Archive for the Lists Category

Gaming In 2016: Snore…

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Skyrim, Street Fighter, Uncharted on August 20, 2016 by slateman

ZTDPackagingKeyArt_thumbI love gaming, there’s no question about that. But as August winds down and we enter the final third of 2016, it appears it’s been a rather lackluster year! A quick look back at what has come out and what I’ve played reveals a slow trickle of games truly worth playing.
Checking my PSN Profiles Page I see a short list of new games I’ve played since January. It’s not comprehensive, there have been a number I’ve played but didn’t care for (like many recent PS+ games. Ugh). Also note that I haven’t an XBox One, my 360 is about to die and both the Wii U and 3DS are utterly useless outside of Mario and Zelda games. Let’s see where we stand…

Games Of 2016

  • Ratchet & Clank
  • Resident Evil 0
  • Resident Evil 5
  • Shadow Complex Remastered
  • Street Fighter V
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • Zero Time Dilemma

Umm…Seriously? NOT ONE original title? Maybe I’m just a cautious buyer now, but c’mon, that’s pathetic. So, we have three ‘remasters’, one re-envisioning, and three sequels. Now, the sequels are good. ZTD is a solid finale into the fun series, SFV as a package is flawed but the gameplay is spectacular and the production value of UC4 is second to none. It just makes a ‘Game Of The Year’ competition unfun. There are other sequels coming…Gears 4, Rise Of The Tomb Raider, and Final Fantasy XV. There are also more re-re-releases like Rez Infinite and Resident Evil 4 as well as Modern Warfare and Skyrim. However, if that were my top seven of 2016, it’s sad to know I’d already beaten two of them, three if you count R&C.

I have friends curious about Mafia 3 or Battlefield 1 or whatever, but going by what interests me, there’s almost nothing on the horizon. And in my Game Of The Year competition, I list the best game and the best new IP title…I have NOTHING for the latter?

OK, enough of the bitchfest twenty sixteen. Let’s see what I’ve actually beaten this year. See if there’s a theme here. This list omits the aforementioned titles (of which I haven’t yet beaten RE0 and ZTD):

  • God Of War (*)
  • God Of War II (*)
  • God Of War III Remastered (*)
  • Gone Home
  • Lego The Hobbit
  • Lego Marvel Super Heroes
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: HD Edition (*)
  • Metal Gear Solid 4 (*)
  • Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker: HD Edition
  • Ratchet & Clank: Into The Nexus
  • Tales From The Borderlands
  • Tembo The Badass Elephant
  • Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition (*)
  • Ys: Memories Of Celceta

Asterisks denote games I’d already beaten already (barring HD upgrades, etc.) Of the 14 titles, I’d already completed 6? Two of those were my GotY for 2008 and 2013!!! The two Lego titles I got platinums in. They’re fun to play with the kids. But they’re the same as every other Lego game. There’s nary an interesting and unique game in the lot that has done something I hadn’t already done or seen before. Well, Gone Home but that almost doesn’t even count.

So…I’m disappointed by 2016 but hey, it’s how things go. I haven’t tried No Man’s Sky yet. Maybe that’ll be great. For giggles, here’s a full list of what’s left in the year as well as a few titles that trickle into 2017.

2016
August
30 – Resident Evil 4

September
13 – Pac-Man Championship Edition 2

October
11 – Rise Of The Tomb Raider
13 – Rez Infinite
28 – Skyrim

November
04 – CoD: Infinite Warfare
04 – CoD: Modern Warfare Remaster
29 – Final Fantasy XV


2017
January
24 – Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

February
28 – Horizon: Zero Dawn
28 – Vikings: Wolves Of Midgard

Who Knows
?? – Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

2016 In Music: What’s Left?

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Lists, Music on July 31, 2016 by slateman

Jumalten AikaI don’t care how predictable this might seem but Moonsorrow’s latest opus is album of the year and nothing in the remaining five months has a chance of dethroning it. There. Done. Well, that’s all good, but surely there’s something good left in the world, isn’t there? There always is, some more promising than others. Why not pause to recap what’s the best so far and then see what’s coming up.

2016’s Best So Far

  • Moonsorrow: Jumalten Aika
  • Amon Amarth: Jomsviking
  • JK Flesh: Rise Above
  • Abbath: Abbath
  • Final: Live Reprocessed | Birmingham 2009
  • October Tide: Winged Waltz

Not sure how good the remaining stuff will be. Will that be my top 6 of the year? WEAK!

2016’s OK…

  • Katatonia: The Fall Of Hearts
  • Borknagar: Winter Thrice
  • Megadeth: Dystopia

There are some bad fucking albums I just couldn’t even muster the energy to list (Anthrax). Some I couldn’t even muster the strength to listen to yet. (Ihsahn)

2016’s To Come!

  • Skeletonwitch: The Apothic Gloom
  • Insomnium: Winter’s Gate
  • Council Estate Electronics: Arktika
  • Alcest: Kodama
  • Opeth: Sorceress
  • Soilwork: Death Resonance
  • Testament: Brotherhood Of The Snake

It’s weird. Skeletonwitch is a four-song EP. I’ve heard two songs already. One is fantastic. One not so much. Hard to get jived for two songs. Insomnium’s last wasn’t great. Same goes for CEE and Alcest as well (they were the friggin’ best). Opeth? Don’t know why I even hope any more. Their first three records are masterpieces. Finally, Soilwork is just a collection. Two new songs, a few Japanese extras and a bunch of stuff I already have. Man…Moonsorrow will have to carry 2016 on its broad shoulders. See what the mighty Testament can conjure up!

New Albums: Barren 2016 Edition

Posted in Blog, Lists, Music on February 19, 2016 by slateman

Jumalten AikaWhile 2015 was overall a disappointment, I have high expectations for 2016. Well, let’s clarify…There’s a new Moonsorrow disc coming out! That’s it. That’s all you need to know. OK, fair enough, that’s a lot of pressure on the Finnish band. Usually these lists are just as much for me to catalog the upcoming calendar. Let’s take a peek at the very little 2016 has to offer. God, I really hope Moonsorrow is good.

Oh, and a few already arrived. None wowed me, TBH.

Already Out
Abbath – Abbath (Good album)
Megadeth – Dystopia (*snore*)
Borknagar – Winter Thrice (Disappointing)
Jesu/Sun Kill Moon – Eponymous (Unlistenable)
Anthrax – For All Kings (Urgh)

March
25 – Amon Amarth – Jomsviking

April
01 – Moonsorrow – Jumalten Aika
01 – Babymetal – Metal Resistance
04 – Ihsahn – Arktis (zero expectations)
22 – October Tide – Winged Waltz (excited!)

Wow…that really is a barren list. Maybe a new Testament disc, but…I haven’t loved them since like 2001. Metallica? Haha. 2018! Is that all…? Hrmph.

The Top 8 Best Gaming Series

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, DoDon Pachi, Games, Lists, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Tony Hawk Series, Uncharted, Ys on January 24, 2016 by slateman

best-series
Another long-brewing article, I pondered this for quite some time. Why not put together a best gaming series article? Good question! Now that vacancy is now filled! Let’s not wait. Article start!

There are a few games that missed this list, some better than others, but honorable mention goes out to:

  • Mega Man
  • Tony Hawk
  • Ratchet & Clank
  • Gears Of War
  • God Of War
  • Tomb Raider
  • Ys

With those out of the way, let’s start with number eight!

Castlevania_logo_color
#8: Castlevania (1987 – Present)
This series has been quiet as of late. With just two titles issued in the past half-decade, it’s safe to say we’re in a lull. However, from 2001 until 2008, we saw about ten solid Castlevania games, and this is after the classic trio and subsequent rejuvenation with Symphony Of The Night. And what spectacular titles those are! The first game was a great start, the second a stumble that at the time I loved and memorized and the third was the pinnacle of platforming back in ’89. SotN remains in my top-whatever list of games, and the music alone can transport me back to ’97 and where I was in my life.

The handheld titles that followed each trumped the last and some of those I played more than once. I even liked Lords of Shadow and its handheld quasi-sequel. Last year’s second installment was quite the opposite. I hated that one. Some rather dismal Castlevania games aside, there are easily a dozen top-notch games to replay as we wait
for another renaissance of Dracula and the Belmont clan!

Zelda_Logo.svg
#7: Zelda (1987 – Present)
Everybody knows Zelda, Link and of the rich history of games relating to them. The problem with Zelda is that moving backwards, I can’t say love any recent titles other than 2013’s 3DS game and maybe the Minish Cap from 2004. I wasn’t a fan of the GC or Wii titles and I never played Majora’s Mask. So, two portable games since 1998? It should go without saying that I’m excited about this year’s Wii U game.

Of course the original, the SNES game and Ocarina were all perfect 10s. I didn’t get an NES until around when the SNES came out, but I remember playing the first Zelda game, completing the second quest…bombing every single inch of the map in order to find the last dungeon’s location. A Link To The Past? Ocarina Of Time? Nothing needs to be said about those titles. But while I love me some Zelda, the series hasn’t wowed me in quite a while, thus putting it at a shockingly-low number seven on this list.

uncharted_logo
#6: Uncharted (2007 – 2016) (R.I.P.)
I played the demo for the first game and wasn’t impressed. But upon playing the full game, I realized that Naughty Dog had crafted a special 3rd-person shooter that coupled solid gameplay with excellent storytelling and likable characters. I obtained three platinum trophies in 2011. Uncharted, Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3. I liked the games that much. And the portable game was surprisingly-fun as well. There’s not much to be said about this franchise that hasn’t been mulled over by countless others. I don’t quite know if UC4 can possibly live up to its predecessors and it’s rather sad the series will be done after part 4. Will it still be as memorable a decade from now when other developers are making the umpteenth version of the same game? *shrug*. But Nathan Drake sure had a good run!

Do_Don_Pachi_Japan
#5: DoDonPachi (1995 – 2012)(R.I.P.?)
Some series tout diversity but with shmups, it’s not quite so easy to discern. The outsider would recognize no true difference between Daifukkatsu and Sai-Dai-Ou-Jou. In fact, their names alone might confuse. However, to the dedicated player, those two titles are night-and-day different. While I can pass on Don Pachi, DDP and three of its four sequels are the pinnacle of the genre. Cave supported the scene until its dying breath and even put out a remarkable home port to make the goodbye ever bittersweet. And while DFK and SDOJ were fun and amazing titles, DOJ remains the best shmup ever made. The recent surprise IOS release (Ichimen Banchou) may breathe hope into the franchise, but I won’t hold my breath. DDP is that good.

top_title-logo
#4: Resident Evil (1996 – Present)
Some franchises have a handful of main games, but not RE. We have 1-6, which I’ve played all but the third. There are the Revelations games, Zero, the Chronicles and Gun Survivor games, etc. and this doesn’t include remakes, movies, CG movies and remasters of 1, 4, 0 and 2 coming up.

Therefore, with a pool of so many games, surely there will be some great ones, right? Obviously but the good games are damn good. I positively loved going through the HD remaster of RE1. I played through RE4 on no fewer than four consoles (GC, PS2, Wii, PS3). RE5 I platinumed on the PS3 and also beat on the Xbox360. RE6 was bloated, but the good in that game was quality. Too bad there was so much excess.

The remaster of 2002’s RE0 is an entertaining romp (it’s so strange to think that 2002 is 14 years ago. It’s a classic era in a sense.) With the re-make of RE2 and the inevitable RE7 on the horizon, I don’t see a shortage any time soon. I liked the survival horror of the first games and the action-based nature of the recent ones. Despite a number of iffy titles, the diversity and sheer quality of the great games lands this at #4 on my list.

logo-sf
Street Fighter (1987 – Present)
I played SF in the arcade, then later as Fighting Street on the TurboDuo in the late ’80s.
I vividly remember seeing SFII for the first time at the mall arcade on Long Island in ’92.
I recall SFIII (and sucking at it) but still giving it a go while at some flea market down in Florida in ’99.
SFZ was my favorite; I played the first in the mall in Albany, then SFZ2 at the same mall mentioned earlier on Long Island. (’95-’96) I imported SFZ3 from Japan the day it was released.
SFEX was shipped to me, along with the cool Chun-Li shirt, and I played it incessantly while my girlfriend was in Florida in October of ’98.

I really could go on and on, as every entry is special and so very unique, all while retaining the necessary familiarity. My story continues with the Vs. series, spin-offs, SFIV, web sites I’ve run, countless art books and the like. And this isn’t even discussing the gameplay. It set the standard with SFII, it reinvigorated the scene with SFIV and I’ll be a day-one purchaser of SFV when it ships next month, more than 25 years after I started playing this series. It is the king, its characters iconic, its music memorable and it’s easily in my top-three favorite franchises ever. Not a question. The real downside is that I’m not particularly good at it. But that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying it for most of my life. And as I write this (before SFV is released), I’m not entirely sure this doesn’t belong at #2 on this list…..

Metal_Gear_Solid_logo
#2: Metal Gear Solid (1998 – 2015)(R.I.P.)
I’m eschewing the first Metal Gear games as I never played them and it’s only truly when MGS shipped in ’98 that the series became so iconic. And here’s the thing: MGS, MGS2, MGS3, MGS4, MGS:PW and MGSV are almost all so totally different from one another. Each has a unique purpose, statement, gameplay innovation or take on stealth that makes no one better than another. It’s also worthy of note that other than MGS2 and MGS3 both being PS2 games, every title appeared on a different generation of hardware. Kojima always wanted to do more and more and finally with MGSV, he accomplished his goals and ended his involvement in the series.

And for a person who isn’t the greatest at stealth games, this series brought me across 50 years of a convoluted history and kept me compelled to keep playing, despite my lackluster ability. Having gone back to replay some titles, I was no less amazed on subsequent playthroughs. MGS4 was my GotY in 2008, MGS5 in 2014. They were emotional and fun, powerful and silly. Kojima’s attention to detail cannot be overstated. Masterpiece after masterpiece, any new MGS sans Kojima will be lacking that special touch. Thus, 1998 – 2015, and #2 on this list.

Super_Mario_Logo
#1: Super Mario Bros. (1985 – Present)
If the grandeur of MGS cannot be overstated, then surely Mario can be. Everyone knows of him, and every game gets great scores. However, this is no conspiracy. While the golden years of gaming had a long string of amazing Mario games, even recent years have been consistently excellent. I once ranked the Mario games stopping around 2008 but the newer titles stand up with those others. As Super Mario Bros. 3 still sits atop the best-games-ever list, there are easily another half-dozen games featuring the plumber on the top 25. From the Galaxy games to the New SMB titles to the 3D World games…Shigeru Miyamoto has produced the single greatest series in gaming history with one of the most iconic characters in all of media. No new Mario games will come out in 2015, but whenever a new title comes out, I will be in line to get it. Why? The one-word review of Mario and the reason it’s the greatest ever? Fun. I could continue with ingenious and tricky and comment about replayability but the end result is a fun game each time (well, I hated Sunshine) and the noble title of:

Best.Franchise.Ever

Game Of The Year: 9-Year Recap

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists, Metal Gear Solid, Uncharted on January 18, 2016 by slateman

gotySince I’m on the kick of making lists and since I haven’t really done a Game of the Year list consistently, I figured I’d toss this up. I went year-by-year to figure out not only the best game for each year, but also which was the best new IP. In a world of endless sequels (see the post below), new franchises are important. These lists are mostly for me, honestly; I love looking back at each year’s greatest titles. I moved to Maine just at the end of 2005 but I couldn’t really pick a best of 2006. Perhaps I’ll return and make this a true 10-year list. Well, without further ado…

Year GotY New IP GotY
2015 Metal Gear Solid V Rocket League
2014 Shadow Of Mordor [Same]
2013 Tomb Raider Guacamelee!
2012 Borderlands 2 The Walking Dead
2011 Portal 2 Torchlight
2010 Red Dead Redemption Darksiders
2009 Uncharted 2 Borderlands
2008 Metal Gear Solid 4 LittleBigPlanet
2007 Uncharted [Same]

It’s worth noting that 2010’s Red Dead Redemption was a toss-up with Super Mario Galaxy 2. Both are pretty much perfect 10s in my book. Two MGS games and two Uncharted games topping this list! And Borderlands is on there twice too. Pretty cool!

What To Play: 2016 Edition

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Uncharted, Ys on January 17, 2016 by slateman

2016
2016 is here and it’s time to look forward rather than backward. The top three on last year’s list ended up being pushed back to this year, as did a handful of others. Thus, this list is somewhat of a duplicate. Here’s the list with known dates. Almost all titles are PS4 games with the exception of Zelda and the last two.

Resident Evil Zero Jan 19 Pre-Ordered
Mighty No.9 Feb 9 Buy? GF? Wait?
Street Fighter V Feb 16 Pre-Ordered
FarCry Primal Mar 1 GF likely
Ratchet & Clank Apr 12 Buy / GF?
Uncharted 4 Apr 26 Pre-Ordered!
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst May 24 Maybe GF later
Sherlock Holmes: TDD Spring Maybe GF
No Man’s Sky June GF?
The Legend Of Zelda ??? Day One Buy!
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana Summer To US in 2016?
Rise Of The Tomb Raider December Buy?
Shadow Complex Remastered ??? Likely Buy!
Zero Escape 3 Summer GF probably
Final Fantasy XV ??? Unknown
Broforce ??? Unknown
Doom ??? Unknown
Crackdown 3 ??? Loved CD2
Gears Of War 4 ??? Loved GoW1 & 3!

So, SFV, UC4 and RE0 are all a-coming. Zelda is, without question, a title that will be in my library. The rest though…I don’t know. I loved the last Tomb Raider (GotY 2013!) and the new one got good reviews. I’m likely going to want that one. A new Ys game?! Sherlock Holmes is fun to play alongside my wife. I don’t know. 2016 may not be the best or most innovative year, but it should be a good one.

The Best Games Of 2015

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Lists on January 8, 2016 by slateman

I haven’t been quite as consistent in making a best games list annually but this year I thought I’d change that. Much like music, I felt that 2015 was not the strongest of years, but that the top titles were utterly stellar.

To begin, I went through all games I had received trophies in and/or beat (plus a few Nintendo 3DS games, as those are the only two platforms I really played). That list is as follows. Oh, and for titles with an *, it means they came out prior to 2015 but that I didn’t play those until last year. A + means I beat it again, perhaps an updated version or on a new platform.

  • PS4: Bastion (*)
  • PS4: Call Of Duty: Black Ops 3
  • PS3: Chariot (*)
  • PSV: Color Guardians
  • PS4: Dying Light
  • PSV: Fat Princess: Piece Of Cake
  • PS4: Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition (*)(+)
  • PSV: Hotline Miami (*)
  • PSV: Hotline Miami 2
  • PS4: Jamestown +
  • PS4: Journey (*)(+)
  • PS4: Just Cause 3
  • 3DS: The Legend Of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (*)
  • PS3: Lego The Lord Of The Rings (*)
  • PS3: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (+)
  • PS4: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
  • PS4: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (*)(+)
  • 3DS: New Super Mario Bros. 2 (*)
  • PSV: OlliOlli2: Welcome To Olliwood
  • PS3: Rain (*)
  • PS4: Rocket League
  • PS4: Resident Evil HD Remastered (+)
  • PS3: Resident Evil Revelations (*)
  • PS4: Resident Evil Revelations 2
  • PS3: Resident Evil 4 (*)(+)
  • PS3: Resident Evil 6 (*)
  • PS4: Rogue Legacy
  • PS3: Sherlock Holmes (*)
  • PS4: Shovel Knight
  • 3DS: Super Mario 3D Land (*)

Plenty of other titles (PS+ games, for instance) that I chose not to include. So, what are my thoughts on this year? Well, first, I went through a Resident Evil rage and then a Mario Renaissance upon purchasing a New 3DS. In preparation for the big autumn release, I started going through Metal Gear games again, trying out Peace Walker, replaying MGS3 and Ground Zeroes and diving right into the glorious Phantom Pain. It was a year of binge playing, much like many of us do with television shows nowadays.

I got a pair of platinums, played the excellent Far Cry 4 and enjoyed some titles with my wife by playing Rain and Sherlock Holmes. It was a good year, not a great one, with several of my best experiences being old games (3DS titles especially).

But what was the BEST? Which were the top 5? Everyone else’s list have titles like Fallout 4 (never played any of those games) or The Witcher 3 (same!) Here’s a rather-unofficial Top-5 list.

2015-dyinglight#5: Dying Light
While I haven’t beaten this title yet ($15 Black-Friday deal), it’s a huge improvement over the disappointing Dead Island and truly gave me a sense of fear and dread. Nighttime in this game was a truly horrifying experience. Visually it’s one of the best-looking games ever and the gameplay was different enough to keep me interested. It’s just a shame I got this at the end of the year when my #2 and #1 games came out!!!

2015-rocketleague#4: Rocket League
The year’s fourth-best title was FREE? I usually download PS+ titles right away so that I ‘own’ them but I don’t usually prioritize actually playing them. After a few weeks of hype, it was time to check it out and oh man, I was hooked fast! Simple, pick-up gameplay but a deep system of play allowed for newcomers to start off on an even keel. There were so many “OMFG” moments! Unlike some other titles, I’ll come back to play this again here and there surely.

2015-residentevil#3: Resident Evil: HD Remastered
I was always embarrassed to say I never actually beat Resident Evil. I’d played it on the PS1, borrowed it from somebody…way back in like 1997. Then I played the original REmake on the GameCube but bailed on that. When half a zombie was crawling through a window and I had one before me and one behind, I was done. But the HD version drew me in and I beat it several times, once even speed-running it in 2-and-a-half hours. I quite liked it and that led into my RE madness for a few weeks. Didn’t help that my wife was away for four months at the time!!!

2015-justcause#2: Just Cause 3
Oh, Just Cause. If I’m not mistaken, IGN gave the console version a 5.9. Whatever! JC3 is a terribly-flawed game…but I don’t care one bit! I never encountered the game-breaking bugs others did. What I did encounter was a ludicrous and amazingly-fun game dedicated to blowing every goddamn thing up in sight. And for that, I salute its intent. I had a blast (total pun) wing-suiting around the world, flying, diving, crashing, jumping massive chasms, using the grappling hook for infinite purposes and liberating the most beautiful and insanely-detailed world in gaming history. While my #1 game ruled, its world was barren compared to the diversity and the nooks and crannies of this title. I don’t care what review other sources give this title, it filled its purpose perfectly and was utter madness…just what I expected and wanted.

2015-mgs#1: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Back in 2010 I wrote about MGS I vs. III vs. IV. I’ve spoke of this often, but I had in the summer of 2008, run through all four main entries into the MGS saga in one summer. It was friggin’ great. And then Kojima announced V. Do we *need* part five? Snake’s story was told. I was satisfied. And so I avoided all press entirely, really. I mean, c’mon, Snake on a horse? Open world? Whatever. But as the date approached, the MGS world beckoned me and I couldn’t avoid it. And when September 1st arrived, holy shit, I was blown away. What you get in 5 is the least-cohesive of all MGS stories (and that’s saying something), but it is also the most silky-smooth gameplay I’ve ever witnessed. The usual Kojima depth is there in spades…far more hours still await me after I’ve passed the hundred-hour mark. I don’t know how many other games I can say that about. I wrote about its awesomeness a few months back. Ultimately, while the story was the weakest part, MGSV sits aside its brethren as triumphs in the gaming world and my reservations about the need of another game were rendered nonsensical. This game is spectacular and is the best game, hands down, of 2015 and probably the past few years as well.

The Best Albums Of 2015

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Lists, Music on January 7, 2016 by slateman

soilworktheridecd
I recently updated my Best Records List to tidy up the annual AotY entry and I also included the best of 2015. What follows is that article (The Best Records Of The 2010s). Enjoy!

2015 was a rather weak year with this list generally being a ‘least-worst’ list rather than a ‘best of!’ It’s also very varied both in musical style and country of origin. Shall we?

8: Ghost: Meliora (Sweden)
I never really got into this band. Satanic, Beatles-inspired metal? Just weird. But with the release of the single Circe, I was sold. The album is
pretty solid, catchy and the evil undertones are worthwhile. I don’t know if it has the longevity of other great albums, but it’s good enough to land at #8.

7: Lamb of God: VII: Sturm Und Drang (U.S.A.)
I like these guys, then I love ’em, then I don’t…however this album is easily better than the last. There are some killer, catchy riffs and I haven’t any real complaints. However, that’s only enough to place it at #7 on this list. Good album.

6: Amorphis: Under The Red Cloud (Finland)
So, Tales is now 20+ yrs old. They went prog rock and arose back on the metal side years ago. I think this is their 6th album since ‘coming back’. I find every second album is great and I quite liked their last. This is another solid album with some varied, worldly themes and the staple Amorphis sound. I like it, but like Lamb of God, I don’t love it.

5: Sulphur Aeon: Gateway To The Antisphere (Germany)
OMG, this band is heavy. Their second album is the first I’ve heard by them and while it’s a bit heavier than a lot of what I listen to, it absolutely crushes. This needs to be played loud. And repeatedly. Not an every-day listen for me, but one that impresses me every single time I give it a spin.

4: Korpiklaani: Noita (Finland)
I never really liked these guys but for some reason, months after this album came out, I gave it a try. And I dug it! It’s catchy, cheesy, ridiculous and awesome! Its upbeat rhythm and sound are a complete opposite of Sulphur Aeon. But that’s OK and Finland makes its second offering in my top 10.

3: Svartsot: Vældet (Denmark)
Another band I liked but never loved. There are some excellent tracks on this album, mostly in the second half. The last two are spectacular and capture what Svartsot does best. I only wish there were more just like these. Ultimately, it’s an excellent record, but it wouldn’t have landed in last year’s top 5. Or 7. This year, it’s my #3.

2: Tempel: The Moon Lit Our Path (U.S.A.)
Now the list goes from least-worst to BEST. These next two albums make me roar and press play again.

Tempel is a band I only heard of in December and within one month it raced to the top of my list. This US duo’s sophomore instrumental effort is a triumphant journey. This record is utterly amazing. The first tracks of my first spin left me indifferent but the soaring peaks of track 3 left me overwhelmed. By the end, it was another “I MUST LISTEN AGAIN” album and one that impressed more with each subsequent experience. Bits hearken to Opeth and entire segments call to Agalloch but this is an example of not even realizing I needed this in my life. As cliché as calling an album an ‘experience’ might be, this one as a whole is a remarkable voyage that grips and doesn’t let go.

American atmospheric doom, progressive, instrumental black metal? *Shrug* OK! Second-best album of 2015!!!

1: Soilwork: The Ride Majestic (Sweden)
The coveted AotY award goes to the same band who won all the way back in 2000 making the 15-year lapse the longest between AotY winners. This album is no Chainheart Machine, but it is more consistent than the surprisingly-excellent Panic Broadcast. Much like Amorphis, the awesome-then-dreadful band has come back with a more sporadic sequence of excellence but The Ride Majestic is a fun, fast and heavy outing. The pair of title tracks are the album’s strongest, with Soilwork doing what they do best, melding speed, melody and catchy, chunky riffs into a pristinely-produced and hum-worthy tenth album. Dirk Verbeuren’s drumming may be the best the band has ever seen and the new guitar duo of Coudret and Andersson proves to capture exactly what I love about classic Soilwork. While it sometimes descends into the band’s common formula, it is still a consistently-solid record and one that trumps all others in a very weak 2015.

AotY 2015 is Soilwork. I think I’m going to go listen to it again…if I can stop listening to Tempel, that is. And that’s the only real downside. While las year’s AotY went to Einherjer over At The Gates for offering something totally different, I don’t think I can say the novelty of Tempel bests the consistency of Soilwork. Either way, #1 and #2 were incredible albums while the rest of the list is just good.

Noteworthy Item:

Fastest Song: Marduk – Thousand-Fold Death
OMFG this song is fast. I never loved this band and think the album is a good record. But nothing is as good as this. It’s fantastic.

The 9 Best Games Of The Last Generation

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Borderlands, Games, Lists, Portal, Resident Evil, The Walking Dead, Uncharted on July 20, 2015 by slateman

I’ve been thinking of this article for some time now. Should I list 10 games? Should I list them in tiers? Ultimately, I’m just going to post this and go with it.

This is a list of the nine best/most important games of the last generation. That means the Xbox360/PS3 and PC if it appears on consoles. I am not looking at PC-only titles.

Bottom Tier

resident_evil_5_medium_1Resident Evil 5
This is not an important title. I can’t say it really did anything massively new or reinvented anything spectacular. Although it is entirely co-op, it’s not utterly groundbreaking. And it’s not widely heralded as an excellent title.

What it is however, is awesome. I’ve already raved about it as a stand-alone title. The DLC was fun and diverse. Nowadays I rarely replay games entirely. Instead, I 100%ed it on two consoles (-achievements). It was fun, packed a powerful punch and epitomized what I loved about the PS3/Xbox360 generation. A large game, fully co-op, good save system, tons of weapons and reason to replay it. That last one is an important one. Infinite rocket launcher? Magnum? And this doesn’t even count Mercenaries mode.

Rdr_torquemada_lookoutRed Dead Redemption
GTA in the wild west? No thanks. I love GTA, I don’t like westerns but…well…this is fun and diverse and the writing is impeccable and dead-eye is a hell of a lot of fun and WHOAH, that story twist!!! How many times did I get off track, wandering the woods for a bear or through the vast, arid desert skinning animals and saving people? I lost my save for RDR but I got to see the true ending and it was one of the best stories of the entire generation. And let’s not forget the song when you finally cross into Mexico. It’s rare that one song in a game stands out but its power was in how your rode south, the gentle song leading you into a foreign (yet similar) land. And how different it was, different people, chatter and style.

A sequel in this generation would only make me smile. I certainly hope it’s on the horizon somewhere.

Middle Tier

DLC4_Envishot_LostCity_smallGears Of War 3
The first GOW was great and the second just OK. The third, in my opinion, was the strongest and the most fun. It expanded the color palette for one, and tweaked everything to make it run faster (less clunky) and was just a spectacular and powerful game. So, while the first title really did more for this generation, specifically its cover system, excellent reload mechanics and a fully co-op campaign (oh how I wish for more of those!!!), the third perfected it. If I were to go back; I’d play this one.

call-of-duty-4-mwCall Of Duty: Modern Warfare
I don’t care what anybody says about MW and the series as a whole. Here’s what matters to me…

After hearing all the hype, I finally rented the game and tossed it in my 360. Of course, the visuals were impressive and the sound was solid. It was when my character stepped out into the streets, with bullets flying everywhere, my eyes opened wide. Games up until that point had enemies shooting at you. Some team-based games had more targets, but for the first time, I felt like I walked into a world that was going on around me. I remember having surround sound going, bullets pinging everywhere, and it was utter mayhem. It was precisely what I wanted in gaming. Now, while the sequels upped the ante considerably, it was the first MW where my mouth truly dropped. As a player who avoids multiplayer almost entirely, the campaign was all I cared about. And it was a solid, entertaining and compelling campaign. Its brevity wasn’t disappointing either. Quite the contrary, it was sweet and to-the-point. Solid controls, insane action and at the time, superb visuals made for a game that was truly a game-changer. Once again, say what you will about the series and its subsequent milking. That first game was a turning point.

Just-Cause-2-1Just Cause 2
I never played (or had even heard of) the first Just Cause but this title was a free game on PS+ one month. I’m all about grabbing just about any free game I can but my first play session was merely OK. The controls were a bit loose and it was hard figuring out the whole grappling hook. I remember my second session, however, where my opinion changed entirely.

I had a hard time going back to open-world sandbox games after this. Moving around was so slow and boring (well, with the exception of Saint’s Row, but that’s just a ridiculous game!) The things I managed to do with Rico in this game were outrageous. Tethering cars to helicopters and scaling buildings with ease were awesome, as were the insane amount of explosions but the most important word in a review of this game is “fun”. I had a blast playing this, destroying everything. Just the number of options in this game make it for a memorable and long-lasting experience. Shoot a guy? Tether him to a truck and drive off? Tether an item to a truck and pull it down onto him? Oh, it goes on and on! In December of this year a sequel is coming out and I can’t limit my excitement. This might be one of those games where more of the same is just what I want. We’ll have to see!

walking dead lee clementine

The Walking Dead
Sure, I loved the show, but a choice-based, point-and-click adventure? Once the first two episodes were free, I grabbed them (remember, I love me freebies!) and everything changed. I connected with Lee, the game’s protagonist, more than perhaps I did with any character in any game ever. I cannot even discuss the finale without getting a lump in my throat. It was perhaps the single most powerful gaming experience ever. (yes, that trumps Metal Gear Solid IV and the at-the-time surprise of Aerith in Final Fantasy VII.

And while there were action sequences in this title, those were by far the least exciting, the least compelling, the least enticing. Episodes four and five start to rip your heart out and as I’ve written about already, the tears were genuine. I was talking to my TV. I was moved. I was hurt. And I will recommend this game to anyone, zombie fan or not. In some ways, it should be top-shelf material. Ah…I hate making these lists. Just know that it’s awesome. I shouldn’t have to say more.

Top Shelf

872182-portal-2Portal 2
I missed out on Half-Life and that whole thing and so it wasn’t until after Portal 2 came out that I even tried this series. The first game was certainly fun, but I’m pretty certain I played that (PC) after I beat it on the PS3 (and subsequently played it all again on the PC, beating both 1 and 2 within 24 hours).

This is a triple-A puzzle game…something that’s generally unheard of. Without playing it, my claims of Brilliance can not explain the sheer awesomeness of this title. Sadly, it’s the only thing I can even say. After each test room or the later colored gels, I marveled at the absolutely-ingenious design. I felt such delight at the solutions and the miraculous lack of unsolvable puzzles. The game was designed and tested to perfection. GLaDOS and her anger were written with utter sarcasm and it all delighted as the weird story unfolded. I can think of nothing about this game that isn’t perfect brilliance. You can go back at any time as well, provided you haven’t memorized all the solutions, and enjoy those brainy solutions all over again. Sadly, I never got the chance to play co-op. I bet that’s awesome.

bl2_1

Borderlands 2
After renting and beating Modern Warfare, I rented Borderlands. I’d heard good things, etc. etc. After such a visually-compelling and powerful experience, my initial thoughts of BL were…eh. The cel-shaded presentation coupled with a weird premise didn’t totally impress me immediately.

I played a bit; I returned the game.

A few weeks later, I was humming this tune in my head. I started missing the skill tree options. I had to rent the game again. Perhaps I was lucky but the local video store was closing and I bought the game for like $12. I then played the game. A lot. My save game ended up getting deleted and so at some point I started again. Then did true vault hunter mode. Then I returned a year later and got the platinum. The DLC was spectacular (I bought 3 of the 4, IIRC). We’ve all played our share of FPS games. None compelled me like this one. The outrageous guns that I’d receive were motivation alone to continue! It was stylish, unique, funny and full of loot! The light-hearted story was trumped by the second game, itself a superior product. Just about every fault I could find in the first title was remedied. Things were tweaked where necessary and left alone where needed. Even the trailer was insanely awesome! I love this game and while I skipped the Pre-quel, I fully anticipate grabbing part 3 whenever it debuts on this current generation. LOVE IT! (said in Torgue’s voice!)

B001JKTC9A.03.lgUncharted 2
To complete the trio of sequels…

Sure there are other 3rd-person action games. They’ve existed since the advent of 3D games. In so many ways, Uncharted is inspired by Tomb Raider which itself was inspired by Indiana Jones. So Why is this so important? Because it was fun, challenging, looked great and its gameplay was perfection. The first game is amazing, the third game is more of the same and the second was pristinely balanced. Headshots were truly enjoyable and the ka-ching of every kill was the most rewarding sound of the entire generation of games. Seeing Drake hanging by one arm got a bit old by the third game. However, the cinematics of the second, the chemistry with Elena and Chloe, the diverse and lush locales, the exciting finale, the co-op levels…*takes breath*…This game is probably my favorite of the entire generation even if it didn’t redefine like Portal or Borderlands did. It just did what I love the most…perfectly.

New Albums: Summer/Autumn 2015!

Posted in Lists, Music on June 21, 2015 by slateman

Under The Red CloudAfter a long, slow, uneventful first half of 2015, it seems like the behemoths are ready to unveil some true metal for the second half of the year. Sure, we had Blind Guardian and Armageddon. Arcturus and Solefald are good but not AotY material. Marduk is some solid shit but nothing else stands out. Faith No More? Svartsot? Maybe Sulphur Aeon. No…instead we have the following records to look forward to in the next four months. Color me psyched. Some of these are just nostalgia bands, but I’m excited for what could be a good finale to 2015!!!

Updated to include My Dying Bride

July
10 – Cradle of Filth
24 – Joe Satriani
24 – Lamb of God

August
07 – Fear Factory
21 – Ghost
28 – Soilwork

September
04 – Iron Maiden
04 – Amorphis
11 – Slayer
18 – My Dying Bride
18 – The Black Dahlia Murder

October
02 – Children of Bodom