Monday, November 16, 2009

The Christmas Gaming Gift Guide 2009 Part 1: Must Have titles

It has become tradition for me to write a little gaming gift guide around this time of year, so here I am again with what I consider my 10 "must have" titles for the 2009 festive season (funds permitting). The list may be a bit RPG heavy because that's by far my favourite genre, and they are perfect for this time of year with the long cold nights and time off from work. Some of these games are already out, and some are released soon. Watch out for part 2 soon which will feature another 10 games that I am interested in, but will likely only pick up if I see them cheap somewhere.

Dragon Age: Origins - Xbox 360, PC - Out Now - PS3 - 20/11/09

Bioware have once again crafted an RPG of truly epic proportions. Choose from one of six completely different origin stories and join the Grey Wardens as they battle to save the land of Ferelden from both the evil hordes of the Darkspawn and political machinations from within. The game should easily last you 50 hours (more if you decide to wander and complete side quests) and is extremely replayable due to the decisions that you have to make and the bearing that they have on the overall storyline. By the time you're done with this, it should be almost time for Mass Effect 2!

Borderlands - Xbox 360 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC - Out Now

Borderlands is a RPG/FPS hybrid, and is incredibly addictive as a result. Choose from one of four classes - Soldier, Hunter, Siren and Beserker, each with their own unique abilities, and venture out into the wastelands of Pandora in attempt to find the legendary vault. If that sounds a bit like Fallout, it's no surprise as this game was inspired by that series. You can play the game on your own if you wish but it really comes alive in the 4 player cooperative mode, where the different classes complement each other (one class has bullets and grenades that actually heal rather than harm allies, for example). There are squillions of different guns to find, a huge world to explore and a dark sense of humour throughout. Where else can you find mobs that go by the name of Midget Psycho or Badass Corrosive Alpha Skag?

New Super Mario Bros. Wii - Wii - 20/11/09

From the videos that I've seen of this game so far, it looks like really good fun in four player mode but the likely source of a lot of arguments this Christmas, as the hectic nature of the game will inevitably lead to someone accidentally causing the death of someone else, which will probably spark a rebellion with all hell breaking loose. Those who fear that the single player mode will suffer as a result of the emphasis on multi player should relax - Nintendo have things well in hand. This could well end up being my game of the year, and I don't have long to wait now!

Forza Motorsport 3 - Xbox 360 - Out Now

In my opinion, the Forza series has been the leader of the "racing simulator" sub genre for some time now, offering quite a bit that the venerable Gran Turismo series doesn't, and it looks like Forza Motorsport 3 will easy outclass Gran Turismo 5. What you have here is an incredibly deep and complex game, yet Turn 10 have manages to streamline the interface and the game to coax in newcomers gradually, giving them as many driving aids as they require yet encouraging them to switch them off in return for bigger rewards at the end of the race. It also features a rewind button, which has become the feature du jour since GRID included it.

Torchlight - PC (download only) - Out Now

If you're one of the many people eagerly awaiting the release of Diablo 3, then you should probably take a look at Torchlight. Many of the developers have worked on the first two Diablo games as well as Fate. This game brings a few new things to the table, such as a pet that you can load up with loot and send back to town for you. You could also equip your moggy or doggy with some powerful spells, or do a spot of fishing and then feed whatever you've caught to them to transform them into a different creature temporarily. At $20 (about £13) this is quite the bargain.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves - PS3 - Out Now

I have only discovered how great the first Uncharted was fairly recently (check out my review), but the sequel promises to outdo it in every area. It features some of the most breathtaking scenes on any platform, and this time also includes a surprisingly good online multi player mode as well as a selection of cooperative missions. Quite possibly the best game available for the PS3 so far.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks - DS - 11/12/09

Like Uncharted, I only got around to playing Phantom Hourglass properly this year. Overall it was great, but the dungeon that you had to keep going back to time and time again was a bit of a pain, so hopefully Nintendo will tone this aspect down for Spirit Tracks. From what I've seen so far, Zelda (or rather Tetra) is killed early on in the adventure and then accompanies Link in spirit form, possessing Phantoms to assist him in solving puzzles. Will he be able to help her return to her corporeal form? I'm guessing yes, but it will be a fun adventure in the meantime. Also - trains!

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 - Xbox 360, PS3, Wii - Out Now

The first Ultimate Alliance (and the X-Men Legends games before it) were highly enjoyable action RPG's, featuring a ton of famous and not so famous faces from the back catalogue of Marvel Comics. I made the mistake of buying the Wii version of the last game which had horrible controls and no online mode to speak of, so this time I will definitely be going for the 360 or PS3 version. I have had a go at the demo and the graphics have leaped ahead in quality quite significantly, and there are cool new team up moves that you can carry out.

Need for Speed Shift - Xbox 360, PS3 - Out Now

The quality of recent releases in the Need for Speed series has been patchy at best, but this latest entry in the series will hopefully compare favourably do the similar Forza 3 and Gran Turismo 5, and not leave me thinking that perhaps they should have left the f out of the title! It incorporates a stars system for completing certain challenges during each race, such as staying in first place for a whole lap or beating a particular time, and these change depending on whether your play style falls under the category of "aggressive" or "precision".

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story - DS - Out Now

The Mario RPG's have always been incredibly funny, well written games with some really fun gameplay to back it all up, but the last one (Partners in Time) suffered a bit because of over complicated controls. This time Alphadream have simplified things a bit, and have also apparently been inspired by the classic movie Inner Space, as Mario & Luigi find themselves inhaled by Bowser. You then spend much of the game exploring Bowser's gut, or stomping around the Mushroom Kingdom as the Koopa King himself as he attempts to reclaim his castle from the evil (and hysterically funny) Fawful.

So that's it for part one - I have already bought copies of Dragon Age, Borderlands and Torchlight and will be reviewing each of them over the next month or so, and I'll be picking up New Super Mario Bros. Wii tomorrow! Next week I'll also be posting up part 2 of this guide, looking at 10 also-rans that may just be worth grabbing in the sales!

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