As this generation draws to a close it’s easy to just remember games from franchises like Halo or Metal Gear Solid, or maybe some new IP’s like the rebirth of Rayman. But what games are going to get lost in the ethers of time and only keep a place in the memory of a select few? Here at PixelBedlam we’re fans of underdogs and as such we present the Top 5 Underrated Games of This Generation:
Pandemic Studios just seemed to have the worst luck, they would produce games that given the chance would have blown most gamer’s minds, but instead their products undersold and they went the way of many studios over the past 5 years and curled into a ball before died. EA’s grubby finger prints were all over the syringe that gave Pandemic the long sleep, having purchased them in 2007 and shutting them down 18 months later.
Saboteur featured a perpetually drunk Irish man who races cars for a living, kills Nazis and headbutts cows to make them explode. I don’t understand how more people didn’t play this game when it can be accurately described with that sentence. Featuring open world gameplay and an awesome black and white noir Paris the game oozed style, the final scenes walking up a (weakened) Nazi occupied Eiffel Tower whilst a soldier solemnly plays ‘Feeling Good’ by Nina Simone on the piano is one of the high points in gaming and emotion I have ever experienced. If you haven’t played this game and want something to take up the next few weeks until GTA V is released then go buy this game second hand for just a handful of change.
Brink was, and continues to be, my favourite class based shooter on any platform ever. I wrote an entire 1500 words on why it’s awesome here, the easiest way to explain why it failed and why it deserves better is that the game came out too soon. For the first three weeks of launch the game had horrible texture pop in, disturbing load times, and the kind of lag that is just simply unacceptable in an online based FPS. This lead to the always troublesome ‘bad word of mouth’ but also the slightly more deadly ‘bad reviews’. The review copy that was sent out featured all of those pesky bugs and issues that crippled the game until two weeks into launch when Splash Damage were able to get out a patch.
A team based shooter in a post-apocalyptic world, thankfully this wasn’t the post apocalyptic of the Fallout games, a world where the apocalypse has taken away every colour apart from brown. No, this world is like that of Mirror’s Edge, crisp white buildings juxtaposed against dark corridors and bright oranges and reds. The characters all fall under the FIFA Street style caricature art choice. Featuring basic murdering, interesting objectives, free running and RPG style skill trees; this game had everything gamers scream in joy about in modern gaming, but those first two weeks destroyed any chance the game had, a true shame. Splash Damage have since worked on the multiplayer for Batman: Arkham Origins, if anyone else was making it I would have said it was tacked on cheap multiplayer, but with Splash Damage at the helm I’m sold.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Ok so the concept was brutally stolen from the Chinese and re-hashed for American audiences, the gameplay was simplistic and the platforming was a joke, but, that doesn’t stop Enslaved being one of the greatest acted and motion-captured games of this past generation. Featuring the Mo-Cap king Andy Serkis acting and voicing beef cake slave Monkey and the relatively known if you watch teen dramas, Lindsey Shaw, as the emotionally fragile and lost Trip.
The game is one big escort mission, but without the usual tedium or anger that spawns from such a troublesome genre, sure there are occasions as you travel across America together that you will try to shoot or punch her only to find friendly fire is off. What makes this game special is the acting and writing, the ending loses it slightly, but some of the interactions between the two characters is heartbreaking. The pair start off at each others throats but through the course of the game you will see a relationship forming, not a sexual one, but more of a non creepy father daughter or uncle and niece. The game can be bought second hand for less than £5 now so you really are missing out if you haven’t tried out this underrated game.
The quality of WWE games jumps around no end. I loved the Smackdown games back in the 90’s, they featured, at the time, good graphics, a commentary track, an insane amount of wrestlers and all of the novelty matches you could want, pre Benoit killing his family and destroying the attitude era. Since the Smackdown days though the series has somewhat lost its way, it has become too serious and almost like it’s trying to be a simulator rather than beat-em-up; thankfully along comes WWE All-Stars to remind us of the awesome wrestling games of olde.
All-Stars went back to the old days of wrestling games, before there was even a Smackdown, it harks back, both in gameplay but also roster, to the golden era, Wrestlemania (arcade game) and Hulk Hogan. The game has a superstars and legends breakdown where new and current stars are on one side of the character select screen vs the old school legends. Some of the classification is off, Stone Cold seems too recent to be classed a legend but it seems the only requirement is that they are dead or too old to wrestle in current WWE line-up. The game features simple over the top gameplay, punches send the opponent bouncing around the right and something like a piledriver is brought down from 20ft above the ring with a single bound. With cartoony graphics and simple gameplay the game doesn’t date itself, a couple of years after launch it is still a great pick up a play game that was mistakenly looked over both by wrestling fans and non wrestling fans alike.
Kane and Lynch
A Co-op heist game featuring two ‘heroes’ that are mildly psychotic and medically certified psychotic. I love these games, sure the gameplay is a bit ropey at best, repetitive and unforgiving in nature, the graphics are, at least in the first game, somewhat poor, but it’s the characters that make these games so great. The first game and second game are basically set over the course of a few days each and a snapshot of how bad things can go. The second game especially is just one level and cutscene after another of life and events spiralling out of control. It’s odd for me to recommend these games considering they aren’t great games, but the story, the writing and the characterisation is brilliant. Get a friend round, boot up the split-screen co-op and enjoy a hell of a tale featuring unlikable/lovable rogues.
The problem is I want to put Mirror’s Edge on here, it’s pretty much one of my favourite games in the world, the problem is with EA announcing a sequel at E3 this year it’s clear that the game wasn’t underrated, loads of people have played it any enjoyed it, the problem is that everyone bought it second hand. With EA and DICE clearly going to take at least another year, maybe two, before releasing the little bundle of joy it is still perfectly valid to go back and replay the first game as it is still as fresh and as interesting as ever.
Alice: Madness Returns
American McGee is a wacky fella, thankfully he’s not as ‘art-student’ crazy as Tim Burton, someone who thinks wearing a top hat substitutes personality. His vision of Alice in Wonderland from the early 2000’s on PC was a, for want of a better word, ‘trippy’ game. The original and the sequel have all the hallmarks of a good 3rd person shooter whilst having original art style and enemy designs. The take on the Wonderland world and characters are fascinating and original and the only thing that lets this game down is slightly average platforming and a lack of direction in areas. If you like the macabre and goth interpretations of classic literature then you can’t go wrong with Alice: Madness Returns.