The Best and Worst Games of 2012

2012

2012 is winding to a close, and while there may be a few weeks left in the year, for all intents and purposes the gaming industry has slowed to a crawl until the first week of the New Year. Because of this, it’s time for year-end lists!

Last year had some truly great, landmark games. Dark Souls, Rayman: Origins, The Witcher 2, Bastion, and Skyrim were all experiences I enjoyed, most of which I still play over a year after they were released. 2011 was slightly less spectacular, but still a pretty big year for the games industry as a whole. Beyond just the games released, we saw a new Nintendo console; we saw Kickstarter become both a viable option for funding, and a major risk to take; we saw indie and free-2-play games blur the line between “retail” and “downloadable” quality; and we saw major discussions open up about how games are made, and more importantly, how women and violence are portrayed and treated in the medium. These are all watershed moments that will be remembered and discussed for years to come, and that really excites me and makes me proud to be at least a small cog in this machine.

But what about the games!? Well, as I mentioned, a lot of what I played in 2012 were games from last year. This is mostly because I’m kind of a weirdo and like to obsess over a game for long periods of time. But also, when it comes to “big” games, I sort of ignored the vast majority of them, and instead focused on the rather amazing year it was for the indie game scene. There was some immensely high-quality stuff this year, and indie games absolutely dominated both my time and my Best of 2012 list. So, without further ado, here are my… Continue reading “The Best and Worst Games of 2012”

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Power Play Episode 4: Tribes

Nick, Brendan and I play some Tribes Ascend! Unfortunately Brendan is the only talented Tribes player among us but there was some problem with his footage but in the next Tribes Power Play you should be seeing some of Brendan’s skillz in action.

If there are any games you want to see in the future please let us know in the comments below or email us askpowercords@gmail.com! We are totally open to suggestions and would love to get some viewers feedback! And always if you are enjoying our videos please subscribe to us on YouTube!

GIANT ROBOT WEEK: Why I’m so excited for Hawken

To kick off our week of giant-robot-goodness, we’ll be giving you a preview of Adhesive Games’ free-to-play, mech-based arena shooter Hawken.

Of all the Mech-related and F2P games launching this year, Hawken is by far and away the one I’m most excited for. Its unique scifi setting and promising gameplay mechanics have me clamoring for a chance to climb into the cockpit of a giant, stompy mech.

According to Hawken’s official website, the game is “a multiplayer mech combat game. The focus is on creating an intense and enjoyable battle experience that captures the feeling of piloting a heavy war machine while keeping the action fast-paced and strategic.” That description alone is enough to get me excited!

But the reason why I’m really interested in this game is because it shows the power of indie development. Hawken is a work of love from a small team, who created the game using Epic Games’ Unreal Development Kit (UDK). Over months of work, and the help of Youtube and social media, interest in the project began buzzing, until finally the game was picked up by Meteor Entertainment, who raised over $10 million to fund the game. It’s another happy story of independent development that have been taking place lately, showing how the industry is slowly evolving into something new and very exciting.

But beyond that, Hawken simply looks amazing. Set in a scifi world, colonized by humans and sent to the brink of destruction due to over-industrialization, Hawken’s art style and setting is beautiful to look at. There’s Blade Runner and cyberpunk influences in the cityscapes, and the mechs are a wonderful blend of Mechwarrior with a twist of anime-esque inspiration. The gameplay looks like a quick-paced arena shooter, a la Unreal Tournament. However, the weight of the mechs and force of the weapons opens up the possibility for strategic gameplay tactics like one would use while piloting the bipedal machines of Mechwarrior. On paper, this juxtaposition is enticing, and the gameplay footage that’s been released has given me high-hopes for its execution.

While none of us here at Pwrcords have actually played the game yet, we have spent hours watching trailers and reading the developer blog. Be sure to do the same, and watch some of Hawken’s gameplay videos below. After, head here to sign up for the game’s beta. Hawken won’t be launching until December 12, but if you sign up for the beta you’ll have a chance to play the game early. You best believe I’ve got my names registered and ready to fight!

Game of the Week, March 7, 2012: Unreal Tournament 2004

It’s time for another Game of the Week, where our writers tells us all about their favorite games! This week, Brendan gets into the blood and guts of Unreal Tournament 2004.

I love the smell of gibs in the morning… There was a time before Halo, before Call of Duty, when multiplayer death match wasn’t fought with analogue sticks and SMG’s, but instead with giant rocket launchers and the mightest of all weapons: the mouse and keyboard.

I’m talking, of course, about the golden age of Arena Shooters. It started with DOOM and gained popularity through games like Quake, Starseige, and Unreal Tournament. There’s a wide range of opinions regarding which of these numerous games are the perfect representation of the genre, but for me, no game encapsulates the meaning of the arena shooter better than Unreal Tournament 2004.

What it is: Unreal Tournament is a fast-paced, futuristic first person shooter, released by Epic Games in 2004 (natch), and is the sequel to Unreal Tournament 2003 (which was actually released in 2002) and the original Unreal Tournament.

What defines this series of games (along with others in the Arena Shooter genre like Quake III) is the fast pace of combat. Players  dart and rocket jump around maps, firing massive weapons, and blow each other to bits — the “shooter” part Arena Shooter. These matches took place on maps — the “arena” part — that allowed for high mobility and speed.

Each map varied in size, location, and style. Anywhere from 4-32 players (or bots) could be on the map, engaging in modes like death match, team death match, capture the flag, assault (objective-based matches), and onslaught (point-control style gameplay on large maps, and featuring vehicles).

There’s no story to speak of here; there’s some narrative to be found in the bios for each selectable character, and the single player “tournament mode” will take you through a guided set of matches, much like an “arcade mode” in games like Street Fighter or Tekken, but for the most part story is virtually non-existent (which as we would later find, is a good thing).

Similar to titles like Team Fortress 2 and League of Legends, Unreal Tournament offered players an online battlefield to test their skills against each other. This was by far the best way to experience UT2K4 (though, admittedly, I wasn’t much of an online player until Unreal Tournament 3). The speed and intensity of the online matches was addicting, and lead to many adrenaline-fueled afternoons in front of my computer screen.

Why I love it: One word: instagib. For those who don’t know, instagib is an “instant kill” mode, where each successful shot resulted in a satisfyingly violent explosion of gore, or “gib”, short for giblets.

This was just one of the many ways you could modify your experience. UT2K4 included a vast number of viable you could change in the settings, including low grav, faster characters, instagib, higher health, and many more.

I used to turn on low grav, high speed, and instagib, and try to rack up as many kills as possible, while facing the max number of bots on a tiny map.

On top of this, the Unreal Tournament series is well-known for its mod community. The unreal Editor allows for modders and map makers to create new content — be it new skins, character models, maps, or game modes — and easily export them so they could be uploaded and played by anyone. This opened the door for literally hundreds of custom maps and characters to be imported to your game, increasing the game’s replayability exponentially.This was great, and something I absolutely loved about the game.

When it comes to the actual gameplay however, my favorite thing about UT2K4 was the Onslaught mode. Here, large teams battled for control over specific points on the map called nodes. Each node linked to another, and you could only capture/attack nodes connected to one of yours. Once you had captured enough nodes, you would be able to attack the other team’s main base, and win the round.

These maps were much larger than the normal CTF or deathmatch maps, and also featured vehiles that could be piloted to move across the terrain quickly, or even brutally slaughter our opponents. This was by far my favorite mode online, as it combined the intensity of the deathmatch and CTF modes with the strategy and large maps of point-control. In my mind, few games have ever melded these two styles together as seamlessly as the Unreal Tournament series.

Nexuiz -- Hope for the future.

In recent years, the Arena Shooter genre has basically died out. Since the rise in console FPS games, the PC has been left by the wayside. Games like Counter Strike and Team Fortress still carry the banner, but they offer different experiences than Arena Shooters of the past. Even Epic Games, the development studio responsible for Unreal Tournament, have moved onto the consoles with the highly successful Gears of War series (following their good-not-great sequel to UT2K4, Unreal Tournament 3). There’s still hope for a return of Arena shooters with games like Tribes: Ascend and Nexuiz, but they are still in development and only time will tell if they will succeed.

While I still hold out hope that we’ll see a new title in the series after the launch of Unreal Engine 3 (each Unreal Engine has come with a new Unreal Tournament, so there’s a chance) in all honesty, I’m more than happy with the memories I have of UT2K4. Hell, there’s still a small community playing the game. So if you ever get the hankering to blow some dudes up, and just have fun, get yourself a copy of Unreal Tournament 2004, you’ll be happy you did.

Is PC gaming dead?

–By Brendan

We’ve heard time and time again over the past five or six years “PC gaming is dead.” Sure, any gamer can tell the industry is heading towards new horizons; new ideas and innovations like motion controls, super-powered handhelds, digital distribution, and free-to-play games seem to be ushering in a new era of gaming.

Where does the PC stand in all of this? Once thought to be the unmatched king of graphics, speed and multiplayer, the PC is seeing perhaps the biggest changes to its formula in order to meet the industry’s demands. But is the platform truly dead? Continue reading “Is PC gaming dead?”