It’s been a roller coaster year for PC gamers. We’ve been thrown about on adrenaline rides, dropped into pits of despair and taken on some of the most amazing trips of our lives. Anyway, enough with the rollercoaster metaphors; lets look at a year of PC gaming.
To start off 2009, we had some kick-ass releases. In a remarkable coincidence, almost all of the notable releases were strategy games. When Dawn of War II came out it knocked us flat with its fantastic visuals and RPG-esque tactical gameplay. Following this was Tom Clancy’s Endwar. With some interesting voice control options and a cool continuous multiplayer scheme it sounded like an interesting premise. Unfortunately, it failed to live up to its promises. Another much-hyped release was that of Empire Total War. Highly anticipated, it had high expectations. And while the game succeeded in creating a game that was yet even larger and better looking than ever before, it was riddled with bugs. To this date it still crashes, and the AI is still incapable of making naval invasions. Nevertheless it was a mixed bag to say the least.
To continue the trend of strategy games in Q1, we had the release of Men of War in late March. This game combined the small scale squad tactics of Company of Heroes and the innovative Direct Control as seen in the 2004 classic, Soldiers: Heroes of World War II. Also worthy of mention is Cryostasis, an indie horror game that had many people on the edge of their seats. Selling at a knock down price, it was a bargain worth snatching up.
A little way into the year, things cooled down a little. We had some big names like The Sims make a reappearance after a lengthy hiatus and some games like Demigod broke new ground with innovative new ideas. The Sims 3 managed to generate a fair amount of interest too, selling almost 1.5 million copies in its first week. Demigod was less successful after some critical reviews. And who can mention Q2 of 2009 without Stalin vs Martians! In the words of Gamespot’s Kevin VanOrd, “Do not play, look at, or even think about this mangled wreck of a strategy game.” Quite right he was too. Stalin vs Martians was a dire game in just about every area. It had horrible sound, horrible graphics, terrible controls and more bugs than a British hospital.
To help pad out this fairly desolate part of the year, Velvet Assassin was released in May. It was a unique stealth action game set in World War Two and it provided great sound with some great graphics. Unfortunately though- it just wasn’t that much fun due to unsatisfying gunplay and poor AI. However, for the more die-hard shooter fans out there, the biggest release of the quarter was ARMA II. This was not just a standard bubblegum shooter though- for many missions you were simply dropped somewhere in the 225km² map, given some rough directions, and off you went. Little guidance, lots of frustration and a punishing difficulty. Doesn’t sound like much fun does it? In fact what kept people coming back for more was the huge map editor, and the tons upon tons of equipment and vehicles at your disposal. Don’t fancy a long run? Take a chopper.
Nothing like a little ‘umph’ to start off Q3. Now, being that these are the summer months and game developers have a tendency to hibernate until winter, we didn’t see too much action. However, Street Fighter 4 with its fantastic online play and quirky retro visuals helped many a gamer through weeks of boredom. As did Batman: Arkham Asylum, which took the gaming media by storm. This was not simply a feeble movie-game seen so many times before; it was a visceral, exciting and adult adventure through the depths of DC’s underworld. To put it plainly- the best superhero game ever made.
However, if this didn’t take your fancy then in September we saw the highly anticipated yet slightly disappointing Resident Evil 5. Sporting a strong emphasis on 2-player co-op and taking place in bright African sunshine, Capcom’s latest was more of a gory third person shooter than the shit-in-your-pants survival horror game it once was. Nevertheless, it provided some entertainment, and it wasn’t a horribly botched port like RE4. It was also around September that anticipation of the now-infamous Modern Warfare 2 began to grow. Receiving pages upon pages of optimistic media coverage, it looked like a winner for sure…
The last few months have probably been the most eventful. Partly, this is because developers try and get their big budget releases out before Holiday to maximize profits, but this year there were several noteworthy events. First off we have Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising. Now, even with hindsight, I know that there were a LOT of PC gamers out there who were wary of this game before it’s release. While the original had been good, ARMA II had been released only months before, and it had set the bar high. Also, it was not totally unfair to suggest that because OF:DR was being released on consoles as well as PC, that it would be either a simple port, or just not have the epic scope of a game like ARMA II, purpose built for the PC. Upon release, it seemed like this was correct. The game didn’t have the realism or scope of ARMA, but it still had the bugs to match- most people found little reason to buy it. Following this we had Fallout 3: GOTY edition. Nothing new here, just a compilation of all the DLC’s and the full game in one package. It would have been nice if they had solved the crashing issues with it, though. To top off October, we had Boderlands. And do you want to know why this game is great? Loot. Lots of loot. Now I don’t know about you, but I just love the feeling you get when you find a monstrous cache of weapons in Fallout. Now imagine doing that every 10 minutes, and you get the basic idea of Borderlands. Seriously though, the gunplay and role playing elements all came together nicely in this superior game.
Now as we venture into November, things begin to heat up. Dragon Age Origins. Nuff’ said, right? This game was simply incredible; bringing together a mix of old style D&D action and beautiful modern day graphics, we had a game that felt both refreshingly new and comfortingly familiar at the same time.
Then, sometime around the end of October, the bombshell that MW2 would not have mod support or dedicated servers was dropped with an almighty shockwave. Forums were flash mobbed with angry PC gamers, and there was a huge outcry. However, Infinity Ward were not backing down (at that point in time) and refused to comment. Most of you will already know the story, so I will not elaborate further (if for whatever reason you don’t, check the links at the bottom for more info). So the MW2 release date came and went with the astonishing sales figures that everyone expected to accompany it. At this point, PC gamers were feeling very sorry for themselves- but just then, along came Left 4 Dead 2. Made by our loyal and friendly developer Valve, we expected class and polish, and we got every ounce of it.
To top it all off, and to bring us back to today, we had another decent release recently; namely DiRt 2. Good game if you have a steering wheel, but my opinion remains that driving games just don’t work so well on PC.
And the rest, as they say, is history…
And now we look towards 2010. 2009 was a good year, but it certainly had it’s ups and downs. But next year…PC gamers are in for a treat. Let me list some of the games we might be seeing in the next 12 months;
These are just some of the games you could be playing this time next year. Boy, I’m going to be strapped for cash next Holiday…
For further info on the Modern Warfare 2 scandal: