There was a time when gaming itself was potentially an embarrassing thing to do. Those days of hiding in your bedroom, pulling those curtains shut and firing up your copy of Baldur’s gate II or, if you’re old enough, Desert Strike, then gaming into the hourly hours before waking up spring stepping to your mates and mentioning nothing. It felt bizarrely wrong.
Okay maybe it wasn’t that bad, but you’ve got to admit it gaming was kind of cult like back then, now though it’s a different story – everyone plays games. However, that doesn’t rid guilt from gaming; it just means there’s more obscure content, and Kinect, to be guilty of experiencing.
So, now that there’s a few more of us in the club and we live in a more revealing world I’ve managed to find the courage and share a few of my favourite with you, and all I expect back is mercy. Well here it goes; here are ‘10’ of my guilty gaming pleasures.
Too Human (Xbox 360)
Hype! That was the big killer of this game. Too Human was by no means a ‘bad’ game, it just wasn’t the result of the extensive marketing, exclusivity and the continued delays that followed the release of it. And that’s not even mentioning its aftermath, the apparent sequel that was meant to follow it, 2008 the original game was released and we’re still meant to be getting another one? Thankfully I managed to snap the cord of hype attachment and jump into it with, pretty much, no pre-existing knowledge.
Too Human was a repetitive, cheesy and slightly outdated Diablo inspiration that made welded the highly interesting idea of science fiction and Norse and made it boring, but man did it have loot. Any true dungeon crawler fan loves finding chests and killing dudes to have them crack open like a piñata and spray with colourful goodies, its RPG gaming tradition. Too Human understood that need and offered it in bucket loads, too much if anything. And like its Diablo ancestor, they had their coloured indicators for rare, set and common type items, which was just the cherry on the cake for us loot lovers.
The combat introduced a good idea and was fun too, for a while. It worked on a juggling mechanic making you fight several enemies at once instead of just focusing on individual. You’d use the left analogue stick to skid around the battlefield and then the right stick to use your weapon. And the faster you’d do this, the bigger the combo and the quicker you’d take out your enemies. It was satisfying, just a shame that was all you really did.
The variety of loot was impressive and how it looked on each character type, as there were different class types to choose from, had an extravagant metallic quality that looked completely over-the-top yet pretty cool at the same time.
Too Human was just one of those games that I just wanted to love, but instead tolerated the cringe worthy and dull story and environments to just smash stuff with my epic Thor like hammer, yea, I’m not too embarrassed to admit that.
SWAT Global Strike Team (Xbox & PlayStation 2)
I will be surprised if anyone knows this awfully flawed gem. Actually, it was a more of a tarnished topaz if anything, basically put; this was a very mediocre game.
SWAT Global Strike Team is by no means a game you should buy. It’s a bad Rainbow 6 rip-off that is way too cartoon like for its own good with one unique gameplay feature, being able to force your enemies to surrender via the power of shouting. Yes, continuously pressing the “SWAT, drop your weapons!” order button you can make your highly persuasive enemies fall to their knees dropping their weapons. Then you could go up to them and slap hand-cuffs on, brilliant! There was even a little bar above their heads to see how close to giving up they were.
The rest of the game was a familiar trek of ordering AI teammates to breach doors, saving brain dead hostages and clearing very poor terrorist filled rooms using as little ammunition as possible. Although split-screen co-op was also a feature and that made the ordering doubly hilarious.
That’s the only reason this game is on this list, because that ridiculous feature was just so fun to abuse.
Dynasty Warriors Gundam 2 (PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360)
This guilty pleasure award could have gone to any of the Dynasty Warriors games after the third, that’s when for me they started to become exploitative and deceiving of their iterative number next to their title. However, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2 happened to be the game I played a lot of for coverage purposes and had been a spark of nostalgia from my good old Dynasty Warriors 3 days. The days of jumping on an elephant and rampaging through mindless circling spearmen pretending to rescue my co-op partner, they’ll never be replaced.
That and also Dynasty Warriors: Gundam is such a detached spinoff thematically it’s hilarious, yet they’ve managed to create a game that plays almost identically to its Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors brethren. Actually, that’s an exaggeration some levels do take place in space, on an invisible square, single plane grid.
This series has gone past the point of absurdity that it’s actually funny another can be made and still generate substantial sales for then another to be created, the core fans are committed and Koei are respecting that commitment. Non fans who were fooled once again should be guilty – my hands are red.
Singularity (PC, PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360)
Some games rip-off others in an exploitive way that makes it completely wrong, others do it in such a blatant way that it’s somehow forgotten about. Singularity is the latter type.
BioShock has been such a highly respected game it’s odd that not too many other games have tried the semi-puzzle oriented, atmospherically driven, customisable super power type FPS hasn’t been done to death yet. To be fair BioShock did take a few creative inspirations from System Shock 2, probably part of the reason why Singularity gets let off the hook.
Singularity is an atmospherically driven FPS that also deals with ‘what if’ cold war scenarios and time travel, yet it pulls this otherwise very common premise with such style that I found this game enjoyable from start to completion. Singularity is so like BioShock it contains single handed biotic upgrades in the form of a time manipulating wrist device and has randomly placed cassette players dotted about for you to catch up on back plot. But this is fine as Singularity’s weapons are far crazier, like the ability to zap enemies and make them move in slow mo and guns that allow you to manoeuvre bullets as they’re fired.
I wouldn’t recommend this game as a purchase, but to rent to see what a BioShock total conversion mod might look like I’d totally understand.
Titan Quest (PC)
If someone had said to me after the release of Divine Divinity that it was just a Diablo clone I might have responded with ‘there can never be enough Diablo clones’, I don’t think I could say that now.
Titan Quest was the breaking point for me and many others. This game is a 3rd person, bird’s eye view, hack & slash loot driven RPG. It played almost exactly like Diablo except it featured ancient Egypt, Asian & Greek settings and all sorts of related mythical monsters. It’s essentially Age of Mythology meets Diablo II, which sounds amazing and it did look good, visually, it just lacked… character.
This is a very guilty pleasure as it came to me at a time when there were very few RPG’s and a hideously average dungeon crawler just had to do. It had loot, character progression – boring and uncreative progression, but progression nonetheless – and plenty of cannon fodder to test my newly found weapons out on. I admit it; it sufficed the disgusting item hoarder in me.
Thankfully we now have decent dungeon crawlers like Torchlight available and Diablo 3 ‘sometime’ this year so there can be no excuse.
Spider-Man: Friend or Foe (PC, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Wii & Xbox 360)
Spider-man has to be one of the world’s most favourite superhero’s, if not it’s definitely Activision’s and it’s my 2nd favourite hero so I had to pick up at least one of the 10 million Spider-man games existing, it just happened to be the very lifeless and pointless one of the 10 million.
Spider-man: Friend or Foe takes its name from its paper thin story; a mysterious enemy is mind controlling all of Spider-man’s usual villains, Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Sandman and Venom. As you defeat each one you rescue them from the mind control earning their aid to reveal and defeat this undisclosed villain and its army of Perpetual Holographic Avatar Nano-Tech Offensive Monsters (or PHANTOMs). Otherwise it’s a Streets of Rage like beat-m-up.
The guilty pleasure lies in its simplistic brawl like nature, and the fact that it was mindless button mashing with split-screen co-op and Spider-man. It’s not a proud inclusion to my list of played games, but if you have a partner who finds a controller cumbersome then it’s perfect.
Battlefield 2: Modern Combat (Playstation 2, Xbox & Xbox 360)
The Battlefield series is cherished due to its mastery of the large scale multiplayer and its consistency with it in every release, all the way up until its first console appearance. This is not judging Battlefield 2 Modern Combat as a terrible game, it was a solid and enjoyable online oriented FPS and definitely recognisable as a Battlefield game, however, its downsized player count, map size and lacking customisable options did oppose Battlefield’s core attraction, which is its sense of scale.
However, I managed to look past these setbacks and revel in its wacky unexplainable character jumping feature in Battlefield’s first ever singleplayer mode. This was the ability to fly out of your currently controlled character and in to any visible AI controlled team player to then take control of them, this also happened when you died automatically as if your soul was transferred from one body to another. This is from a series originally centred on real world conflict and realistic war scenarios, so it didn’t quite make sense why this was here but I, probably one of the rare few, loved it even if it was absurd.
Virtua Tennis 2009 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Wii, iOS)
Virtua Tennis is one of the many sports series that rely on annual iterations and improve fairly rudimentary inclusions. Virtua Tennis 2009 is a prime example here boasting minor features like a weather system with moving clouds and a redesigned menu style.
To give it its due there isn’t really much you can creatively do to a working game of tennis, I think that’s why mini games were included.
Not introduced to 2009, although it did boast improvements, the mini-games are so out of place and random you can see they’ve really tried here to turn Virtua Tennis into something more than just hitting a ball back and forth. How about hitting a ball against a Tetris block of shapes for high points? Or dodging giant tennis balls being poured from a back of a dumpster truck? Or even hitting fake cannon balls back at pop-up pirate ships? These are the kinds of mini games you will find in Virtua Tennis 2009, they’re really dumb, almost cringe worthy to play, but at the same time funny as anything making it an easy addition to the guilty pleasure list.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Nintendo DS & PC)
I don’t think I could even call upon one movie tie-in game that I could recommend, unless Batman Arkham Asylum and Arkham City counts. As soon as a big movie comes out and you see a game with a similar name then that’s pretty much something you should avoid. The point I make is that these games aren’t even produced to be good, as they needn’t have to be, their movie relation sells it for them.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is no different here and this is not a commendation for public consumption, this game is on this list because it was the easiest achievement grab I’ve ever experienced.
Now, this isn’t a justification for purchasing games just for their achievements either. Achievements are a cheap way of lassoing the player in to buy the game and can be easily exploitable for uncreative challenges, however, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian might break the record for the shortest period of time between several achievements unlocks. That satisfying rain drop achievement sound – and it does sound like a rain drop, to be specific probably a leak drop hitting an enclosed rounded surface, like a bowl – happening that many times in a row and bolstering my otherwise pitiful score by about 600 in just 3-4 hours. That has to be a guilty pleasure for anyone.
The Outfit (Xbox 360)
Despite my wide ranging list of shameless guilty pleasures nothing really beats my illegal love for The Outfit. A WW2 themed 3rd person action game that relied upon called in arsenal earned from defeating enemy units. It is a game all about destruction and mayhem, with a ‘hint’ of strategy thrown in.
It was the first console game to come from Relic entertainment and, to be expected, it was littered with flaws. It’s a very clunky and unwieldy game to play, even controlling your character felt like shifting a wheelbarrow which is rather unfortunate for a game with a lot of control options at hand. It was mostly linear defying its tactful approach. It was unbalanced, you had a variety of guns and vehicles you could call in but all you really needed was the tank. The AI was also a bit witless on either side making strategy even more pointless.
To put it simply, it’s a game that unintentionally became about solely blowing stuff up, and Mercenaries did it better. I, however, enjoyed almost every second of it. Even when you didn’t have to use strategy I just enjoyed setting up choke points of air dropped turrets, building up stacks of points, sending in as many air strikes as I could muster and then rolling in guns blazing to finish any remnant lackeys.
It had its own destruction engine, too. Every bit of scenery could be destroyed, and even though everything looked like and fell apart like Duplo it didn’t really matter as the game was ludicrous anyway.
The Outfit was a fundamentally flawed game and you could tell it was developed by a company used to top-down strategy games; it was just ironic that they couldn’t involve any clear strategy with this one, but everything it didn’t become made it something that I liked to play.