Search This Blog

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Best open world game ever! And the winner is.... part II

Continued from last blog.

Grand Theft Auto:

The infamous GTA is credited as one of the pioneers of the genre. I do believe while some disagree, it is true. GTA III did get inspiration from different areas; it was the first to successfully merge open world with shooter, and driving game in one.
But what really separated GTA and others, was the sheer freedom to do whatever you wanted. When I first played it, I barely ever played missions. I just enjoyed causing mayhem until my wanted stars reached full and then see if I could outrun the cops. Never could.
The radio stations were a great touch really put you in the world. As well as the ability to own garages and keep the cars you collected.
GTA had a lot of things to do, and you could even make up your own, like my friends and I used to. GTA allows the player to be anything, a hit man, delivery boy, vigilantly or taxi driver, and still play missions.

I’ve always found the characters in GTA too seedy and un-relatable. A bit too cliché. The graphics are okay but not great. And the fighting action was always second to the driving and never really felt as good as it could be. Not too much in the way of customization either, which is something I wish they would add for future GTA’s.

L.A. Noire:

I give this game a lot of credit because it took a big chance in trying a brand new facial capturing technology, as well as rebuilding world war two Los Angeles with historical accuracy. This game tried really hard to be different and still implement successful elements of GTA.
The acting was very well done, and they really did something unique by giving the player the option to play it in black and white for a more authentic film noire look. The action was also fun and easy to understand. The crime solving was very different in this genre and like I said, I give Rockstar a lot of credit for trying to be unique.

While I do give Rockstar credit for the attempt, overall the game has to be considered a fail.
The open world while vast was boring. Nothing to do except look for hidden cars and they wouldn’t even allow you to keep them. No customization other than to change a few cheesy unlock-able suits. The crime solving which seemed cool in the beginning because you thought you were really free to make mistakes ended up being extremely lame. No real point-full outcome because no matter how well or how poorly you did, the outcome was always the same which left you feeling sort of, ripped off.
The graphics were only okay, and the music was hard to hear and not too selective. The character you play is hard to like and your companions are even harder, which left me feeling alone.
While the attempt to create a new type of OW game was commendable the execution left a lot to be desired. Too many big ideas, which is why I believe it failed. Sometimes less is more.

Mafia II:

Another nineteen forties through fifties America game that I thought was underrated.
You start off as a soldier in Italy, before coming to America as an immigrant. Cool and different concept. I like how the game really tried to make you feel what it was like to struggle for money in that time, by forcing you to toil in a pointless and low paying job that would never allow you to afford the rent. It gives you a sense of why a person would choose to join the Mafia in the first place. The acting was really well done, a bit cliché, but I believe they were going for a Soprano’s feel. Another thing I liked about the atmosphere was the seasonal changes, not many games do winter though summer. The action was good, and the missions were fun and challenging. It had elements of GTA and L.A. Noire. The graphics were pretty good too.
I also liked how they gave you a garage and allowed you to keep the cars you obtained, as well as customize them. You also had a your best friend with you the whole time and the lonely factor was not there.

The open world wasn’t as open as some of the others, not too much to do other than the missions. Some of the music was not historically accurate of the time. And the game ends with no real replay ability. There are add on’s but not too good. However the game was fun enough that I would play through the story again. The saves were kind of irritating, especially during a mission, too long in between for my liking. 

Mass Effect:

While maybe not technically considered a true “sandbox” or open world, Mass Effect to me is more like an open universe RPG. This Bio Ware game to me is like no other when it comes to graphics, choices, friendships, and customization. The atmosphere is pretty engaging and the acting well done. The freedom this game gives you to fly and land pretty much anywhere in the galaxy is unmatched. The grandness of the whole universe from the depth of each world and alien to your own reputation is completely without equal in console gaming.
The fighting action as a second person shooter is well done. The ability to forge relationships and customize hardware, uniform, and ship ability is also done well. I still don’t understand how Bio ware is able to give so much and still keep the game fun and without glitches.

The missions while fun were redundant. Mostly shoot your way in and shoot your way out. Not too much in the way of problem solving although there are elements of that.
Also while there were many worlds, there was not much depth to any of them. Especially in part two. Maybe they could have had one home world at least with a lot to do. Also there wasn’t much in the environments that you could interact with. No vehicles in part two, and I hated the vehicles in part one. Hope they perfect the vehicles in part three.


Never in my life have I been in a virtual world as vast and engaging as the ones in Oblivion. This game is as close to WOW as you’re going to get in an open world platform game. Except without the online, that is.
Playing this game became an obsession at times. Bethesda allowed you to literally be anyone, any race, and any sex. You could choose any path from good to bad. You could buy property in any town. You could get lost searching for hidden animals for days or just complete side missions. The game is almost endless. Oh and yes they let you ride a freaking horse!

While almost perfect this game did have some flaws. The graphics were okay but not great and the movement was pretty stiff and unreal, however that’s to be expected with such a huge game. The fighting was all hack and slash no real skill needed. And while the world was massive there was no sense of companionship, which left me feeling alone a lot.

Red Dead Redemption:

I’ve been waiting all my life for a true open world western game. And Rockstar didn’t disappoint. I love this period I used to dress as The Lone Ranger for Halloween when I was a kid. So when the game came out I was all a twitter.
RDR is a vast world, spanning two countries Mexico and the U.S. The games captured the western feeling so well that I was having spontaneous past life regression moments were I could have sworn I was a cowboy. There were so many things to do aside from the missions, which were awesome. Things like poker, dice, black jack, treasure hunting, horse hunting, random side missions, bounties or just being bad. Like GTA I would play this game for hours without even touching a mission.
The horse back riding is fluid cool and unmatched in game play. The deadeye shooting is really well done and fun, as are the random duels.
Also the add-ons especially the Undead Nightmare title was almost like adding a whole new game that was unique and almost as cool.
The sounds, graphics, and overall feeling of this game really put you in the world.

While this was open world, there wasn’t any real decision making at all that would alter any outcome. There was practically no companionship; nor was there any customization. I would have also like to have seen more options such as the option to become a sheriff, or the option to get a wife, or make a life as a gambler instead of a gun fighter. Also I don’t know why the character wasn’t allowed to swim or at least why they would kill the character for jumping in the water, a bit silly if you ask me.
The action was all story based and I feel had they gone a little more Oblivion with it, the game would have been almost perfect. But that would be just nitpicking.


I bet you’re wondering why Spider-man is included in this review of open world games. Well it’s simple, Spider-man by Activision was the first successful open world superhero game which helped spawn such games as the infamous series, DC Universe, The Hulk and others.

Spider-man was one of the first console games to recreate Manhattan, in full detail.
The swinging to almost anywhere and the climbing of almost anything is also an unmatched experience. I would sometimes swing all day saving random strangers, never touching a mission.
The atmosphere is to feel what it would be like to really be Spidey, and for the most part this was successfully done. While these titles usually followed the story of the movies, along with the a few side missions, the game could be enjoyed for just the random experience of helping citizens or upgrading your powers and abilities through side races and such.
The latest version Web of Shadows took the story in a whole new direction one that I truly enjoyed, allowing Spider-man to partner up with some of his other Marvel buddies.

While Spider-man is an open world, it however wasn’t as deep a game as I would have liked. Not enough Peter Parker, in which would have introduced a new and interesting twist. It would have felt more real if Spider-man had to make a living while balancing his relationships, at the same time as playing the hero role.
Also because of the cool swinging there tended to be a lot of glitches, so the graphics could have been better. I also feel there should have been more of his sinister six villains as random battles as opposed to the sometimes tediousness of save a falling person from a building. Due to the fact that it was a Marvel based title, it is always hard to customize or ever personalize the experience.

So there you have it my review of all my favorite open world title.
Now for the moment you’ve been waiting for… which of these is the best?
Which of these games will take home the Games Guy14 award for being the best of the best.
Without further ado, here at last is the list from worst to best.

My top ten are:

10-L.A. Noire
Ranking poorly in openness and replay ability, but good in atmosphere. Not good enough I’m afraid.

A grand old title to be sure, but needs a little tune up, as it now ranks mediocre in most aspects.

While fun and okay in most respects, however not a standout in anything in particular.

It’s great at certain things and awful at others. 

 6-Mafia II
It had a great atmosphere and was fun. Just not as open as it should have been.

It is fun and exciting to play and roam but the graphics and reality of it could be done better.

4-Assassin’s Creed
Cool game play, awesome atmosphere and attention to detail. However you never feel part of the world, as well as a bit redundant at times. 

3-Mass Effect
It is extremely deep, in world, customization, atmosphere, relationships and fun. The game play is a bit redundant though.

2-Red Dead Redemption
It is a fun and awesome experience, with a captivating scenery and atmosphere. Good story and a lot of unique things to do. Just not as customizable or as deep as it could have been. 

And the number one all time best of the best open world game according top Games guy14…

It is crazily deep, and completely engaging. Nonstop things to do and almost everything is touchable is this world. The fighting and movements were its only drawbacks.

Thanks for reading. If you have your own list that differs from mine I’d love to read it. 

Will the best open world "sandbox" game please stand up!

One the great innovations in this generation of video game consoles are the constantly evolving open world type game. For those living on the moon OW games, as I like to call them, are video games that allow the player to freely roam a virtual world and interact with the environment.

This game isn’t new. Many open world games have been around since the early eighties, and yes PC games have been perfecting the open world game for years. In fact the most popular open world game World of Warcraft has taken open world to a whole new level. Bringing people together in a virtual middle aged reality with wizards, knights etc, WOW has gone beyond the realm of mere game and is almost become rightly or wrongly a new reality.

But I’m not talking about that. I’m only talking about the consoles, because of the mainstream ramifications. While it is true computer games are popular, they still haven’t hit the general populous the way consoles have.

The reason for the popularity of the open world games, or “sandbox” games is quite simple. Like no other game they allow the gamers to feel freedom and to immerse themselves in different times and places and the freedom to do things within these places that they could never have dreamed.

Now I have compiled a list of my favorite open world console games that I feel are the best examples of what I believe the future of video games should emulate. The ratings are based on many factors.

-Graphics: The graphics should be good enough that it’s is able to actually pull the gamer from their reality to the game’s.

-Fun: The fun factor of course has to be there. The game must compel the player to keep on playing by introducing unique, and challenging experiences yet not so complicated that the player loses interest.

-Openness: The freer the game is the more open it feels. This is rated on how real and how many free decisions are allowed to take place which impact the outcome of the storyline.

-Atmosphere: This applies to how well the game immerses the player within the created world. Basically things like sounds, historical accuracy, music, images, storyline and acting.

-Replay-ability: This means how compelled the gamer is to replay the game once the game has been passed. Basically things like fun add on’s or the how open ended it is, or just plain fun.

So here is my list in no real order: (Make note, I’m judging the entire series of games, not individual games. For example Fable implies I, II and III.)

-       Assassin’s Creed
-       Fable 
-       Fallout
-       Grand Theft Auto
-       L.A. Noire
-       Mafia
-       Mass Effect
-       Oblivion
-       Red Dead Redemption
-       Spider-man

Arguments: Pros and con’s.  

Assassin’s Creed:

For me this series took games to a higher level, in terms of sheer work involved. Ubisoft really went balls to the wall for this series. Painstakingly recreating many interactive and vibrantly live ancient cities such as Jerusalem, Damascus, Venice, Florence, and Rome, is no small feat.
They brought these cities back from the past with perfect precision and attention to detail, including the sounds, even the way the crowd interacts with you. 
The graphics, the climbing and fighting engines are really fun and cool.
I also enjoy games that allow you to use a vehicle, and in this case horses.  

The storylines are extremely well thought out and thought provoking.

The missions in the first were rather redundant, and tedious at times. I felt that the characters were never really a part of the reality sort of above it in a supernatural way. No real choices could be made that alter the outcomes. The acting was pretty bad at points, which also broke character. With no real companionship sometimes you did feel lonely. I also wish they allowed you to keep a horse, as opposed to getting a new one all the time.


This Series began in the last generation of consoles and carried over.
Fable went more mystical and kiddy with their game play, which I enjoy. I like the way the main character is completely customizable. The character is both part of the story and unique to the player. I love the way Lionhead Studios decided not to take the game too seriously and allowed for joking and playful banter. The character interaction had a Sim’s like quality to it in which I appreciate. The graphics are okay, nothing special but are good enough to keep you immersed in the period. This game is about choices, my biggest disappointment about some open world games, is the lack of real game altering decisions. This game is about decisions, every decision you do impacts the character from his appearance to his social life.

I like the action, not as much as some of the others, but it’s still pretty fun.
I like the number of powers you can wield, and I like the fact that you can bring help with you.

No horse! That bugs me. I don’t even understand why you don’t get a horse.
The fighting engine is also kind of hack and slash, with magic infused no real skill involved.
Did I mention no horse! Yeah it bugs me that much.



Bethesda seems to be king when it comes to creating enormous open worlds that seem to never end… in a good way.
Fallout is extremely open in the sense that it gives you a lot of freedom. Almost everything in the world is interactive. This series does extremely well at generating the desired atmosphere, which is an alternate reality post apocalyptic nineteen fifties U.S.A. The atmosphere is too good in fact that I tend to even get a little depressed if I play it too much. Which is why I think they gave you a pet in the sequel.

The action is unique and I enjoy the customization. The graphics are pretty good and I really enjoy the use of the radio to further immerse you into this reality.
I also like games that allow you to save anywhere.

No horse! Actually, no vehicles at all. Oh sure they tease you with cars and motorcycles everywhere but can you use them? No. Which would come in handy due to the enormity of the world.
I find the movement very bad. It kind of takes you out of the world because it’s just so unreal. But to their credit they do give you the option to go first person.
The game for me has no real relationship other than the dog, but even that sort of sucks. You tend to get lonely playing it.

I know this is getting really long but I truly want to do this justice so…
To be continued…

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

When it comes to video games, parents just don't understand.

In my last few blogs I’ve talked about the violence in video games and how games can be both educational and fun. Today I’d like to discuss why parents need to be more educated and interactive when it comes to video games and their children.

Growing up in the Atari, and Colecovision days, my parents were actually far more involved in video games than I was. A lot of my family members would have their own family systems and as a family they would take turns playing. It was actually a cool time.

Enter Nintendo and Sega. This is when kids took over. The joystick turned into the game pad and the once easy to understand days of Pac-man became a bit more complicated. My parents were no longer as interested in games. Once in a while, my dad would still play Tetris or Duck Hunt, but in general they stopped playing. This was also the period when games left the living room and entered my bedroom. Buy the time of Super-Nintendo, I was locked in my room with buddies playing Zelda or Mario, and yes the first GTA.

Then came Sony playstation, and no my parents barely saw me at all. There were attempts to get my parents involved in certain games like Grand Tourismo or the new Pac-man games, but they were completely disinterested. I realized at that point that games were now for kids only.

The funny part is that when game became more adult, the adults took less interest. Unmonitored by the absolute ambivalence by the adults, the violence grew, because when you’re a raging and angry teen it was fun to watch someone’s head blow off without repercussion.

Enter X-Box, and the new GTA. Now my parents are walking by my room watching me beat a woman with a bat, with a couple of friends. By this time I was entering adulthood ready to head out into the world, so they didn’t really care. They did shake their heads in disgust though.

Now realize that while I was older, wiser and far more ready to play these kinds of games, there are a whole lot of kids that grew up during this phase. Little boys and girls locked in their rooms with their elder siblings perhaps, playing these games or merely watching them play these games.

Now games are far more advanced and a new social network of online friends playing these games together in the comfort of their own bedrooms.
Unsupervised they obsess over World of Warcraft. Games are now becoming so advanced that they mimic life. Even better they create new more exciting lives. Virtual lives where they are the heroes; they save the girls or conquer the fortresses with their own friends as partners. They now have online relationships forged though a common love for the game. And now, now that they are no longer leaving their rooms, that they are displaying social disobedience towards a world outside that they no longer relate to, parents are finally taking notice. 

You see the problem? Things are now way different in the gaming world. Parents who used to play along with their children no longer do. It’s time for parents to stop the crying about what they no longer understand. It’s time for you to start to understand. Learn about WOW, about games in general. Not the BS media scrutiny by those who study insignificant numbers. Talk to your children, take the game out of the bedroom and bring back to the living room. Engage in conversations with them. Find out who their online friends are. Be a parent that tries to understand their lives, and that doesn’t condemn it.

Maybe if and when this happens, games can start to evolve past the first person shooter, and be a more educational and more fun for everyone and bring you closer to your kids. 

Monday, 18 July 2011

Games that educate and not assassinate?

My last blog was about video game violence and how I felt conflicted about it. 
I mentioned that there was a disproportionate amount of violent games compared to nonviolent games.

I too am a violent game player, but I confess that I would like to see more educational games that are just as fun and may even fulfill a hunter-gatherer need that I have.

As a male I enjoy my sports, I love competition and I love to solve problems. My favorite types of games are open world games like GTA, Red Dead Redemption, Assassin’s Creed, and Oblivion. I like the fact that I can make choices like become good or bad, customize cars, homes, etc. I like games that allow a certain amount of freedom and at the same time have an engaging storyline. I do like first person shooters like Halo, Call of Juarez, Call of Duty the list seems endless; however I find the market over saturated by them.

There are many reasons for why these games sell a lot, especially to male gamers. I’ve spoken to a lot of gamers such as myself and they all say the same things; these games offer them a need for adventure, a need to for personal triumph, a need for competition, a need to challenge themselves or they are simply just fun and a way to pass the time. There are other reasons but I’ll just focus on these.

Is there a way that games can still fulfill these needs and not have to be violent?
Would Assassin’s Creed still be as good if say it was more like Builder’s Creed for example? 
Let’s examine that. Let’s change a few things, instead of a guild of assassins why not have a builder’s guild set in the same time period as AC. Instead of murder contracts, why not construction contracts; hunt down artists to help paint or sculpt beautiful artwork in order to beautify your project. Put you in the role of someone who creates and not destroys. Have puzzles and real life problems like conflicts between workers in which the player would have to resolve. You can compete against other architects for contracts. Customize your home or find a love interest. I know that games like the Sim’s are kind of like this, but they get too involved, too real and can become tedious. Why not suspend a bit of reality and have him even invent cool vehicles in which he uses to travel from place to place. Or take magic potions that allow the user to do amazing feats.

This may not be for everyone. My point was not to make a perfect game, but to show that a nonviolent games that fill certain needs may be possible. I believe if done properly a game like this can be both fun and educational. If done really well, why not even implement these types of games in school’s curriculums.

I’d love to read other ideas for a fun, and educational alternative to a first person shooter or other violent games on the market. If you have any please feel free to post it.

Thanks for reading.          

Games too violent...? Maybe not...?

Am I going to argue that video games aren’t violent? No, of course they are. Are they too violent? I don’t know.

Sure there is a lot of violent games out there, from games like Mortal Kombat where a fatality can consist of ripping a man’s spine out from his mouth, to Super Mario bros where a playful Mario leaps on to the head of a turtle crushing it, then kicking it off a cliff. The question is, are they too violent?

I’m one of those people who are on the fence. In one hand I like video game violence, it allows me to act in a manner in which I would never dream of acting in real life. In many ways video games help me to relieve aggression. Which many studies have shown is the case with the majority of people. For those who believe that game violence causes outright violence, that’s simply false and they need to do the research themselves.

However my conundrum about video game violence is about the sheer number of violent games. It really outweighs non-violent games. There should be more non-violent games out there. Sometimes I like to just relax and play a fun and intellectually challenging game like Tetris but it seems as though the selection of non-violent games just isn’t there.

Another issue for me is; while I enjoy the violence, there are moments where I start to feel morally messed up. Like shooting real people in the head as a sniper. I enjoy it, but then I think about what I just did and I ask myself “Is this wrong?” But what did I really do, use a light pixel to shoot another light pixel? But then I think “these aren’t just light pixels right?” They do represent a perceived real event, which then perverts my mind. Or maybe I’m just thinking about it too much.

Maybe that’s where the problem lies, maybe it is nothing but fun, and therefore shouldn’t be taken so seriously. Or should it….?