A friend recently pointed out EDGE:the 100 greatest videogames (3rd edition, Aug 2017), and confessed to only having played seventeen of the games on the list.

Intrigued, I took a quick browse of the list, and thought it'd make an interesting exercise to review against my own three decades of gaming and that it would be a fitting follow-up to my recent post, One Solution to Game Selection Paralysis, and a 2015 to May 2017 Retrospective, along with my 2012 post on Choosing Games -Through the Ages.

The purpose of this post is not to decry or rally against EDGE's list, but to briefly comment on each game from my perspective. In time, I may follow-up with my own 100 greatest videogames post, and link back to this.

I've also attached the Excel file I used to create the table below in case you, dear reader, wish to make your own commentary.

EDGE 100 greatest games (2017 edition)

EDGE Order + Game Name Comments Possess? 12hrs+ or Completed?
100. Super Hexagon Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
99. Her Story Meaning to play through eventually. Yes No
98. Super Monkey Ball GameCube version is amazing. Unparalleled precision of Nintendo controllers. Yes No
97. Final Fantasy XII Played at an awkward stage in early adulthood, and did not hook me at the time. Yes Yes
96. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
95. Hyper Light Drifter Hard to fathom this was made in Game Maker Studio (as was Undertale). Have not played since 60fps update. Yes No
94. Katamari Damacy Always wanted to play this. Looks like great fun. No No
93. Animal Crossing: New Leaf Lovely. Played more than 100 hours Stardew Valley (spiritual successor) Yes Yes
92. Resogun Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
91. Puzzle Bobble Along with Puyo Puyo, my favourite puzzle-em-up. Yes Yes
90. F-Zero GX Have not played any F-Zero games. No No
89. The Sims 3 Played the original to death. No No
88. R-Type Final C64 was the definitive edition for me (as it was what I had as a child). No No
87. Elite: Dangerous Under 5 hours. Was not fun enough for me, but appreciated the tight controls. Almost bought flight controllers but could not justify expense for something I probably would not use much. Happy with my decision. Yes No
86. Bomberman Great game but never had worthy challengers growing up, and it is only fun with other humans. Yes No
85. StarCraft II Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
84. Pac-Man: Championship Edition Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
83. BioShock Played at an awkward stage in early adulthood, and did not hook me at the time. The story far exceeds the controls and shooting across all Bioshock games. Yes No
82. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Enjoyed every minute of the campaign and spent a lot of time in multiplayer. Yes Yes
81. Puzzle & Dragons Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
80. Tearaway Under 1 hour Yes No
79. League of Legends Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
78. Super Meat Boy Under 1 hour Yes No
77. Xenoblade Chronicles One of my favourite games ever. Yes Yes
76. OutRun 2006: Coast to Coast Still beautiful and fun on PC, playing 1440p 60fps. Yes Yes
75. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Played more than 10 hours original CS No No
74. Civilization IV Played this almost as much as original CIV. Yes Yes
73. Battlefield 4 Played more than 100 hours. Amazing fun playing on PC with a European clan 2013/2014. Yes Yes
72. Metroid Prime Bought trilogy via Wii U. Yet to get into it. Yes No
71. Hearthstone Would probably enjoy this. Played Magic:The Gathering when I was a young teenager. No No
70. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night One of my favourite games ever. Yes Yes
69. Limbo Fun and short in a good way. Yes Yes
68. Towerfall Ascension Fun little multiplayer. Yes No
67. EarthBound One of my favourite games ever. Yes Yes
66. Batman: Arkham Knight Bought, not played. Yes No
65. Transistor Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
64. Puyo Puyo I knew this as "Qwirks" in the 1990s and it was my favourite puzzle game growing up. Yes Yes
63. FTL: Advanced Edition Addictive gameplay and great music. Yes Yes
62: Persona 4 Golden God knows, I tried to get into this on the PSVita. Yes No
61. Mass Effect 2 Meaning to play this through with partner someday. Really enjoyed ME1. Yes No
60. Okami Playe on Wii / ennui Yes No
59. The Stanley Parable Great take on Groundhog day mechanic. Yes Yes
58. XCOM: Enemy Unknown Loved this reinvention of the 1990s version. Yes Yes
57. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate Did not enjoy this game, despite spending hours trying to. Yes No
56. The Witcher III: Wild Hunt Meaning to play this through with partner someday. Yes No
55. Far Cry 4 Barely played Far Cry 2 or 3 so left this one alone. No No
54. Titanfall 2 Currently playing through in small doses (Jun-Sep 2017) Yes No
53. Doom (2016) Currently playing through in small doses (2016-2017) Yes No
52. Trials Fusion Think I played a lot of predecessor on XBOX360. Neither are a patch on Elasto Mania with its ace level editor. No No
51. Nidhogg Fun little multiplayer. Yes No
50. Fez Great. Played several hours but no drive to finish. Yes No
49. Overwatch As fun as it looks, when I play games nowadays, I am usually sitting on the sofa with my wife beside me playing along, and single-screen multiplayer FPS games are not an intersting genre for that scenario. Might pick-up during a PS4 sale. Yes No
48. Super Mario 3D World Excellent and fun to play with family. Yes Yes
47. Journey Gorgeous game, but quite forgettable. Yes Yes
46. Dead Space Got a fair way through. Yes No.
45. Dota 2 Played a bit Yes No
44. Vanquish Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
43. Super Mario Maker Enjoyed for a while, but have not got my teeth into it yet. My daughter has fun designing daft levels. Yes Yes
42. Fire Emblem Fates Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
41. Inside Those death animations are brutal and chilling. Yes No
40. Shadow of the Colossus PS3 version, to play after ICO. Yes No
39. Halo 3 I found this quite boring. Yes No
38. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask Love all the Zelda games on this list. Yes Yes
37. Spelunky Fun to play a little. Yes No
36. Destiny I am not a fan of Halo so never thought to try this. See Overwatch comments above. No No
35. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past Love all the Zelda games on this list. Yes Yes
34. Kerbal Space Program Ignorant of this at time of writing. No No
33. Dishonored Meaning to play through someday… Yes No
32. Splatoon Tempted to get sequel for Switch. Looks like a lot of fun, and can play with daughter. No No
31. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker Love all the Zelda games on this list. Yes Yes
30. Rock Band 3 Rocksmith is an amazing alternative, as you use a real guitar, and the difficulty varies each phrase of the song, depending on your skill. No No
29. The Last Guardian This was a wonderful and gripping experience from start to finish. Yes Yes
28. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 70 hours XBOX360 version. Several bugs left three main quests unfinishable, and moved on to something else. Yes Yes
27. Ico PS3 version. Got a fair way through. Since completing Last Guardian, may go back to Ico Yes No
26. Super Metroid Castlevania:SOTN is in my top 10, not played through this one. Yes No
25. Demon’s Souls Missed this at time of release. No No
24. Horizon: Zero Dawn Not started. Bought in PSStore sale summer 2017. Yes No
23. Advance Wars Love this game but never finished it. Yes No
22. The Witness In the final area, no drive to go back to it though. Yes Yes
21. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Own and love on Wii U. Not rebuying as I use Switch docked 99% of the time, next to Wii U. Yes Yes
20. Ultra Street Fighter IV Never been much of a Street Fighter fan. Soul Blade, OMF:2097 and Tekken are my favourites, in that order. Yes No
19. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Bored after 15-20 hours. Beautiful but not fun for me. Yes Yes
18. Rez Infinite Played original Rez a few years ago, possibly the XBOX360 port? No No
17. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Highly enjoyed, and my first Uncharted experience, but not a patch on The Last of Us. Yes Yes
16. Super Mario World Still play occassionally. Way higher on my unwritten top 100. Yes Yes
15. Red Dead Redemption Borrowed from a friend and had lots of potential but distracted by something else and never go into it. No No
14. Super Mario 64 I bought an N64 at end of its lifecycle but never owned SM64, and did not even play through Ocarina of Time until 2015 via the Wii U (Wii Virtual Console). Yes No
13. Portal Awesome game. For me, Portal 2 is far better due to split-screen co-op nature. Yes Yes
12. Bayonetta 2 Birthday or christmas present, not yet played through, but highly enjoyed few hours spent with it so far. Yes No
11. Minecraft Never got into Minecraft, WoW or EVE:online, depsite several attempts. Yes No
10. Resident Evil 4 Very scary. I have the GameCube version from a friend, and am too scared to play it very much. Yes No
9. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Love all the Zelda games on this list. Yes Yes
8. Super Mario Galaxy 2 Playing through sporadically with daughter via Wii U Yes No
7. Tetris Gameboy green and unforgettable music. Yes Yes
6. Half-Life 2 Very fond memories of this and original Half-life. Yes Yes
5. Bloodborne Have not tried to get into this genre yet. No No
4. The Last of Us One of my favourite games ever. Yes Yes
3. Grand Theft Auto V Played though quite far on XBOX360. Played through not as far on PC. Have not tried online yet. Yes Yes
2. Dark Souls Have not tried to get into this genre yet. Yes No
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild One of my favourite games ever, however played Xenoblade Chronicles for the first time shortly after BoTW and it is better in almost every aspect. Yes Yes

Notes

List order (100–1) gleaned from Nintendoeverything - EDGE ranks the top 100 greatest games (2017 edition)

List order (alphabetically) taken from Table of Contents viewable within EDGE list purchase page (I have not purchased as £15.99 is a bit too rich for my blood, but I would have paid £5 for pdf if I had the option).

  Edge: the 100 greatest videogames (3rd edition) - Table of Contents (C) Future Publishing 2017

Edge: the 100 greatest videogames (3rd edition) - Table of Contents (C) Future Publishing 2017

Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson
2 CommentsPost a comment

So many games. It's cruel really. It hurts to think how many games I have bought but will barely or never play, as being a groan-up, there are only so many free hours in my week.

When I make the time to indulge in my lifelong obsession, by flopping onto the sofa and picking up a controller, or contorting my body back into the tortured shape of the workweek at my PC, I am often at a loss for what to load up.

My already exhausted mind tries to weigh-up what the most valuable return on my playtime would be. And so, I sit there; staring at my burgeoning Steam account, then at my new consoles, then at my old consoles and, sometimes, I just give up and zombify my night away on YouTube, Twitter, or go back to the seemingly endless but brilliantly strange book I've been reading since March 2016 (Infinite Jest by David Foster-Wallace)] [finished in December 2016, now ploughing through the Laundry Files by Charles Stross].

Steve Burns, previously of Videogamer.com called this phenomenon "shit-muncher paralysis", which I feel is a more authentic title in this context than "decision fatigue" or "analysis paralysis".

I've had some success in combatting this by pre-selecting what to play and committing to it without experiencing the remorse of a poor choice:

On 1st January 2015, at around 2am, I completed Zelda: Windwaker (Wii U version), and resolved along with my wife to play the remainder of the 3D Zelda games that year. If not for her, I never would have made it through the first 10 hours of Majora's Mask (I kept feeling very tired and drifting off when playing it for some reason).

By setting that as our mission and sticking doggedly to it, these masterpieces were very much enjoyed without the distraction of choice over a period of 6 months or so, and I now have very fond memories of journeying through these games to the finish for the first time, and of sharing that experience with my wife.

Such was the success of this, that I proposed our next series would be Final Fantasy (starting with VII, as it was my first and the one which most deeply affected my early pubescent self).

With its beautifully hand-painted backgrounds and a soundtrack that more powerfully than any other game I've played provokes all kinds of emotions, Final Fantasy VII was another masterpiece which we played through. I secretly worried that it wouldn't have aged well, and was so delighted and relieved to relive this experience and share it with my wife, who had never seen a JRPG before, and enjoyed the story, graphics and music too. Years before, I repeatedly exposed our firstborn in utero to the soundtrack, so there was a familiar nostalgia for us all.

Interestingly for me, the next game, Final Fantasy VIII, had much better writing and localisation, while somewhat annoyingly pushing the teen angst and cauldron of emotion and morbid ennui of lead protagonist, Squall. The other characters are far more interesting. Their interactions and character development outshine Final Fantasy VII, and replaying in 2015, I can say that the maturity of the writing, story and world makes it a much more adult and deeper experience than VII, though it lacks the raw power of the music. It also took me a while to prefer the steal and craft magic system in VIII to the materia combinations and MP of VII.

Following this we tried Final Fantasy IX. Sadly, even after fifteen hours, I felt no attachment to the characters or story, and the loading times and delay in starting each random battle, which of course there are many, were utterly dreadful. The same happened with Final Fantasy X, so it was back to the drawing board for 2016.

Three massive games took care of most of last year: Fallout 4, Stardew Valley, and Final Fantasy XV, with Stardew Valley being ideal for our busy family and work lives. Such a charming, colourful, relaxed, and utterly stress-free world. Pick up and play for twenty minutes or two hours and family-friendly too. The variety of activities, soothing music and feeling of accomplishment in building your farm and relationships with the villagers was immensely satisfying.

Fallout 4 was a very fulfilling open-world-a-thon which felt as good as I remember 2008's Fallout 3 being. And Final Fantasy XV was an interesting mess of superficial beauty, and a handsome boyband group of friends, which while plagued with many years of development hell, would have benefited from a lot more dialogue and a more complex story character development to flesh out the best part of the game—the friendship between your characters. My biggest bugbear was the repeated dialogue, which broke immersion so much as to become laughable and quickly spawned memes all over the net. "I've come up with a new recipe!"

The big game of 2017 so far is Zelda: Breath of the Wild. As of May, we've completed the main story, all the shrines, all the memories, most of the armour sets are fully upgraded, and we're still playing to explore and collect Koroks, with 160 of 900 in the game found after 140+ hours. That's some serious value for money, even considering the eye-watering cost of the Nintendo Switch, Pro controller and game.

Alas, I now feel my gaming feet itching for pastures new. The dopamine tickle from Zelda is still there, reduced from a bonfire to a bright candle now, and when I look elsewhere, all I can see is the fiery cold abyss and cranial tension of thousands of choices clambering for my evaluation and commitment.

A close friend has come to the rescue with a solution he has catchily named "35 by 35". This is his title for a project encompassing 35 new gaming experiences by the time he reaches 35 years old. His conditions are that each game gets at least six hours play a week for two weeks, giving a minimum of 12 hours per game (or until the end if it's a shorter game). Then after playing each game, he'll write a short review, then collate and publish at the end of the project.

So now, I'm off to tailor this approach into my own project, which I'll share in my next post. I'd be interested to hear in the comments how you, dear reader, select which games you'll play, and your current backlog.

You are launched into a dark street, with violent hoodlums looming into view and circling menacingly. Brawling through eight stages of unspeaking, violent thugs, your goal is to eliminate the clichéd gang lord, Mr X.

Streets of Rage is a rhythmic experience. The fusion of control, movement and music.

Feeling, seeing, hearing, thinking, reacting, planning ahead.

Immersing yourself into a state of consciousness where you feel directly and immediately connected to the cause and effects of the world you are traversing.

An abstract world, processed and enhanced by the capacity and range of your imagination and empathy.

 Streets of Rage, Sega Megadrive Title Screen

Streets of Rage, Sega Megadrive Title Screen

Combination Lock

You move in eight directions, have a jump button, a special button, and a single attack button.

With that single attack button you are able to unleash a plethora of devastating combinations by varying the timing, pauses and rhythm of your button pressing. If you down a stronger opponent too quickly, they’ll spring up again, all the while your screen will be fill with other creeps. If you come to the brink of felling a powerful bad guy with your final blow, you can pause for a split second to break the chain, then resume with a fresh volley to put them down for good, or even use their death throes to launch their spent cadaver into a group of nearby unfortunates.

The beauty of the game comes from combining short and long combos with powerful judo throws, and controlling your position on screen to take cover behind human shields, and avoid getting swarmed.

To grapple, simply embrace a foe by walking into them, and for a few seconds you are free to decide what to do with them. A Glasgow kiss and a knee to the groin? Throw them over and behind you like a rag doll, spilling the enemies behind you like bowling pins? Reposition to their back by Jumping, followed by a quick standing spoon, and ending in a lethal suplex?

Whether your strikes meet flesh or air, they are punctuated by an impressive sound response. At times, your character grunts or whines with the focus of power. In Karate this is called kiai. The theory being that making a noise while you attack makes the attack more powerful, e.g., Sonic; Boom!

Kiai Aside

I am not entirely convinced of the efficacy in kiai, having seen its misuse by [a thankfully small number] of meatloafs in the gym. However, as a sensory and fear-inspiring climax to your attack, it can be quite impressive. Also, see Muad’Dib’s army of fremen and their sonic weapons, made even more popular in David Lynch’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s brilliant novel, Dune.

Back to the Streets…

When the screen fills with enemies you can summon a police reinforcement special attack. This pans the screen to the left, a police car rolls up and screeches to a halt, then an officer pops his top-half out the passenger window and fires a bazooka into the play area, resulting in a wall of flames or raining fire, toppling bosses and eliminating weaker enemies on contact.

Withering Heights

Interestingly, there is no block button. A block mechanic might have added another dimension to the game but was not easily possible as the stock Sega Megadrive/Genesis controller only had three main face buttons and no shoulder buttons. By default the special summon attack is mapped to (A) but would have been far better off mapped to the (select) button; the amount of times I wasted a summon by my thumb slipping off (B) and onto (A).

While writing this pice, I imagined a block, attack, jump setup opening up even more attack options. For example, in the current game, if you press the attack and jump button together, you perform a back attack. What if there was a block button that let you parry or stagger the enemy? Akin to modern Batman brawlers. Upon reflection, the attack-only approach keeps the action moving forward at an intense pace, which is in perfect harmony to the music.

Cid[SID] is in every one

The game is accompanied by an absolutely banging techno soundtrack, which squeezes a lot of interesting sounds and voices out of the Megadrive’s Yamaha sound-chip. I'm not a big fan of most Megadrive tunes. I grew up with the gorgeous C64 SID chip which produced a richness of sound and symphony that made a lifelong impression on my soul. I now plug my C64 into a sound system far more competent than the little B&W telly I had as a child, and can relive the greats of my youth, such as Silkworm and Pit Stop II (both also hold-up well for two-player gaming today).

To my ears, the Megadrive’s sound often felt muddy, flat, and lacking in dynamic range. But Streets of Rage has a pulsing, throbbing techno-beat throughout, with the game's composer, Yuzo Koshiro, matching the mood of each level with a layered, thrusting effort. I've bought the soundtracks for Streets of Rage 1 and 2 from iTunes, which I listen to often, and they bring me great joy, even though I'm not sure if the remastering adds to the experience.

Sharp, Grimy, Fast, Sleek

From the outset, Streets of Rage burns grimy, neon patterns into your retinas. Outside the Pine Pot diner, its luminous sign shines upon a cold, blue cobbled city street. The player lands gracefully, and their sprite is expertly animated with a smoothness to their walking and jumping, and a snappiness to their attacks. This juxtaposition makes the whole movement of the game, the flow and fury, so slick and harmonious. Each of the levels has a distinct theme, graphically and aurally distinct from one other. There are incidental touches, like a gust of particle-filled wind as you enter the inner city, waves lapping onto the beach, the sickening bobbing onboard the ship, and the flashing beacons within the industrial complex.

The co-operative

The replayablity factor is huge as the core mechanic of gracefully beating everyone you see into pulp does not easily dull. The other timeless factor is the two-player mode, or in modern parlance: same-screen couch co-op.

This elevates the game into my top-ten of all-time, as you must carefully manage and adjust your tactics with your partner so as not to accidentally kill them with a misplaced combo, or immobilise them with a spoon embrace at a juncture where several "Nora" dominatrices/lion tamers[?] are funnelling towards you both with whips tensed.

You could also use the spoon embrace cooperatively, with the spooned player able to kick out their legs in front of them to knock down approaching enemies. Another tag-team move is to grab then vault over your partner to perform a high-jump attack on unsuspecting opponents.

Double the players also means double the bosses, which keeps things exciting. Also, when you make it to the end of the game and are invited to join forces with the evil Mr X, three endings are possible in co-op mode, with my favourite, the bad ending, occurring when one player wants to join Mr X, and the other doesn't. This leads to a duel to the death, followed by the bad player dethroning Mr X. A fitting end.

Then and Now

The Megadrive II has the superior sound-chip (to the Megadrive I), as Koshiro says himself. In 2015, a special remaster was published for the Nintendo 3DS which comes with many options, including MDI/MDII sound emulation switch, and an excellent stereoscopic 3D effect, which actually helps in aligning vertical position of self and enemies. The 3DS version also has a two-player mode (wirelessly connect two 3DS handhelds).

In my opinion, you can't beat playing on a big TV screen as part of the PS3/XBOX 360 Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection, Steam, or even iOS (AirPlay).

Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson

Note: This post is part of a consolidation exercise, and was originally published 12 December 2011 at http://ibsimpson.calepin.co

12 December 2011

Booted up the Playstation to have a quick game of Battlefield 3. However, Sony demands I download a ~180Mb update (version 4.00). In countryside broadband terms, that's an hour gone.

What is the frequency of Sony PS3 updates? Because it seems every time I turn it on (infrequently since I bought an XBOX 360 when HALO: Reach was released ☟), I have to download another system update.

Whereas, the XBOX 360 updates are occasional and very small in comparison. I've never had to wait more than ten minutes.

So, Battlefield 3, I'm afraid you'll have to wait. I'm going back to Battlefield: Bad Company 2 on the XBOX 360. And don't even get me started on the huge launch-day patch for Battlefield 3.

Perhaps I'l just buy a Dingoo A380 instead.

☞ Halo: Reach was a very disappointing game, I thought. Killzone 2 does it so much better and came out far earlier [than HALO: Reach] (Feb 2009 versus September 2010).

But remember, as it is, your new £300 PC can enjoy new games as-is, as well as a huge back catalogue of…every PC game ever made. It can easily emulate most old gaming consoles and computers too. That's 30 years of gaming at your fingertips, be it with keyboard and mouse hunched over a desk and monitor, or connecting to your TV and kicking back with a pad on the couch.

Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson

I play Battlefield 4 on the PC a few times each month with fellow adult males and females from an online circle of friends, called a clan.

We all have a great time voice-chatting with each other while we play together on the same map in squads to achieve objectives and hold startegic points to win each round. The chat is often filled with campfire stories and banter, interspersed with tactical discussion regarding the game in hand.

We bond in this social group setting much like one would have done growing up at the Scouts or equivalent institutions that I am not so familiar with.

The in-game violence is abstracted and not glorified. It is like playing tag or dodgeball. When you get tagged, you have to wait for around ten seconds to rejoin the game. A round can typically last 20–40 minutes. There are ground, air and water vehicles which multiple people can enter simultaneously, as well as exploring the terrain on foot. Up to 64 human players on the same map play in two opposing teams, split into squads of up to five members.

It's easy to demonise computer games, as people unfamiliar with them have done for the past five decades, however it is important to remember that computer games are a medium, much like books, films and music. There many fine examples and some masterpieces. As with any medium, for each masterpiece there can be thousands of mediocre and terrible examples.

Once one has selected a quality computer game to play, the other major difference from other media is that a certain level of skill and context is required to play and appreciate games. The general learning curve can prove too steep and frustrating for some.

The other aspect of gaming as leisure activity that I ponder about often is the commonly-held perception of it being a total waste of time and something that one ought to grow out of, as the responsibilities of life are continually heaped on; how dare we waste our time playing in imaginary worlds where nothing we do will ever transpire into real world value.

Though I have found that my self-selected diet of games includes business simulations too, which I have no doubt helped me from an early age to learn quickly, be goal-oriented and think about the world in terms of connected systems, rather than just isolated cause and effect.

A mix of empire-building strategy (Civilization, Capitalism, Sim City 2000, Transport Tycoon); reflex-testing action (Doom, Tyrian, Castlevania); immersive role-playing (Final Fantasy VII, Deus Ex, Earthbound); and many other genres and titles combine to form a rich and interesting living history of an exciting medium where one can derive both value (in terms of skills and knowledge) and entertainment (mental and intellectual stimulation and relaxation).

Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson
CategoriesGaming, PC

Improve your aim with Natural Selection II (NS2), currently £1.89 via Steam until 6 P.M. on 03-JAN-2014 (normally £18.99).

As I discovered watching Noobs Guide to Better Aim in Battlefield 4! by the luminary FRANKIEonPCin1080p, the weapons in NS2 have no recoil and are 100% accurate.

This theoretically makes it an excellent game to use in conjunction with this mouse sensitivity calculator website to improve your aim universally, e.g., in Battlefield 4.

Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson
CategoriesGaming, PC

Iain: All else being equal, I wonder what it would have been like if I had been born ten years earlier.

Mike: You'd be better off, and have a bigger and/or cheaper house (maybe both). Your primary leisure interest would probably still be gaming, but you'd have started on an earlier platform. Your overall lifespan would be marginally shorter, statistically speaking. You'd probably still fap to Thom Yorke's warblings.

Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson
CategoriesGaming

The Raspberry Pi is a tiny, cheap computer with the design intention of being for kids to learn real computer and programming skills (as opposed to just learning how to use an office suite of applications). Kudos to the Raspberry Pi Foundation for their continuing efforts to bring back computer science to schools.

After all, it was due to the availability of affordable, programmable computers in the 1980s that allowed kids then to get into making things with computers. Programming games, art and music. Being creative. The talent this fostered in Britain was immense. I believe the Raspberry Pi and it’s ilk will be the key to inspiring the next generation of talent.

As well as being a powerful tool for educational purposes—due to it’s programmable nature—the Raspberry Pi (sometimes referred to as RPi) is also an incredibly versatile box of wonders. The community that has sprung up around it has seized the opportunity of this common platform to develop new, and port exisiting applications and variants of the Linux Operating System.

A New Year’s resolution of mine was to find a use for my RPi. Well, I can happily report that I now have. Enter Raspbmc, “a minimal Linux distribution based on Debian that brings XBMC to your Raspberry Pi.” XBMC is “an award-winning free and open source (GPL) software media player and entertainment hub for digital media.” The installation proved to be a simple and ejoyable experience. Thankfully, this hassle-free installation and interaction with the Linux ecosystem is becoming more common (two steps to install rather than 27).

The defaultmost popular RPi Linux distribution (sic - Operating System), Raspbian Wheezy (I have not yet found the story behind the name “Wheezy”) comes with a fully-featured desktop environment which is imminently usable and tastes just like Windows and Mac OS X; office suites, image editors, the whole gamut. All free and open source.

My setup is an original Raspberry Pi Model B with 256Mb RAM; it now ships with 512Mb for the same price (~£35). As it comes without a case, I later bought a rather groovy Pimoroni PiBow case (£12.95).

Note, the RPi doesn’t come with it’s own power supply. You have to supply a 5v micro-USB connection with at least 0.7mA. I started out using an old Samsung mobile phone charger, but have since switched to a Masterplug SRGDU62PW USB Charging Surge Protected 2m Extension Lead Power Block with 6 Sockets and a funky orange micro-USB cable.

In addition to a power supply, you’ll need an HDMI cable, an ethernet cable (to connnect to your internet router), and an SD card to hold the operating system and software. Which paves the route to RPi nirvana:

  • Raspberry Pi Model B
  • Power supply (5v, rated to at least 0.7mA, micro-USB)
  • HDMI cable
  • SD card (8Gb or more recommended)
  • Ethernet cable
  • USB mouse and keyboard
  • (optional) USB hub to expand on the two existing USB ports
  • (optional) bluetooth USB dongle (for couch-surfing)
  • (optional) wi-fi USB dongle (for your RPis all over the house)

I use separate memory cards for each distribution. Currently: - Chameleon for retro emulation - Raspbmc for media centre - Raspbian Wheezy for learning more about Linux and maybe someday programming a game.

There is an Amazon affiliate link below if you don’t already own one and want to remedy that. Honesty policy: I get a little cash if you buy through this, which I will undoubtedly spend buying more gadgetry. Thank you if you use it.

Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson

—Robocop [1987, Film] & Starship Troopers [1997, Film] (both directed by Paul Verhoeven), and now Eve: Dust 514 [2011-2013 PS3 game], (in reference to interactive news feeds and tutorial videos respectively)

Whenever this memorable quote pops up I am simultaneously perplexed by it’s awkward phrasing and intrigued by the broadness of the question out-of-context.

Entering the world EVE: Dust 514 for the first time tonight, I was pleasantly surprised by this nod to two of my favourite sci-fi films.

This piece is intended as a homage to games in general, a discussion of my experiences with gaming platforms, and a proclamation of my love for gaming, speaking as a rapacious appreciator of this wonderful interactive art form. This is not a controversial PC Vs. Consoles opinion piece. That would be an utter waste of time and energy. The main points I shall put forward are:

  • The best single-player games are timeless and yield inestimable value to appreciative gamers.
  • To enjoy today’s cutting-edge PC games as their designers intended is expensive.
  • Delaying your gratification a few years could save you a fortune. Patience is also, I’m reliably informed, a heavenly virtue. Of course, there is nothing wrong with having the money to spend on a killer gaming rig now…
  • Though you can enjoy PC gaming masterpieces such as Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth [2006] or Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines [2004] today with a relatively inexpensive gaming machine.

It has been seven years since I owned a capable beast; that story is told elsewhere. High-end gaming PCs are like racehorses: even the finest are retired after only a handful of years. In the aughties, they were incredibly expensive both to buy and to maintain.

Costly, not just in money, but in time. You could spend £1,000 and a year later, your machine would struggle to play the latest games as they were intended to be seen. A three year-old powerhouse from 2003 would struggle to keep up with the games of 2006. Some expensive transplant surgery would be needed:

‘Let’s see. We’ll need a new Graphics Card, and ooo… a bit more RAM. Oh, that graphics card is going to need a bigger power supply, and then your motherboard will be the bottleneck. Hmm, the CPU you currently have is a different socket from the motherboard you plan on getting. The case is nice though; you can keep that.’

With consoles, like the Sony PlayStation 3 or the Microsoft Xbox 360, we have a platform that has a longer modern life, with the most recent (seventh) console generation set to last at least eight years with no mandatory hardware upgrades required. Excepting replacement of the whole console due to unfortunate but not uncommon catastrophic failure, the cost of maintenance in pounds and hours is negligible.

For me, this isn’t a case of owning a PC or a console. You can have a horse and pony, donkeys, chickens, turtles, and any other animal or beast. If you have the room for it, can afford it, and will give it the love, care and attention it deserves, then you should have it, else you should set it free. Having a loft full of aged animals [read - decrepit computer hardware] is maybe not good for you, or for them. Minimalism be damned; for posterity these cherished pieces still hold personal, sentimental value to the geeks who grew up with them. It is a love that cannot be emulated.

Albeit it can be emulated, some of the time. Getting a hold of the original joypad and via a USB adapter, most Windows and *nix systems support programs that allow nostalgic trips to the best old games, and classics missed first-time round.

A computer is required then, but how expensive does it need to be? Well, what are you going to use it for? Today’s cutting-edge games require today’s cutting-edge hardware (to be played as intended). Whereas games of five, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago don’t. Highly capable hardware will set you back £700 to £3,000 (you could probably get something pretty amazing on the price/performance curve somewhere in-between).

Older games and games consoles can be had for a fraction of the price at wondrous flea markets like eBay. The point I’m getting to is this: what do today’s cutting-edge games offer that games of yesteryear do not? Apart from the obvious improved graphics, sound and scope, the main difference I feel in today’s best games is the influence and refinement from past effort. They are informed by their forebears. Only in the best examples the gameplay has evolved and past foibles and poor decisions mitigated; by standing on the shoulders of giants.

However, the excellence of new games does not preclude the timelessness of any past treasures. There are lifetimes of sublime gaming experiences to be had from the body of games that have already been released. Like other forms of entertainment, you will never have the time to enjoy them all. To pick wisely, there is a world of enlightened people who have enjoyed certain games a great deal, and felt compelled to reach out and tell others. For this Retro Gamer magazine is an ideal source of nostalgic ambience to read as you comb eBay and the like for old computer games and systems.

There are plenty of standalone masterpieces, and the timeless ones will always be available to us in the future. I knew this when I ducked out of the PC arms race in 2006, just as MMORPGs like EVE: Online and World of Warcraft were coming to the fore. Social online games such as these are outwith the scope of this piece though. Here I am a proponent only of offline gems such as the life-changing Final Fantasy VII.

Moving forward with this logic, spending a modest amount on a gaming PC, a current generation console, and older consoles today would allow all the treasures of the recent era all the way back to the dawn of the computing age to be played. This logic further permits that around £500 every four years would allow you to have amazing gaming experiences now, equivalent to spending £2,000 every year or two to stay on the bleeding edge of technology.

Most modern games are multi-platform and though the graphics may not be as good on the Xbox 360 as they are on a Water-cooled GTX 51200 3570k blue-LED Horsey i9, the experience and gameplay may be not be diminished at all by the inferior graphics. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Happy gaming.

Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson

Stonekeep

An RPG well ahead of it‘s time, and with a hilarious intro that Brian Fargo surely had a good hand in; this is a game that growing up I always wanted to play.

It slipped by me in the nineties and the aughties, but after recently purchasing Total Annihallation from Good Old Games and subsequently having trouble installing on Windows XP via VirtualBox for Mac OS X, I thought I would browse the rest of their catalogue.

Lo and behold, I found Stonekeep amongst many other treasures that I will be revisiting soon: winter is coming. A little bit of jiggery pokery with the wonderful DOSBox encased within the gorgeous Mac front-end GUI application, Boxer (app) by Alun Bestor; and I was up and running.

Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson
CategoriesGaming

My favourite games were made in the nineties. For a long time I thought this was because I did a lot of growing up and had a lot more free time, and less commitments then. In 1990, I turned five. In 2000, I turned fifteen. I went from C64 to Master System to Megadrive to Playstation with a big dose of DOS throughout, and later Windows gaming too.

Gaming turned a corner in the second half of the nineties. We went from 8-bit to 16-bit and beyond. Beautifully rendered sprites (Castlevania: Symphony of the Night) gave way to lumpy, clumsy polygons; and a horde of cruft games (with the odd nugget of gold among all the tonnes of worthless dross that the cheapness of Compact Discs brought). It took years for technology to catch-up with representing the designer‘s imaginings. And it also took quite some time for developers to get the hang of camera in 3d space. I remember that magazines at the start of the PlayStation‘s life always remarked on how good (or more often terrible) the camera was.

But I’m by no means against polygons. There is a certain artistry to classic Sega titles like Virtua Fighter that worked very well — because the feel of the game was so real; the mechanics and responsiveness. I could easily argue that Sega Rally is the best racing game ever made. The feel of the car; The responsive controls, and the difficulty to master. Even now, I’ll boot up the Saturn for a quick blast; the steering wheel as satisfyingly tactile as ever. I still play Castlevania: SOTN to this day. I have it on my Xbox 360, and on my PSP. (You have to play through a couple of levels of the vastly inferior Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles to unlock it within an awkward to get to secret area. Why Konami? See herefor Kotaku‘s unlocking instructions.)

So when gaming reached the turn of the century, and the aughties were upon us, 3d was still largely in it‘s infancy. Only a few games managed to be stylistic enough to hold be worth playing now. So many ere just all about the graphics; shoddy polygons and muddy textures, and no decent gameplay beneath the cracking caked-on rogue graphics.

Against this heritage then, what else made up the backdrop of gaming in the aughties? Well, 6th and 7th generation consoles. And alongside them, handheld consoles that kept the spirit of 2d gaming alive, and monstrous, unreliable PCs that constantly needed the latest graphics card and processor to have a hope of playing the latest games. And at £200–300 a pop, that was a real labour of love. And one that I mercifully quit in 2008, when I gave up tinkering with Windows and PC bits to buy a Mac.

UK Popular Console Release Dates
Console  Date (Y/M/D)
PlayStation 3 2007.03.23
Wii 2006.12.08
Xbox 360 2005.12.05
PSP 2005.09.01
Nintendo DS 2005.03.11
GameCube 2002.11.18
Xbox 2002.03.14
Gameboy Advance 2001.06.22
PlayStation 2 2000.11.24
Dreamcast 1999.10.14


I spent a good deal of early aughties gaming emulating old systems on my family‘s 550Mhz[1] Pentium 3 powerhouse. You learn patience squeezing titles down a dial-up connection: praying the connection doesn‘t drop out, or that Windows doesn’t twirl into a blue-screen of death.

Perfect Dark [2000, Nintendo 64]

As the spiritual successor to the infamous and definitive N64 <abbr title=“First-person Shooter”>FPS GoldenEye 007, Perfect Dark had a lot of impressing to do. The three years between these games shows. Rare were able to push the hardware, with much of the game necessitating the N64 Expansion Pak (increasing system memory from four to eight megabytes).

As the protaganist Joanna Dark is an original IP of Rare, they had freedom to experiment with this game. The single player is full of good humour, conspiracies and aliens. But where the game really comes alive (as in GoldenEye 007 ) is the multiplayer. Innovative new game modes (for the N64) such as King of the Hill and Hold the Briefcase, combined with highly customisable bots, teams, varied weapons, and interesting arenas made this game so much fun to play together.

An HD-skinned Xbox 360 Perfect Darkwas released for the Xbox 360 market place in 2010, and it is still a joy to play.

Deus Ex [2000, PC]

Deus Ex, with it’s brooding cyberpunk tracker soundtrack and dark visuals made for a groundbreaking title. The game story branched in different directions depending on critical moral decisions, resulting in three distinctive endings, but more importantly, different dialogue and missions throughout; meaning many playthroughs could be enjoyed to experience the whole game.

Much effort was made to create the atmosphere, with even seemingly unimportant Max Payne [2001, PC]

Another stunning game. Even now it still looks good, with photo-realistic textures portraying a gritty, visceral noir vision of New York. The comic style story sequences and interspersed protaganist narration goes a long way to pushing the quality of this game into a masterpiece. Layered with a musical score which is haunting and beautiful, the scene is set for a fantastic game.

And the gameplay only builds on this. One hyphenated compound sums it up perfectly: bullet-time. And cinematic bullet-cam (where occasionally you will be shooting a baddie and the camera will slowly rotate around them while you can still riddle them with more bullets). Some may call the game samey, but I believe the mechanic and controls were slickly executed, and the satisfaction of bullet-time shooting in third-person didn’t wane at all from start to finish.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City [2002, PlayStation 2]

Where Grand Theft Auto 3 was groundbreaking in taking the franchise from top-down adult Micro Machines fare, to a large-scale 3d open-world, it was also pretty dark and grim, and wet.

Vice City used the same formula and engine, but was vivid with eighties colour, eighties sunsets, and eighties music. With this loud new scenario, and oodles of eighties pop-culture, Vice City fast became my favourite game of the time.

Burnout 3: Takedown [2004, PlayStation 2]

When it comes to arcade racing feel and speed, there are few games that can keep pace with Burnout. Harking back to the aforementioned Sega Rally, Burnout gets it so right. By having different game modes and interesting abilities such as being able to manoeuvre your car post-crash to take-out opponents, Burnout stayed intense fun for tens of hours, and is still just as good today. It is another game which can be digitally bought and downloaded on the Xbox 360.

Battlefield 2142 [2006, PC]

To this day, BF2142 is still my favourite of all the Battlefield games. Being set in the future allowed for some fantastic weapons, class abilities, and vehicles (think walking tanks). But there is one reason that makes it better than all the others.

Titan Mode. Both teams have a massive floating warship which begins each round with a core protected by four power-relays and an external shield. Teams must capture points, like in conquest, however the points are missile silos. Each missile launched weakens the enemies Titan’s shield. When the shield is destroyed, players can launch pods from the Armored Personnel Carriers or drop from the helicopters onto the Titan. Then the Titan can be infiltrated, the four power-relays (located down four different corridors) destroyed, and finally the Titan core shot or exploded to smithereens. Once the core is down, players have a ~30 second window to escape the exploding Titan and parachute to the ground, to earn a Titan survivor pin. All while the other team are trying to do the same.

This meant incredibly cooperative gameplay was required to win. Which made the game incredibly tense and fun when played with a squad of friends.

Fallout 3 [2008 ,PlayStation 3]

A living, breathing, post-apocalyptic world filled with characters you can meaningfully interact with, and a feeling that you can wander anywhere. This game has immense scope and is executed so well. Except for the bugs (and no, I don’t mean Rad-roaches), which this game (and all Bethesda masterpieces since) suffers from. Save regularly.

Super Mario Bros. Wii [2009]

Got two to four people? This game is just as much fun as Super Mario World, only now you can mess up your friend’s well-executed jump by being in their way. This adds a new layer of frustration, but in a fun way, like Streets of Rage on the Megadrive, but playing through the gorgeous landscapes with someone else at the same time is a wonderful experience.

Borderlands [2009, Xbox 360]

Forget depth, complexity and story-line. This game is an excuse for shooting things with ever-more powerful weapons. And that’s all it need to be. What made it so much fun was the split-screen coop, which meant I could play through the whole game with my better half. And it also meant she became quite deft with FPS games.

Played together, Borderlands is a very fun experience. I definitely wouldn’t have bothered to complete this if I was playing by myself though, so if it’s just you on your lonesome, I would stick with a game with depth, such as the Fallout series.

Shadow Complex [2009, Xbox 360]

Super Metroid in a different skin, i.e., areas of the map unlock as the player finds upgrades. 2.5d platformer with great shooting mechanics. Any metroidvania game gets the thumbs up from me.


  1. I over clocked via BIOS. Thankfully, it held-up for the remainder of it’s five year life.  ↩

I had a Commodore 64 from around 5 years old. Before that we had a C16, but I hardly remember it. I believe the C16 was a cast-off from my father’s work. Around the same time as the C64 we had a 286, which I can’t remember much about, other than a CGA Breakout clone.

The C64 was miles ahead of the Spectrum. Burned in my memory is the silky smooth synth sounds, and gorgeous, colourful sprites. It put my Master System to shame (in all except loading times). In fact, I would often play the Master System while I waited for Dizzy or Pitstop II or Silkworm to load.

I still have that C64, and it still works. Occasionally I will take it down from the loft, fire it up and play some old classics. I have so many cassettes with games that I cannot remember, or was unable to comprehend as a child. So I try these out too; see what the designer was reaching for; how they managed to overcome the constraints of 8-bit; but also how they embraced it and made the most of it. High concepts translated into simple games, often wonderfully executed and still highly playable today. IK+, here I come again.

Which was your favourite computer/game, growing up?

Or ‘So many games, so little time’.

What follows are the criteria I consider before committing to a game.

Gameplay mechanics and User Interface: Are the controls responsive and substantial? (Castlevania: Symphony of the Night does this so well.) Does the UI work well? A good example is the combat in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. A poor example (from the same game) is inventory management. How far have we come from Resident Evil 1?

Style and Personality: Did the developers infuse the game with character and atmosphere, e.g., the sublime Fallout series; Vampire: The Masquerade; and to a lesser extent Fable II.

Longevity / Memorability: Will the game engage me for more than a day? If not, is the quality of the experience so strong and memomarable that the short play time is mitigated? This was very much the case with Heavy Rain.

My favourite game ever will always be Final Fantasy VII [Sony PlayStation, 1997], for which I have still to write a review/homage. Coming from strategy games and platformers on DOS, C64 and early Sega systems, these criteria have served me well in my gaming investments since childhood; though I have surely missed a lot of great games in my life because of them.

Great games are timeless, but the increasing scarcity of working physical game media and their respective hardware is an issue. Thankfully, there are means to access virtually all of time’s gaming treasures: eBay, emulation, a thriving retro community, publications like Retro Gamer, and even the original game developers are currently making gaming archaeology possible. It is a great time to be a gamer, and knowing that we are now taking steps to preserve this part of our social history resonates with me.