Friday, September 27, 2013

Top Bananas #8 - The Top Ten Most Awesome Things about Current Gen Games

The next generation is almost here, and if the internet is to be believed (why would you doubt it?) the release of these new-fangled machineridoodaas will lead to the sort of catastrophe only seen in Roland Emmerich movies. No, not Rolando Emmericho; his movies are sweet, but big-daddy-explode-the-world Roland Emmerich. You see, Microsoft has plans to kidnap and then systematically eat every single baby on the planet, even baby penguins, and Sony has fixed its evil eyes and despicable intentions on punching you repeatedly in the balls without even saying sorry. Nintendo meanwhile has focused so hard on yet another Mario game that the entire company has dissolved into one of the many sweat stains dripping down Mario's unsightly chin as he attempts to squash yet another hardworking Goomba (with his ass, no less). Things are so bad that I have decided to write a semi-serious Top Bananas!

Bloody hell Microsoft, YOU BASTARDS!!!

With all this doom and gloom, and the echoing cries and wails of internet plebs everywhere (yup, I'm talkin' 'bout you), it's become difficult to see even the most remote flicker of hope in the next generation, although I'm sure that upon release everything will have been forgotten and all the naysayers will be happily enjoying their new console (whichever they should choose; probably the PS4, although I have to say I like the look of the Xbox One - I know, I suck).

So, with the intention of ignoring the horror that awaits gamers everywhere in generation 8 (Gener8 if you are a slimy marketing exec. looking for a somewhat cool, but most shit slogan), this Top Bananas walks you down memory lane with a smug grin on its face, a joyous swing in its step and at least two hands in your pants. I welcome you to the top ten most awesome things about current gen games!

What is it that makes an awesome thing? Emotion? Action? Cinematics? Characters? Gameplay? Choices? Who the hell knows? Does anybody really care? Is anyone actually reading this? What the fuck are you looking at?

Ahem. Sorry, I had to get that out of my system.

10. Characters / Acting / Writing

This gen has been a real character-fest, with many games aiming at providing gamers with access to almost cinematic character development (and many succeeding so well that cinema has collectively pooped its pants). We have been lucky enough to play games brimming with the sort of characters Christian Bale would 'love to sink his teeth into'... No, that's not a sex thing; at least I don't think it is... It might be. Anyway, here are some standout characters in current gen games. 

Vaas is excellent; I hate him, I really do. And I should; he is, after all, the 'bad guy'. This is a cracking video game character made even better through brilliantly acted voice (and, damn sexy, body) work. The leaps and bounds that the 360 (and PS3) made over the previous generation are at there most obvious when looking at the graphical representation of characters (they're almost real, man), and this is only aided by increasingly good voice acting and character writing.

While Vaas makes the list for the amazing voice (and body) work, Shepard makes the list for being such a bloody well-written character (although the voice work is also top-notch, and the body isn't bad at all); Shepard is fully fleshed out, deep, and somewhat realistic. I chose (renegade) FemShep as she added so much to the game; I felt the voice acting fit her better, and the writing in general was more powerful with a female character - the burly man, all alone, trying to save the galaxy has been done many times before. Of course, the FemShep in that trailer isn't my FemShep, in fact, she is a terrible imposter, who sucks even more than the Xbox One. 

How can you watch that and not be moved? You bastard... You absolute bastard


Of course the previous generations provided some excellent characters, but it is hard to deny that, in general, characters have improved and are continuing to improve. Writing has (for the most part) improved, character models have most definitely improved, and voice acting has improved so much it's like Coke Zero in reverse. Things can only get better in the next generation. With the lines between movie and game becoming more and more blurred expect to see more fleshed out characters and voice acting that continues to astound. This has recently been seen with the release of Grand Theft Auto V; Michael in particular struck home as a well-developed character (the other two weren't shabby, either), and the level of cinematic flair surrounding the main missions was just spectacular, which brings us nicely to my next point.

9. Atmosphere

FUCK. I just peed myself. AND I'M AT WORK!!! Alright. I'll admit it. That was a lie. I didn't really pee myself. However, I almost did, and really that's what counts, isn't it? Current gen games have sucked me in and covered me with their ripe, delicious atmosphere. Sure, some older games were dunked in atmosphere as well, Silent Hill 2 actually did make me pee myself. What? No, I didn't really pee myself? Yes, I'm lying. Sorry? Yes, I'll eat more vegetables. No, I won't eat your dick!

I have been blown away by atmosphere this gen; I Am Alive made me feel, for the first time in a long history of gaming, alone and actually worried about survival. The Batman Arkham games are dark, gritty, and atmospherically tense. Dead Space is a masterwork in atmosphere, there was always something lurking in the background; a noise behind you, a flickering light up ahead. At no point did the player think, well I'm safe in here, think I'll just lie down and play with myself for a bit. It was tense, nervy and full of delicious atmosphere. Also anyone who says Dark Souls has no atmopshere, has no soul. Get it? No soul. Because, Dark Souls. Oh, who am I kidding? Such a high level of humour is wasted here.

It's like I can feel the atmosphere.

Open world games have brought unheralded levels of atmospheric joy; from basking in the dancing lights of the skies above Skyrim, through running for your life on a tropical island riddled with tombs (it's kinda open world, c'mon), to battling cougars on the dusty back roads of Red Dead Redemption, it has been immense to wander these worlds, bathing in the deliciously different atmospheres available. Of course, it goes without saying that atmosphere is easier to create with the leaps and bounds that graphics have made this gen, which brings me nicely to my next point. I'm a linking maniac today!

8. Graphics

I am not a graphics whore, nor am I a regular whore. Many of my favourite games look like they were created by a drunk worm wiggling its way across the results of an old polygraph test. Amazing graphics do not a good game make. Even this generation, with all its graphical wizardry, has produced some truly great games that lack graphical awesomeness: State of Decay, and Deadly Premonition to name two. Yet, the advancements graphics have made cannot (and should not) be ignored.

I mean, sweet jesus... Those graphics look better than real life! Why would you want to go outside and look at mountains, when you could look at better mountains inside, on your couch, with a beer, and without pants? If I was to show either of those games, or GTA V, or Final Fantasy XIII, to my 11 year old self... Well, let's just say that he (I? Me?) would become excited. Very quickly. The speedy improvement of graphics is almost science fiction - in just a few short years we jumped from the Playstation to the Playstation 3, and graphics went from:

Insert penis metaphor here.

Insert second penis metaphor here.
We all know that graphics do not make a game, but they can elevate an experience to new heights, and they would most certainly have caused the 11 year old me to poop myself. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that while they are not all that, graphics are as cool as Will Smith's son is not. This generation has brought some amazing graphical experiences; unparalleled facial graphics in L.A. Noire, vistas to die for in many sandbox titles, but notably Just Cause 2, and boob physics straight out of Baywatch.

Please click, and watch that at work. Please do. I promise it is 100% safe for work. Honest. Anyway, we have been spoiled with graphics this gen, and this I'm sure is set to continue (and get even better) in the next gen. Pretty soon, all games will look better than real life, and no one will leave the couch. And it will be excellent!

7. Living Worlds

Y-Y-You mean I get to run around ALL of that?

OK. This one kinda ties in with the last one. But, I felt that it deserved its own section. Again the improvements this gen saw in world building would have destroyed the minds of most 11 year old kids in, say, 1994. GTA IV and V are probably the best examples, and win the respective awards for 'holy crap this city is real,' and 'Man, these dirt roads are kind bori--- HOLY FUCK LOOK AT THE CITY WITH ALL THOSE LOVELY LIGHTS,' The Assassin's Creed series also deserves a mention for bringing life to ancient cities (as a history major this kicks ass), as does Red Dead Redemption for allowing people not only to experience the old west, but to actually live in it. Just Cause 2 and Far Cry 3 created truly wonderful tropical paradises that, despite being two of the most dangerous video game worlds in existence, seduced me with their vistas and stunning locales. The Elder Scrolls games deserve a mention, as do a bunch of others that I have forgotten.

6. Leaderboards

Bear with me here. Leaderboards have been around for yonks, since dinosaurs roamed the earth in fact, but of late they have expanded into the world of social-crap-online. And it is cool. I dislike the 'social' direction gaming seems to be heading; I rarely play multiplayer (although that is mostly a time issue), and hate the idea of people popping in and out of my games. However, I love online leaderboards, or stat trackers; basically anything that tells me how far ahead of me people on my friends list are. Of late this was most apparent in State of Decay - I checked the leaderboard after every session eager to see who has been playing, and how many zombies they have offed. Far Cry 3, also did a good job of this with its special missions, and currently GTA V is proving the king of online leaderboards by keeping track of every single tiny little thing each player does. Another good example is Sleeping Dogs, which gleefully tells you that everything you do has been done better by most of your friends. I suck at everything, but I like knowing that I suck.

Trials Evo: A game I suck so bad at, and a game that loves to remind me how much I suck.

5. Jaw-Dropping Moments

What were your thoughts as you left the sewers in Oblivion? Mine consisted of:

'This sewer is getting boring.'

'Wish it would end soon.'

'This game kinda sucks.'


It's so beautiful, WAIT! Did I put points into lockpicking... Shit... I did, best start over.

That moment, leaving those sewers, was the moment of this gen for me. My jaw dropped, and it has done so again and again this gen. The sequel to Oblivion, Skyrim, boasts moments of true beauty; moments that were so staggeringly lovely that even my video-game-hating (and very pretty) wife was picking her jaw off the floor. GTA V, Just Cause 2 and Red Dead Redemption also caused my jaw to hit the floor, and not just as a result of graphical climax; the sheer potential that these worlds offer is difficult to wrap the mind around. I stood looking out at the desert in RDR thinking to myself that I will never, ever, do (or see) all that this game has to offer - and I loved that feeling. The Fallout series excels in this department; sure the visuals aren't quite as pretty as other games, but the games offer plenty of jaw dropping moments with gameplay that provides an insane amount of choice, exploration and a guaranteed different experience every time you play.

Cinematic sequences in games have improved, and this has brought a whole new meaning to jaw-dropping. Some of the heists in GTA V are spectacular, the Mass Effect series is full of cinematics, and twists and turns that consistently drop the jaw.

Oh, no... I'm going to cry. Damnit.
4. Emotion

Oh my, the linking in this here Top Bananas is amazing. So... Emotion. No, it's not just for women and children; it's for you! Did you shed a tear at the end of Mass Effect 2, or 3? Did you feel your heart tug as Lee tried to protect Clem from the horrors of the zombocalypse? Did you weep uncontrollably as that beast character you named after your friend was blown to smithereens in X-Com? Did you sniffle at the trials and tribulations of Nier, as he fought his daughter's sickness? Did you bawl like a baby after reading some dreams in Lost Odyssey? Did your eyes start to water at the end of RDR? No? You monster. You absolute monster. Watch this, if you do not weep buckets of bloody tears you should visit your GP and ask for a damn heart.

Emotion in video games is not new; anyone who has played Shadow of the Colossus (or KotOR) will attest to that, but it is something that has been handled with more maturity than usual in this gen (mostly - Final Fantasy still handles emotion like an 8 year old who just lost an ice-cream cone, and don't get me started on the patriotic faux-emotion of titles like Homefront). These days characters are no longer mid 30s, unkillable, male soldiers (well, not all of them), and improvements in sound arrangements, cinematics and writing have, in general, led to vast improvements in the tugging of heart strings by events in video games. Yes, that is what I'm going to call it. Why? Because it is my choice, dickpurse.

3. Decisions

Boom. Decisions, decisions, decisions. Once more, not a new feature this gen (none of these are); Knights of the Old Republic brought amazing levels of choice, as did many older open world games or RPGs, but this gen feels like it has seen huge improvements in dialogue choice as well as style or gameplay choice. Hitman: Blood Money and Deus Ex: Human Revolution (arguably not as well as other games in those series) offered the player real freedom to complete missions in the way that best suited them. Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and The Walking Dead gave the player fantastic dialogue options to choose from, resulting in role-playing goodness. Skyrim and Fallout: New Vegas offered both dialogue choice as well as playing style choice and it was glorious! Not only did these games provide choice, but these choices had differing consequences. It is these consequences that have been most prevalent in current gen games and 

I choose option C: save the Reapers. 

Other notable games include; Catherine, GTA V, Far Cry 3, X-Com, Minecraft, Witcher II, Dishonored, and Fable... Many more, of course, but my brain is tired. Again, this is not new, and has been done well by many games gone by. But, this generation has seen some truly wonderful decision heavy gaming.

Note to self: Top Ten Asses in Gaming!

2. Set Pieces 

Yeah, you probably think this section is the same as that jaw dropping moments section. Well, it's not. It's like, totally different. OK OK, there are some minor similarities, but set pieces effectively (in my mind anyway) combines aspects from most of the above sections - good writing, well-developed characters, a fitting atmosphere, emotional tension, and adding to that; a sense of scale, cinematics, music, and good production and direction. These set pieces are the piece de resistance (French for penis of cupboard, or something) of current gen gaming, and are best highlighted by Mass Effect 2 - the suicide run, Red Dead Redemption - the end, some heists in GTA V, Batman Arkham Asylum - the first meeting with scarecrow (and all subsequent meetings)... And on, and on... As with everything on this list, these are subjective - those times where everything in the game comes together in a brilliant symphony of brilliance; those are the set pieces I'm talking about, or writing about, or... Whatever. Fuck you, anyway... What set pieces push your buttons? Comment, if you will.

Pictured: boobs.

I'd like to rob Jewel, if you catch my drift. ;)

Meh, my femShep was way better!


Nothing has freshened gaming up like the arrival of the Indie marketplace. Arcade titles are where the fun is at these days, and as a result fledgling developers have been swimming in my hard earned cash-money. It is depressing to hear that the next gen may not have as large a focus on independent games. I hope that they do not get buried under all the AAA money, and that more of these absolute gems get made. Anyway, moving on. Why is the independent game market so good? Well, someone once wrote a highly entertaining list of the top ten best arcade games:

Each one of those is spectacular. And there's more; Hydro Thunder, and State of Decay have eaten more of my time than many triple A titles, and justifiable so, as they are tremendous games. Also despite being flooded with more crap than Biff had to wade through in the Back to the Future movies (a lot) the Indie section contains some truly fantastic games:

Cursed Loot
The Impossible Game
Beat Hazard
Bloody Checkers
Akane the Kunoichi
Cthulhu Saves the World

... And many many more.

Long may these awesome things continue; I have high hopes that the next gen will prove everyone wrong and actually be amazing, and that we will see further improvements that will elevate video games to new heights of brilliance. Well, either that or Microsoft will enslave us all.

So, did you enjoy this (semi)serious Top Bananas? Am I ludicrously wrong about these things being awesome? Did I forget anything? Was this all just a big pile of shit? Pump your feelings into my ass in the comments section if you will.


  1. A double whammy of Top Bananas?

    It's your lucky day, Robot Squad fans!

    Or not... Depending on your point of view. :D

  2. *looks at list of Indie games*
    *Doesn't see Decimation X3*

    You bastards!

    Great article anyways.