Video Games To Play Before You Die
ZorkTo play the the text based game Zork is to understand where the possibilities and limitations of computers converged in the late 70s and early 80s. The history of the game is interesting in its own right. (Zork On Wikipedia) but playing the game is where its at. I strongly recommend waiting till late at night, turning off all the lights, putting on some Duran Duran and giving it a whirl. I myself didn't play Zork until 83ish. There were some games with graphics by then but the technology was so limited that the imaginary picture painted by a few sentences in Zork could be more engaging than anything you could look at on a monochrome monitor. Zork can be played in your browser at zorkonline.net
Dragon's LairIn the early 80s, the games coming out at the arcade were getting pretty repetitive. Most games were just some sort of shoot em up with single screen maps that changed each level or a conveyor belt format that scrolled redundant images. Dragon's Lair was the first breath of something new in a long time. The game-play was extremely simplistic but the view was better than anything else in the arcade...if you could see that is. The crowd around this machine for the first year was impressive. Actually getting a chance to play was pretty rare. The game was nothing more than a series of cut scenes that you watched. You played the game by pushing the joystick in the right direction at the exact right moment. If you waited too long or pushed the wrong way, you got a death cut scene and the game was over. To beat the game was to participate in a roughly 5 minute long animated movie. This format made for the first game I can remember that had characters of any depth. Dirk, the main character was brave and precise when controlled correctly but a foolish klutz when played otherwise. Dragon's Lair led to a few followups in the same format. Space Ace was my favorite, but Dragon's Lair was first and makes the list for its originality.
Missile CommandMissile command is a simulation of a missile defense system where you control a cannon used to shoot down incoming ICBMs. Missile command is the first game I can think of that introduces the concept of leading a target. The missiles are traveling towards your cities at varying speeds and your cannon takes time to travel to the missile. The entire game is based on shooting your cannon where you believe the missile will be at a later time based on its speed and trajectory. If you over or under anticipate this location you will not destroy the incoming missile. Eventually the missiles start coming so fast and plentiful that you must anticipate the target, fire the cannon and move to a new target without regards to the outcome of the previous shots. I am sure there are built in mechanisms in the brain for these kinds situations, but these skills can be honed. To improve at missile command is improve your reflexes and to work out your brains built in trigonometry and physics and stuff. Practicing Missile Command would absolutely make you better at almost all other video games.
Cosmic ArkCosmic Ark is the ultimate pure reflex game. The controls are simple. push the joystick in the direction of the incoming asteroid. As you move on to the next level, the asteroids come faster, more numerous and from more varied directions. The bonus level in between has you picking up 2 specimens off varying planets which I guess has something to do with noah's ark. Whatever the point of the game is, the game tested reaction time like no other of the time.
Mattel Electronics B-17 BomberB-17 Bomber was a flight simulator for the Intellivision console that utilized the intellivoice expansion module. Voices in video games were unheard of at the time and this expansion device was awesome (they only ever made a handful of games for it though). The addition of voice allowed for a very interactive game. The pilot of the plane would warn you of incoming bandits so that you could, using the controllers number pad, switch to different views to deal with the enemy planes. "Fighters 6 o'clock" for example, would let you know you needed to switch to the tail gun view. When you were approaching a ground target the pilot would let you know so that you could switch to the bomb bay view and drop your bombs. You could also hit secondary ground targets along your routes so long as you kept an eye on fuel because you didn't win until you were safely back to your base. Sometimes that even meant gliding home if you were close enough. The multi-view multi-objective system created one of the biggest game experiences of the time.
Star Wars: X-WingWhether you look within or outside the Star Wars universe, you will be hard pressed to find any flight simulator as involved as Star Wars: X-Wing. The demands of micromanaging your power between engines, weapons and shields while dog fighting is something I have yet to see be attempted in any other game. The missions all have a personality of their own, from straight out dog fighting to protecting cargo ships in empty space with the enemy showing up in the final minutes to make a stand. The vehicles with their different capabilities will have you in scenarios where you are glad you are in an A-wing one second and thinking how much easier the mission would be in an X-Wing the next. I have read a lot of articles that mention software companies wanting to do something on par with X-Wing, but nothing has come out worthwhile. Lucas Arts' own attempts to create a more up to date but just as invigorating experience as X-Wing have all fallen drastically short. They ramped up the graphics in a rerelease in the late 90s but I would love to see a next gen rework soon. I'm sure I'm not the only one.
Crash BandicootSega had Sonic, Nintendo had Mario and Sony had nothing...until Crash Bandicoot that is. When I first got the Sony Playstation, the games that were offered for it were all high tech and serious. There didn't seem to be a let loose side of the console except maybe for ray-man (and it sucked big time). Some of the levels were mentally challenging while others just tested reflex and coordination. Crash albeit having rather linear levels, was a nice 3-D scroller that showed off what the playstation could do while giving us a character icon we could be proud of.
Tomb RaiderI never thought a video game world could be so freakin big until I played Tomb Raider. I had no particular interest in the title when I'd first heard of it so I didn't play it until at least a year after its release, but a friend gave me his unwanted copy so I eventually decided to check it out. I was blown away. I can still remember the spine tingling moments after running through claustrophobic caves finally exposing a huge aaAAAAaaaAAaAA landscape. Where other games might leave you bored, the architecture of the levels made lengthy runs back and forth to solve puzzles pleasantly enjoyable. Tomb Raider 2 will always be my personal favorite, but Tomb Raider 1 started it all. Don't kid yourself by playing Tomb Raider: Anniversary. The graphics may be better and it may be inspired by the original, but it is no where near as challenging and rewarding. The graphics on the next gen Tomb Raider: Underworld are gorgeous, but the game still falls short of its boxier ancestor.
Star Wars: BattlefrontDoom II aside, I was never really into online gaming of any sort. My brother had recently become addicted to SOCOM and in an attempt to drag me down with him bought me a network adapter for my PS2 and SOCOM to go with it. I played a few rounds with him and his friends and I was bored to tears. Then my best friend told me about battlefront and loaded it up on his machine for me. I was hooked right away. Sorry SOCOM. The fact that it is a Star Wars title may or may not have had some appeal but the real attractant for me was the quick in and out game play. Respawning 5 seconds after dying and getting right back in the battle was a lot more fun than SOCOMs keeping me dead for 5 minutes until the match ended. How would that ever appeal to a noob. Battlefront's maps were a big draw too. Besides feeling like you were in a Star Wars movie, the balance of power was so well laid out you'd never have a preference for which faction you were assigned to. The use of vehicles both ground and aerial were fantastic. You'd better have a guy in an x-wing taking out the tanks or your ground ops were going to be useless. If you are trying to get your tanks into play, you had better have a guy in a tie fighter keeping the guy in the x-wing busy. The use of AI soldiers in the online games was nice too because you'd always have target and the pace of the game never slowed down because you were on the wrong side of the map. Unfortunately, Battlefront 2 was over ambitious and I assume released early under pressure because it brought in so many unnecessary features at the cost of those that made the first one great. I can honestly say I probably wouldn't be playing online games today if Battlefront hadn't shown me the possibilities. Also, team killing was never so much fun. Where the fuck is Battlefront 3?
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4THPS4 was definitely out of my element for gaming. I wasn't much into sports types games or skating or being radical or whatever the kids call it these days. But I watched a complete stoner playing it at a friends house and he was busting out 100,000 point combos with ease. I gave it a try and couldn't land nothing. Not able to live the loss, I bought the game in an attempt to master it. What a bitch. There was no other game that I knew of that required you to be doing something with your hands at all times. There was no opportunity to rest. I think THPS4 was the first of the franchise to have online play which would be why it makes the list. Playing the graffiti style game online was a blast. It was always gratifying to take someone's wall, ramp or rail away from them because my trick pwnd that much harder. By the time I was ready to put that game to bed, I was pulling off 2 million point combos without much difficulty, but there was always some asshole busting out 200 million. The fact is, if you played Tony Hawk and your hand wasn't cramped up to holy hell from 200 move combos, you weren't any good. Watch the video to see a guy bust out a billion point combo. What a bastard!
Resistance: Fall of ManRFOM was the first best reason to by a Play Station 3. When the allure of battlefront wore off and its servers became barren, there was no first person shooter worth playing. I am sure there are HALO players that would disagree, but I had played it once or twice and it seemed to cartoonish and lame. I pretty much stopped playing video games altogether. When the PS3 came out, I wasn't even that interested. My brother however bought one in the first weeks it was released and with it he bought Resistance. A bunch of people at his house took turns playing the single player. The graphics were amazing and the game play was awesome. The variations of chimera and their technology kept each level fresh and new. The creative personalities of the weapons introduced along the way lead to an ever increasing feeling of total kick assedness. When I got a PS3 and my own copy of Resistance, however, I mostly played online. Holy crap at how much faster and more brutal the game was than Battlefront or anything else for that matter. The concept behind changing the maps up for number of players was a great idea that I still haven't seen in the latest titles you would expect to carry that. The maps were smaller in a lobby with less people playing. This meant the 8 maps or whatever they had huge variations so you never got that redundant feeling. Even more interesting was the fact that which faction you were assigned to changed the game play entirely without ever feeling unbalanced. The humans had enemy location radar and the Chimera didn't but the Chimera could see through walls and run crazy fast but the Humans couldn't. The overall feel of the game both single and mullti-player with historical scenery set in the 50s with futuristic technology was the icing on the cake of this hyper creative free for all.
I tried a few other first person shooters over the next year but nothing would be worth playing over Resistance: Fall of Man until...
Call of Duty 4: Modern WarfareThere wouldn't be much to this game if it wasn't for the game play. The capabilities of the game always seemed faster that I could ever be which meant there was always room for self improvement. The single player game was pretty short but it had an engaging story mixed with some pretty amazing graphics. Still, the online play is obviously where the game shines. I think COD4 has set the game play and control standards for future FPS games for a long time. Pretty much all I want out of an FPS is something that looks different but feels like Modern Warfare. Way to fail Modern Warfare 2!
So that's my list of video games to play before you die and why. k now you go!