Bestest Games 2014 Edition

Back in 2005 I posted my bestest games (horrible title) from the last 20 years. A couple of months back I felt it was due a refresh so here are my bestest games from the last 30 years.

Games

Flickr have stopped supporting their hover notes so instead the list is below. A few iOS games have crept onto the list as well as some 360 and PS3 updates but some classics have never really been bettered.

  1. F-Zero – 1991 SNES – An almost perfect futuristic racing game. Time trialling was a real challenge. Wasted far too long trying to shave a few hundredths of lap times. Future F-Zero’s never recaptured the magic.
  2. Portal 2 – 2011 – Xbox 360 – Follow up to Portal this was a great first person puzzle game that had a batch of single and co-op puzzles as you battled against GLaDOS.
  3. Super Mario 64 – 1996- N64 – Never been bettered. Still enjoy firing up the emulator and tackling another couple of levels as it’s such a fun game.
  4. Bioshock – 2007 – Xbox 360 – A first person shooter with an original story, stylish graphics and a way of getting in your head like no other. Loved it.
  5. Ferrari F355 Challenge – 2000 – Dreamcast – One of the hardest console racers, not just of it’s time, but across the various consoles I’ve played. Looked great at the time but it’s sobering to think how 1 car and 10 tracks were enough to satisfy everyone. Now we want double the tracks and hundreds of cars.
  6. GTA V – 2013 – Xbox 360 – Latest in the series and by far the best. Play as one of three characters, take part in heists and a truly massive world to roam around complete with multiplayer. It looks better than it should have on a 360 and I’ll probably pick up for the PS4 when it get’s re-released this year.
  7. Head Over Heels – 1987 – Amstrad CPC 464 – A cracking isometric game that I played to death. Graphics were groundbreaking at the time and it was pretty humorous too with a great soundtrack and effects.
  8. The Last Of Us – 2014 – PS4 – Action and survival game with a great story, graphics and music. Best game on PS3 and looks amazing remastered on the PS4.
  9. Ico – 2011 – PlayStation 3 – I ignored this title on the PS2 finally picking it up on the PS3. Puzzle/platformer with each room viewed from a fixed point but a camera that focuses on your character. One of those games that doesn’t appear to offer much but leaves an impression that is hard to forget.
  10. Fez – 2012 – Xbox 360 – A puzzle platformer that looks more at home on a SNES than current consoles and relies less on pixel perfecting jumping than puzzle solving at a more relaxed pace. A classic.
  11. Pro Evolution Soccer 3 – 2003 – PlayStation 2 – The best football game on a console. Local multiplayer only but it was the game of choice at the time for football fans and it was fantastic. Later versions added online but it was awful…and Fifa eventually took Pro Evo’s crown as it beefed up on gameplay and in particularly won online.
  12. Goldeneye 007 – 1997 – N64 – For me still Rare’s best game. Perfect Dark was good but always enjoyed Goldeneye more, maybe because it was first.
  13. The Secret of Monkey Island – 1991 – PC – Still my favourite Lucasarts game. It was funny, captivating and great to look at. The music was also memorable.
  14. Burnout Paradise – 2009 – Xbox 360 – Best of the Burnout series and the best open world racing game so far. Developed by Criterion it featured great challenges, a memorable soundtrack and an online party system that worked really well.
  15. Super Mario World – 1990 – SNES – My first SNES game and probably the one I played the most (behind any multi player). The level design was perfect, so many shortcuts in the game – you really could play it any way you want. When it was complete there were still coin challenges to do. A masterpiece.
  16. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – 2007 – Xbox 360 – The best Call of Duty multiplayer for me. Great maps and some innovation with games modes made it really enjoyable. Later versions just never captured me the same way that Modern Warfare managed.
  17. Forza 2 – 2007 – Xbox 360 – This was such a complete racing game. Lots of tracks and car’s so if you liked to race you were well catered for. Add to that a detailed tuning and setup option for each car which were a tinkerers delight. Finally a skinning engine that allowed for 1000 layers of graphics so artists could spend there time in that part of the game. With a marketplace to buy and sell setups and skins I had a friend who never raced but spent all his time creating amazing skins for cars….and made far more money than I ever did racing.
  18. Elite – 1985 – Amstrad CPC 464 – Space trading epic. Almost 30 years since I played this and I can still remember what a pig it was to dock all while the Blue Danube played in the background. Just bought Elite Dangerous which will hopefully recapture the magic.
  19. Tetris – 1985 – Gameboy – Has any other game sold a platform more then Tetris? The Gameboy was an essential purchase just to play this. Multiplayer at school with this (using cable to connect two machines) was amazing.
  20. SoulCalibur – 1999 – Dreamcast – The reason I bought a Dreamcast. It’s graphics remained untouched for a couple of years, it’s fight mechanics were great and it had a lot of depth for a beat em up.
  21. Halo 3 – 2007 – Xbox 360 – I love all of the Halo games but this stands out the most. First Halo release on the 360 and the graphics were great. Bungie also addressed the de-ranking issues that had plagued Halo 2, the multiplayer was deep and well supported with lots of downloadable content and it also coined the phrase ‘get out’. Probably my most played online game.
  22. Left 4 Dead 2 – 2009 – Xbox 360 – A co-op first person shooter that was one of the first to really emphasise co-op so much so that you needed friends to get you through levels and there was a great feeling if you did manage to complete a level. The amount of enemies thrown at you was mental and every so often you’d hear one of your buddies shout ‘Tank!!!’ or ‘I’ve woken the witch……run!!!!!!’.
  23. The Bards Tale – 1985 – Amstrad CPC 464 – Simple graphics but more of a text adventure, and the first role playing game I ever played – weird – I’ve hardly played one since although I completed this at the time and loved it for weeks.
  24. Unreal Tournament – 1999 – PC – Came out at the same time as Quake III Arena and spanked it’s arse. The first FPS I played online and it’s something I’ll never forget. So fast, so addictive and the follow ups just never clicked for me as much as this.
  25. Red Dead Redemption – 2010 – Xbox 360 – GTA set in the wild west, Red Dead Redemption was so much more. Lots of sub games, a great story and horses. Sunsets. Zombies!
  26. Mercenary – 1985 – Amstrad CPC 464 – I played this on the Amstrad. Graphics are awful when you look at them but the plot and adventure was great and the sense of achievement when escaping the planet was massive. The overview map is fantastic and shows you the scale of the game which was ambitious for it’s day.
  27. Fifa 12 – Xbox 360 – 2011 – Fifa has become the best football game on consoles and I could have picked almost any year, but Fifa 12 saw a big step forward in online play and the mechanics were refined more than any other yearly release too. Importantly, the online actually worked too unlike some other years which have been buggy upon release and sometimes taken 3-4 weeks to resolve.
  28. Transport Tycoon – 1994 – PC – Another Uni favourite and was a massive time sink. Loved it.
  29. Carcassonne – 2010 – iOS – A slick single or multiplayer iOS game based on the German board game. I’ve been playing this for 4 years and it’s still compelling especially with the droop feed of add-on’s released by the games developers, The Coding Monkeys.
  30. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 – 2008 – Xbox 360 – Geometry Wars was a small game available in PGR2. A year later and this full title was released. It’s a shooter which is fast paced and the screen gets very, very busy as enemies and explosions fill the screen.
  31. Super Bomberman 2 – 1994 – SNES – Golden Bomber. I knew when to stop the roulette wheel…allegedly. If theres one game where I would expect to win before I start, this is it (and Pro Evo). Still love it to this day. Wasted sooooo many hours at Uni playing this. David and his speedy boots. Those were the days.
  32. Wip3out – 2000 – PlayStation – The whole Wipeout series was great but the third edition was the best on the PlayStation. Where is Wipeout for the PS4?
  33. Madden NFL 10 – 2009 – Xbox 360 – I’ve played Madden for years from early version on the SNES right through to current consoles. Madden 10 stands out as they made a number of improvements to gameplay which has been incrementally improved since. I’m also convinced that I played this version more than previous/future versions. A great game and very deep if you give it time.
  34. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – 1998 – N64 – Fantastic design, massive play area and it was great to play Zelda in a 3D environment.
  35. Street Fighter II – 1992 – SNES – I loved it. So did Shakeel. Unfortunately for me I hardly ever won on this game – still kept coming back for more and might have thrown the odd pad or two.
  36. Super Hexagon – 2012 – iOS – A twitch game that consumed many hours on the iPhone. Simple graphics and seemingly impossible at first but then you get better, figure out patterns, and it gets faster and faster and faster. A classic.
  37. Uncharted 2 : Among Thieves – 2009 – PS3 – Stunning adventure game that looked and played great. Preferred this to Uncharted 3.
  38. Sega Rally Championship – 1995 – Sega Saturn – A great game that saw some mighty local multiplayer games between me and Shak. Had much better feel than Daytona which was another Saturn classic.
  39. Half Life 2 – 2004 – PC – A game to upgrade your PC for. I loved this more than the original. The set peices were far more involving, the use of physics blew me away. 10 years on and we still await Half Life 3.
  40. Moto GP – 2002 – Xbox – Originally a demo for Xbox Live beta testers, Moto GP was a great showcase for Live. League racing and friendships made that are still there today. This took me back to F-Zero days – time trialling has never been so addictive and frustrating. Mugelllooooooo.
  41. Super Mario Kart – 1992 – SNES – So simple yet deep. So easy yet hard. So much fun. None of the follow up’s captured the feeling from this title nor the fun.
  42. Doom – 1993 – PC – My first FPS and it was such a step forward from what had come before.
  43. Gran Turismo – 1998 – PlayStation – First of the series and arguably the best as the others that followed have added very few new idea’s. In it’s day nothing could touch it and it ate up so much time.
  44. Descent – 1995 – PC – First true 3D game. Never has flying through passageways been such good fun. Played this so much at Uni. DESCENT!!!
  45. Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter – 2006 – Xbox 360 – A first person shooter but this was far more slow paced and tactical. No game could offer gameplay like this – 8 mins of crawling around in bushes to then get shot and killed…or tens mins of sitting in a shed waiting for an attack. Online chat was legendary during this game but our group loved it. Blind siege was our online mode of choice.
  46. Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past – 1991 – SNES – One of the few console games that I’ve played through to a finish. Got the puzzle/arcade balance absolutely spot on and kept me captivated from beginning to end. A game I was sorry to finish.
  47. Command & Conquer:Red Alert – 1996 – PC – Classic strategy game. More came with better graphics but none were as much fun.
  48. Battlefield 3 – 2011 – Xbox 360 – It was a close run things but this was my favourite Battlefield and moved the FPS genre forward. It brought massive destruction to environments, there was no where safe on the map really and the vehicles were great. Battlefield 1942 back in the day was great but this was the best version of Battlefield for me.
  49. Project Gotham Racing 2 – 2003 – Xbox – The best online racer on consoles at the time. Despite the 30 fps and the dullish palette this is still my favourite online racer. Myself and David getting top 50 times in a Paris track is still a standout moment.

Windows 10

Microsoft surprised everyone by announcing a new version of Windows and calling it Windows 10. There were lots of rumours of a new version but none predicted that name. Why 10? To get away from 8, to make it sound really different, to align with Mac OS X? One rumour yesterday linked it to Windows 95 and 98.

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Windows 10 won’t be out until late 2015 but there is a technical preview available and credit to Microsoft as they’ve made it available as a downloadable iso image so it’s easy to install as a virtual machine via VirtualBox.

Windows 10
Windows 10

On first run Windows 10 shows you a desktop that looks familiar to all Windows users that bizarrely was missing from Windows 8. A desktop with a start menu that you can launch app’s from, search from and easily power down your Windows device. In fact it looks like Windows 7 with a new theme apart from one thing – tiles in the start menu. There’s a few other tweaks here and there but when you see it running you’ve got to wonder why Microsoft just didn’t update Windows 8 to have this view. That’s another year for Windows 8 users to suffer from some fundamental usability issues. But don’t worry, Windows 10 will fix it.

Task switcher in WIndows 10. Expose?
Task switcher in WIndows 10. Expose?

A couple of other changes. Firstly there’s a task switcher that brings up a view not unlike Mac’s Exposé and is pretty useful when you have lot’s of app’s and windows active. The other is search. This feels like Mac’s Spotlight or tools like Alfred or Launchbar in that when you search for something it will search against app’s, documents and internet sites. Handy and seemed to work well when testing this morning.

Search in Windows 10
Search in Windows 10

That’s about it so far from my brief play. I had to launch a command prompt just so I could confirm that cut, copy and paste finally work. Such a small change yet it got mention at the Windows 10 soft launch this week. Weird. Microsoft have a lot more to show over the coming months but the emphasis so far on enterprise is almost a plea. Don’t leave us, we know where we went wrong. Windows 10 is ambitious in that it’s planned to be one platform across all of Microsofts devices – mobile, servers, desktops, laptops, tablets, large surface devices and Xbox One. I fear compromise again which is at the root of many of the problems in Windows 8 but Windows 10 looks to be a good start on desktops and laptops at least.

New World Order

So Scotland voted no, we can all get back to normal and the parliaments can focus on dealing with day to day issues again rather than trying to win the referendum. But what is normal? I always thought the days after the referendum would be volatile but it’s safe to say that things will never be the same again.

I’d predicted a Yes vote based on the mood around Glasgow and also on the Yes campaign which was pretty fantastic. You couldn’t escape the Yes campaign in Glasgow. Travelling between Central and Queen Street stations on a drizzly Monday night before the vote I walked by three groups of Yes campaigners who were still out fighting for votes. The Better Together campaign was nowhere. Stalls in Byres Road and Anniesland, Yes stickers everywhere and so many windows with Yes posters so it was no big surprise that Glasgow voted Yes overall. It was also generally a positive campaign from the Yes team both in the flesh and online. There was definitely more antagonism online from Yes campaigners but both camp’s had their loons.

However the Friday and Saturday after the vote took a decidedly nasty turn. I could understand frustration from the Yes campaign that they had lost by 10% especially as they had ran a long passionate campaign but I thought the claims of vote rigging, miscounts and clamouring for a revote were pretty desperate. The worst event though was the orange loyalists descending on George Square which up until that point had seen great celebrations for Yes campaigners. The behaviour and violence was disgraceful and in total contradiction to the events of the last few weeks. The Glasgow Commonwealths felt like a generation ago while watching the Youtube video’s from George Square. The Police should have done a lot more to defuse it but it was shameful how the events were reported by traditional media reporting it was Yes and No casuals fighting. I’d love to say heads in the sand but it was lies, pure and simple.

Also lies were the many many tweets that said No voters had voted for the trouble in George Square and this is what you get for voting No. Oh dear. Equally the vast majority of No voters were not conned by ‘The Vow’ but I guess it makes the loss easier if there is something to target. I didn’t expect Salmond to quit but Nicola Sturgeon is more than capable of filling his shoes and I think will also make the SNP more appealing to voters.

A few other notable points from the campaign:

  • The two TV debates between Salmond and Darling. In the grand scheme of things I don’t think they had the impact that was expected. I was surprised that Darling narrowly ‘won’ the first debate, but Salmond kicked his butt in the second. What changed? Salmond more prepared, more on the offensive?
  • Better Together was awful. Complacent, negative, lacking in idea’s and to be frank they looked desperate after ‘that’ opinion poll. I’m still surprised that the Yes campaign up against such poor opposition and having a dream year for events in Scotland failed to deliver a Yes vote. Tell’s me that there is a real core of Scot’s that do not want independence.
  • For all the Yes campaigns posturing about a fresh start away from Westminster and old broken politics, their cosying up to Rupert Murdoch must leave a sour taste in many an independence campaigners mouth. I still think the YouGov poll 2 weeks before the referendum was ‘questionable’. Online only, a different polling firm than The Times used before or afterwards and leaked by Murdoch who wanted to be seen to be influencing. Nasty.
  • The lack of answers from both sides was disappointing. Vote Yes and we’ll spend the next 18 months sorting out what that really means. Vote No and you may get some extra powers that we’ll spend the next 6 months sorting out. Considering the amount of money spent on the referendum there was a distinct lack of clarity from both camps.
  • Who woke up Gordon Brown? If only the No campaign had shown this sort of passion in the months leading up to the referendum.
  • A week before the vote and Cameron, Miliband and Clegg descend on Scotland. That didn’t annoy me as much as Salmond saying he and the Yes campaign were for ‘Team Scotland’ while everything else is ‘Team Westminster’. Utter bollocks and that stance annoyed many many people, just like the Yes campaign claiming the Saltire as theirs.
  • Funniest moment? Matt Lygate and ‘Bow down to your imperial masters!’
  • Bernard Ponsonby was by quite a distance the best political journalist throughout the campaign. The BBC by contrast looked fairly toothless.

The next few months will be very interesting. What new powers will Scotland get, what the future vote share will look like in Scotland and how will Nicola Sturgeon change the SNP going forward? I’m amazed at the number of sign-ups the SNP have got, almost at 70,000 now which is almost two and a half times the number they had pre referendum vote. I can see this being a real challenge for Sturgeon as almost all the SNP hierarchy have said that the vote was a’one in a generation’ opportunity yet the majority of the new sign-ups are demanding at the very least another vote if not independence if the SNP return a majority to the Scottish Parliament. It’s a nice problem to have for the SNP, but a problem none the less.

As for me I have no idea who I would vote for at the next general election. Thinking through my options:

  • Conservatives. Never.
  • Labour. Not the way they are carrying on at the moment. Matching Tory austerity budgets? Miliband is hard to like but worst of all was standing on the same ticket side by side with the Tories during the referendum. Labour should have stood for the No campaign on their own. I can see it being a generation before they get back in power in Scotland, if not longer. As for Westminster, it should be English votes for English laws and Miliband again looks lost when it comes to this issue. Many in Labour should be ashamed.
  • Liberals. No backbone, lost their principles as soon as power became a realistic option.
  • SNP. I agree with much of what the SNP stand for, except for Independence which is a bit of a deal breaker.
  • Greens. Might be closest to my ideals?
  • Others? Cranks and racists. No thanks.

Scottish politics has changed for the better and we have a generation that is active and energised. If the mood of the people of Scotland spreads throughout the UK we could see the most unpredictable general election for years. The beginning of a New World Order or just a small blip? Only time will tell.

A Simple Question

Should Scotland be an independent country?

It’s straightforward enough and thankfully we will know 5 days from now how Scotland has voted. This has been the longest most drawn out political campaign I’ve experienced and despite the money spent by each camp there is still a vacuum of real answers. It’s clear that the result is closer than many thought and is also causing real division across families and friendships and I just hope once the answer is known on September 19th that we can all move on and accept the result.

There have been some negative aspects to the overall campaign:

  • Better Together’s campaign has been a mess. Negative, lack of a plan A around devolved powers and an obvious last minute panic as the poles narrowed. Their mismanagement will be costly.
  • Alex Salmond’s comments on Team Scotland vs Team Westminster and the snide assertion that if you are Scottish you will vote Yes and if you are a No voter then you aren’t part of Team Scotland. Bullshit of the highest order.
  • The lies from both camps. Never ending.
  • Citizen journalists and analysts and ‘their sources say’. What sources? More bullshit.
  • I’ve had no hassle but I know my mum has been called an idiot for not voting Yes and does feel intimidated by some of the behaviour of campaigners in town at the moment. I’ve also seen some heated Facebook threads just because someone has said they are voting no. Sad.
  • The lack of clear answers from the Yes campaign. In my opinion they watered down what independence really means to guarantee a win – monarchy, currency etc. Be honest and set out a truly independent vision rather than a 3/4 way house.
  • The assertion that ‘big business’ is in cahoots with the No camp only. Jim McColl’s rescuing of Ferguson’s and the subsequent mailshot that I and many others received from him on behalf of the Yes campaign was stage management of the highest order. All from a guy thats stays in Monaco.

However the positives have been great:

  • The referendum vote has grabbed the public imagination and sparked debate and participation after decades where people have felt disenfranchised by the main political parties. The use of social media has certainly exploded over the last few months – even today there is a massive rally protesting at BBC bias over the last weeks and months and if it wasn’t for friends posting about it you’d have no idea it was taking place. Hours after it started it’s only now that the editor of Reporting Scotland has tweeted about it (and much later the BBC reported on it themselves – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-29196912). Thats the only recognition that around 1000 people are now at Pacific Quay protesting. Well done Roy for on the spot reporting :)
  • Patrick Harvie, co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, has been great. Spoke well, debated without getting into slanging matches and has campaigned tirelessly for the Yes campaign.
  • One hundred weeks of Scotland is a blog started by Alan McCredie in October 2012. Each week he would write about a different aspect of Scotland highlighted by some great images that he took on his journey. Been great to follow this on the run up the vote with some amazing photo’s and stories.

I’ll be voting No on Thursday as the arguments for change haven’t been made clear for me but my expectation is that the Yes vote will win and on Friday Scotland will be an independent country. I hope then we can all move on and make the best of what lies ahead – it won’t be an easy journey.

Ice Bucket Challenge

Danny nominated me for the MND Ice Bucket Challenge that has swept the social networks over the last week. To donate, Text ICED55 followed by an amount (such as £5) to 70070 and you can find out more here.

Of course I recorded it in slow motion using the iPhone.