Friday, January 30, 2009

5 PC Games You Should Play

Since I haven't finished anything to review lately, I figured I'd talk about games I've played in the past, and maybe expand it to cover different gaming platforms. And everyone can feel free to list their own five games in the comments (although I'd hold off on picking five games for other systems until I get around to it).

Without further adieu...

1. Neverwinter Nights - Bioware's original Neverwinter Nights is simply the best computer-game version of Dungeons & Dragons ever conceived, even over Obsidian's sequel. Sure, Planescape or Baldur's Gate might have Neverwinter Nights trumped on story (although NN's is nothing to sneeze at, especially the Hordes of the Underdark expansion), but NN uses D&D's 3rd Edition rules. And while the graphics are primitive by a lot of modern games, the Aurora engine holds up better than the Infinity engine that powered those older games. NN's age means that if you own a computer, you can probably play it, and the Diamond version (Neverwinter Nights plus its three retail expansions) can be found easily for $19.99, which is a steal because the expansions are as good as the main game, and nearly as long.

2. Portal - No, not Half-Life 2, and no, not Orange Box. Honestly, for a game as highly praised as Half-Life 2, I though that it was a boring mess of crawling through sewers and stacking boxes, bragging about its physics engine instead of being a fun shooter. Portal, on the other hand, is sheer brilliance. While it controls like a typical first-person shooter, it's actually a puzzle game. It starts off easy enough, but later levels require intense though and careful placement of portals. That kind of gameplay alone might have carried the game, but the game's dark humor and the impressive personality of GLaDOS, a computer who's the only character with dialog in the game, elevate Portal to must-play status. For $9.99, you really have no excuse not to.

3. Fallout 3 - My choice for Game of the Year 2008. Bethesda managed a miracle... retaining the dark humor of the previous Fallout games, porting the top-down isometric gameplay of those Fallout games to Oblivion's engine, and actually make it more fun than Oblivion. An instant classic... just as I'm still playing Neverwinter Nights nearly 7 years after it was first released, I hope to be playing Fallout 3 in 2016. For now, though, Fallout 3's a modern game, so while older hardware might run it, you'll want modern gear (or an Xbox 360) to really make the most of it. Also, due to its relative newness, Fallout 3 still retails for $49.99 (PC... Xbox 360 and PS3 users can still expect that $10 "next-gen" surcharge).

4. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords - Take a cookie-cutter RPG story involving the return of an ancient evil, retain the stat-building, leveling, and item collection of most RPG games, but ditch your average system for RPG combat, and replace it with Bejeweled. What you'll end up with Puzzle Quest. While that might (or might not) sound lame on paper, the RPG elements create a cohesion that transforms the Bejeweled gameplay from timekiller to obsession. As a plus, if your computer can run Bejeweled (if it can't it's time to stop using Windows 98 and upgrade already), your computer can run Puzzle Quest, which can be had for $19.99.

5. F.E.A.R. - Lame acronym aside, F.E.A.R might at first seem to be just another first person shooter in a market already over-saturated with first person shooters. A few minutes with the game will reveal it to be one of the better ones... it avoids the cliche space marines vs. aliens and Allies vs. Nazis that make up 75% of the genre, the AI is smart, and each gun, even the pistol, provides a sense of lethal power as bits of the environment fly apart under a hail of your gunfire. But what really moves F.E.A.R to the head of the pack is the way it blends its excellent gunplay with horror elements. Inspired by Japanese horror films like the Ring, F.E.A.R is a wonderfully psychological game. You will have visions of a little girl, and you will see the results of her supernatural handy work... but they're spread out just enough that they don't wear thin, but at the same time keep you on edge. As you wander a dark an empty office building, you'll start to wonder if that movement you saw was actually in the game or your mind playing tricks on you, so when you finally walk into an enemy ambush, you're actually glad for it, because in that moment guys with big guns trying to shoot you is all you have to worry about. While F.E.A.R was considered, like Doom 3, to be a graphically demanding benchmark sort of game when it was released, it's relative age is catching up to it, so even modest hardware (like a GeForce 6 series) can handle it pretty well. The Platinum Edition can be had for $19.99, which includes the original game plus the two expansions. The expansions aren't that great as they were outsourced to another developer, and are considered non-canon as far as Monolith (who developed the main game) is concerned, but for $19.99 the main game alone is worth it.


science412 said...

Portal as #2? Well, color me surprised!

Mike said...

Well, they're not supposed to be in any particular order. If you want to get technical, I think Mass Effect is a better game than Portal, but I think that Portal is a must-do thing for PC, whereas Mass Effect is more of an Xbox 360 thing in my mind, even though I own it for PC.