Holiday Gift Guide: PC edition

Posted: December 17, 2010 in HUD blips

As you may have noticed, I didn’t include a lot of shooters in my previous two guides.  There’s a reason for this: first and third person shooters simply work better with a keyboard and mouse.  There is no debate.  Yes you can get good with a controller, but it’s still an inferior input device on all fronts.  The majority of keyboards have over 100 keys, and while most games don’t utilize them all to their utmost potential, it still allows for a larger set of options for game mechanics to be hinged upon.  Never mind that anyone born after 1980 has used a mouse on their PC as it’s primary input device so there’s no real learning curve for aiming.  That’s why shooters will always be inferior on a console.  It’s not a troll, it’s fact.  Deal with it.

Since there’s really no car simulators on PC with fully licensed road cars and race tracks there won’t be too much of that in this guide.  Oddly enough the consoles have this market covered and I’m pretty sure we’ll never see a Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport on PC any time ever.  It’s pretty disappointing to know that a Microsoft Game Studios game won’t come to PC…  it’s pretty weird too.  So there’s no car sims on my list.  As you can probably tell from my opening paragraph, I choose to play shooters on the PC because they’re better on that platform and for no other reason.

The PC list

1. Borderlands (metacritic score: 81%, rated M 17+, $20 (new) $50 (GOTY))

Borderlands is a first person shooter from Gearbox software and 2K games.  Gearbox calls it a Role Playing Shooter, and they’re right on the money with that assessment.   Players can choose from four different classes and tackle the treasure hunting adventure on the dangerous world of Pandora.  The game is built in the Unreal Engine and takes a cel-shaded, almost concept art style that’s really a sight to behold.  The world is detailed and full of (mostly violent) life.  Pandora was a prison colony before being abandoned by it’s corporate holder so bandits abound everywhere for you to shoot.  It’s really a beautiful game ripe with replayability.

2. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (metacritic score: 87%, rated M 17+, $20 (new))

BF:BC2 picks up where the first one left off.  You’re Marlowe a member of Bad Company, a rag-tag group of soldiers who were simply too bad for any other branch of the military.  Apparently there’s a new super weapon being developed and your group of badass soldiers must stop the Russians from getting their hands on it.  Yes, the story is very cliched and not original in any sense, but the dialogue between your group of outcasts is really quite funny and makes up for any predictability the story may be comprised of.  The story will take you to many varied locales and settings including the arctic, the jungle and the desert of course, but the story is really just training for the true “meat and potatoes” of the game: multiplayer.  Unlike some other war themed FPS’ out there, BF:BC2 uses the Frostbite engine from DICE, which features nearly fully destructable environments.  This means that if you can’t shoot that sniper in the building, then you can simply take the whole building out from under them, using appropriately explosive weapons of course.  Multiplayer has a strong team focus to it with 4 distinct classes all designed to work with each other in 4 player “squads”.  There’s also vehicles like tanks, jeeps, ATVs and helicopters to pilot and destroy at your whim.  The multiplayer mode also supports an XP based progression sytem like other games of it’s ilk, but this system rewards support jobs as well as kills, so if you’re not quite the sniper you can get by by leveling your repair, healing or vehicle based combat skills and get ahead that way.  Truly an awesome game that should not be missed and the multiplayer should have a spike in players on December 20th as the “Vietnam” expansion hits then.  This game is worth it at twice the price.

3. Minecraft (metacritic score: none (game still in alpha), kid friendly, $15 (going up to $20 Dec 20 upon upgrade to beta))

Minecraft…  how do you describe this game?  As the developer himself writes on the Minecraft website:

Minecraft is a game about placing blocks to build whatever you can think up while being chased by skeletons and zombies… or something.

It really is hard to explain isn’t it?  The game was written in Java by one man named Marcus “Notch” Persson and it’s simplistic graphics belie whats going on under the surface in this game.  You start on a beach with nothing, then struggle to build a shelter before nightfall or the monsters will get you.  Start punching trees to claim their raw wood, then turn the raw wood into planks to build with, then turn some planks into a crafting bench to start making more complex tools like axes, pickaxes, swords, shovels and more.  Tools will break down as you use them, so you’ll need to collect more resources to build more.  It’s like LEGO, if you know, monsters were trying to destroy your work while you build…  or something.  Ah never mind, just watch this:

4. Just Cause 2 (metacritic score: 84%, rated M 17+, $30 (new))

Just Cause 2 is a 3rd person, open world, action game set in a South Asian archipelago called Panau.  You control an agent named Rico Rodriguez who is sent to find his super spy mentor.  The islands of Panau are in a state of upheaval due to the death of their beloved leader Papa Panau, who’s son Baby Panau has taken to leadership with an iron fist.  Rico must go undercover to the island as “the Scorpion” international gun-for-hire to cause chaos to the island nation’s infrastructure by blowing shit up.  The story is forgettable and is more than badly acted and predictable, but the game itself is too much fun to ignore.  There are story missions, but you’ll quickly tire of them as blowing shit up is so damned satisfying.  The real hook of the game (pun intended) is Rico’s grappling hook and parachute combo which take the laws of physics and throw them out the window in the name of fun.  Honestly I put in 3 hours the day I bought this game and easily spent two and a half of them flying around in vehicles blowing up oil fields and playing with the grappling hook and parachute.  It’s simply too much fun to pass up, even if you ignore the story all together.  It’s really what Mercenaries 2 should have been.

5. Amnesia: The Dark Descent (metacritic score: 85%, rated M 17+, $20 (new))

After the Resident Evil series turned into a third person shooter and less of a survival horror series with numbers 4 and 5 and Silent Hill being stuck in developer limbo for quite a few releases I was in the market for a new survival horror game.  I found it in an odd place, on Valve’s Steam service.  I hadn’t played frictional game’s first release, Penumbra, but I’d heard great things about it, but it was the trailer on Steam (and the 50% off sale, but still) that convinced me to drop my dosh on this game.  Boy was that a good idea!  Unlike other “survival” horror games, this one doesn’t pivot around the idea that all undeath must be, uhh, unkilled(?) but instead involves the protagonist’s best chance of survival:  the player’s own fight or flight reflex.  Seriously, the only way to survive if you meet a zombie or other horror is to run and hide.  There are wardrobes and closets all around for a scared player to hide in.  Everything in the world is an interactive object.  The player must open doors themselves by left clicking and dragging the mouse to imitate the player’s hand.  Light is required for the player to stay sane, either by lighting candles and lamps with a tinderbox or pulling out your trusty lantern.  Tinderboxes are limited items that you will find all around the game world and the lantern requires oil for it to burn.  Both items are scarce and tension is built through the sound effects, whether it’s your characters heavy breathing or the footsteps and creaking in the world itself.  It truly is a game meant to be played slowly and methodically.  Preferably in a dark room with headphones on.  Very scary and not in a “Boo!’ sort of way.

And that’s that.  Some fairly comprehensive lists for gift ideas for the discerning gamer.  There’s a flavour for everyone here and in my other guides so you can’t go wrong.  Hopefully these guides were comprehensive enough as this is my first time doing something like this.  I also had to include games I’ve played as I can’t offer an objective opinion without that experience so some awesome games may have been missed.  I wish I had enough time to play every game released this holiday but that’s impossible.

Happy holidays from SSBB!

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