Monday, December 29, 2014

Best of 2014: Part Seven

Merry Christmas, one and all! I hope the holidays were good to you and yours this year. I know I had a wonderful time celebrating with family and friends!

But now, with the holidays mostly passed, we must return to the task at hand: the Best of 2014 list! Part Seven brings us number seven and eight, and one step closer to the top of the list! In case you missed them, here are the prior entries:


Let's go!

8. Infamous: Second Son (Naughty Dog)
Did I mention this game is incredibly pretty?
Because that's not a cutscene above.
As I mentioned when talking about Legendary, there is something awesome about superheroes. There's something about having incredible powers impossible for the normal person to wield that is inherently inspiring. Thus, playing games that pit you as a person with said impossible powers fulfills a very persistent itch that you can't really scratch any other way.

Enter Infamous.

The entire Infamous series is various shades of excellent -- the original was quite good, if not a bit unpolished, and the sequel was entertaining -- but Second Son is the true master of the franchise. You play as Delsin Rowe, a delinquent from a native tribe near Seattle, who inadvertently absorbs the powers of other "bioterrorists" when he comes in physical contact with them. At first, you start with the power of smoke, being able to pass through wire fences and throw fireballs at people, but quickly gain the ability to control neon, TVs and, eventually, concrete.

Second Son also featured an ARG called Paper Trail, that
had you alternating between in-game missions and searching
for clues on the internet. It was most excellent.
The first thing you might notice is that all of these things are fairly unconventional for superpowers -- and Second Son embraces that whole-heartedly. The entire Infamous world is fairly unconventional, really, pitting you against gangs of thugs or squads of soldiers with similar powers to you. There are conspiracies But, for all of the moral quandaries and personal plot points that Infamous is known for, it always comes back to that all-important power fantasy.

You can snipe people with neon blasts while hovering through the air in slow-motion. You can transform into smoke and go shooting through air ducts all the way onto the roof of a building. You can form a ball of concrete around you and roll down the street, steamrolling all enemies in your way. Everything in Second Son is a continuation from the previous entries and everything about it is fantastic. Second Son is an excellent addition to any game library -- and, as a PS4-exclusive, is an absolute must for any Sony gamer.

7. Alien: Isolation (The Creative Assembly)
Forget the motion tracker: it's already too late.
Science-fiction is my bread and butter -- I love it more than any other genre -- but, when it comes to all fiction, sci-fi horror is the true pinnacle for me and it all has to do with the fear of the unknown. The best way to scare people is to present them with an unknowable evil, something just beyond our comprehension, and nowhere is that done better – H.P. Lovecraft notwithstanding -- than with the depths of space and whatever might be out there. And it all started with Alien.

Alien: Isolation is the game that fans of the Alien franchise have wanted from the beginning. Forget Alien vs Predator, or the complete shit-show that was Colonial Marines -- Alien fans want to be scared. They want to experience what is what like to be Ellen Ripley being hunted through the bowels of the Nostromo as her crewmates died one-by-one. They want to hide in a vent, their motion tracker frantically pinging as they desperately looking back and forth, trying to find an escape route. Alien fans (and horror gamers in general) want an imbalance of power: they want to feel vulnerable to the xenomorph and no game has gotten this more perfect than Alien: Isolation.

The xenomorph isn't the only thing you'll have to worry about
on Sevastopol Station: the androids and other humans are
dangerous in their own right and not to be crossed.
The game is true to the source material perfectly: the 70's-era computers, the aesthetic of every inch of Sevastopol Station; everything channels Ridley Scott's masterpiece to perfection. It is in that perfection, in the imbalance of power between the all-powerful xenomorph and the helpless player, that Alien: Isolation creates the perfect sci-fi horror experience -- and the most authentic Alien experience gamers have ever encountered. Even the plot feels true to the universe -- you play Ripley's daughter Amanda following a lead to discover what happened to your mother -- and that is a feat where licensed material usually fails.

I love Alien: Isolation, even though I usually can't handle the stress of survival horror games, and it’s because it's truly a love letter to the original movie from 1979. It is one of the best licensed games ever created and the only reason it does not rank higher on my list -- sorry, Darren -- is because I still haven't managed to finish it. I need to go back to Sevastopol Station, despite the gnawing dread in my gut, because I need to see Amanda's story to the end -- xenomorph be damned.

Part Seven
And there is Part Seven completed! Part Eight will be coming tomorrow, most likely, so stay tuned all this week when I hammer out the rest of my Best of 2014 list!

Get anything exceptionally awesome for Christmas this year? Think that I'm insane for not placing Alien: Isolation higher on my list? (I already said I'm sorry, Darren! Jeez.) Drop me a comment and we can chat about it! I love hearing about cool presents and swag, and I always love discussing video games!

'Til next time!

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