The Spalding and South Holland Voice’s Andrew Clucas writes about his love for video games, his favourite titles of all-time and his plans to review them both in the paper and online…
As a self-confessed video gaming fanatic, I’ve always felt that us ‘gamers’ get pretty short-changed in newspapers.
There seems to be a view that gaming is an unsociable and lazy habit. You often hear the odd crime blamed on an obsession with Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty, too.
But, for my generation at least, gaming is something we’ve grown up with. A quiet, harmless way to socialise with friends, or simply a brief escape from reality.
One of the things I was keen to bring to The Spalding and South Holland Voice’s entertainment section is a regular review of the biggest games of the week – or a least a nod to a hobby that is now hugely popular in Britain as we know it today.
And if I’m going to be reviewing games for you, I thought you’d like an insight into what kind of gamer I am. So, over the next few days I’ll share my top ten all-time favourite games with you, starting with numbers 10-5.
#10 Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007): It’s hard to believe now, but Call of Duty wasn’t always that big a big deal. That was, until Modern Warfare knocked it out of the park and created a global juggernaut.
Plenty of cynicism surrounds the annual ‘COD’ release these days, but nobody can deny that Modern Warfare was a game changer for the first-person shooter genre. Stealth levels, sniper sections and movie-like special effects are staples for all of the big hitters now – but this was the prototype for them all.
‘All Ghillied Up’ is a level that I’ll never forget. It was genuinely scary sniper section, with death almost certain if you made one wrong move. It’s probably the best COD level of all time.
And that Nuke explosion later in the game. Wow.
Nostalgic fact: Playing Modern Warfare on Veteran was an unforgiving experience – not only for me, but also my parents. Towards the end of the game was the level ‘Heat’, where you had to fight your way down a hill in a set time limit.
To put it mildly, it gave me rage. After dozens and dozens of failed attempts, my language became pretty colourful. It was probably the last time I got a good old fashioned telling off before I moved out of their house.
#9 Championship Manager 1997/98: For a large period of my youth, ‘Champ’ was the only game I really played. From about 1995 to 2010 I bought every single edition (now know as Football Manager) and invested a lot of my spare time into the game.
If I had to pick one edition out, it’d be the 97/98 edition – mainly because it was the first to introduce the data editor and let players loose on the leagues of nine different nations.
Loading up a Barcelona and Real Madrid or Inter Milan and AC Milan two-player Champ would always signal a weekend write-off for me and a friend.
Nostalgic fact: Nothing caused mates to fall out like a good Champ session. I once couldn’t bare to be in the same room as my good mate Greg when he beat me in a Champions League final, something we still laugh about now. It will always be the best multiplayer game for me.
#8 Super Mario All-Stars (1993): Has there ever been more value on one cartridge? It’s doubtful.
It’s the unique magic of Nintendo that they can re-package four popular NES games and release them again on the SNES with little or no updates. But we all still lapped it up.
I will always own a Nintendo, simply because the Mario series and its various franchises offer an unrivaled experience to anything else out there. Of the four games on this SNES offering, Super Mario 3 has always been my favourite. But Super Mario: The Lost Levels might just be the hardest platformer I’ve played.
Nostalgic fact: I realised the other day that I’ve now bought Super Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros 3 at least three times.
Having owned both on the NES, I still bought Super Mario All Stars on the SNES and then again on the Wii U’s Virtual Console this year. I’m not sure any other games in today’s generation of consoles will have that kind of lasting appeal.
#7 Far Cry 3 (2012): It’s hard not to smile when I think about this one. Mainly because Vaas, one of Far Cry 3’s two main villains, is among the most iconic gaming bad guys I can remember.
What a monster of a game, not only in sheer size and scale but in terms of quality.
Seeing protagonist Jason Brody devolve from a care-free American student into a cold-blooded killer after being stranded on the beautiful – but insanely dangerous – Rook Island was harrowing, yet enthralling experience.
Plenty of first person shooters have attempted the open world ‘desert island’ scenario, but Far Cry 3 is the best I’ve played.
Nostalgic fact: I almost missed out on Rook Island and all of its glory. Far Cry 2 remains the only game I’ve ever given up on after a few hours and taken back to the shops (Spalding’s old Woolworths, actually). I hated it, but it still got pretty good reviews elsewhere, something I was at odds with.
So, when Far Cry 3 arrived with another whirlwind of hype, I decided to give it a wide berth and thought nothing more of it. About a year later, I was in need of a game to pass the time before the new Splinter Cell arrived last year.
Two people whose gaming opinion I value urged me to give ‘FC3’ a go, so I picked it up for £10 from GAME’s bargain bin and gave it a whirl. That tenner is among the best I’ve ever spent.
6: Heavy Rain (2010): Now here’s a game that divides opinion. For me, Heavy Rain was an experience like no other. I’ve been gaming for around 20 years, but this story – and the way I as the player took part – was like no other.
Flipping between four differing characters, whose story arcs were affected by my decisions, I was determined to hunt down the Origami Killer.
I felt involved in the story – and I felt like I got the ending I deserved, not just the one the producers had given to me. I remember reading somewhere that there was a number of vastly differing endings, depending on how you played.
I’m not sure if Heavy Rain was the first game to bring that to the table, but it certainly did it better than most. Absorbing stuff.
Nostalgic fact: While you install Heavy Rain for the first time, you’re given an origami bird to make.
I’m far from a creative person, but for some reason I threw myself head first into this one and managed to do it properly…much to the amusement of my girlfriend Nikki, who laughed me out of the building.
We’d only just started living together too, so it was more than a little embarrassing.
#5: Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009): As a rule of thumb, superhero games are usually pretty poor. That was, until Arkham Asylum arrived. The game’s greatest strength was making you actually feel like Batman.
There was nothing quite like walking up to a crowd of 15 thugs and knowing they didn’t stand much of a chance of beating you.
Although the follow-up, Arkham City, was a vaster world, the original just felt like the start of something special and just pips it for me.
Mark Hamill’s Joker was a simply brilliant villain, while the game featured cracking cameos from all of the other chief bad guys. The most memorable for me were the Scarecrow levels. They were pretty trippy and felt like a different game altogether.
Nostalgic fact: I dodged Arkham Asylum for a year a two, mainly because of the above mentioned superhero stereotype. I also, bizarrely, didn’t rate the film Batman Begins when I first watched it.
But, having loved every second of the game, I went out and gave the film another shot. I really do wonder what I was thinking, as Batman Begins now ranks among my favourite ever flicks.
Numbers 4-1 will be online in the coming days. In the meantime, why not post your top ten games in the comments section?