Monday, June 23, 2008

Top FPS games of all time put together a video countdown of the top 10 FPS games of all time. I suggest you go and watch the video, but for discussion here's their list:

1. GoldenEye 007
2. Halo
3. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
4. Wolfenstein 3D
5. Quake
6. Counter-Strike
7. Duke Nukem
8. Half-Life 2
9. Doom 3
10. BioShock

It's a pretty solid list, although there are definitely some items I'd shift around. I don't think they're so consistent about whether this is a list of most influential games or most polished. The choice of Doom 3 over the original Doom throws it all out of whack.

I was curious how their list compared to review scores, so I put together a Metacritic query to get the top rated FPS games of all time. Collapsing to one entry per franchise, this is what you get for the top 10:

1. Perfect Dark (97)
2. Halo (97)
3. Half-Life 2 (96)
4. GoldenEye 007 (96)
5. BioShock (96)
6. Quake (94)
7. Gears of War (94)
8. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (94)
9. Unreal Tournament 2004 (93)
10. Thief: The Dark Project (92)

In case you're curious, here are the rest (this is from the top 50, which only includes games with a rating of 89 or greater, collapsed by franchise):
11. Team Fortress 2 (92)
12. No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way (91)
13. Rez (Import) (91)
14. Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II (91)
15. Battlefield 2 (91)
16. Crysis (91)
17. Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay - Developer's Cut, The (90)
18. Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory (90)
19. Einhander (90)
20. TimeSplitters 2 (90)
21. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (90)
22. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (90)
23. F.E.A.R. Combat (90)
24. Portal (90)
25. Bangai-O Spirits (90)
26. Far Cry (89)
27. Max Payne (89)
28. Descent 3 (89)
29. Duke Nukem 3D (89)

Wolfenstein 3D is too old to show up on Metacritic, which explains its absence. As is the original Doom. I didn't hit Doom 3 at all in my walk through the top 50. Turns out it was a couple pages further down, with a rating of 88.

You'll also notice that Counter-Strike isn't on the list. That's largely because the version that people are still playing is a free mod, which puts it outside the scope of Metacritic. It's successor, Counter-Strike Source, does show up, with a rating of 88. It's hard to figure out a proper rating for these mini titles. You'll notice TF2 and Portal in the list above, although technically they could be roped under The Orange Box, which is how most people played them (a title which rates at a very high 96).

Duke Nukem is further down the Metacritic list than it is on ScrewAttack's, but I'm going to have to agree with Handsome Rob on this one. Duke Nukem was pure awesomeness back in 1996. It's elusive sequel is the butt of many jokes, but when that epic trailer hit in 2001 you know were excited. Hell, it still looks like it'd be fun.

But there's one place where I think the placement of ScrewAttack's list is way off, and that's for Half-Life. The PC is the prime platform for the FPS genre, and Half-Life is the best selling FPS on that platform (although yes, Halo 3 has sold more, but just barely). But ratings and sales aside, Half-Life for me personally is definitely #1. I know I'm a little biased, but I can honestly say that I wouldn't be where I am today in life without this game.

One thing I think is a little odd about the Metacritic list is that Metroid Prime 3 shows up as a shooter but Metroid Prime (one of the highest rated games of all time with an 87) does not. Having played all three of the Prime games, I'd have to say that they all are pretty equivalent in their shooter content. The Wiimote makes it easier to look around, but the core shooting mechanic still isn't the highlight of the gameplay. But it's more of a shooter than say Portal, which does show up. Bleh, all that genre stuff gets more and more muddled every day.

So what about my list? Ugh, that's hard. I think I can tell you this much:
1. Half-Life
2. Halo

I missed the whole Perfect Dark and GoldenEye thing. I was off in PC land playing too much Starcraft to care about early console shooters. Funny thing, Starcraft only averages a Metacritic score of 88, which shows you about how much weight to put in subtle score differences.

One of these days I'm going to crack down and list all the games I've ever played, autobiographically (High Fidelity style). Maybe then I'll feel like I've done the proper amount of introspection to present you with a solid top 10 list.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tabula Rasa On Hold

I quit WoW once I had seen all the sights I wanted to see and I knew that the rest wasn't worth the effort. I quit Lord of the Rings Online when I realized that the gameplay just didn't do it for me anymore. So why am I deciding that now is the time to quit Tabula Rasa? I've been totally digging this MMO. It's managed to turn traditionally slow MMORPG gameplay into something much more exciting. So if the game plays great, then what's the freaking problem?

As time passed playing Tabula Rasa, I began to realize that it was a really lonely game. I grouped up whenever there was an opportunity, and that was always fun, but over time it happened less and less. I started making it more of a priority, but the vast majority of my time was still spent solo. I think there are a couple factors at work here. One obvious problem is that the game hasn't been a smash success, and the population is on the decline. Spread the few players over segregated servers and level ranges and the result is that there are few people that you can actually play with. This is made worse by the fact that the traditional instanced group activities have zero replay incentive - loot is completely exchangeable in Tabula Rasa, so the only reason to run an instance is for the quest, and once you've done the quest there's no reason to return. So your only potential partners are people that are in your level range and haven't run the quest yet, and there just aren't enough of them. The fact that Tabula Rasa is lenient about group composition and travel is great, but it can't make up for a lack of players. It makes me feel guilty, because I know that me leaving doesn't make it any easier for the people I'm leaving behind, but the whole thing was starting to feel like a diluted single player game.

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem whatsoever with a single player game in a large persistent world. That's how I find myself playing most MMOs. But if you're going to survive completely on that, you need something driving you forward that's as powerful as a traditional singleplayer epic. Tabula Rasa is overall weak on story and environment (although it does has its moments). Towards the high 30s I ran into a long stream of lackluster content that just killed my mojo. If there was some social gameplay to distract me I'd probably keep on truckin', but without that there just wasn't enough to pull me through.

I can blame that weak content for my waning interest, but there's also a bit of a flaw in the character development track. Through the lower levels you are very involved in shaping your character to your play style, with your final class decision happening at level 30. That's a great moment, and after that you've got quite a few levels to break in your awesome new abilities. But after you've pumped some points into them and found your balance you realize that there's nothing more coming. You'll get more points to allocate, making your abilities slightly more powerful, but there's nothing significant that will change all the way from 30 to the level cap at 50. By the late 30s I felt like I'd already mastered my arsenal and had nothing to focus on next.

So it was that I found myself with no one to play with, no interesting story to pursue, increasingly repetitive environments, and no long-term developments to look forward to. Basically, the long-term appeal was gone.

So I've put my Tabula Rasa account into hibernation. I could go back and start with another class, and that does intrigue me. In fact, even after everything I've said above, just thinking about the game makes me want to play it some more. But I think I'd rather put this one on the backburner and see if the development team can flesh more things out in the following months. I hope they do, because the moment to moment action of this game is still my favorite for any MMO.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Saints Row vs. GTA IV

I was a little curious what kind of angle Saints Row 2 would take with regards to the elephant in the room that is GTA IV. I thought they would just put distance between releases and act as if their competitor doesn’t exist. Nope. Instead they’re releasing videos that make direct comparisons in a virtual gauntlet throw-down. Now as I recall the activities in Saints Row were actually really fun, but going head to head with the obscenely well rated GTA IV is pretty ballsy.