Top Ten Video Games: From Hackers to Journalists

07 Jul 2011

###10 - Uplink### Hacking Simulation - PC
Uplink - Because I'm a super-cool hacker now, mom

Introversion’s website describe it as, “high tech computer crime and corporate espionage on the Internet of 2010”. Holy hell do those guys need someone who can market their games for them.1 That being said, Uplink itself is a fantastic game that perfectly captures the feel of hacking with everything from the light-weight graphics to the subtly brilliant audio to the carefully constructed plot. This is not to say that it at all simulates whatever hacking is – I have no idea how one would go about doing anything involving swordfish, though I am pretty sure it has nothing to do with trance music – but it allowed me to make-believe that I was as cool as Jonny Lee Miller or Matt Frewer.

The story is pretty standard and the missions end up getting repetitive, but I find myself coming back to it every couple of years and giving it a play-through. I still enjoy the battle of Faith versus Revelation and the world-wide duel between Andromeda Research and the Arunmor Corporation.2 It was a simple game, but I loved it on my first play and I love coming back to it. Which is why Uplink is #10 on my top video games.

###9 - Portal 2### First-Person Puzzle-Platformer - PC
Portal 2 - I fell four kilometres. Through the same two metres of space. Because that's how science works, kids.

This is the newest game on the list and it just barely squeaks by, but that shouldn’t be taken as a disservice to Valve’s incredible effort. Most of the games on this list aren’t necessarily the highest rated or the most acclaimed of their time period. Instead, it is a collection of games that have been personally significant. For something that was released a month ago to have that kind of impact is a credit to how great the experience was.

I think the reason that the first Portal was so well-received was the novelty. With it, Valve showed the gaming industry that first-person could be so much more than just a shooter.3 All they had to do next was add in the fantastic storytelling that Valve is known for, make sure to hire an excellent voice actor, and sprinkle in just enough connections to the Half-Life universe to keep players guessing. I can’t imagine it was an easy task (much like I can’t imagine any Valve game being an “easy” task), but they pulled it off and I completely fell in love with Portal.

But no matter how good the original game was or how much trust I had in Valve to be awesome, I was worried about Portal 2. How could they top the genius of GLaDOS? What could they possible add to the puzzles to keep it fresh? And, most importantly for a Half-Life junkie like me, how would they connect Portal 2 with the rest of the Half-Life universe (of course, it’s not necessary–but if they could…)?

Yet again, Valve showed that they know exactly what they’re doing. Portal 2 surpassed its predecessor in every way. It took all the concepts of the original, including the most-loved GLaDOS, and advanced them as far as they could. There will not be another Portal game, because Valve left everything on the table. Yes, we will see Chell again; yes, Aperture Science and it’s Handheld Portal Device have more to their story; but the journey that we started in Test Chamber 00 is over. And Valve’s willingness to let go of their babies is what places Portal 2 on this list.4

###8 - Beyond Good & Evil### Stealth Action Adventure - PC
Beyond Good & Evil - I studied political theory for four years and every time someone talked about Friedrich Nietzsche, I thought about this game first. Thanks a lot, Ubisoft.

Things I remember about this game: an emergency military dictatorship that is really a front for a vast alien conspiracy in a science fiction/fantasy world; a main character with green hair named Jade who is a photojournalist who, with the help of her anthropomorphic pig uncle Pey’J, takes care of orphans on her secret island; pseudo-religious mind control; a hover-boat; a space ship; cool cinematics, excellent dialogue, a well written story, and one of the best soundtracks ever created.5

BG&E was not like any other adventure game that I had played. There were long stretches of stealth gameplay that demanded perfection. The gameplay was augmented by a photography aspect that seemed unique and captured my interest. Instead of attempting to reinvent the storytelling wheel, Ubisoft decided to perfectly execute a well-worn trope. TV Tropes describes it as “a Sci Fi twist on The Legend of Zelda”6 and I think that is the best way to put it.

At the moment, Ubisoft likes their Assassin’s Creed and Tom Clancy games. I don’t fault them that. But back in 2008, they released a teaser trailer for Beyond Good & Evil 2: it made me giddy. Another year goes by with almost no news and then, out of the blue, they release what appears to be a gameplay proof-of-concept: it looked… very different from the Jade that I knew and loved. Still, I have hope. I’ve changed a lot as a gamer since the first time that I played it and I don’t know if I’m looking for the same gameplay experience that BG&E originally provided. I am a fan of the Assassin’s Creed series; likewise with the Prince of Persia and Splinter Cell games–not just one or two of the line-up, but all of them. Ubisoft makes fun games and they tell great stories. I’m at a point where the narrative and the narrative vehicles are more important to me than most of the gameplay mechanics. This is the reason I’m excited about Beyond Good & Evil 2. It has big boots to fill.

But regardless of how the series is continued, I’ll always have a fondness in my heart for the bo-staff-wielding photojournalist with the green lips–which is why Beyond Good & Evil makes it to #8 on my top ten videos games list.

  1. Also, the terribly cheesy promo video that they have made certainly does more harm than good. It is fortunate that Uplink game out in 2001 and Introversion’s entire company is no longer riding on how well this game will sell.

  2. Thomas Arundel and Mark Morris were two of the designers behind Uplink. Naming the good guys after yourself, eh guys?

  3. See Pokemon Snap.

  4. Of course, now Valve’s going to go make Portal 3 just to prove me wrong.

  5. PROPAGANDA! Just listening to that makes me want to play the game again–if only to re-experience the audioscape. I’m not saying you need to go play this game (even though it’s on Steam for a meager $10). But the soundtrack, man! The soundtrack!

  6. Damnit, not again. I just lost three hours to TV Tropes.