10 best games to obsess over
Michael Plant is chief editor and writer of gaming ezine and blog GamesCatalyst.com, as well as editor of 'The Independent'’s games review printed in the Saturday supplement 'Information'. Established in February 2011, Games Catalyst endeavours to bring its unique brand of fact and satire to the videogaming community and, in tandem with 'The Independent', hopefully turn a few non-believers on to gaming while we’re at it.
Monday 02 April 2012
We've all been there, crafting every item conceivable in Skyrim, building a bathroom in Minecraft 'just because' or replaying the same section of Metal Gear Solid 4 until we get through without being spotted (you know, like a proper spy). But where do our obsessions really lie? Here's a list of ten games which don’t just demand to be completed, but rather exhausted. Without further ado we give you: Obsession for Gamers.
When you go shopping and find yourself looking for good sniping points or claymore places, most people would think you’ve played too much Battlefield 2. Those of us who play however would probably want to squad up with you and go get some flags. Big, beautifully balanced maps and raw playability make Battlefield 2 a constantly revisited game.
Whether it’s flying jets and gunships, crawling through scrubland, or marauding along middle-eastern streets in a tank, there’s no shortage of scenarios to satisfy the combat urge. Rounds regularly exceed half an hour, so a game for both sides usually chews up an hour – and we all know that one go just isn’t enough. Coupled with long term-ranking points Battlefield 2 seals the deal on game-time monopoly with ease.
Warlords II was the first proper strategy game I got my teeth into, or perhaps the first that got its teeth into me. Being a Mac owner in 1993 meant you had about, ooh, seven games to choose from, so this little 256 colour gem was a welcome addition to my collection.
You took charge of one of eight armies of medieval knights, against up to seven other players, and had to charge around the map, across seas, rivers and badly rendered mountains, capturing other people’s cities and building up armies with which to, er, capture more cities. Ruins and temples could be searched, whereupon you would usually encounter trolls, steal their precious money and use it to reinforce your battalions. I always liked the Dark Knights as their ‘cities’ were just giant flaming skulls – not very practical for the occupants to live in. The Warlords series was overtaken by the advent of real-time strategy games and soon floundered, but it still has a place in my heart for battling away those rainy summers.
Sega Rally Championship
Fond memories of playing the arcade version for hours in a dark and smoky arcade in Llandudno led me to purchase Sega Rally for the Sega Saturn – what seemed at the time to be an almost perfect conversion, retaining the speed, the spirit and the soul of the original – not to mention the impossible handling of the Lancia Stratos. With only three cars and four tracks to play, the game’s longevity rested on the irrepressible urge to conquer your best lap times again and again, with your indecisive co-driver monotonously intoning ‘Medium right maybe’ making you murderous every time you misjudged a corner. Sega Rally was a driving addiction that held me in thrall for at least a couple of years, until the disc stopped working as the number of scratches carelessly inflicted upon it by my teenage self reached critical mass.
Also known as the ‘widowmaker’, Football Manager – formerly Championship Manager – has been swallowing weekends since 1992. The whiff of a once great – but now washed up – free transfer, who might also help nurture those prized youth players has proven too much for footie fans, who in their millions have missed meals and gone without washing just for ‘one more match’. And if it all gets too much, and things aren’t working out on the pitch (or at home) then the good news is that next season there’ll be a new version out on the shelves, and we can do it all over again.
That actual football clubs use the Football Manager scouting network as an extra means of tracking down the best and brightest of the beautiful game only confirms what we’ve all known for so long, that FM offers more than a game, it offers an incite into what managing your team might really feel like; well… kind of.
Nights into Dreams
A score-chasing masterpiece in the vein of classic arcade games of yore, Nights into Dreams embraced 32-bit technology in a superlative Sonic Team production that saw you flying at speed through a kaleidoscopic 3-D world. Set to an ever-evolving Darwin-on-Magic-Mushrooms soundtrack, high scores were achieved by seeking the route through the dream levels that would bring you the most links, achieved by collecting blue ‘Ideya’ chips, flying through rings and devouring enemies in your trail.
The tension that mounted as you finished looping and began racing for the base before the timer counted out, was matched only by the urge to have another go when you inevitably spannered it up like a drunken mechanic. With subtly changing environments, cute characters and a unique playing style, Nights into Dreams is still such an obsession of mine I even persisted with the abominable Wii sequel. That is until it became clear that it was akin to having not only drawn a moustache on the Mona Lisa but having given her a Mohican as well.
Final Fantasy VII
Sephiroth you rotter, you stole my youth! With your funky cape, anime hair and a sword which could cleave the world in two. I remember buying Final Fantasy VII three whole days before its street date, thanks to a dodgy games shop in Hyde, Manchester before showing it off to my uncaring mates at the bus stop. “Never ‘erd of it,” said one. Well, I had, having long finished an imported version of FFIII (FFVI if you’re Japanese) and needing more; needless to say I wasn’t disappointed.
So amazing was that opening intro – the train, the city, you know the one – that I actually restarted my PSX (as it when then known) just to rewatch it; I don’t think I’ve ever been wowed as much visually by anything else. Then there was the game, the amazing tale of Cloud, Aeris and yes, Sephiroth. I think (hope) I still have my final save game somewhere, one where I have not one but two golden chocobos and I’ve defeated every single ‘Weapon’ – in the immortal words of braggers immemorial: “Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough!”
Sensible World of Soccer
Publisher: Sensible Software
It’s a tough shout when it comes to which has swallowed more of my life, Pro Evolution Soccer or Sensible World of Soccer. I know which I became more invested with though, SWOS standing head and shoulders above PES in that respect.
I’m talking SWOS on the Amiga of course, the only version worth giving a damn about in my opinion. Two buttons, just two, enabled perfect control over everyone on the pitch, allowing Barcelona style one-touch moves to bamboozle the opposition. Then there was the amazing transfer system, not too complex, yet perfectly pitched with allowed me to build the team of my dreams; my forward line consisting of Batistuta, Ronaldo (the original) and Monsieur Cantona – oh it was beautiful! Thanks Sensible.
A long time ago a Quake 2 mod called Action Quake 2 came on to an early online scene. Its ‘die and that’s it, you’re dead until the next round’, team deathmatch perpetuated a following of stupidly addicted fans. Then Half-Life came out and slowly but surely, out of the fires lit by Action Quake 2 arose Counter-Strike, featuring maps like Dust, Siege and Assault which were to become legendary. Then there was the terrorist versus counter-terrorist stand-offs as bombs were planted and diffused or hostages rescued. All of which lent an extra edge to an already cut-throat game, honed by months and years worth of community feedback.
It is CS’s balance which truly impressed, honed by months and years worth of community feedback. That you were limited to just one handgun and one larger weapon, with guns having to be bought from accumulated funds was part of its perfection too. Oh the pain of being shot right at the beginning of the round and the shouts of “Rush, rush, rush” at the start of Dust where terrorists were best served charging straight to the bomb site – classic.
Street Fighter 2 Turbo
Just picking which Street Fighter to add into this list was tricky enough, such is the number of titles and my investment in pretty much all of them. Street Fighter 2 Turbo is the one that delivered everything I wanted in one package and will always hold a place in my heart for the fact I played it death while in holiday in the States before buying it over there for the SNES before forcing my dad to come with me from shop to shop looking for a US to UK converter when we got back home.
Ryu, Guile, Blanka, Chun-Li, those brilliant endings, Zangief’s dance with Gorbachev, hadouken, dragon punch, sonic boom, spinning bird kick – surely some of the most iconic names and moves in gaming. Then there was the music: to this day the ringtone on my phone is still Guile’s theme.
Death Adder, the scourge of Sega’s Golden Axe, was the bane of my life one long summer back in the early 90s. A local arcade was charging a measly 20p per go and I spent my every waking moment strategising, planning and contemplating my next excusion. The contest, with my best mate at the time, was to beat Golden Axe on just the one solitary 20p, no mean task I assure you. “Oh but if we could only stay on that dragon all the way to the end of the game, Death Adder would be easy” we’d lament. Then one day we managed it. Well my mate did, yes he beat me, but I was a close second, beating the game on just the single coin the very next day.
Golden Axe’s brilliance was many fold, the fantasy setting, the bold, beautiful graphics (for the time of course), enemies which screeched and turned to stone when downed and a subtle number of attacks including dash, jump and roll moves. Then there was the magic system, way ahead of its time, in which magic could be accrued so charging even more crazy attacks. I wonder what Death Adder’s up to these days?
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