The Games Of 2011 That You Might Have Missed

As noted not too long ago, last year was one of the best ever as it pertains to video games. So many amazing titles came out for virtually every platform that anyone claiming “there’s nothing good to play out there” is pretty much an idiot. With so many games to keep track of, let alone play, not everything got the attention it deserved.

So for those of you that have finally polished off Skyrim, and are about to start the new Deus Ex, how about paying the following foursome in-between, or at the very least, placing them in your Gamefly que the next chance you get. They aren’t complete unknowns (well, one practically is), but there’s a safe bet that you totally forgot that they existed. First up…

Ace Combat: Assault Horizon
[BoxTitle]Ace Combat: Assault Horizon [/BoxTitle] [Trailer][/Trailer] [BuyNow][/BuyNow]

I love a comeback story and coming in at a close second to Mortal Kombat’s rebirth was Ace Combat’s. Granted, the stakes weren’t quite as high, but Ace’s oddball combination of arcade and sim gameplay had managed to carve itself a comfortable niche… some say too much so.

For years, the issue of whether Ace Combat was a real deal flight simulator or a more down and dirty, arcade action oriented affair was avoided by simply selling just enough units to make a profit and perhaps another installment. But along came the rise of hardcore military titles like Battlefield and Call of Duty, and the powers that be decided to go into an entirely new direction.

Well guess what? The risk was worth it. Because in the end, the very best (and most appropriate) parts of those aforementioned games were distilled and used to solve problems with the core mechanics that had existed since day one. As well as offer a certain kind of action for those who wanted to enjoy the flying action of Modern Warfare, but couldn’t bite for whatever reason. Motion sickness, anyone? Personally, I’d rather be up in the air in some flying form of mass destruction than running around on the ground with a peashooter.

So here’s was the basic issue with Ace Combat in a nutshell: you’d see a bunch of enemies far off in the distance. So you get in nice and close for some action. And guess what happens? They’d immediately zip past, and by the time you turned around, it was back to square one. By far the crowning achievement of Assault Horizon is the dogfight mode; get in close enough to the enemy, perform the right button presses, and you’re immediately locked into them. Where they go, you follow, allowing one to concentrate on the task of just shooting them down – no need to worrying about steering. The camerawork and overall presentation (btw, the graphics in the game are top-notch) is mesmerizing. This is the kind of thing that you show people who have even a passing interest in games and still leaves them stunned.

Like I said, the new dogfight mode has been a great source of controversy. Diehard Ace Combat fans who still stick by the series insists that it dumbs everything down and actually refuses to employ the mechanic. But yeah, that’s the very core in which the entire experience is centered on. Thankfully the trimming is quite solid; throughout the game are missions in which you must face off against a squad of enemy ships and fulfill certain objectives. Sounds hardly revolutionary, and it isn’t. But the most important thing is how they serve as vehicles to deliver those exhilarating dogfights, which gets my vote as the best new game mechanic in any game of last year.

In addition to the amazing visuals, the soundtrack is quite epic as well and goes far to add drama and importance to the action. But what actually helps the most here is how the names of places and things are actually recognizable. Again, sorry diehard Ace Combat fans, but I never gave a rat’s ass about Gracmeria or whatever the hell name of the country you were supposed to be from. I care about protecting my friend from France because it’s a real thing.

To recap: if you’re like me and have always like the idea of Ace Combat, but could never get past the chunkiness of the controls or simply want one of the closest equivalents of an interactive roller coaster, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon is your best bet, haters be damned. PS3, Xbox 360

Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection
[BoxTitle]Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection [/BoxTitle] [Trailer][/Trailer] [BuyNow][/BuyNow]

To be perfectly honest, MGS HD is a mixed bag. At its core are three of the finest games in the past ten years weaved together. The only frustrating parts is how they could have been much better in certain regards.

But first, a reminder: Metal Gear Solid might be one of the most important series of games in the past decade. Aside from being one of the few successful examples of cinematic gaming, a goal that pretty much every game has had since day one, it pushes the envelope in virtually every possible way. Critics have called MGS the first “post modern” video game. And thus we have three core entries in the series, which stand as testaments of how far video games have come since.

Chronologically speaking, first you have Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, which is the first installment of the MGS saga and one of the PS2’s greatest achievements. The gameplay is hella fun, the boss battles are unforgettable, and the story is in a class of its own. On that last note, the one common complaint that is leveled at every MGS game is how the plot is not as convoluted as others.

The HD version of Snake Eater is based upon the Subsistence release, meaning that it has the 3D camera (thank goodness). Without it, the game is pretty much impossible to play on the higher difficultly settings. Unfortunately, not all the extras from the previous editions carried over, like the Snake vs Monkey mini games. The “movie” that was pieced together from the cut scenes is also absent, though the one thing I was looking forward to the most is what’s missed the most: a dual language option. My only real beef with Snake Eater is how some of the American voices are not up to snuff, and there is certainly enough room on the PS3 version’s Blu-ray to support both. But on the 360’s DVD? Maybe not…

Next we have Peace Walker, which is essentially Metal Gear Solid 5, as it was referred to in development. Peace Walker without a doubt is the most deepest of all the Metal Gears. This also means that it’s the least played of all the installments. So basically, PW will be a treat to virtually everyone who experiences it for the first time, and is thus the real centerpiece of the package.

It’s certainly feels better the second time around; the game’s creators did their best to work with the PSP’s allotment of buttons and the like, but it just feels better with a real deal controller. It’s still a portable game, so it’s missions and overall presentation, which are inherently bite-sized, due to the nature of the original platform. But that’s by no means a complaint, just an observation. And again, even if the main game mode is a bit short compared to MGS 2 & 3, it offers far more replay value.

The only real complaint here is a big one: the visuals. The resolution for everything was simply increased, and while that’s great for the two PS2 originals, the PSP title shows it roots in not some eye pleasing ways. Everything looks super basic and blocky, and while it doesn’t get in the way of the actual game, it’s just a bummer. Isn’t this supposed to be HD? Not helping is how the same company behind MGS HD is behind every single other HD revamp, so they clearly have their hands full.

Finally we have Metal Gears Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Despite being the final adventure, timeline-wise, it’s the earliest of the three offerings. And while it’s first gen (by Team Kojima standards) visuals still outshine Peace Walker’s, it definitely shows its age, gameplay-wise. Controls aren’t as refined, and the restrained view of the action is officially a hindrance.

So yeah, despite the loss of certain extras that one might have assumed was a no-brainer, like language tracks from both America and Japan. Still, what you’re getting are three of the finest, most influential games of this modern era. With much of today’s trimmings, and for one insanely great price. Can’t go wrong with that. Xbox 360, PS3

All right, that’s it for now. Next time you’ll all learn about something called Ghost Trick and Shadow of the Damned.

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