Title: 2008 in Review (and other such articles)
Posted: January 06, 2009 (05:50 AM)
Since it's all the rage, I'm going to jump rather swiftly onto the bandwagon and pimp a load of this year's work. I have the advantage/disadvantage of being a freelance rogue, so this will cover a few different sites for both videogames and music. As such, I fear I may miss a few out, but I'm in no rush, so I'll do my best to be thorough.
While I've done a fair bit of writing this year, the vast majority of it started in the summer. I spent much of the former half of 2008 focusing on my band, playing a lot of shows and generally doing the pseudo-rockstar thing. In June we set the live routine aside in order to focus on recording our new record, which spectacularly still isn't out in physical form, despite having been available to listen to online for ages. After that, our drummer left, and spending a while training up our loveable bequiffed replacement Tim left muchos time for writing reviews 'n' that. And, you know, ploughing every other spare minute into making Neptune. And writing a short film - but more on that in the future.
Recently, it's been all about videogames. I can't fully remember the last time I wrote anything about music - I think it was probably a Coldplay review back in whichever month that was released.
It's worth noting that, for all sorts of reasons - primarily because I did so much music work in print at the start of the year that I've lost track of it all, as well as losing most of the bloody magazines - this list is going to focus on my online work. To date, I have precisely no videogames stuff published on paper. Boo.
And finally, it's worth a mention that Honest Gamers has been my primary port of call through all this. I only joined the freelance pool in the summer but already I feel like a genuine part of the site's team and community. I've "met" a lot of great people, and am extraordinarily surprised at how brilliantly I've been welcomed through the door. So thank you. Sniff.
1 February - DJ Scotch Egg
Leeds Music Scene
See what I mean about the rock 'n' roll thing? I seem to remember getting so utterly fucked at this gig that I didn't remember a right lot of Scotch Egg, other than dancing around like a complete numpty, looking like some tragedy of a 90s rave. And running into a couple of people from uni, including the department secretary. Afterwards, we went to some club - probably Wire - and, I assume, partied on until the next morning. Scotch Egg was predictably brilliant and utterly barmy, but until I re-read this review just now I wouldn't have been able to tell you who the supports were. Oops.
21 March - I Love West Yorkshire
Leeds Music Scene
A secret: I didn't actually watch much of The Terminals. A friend of mine, who moved away a few years ago, was back in Leeds for the night, and we ended up sitting in the bar catching up for all but two or three songs of their set. Months later, I met The Terminals' bass player, who was exceptionally cold towards me. Imagine how much worse it would have been if she'd have known the truth. Hopefully she won't chance upon this.
7 April - Forward Russia - Live Processes
Leeds Music Scene
One of the strictest deadlines I've ever worked to. I had to hyper-listen to this, playing it around five times in a single day before scrawling these words down. I'm not keen on this piece, particularly since their first record was reviewed for Leeds Music Scene by the fantastic Lauren Strain, who now - to my all-encompassing jealousy - works for Plan B. Funnily enough, I ended up working with Tom from Forward Russia at a music venue towards the end of last year, and I've since got to know Whiskas a bit too. At the time of writing, they were just a band all over MTV2 that happened to live in the same city as me.
EDIT: This, clearly, is album of the year. I can't believe I forgot about it for my list the other week.
11 June - Belief & Betrayal
My first review for Honest Gamers. I actually quite enjoyed this one once I got into it, mainly for the twisty narrative. It's distinctly a 4/10 game, though. I played and reviewed this in a single day, starting at about 9am, playing until it finished at about 5pm, then writing straight away. It was at this point that Gary asked me to write for the site regularly.
12 June - BioShock
Yet Another Reviews Site
Quick piece hastily knocked out for a site I'd never heard for. Not much to see here.
12 June - BioShock
Appeared on the same day as the last one, even though I wrote it a week later. Following this, I started to wish I'd given it a ten. Looking back, a nine was the correct appraisal.
20 June - Rhodan: Myth of the Illochim
A thoroughly interesting world and storyline crammed into an utterly awful adventure game. Such a shame. Made by a more accomplished developer, this would have been magical. Instead, it's slow, sluggish and hateful.
8 July - Whole Sky Monitor - Bland Bland Bland
Leeds Music Scene
Seriously - I was so disappointed that this record was good. There were so many jokes running through my head...
18 July - Coldplay - Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends
The Line of Best Fit
I awarded this one 80% initially. The editor asked if he could ammend it to 75 as the score apparently didn't reflect the text. I'd stand by my original rating, though - I did enjoy Coldplay's latest effort, and perhaps my disappointment with its predictability became too much of a focus in the body of the review. Worth noting that there aren't any seven-minute songs on the record at all, though on the press disk I received, some songs were attached into an individual track for some reason. Odd.
18 July - Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
Nine is too high for this, even though I love it. It's a really magical game in places, but insufferably bad in others. I return to this again and again, but only after I've patched it up, and even then I stop about 3/4 of the way through, as it descends into utterly awful nonsense after that. Really, it should be a 7 or an 8 - but it's the best 7 or 8 in the world.
2 August - Racing Team Manager
I got into trouble for this review. Jason was annoyed that I'd only spend a few hours with the game, and that I'd let my feelings towards Formula One shine through. I argued that maybe I shouldn't have been assigned it. Either way, I can't even imagine F1 fans enjoying this. It's so completely awful that I couldn't stomach it for more than a few minutes at a time.
4 August - Portal
There's no use crying over every mistake / You just keep on trying 'til you run out of cake / So the science gets done, and we make a neat gun for the people who are still alive. (Should have been a nine.)
5 August - The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
I wonder if it's nostalgia clouding my vision, but every time I return to Morrowind I absolutely love it. There's something about its world that really clicks with me on a subconscious level. It reminds me more of Star Wars than Lord of the Rings, strangely: Vvardenfell as a beautifully alien quality to it that Oblivion completely lacks. Its atmosphere is unparalleled, though perhaps the clunkiness of some of its mechanics should have knocked the score down a point. It's still one of my favourites ever.
21 August - Turok
The most 'meh' game I've played in ages. Vaguely fun in short bursts, but so generic it's untrue. I'm surprised I managed to write for so long about it. I argued with Jason about this one as well, if I remember rightly, but only because we disagreed so heavily over the game's quality. To this day, I can't understand why he loves it so much.
24 August - Deus Ex: Invisible War
The first time I reviewed this was for Video Games Life a few months before its official release. All the review code got sent round in accordance with the US street date, meaning I wrote about this in the November before the March everyone else got it in. I awarded it 91%, and the backlash flew in a few months later. Returning for this retrospective, I was really gutted by the abysmal voice acting and occasionally dodgy pacing, but I still enjoyed it for what it does wonderfully well.
29 August - FEAR: Convoulted Acronym
This was a ten out of ten for the first three or four hours. Then it didn't do anything else to impress me for the rest of the game. It's worth it for the ridiculously overblown action, though, and the one or two genuinely frightening set pieces.
1 September - Birth of America 2: Obtusely Long Subtitle
Totally out of my comfort zone, but I still really enjoyed playing this one. It's thorough and addictive. Probably the only strategy game I've genuinely enjoyed outside the Total War series.
10 September - Jack Keane
Good game ruined by utterly awful translation and laughable voice acting. It's nowhere near deserving of the nine it got here, and frankly a seven is a little high. Curse that nonsensical Real Gamer score-averaging system.
19 September - Ess-Tee-Ay-Ell-Kay-Ee-Arr: Clear Sky
Equally, 8.2 is far beyond what this one deserves. Brilliant, brilliant game hidden by sloppy design and frequent crashing. It's a seven, really.
20 September - Ess-Tee-Ay-Ell-Kay-Ee-Arr: Clear Sky
Oh, would you look at that?
22 September - Two Worlds: Complete Edition
Vaguely enjoyed this one, despite its ridiculous problems. The awful script and voice acting are the big nasties here, along with the shocking engine. Was really pleased with this review, though I don't think anyone commented on it. Fuck you all.
29 September - Mass Effect
One of my surprises of the year. Mass Effect on the 360 didn't register on my radar at all, being the sort of sci-fi nonsense I usually detest. Turns out, it's absolutely brilliant, and aside from a few nagging problems it's about as close to being a perfect mainstream game as it's possible to get. The MAKO's shit, though, isn't it?
5 October - Thief: Deadly Shadows
File alongside Planescape: Torment in the 'Clearly brilliant games I don't quite get' category. Maybe a seven is a little harsh, but this bored me to pieces until Robbing The Cradle. That mission, however, is level design genius. I'm not sure whether I like the focus of this review or not, looking back. The art-bullshit seems a little out of place. I think I was trying to cram that argument into as many pieces as possible at the time.
16 October - The Witcher
Hey look - another surprise! I genuinely, genuinely enjoyed The Witcher. It's been a good year for RPGs. Quite chuffed with this review, particularly the beginning.
20 October - Agon 4
This is so completely putrid that I'm not even going to say any more about it.
24 October - World of Goo
I love World of Goo, though I wish I could swap the scores for this and Portal. This is an adorably charming game, though, and its indie roots shine through in the best possible way. This is a game that caused me and my girlfriend to argue vehemently over computer rights, just so we could both play more of it. And she's usually only fussed about playing games that are more than a decade old.
31 October - Space Siege
Really dull, and a huge disappointment given the quality of GPG's Dungeon Siege franchise. Maybe I focus on the slightly awkward Shock 2 comparison too much, but there are so many parallels to be drawn between the two, even though this is a completely different - and vastly inferior - type of game.
2 November - Fallout 3
Someone on the forums recently got in a huff with me because I disagreed with him about Fallout 3's quality, and called this review "one of the worst things" he'd "ever read." Yikes. While I don't think it's one of my worst, I do think it could have done with some trimming, and I do think David's appraisal of the 360 version was a much stronger article. This is one of only two occasions when I've ever awarded 10/10 to a new release (the last being Metroid Prime, years ago), and the highest score I've awarded a new game since my 94% critique of Max Payne 2 for Video Games Life.
6 November - Fallout 3
An occasion where I can't really fault the maths that Real Gamer's scoring system did for me. 9.4 is pretty much spot on. A cross-platform review, so was asked to include a bit about the PS3 version's instability here, even though I've never played it on that system.
6 November - Sacred 2: Fallen Angel
Settled for a five because everyone else seemed to love it. If I'd have been braver, I'd have gone for a 4. At the time of writing, I couldn't find a single other review knocking about the planet that gave it less than 7/10 or equivalent. Richard Cobbett of PC Gamer UK, thankfully, went on to award it 57%, making me feel far more justified. I believe this is still the lowest score awarded by any established games publication.
13 November - Alphabetolympics: Half-Life 2
Yeah, that piece that split the judges down the middle. I really like this, though I've never use it as a 'proper' review.
19 November - Left 4 Dead
I haven't played Left 4 Dead in ages now. I just don't have the time at the moment to be so engrossed in its online shootery. I know, the minute I load it up again, I'll be stuck to my chair all day. And not just because of the glue I covered it in. I battled with myself over awarding another 10/10 so quickly after Fallout 3. In the end, I decided that the fact I had to battle with myself meant it probably didn't deserve one.
23 November - FIFA 09
Not a lot to say. Same as always: quite good footy game.
24 November - Sacred 2: Fallen Angel
It's still rubbish, and the RG scoring system still makes it sound better than it is.
29 November - Pathologic
The game that captured my imagination more than anything else this year. Shame it was released in 2006, so I'm not really justified in harping on about it so much. Pathologic is such a broken game, such a sinfully crafted piece of technology, that it's incredible that the creativity and magic of it shine through regardless. It's a six out of ten, absolutely, but it's also one of my favourite games of all time. Was mildly disappointed that not many people read or discussed this, as it's a game I want everyone to experience.
7 December - Moaning about Eidos
Loads of people inexplicably didn't think this was particularly newsworthy. I think it's utterly abominable of Eidos to put Barrington Harvey - not to mention countless publications - in such an awkward position.
7 December - Keeping Up Appearances
Look - a badly photoshopped picture of me with spots and glasses!
7 December - Sacred 2: Fallen Angel
It's still rubbish.
7 December - Cryostasis preview
I'm really excited about this one, and cripplingly sad that my PC probably won't be up to the task of playing it. Bugger.
7 December - Mafia 2 preview
Vaguely excited about this, too. Hastily threw this one together on deadline day to pad the mag out. Ahem.
7 December - Fallout 3
93% is the correct score, even though I'd like to award it higher. Yet I'd still stand by my 10/10 for Honest Gamers. Funny how rating systems don't equate, isn't it? Final proof that all the idiots should READ THE BLOODY REVIEW.
7 December - FIFA 09
7 December - Left 4 Dead
16 December - March-exclamation-mark-Offworld Recon
I remember being so astonished when I first played this game that I wasn't quite sure what to say. I awarded it 1/10 for Resolution back when it was released, and I'd stick by it today, going even lower if I could. It plays, looks and sounds like a shooting game designed by small children.
19 December - The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
I really like Oblivion, and I worry that maybe I'd been watching too many Yahtzee reviews when I wrote this. But going back to this at Gary's request really did highlight just how much of an improvement Fallout 3 was over Bethesda's previous effort. Oblivion is big, brave and beautiful, but some of its 'special moments' are unforgiveably bad. I really enjoyed writing this, and think it's probably one of the strongets reviews I've done for Honest Gamers.
31 December - STALKER: Still don't know what it stands for
A New Year special. STALKER's one of those games that I love despite its problems, though the fact that its 'novice' difficulty level is still fiendishly hard counts hugely against it. Atmosphere in abundance, though.
That's all folks. Happy new year. Have a good 'un.
Posted: January 08, 2009 (01:29 PM)
Did you know EmP teased me with that Birth of America game way back when he had to get it done? I had to decline because both he and I knew that I'd only have like a week to review it, since international mail takes forever. And I was also going back to school in two weeks, and I doubted it'd even work on my laptop if I even had the time to play it.
I'll try to read your Pathologic review if I can find time. I've been meaning to do that for a while, but school isn't always kind to me, and I hate tying up the phone lines when on break.