This isn’t some epic diatribe into the depths of videogaming lore over the last ten years, more a personal account of what’s happened in the world of gaming since the turn of the millenium that meant something to me. Yes, the PS3 was born (alongside various other consoles) but there’s also been some standout games and gaming moments to reflect upon, so join me on my quest to try to jumpstart my memory into life as I recall, in specific order, some of my most treasured moments since the year 2000.
The big one, then. Yes, there was online gaming before this decade, but it only really sprang into life with the advent of Xbox Live. Microsoft’s first baby steps (I remember the original Live beta – when betas were betas and not some ridiculous PR tool) would grow into the giant that is the 360’s Xbox Live and also formulate much of what Sony would try to emulate with the PS3. The construction of Friend lists, the ability to see what your mates are doing at any given time, and, of course, save the universe together are all down to Xbox Live. Without that first lovely package in the mail (with an online version of Acclaim’s Re-Volt, no less) where would we be today? Would we still have TSA Meets, for example, 20 player matches of FIFA or 256 player first person shoot-em-ups?
Half Life 2
Before I go on – if you haven’t bought The Orange Box (regardless of format) you’re doing yourself a disservice – it’s wonderful. Now, assuming you’re at least familiar with the ongoing adventures of Gordon Freeman you’ll know why this game is in here – it’s not just a fantastic story (continuing on from the first game and with two additional episodes to play through afterwards) but it’s the way the story is conveyed that makes it stand out so much. Right from the off, every single cut-scene plays with you as the focus, the viewpoint never shifting from the first person perspective and thus never breaking that all important fourth wall. Naturally, the escalating madness, the brilliantly deliberate pacing and the wonderful Gravity Gun all contribute to one hell of a game, but if any title has shown developers how to create something long lasting it’s Half Life 2. And besides, if you do buy The Orange Box you get Portal too – and that’s probably one of the finest 4 hours you’ll ever spend with a video game.
My first Achievement was for doing something rather unremarkable in SEGA’s Condemned. I didn’t really know what it was that had just popped up at the bottom of the screen but I knew I wanted more of them. That, as they say, was history in the making and the appeal of upping your Gamerscore (or, of course, your Trophy count) is legendary with our very own band of Trophy hunters right here on TSA showing the rest how it’s done. Of course, I remember my first Trophy too back in July 2008 and although I’m personally nowhere near the level of most of our readers, that little ‘ping’ still holds some weight with me when I hear it. It’s the sort of system that I wished worked across all formats sometimes – the reason for a lack of points on the Wii still eludes me, for example.
Dreamcast, PS2 and Xbox 360. I have three versions of Rez, and the odd spare copy just in case. If you’ve got barely a passing interest in non-generic videogame design and a tendency to at least nod your head to electronic music, Rez warrants your attention. The initial two versions are obviously out of print now and go for decent sums of money on eBay, but the Xbox 360 version is 60fps, in high definition and sports 5.1 surround sound and is a perfect match for the 360’s controller. So, there’s no excuse. I’ve written essays on Rez in the past, some printed, some not, and it’s without a doubt the finest example of how to create a perfect experience. If you liked Flower, or even the odd on-rails shooter, Rez will take your preconceptions of what’s possible with vector graphics and shatter them all over your floor – to me, it’s perfection.
The Decline of Journalism
Peter’s blogged about this in the past, you’ll remember, but on a personal level the last ten years has seen an explosion in the number of me-too websites and blogs designed purely to garner short term gain and attention via the posting of spurious rumours and hit-baiting titles. Is TSA one of them? I’d like to think not, but whilst I’m sure we have our doubters we like to balance out the gossip with thoughtful opinion, a concrete community and a certain amount of personal blogging, with our trusted reviews rounding off the package. Regardless of what you might think about the likes of N4G the way in which gamers get their news has changed dramatically – if you’re not offering something different you’ll struggle to keep hold of your readership unless you work your arse off all day or join the ranks and push everything to the aggregators. It’s just the nature of the beast, but certainly ten years ago the web was nothing like it is today.
The PlayStation 2
I remember queueing for the PS2, brand new credit card in hand, and walking away with just the included demo disc because I didn’t have a penny over. That was enough, though, because I knew Sony wouldn’t fail me with the successor to the PlayStation and back then, after just pushing the wonderful Dreamcast into a ditch, the machine was unrivalled and unchallenged for some time. Sure, the machine took some time to get going but once the PS2 hit its stride it was unstoppable, despite the technically superior Xbox catching up on the inside. Metal Gear Solid 2, Ico, Wipeout Fusion, Gran Turismo 3 and 4, Grand Theft Auto III, Resident Evil 4, Tony Hawks Pro Skater 4, God Of War, SSX – the list of amazing quality titles just rolls off the tongue, and incredibly the console is still selling strongly, along with plenty of newly released games. Truly a powerhouse of a platform and obviously Sony’s biggest win yet. Let’s hope the PS3 can go some way to ultimately emulating its success.
Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker
I’m one of the series’ biggest fans, owning each and every version of every Zelda title, regardless of format (except those two, of course) and whilst I consider Ocarina Of Time to be Link’s finest adventure, The Wind Waker is (still) visually stunning, epic in scale and utterly packed full of charm and wit. To play The Wind Waker, from start to finish, is an annual treat of mine and there isn’t a single section which I find dull or poorly designed, something I can only say about a handful of titles – despite the game technically missing a temple and the latter third confusing for some, to me the whole thing is a delight and I’ve just set up the Wii in the spare room to ensure I don’t miss my 12 monthly trip to Hyrule. Even now, the game looks gorgeous, the cel-shaded visuals holding up strongly and the animation timeless. All good Zelda games start with small beginnings and end with a riotous crescendo and the Gamecube game is no different – truly one of the top five games of the decade.
Handheld Gaming Comes Of Age
Finally, those that know me personally will know that I spend far more time on my DS and PSP than the other ‘main’ platforms put together. It’s true that the Gameboy showed the world how addictive handheld gaming could be but in the last ten years there’s been some truly magnificent portable titles released that have held my attention far more than I’d have expected all those years ago. On the DS there’s entries in the aforementioned Zelda series, the brilliant New Super Mario Bros, the stunning Professor Layton set and a wealth of interesting, experiemental titles from Nintendo and the odd third party. But the PSP has finally started to catch up too and with the birth of the Go I’ve carried my PlayStation Portable pretty much everywhere I go and Sony’s final realisation that people don’t always want ports of console games has lead to PSP Minis and a rack of PSP-tuned stuff like Gran Turismo PSP. I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner for handhelds in the ’10s…
So, those are mine. Over to you…