Last week I made a big show of how I cancelled my Battlefield 3 pre-order, which was true at the time, lest you begin to question my journalistic integrity. But for some reason (possibly just the excitement of going to a midnight launch), I re-pre-ordered the game on Monday and picked it up. I fully intended to make my column about my impressions of the game, but outside the singleplayer it’s been hard to form too many impressions thanks to one wonder inclusion in the PC version: Punkbuster.
Conceptually, Punkbuster is a program that detects and bans cheaters in games. If you hacked your game to have more health, better guns, the ability to phase through physical walls, etc., Punkbuster should catch you and soundly remove you from any online games. Sounds great, no?
In practice, though, it mostly just adds connection problems and computer crashes for anyone with a RealTek sound chip (and guess who has one of those?). So my online experiences have been very fractured with all the problems. Which is a shame, because the game is gorgeous and the online matches I HAVE gotten to work have been intense and left me craving more. 64 people running about, shooting each other, and driving tanks is a recipe for fun, no matter what. (Note to console players: on the consoles BF3 is a ghost of itself with only 24 players and reduced graphics. It’s still fun I hear, but not so much a must have for you. You may want to wait for Modern Warfare 3).
Instead, in the spirit of Halloween, I decided it’d be fun to list my five favorite spooky games for the season (Disclaimer: this list was scientifically determined using the “My Opinion” technique. If you disagree, enlighten me with your favorites in the comment section!).
Not really scary, but Double Fine’s ode to trick’r’treating and the excitement of being a kid is the perfect Halloween game. A low-calorie version of classic RPGs like Final Fantasy, you control a group of kids trying to rescue a friend from candy-stealing “Grubbins”, who gain superpowers based on which costume they wear. It’s got some sly humor and is just genuinely adorable. If you have kids, they’ll love the characters and easy-to-understand gameplay. But even adults will get a kick out of it. And at only $15, it’s a steal.
A rather obscure survival horror series from Japan, Fatal Frame gives players a magical camera with which to dispatch violent spirits that have over taken a variety of lost towns and evil mansions. While the idea of playing paparazzi may not seem that shiver inducing, the ghosts themselves are horrifying, with broken limbs, snapped necks, sewn eyes, and worst of all, giggling children. The fact that they can phase in and out of nowhere, and can only be seen through the camera adds to the terror, as you can hear their whispers and laughs and must blindly swivel with the camera raised (and therefore narrowing your field of view). I’ve gotten more honest jump scares from these games than any other.
Resident Evil: Code Veronica
There’s lots of debate about which Resident Evil game is the best, and from a pure fun standpoint, I tip my hat to number four. But in terms of scares, the game felt less engaging. For me, the Dreamcast’s Code Veronica takes the cake for out-and-out creepiness. The main antagonists are creepy, inbred aristocrats whose tale includes incestuous overtones and some Norman Bates-esque cross dressing. That alone should have your skin crawling, let alone the hordes of mutants and zombies intent on ending your fragile life.
The fallen splendor of Rapture, the main city of the Bioshock games, offers one of the most foreboding locales in any video game, complete with its deranged, drug-addled former denizens of the city to offer a constant background of paranoia. Creeping through the ruined gardens, houses, and businesses of the city with headphones on is a test of sanity in and off itself, as the distant screams and whispers of the Splicers let you know that they’re close by AND absolutely nut-tastic. And don’t even get me started on the Little Sisters, ghoulish shells of little girls who sing and skip and devour the blood of corpses. Ken Levine, you are a sick man!
Left 4 Dead (and its Sequel)
While having three friends along is certain to make any game seem a little less intimidating, the Left 4 Dead series makes up for it by throwing massive hordes of the undead at players, supported by a motley crew of “special” infected: boss-like creatures with unique abilities and more importantly unique calls. The scares from the L4D series come mostly in the audio department, with each unique call alerting you to the fall that shit is indeed about to get real. From the emphysema-like wheezing of the smokers who can drag you off with their massive tongues to the growls of hunters that pounce from the shadows to (worst of all) the earth-shaking pounding of tanks, 10 foot tall behemoths that will destroy everything to get to you, L4D knows how to get in its players’ heads.
And now for this week in news:
- Bad news for gaming giant Nintendo, as the company posted a $962 million loss on the first half of this current fiscal year. For those who are bad at math, that’s basically $1 billion, enough money to placate even Dr. Evil. What happened? The company is blaming the “strong Yen” (or less politely “the crappy American dollar”) and less-than-expected sales of the 3DS. My explanation? Nintendo just doesn’t have many good games. Look at all the big titles this fall; Nintendo has one: Zelda. It’s hard to draw big third party titles when your console is heavily behind the curve.
- Battlefield 3 has been getting stellar reviews, but the first week of multiplayer has been an absolute travesty. Between server outages on the 360 version, a variety of bugs on the PC causing crashes, freezes, and server disconnects, and glitches with their new online Origin store, EA and DICE didn’t do much to cull gamer favor with the performance. It’s been this way for EVERY Battlefield game, so I am not sure why we’re surprised, but it still is annoying. Less annoying is the flak the game has been getting for its single player mode, with reviews ranging from awful to merely mediocre. Personally, I enjoyed it, even if it was totally just a bootlegged COD rip-off. Anyone else get a chance to play it?
- This week features a ton of releases, though only a few are really exciting. The clear king of the week will be Uncharted 3, the sequel to Sony’s mega-successful Uncharted 2, which was the reason I bought a PS3 in the first place. Early reviews are positive, praising the game for its cinematic gameplay and intense action. I am looking forward to replaying the first two in anticipation. Also on tap is Lord of the Rings: War of the North, the first M-rated LotR games ever on consoles. Yes, kiddies, that means gallons of blood and sweet orc dismemberment. The third potential big game is Sonic Generations, an anniversary special for the series combining its 2D and 3D influences into one package. If this were the early 90’s I’d be stoke, but I think we all realize that post-millennial Sonic has consistently sucked.
- It’s a good week for trailer park gamers, though, with a new NASCAR game, a new Cabella’s hunting game, AND a game from driver Jimmy Johnson called Anything with a Motor. I did not make that title up. Will it feature lawn tractors? ATVs? If I’ve learned one thing, it’s never discount the mad-science of gear heads in trailer parks.
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