It’s high time to recommend y’all some video games for your holiday perusal. Oh, I know my opinions aren’t always appreciated by some of you, but therein lies the beauty: if you wanted “safe” and/or “popular” you could always watch Good Morning America. You know, “Golly gee, this is so much fun!” Balderdash, I say. Balderdash. So let’s get on with this.
Since video games, for whatever reason, now require hundreds of millions of dollars to create (excepting, of course, things like Minecraft), publishers are often obligated to release them for at least the PS3 and 360. That means, generally, that if you have only either a PS3 or 360 you should be good to go. You’ll miss out on certain exclusives, but then then it’s not like the PS3 is $600 anymore; the 360 is now cheaper than the Wii, too. (But then Wii has a spiffy red Mario 25th Anniversary edition this year, so…)
These, then, are multi-platform games that are worth your time. If you disagree, don’t.
Fallout: New Vegas (PS3, 360, PC)
How to put this… this is what Fallout 3 should have been two years. Oh, sure, Fallout 3 was good fun, but I wouldn’t exactly call the writing inspired, nor would I readily call it an actual Fallout game (just as I wouldn’t address a kid who dresses up for Halloween as Abraham Lincoln Mr. President). VATS is no longer rubbish, and even if you still hate VATS you could always aim using iron sights. Mainly you should get the game because there’s actual moral ambiguity this time around (as opposed to HMM SHOULD I NUKE THIS TOWN FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER?), and Yes Man is the single best character I’ve ever come across: “I was programmed to be helpful and answer any questions I was asked. I guess nobody bothered to restrict who I answer questions for… That was probably pretty dumb, huh?” Get the PC version if at all possible, then download the Darnified UI and Fellout mods.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 (PS3, 360, PC)
“Oh, look, a soccer game, how predictable.” Yeah, that’s right. I’ve long preferred Konami’s games to EA’s FIFA series (you could, of course, just rent both to see which one you prefer), but I will admit that the game is really only playable after downloading an option file so that you have real teams and not. You don’t want to play as London FC when you really want to play as Chelsea, do you? I thought not. PESEDIT.com is a good place to start looking. My copy is modded to the gills, so much so that I spent several hours on Saturday adding custom balls to the game. Hardcore, yes, but now I can play the game with the red-orange version of the Jabulani that they use in the Portuguese league. These, quite literally, are the things that make me happy. Anyway, it’s a fine, fine game. I’m already several games into my Champions League season (the game has full Champions League licensing, unlike FIFA).
Red Dead Redemption (PS3, 360)
I’d venture to say this is Rockstar’s best game yet. It refined what was good about the GTA series, got rid of some of the nonsense (you friends don’t call you every six seconds on your cellphone asking to go bowling, for one), brought it to a little-used setting, and did a pretty good job of making you, the player, identify with the main character. Now with zombies (if you’re into that kind of thing).
Mass Effect 2 (360, PC, with PS3 version due in January)
There’s a reason why this game is hovering at a 96 right now on Metacritic. That reason is because it’s great.
These are the games you can only find on one platform. There’s fewer and fewer of them these days, but they’re still kickin’ about out there.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
The first game deserved at 10, and this one does too, and it’s pretty much the “core” game for the Wii this year. Maybe Donkey Kong Returns, too, but that’s not out yet.
Gran Turismo 5 (PS3)
Yeah, this isn’t out either (at time of writing), but you’d be a fool to not expect this game to both A) be fantastic and B) be on every PS3 owner’s wish list this year. I feel like I really don’t even have to describe the game, with the name alone conveying everything you need to know.
Halo: Reach (360)
This was originally going to be Fable III, but then I realised that there’s technically going to be a PC version of that game. Yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it. But Halo: Reach is the best of this year’s trio of Very Important Shooters, the other two being Medal of Honor and Call of Duty: Black Ops. I understand if you’re 15 and you still think war is “cool” then CODBLOPS may hold some appeal, but I sincerely doubt that its multi-player is as refined as Reach’s. (Medal of Honor’s multi-player mode was already done earlier this year when they called it Battlefield: Bad Company 2.) Reach’s campaign wasn’t too shabby, either.
Civilization V (PC)
Does anybody not named GSC Gameworld make PC-exclusive games anymore? It’s a shame, since so much innovation usually happens in PC gaming long before it hits consoles. (Next time you frag your buddies in CODBLOPS or Halo: Reach be sure to thank id Software for inventing the entire genre.) I say Civilization V because, really, if you don’t like the Civ games you’re a madman, plain and simple. Honorable mention to Napoleon: Total War, too.
I’d also be remiss to not mention Good Old Games Dot Com. All old games, all dirt cheap, all good—great, even. I’d suggest the Baldur’s Gate games, Planescape: Torment, and the Fallout games. I know these aren’t new, but if you’re looking to go easy one the wallet and still want to give the gamer in your life a meaningful gift, yeah, this wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Motion control. Yes, I have to mention this even though I look at motion control much the same way Vanderbuilt must have looked at the automobile—with suspicion. I guess, I don’t know, if you’re keen to dance and then upload the video to YouTube then the Kinect wouldn’t be a bad investment. Namco’s Time Crisis was fun with the Move when I played it several weeks back, but I’d consult Greg’s reviews (Kinect, Move) to make sure you’re game.
Also, mentioned somewhere up there is the fact that Nintendo is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Mario this year, and they’ve released special edition Wii and Nintendo DSi XL consoles. If either system is on your wish list this year you might want to search those models out.