8 great games running on crap technology

A game doesn’t always have to push the boundaries of technology to impress us. We can have as much fun pulling that last, nail-biting block from a gently swaying tower in Boom Blox as we do stomping around Crysis on our shed-sized supercomputers. Look at World of Warcraft, a game that boasts over 11.5 million subscribers, but which could probably run on a low-end toaster. Yes, in spite of stubbornly clinging to a years-old engine or technology that wouldn’t impress a small child from the Dark Ages, some games can confound expectations and win our hearts regardless. What follows are some of the best.

Left 4 Dead 1 and 2

Unimpressive technology: Valve’s Source engine

Advanced facial animations, real-time motion blur and sophisticated physics that took account of friction and buoyancy made Half-Life 2 a true pioneer. For the first time, games could be physics playgrounds (literally – there was a playground near the beginning of the game with swings and everything) and create action scenarios that, with a fully powered gravity gun, were always unique. How things change.

 Where once a puzzle that saw you weigh down one end of a see-saw with heavy objects so you could use the other end as a ramp seemed to be powered by black magic, now it’s literally child’s play. Valve, though, isn’t changing anything. The last two years have seen releases of the Source-powered Left 4 Dead and its sequel, and both have proved as fresh and innovative as any game on the market. Compared with Crytek’s weep-inducingly beautiful CryEngine3, L4D may look dated, but unless you’re a Valve boycotter, you can’t deny the games that came out of ”the little engine that could” were absolute riots.

Best Source moment: Tossing a last-ditch pipe bomb over the heads of an onrushing zombie horde and counting to three... Australian game-denouncer Michael Atkinson can’t handle this!

Pro Evolution Soccer series

Unimpressive technology: All of it

If nothing else, Japanese developers are reliable. Their annual, virtually unchanged Dynasty Warriors games do for fighting fans what Konami’s PES does for soccer fans: frustrates them.

Above: PES from 2007... 

Eight-way directional running, end-of-match highlight reels, 32 club teams? Simply breathtaking... In 2001. It’s now 2010, and where FIFA, once PES’s less-gifted footballing brother – the Phil Neville to PES’s Gary – has changed fundamentally, incorporating 360-degree directional dribbling, thousands of fully licensed players and 10 vs 10 online play, PES seems to have stood rooted to the spot. But it can’t be denied PES still has it. Developing your team through the Master League is as addictive as ever, and the graphics – one of the only aspects that improves each year  – put FIFA to shame. FIFA 10 may be the more progressive game, but for the sake of pure, comfortable nostalgia, we hope PES never changes.

Above: ...and its 2009 successor 

Best PES moment: Forming an unbroken string of passes all the way up the pitch and culminating in a cool finish is something we hope the more forgiving gameplay of PES never loses.

Early Game Boy Advance games

Unimpressive technology: The first-generation GBA

Eyes, ears and hands – all required to play games. It’s a shame the first iteration of the GBA, with its screen as dark as Jack Thompson’s soul, rendered vision near-useless. It’s also an irony that some of the best games for the handheld were released during the period which we like to call ”The Blackout.”

Above: What playing early GBA games looked like 

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, which took place primarily at night and in a castle, was obviously the hardest of all to follow, receiving lowered review scores purely because of the GBA’s hardware limitations. But it wasn’t alone, and any game daring to have a deep, rich color scheme risking the effects of “The Blackout.” Having to angle our GBAs so that reflected light brightened the screen was an inconvenience we suffered to play games like Rayman Advance and Earthworm Jim – both brilliant, if you didn’t mind squinting.

Above: What was hiding under all that darkness 

Best early GBA moment: Finally completing Circle of the Moon on the hardest setting... in sunlight and under a very bright bulb.


  • Plan10FromOuterSpace - July 7, 2011 8:52 p.m.

    Valve have to be the absolute masters at this, they've been running the same engine since Half-Life 2 yet they never cease to impress. Left 4 Dead was a riot to play and Portal was just incredible, im still hoping on a new engine though, good as these games are better visuals wouldn't harm them...
  • Oddeh7 - March 8, 2010 4:19 p.m.

    Car surfing was an epic thing back then. Must do that again some time. ReCaptcha: would licence
  • dslayer99 - March 8, 2010 12:45 a.m.

    wtf the first pic on san andreas wasn't from san andreas, retards.
  • soren7550 - March 7, 2010 3:47 p.m.

    I'm surprised that Perfect Dark or even Goldeneye didn't make the list.
  • djsn1per - March 6, 2010 3:09 a.m.

    Maybe, just maybe, after this 10,000th mention of Okami will I go buy it. Wait, probably not but it's still funny that this in-joke is still alive. Good article anyways re: States schlock
  • JoeMasturbaby - March 5, 2010 4:33 p.m.

    Okami is probably the best ps2 game ive ever played. it should be on every list despite relevance, and it should be in all your hearts.
  • FinderKeeper - March 5, 2010 12:04 p.m.

    If Okami is ever updated for the PS3 (the way that God of War I and II were), then ye shall know its greatness, O readers... and succumb to its never-ending awesomeness.
  • Awesomeforthemasses - March 4, 2010 10:20 p.m.

    More Okami toungue-bath... YAY!
  • DriveShaft - March 4, 2010 8:39 p.m.

    I think games like Okami were a big FU to people who said PS2 was out of date and couldn't pump out any more good games, I wish you could skip cutscenes though.
  • sleepy92ismypsn - March 4, 2010 8:04 p.m.

    i thought san andreas looked a lot better than 3 and vice city and san andreas is the best gta game ever and my favorite game i like renderware engine better than the GTA IV engine i bet omnomromnearghgeargh wants that tat now
  • IIIIIACEIIIII - March 4, 2010 5:05 p.m.

    I wish GR would stop glorifying Okami, it's really not that good a game and the sales prove that.
  • TURbo - March 4, 2010 4:24 p.m.

    GTA SA was pretty amazing on the Renderware Engine. There was no loading times for traveling across the state.
  • philipshaw - March 4, 2010 1:40 p.m.

    Have to agree with PES. While it still plays a good game of football, the animations look really bad
  • NorwegianKingOfNames - March 4, 2010 12:25 p.m.

    @ Ampatent Hi, I wrote the article. I'm a freelancer based in the UK, but I'm also a huge GR / TR fan, hence the Okami in-joke! (and this rather in-jokey profile...)
  • OnyxOblivion - March 4, 2010 11:50 a.m.

    Holyshit. San Andreas was running on the same thing as GTA3?!
  • GR_JustinTowell - March 4, 2010 10:02 a.m.

    @AlexMercer1337 - anywhere you want mate. On your arm, your leg...
  • AlexMercer1337 - March 4, 2010 8:14 a.m.

    Damn! Where can I get an Ammy tattoo?
  • shinkeidei - March 4, 2010 8:09 a.m.

    GR will stop talking about Okami until you reader get off your couch and buy it...which I highly recommend...and HD okami would be great... I still remembered the firts time I played HL2, oh was it beautiful! now is not as pretty looking as it used to be, but still is very pleasing.
  • slerby - March 4, 2010 7:53 a.m.

    haha, when you said crap technology i thought you meant the Xbox 360 or Wii in general, not the engines, caused if you're using a "DVD" to run a game and expect it to be in 720p or 1080p "technology" you're kidding yourselves and both of those consoles run exactly that "technology" with "DVDs". are you kidding me? how many years behind is that? 5?
  • scbyfn4evr - March 4, 2010 6:25 a.m.

    Don't listen to them, GR... Always moar Okami. Don't rest until it's GOTY several years after its release. Recap: unsaid page ...why do people do these things?

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