10 Games I Loved With Predecessors I Didn’t

Sequels aren’t just commonplace in video games; they’re practically the standard. More now than ever, new ideas are risky so developers stick to well-worn themes and franchises to give them the best chance at keeping the lights on. The results are often disappointing, however. Going to the well multiple times, one may find the well dried up. At times, new teams are brought in who struggle to keep up with the vision of previous games, much less surpass them.

However, there are some games that completely overshadow their predecessors. They fix whatever was wrong or add tweaks to perfect the formula. These are the games I want to shine light on in this article. These are some of my all-time favorites, which are sequels to games I played but didn’t get into for whatever reason – be it design flaws or my impatience. Continue reading

My Sister Rules at Halo

“Girl gamers” have become a hot-button issue, in part for the very fact that girls playing games shouldn’t even be an issue. The talk goin’ ’round got me thinking of my own experiences, which I would like to share.

My half-sister Jenny came to live with me and my wife when she was 19. Shortly before that, she hadn’t even known I existed, but the wonder of social media fixed that – MySpace at the time, to give perspective. Jenny had gone through a lot in her short life, but remained sweet and smart and optimistic. Thankfully, her tough upbringing hadn’t made her fragile.

At that point, I’d been in the game industry for nine years. I have a pretty extensive game collection. Jenny immediately gravitated to Halo. Halo 3 (Xbox 360, buy here) had been out a year and a half, but its online community was still thriving. I had spent a few months in that community near the game’s launch, but I’ve never been good at online first-person-shooters. Jenny, on the other hand, kicked ass.

I would consider her an elite Halo player. Luckily, we were almost always assigned to the same team – thanks, split-screen and party system! – so I didn’t have to taste her fury firsthand. As I struggled to keep a kill-to-death ratio of 75%, Jenny had a way of finding her target with stunning accuracy while dodging bullets like mosquitoes.

I was the inferior player, and the stats often made that apparent. Still, Jenny always gave me encouraging words and tips, and was never the least bit frustrated at my shortcomings – even when my ineptitude caused our team to lose. Playing with her actually made me markedly better, to the point that I became a chip off the ol’ block.

Jenny did not receive the same encouragement from those we battled with or against, however. Her gamer tag was some riff on “Mad Skills” in all caps with lots of extra letters, and her emblem was always something feminine. Since she insisted on us wearing headsets (buy here) at all times, our fellow players got to witness her cute, girly voice. Basically, she made no effort to mask who she was.

As a big brother – especially one known to be a little intense – it was difficult for me to hear the venom being directed at my sister. Not everyone was detestable, and we did party up with some cool people. But with the rage of losing and the empowerment of anonymity, no word was too taboo to fling at this sweet little girl who had just headshotted them from across the map or meleed them from behind like a ninja.

It didn’t bother Jenny. In fact, at times I think she treated those words as trophies. She had been freaking homeless as a child; some bro’s butthurt insults didn’t rate.

Even still, as a gamer I’m embarrassed at the way we treat those who aren’t perceived as being a part of the majority. I rarely play multiplayer games myself, and when I do I tend to leave the headset in the bin. I don’t want to deal with either the taunts or the lamentations of my immature opponents – even though I’m an average American male. But petite, adorable Jenny doesn’t mind. She drinks their tears like nectar to a hummingbird then swoops back around for seconds.

What, me jealous?

Maybe my no-buying vow has colored my impression of new releases. Perhaps it’s a self-defense mechanism to keep me from being too envious. But really, there hasn’t been a new release this month that has really left me wanting. Assassin’s Creed III apparently takes out all the assassinating. Super Mario Wii U has a cool overworld, but I didn’t *love* New Super Mario Wii nor have I completed either Mario Galaxy. Halo 4 is even a mixed bag in terms of reviews – many knocking its campaign as samey with a Tron overlay. FarCry 2 pissed me off far too much for me to have any interest in FarCry 3, and the talk of its story elements being shock for shock’s sake isn’t going to turn me around. mind you, all these games are getting at least an 80 Metacritic score.

I’m on the last stage of Fire Emblem 2. It’s kicked my ass a couple times, to the point where I consulted GameFaqs. They keep talking about these magic spells that I’ve never seen much less have access to, so it may be tough for me to come out victorious.

I’m also struggling a bit with Persona 3, which I’m waiting to take a big step in the excitement department. Currently, my character is in the week before high-school finals, so my cohorts keep jumping ship and all I can really do is go to the library to study. That’s as exciting as it sounds. At least the soundtrack is dope.

I started Driver: San Francisco a while back, and it’s been fun. It’s a with-Kate game. I worried that she’d bore of the open world and race/stunt challenges, but she’s enjoyed it. I think the strange-and-intriguing story helps, as does the San Francisco setting – a city of which she’s very fond. Sticking with the car theme, we played a little Mario Kart Wii. I spent the time to unlock a few extra cups, but there are still 8 tracks we can’t yet access.

Everyone enjoy your Black Friday buying. Amazon, Steam, and even Capcom’s own store have already posted some great deals. Just remember to buy stuff for other people, and make sure to actually play the things you buy at some point.

Longing For My 1 Multiplayer Weakness

I’m a single-player guy, almost exclusively. Sure, I’ll rock some co-op with Kate – we just fired up some Mario Kart Wii the other day, her on the Wavebird and me doing it nunchuk/remote style because screw that plastic wheel – but I rarely do competitive. The AI, now they’re my rivals. There is one exception: Halo.

I got into Halo 2 multiplayer with a clan from Cheap-Ass Gamer and would play at least one night a week. It was much better playing with people who I knew weren’t total dicks. At least, most of them weren’t total dicks. Most were also better than me, but I started to improve. I also loved that Bungie kept an inordinate amount of stats.

For Halo 3, I rocked several dozen hours, but probably not as much as its predecessor. But Halo: Reach probably beat ’em all. The different load-outs and accessory skills meant you had more play style choice. And the replay videos were pretty dope, even if I mostly used them to expose bullshit kills that shouldn’t have happened. Of course, I played through the single-player campaign for all 3 games as well.

As I’m sure you all know, Halo 4 is out. Both Penny Arcade and Kotaku talked it up today in a way that made me long for those late-night deathmatch sessions. It would get me so pissed, but at the same time I’d have moments of success, of leading my team or having some noteworthy kills. But alas, Halo 4 is something I cannot have. Not for at least 11 months, if I stay true to my vow. I guess I’ll need to bust out some Reach soon; I hope there are still people playing, and that they’re not so good that I’ll be laughed out of the lobby.

Haaaail No, Halo 4!

I am anti-piracy, to Vanilla Ice levels (aka “to the X-treme”). I made a living off an industry that suffers from it, and I have good friends who are crazy talented who are victims of it. So when someone steals stuff, I get angry.

A Kotaku article got me to new levels of rage. In it, writer Evan Narcisse reaches out to people who have the balls to sell their pirated copies of Halo 4 on Craigslist. Some actually respond, and attempt to pass on their bullshit justification that helps them sleep at night.

I won’t waste our time addressing their crap, because it’ll just get me angry again. Suffice to say: Developers don’t make a lot of money, and selling stolen property is a very punishable crime (ask a former game journalist, busted for distributing stolen game code).

Not every game is worth $60, sure. But Halo games give you a ton of enjoyment in their packages. Halo’s Archives and Halo 2’s ending notwithstanding, I tend to really dig the single-player campaign. They throw a lot at you, and give you a “big battle” feel. And it’s probably the only game series where I’ve spent more time in multiplayer than single-player. The stats it tracks are amazing, and online is such a smooth experience. If I wasn’t currently in the throes of a game-buying ban, I’d gladly drop $60 (minus $10 credit) to pick up Halo 4.