Duke Nukem Forever:
This title was bound to get mountains of critique, but that’s what happens when a game is essentially vaporware for over a decade. I’m not going to lie and say this game is a masterpiece, but parts of it are damn close. Every world is almost a different game in itself. While the beginning is a fairly linear cakewalk sprinkled with potty humor, it does come into its own. Just expect every few levels to have a substantial shift in identity. Basic “survive the wave levels” feel like they were lifted from BioShock, while another level seems straight out of a classic Alien game. Once the open world aspect is established and there’s some destructive driving, it plays like Rage, Borderlands or even Half-Life 2. One of my favorite areas is when Duke is shrunk and the player must work his/her way around a flooded kitchen to turn off a power circuit. One can't help but think of Small Soldiers.
Again, it’s far from award winning, but is an entertaining bargain bin item.
This game, much like Duke Nukem, I avoided for ages. Reviews were terrible and the price was too high for something I likely wasn’t going to get into. What eventually sold me was the concept and the fact the original Splatterhouse games were on the same disc. In all seriousness, this one was a blast, at least a 7/10 in my book. Jim Cummings (Tigger) voices the demonic mask the main character wears and has a bit of a potty mouth. The beat ‘em up style, delightfully dark environments and the ability to use your severed arm as a weapon truly makes this a spectacle. The average player will likely get stuck in a couple spots and have slight issues with health regeneration before the meter has grown some, but those are mild setbacks. Later abilities, such as Mortal Kombat style fatalities, which include disemboweling an enemy through his anus, make up for it. There’s enough shock to make one wonder how Splatterhouse didn’t get an Adult Only rating.
This is another bargain bin item. Actually, I got it for perhaps $6 in 2009. It’s a shame, because the game is pretty unique. An agents arm is infected by the Technocyte virus, which allows him powers related a glaive stemming from his arm. It can be controlled in slow motion and dismember enemies. As the virus takes a hold, extra abilities and armor become available. The true glory of this game exists in the creative strategies it forces one to employ, yet creating a feel similar to Gears of War. It’s surprisingly well rendered and, though the story gets mildly muddled, has levels worth remembering for ages.
While the game garnered high reviews and had amazing sales in Japan, it remains a semi-rare gem in the USA. It can be found without a massive hunt, but the price remains somewhat high. A demo is available, which starts at the very beginning and lets you get addicted to experiencing an RPG about Chopin’s dreams on his death bed. How that concept ever became a game, one will never know, but I’m glad they did.
Though this list focuses mostly on recent times, Cold Winter is so incredibly grand, and severely underrated even when it was new, it must be mentioned. It may be for the PlayStation 2, but feels far more modern, as this 2005 title was almost a stepping stone into the next generation of consoles. The graphics are quite strong for the console, but never gives them priority over the level of destruction the game calls for. The level of gore is high and the gameplay is intense as the player take on the role of a former SAS soldier on a mission to destroy a cartel. The torture scene at the beginning haunts me to this day and I can still remember the joy of knocking over tables to create cover. It’s also one of the few PS2 action-oriented shooters to allow in-depth pillaging and mass, detailed destruction during a shootout.
THQ was a strong, amazing studio before they folded in 2013. They produced Saints Row, Darksiders, Red Faction and many more. Deadly Creatures largely fell under the radar, in part because it was oddly a Wii exclusive. It even had Billy Bob Thornton and Dennis Hopper voice the main human characters, though the playable characters are a spider and a tarantula. The player goes through controlling the creatures at different times, is able to shoot webs and learn various attacks. Surprisingly, the gameplay is varied and not focused merely on combat. There’s a lot of survival and varied forms of travel/exploration. The only downside is not all hits register, but it doesn’t break the product.
Made by the same studio that made Painkiller (People Can Fly), Bulletstorm is a bargain bin title with a stellar focus on being a polished old school shooter. This one consistently hits the high notes Duke Nukem struggles to hit. I highly suggest plopping down the $5 to get it from Gamestop, as opposed to playing the demo, which hinders the experience by tossing the player into the middle of a massive battle with no context.
I recall this one being pretty much panned when it came out, being bashed for lacking replay value, featuring strange product placement and just being plain awkward. While it featured way too many Pepsi machines, I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. The character of Nathan Spencer is wonderfully voiced by Mike Patton of Faith No More and the mix of platforming and combat worked well. Sure, it took practice to get into the swing of, but the environments were wonderfully varied, as were the objectives. It was a big financial loss for Capcom, so please, order it off Amazon and help improve its numbers.
Alone in the Dark: Inferno
It’s important to note this game should only be played on the PlayStation 3. All other versions are abysmal, even worse than reviews would indicate, and that includes the Xbox 360 one. Originally released with broken mechanics, Alone in the Dark sold well, but left many angry. A mere direction realignment would send a character’s car flying in an exaggerated direction. The one version to get massive fixes was Inferno for the PS3, which had an extra five months of polish, several scenes added. It’s fun to combine various items in the main character’s jacket and see what can be pulled off. Either way, it’s violent fun. As with most survival horror, expect to get stuck a couple times, but it’s worth it.
This rare gem is something like an old school Zelda game put on the PlayStation, but with loads of magic and an even stronger combat focuse. A key unique element in this dungeon crawler is the use of the PS3’s sixaxis controller feature quite routinely to control special attacks, namely a spinning one. What appears to be a shallow knockoff slowly develops into its own masterpiece as unique moves, an inventory and upgrade tree come into play. It’s a blast, but release was limited. Game Republic, best known for their Genji and Dragonball titles, would do well to make this one available in the USA. Currently, it’s limited to Japan and Europe as a strictly digital title.