Currently Hurling Controllers / Mice At… Welcome to 2009 Edition

January 20, 2009

Fabulous Tapir PrizeWelcome to the first edition of Currently Hurling in 2009. There were no new releases in the past few weeks and the holiday break gave us some much needed time to catch up on whatever games we missed during one of the most cramped holiday seasons in recent memory. And since 2008 is now officially over and done with, we’re also taking this opportunity to pick our favorite games of the year. Some of the choices may shock and/or surprise you. Or not.

Ed ‘BongoBoy’ Stern (Senior Game Designer):
I’m anticipating that everyone’s going to say Fallout 3 was their GOTY. Admittedly, I spent as much time in the Capital Wasteland as in my own trousers but I’m still rolling around giggling at how great World of Goo is: looks, sounds, plays just wonderful. Kyle Gabler and Ron Carmel, you are Golden Goo Gods. Also, Little Big Planet was just fantastic and deserves to conquer the world. Right, now back to shooting things.

Richard ‘Rahdo’ Ham (Creative Director):
Over the break, really the only game I spent any quality time with was Prince of Persia, which I enjoyed, up to a point. But the whole thing got so repetitious, and with the lack of any real challenge at all, I kind of droned on towards the end.

Sorry, I know that ‘no death’ is the hip thing these days (hell, we had it in Fable 2, but it was supposed to be mitigated by the hard difficulty mode, which got cut due to time :)), but I think removing any sort of stakes from the experience changes a game into an interactive movie. That’s fine, but it’s not a game, and doesn’t play to our industry’s strengths. How much fun would chess be if no one ever lost a piece? Or poker, if you’re not betting real cash (or pieces of clothing)?

My game of the year… hmm, well, if you’re talking about which game I had the most fun playing, that’d have to be Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. You know what, I’ll go with that, as a karmic counter to all the “most disappointing game of the year” awards it’s getting, which are BS in my book. I don’t care about what the game promised to be, only what it is. But to be fully appreciated, it’s got to be played on the Sith Lord difficulty at least.

Runner up would be a tie between Army of Two and Left 4 Dead, both because of their great co-op. Slight edge to Army, I think, because it did a lot of really impressive things I hadn’t seen elsewhere.

Fallout 3Undeniably one of our favorites last year: Fallout 3.

Jared ‘jRAD’ Hefty (Senior Programmer):
I started playing The Force Unleashed last week and was amazed at how unpolished fundamental parts of the game are. The player is forced through the fancy animation system, which means that a good portion of a game that should feel fluid (in my very humble opinion) is spent ineffectively pressing buttons while your character finishes his stand-up or special attack animation. Another gripe I have is that targeting objects in the world (which you need to do pretty often) is based on where your body is pointed, rather than your camera, which really doesn’t work very well in combat.

Despite those flaws (and several others), I’m still playing. There are some wonderful grand environments and in between bouts of cursing at the TV there is a fun game in there. I get particular joy out of blasting enemies with Force Lightning, jumping into the air and raining down lightsaber doom from above. Let’s call it a love-hate relationship and move on.

My choice for most disappointing game of 2008 is Far Cry 2. I had high hopes, and the setting is lovely, but it’s just not terribly fun. Finally, ending on a high note, my Game of the Year is Fallout 3. I’ve played for almost 100 hours in total, and enjoyed every moment of it. Bring on the DLC, I say!

Neil ‘exedore’ Alphonso (Lead Level Designer):
Still playing the same games covered in my last update, but if you want my quickie Game of the Year, it’s Gears of War 2!

Steve ‘badman’ Hessel (Community Relations Manager):
In between family dinners and avoiding stray fireworks, I managed to work my way through the rest of Call of Duty: World at War. As expected after my initial impressions, it never really reaches the glorious cinematic heights of Call of Duty 4 and instead provides a rather constant onslaught of grenade-lobbing enemies and mostly passive squadmates. If you’re completely new to shooters, you’ll probably enjoy it, but the rest of you may not look upon it as kindly.

I’m continuing my World War II romp with Medal of Honor: Airborne, which is quite opposite to World at War in many respects. While WaW completely relies on the old and proven, Airborne tries several new things, including a first person cover system, strange health mechanics and more sandboxey mission design. Sadly none of these really work as well as advertised and for some inexplicable reason the team top it all off with 8 ft tall chaingun-wielding Supernazis.

In a year jam-packed with great releases, picking out a single Game of the Year is rather impossible for me. I would have to go with Fallout 3 and Fable 2 for joint single player GOTY, as they both provided extraordinarily enjoyable experiences and did so in remarkably different ways. Battlefield: Bad Company is my top pick for multiplayer GOTY – it’s an excellent and hugely addicting console interpretation of the classic Battlefield formula.

Star Wars: The Force UnleashedStar Wars: The Force Unleashed. Great or rubbish? The saga continues.

Paul ‘MoP’ Greveson (Technical Artist):
Still playing ETQW, plus the occasional bout of Quake3 Rocket Arena at lunch time!

Flavius ‘Flawe’ Alecu (Programmer):
I’ve been playing a lot of Guitar Hero World Tour, both with friends and family, but also by myself which is far less embarassing. The game is great fun and even the instruments are a slight improvement from earlier revisions. The tracks are well chosen but most of them are of the older variety. Not a bad thing, of course, but I guess I don’t really appreciate them as much as more mature players would.

I’ve also got my hands on a copy of Far Cry 2. The game doesn’t have much to do with the prequel but I did get the same feeling from the enemy AI. NPCs reacting to sounds, hiding behind trees and trying to flank you is awesome. But the obstacles that progress the story are so annoying at times (I’m looking at you command posts) that it made me put this game back on the shelf. And also, is there something wrong with my console or do the NPCs talk really, really fast?

Flawe’s Game of the Year Award: This one goes to Fallout 3. Ever since the first Fallout game I was in love with that post apocalyptic world. I was a bit worried that Fallout 3 wouldn’t quite make it to the same level, made by another developer and all. Turns out Bethesda managed to make the game even better than its prequels and that’s amazing. I never enjoyed playing a game so much and I never actually spent so much time in a game because I liked the characters, the places and all the things it gave me to do.

Aubrey ‘Bezzy’ Hesselgren (Technical Designer):
My game of the year is World of Goo. Even though I was already excited about it before its release, it still managed to surprise me. I probably didn’t end up playing it as compulsively as games like FallOut 3 or Castle Crashers, but then, it’s self knowingly not about tickling the addiction-center of the brain (while still catering to people who have a natural tenancy for Obsessive Completion Distinctions). Rather, it’s a fully explored mechanic, never out-staying its welcome. It has almost flawless pacing with bar-raising accessibility without compromising any depth or charm. This year has been the year of the indies, and I really hope that mainstream companies learn from the successes in the underground.

World of GooFact: 2 out of 2 game designers in this update love World of Goo.

Tim ‘Huntle’ Rose (Production Coordinator):
Saints Row 2 – Tearing up, and across, a city with a friend is immense fun, and the experience that pulls Saints Row 2 out of the “GTA clone bucket” and into the “Cup of Thug-life”.

Little Big Planet – Cute platform goodness not experienced since Super Mario Galaxy but this time in coop! It’s surprising how addictive and fun slapping a sack-person can be.

Left 4 Dead – Awesome zombie-fest with excellent coop, that demands you play as a team. Many late nights have been spent covered in bile, huddled in a corner with arms flailing…

Matt ‘Anti’ Lowe (Production Coordinator):
Despite not owning a PS3, I’ve not let that prevent me playing Valkyria Chronicles. The game is a tactical RPG set in a sort of alternate history version of Europe during WWII but with a massive leaning towards Steampunk (rocket launching medieval lances rule!). Sandwiched between the warring East European Imperial Alliance (ze Germans/Soviets) and the Atlantic Federation (everybody else), you lead the forces of the small neutral country of Gallia, which everybody wants to conquer because it is rich in a rare fuel, Ragnite (*sigh*).

The gameplay is a turned-based affair a bit like the old XCOM games, but from a Gears of War-style third person perspective and with a huge slice of rock-paper-scissors balancing; but most importantly, it’s hugely good fun! The combat is quite exciting and tense whilst the watercolour art style is simply breathtaking. The only downside is the slightly cheesy JRPG-style story and the lack of multiplayer (Why SEGA?! Why?!). Definitely worth a look if you like RPGs or strategy games.

As for my game of the year, I think I’d have to go for Trackmania Nations Forever. It’s just so much fun and really addictive in the same way the 100m in Track and Field used to be.

What have you been playing lately and what is your game of the year 2008? Let us know in the comments!