Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The 25 Best Playstation 2 Games I've Ever Played: 20-16

Yesterday's list had some star power, gunplay and explosions, auto racing, hand to hand combat and Wookiees. I would definitely call that an auspicious start.

Remember the two general rules I am following for this list: 1) No Sports Games (Motorsports are the exception) 2) Only one game per franchise.

What games made the cut for this level? You'll have to read to find out.

20. Secret Weapons over Normandy: Another Lucasarts entry, one which follows in the footsteps of their masterful World War II air combat games from the late 1980's and early 1990's, a series which culminated in a game called Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe. The premise of this game is that an American pilot named James Chase volunteered to fly for the RAF before the United States entered the war and because of his skill, he became part of a secret squadron called the Battlehawks which engaged in dangerous missions against the Axis, no matter the theatre. This means that there are missions not only in Western Europe (which the title indicates), but also over the skies of North Africa, the Russian Front and even in the Pacific. Of course, the title also mentions secret weapons, and as the game progresses, you end up facing German prototypical weapons and flying Allied planes of the same caliber, some of which seem like they might have just been on the drawing board, which makes some of the dogfights unreal, but very cool. In terms of physics, this is a game designed for a more casual fan base, one which appreciates fun more than accuracy, which fits me to a tee. Over the course of 15 campaign missions and around 20 optional ones (which have benefits of their own), a neat little tale of Allied derring-do is constructed, with a lot of variety of objectives to pursue. I still remember the apprehension I felt during the first mission Me 262s entered the fray, and upon seeing some of the even more advanced models that didn't reach production. I will admit that it isn't a perfect game, but it is enjoyable for what it is, and I respect the effort. And I should mention this because it came up in the comments from the first entry in this list... Michael Giacchino did the soundtrack for this game as well, so you know that part is excellent. I would even be willing to say that this game was the underlying influence for another series for the next gen systems called Blazing Angels, but I can't prove that.

19. Sly Cooper 3: Honor Amongst Thieves: The best way I can describe this game is if you imagine someone took the spirit of Ocean's Eleven, and then wrapped it up in cel-shaded graphics. Oh, and made every character an animal. I think that just about covers it. A great 3D platformer with a light sense of humor, Sly Cooper 3 showed remarkable polish and had great style... but I shouldn't have been surprised, as it is what I would expect from a game about a gentleman thief. It is a game that stands on its own, as any relevant information from previous installments is revealed to a new player when needed, so you are never left wondering why something is happening or what the relevance of a reference is. The simple synopsis is that Sly Cooper must infiltrate an island which contains his family's vault (which the video link at the beginning of the entry already explained). But it is on an island which is controlled by a mortal enemy, so he must enlist the aid of thieves and masters of various disciplines from around the world to help him succeed, some of whom he has had run-ins with in the past. And because these characters are being recruited for their various skills, they each have their own missions within the various stages of the game, so there is a lot of variety in terms of gameplay. As someone who is drawn to literary and cinematic con men and thieves, I also enjoy watching the schemes fall into place. And like #21 on this list, Brothers in Arms: The Road to Hill 30, this game also starts the action near the end and then gets you up to speed on how events unfolded to get to that point, and upon playing it a second time, the whole sequence makes a lot more sense. Some people may not like cel shaded games or might think because all the main characters are animals that it might be for children, but there is a little bit of an edge to the story, so it is more than appropriate for adults.

18. ATV Offroad Fury 4: I picked this game up on a whim one night at a local video store, and I was instantly hooked. I didn't think I would love offroad racing, but somehow, this really won me over in the best possible way. This was a game that also made me reconsider an element in motorsports games that I didn't even know was missing until this point -- narrative. It wasn't an epic story line mind you, but like The Dude's Rug and its effect on his apartment, it really tied the whole thing together, so there was a reason beyond just the sheer pleasure of racing. And the racing was indeed divine... slightly arcadish with physics that were a little loose without feeling too flighty or unresponsive, allowing you to make decisions on the fly without messing up (and fly is the right word for it because there are some spectacular areas in this game where the terrain really gives you some hang time). My favorite type of racing was Point to Point, which I think would have been the ideal basis for a game on its own with its myriad paths and utter insanity with all kinds of different vehicles competing on the same course at the same time (and with all the places where paths crossover, there is a lot of potential for collisions and close scrapes). I appreciated the variety of events, because even though dirt and mud are the general motif, most of the tracks have their own character and charms (as well as at least one point that will frustrate you if you are on a vehicle that allows for dramatic, rider-launching crashes). And while I am generally not a fan of stunts and such, this game also has those as a prominent feature, which includes events specifically designed for such escapades. Another subjective thing I should mention is in terms of length, it felt just right as well... the career mode didn't feel too short nor too long, so I wasn't left with the feeling that I was gypped or had to grind through the last few stages to reach the ending. A solid experience despite my mild reservations.

17. Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal I knew that a Ratchet and Clank title would be on this list... I just wasn't sure which one it would be, and ultimately, it was one of the final decisions I made in devising this list. Going Commando was the first game from the series that I had played, so it is definitely a sentimental favorite, but in the end, its bigger, more over the top sequel won me over. And from the name alone, I am sure many of you can tell this is a game with a wicked sense of humor, though the game itself isn't dirty. This was the title in the series that started the move from being a 3D platformer towards a more action-oriented experience (though there is still plenty of platforming to be sure). But there was always action in this series, because the thing you play a Ratchet and Clank game for is the ridiculously oversized and occasionally comical weapons. I mean, nearly every commercial for the first 3 games in the series featured young men trying out those very weapons with humorous consequences. From a gun that turns enemies into ducks to one that fires black holes, and a whole lot of weird variations in between (like a gun that sucks up small enemies to fire out as projectiles, or a gun that fires out a stream of lava, and there was a gun that fired big globs of toxins which made your enemies go crazy and try to kill each other). As a flagship franchise for the Playstation 2 and Sony, naturally, a lot of work was done to ensure that this was a very polished product. As a player, I also liked the fact that on occasion, characters would break the fourth wall, which is always a plus when you are playing a game. A very enjoyable experience all around.

16. Red Dead Revolver: A tale of revenge, told Spaghetti Western style, with a soundtrack to match. Breaking from the sandbox motif of other Rockstar Games productions (perhaps in part because the project was first developed by Capcom), the plot of Red Dead Revolver is unwrapped through a more linear series of missions, and in the end, I think the whole game is better for it. As I said, it is a story of retribution, mainly told through the travels of Red, a bounty hunter whose father was murdered by a gang when he was a child. As a character, he has a lot of the mannerisms and fashion sense of a particularly famous Sergio Leone character. But the tale has additional protagonists, who also have chapters devoted to them, including a British quick shot artist named Jack Swift, Red's Native American half-brother, a Buffalo Soldier and a widowed rancher named Annie Stoakes, who is an ace with a rifle. Some critics didn't like the fact that the story was told through multiple points of view, but I think it works well. Adding to the atmosphere created by the characters and soundtrack is the fact that the cutscenes have processing on them that makes the look like they were being shown in a grindhouse theatre, and being a Rockstar production, there is a lot of blood, so it is very appropriate for the story. There was also another innovative play dynamic in the game. Against certain opponents, you ended up in a duel situation, which required you to draw your pistol and shoot them before they could shoot you in slow motion. There is a section of the game which is heavily influenced by Sam Raimi's The Quick and the Dead which is just duels of this sort. In fact, as a fan of the Spaghetti Western, there are allusions to particular movies throughout (for instance, one particular mission is very reminiscent of the bridge battle in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, and as I mentioned earlier, many of the musical cues are taken from Italian Westerns of the 1960's and early 1970's. It is an underrated title that will soon have a next gen sequel. There are people who have stated that they wish Capcom would have held onto the project, but their vision for the game was more in keeping with the traditions of the American made Westerns of the 1950's and early 60's, and I don't think that would have worked as well.

Come back tomorrow to see what made the list in slots 15-11.

The Top 25 PS2 games I've Ever Played
Number 25-21
Number 20-16
Number 15-11
Number 10-6
The Top 5


Lee Sargent said...

Ok let me start off by saying how good this series is and how much I'm looking forward to the complete list.

What I do love also is that whilst I have a lot of PS2 games, I don't have a bunch of these (so far)and PS2 games are getting cheaper all the time and Tracey won't let me buy a PS3...

I do love the Ratchet and Clank games as well, they are funny not just trying to be like so many other games.

Keep up the great work!!!

MC said...

The only thing you have to keep in mind is I am generally a single player game kind of guy, so some of my selections (just some) aren't great for groups.

And some of them really are.