Top Ten…Opening Cinematics In Gaming

The introduction of compact discs (CD’s) in the mid 1990s as the data storage device of choice for games (excluding Nintendo) had quite a few notable side effects. In addition to larger game worlds, more complex graphics and better sound quality, the increased space available to developers allowed for the inclusion of something quite new – an opening cinematic video that played before the title screen popped up. These videos were often pre-rendered and served no purpose other than to get gamers pumped for the experience ahead of them. It became quite a popular feature, and nowadays many games offer opening cinematics with extraordinary production values. In this list, I aim to offer my opinion of what are some of the finest opening videos in gaming history.

For the purposes of this list, I wanted to limit any choices to purely video footage, or at least bare minimum interaction before you start the game – I will admit I am quite a fan of ‘interactive openings’ combining cinematics and gameplay (the openings to Mass Effect 2, Bioshock and Uncharted 2 in particular are excellent examples), but for me personally an opening cinematic should have no interaction from the player; they should have to do nothing except enjoy watching it. Continue reading

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Top Ten…References In Borderlands 2

As I mentioned in my recent review, Borderlands 2 is stuffed to the gills with references to….well, everything. They range from small homage’s (guns named after characters from Fallout 3, player skins paying tribute to Breaking Bad & Metal Gear Solid etc.) to much more obvious shows of appreciation. In this list I want to point out the ten best references I found whilst looting my way across the weird and wonderful planet of Pandora.

WARNING – The following list may contain spoilers both for Borderlands 2 and the material it references. Continue reading

Top Ten…Easter Eggs In Gaming

Every now and again, when a game is being developed those involved in the process like to have a bit of fun, and add items and references that one may not necessarily encounter in a standard playthrough. These hidden things have come to be known as Easter Eggs in games, and often times our pervading memories of a game are the strange things that you can encounter that the developers subtly added to the mix – whether they be humorous, informative or a dig at other developers, its always a rewarding process to find such things. There have been a multitude of Easter Eggs popping up in games over the years, and what better time to celebrate the best of them than Easter – the festival of eating chocolate eggs. Below is my personal top ten favourite Easter Eggs that I have encountered in a game. Continue reading

Top Ten…Best Game Endings

Yesterday, I saw a news headline that nearly made me spit out the hot beverage I was drinking at the time:

“Call Of Duty: Black Ops has ‘best game ending ever’ – Guinness World Records”

 Yes, you just read that right. Guinness World Records, an institution that has been going since seemingly the start of time, has decided to award the title of ‘Best Game Ending Ever’ to Activision’s 2010 smash hit. The process by which this decision was reached? Ask 13,000 people in a poll.

Now, there are a few things that are at fault here. First off, the notion of setting a world record (let that phrase roll around in your mind as to its significance) by qualitative means, as pointed out by a sharp member of the Gaming Society I help run, is inherently stupid. Records are set by measures of time, distance, speed etc. – not someone’s personal opinion. More importantly, the conclusion they came to is wrong – are you seriously kidding me? Black Ops, with its relatively predictable conclusion, the best ending ever? Nonsense. And then I got to thinking…what would be my Top 10 Best Game Endings of all time? I smell a list incoming… Continue reading

Top Ten…Most Important Games On Sony Consoles

Today, It’s part two of my initiative to get other people writing on this blog, as we chronicle some of the most important games of all time. I covered the efforts of Microsoft in this article, and today it is the turn of Stephen Jackman to present his case for Sony. Stephen is a good friend of mine from Lincoln University, where he holds the enviable position of being the reigning champion at the Gaming Society I help to run (trust me – its a big deal). So, take it away…

Top 10…Most Important Games On Sony Consoles

I just want to thank Mr Cooke for allowing me to post on his blog as I always find it enjoyable to write about games, since most of the time they are pretty awesome. As someone who grew up with Sony and the Playstation console line, starting back in 1997 with a package deal along with the not so stellar title of Bubsy 3D (one of the times when games aren’t awesome), up to the present day with the Playstation 3 and my acquisition of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, I have seen a selection of great titles come and go with some leaving a large impact on the games industry and becoming a huge benefit, if not a major means of success, for Sony and their endeavours into the games industry.

Whereas the first console played a lot of copycat with the N64, for example the introductions of analogue sticks and the controller rumble feature, it had some strong titles that allowed it to reach the level of success that it did. The Playstation 2 built on what the original foundations the Playstation set out and ended up having one of the largest selections of titles any console ever supported. The most current iteration of the console, the Playstation 3, is a powerhouse of a machine and the most powerful console on the market at the moment, bringing high definition with blue ray among many other features.

From each Playstation console I have had a chance to play a fair amount of the games. From when the older titles were new on shelves and not yet nostalgic memories, as well as the newer releases, I feel I am able to look back at Sony’s history and find a top ten of important titles. As with Darren my aim was to give preference to console exclusives over multi platform releases, or at the very least the console the game launched on and what it was well known for. Continue reading

Top 10…Most Important Games On Microsoft Consoles

Welcome to Part One of a new initiative on my blog – the introduction of guest writers! This initiative will be part of a small series looking back at some of the most pivotal games on all time, focusing on the efforts on Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft and PC gaming – if it proves to be popular, I may well extend the project to take in other great names such as Sega and Atari. The basic idea for this project came about because I wanted to take a look back of ten years of Microsoft in the games industry, and then thought that it would be a worthwhile effort to include the other major players in the industry. What you will be getting is a series of top ten lists looking at the games which have defined the companies and their consoles – not necessarily the best selling games, but those which the writers feel have had the biggest influence over time.

And so to the writers themselves – I will be looking back at 10 years of Microsoft, and I have enlisted some of my good friends to write the lists for Sony and Nintendo – they will be revealed in due course. You know, to make it more exciting when you read them.

And so without further ado, here is Part One:

Top 10…Most Important Games On Microsoft Consoles

When the 15th November 2011 marched by a month or so ago, it marked ten years since Microsoft decided to chance their hand at the games industry. Taking the fight to Sony’s PlayStation 2, Nintendo’s Gamecube and Sega’s Dreamcast with its powerful Xbox console (the first to have an in built hard drive), they enjoyed a great deal of success and with the introduction of Xbox Live in 2002, they created an early monopoly on online console gaming that remains strong to this day. The Xbox, despite being crushed by the PS2’s enormous sales figures, nevertheless came out of the sixth generation as ‘the best of the rest’ with 24 million sales, and Microsoft blinked first in the seventh generation of consoles by introducing the Xbox 360 in 2005. With the 360, Microsoft have continued to battle Sony and Nintendo on a level playing field, and the console remains strong to this day, shifting 57 million units – needless to say, Microsoft’s decision to take the plunge in the console wars has been a very lucrative effort. Continue reading

Top 10…Most Original Achievements On The Xbox 360

A while back, I produced a Top 10 list of what I personally considered to be the hardest achievements to unlock on the Xbox 360. Today, the focus is still on the achievement system, but I will be looking at it from a different perspective, and analysing something that it not always guaranteed in the games industry: originality. The following achievements are excellent examples in my view of developers thinking outside the box and having a bit of fun, inviting gamers to do the same and in some cases setting a trend for other developers to follow. So with further ado, let’s get to the list

10 – Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga – Crowd Pleaser – Break Jar Jar 20 times – 20GS

The Lego Star Wars series has always emphasised fun above everything else. Sure there is usually a destination to get to as you aim to save the universe, but its too tempting not to engage in a impromptu lightsaber duel with your co-op friend, or hop in a vehicles and drive around. To top off a great game, Traveller’s Tales included the ‘Crowd Pleaser’ achievement, where you have to ‘break’ (remember, Lego doesn’t die, it just falls to pieces) Jar Jar Binks 20 times. If you know anything about the Star Wars prequels then you will be aware how hated Jar Jar is, and mercilessly destroying him over and over is a joy. Getting rewarded for it is just the icing on the cake. Continue reading

Top Ten…Game Soundtracks

I am a pretty big fan of music; I mean who isn’t? Over the years however, my music tastes have changed; whereas I was once happy to listen to random pop songs on local radio, I slowly became swayed by a peculiar mix of rock, indie and BBC Radio 2, before starting to appreciate gaming music in full. I think that the musical element of some games often get unfairly ignored in favour of graphics and gameplay, and that is why I stress in my reviews whether the audio in a game is any good or not. I have had the great fortune over the years to listen to some superb tracks of music from a wide range of games, and in this list I intend to reveal my favourite game soundtracks, why I love them and a few recommendations for tracks to listen to.

This is easily the hardest Top 10 that I have produced because of the difficulty of deciding what games should make the cut. In order to make the process a bit simpler, I decided that only one game in any given franchise would be allowed a place in the Top Ten, and with one exception which will become obvious, all soundtracks had to be original compositions or arrangements for that game. After several hours of listening to tracks, I have finally completed my list. Continue reading

Top 10…Hardest Achievements On The Xbox 360

Along with the rise of online gaming, one of the most notable changes to the gaming world in the 7th generation has been the introduction of achievements & trophies; little notifications that you have done something special within a game. My opinion on the system is split if nothing else; it’s nice to have some sort of tracker to identify your progress with games rather than having to tell everyone, but it has inspired a culture where a minority of gamers have become obsessed with getting a higher gamerscore/trophy collection than everyone else, and a unfortunate situation where some games that wouldn’t have been touched with a barge pole in the last generation (mainly crappy film tie-ins) are bought and played because they offer easy achievements. In any case it appears that the system is here to stay, and in the five years or so that achievements have been around, there have been a few truly worthy of testing a gamers skill with a specific title. It is my intention in this list to show off the hardest ones currently available to obtain, from my personal view of course. I have tried as best as I can to avoid including multiplayer achievements, because they can be easily boosted (the act of asking others online to play along with the specific intention of getting the achievement, for example losing matches on purpose) and therefore do not provide a suitable degree of challenge. Continue reading

Top Ten…Mario Games That Are Not Platformers

Since 1986, Mario has been jumping around on our televisions screens, and his appeal if nothing else has grown stronger than ever. The platformers with which the franchise made its name are legendary and considered by many to be the best games of all time. At some points in his history however, Mario got bored of rescuing Princess Peach and decided to do something different with his time. The result was a impressive collection of spin off games, covering sports, education and more. These titles sometimes get unfairly forgotten given the prestige of the platformers, so this list is intended to give some exposure and display my personal favourite Mario spin-offs. The general rule of thumb for the list was this; in order to feature, you must be able to play as Mario at some point. This means games from the likes of the Donkey Kong, Yoshi and Wario series’ will not get a word on this list; I would recommend looking into those titles however. Continue reading