To introduce you to the team we've put together here at Push Square, we asked each team member for two PS3 games they considered absolutely essential. Here, Mark Reece from our European review team tackles murder in Rome and the streets of City 17.
Love it or loathe them, the Assassin’s Creed games are now as much a staple of modern gaming as bullet time and aiming at terrorists down iron sights. What many perceived to be nought more than a technically impressive crowd simulator with a few assassinations thrown in has blossomed into one of the finest gaming experiences of our generation, and a surefire way to while away 30 or so pleasurable hours every November.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is arguably the pinnacle of the series, following the continued Renaissance adventures of Ezio Auditore. The intuitive and simple controls of the series remain, so traversing the rooftops of the generously enormous city of Rome, engaging in open combat or performing those agile assassinations is an absolute cinch.
But where Brotherhood shines brightest is in the sheer wealth of additional content contained within, bolstering the already lengthy campaign considerably. Accomplishing every optional task isn’t as much of a timesink as Fallout New Vegas or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but the chance to partake in side quests to destroy Leonardo da Vinci’s war machines, overthrow the powerful and oppressive Borgia family or simply aim to revitalise the more downtrodden areas of Rome all await players willing to get lost in Brotherhood’s vast, seemingly organic and gorgeously rendered recreation of 16th Century Rome.
Brotherhood’s multiplayer is undeniably the Marmite of online gaming — it’ll either click with you or it won’t. Even disregarding the countless hours you could lose to hunting down rival players while attempting to remain hidden from those who seek to end your virtual life, the second act of the Ezio trilogy is a fantastic game and certainly worthy of a place in your PS3 collection.
Valve is held in the highest regard by millions the world over, having revolutionised first person shooters numerous times over the years by incorporating previously unseen levels of interactivity, as well as weaving stories into games that were arguably light years ahead of their peers. Nowhere are these two accomplishments more prevalent and evident than in The Orange Box, a compendium of titles that chronicles Valve’s works from 2004 to 2007.
Half-Life 2 and its two following episodes are the main attraction here, combining to form a 20-hour epic that sees series protagonist Gordon Freeman and a resistance attempting to flee the dystopian metropolis City 17 and discover a means of defeating the Combine, an oppressive alien empire that has enslaved the human race. Players are treated to intense firefights against intelligent hordes of Combine soldiers as well as seemingly futile battles against earth-shaking tripod-like Striders. But it’s the Gravity Gun and the impressive physics engine that are the stars of the show, combining to great effect in the form of taxing and cleverly thought out physics-based puzzles in addition to providing a formidable weapon.
However, there’s far more to The Orange Box than just Half-Life 2. Portal represents the pinnacle of Valve’s forward-thinking and ingenuity, seamlessly blending together first person action and mind-bending puzzles into a three hour romp through the abandoned labs of Aperture Science, while the omnipotent GLADoS keeps track of your every move. The use of portals to navigate through sadistically constructed rooms filled to the brim with devious traps and deathly pitfalls was a stroke of genius, encouraging players to constantly think outside the box: “now you’re thinking with portals”. Once it’s over you’ll likely want to play through again, as it’s truly one of the most perfectly executed, finely crafted, brilliantly thought-out games of this console generation.
Rounding off the package is Team Fortress 2, a class-based multiplayer shooter that provides the opportunity to get your tactical cap on and shoot online opponents in the face. Only through combining the unique strengths of its myriad of character classes will teams prevail over their opposition. The fast paced action also looks incredible, thanks to the J. C. Leyendecker-inspired cartoon visual style, which has Team Fortress 2 oozing the kind of memorable visuals and charm that no other FPS on the market can deliver.
And yet, even with the amount of sheer brilliance that composes its games, without a doubt the most remarkable thing about The Orange Box is that it cost the same as any other retail game on launch; subsequently, this already provided unparalleled value for money over four years ago, and can now be snapped up for a pittance. If you hold the FPS genre in any esteem whatsoever — be that single- or multiplayer — you’ll rush out and purchase The Orange Box immediately.