May 10, 2013


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Going through my catalog of 60 or so games, I started thinking about which titles I would never trade or sell. Here’s the list!

The games that made the cut are those that I have the most fun playing and find myself constantly returning to. If you haven’t yet experienced these games, they are definitely worth your time. If you are new to console gaming, these titles should be among the first you add to your library. Either way, they are all back catalog options which means you can get them at a great price. Give them a shot and let me know what you think!

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Yes, it got a ton of bad press, so curse me all you want for having THE FORCE UNLEASHED on my list. No matter! Being a STAR WARS fan, I find myself popping this game back in my Xbox whenever I want my SW gaming fix!

The story takes place between REVENGE OF THE SITH and A NEW HOPE. The action revolves around Starkiller, Darth Vaders’ secret apprentice, whom you control. Things obviously don’t go as planned while you are jerked around between the light and dark sides of The Force…yadda, yadda. The story is actually pretty inconsequential and landed with a resounding critical thud.

What is important is that you have a freaking lightsaber and Force powers (yes, even as a Sith)! There’s just something oddly cathartic about using Force lightning to fry a stormtrooper or Force choking someone then lifting them in the air and tossing them to their death or lopping off a persons’ arm (or head) with a  lightsaber! All the Force powers are here and they are extremely well done. The game is also impressive graphically and uses the original film score, which any STAR WARS fan knows is a must.

THE FORCE UNLEASHED does have its flaws. The levels get somewhat repetitive and there is an extremely frustrating Star Destroyer sequence. If you’ve played the game you know what I’m talking about. Those annoyances aside, there’s just something about this game that keeps calling me back. 

THE FORCE UNLEASHED II is also available but the game is so short it should have been a DLC add-on rather than a full release.

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In RED DEAD REDEMPTION you play as John Marston, a former outlaw who is now seeking, you guessed it, redemption. This is a massive open world game from the makers of the GRAND THEFT AUTO series. It’s an absolute blast to play because there is so much to do.

The main campaign will take you 30-40 hours to complete and there are tons of side missions (including cattle rustling, duels and poker games). The combat is very easy to pick up and the "Dead Eye" feature, which essentially slows the environment down and lets you target multiple people at once, is one of the gameplay highlights.

RED DEAD REDEMPTION also integrates a very cool honor system which goes up and down based upon the choices you make while playing. This also causes the AI to adjust accordingly. Ride into town with a low honor rating and people run and hide, shops close, etc. Make positive choices and people are much more forthcoming and helpful. This feature increases the replay value of the game because you can change the outcome of events every time, depending on the mood you’re in!

If you’re a fan of open world games, check this one out.

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In BIOSHOCK you are Jack, a guy who discovers the underwater city of Rapture after crash-landing in the ocean. Built by tycoon Andrew Ryan, Rapture was supposed  to be an underwater paradise. That plan went horribly awry thanks to the discovery of ADAM plasmids. These little beauties give people superhuman powers. Unfortunately, they also fry brains. A whacked out populace eventually results in Rapture becoming a dangerous wasteland. Your mission: escape from the city.

Along the way you gradually learn what happened to Rapture and encounter the Little Sisters, young girls infected with the ADAM plasmids. They are protected by the Big Daddies; essentially men in diving suits on steroids. These baddies are well armed, with weaponry that runs the gamut from giant rivet guns to flamethrowers and a really big drill. Take out a Big Daddy and you then have a choice to make: save the Little Sister or harvest their ADAM, which kills them. Your decisions will dramatically change the way the story ends.

Combat is pretty standard, at least as far as weapons go (pistol, tommy gun, flamethrower, etc). What makes the fighting extremely fun is injecting yourself with different plasmids. Doing so gives you a range of additional powers; everything  from being able to set people on fire to putting things into a deep freeze. You will also need to arm yourself with specific plasmids at specific times in order to gain access to key areas and progress through the game.

Graphically, BIOSHOCK is stunning. The underwater city has a cool “Art Deco meets Captain Nemo” feel to it. This is a must have for anyone who enjoys a great FPS. You won’t be disappointed!

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I collected comic books growing up and BATMAN was one of my favorites. Unfortunately, most superhero videogames fall short and end up being little more than thrown together tie-ins for the next summer blockbuster. BATMAN ARKHAM ASYLUM is that rare exception. It is easily one of the greatest superhero games ever!

The action begins after the capture of the Joker. Batman delivers his nemesis to the Arkham Asylum only to discover that the Joker wanted to be captured all along. He takes control of the facility and sets the inmates free, a number of whom were put there by Batman himself. Now trapped inside Arkham, with the inmates literally running the asylum, Batman must fight to restore order using everything at his disposal. Weapons include his own fists as well as a host of great gadgets in that famous utility belt.  Everything from the grappling hook to various Batarangs are at the ready.

Gameplay is incredible. You can use a grappling hook for a climb to the rooftop and then go into "Detective Mode" via a filter on Batman’s cowl. This allows you to assess the movement of bad guys before attacking. You can then use your cape to jump and glide for a surprise landing behind thugs.

Facing down multiple enemies in hand to hand combat is also a blast. You can string together attacks with the push of a button and take the baddies out. It makes the combat seamless and gives the proceedings a movie-like feel.

BATMAN ARKHAM ASYLUM looks amazing. Particularly effective are the levels where Batman is injected with a hallucinogenic drug by The Scarecrow. What pushes this game over the top is the amazing voice talent of Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill, who steals the show as The Joker! Both did the voices for the animated BATMAN series and it was great to see them brought into the fold for the videogames.

The sequel, BATMAN ARKHAM CITY, is also worth mentioning here. Given a choice, ASYLUM is the hands-down winner. ARKHAM CITY is more open world and, while a great game in its own right, loses something by getting so big in scope.

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ALAN WAKE is the closest thing to video game version of a Stephen King novel. You play the title character, a successful horror novelist. During your vacation in the town of Bright Falls, WA your wife mysteriously vanishes. While trying to find her, you discover that the unfolding events are actually the plot of a novel you don’t remember writing. The town, some of its citizens and the local wildlife have been taken over by “The Darkness.” It’s a nasty predicament which renders those affected both insane and almost invincible.

Armed with a flashlight and various firearms, you must first burn the darkness away with the light. Only then will you be able to attack and kill your enemies. Sounds simple, right? Wrong! The flashlight runs on batteries and will go dead if you don’t keep your eye on the power meter and make a quick change to a fresh set. Not doing so means a pitchfork through the head or some other ghastly demise. This flashlight/weapon combo elevates simple combat into an immersive and nerve-wracking experience.

There are numerous twists and turns along the way. Given that most of the game takes place at night, there are also some genuinely creepy moments. The action is divided into six episodes, each with end credits and a “previously on ALAN WAKE” opening. There are also TV screens placed randomly throughout the game which, when turned on, show episodes of a show called “Night Springs." It's no coincidence that this the same show Wake was a writer on at the start of his career. The TV sets make for a cool pit stop and welcome respite when you need a break from being attacked by possessed town folk!

ALAN WAKE was critically well received but, initially, didn’t perform that well at retail. The fact that it was released day and date with RED DEAD REDEMPTION, a strategic blunder on the part of Microsoft, gets the lions share of the blame. Slow start aside, the game has amassed a major cult following and spawned AMERICAN NIGHTMARE, a recent DLC “sequel” that is worth buying! 

Rumor has it a legitimate ALAN WAKE sequel is coming with the next gen Xbox console. I hope this is true and can't wait to see where the story goes!


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