led to believe!

CSS is well worthy of it’s top 5 place if only for this actual fact. As of the time of writing, which is 20:56 on Saturday 28/07/12, CSS has just under 11,000 more gamers on Steam than CoD MW 3. 10,990 to be exact. Still massively popular, consistently fun, and enjoying a huge cult following, CSS deserves at least it’s No. 5 spot on this list. FYI the original CS has 8,130 more gamers online at this moment than CSS, meaning it has 19,120 more players than the latest Call of Duty: Modern Warfare game.

We move from Valve’s CSS to another FPS that doubles as a Third Person Shooter. And it’s sometimes so hard to get away from that Galaxy, far, far away…

4. Star Wars: Battlefront – FPS / 3rd Person Shooter – PC/PS2/XBOX (Sep 04)
Developer: Pandemic Studios
Publisher: Lucasarts

That’s right, in at No. 4 we have Star Wars Battlefront. Yes it’s another FPS, and yes it’s another Star Wars game, but hell well Star Wars games are good they’re great, and when they’re bad, they’re fucking awful.

SWBF is similar to EA’s Battlefield game where you are a soldier (one of 4 classes: infantry, heavy, pilot or sniper) battles the forces of evil, or good depending on your allegiance. The game doesn’t really follow a proper narrative, just that it lets you get involved in some of the battles of the Star Wars universe from the perspective of a foot soldier, instead of the usual big character or ace pilot - which is refreshing in itself.

Many, many, happy hours spent playing SWBF yielded some great fun and the want to go back for more. So many cups of coffee, gone cold by being ignored in favour of shooting up some stormtroopers, but that’s ok…I like cold coffee. Also this is a good crossover game from the 2 trilogies, incorporating the big battles of the original trilogy (Galactic Civil War: Galactic Empire vs Rebel Alliance) and the prequel trilogy (Seperatist Crisis/Clone Wars: Galactic Republic vs Confederacy of Independent Systems).

Unfortunately the game was released a year before Episode III came out, so the prequel battles end with the Battle of Kashyyyk (Wookiee Homeworld), so the prequel battles aren’t as much to do with the Clone Wars and more the Seperatists…anyway I could go on about the game and Star Wars history but I’ve got a top ten list to finish, and speaking of finishing we come to our Bronze Medal Winner.

From Star Wars to one of the most heavily decorated games of all time, unfortunately for me personally, it’s still up there but pipped at the post by 2 others from this year which spank it completely…anyway where’s my crowbar?

3. Half-Life 2 – FPS – PC (Nov 04)
Developer: Valve
Publisher: Valve / Sierra

That’s right, we go to the world of Black Mesa and Gordon Freeman with his lovely crowbar. Following on a good 20 years (in game) after Half-Life was released, Half-Life 2 is an absolutely phenomenal game, well worthy of it’s 39 GoTY awards, and several Game of the Decade awards. To be honest this game would have been number one on my list if the current occupants of 2 and 1 were released any other year…but then I suppose that’s obvious…

Gordon returns in HL2 for an amazing FPS which breaks the mould and delivers an amazing story which stands up today as one of the best games ever made. After the events of Half-Life in which Black Mesa accidentally opened like a massive vortex that started a little incident which Gordon ended, it all went a bit bigger and kinda ruined the world. The enigmatic G-Man   is evident in and around the game, and the gameplay is exceptional, resulting in an amazing experience and resulting in something very special, not just a critical and commercial success, but an instant cult classic.

From Gordon’s crowbar wielding, rollercoaster experience to something a bit more mundane, a bit more normal, a bit more like life…

2. The Sims 2 – Life Simulation – PC (Sep 04)
Developer: Maxis
Publisher: Electronic Arts

That’s right, you can pretty much guarantee any year that has a new Sims release will have it included into the vast majority of Top Ten Games lists around the world. A lot has changed from The Sims to its second incarnation, and it proved such a successful formula that it is the most commercially successful PC game of all time, reportedly selling over 20 million copies. That is pretty special.

From trying to make ends meet, and actually feeling that pang of “Oh shit” when something goes wrong, knowing that it’s gonna be a tight few weeks, to just saying “SCREW THIS!” and using one of the many cheats to turn it into a sandbox game where you can design and fill your dream home. The game as a stand-alone is pretty fantastic and utterly addictive, proving to still be one of the most amazing games of the last year – even with The Sims 3 coming in 2009. If you haven’t played or heard of this game then you’re likely to not be reading this blog at all, and probably live in some kind of cave. Either that, or you’re just some kind of cretin, with an annoying, whingey voice, who can’t stop shouting, and moans at everything like a complete twat.

Ah-hem, so The Sims 2 grabs our Silver Medal, an a worthy Silver it is too, however to get to the obvious choice for Gold, you need to leave Pleasantview and head west to Los Santos…

1. GTA: San Andreas – Action/Adventure / Open World – PS2 (Oct 04)
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Studios

Of course it is, come on let’s be serious for a minute, Half-Life 2 is ground shattering, The Sims 2 is one of the bestselling games ever, and other games from this year are brilliantly addictive and fun. But one game from 2004 destroys them all, it’s a tour de force piece of gaming that is still as fun (if now graphically a little dated) as it ever was.

The innovations that the game brought with it in this GTA were astounding. From simple things like riding a push-bike, to flying fast jets, and going the step further than Vice City from just being able to change your outfit, to completely customising your outfit from all of the clothes shops, and changing whether you had a shaved head or a massive ‘fro. Not forgetting, your CJ Johnson could be a porky fucker from too many Cluckin’ Bells or a buff goliath of a man because of your trips to the gym.

The coup of having Samuel L Jackson voice Officer Tenpenny was a well welcome addition to the game, and the sheer vastness of the game meant that you could get lost – literally lost – in the game needing to continually consult your in-game map. You could get lost in the game in the other sense of the phrase, I personally enjoyed driving out to the middle of nowhere, wait at the side of the road, and try to get the 1-shot kills as cars drove past. Not by shooting the drivers of course, but when you shot the gas tank the cars would just explode, like a self-destruct button of doom. Amazingness. And that’s just my own personal enjoyment.

The story focusses around CJ Johnson, who returns to the San Andreas city of Los Santos, where his mother has recently died. Bad times. You find that shit gets from bad to worse generally after that, and then things get a little better, then worse again, then really worse, and finally kinda better as you go from a gangsta from da hood, cycling around with your mates, going for some chicken, to a complete fucking mogul. With cameos from Vice City and GTA III coming into play as well San Andreas is one of the best games ever made, and still keeps people captivated today.

Well that was the Top Ten Games 2004 list, with another GTA game coming top of the pile. The mid-naughties were rife with some classic games, but also rife with some tat as we moved away from the XBOX/PS2 generation and entered our current gen of the Xbox 360 and PS3. 2004 believe it or not was also the year Nintendo introduced the world to the DS, yes the DS is 8 years old this year.

Keep checking back on the site for more Top Ten Lists, the next one being 2005’s list and also I’m currently ploughing through Knights of the Old Republic on the Xbox 360, even though it’s better now by a mile on the PC (playing it on the 360 is very buggy and very glitchy) which will result in a full review of the game – and as my story driven gaming personality dictates, I will be playing KotOR 2 straight after, and now that The Exile in number 2 has a canon name (Meetra Surik, Female) it’s going to make the playthrough for me a little bit better.

Happy Gaming!

Toolbox 24

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Mass Effect Races 3



Hello again, Toolbox 24 here. It's nigh time I posted a 3rd blog about the races of Mass Effect. The reason I'm continually posting these blogs is for those Mass Effect fans who might just want a run-down of the various ins and outs of this particular universe, and also for anyone who has heard of the games, seen how obsessed fans of the series seem to be (such as myself), and basically to show these people how deep, varied and detailed Mass Effect is.

Thinking that the games have only been out for 5 years, but have been in development for more like 7 or 8 it's still a very short time for the amount of history that there is. There are several books, comics, an anime film due out within a year and supposedly a live action feature film in development (rights to Mass Effect have been bought by Legendary Pictures, the company that has brought us the new Batman films with Christian Bale and also Inception.)

I digress, this blog is primarily about the race of super-cool aliens called the turians.


The turians are again, another absolutely fascinating race in Mass Effect, with a rich history and many, many intriguing and full characters in the games. The turians are (originally) one of 3 Citadel Council races alongside the asari and salarians, after events of the first game, humans also become a council race, stepping up from being a citadel race.

Enough about us though, the turians were the first alien race encountered by us humans in 2157. Us gung-ho humans, liking our lovely new technology a little bit too much kept finding and activating new Mass Relays to new and unchartered areas of space.

Thinking, possibly rightly so, that we could be the first species to use this new mysterious technology, we didn't know that the government of the galaxy had, since the year 300 (our calender), strictly prohibited the activation of dormant relays.

As such, when a turian patrol happened upon these strange aliens activating a dormant relay, they responded with absolute force, decimating the few human ships that were tinkering away activating it. All but 1 ship was destroyed, and that sole ship retreated to the human colony of Shanxi (shan-shee). The turians swiftly followed this sole survivor and proceeded to spank us humans and take over Shanxi. What followed was a massive counter-attack by the humans to retake our colony. The turians wrongly assumed that Shanxi was our only planet, and that if there was a retaliation it would be more than manageable. What followed was the forceful eviction of the turians from our little colony. Yay humans!

Turians however are a highly militant and mighty race, and were just about to prepare for a full scale war, "total war" if you will - (Side Note: Since reading World War Z, I hate the term "Total War" - it's just not possible!!!) - when the asari and salarians intervened, stopping the conflict before it got out of hand. This event would be known as the First Contact War to us, and the Relay 314 Incident by the turians.

Since then, there has been a lingering animosity between the 2 races, which appears to have gone for the most part, especially with the development of the SSV Normandy, co-designed, developed and built by the 2 races.

That, I feel, was a nice little introduction to the turians. However if you're still reading this, I'm going to throw some more information and history your way.

Turian - Unzipped
Originally from the planet Palaven, adult turians are usually over 6ft tall, and have 2 long thick fingers with an opposable thumb on each hand, each tipped with talons. They also have a set of mandibles around their mouths. One of the most notable features of the turian's biology is their metallic carapace, which is a direct result of thir evolution. Because Palaven has a metal-poor core, their planet has a very weak magnetic field letting in a lot more solar radiation, as a result most of the species of Palaven have developed a metal-like exo-skeleton.

Turians appear to have quite similar features to birds, and look like avian-humanoids...apart from the lack of wings. However when I play the game, I can't help but think that facially they, facially, look a bit like cats. They also have a similar lifespan to humans.

The last thing I'll mention about the turian biology is their awesome voices, that all have a distinct flanging effect, some more than others definitely, but it's always there.

Turian culture is heavily focussed on public service, with all turians having to serve the state from the age of 15-30, from anything from being a soldier to an sanitation worker. Because of their heavy leanings towards public service and strong sense of self-sacrifice, because of this, they're not the best entrepreneurs. Because of this, they have a special relationship with the volus who offer their financial, entrepreneurial talents in exchange for the turian military protection.

Turians follow a strict social code, they are highly focused and have a very high work ethic. They are always willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done and always deliver. Despite their military ethos that is seemingly "all or nothing", they are not really prone to violence. Due to their massive military, they tend to defeat their enemies with nothing but overwhelming force, leaving them so weak and powerless that they have no option but to surrender and become a colony of the turians - a fate that would no doubt have happened to the humans had the Citadel Council not intervened in the First Contact War.

The turian military is not just a standard military like you would expect from our own armed forces, but it is a total public works organisation. Their military police, fire and medical services also serve the civilian population. Their engineers don't just build military facilities, but also schools, sanitation services, power stations and libraries.

I feel I've rambled on a bit about the turians, so before I leave, here are a few notable turians in the Mass Effect universe.

Notable Turians

Garrus Vakarian - Absolute legend. If I were to list out my favourite video game side-kicks/team-mates then Garrus would top the tree. He's funny, he's hard as nails, he's got your back. And if you're a lady, he'll no doubt spoon afterwards baby. The first time you'll encounter Garrus is on the Citadel, working for C-Sec investigating the Spectre, Saren. You get a feeling from the first time you meet him that he's a man on the edge - not of sanity but just of leaving C-Sec, frustrated and angry that he's being held back and stifled. So you help him. Through thick and thin he's at your side, taking notes on how to be the ultimate bad-ass along the way from his new mentor (Shepard). And in ME2 he uses those skills to become the leader of a vigilante group in the most dangerous and crime ridden place in the galaxy - Omega. You find him again taking on the 3 main crime syndicates in the galaxy - single handed, with a sniper rifle. And even then the crime bosses don't think it's a fair fight, so you can imagine their fate when the biggest bad-ass in the universe teams up with your Commander Shepard. After the events of ME2, you catch up with Garrus on Menae, the biggest moon of the turian homeworld of Palaven. He's basically the turian hierarchy's chief advisor on all things "Reaper", something that he is very modest about stating that he's just an ex-cop and vigilante. Garrus - from the looks of things - has the biggest female following in the ME universe, and it's not hard to see why when his personality is just...well it's just aces!! And even I, as a straight man, find his voice very attractive...smooth like chocolate, knocked back with a cool glass of creamy milk. View the video above to see him talking shit with ME3's James Vega (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr).

Saren Arterius - Another legend. Albeit a meanie! His dislike, disdain and disgust for humanity goes back to the First Contact War when his brother, Desolas, was killed by humans. He is the main antagonist in Mass Effect and an all round badass as well. He is seen as a prophet of the "old machines" (Reapers) to the geth, which is why they follow him devotedly. He is totally focused and will not let little things like innocent people get in the way of him getting his job done. He is one of the first people in the Galaxy who is notably indoctrinated by the Reapers, and uses his position as a Council Spectre to get a head start on Shepard n Co in the search for the illusive Conduit. He ultimately meets his end in the Citadel a mere moments before the Reapers would have poured through to start the next cycle of harvesting.

Adrien Victus - Although he only appears in ME3, he is one of the most influential people in the game. He starts the game as General Victus of the turian army, but because of the Reaper invasion becomes the new Primarch of the turian hierarchy through succession. He is a soldier to the core, and is obviously uncomfortable leaving Palaven's moon of Menae to talk diplomacy with the salarians and krogan. But he does it anyway and pulls off what he needs to with aplomb. We see him last before the final push on Earth to the Conduit MkII, where he is ready to fight, showing that he really is a soldier first and a politician second.

Right, that was the turian entry for my Mass Effect Races post. However, I'm thinking I might concentrate more on other things in gaming as opposed to the races of a single game franchise. It's quite time consuming and it's nothing that you can't find out by playing the game or going to the Mass Effect Wiki.

If there's another entry it'll be either salarian, krogan, geth, Reapers or humans. But I just don't know. I really don't. See you later.

Toolbox 24

Top Ten Games 2003

We’re sneaking ever closer to the present year and what better way to do that, than by bringing you the Top Ten Games of the year that comes next after 2002 – that’s right it’s 2003. Like with the 2002 list I’m going to give you some hints and stats about 2003’s list.

Firstly the MBG disclaimer: Some of these games came out on multiple platforms, therefore that is why the amounts of release dates and platforms don’t add up to 10. Some of these games could be defined as having multiple genre’s, that’s ok, that’s why I’m here. And lastly, some of these games, although yes might have come out on multiple platforms, you might see that some of them aren’t mentioned. Well that’s just because say Game “X” came out on the PC in Nov 03, the port for the PS2 and XBOX might not have been released until Jan 04, therefore it will just show as coming out on PC on my list. This will mean as well that Game “X” will not be listed on 2004’s Top Ten Games. It’s just not right to throw it into 2 top ten lists. Last part of the disclaimer, these are all based on European release dates – not North America or Japan. They can do their own list if they so wish to.

Well, firstly the least popular genre for a second year on the bounce was – Sports. There wasn’t a single sporting game that came to mind or through my research that I felt was worthy of a Top 10 spot. That being said there was no stand out popular genre but there was 2 of each of the following: Racing, FPS, 3rd Person Shooter and Action/Adventure. Despite this, the No. 1 game is none of those – although it could be defined as a 3rd Person “Shooter” or Action/Adventure game, it’s much more of an RPG than either of those.

The most popular 2 months for these games releases were (shock horror) November and December – right in the build up to Crimbo. The most common Developer in the Top 10 is Ubisoft, well kind of if you include as 3 Ubisoft Montreal (No. 10), Ubisoft Montpellier (No. 6 PS2) and Ubisoft Milan (No. 6 PC). Otherwise it’s a mix ranging from Big Huge Games to Vicarious Visions to Nintendo. However for publishers you have 2 of each from Microsoft Games Studios, Activision, LucasArts and Ubisoft with EA, Nintendo and Rockstar Games making up the numbers.

The most popular format was PC, with 8 of the 10 titles being available in 2003 on the PC. Followed by half was the XBOX, with 4 of the 10 titles being on Microsoft’s console in 2003, PS2 followed shortly thereafter with 3 of the 10 and joint bottom was the GameCube and GameBoy Advance with 1 out of the 10 titles each being available on those formats.

Well without further ado, I take you off to the dawn of Civilization…well imagine a kind of RTS version of Civilization…

10.      Rise of Nations – PC (May 03) – Real Time Strategy
Developed by Big Huge Games
Published by Microsoft Games Studios

From Brian Reynolds, one of the brains behind my much loved Civilization II, comes Rise of Nations. On the face of it, just another RTS game. However, take that average RTS game and slap a dose of Civ II into it and you get – Rise of Nations. Taking you from the starts of Civilization with your chosen nation, to the Space Age; Rise of Nations is a wonderfully full and rich game to explore and play with for more time that you really have spare. Given a few Best PC and Best RTS awards in 2003, this game constantly scored an average of around 9/10 (90%). With various ways to beat the game, and using the methods from the Civ series such as the evolution of the military and Wonders, this game can captivate you and keep you locked in for hours at a time. Well worth a look, and well worth your time.

Next we have a golden oldie renovated for the 21st Century…

9.         Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – PS2 + GBA (Nov 03) PC (Dec 03) – Platformer, Action/Adventure
Developed by Ubisoft Montreal
Published by Ubisoft

Nope, not Frogger not this time, but the Prince is back and he’s all 3D and what not! Personally I love the original 1989 Prince of Persia, remembering how scared I used to get as a toddler watching it…but this game is NOT a flop remake, the film may have been a bit, but this isn’t a films reviewing blog. If you want that, then go away! The game feels like a fluid definite next step for the PoP series, definitely banishing to the shadows the Prince of Persia 3D that was released in 1999 on the PC and Dreamcast. It received a number of GotY awards and multiple super-high (9+/10 or 90+%) scores and rightly so. The gameplay was fantastic, and as I mentioned really did feel like the true successor of the series. The game was so highly thought of that Hollywood stuck their oar in and made a film of the game in 2010 starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Ghandi…I mean Ben Kingsley. Your best bet would probably be to get it on the PS3 or PC now to taste a slice of this awesome game.

Our next game is a gritty crime sequel. Close your eyes, feel the rain beating down on the dirty, cracked sidewalk. Enter the world of Rockstar’s…

8.         Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne – PC (Oct 03) XBOX + PS2 (Dec 03) – 3rd Person Shooter
Developed by Remedy Entertainment (PC) and Rockstar Vienna (PS2 & XBOX)
Published by Rockstar Games

Remedy Entertainment brings us the 2nd instalment of the Max Payne series of games, following our beloved hero Max as he returns to the Police force as a detective investigating a series of murders by the group known as The Cleaners. This is much of the same from the 1st game in the series, albeit with a shorter storyline. It was highly rated by reviewers and received a few Editors’ Choice Awards, however the sales were poor and MP2 never reached the heights of it’s predecessor (which had it not been for the mega hits Halo and GTAIII would have walked into top spot in 2001) but it’s still a very fun, very engaging game with a style that is very Frank Miller (Sin City, 300) in the way it’s carried out. Definitely worth a punt on the PC and should also be available on XBOX Live as an “XBOX Original” to download.

From the dark, dirty, rain-soaked streets of Max Payne, to the arcade style racing game that makes me think of Batman…

7.         Project Gotham Racing 2 – XBOX (Nov 03) – Racing
Developed by Bizarre Creations
Published by Microsoft Games Studios

PGR2 is a phenomenal racing game, much like it’s predecessor was in making the XBOX a “must have” console. Developed by UK based company Bizarre Creations, PGR2 took what made PGR a good racing game and made it a completely amazing racing game. With a selection of 92 tracks and 102 vehicles to eventually unlock, this game will keep you busy, not to mention keeping “kudos” in the game which you can use to unlock some of those cars. Oh yeah, you’d achieve “kudos” points for some seriously awesome driving, like good slides, fast times, smooth run-throughs – that kinda thing. I personally loved the PGR games, and felt their attention to detail was amazing in these games. Definitely worthy of it’s top 10 place, but when you see what’s up ahead you’ll understand…for the most part.

From the streets of Project Gotham we slide around the Hillys to…

6.         Beyond Good and Evil – PS2 (Nov 03) PC (Dec 03) – Action/Adventure
Developed by Ubisoft Montpellier (PS2) and Ubisoft Milan (PC)
Published by Ubisoft

If you’ve played BG&E then you’ll get the reference to the Hillys, the fictional location of the game at No. 6. From the French guy who brought the world Rayman, Michel Ancel brings us BG&E a fantastically beautiful game which definitely feels continental. Does that make sense? I’m not making sense. Basically the game hasn’t got the best graphics in the world – even by 2003 standards – but the story and gameplay make this one of the top games of 2003, and really does leave us all wanting that damned sequel!!! The game is made up of a good narrative and also is made up of various elements, such as mini-puzzles and stealth missions. Making your way around the maps in order to gain photographic evidence of certain things going on with the Alpha Sections and DomZ. Anyways I must press on with this list!

From the Hillys we travel to a Galaxy…far, far away…

5.         Star Wars: Jedi Knight – Jedi Academy – PC + XBOX (Sep 03) – FPS/3rd Person Shooter
Developed by Raven Software (PC) and Vicarious Visions (XBOX)
Published by LucasArts and Activision

Star Wars: Jedi Knight – Jedi Academy…or SWJKJA…or Jedi Academy was an amazing game for the PC and XBOX definitely living up to the achievements of it’s predecessors in Dark Forces, Jedi Knight and Jedi Outcast. I always enjoyed playing as Kyle Katarn in the games, and this is one thing that is slightly different – you play as Jaden Korr a new student arriving at Luke Skywalkers Jedi Academy, chosen to become Katarn’s apprentice. With this change, you can actually choose Korrs species and gender, and while starting off with a single single-bladed lightsaber, half way through you can choose to upgrade to wield dual lightsabers or a saber staff – a variant on the double bladed job, ol’ Maul uses in the Phantom Menace. You can choose a number of weapons for this game, much like those that came before, but you must use 3rd Person when you wield your laser sword – whereas you can seamlessly swap to FPS when using blasters…as clumsy and random as they are. A good story with a good couple of endings, brilliant multiplayer on the PC also helps makes this one of the top 5 games of 2003.

From mastering an elegant weapon for a more civilized age to managing the water supplies of your city and wondering just where would be best to put that darned power station…

4.         Sim City 4 – PC (Jan 03) – Construction and Management Sim, City Building
Developed by Maxis
Published by EA

So addictively fun it should come with a warning, and with some SimCity news just around the corner this is definitely worth downloading from your chosen games provider – be it Steam or Origin. It’s the exact same premise as those that came before, but done so amazingly right that Maxis were able to focus on their Sims games for another decade before the imminent arrival of SimCity in February 2013. The way the game plays is very intuitive, and easy to pick up. The only thing I’d say is pace yourself – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your new City of Cuntopolis doesn’t have to go from a small stretch of houses to a New York Style sprawl in the course of a few years!! Amazingly fun title, and of course so fun to build your city up to the max with sky scrapers galore and amazing sights and what not…then to bring it all to rack and ruin with a tornado, UFO, fire or whatever else they put on there to wreck the city of Fucksberg. Go and enjoy, especially since it’s dirt cheap at the moment (with it’s Rush Hour expansion not to mention), and get ready for what could already be a contender for GotY 2013.

Next we go to our Bronze medal winner for 2003, winning hearts and causing arguments and stroppy losers the world over…

3.         Mario Kart: Double Dash!! – GameCube (Nov 03) – Racing
Developed and Published by Nintendo

Let’s be fair now – any Mario Kart game is going to be in the top ten. And this is the only reason why we still have a GameCube in the house. Playing split screen Grand Prix’s or playing on 2 teams of 2 this is an amazing game at bringing together members of a house who’s primary interest is in gaming. It’s one of few games where the parents are as eager to play as the teenager, who in turn is as eager to play as his younger brother, who in turn is as eager to play as the younger sister (even if she can’t manage to turn corners properly) who asks on a daily basis if she can play the game. I would go as far as the 2 year old but at the moment, she just gets annoyed that she doesn’t understand why everyone is shouting and laughing at the TV when SpongeBob is nowhere to be seen. MKDD takes what makes the Mario Kart games amazing and carries it onto the GameCube. Personally, I believe this to be the last great Mario Kart game ever made, since the newer ones on the Nintendo Piss just don’t have the same soul and spirit as the older variants. With unlockable items coming with gold wins on various CC, and the personal belief that the Red Shell car with Wings is totally better than the Yoshi Head car…even though I’ve since discovered there isn’t the massive-est amount of difference in any of the cars when it gets down to the nitty gritty. But still you cling-on to your belief. Massively addictive game, incredibly fun game play, and dedicated to old-school multiplayer – sitting next to your opponent instead of being on the other side of the world. MKDD is such a good game, I fully endorse you finding a GameCube on eBay, buying 4 controllers, and a copy of this game and enjoying it in all it’s splendour. Go on right now. I’ll wait here for you to continue.

Now if you have a good idea about games since the turn of the century you could probably make a good educated guess as to what will come next. Our Silver Medal for 2003 is a title that is all to familiar in games these days, but in 2003 it was all just beginning…and good holy fuckery didn’t they do well??

2.         Call of Duty – PC (Nov 03) – FPS
Developed by Infinity Ward
Published by Activision

COD. Do you need me to continue? Actually I probably should, most COD fanboys these days think of COD as Modern Warfare…sigh. Firstly MW is good, but they cannot hold a candle to the games that started it all off. Think of how amazing Band of Brothers it’s timeless really. Well think of that, now turn that into a computer game. Right, now make that game easy to learn, hard to become an expert. Are you there? Right now package it and call it Call of Duty. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, just think of what it’s called – Call of Duty, as in when asked, will you answer the Call of Duty? For your country? For Freedom? Not COD: MW oh look I’m just another American soldier in Afghanistan…it’s not really following the same wartime spirit that you had in WW2. In WW2 you had wide-spread support to fight the Germans, the Japanese and the Italians. In Afghanistan you have wide-spread antipathy that our soldiers are out there fighting a war that should have finished years ago. That they are out there not really for freedom now, but because we’re in too deep. Erm…anyways…

It follows along the same lines as the newer spawns, in that you don’t just play as 1 character, you play as an American paratrooper, an English SAS operative, and a Soviet Conscript. The battles are intense, the locations attention to detail simply stunning, and the multiplayer? Get outta here, one of the best MP experiences of my life. The game has a good narrative, and follows closely in the footsteps that the real guys took during that bloody conflict. Historically accurate, you feel like you gain a better understanding for what those brave men did in real life after playing this game.

A worthy silver medal, fuck that a worthy gold medal, however the game that comes next is by far and away the No. 1 for 2003. When I first thought of making these lists, I knew before I did 2000’s list what would be Number 1 for 2003. And we must go a long, long, LONG, time ago…in a galaxy just as far away as before…

1.         Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – XBOX (Sep 03) PC (Dec 03) – RPG
Developed by BioWare
Published by LucasArts

Firstly, picture if you will a timeline. Picture Star Wars Ep. IV: A New Hope. Picture the Battle of Yavin, where the first Death Star was destroyed by the farm-hand turned starfighter pilot and Jedi in the making – Luke Skywalker. Picture that event happening at year 0 BBY/0 ABY. BBY and ABY stands for Before and After the Battle of Yavin for those who didn’t know.

Right you have your starting out point – 0. Now imagine all that happened 19 years previously in the year 19 BBY. Anakin Skywalker was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force. All but a handful of Jedi Knights survived Order 66. And C-3PO was about to have his memory wiped before being handed over to Captain Antilles.

Seems like a whole lifetime apart…well I suppose it was really. Right, go back even further to 32 BBY and you’ll have the Invasion of Naboo by the Trade Federation. It all seems like quite a large chunk of time from 32 BBY having the Galactic Republic and a young Darth Vader being a little annoying American kid to eventually 4 ABY when the Galactic Empire get’s pwn’d by a bunch of tree-dwelling teddy bears.

Now go back a little further than the 32 years to Episode I. Ok, 57 BBY – Obi Wan Kenobi is born. No further, go further. Right then, 98 BBY, the natives to the planet Tatooine, the Sand People, attack Fort Tusken for the first time, earning them the nickname – Tuskan Raiders.

Further you pussy. Ok, 350 BBY – the Trade Federation is founded. FURTHER!!!

1000 BBY. Ok we’re getting a bit closer – Darth Bane established the Sith “Rule of Two” mentioned in the films – “only 2 there are, a Master and an Apprentice”. But go on, go a bit further back, you know what no. I’ll do it.

Go back to 3956 BBY. Now let me put that in perspective. 3956 years before the Battle of Yavin. Surely they must be like, technologically like we are now? Right? Nope, they are just as bad-ass and awesome as ever in that Galaxy. Whereas over here…what has happening 3956 years ago in 1944 BC? Well it was roughly the time the Minoans were not just at the height of there civilization, but just starting it. It was when the Babylonians were just developing Maths and when the first potato was grown in South America. There had been no Jesus, Judaism was just starting as a religion, Rome wasn’t even a collection of villages and Europe was smack in the middle of the Bronze Age.

Seems like an insane length of time before us now eh? Well Those clever fuckers at BioWare (Drew Karpyshyn especially) created a whole new saga in the Star Wars Universe set this far before the events of that original film. And trust me, this saga is one helluva rollercoaster.

You are the protagonist of the game, and your gender and class is up to you. There are some kinda parallels/opposites from KotOR and the original Star Wars films. Firstly there is a massive twist. Epically massive, I mean shit the bed, get your dick caught in a mangle, shove a deckchair up your nose massive. Secondly, there is a little droid who is helpful and beeps. Thirdly Tatooine is extensively visited. There is also things like the Ebon Hawk, your trusty – albeit knicked – starship, which is the “fastest ship in the galaxy”, and referred to as crap by your travelling partner, the posh-ish Bastilla Shan. Bastilla, like Princess Leia adopts an “Atlantic” accent, meaning that it’s North American, but sounds almost English – much like Kelsey Grammer, he’s a perfect example of someone with an Atlantic Accent. Anyway I’ve started talking about Kelsey Grammer in a KotOR bit…

There are also things like HK-47. HK-47 is one of the greatest video game characters of all time, he is what C-3PO dreams he could be. HK-47 is an assassin droid who lovingly refers to all organics as “meat-bags” and has a psychopathic need to kill. You have Carth Onasi, who is like your Han Solo of the group, but not a smuggler or a scruffy looking nerf herder. He’s a career soldier in the Republic, but definitely a bit of a cool dude to have around.

KotOR is a fantastic game, taking you all over the Galaxy and with a feel to it that is unmistakably Star Wars, it is nothing like the films. Better than the prequel trilogy and a good rival to the original trilogy, Bioware takes its first steps into space with a safe territory before expanding their own sci-fi epic a few years later.

The gameplay is smooth, the music is masterful, – what you’d expect from Bioware and Star Wars - the dialogue is brilliantly written and the story is fantastic. Still available in good games stores, and is well worth dusting off your lightsaber for.

I can and probably will at some point go into a lot more detail about the game in a separate post. But for now, I’m fine with the introduction being longer than the piece! SW: KotOR – is a must have in any computer gamers collection and is definitely worthy of the No. 1 Gold Medal Spot for 2003, and in my opinion is a high contender for game of the decade. Bioware at it’s best, pulling the twists, directing the play with the hint of player choice thrown in, and with gameplay that is phenomenal.


Well that was 2003 in Gaming – ish, there are some notable mentions to other games I’m sure but I can’t be fucked to go into them. They didn’t make my Top 10 so they don’t deserve a mention right now. The next Top Ten Games list will funnily enough, come from 2004 where I’m sure we can expect an exciting trip down memory lane, as we get closer to the present day. Happy Gaming!

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Monday, 16 July 2012

Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut, MP DLC and Leviathan?

Hello there.

I just thought I'd throw you a couple of Mass Effect type things. Firstly, a couple of weeks ago, Bioware announced and subsequently released the much anticipated Extended Cut to the conclusion of their sci-fi epic.

I'm currently playing through ME3 with my gay Commander Shepard, and should be about to commence my long awaited relationship with Kaiden Alenko. I'm already planning that my next playthrough with my new biotic FemShep - Millicent Shepard, she'll be an out and out twat to be honest, in my attempt to sabotage everything that I can, kill as many squadmates as I can and be a general bitch to the Galaxy at large.

Anyway I'm eagerly awaiting to see how the EC looks after all my decisions have been made, I've already YouTube'd the endings since, hell I know what happens, and I didn't want to wait. Personally the extended endings are brilliant, with narration from Shepard (Control), EDI (Synthesis) or Hackett (Destroy) showing the state of the Galaxy and the fate of the races after the final showdown above Earth. There is also a new "Reject" ending, basically telling the StarBrat to piss off and that we'll try our luck conventionally - this also automatically happens if you shoot him. You'll then find that our plucky sidekick Liara had a plan in place, and that eons after we're all Reaper dust, her fail-safe has worked ensuring that the next cycle are prepared for war - and to win.

The endings are fuller, have more explanation, and adds a lot more closure to the series. In all, I fully approve the Extended Cut - and the fact that it's free makes it all the better.

Secondly, ME3 has had a lot of MP DLC thrown at it, from including more types of trooper (such as geth, vorcha and batarian) to new maps like Firebase Condor and Hydra to new weapons like the Kishock Harpoon Gun or Geth Plasma SMG. And I've wanted to play it more - I really have! - since whenever I have played it, it's been the most addictive fun! I've seen a lot of hate on a lot of websites for the multiplayer, because of it's links to the Effective Military Strength, but the fact that it can alter the way things are said in game makes it that much more involved. You see that Modern Warfare mutliplayer is one of the most popular online games out there, almost constantly played by my son and his friends and by so many people it's unreal. I've played it online, and honestly - meh. But playing Mass Effect online, fighting wave after wave of geth, Reaper forces or Cerberous troops is amazing. It doesn't feel like you're just going through the motions of online play, it feels like what you're doing is making a difference in the story. You can even add your Level 20 characters to the SP game as War Assets - 25 each. Anyway I digress as I often do.

The new gang of human classes - ready to kick some serious arse!!!
This week Bioware are releasing their next batch of MP DLC in the Earth Pack. Including 6 new classes of humans with 3 new maps on our wee little planet. Based in Rio de Janeiro, Vancouver and London. I cannot wait to get stuck in to some more MP and add my guys as War Assets.

The last thing is something I read just after the EC came out on the Bioware forums, then read on a multitude of websites, then found out the voice actor had confirmed on Twitter his role and finally a single image released at the San Diego Comic Con.


Firstly a super data-miner on the BW forums found in the massive Extended Cut DLC a load of unrelated dialogue referring to a Rogue Reaper called Leviathan. Probably related to the Leviathan of Dis, which was referred to in earlier games as a giant mechanical, bio-engineered corpse found about 20 years before the events of the first game by the batarians. They found this "Leviathan" and took it back to their home-world. You find out in ME3 (if you let Balak go in Bring Down the Sky DLC from ME1) that their scientists accidentally re-activated the giant corpse, and managed to indoctrinate a massive portion of the population and basically let the Reapers role into batarian space unimpeded. Which explains a bit of the in-game codex, especially the secondary entries under The Reaper War, specifically The Fall of Kar'Shan (the batarian homeworld). It is theorised that Leviathan though could be up to a billion years old, which could mean it was the first Reaper, there are also suggestions that it could end up as an ally, a massive War Asset for the end game. Personally this would be amazing, and made even better if Leviathan ended up being added to the end game cinematic showing the allied forces flowing through the Charon Relay.

The Newest Reaper on the block - Anthony Skordi
There is no planned date for the Leviathan DLC, but it's pretty much a dead cert, with even the voice actor for Leviathan telling the world via Twitter that he'd done the acting for it and his IMDB page being updated as such (Anthony Skordi). 

Well that was that. A very quick run down on the latest Mass Effect news. Yes I'm biased, but I bloody love them, and I'm just giving you all a little insight into the latest goings on from Palaven to Tuchanka. And when the news surfaces that Aria T'Loak will be launching the most obvious DLC of the game in retaking Omega, I'll let you know!

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