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Here’s an entire franchise going tragically underplayed. Both Condemned games are brutally satisfying shooters, but the first barely pushed half a million copies and the sequel didn’t reach a million on multiple platforms.
You play as a down-on-his-luck cop tangled in a world of nightmares, murderers, CSI investigation and homeless crack addicts. The sequel ups the ante, blending the line between reality and fiction further and improving the gameplay all around.
Did we mention the awesome hand-to-hand combat system? Or that this series will scare the crap out of you? Why haven’t you played this again?
Current availability? Both games go for about $15 each. New.
Here’s an interesting idea for an RPG: set it within Polish composer Chopin’s dreams as he lies on his deathbed. Here’s another: infuse the adventure with musical elements, in battle and in exploration. Another: have the battle between actual physical light and darkness inspire the game’s combat system.
Crazy, no? Well, we prefer the word “inspired.” Originality often goes unrewarded, however, and Eternal Sonata has sold only 400,000 copies. Final Fantasy XII, for comparison, moved over five million.
Current availability? $30 new.
Prey doesn’t excel at any one thing. The alien weapons are interesting, but the combat is simplistic (run forward and shoot, for the most part). The gravity-flipping wormhole-hopping puzzles are inventive, but not of the same caliber as Portal’s. The story is compelling enough, but plenty cheesy as well.
So what? Prey doesn’t have to shoot a giant ball of hot plasma through all of our expectations to be fun. The whole package is a delight to play, and different from any other shooter we’ve tried. Besides, after waiting over a decade for this thing to finally release – it’s been in development since 1995 – aren’t you more than a little curious?
Current availability? $10 new on PC. $20 new on 360.
Be Stuntman Mike! Or rather, his less murderous, death-proof equivalent. Ignition puts you in charge of every 180, ramp jump and expensive pyrotechnic that goes into the typical Hollywood blockbuster. And if you were turned off by the game’s disappointing predecessor? Know that this sequel is a HUGE improvement.
Production values have been heightened, gameplay variety has been expanded and the notorious difficulty has been infinitely more balanced. Courses are now relatively forgiving, so you can complete challenges without adhering to a Nazi-esque line while some egomaniacal director barks orders at you. Some truly epic BOOM to be enjoyed here – Stuntman: Ignition deserves better than its current bargain bin status.
Current availability? $20 new (360), $30 new (PS3). As low as $12 used.
When we first saw Icon a few years back, we were thoroughly and overwhelmingly impressed. Rap music battles? Environments and combat that react to the beat? In a way that doesn’t come across as completely ridiculous? Sure! This looked like a true “next-gen” experience.
The fighting system is actually not that complicated, though, and reviewers were a little put off by the execution upon Icon’s release. Still, the concept – defeating your opponent by punching him on the beat of the song – is too cool not to try at least once. Definitely a worthy rental.
Current availability? $15-20 new from one of Amazon’s marketplace sellers. Or an $8 rental.
Back in 2001, Ace Combat 04 was a big deal - the air combat simulator for the PS2. The graphics were amazing compared to what we’d seen before (Ace Combat 3 had been released on the PS1), and the game was gloriously addictive. But why just Ace Combat 04? It’s not as if they perfected everything with that iteration and then forgot it all.
Ace Combat 6 sold about 600,000 copies on the 360. While that’s not a bad run, it’s miles away from Ace Combat 04’s nearly three million. AC 6 isn’t necessarily better than AC 04, but it certainly looks better, and is no less fun than any of the predecessors. Perhaps tastes have shifted? If so, are we facing the end of the series? Let’s hope not.
Current availability? $30 new.
F1 used to receive a lot of criticism for looking like a super-fast yet super-dull procession of shiny cigarette packets. Now, just when interest in the sport is resurgent – thanks to celebrity drivers like Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton - we’re still a year away from having Codemasters’ new game on PS3 and 360. The developer holds exclusive rights, too, so passing time with the competition isn’t an option.
What’s a petrolhead to do? Fret not – despite crap reviews, the last edition of Formula One from 2007 is actually a really slick racer. We’ve spent hours and hours on its tracks and, if you need a fix, so can you.
Current availability? $20 new in US. £30 used in UK.
Like its predecessor, Battlestations: Midway, this is an ambitious game. In addition to air combat, which occupies the biggest chunk of play, you’ve also got command over ships, submarines, flak cannons and artillery. With over 100 potential units to unlock, there’s certainly no shortage of stuff to do.
The controls can be overwhelming and the game lacks polish, but Pacific blends arcade combat and deep war simulation well enough to be worth your time, especially if you’re a WWII junkie. The series has a lot of potential and, based on the upgrade from Midway, the series is improving.
Current availability? $50-60 new and $40-50 used. Might want to wait for the inevitable drop.
While certainly not a tremendous game, The Club is a one-of-a-kind experience and quite a fun little bit of blood sport. The concept is simple: run through short levels as quickly as possible, killing waves of enemies in combos and thereby racking up as many points as possible. It’s a neat concept, and a nice throwback to old arcade action games.
If you can get it cheap, or rent it cheaper, give The Club a chance.
Current availability? $15 new on 360. $12 new on PS3.
What, really? A GTA?! Quite frankly, gamers, it’s probably your fault that we’ve had to include it. Analysts were conservatively estimating sales in the 300k range for Chinatown Wars’ initial launch… and yet the title barely sold a third of that number in that timeframe. Still, not too shabby for your average DS game, right? Maybe, but factor in that GTA IV sold nearly three million copies in the first month alone, AND that Grand Theft Auto is basically the biggest selling franchise ever, across every single medium ever.
Above: Don’t bother admiring the painstaking recreation of Liberty City… it only increases the hurt
How do we put this? You ignored us… and that makes us sad reviewers. Don’t try and deny it! The sales numbers show that you jerk-ass DS owners bought almost twice as many copies of Petz Dogz Fashions around the same time. Maybe a fantastic throwback to one of the greatest franchises of all time wasn’t for everybody. Oh well, prepare yourself for our upcoming exhaustive coverage of games about dogs wearing hats! After all, you practically asked for it.
Current availability? $30 new.
Those are our fifty. What hidden gems and forgotten treasure did we miss? Let us know in the comments section below!
Remember, though, we’re only talking about the current systems: 360, PS3, Wii, DS, PSP and PC. Also, we know Okami is not on the list. It was originally released on PS2, a last-gen console. Plus, when gamers are endlessly discussing how “overlooked” you are, you’re not really that overlooked anymore, are you?
May 21, 2009
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The best (and worst) games-in-games around
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