Feature: Games of the Generation - Jamie's Five Favourites
Posted by Jamie O'Neill
Welcome to Push Square’s all-encompassing Games of the Generation series. In the lead up to the PlayStation 4’s release later this week, we’ll be rounding up our writers in an effort to look back at some of their favourite PlayStation 3 games. These titles have been hand-selected personally by each individual author. This time, we're looking at Retro Editor Jamie O'Neill's, er, quite modern selection.
Seven years is a triumph, and a respectable length of time for a console cycle. I actually first owned the PS3 on its UK release date of March 2007, so it’s only been six and a half years for me, but this is still one of the longest console cycles that I can remember. This durability made choosing only five of my favourite titles an even harder task. Sony's console is clearly neither burning out, nor fading away, and the seventh generation of console gaming has entertained me beyond measure. I own almost 100 boxed retail games, and I’m on my way to amassing well over 100 titles on the PlayStation Network. If the PS4 is the fresh young upstart, then it could learn oodles from the critical software success of its wise older brother.
My first choice could just as easily have been given the title ‘Naughty Dog on PS3’, because the Uncharted trilogy is truly worthy of its own place in my top five. However, in the interests of variety for this list I’ve chosen the team's most recent offering, the seminal The Last of Us. Rather than describing the impact and tension of sneaking past vicious adversaries, or the way that the game mixes natural beauty with monstrous horror, I’ll instead explain how this title impacted upon my household. My 60GB PS3 buckled from the graphical demands of The Last of Us, and it crashed on regular intervals, which became worse the further that I journeyed through the game. My girlfriend didn’t pick up a controller, but she became absorbed in every moment of its story and gameplay as a viewer, like she was watching a gripping movie. Just as I was about to concede to the weariness of my ageing machine – three-quarters of my way through the main single-player game – it was my girlfriend who found an external fan to cool my PS3. Thankfully, we could both share in the ending of this outstanding game. The Last of Us is captivating, and extraordinarily accomplished – it’s the type of game that even a spectator doesn’t want to miss.
My very favourite games of all time are side-scrolling 2D run-and-gun titles from the 16-bit era, and the speed and frantic sci-fi feel of Vanquish reminds me of the golden days of Konami’s Contra III: The Alien Wars and Treasure’s Gunstar Heroes. The brilliantly named Augmented Reaction Suit has value beyond a snigger inducing acronym. It enables you to manage the chaos by sliding around the gleaming environments, or it allows for a massive speed-boost that makes the game feel like its slowing down time, so each mechanic is expertly balanced for battling against humongous transforming robots. I think the greatest compliment a gamer can bequeath on Platinum Games is to note that as a studio they convey the same creative and frenzied sense of fun as Treasure. The eye-popping pacing of Vanquish epitomises this comparison from my perspective as a fan of unconventional and stylish Japanese video games. Even its lenticular sleeve-box cover and its title select screen were incredibly cool.
I’ve enjoyed video games starring Batman for almost 25 years, since Ocean Software’s 1989 Amiga game, and Sunsoft’s Mega Drive title in 1990. Batman: Arkham Asylum is particularly gratifying, as in a similar way to Retro Studio’s unforeseen craftsmanship on the original Metroid Prime, Rocksteady Studios caught me off-guard with the talent that they lavished on this adventure. I’m also a fan of Batman: Arkham City, but I find the confines of the Asylum and its surrounding areas to be more suitable to tight Metroidvania gameplay and investigation based around gadget upgrades, rather than the widespread and loose scope of the city. The first game has a stronger plot in my eyes, especially considering the Scarecrow sections, and I find this gives it a darker story tone, even if Arkham City infected the Dark Knight with a lethal disease. The image of Gotham City blanketed in snow amidst the glow of festive lights has been vivid since Batman Returns on the SNES, so Batman: Arkham Origins is a fitting game to play during Christmas time. However, it’s Arkham Asylum that compacted the grappling between stone gargoyles, exploration detective work, and brawling together most effectively in 2009.
The PlayStation Move controls are underrated in this game, and they elevate the gameplay experience for me. Motion controls boost Killzone 3 by adding an arcade feel, especially if you experience the first-party wizardry of Guerrilla Games pushing the PS3’s visual prowess on a 50” television. Killzone 3 with Move controls is a triple-A sci-fi shooter to complement the Japanese bombastic-ness of Vanquish. Killzone: Shadow Fall is being praised for delivering visual variety to locations in the series, but its predecessor had already expressed this with treacherous Helghan jungles, jetpack snow sections, and a space opera finale. In this respect it feels like a direct homage to the first game, and it’s Killzone 2 that’s predominantly responsible for resigning the series to a reputation of concrete greys and dusty brown landscapes. Even the obnoxiousness of Rico Velasquez is toned down slightly, although the gung-ho muscle-headed military aggressiveness of the characters is just as unsophisticated as before. The motion controls also worked well in BioShock Infinite, which is a game that very nearly usurped Killzone 3 to be included in this list. Despite this, I chose the weightier feel of Guerrilla’s graphical powerhouse, because it’s a solid example of a platform exclusive, which is underappreciated outside of the PlayStation community.
This is the highest calibre of open world gaming to me, because I find the western historical setting to be far more unique and appealing than a crime infested city. I’d relished a few Wild West video games in the past, the bright cartoon presentation of Sunset Riders on SNES is one example, but it’s Red Dead Redemption that evokes the grittier atmosphere of films like 3:10 to Yuma and Unforgiven. The time period of Rockstar’s game was perfect at conveying the last wild gunslingers being swept away by the winds of modernity, and the map was clever at depicting a variety of backdrops beyond dusty desert plains. Travelling south across the San Luis river to Mexico was memorable enough, but it’s the north east town of Blackwater and the nearby Tall Trees area that provided the most striking and unexpected visual contrast. I remember discovering a sense of pride from bestowing John Marston with a sense of honour, and I was genuinely disappointed when the sandy coated horse that hauled me through the majority of my travels became lost in a reckless bandit skirmish. Galloping across the country as the heavens opened to leave Marston rain lashed and sodden, felt as free and unfettered as riding Epona across Hyrule Field for her first canter in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Do Jamie's selections speak to you? Are you a fan of any of the abovementioned games? Join the discussion in the comments section below.