Saturday, January 3, 2009

My Favorite PC Games of All Time

Since I've been posting my thoughts like a nonstop stream of verbal ejaculate tonight, here's my list of all time favorite computer games. Notice I didn't say video games, since I absolutely can't stand consoles. Fucking gamepads can't compare to a mouse and keyboard. Oh, and WoW doesn't count, I can't really classify it with my others, since it's an MMO. So yea, enjoy. I certainly did.

1. DooM - id software
This is the one that started it all. Well, not technically, cause id software actually started the First Person Shooter genre with their nearly as good Wolfenstein 3D. But uh, this was the big one. The one that truly changed the landscape and broke the boundaries. Taking the initial gameplay of W3D, id elevated it to a new level, literally, with elevated level design and way more colorful backgrounds. From a ravaged Mars base to the bowels of Hell itself, Doom was an exhilerating experience back in the good ol days of 1994. Nothing like it had ever been seen before, and pumping a shotgun shell into a demonic hellspawn for the first time was a truly empowering moment.

Has the first person shooter genre moved beyond the corridor crawls of Doom and its many clones? Well... yes, it's number one for nostalgic reasons, but history must be respected. They're the foundation for what we have now, and should be appreciated. There aren't enough adjectives to describe everything Doom made me feel when I played it, but this landmark in computer gaming is one four letter word that cannot be tossed around lightly.

2. Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six/Rogue Spear - Red Storm Entertainment
As much as Doom was my gateway into computer games and its rich potential, Rainbow Six and its sequel Rogue Spear was my meat and potatoes. Back when I actually had a subscription to a gaming magazine (God, those were the days...) this preview for a game based on a Tom Clancy novel immediately caught my attention. I had gotten plenty bored of Quake 2 and was restless for something different and unique. The ultra-realistic gameplay of Rainbow Six fit to a T. Still, my computer at that time was unable to meet the minimum requirements for R6, so it would take a couple months before I actually got into it. But get into it I did, with a passion that now seems somewhat inhuman. I lovingly outfitted each operative with different weapons, carefully mapped out their mission routes and held my breath as they soldiered out to take down the terrorists and rescue the hapless hostages. Of course, on more then one occasion the entire operation would turn into a fiasco with multiple casualties and hostages gunned down. Alas, back to the drawing board.

But multiplayer was where Rainbow Six really shined. Freed of the cumbersome AI, it was amazing to encounter a situation where you could be taken out by the opposing team in just one or two bullets. The added lethality of the weapons and the reduced margin of error made for the most amazingly tense multiplayer matches ever. Rogue Spear, the sequel which I bought on opening day was much more of the same. I have to be honest, Rogue Spear multiplayer devoured my life throughout 4 years of high school and doubtless contributed to the fact that my GPA suffered and I never had a girlfriend. Oh well, it seemed worth it, that's just how obsessed I was with the game. Even outside the game itself, I posted frequently on RSE's (the maker of R6) forums and made quite a few memorable friends, who later formed their own personal forum at Rainbow Six is truly an immense chunk of my life and I have nothing but fond memories to look back on.

3. Freespace 2 - Volition
A commercial product lovingly crafted with care and detail. A scifi story epic in scope and layered with mysteries. An instant classic with legions of diehard fans in a niche genre. Boy, they don't make em like this anymore. All these sentences describe Volition's much beloved Freespace 2. Not to be confused with the partitioning utility software, FS2 is a scifi space simulation which deals with an alien threat to humanity out among the stars. Sound cliched? Yes, it is. But combine the best aspects of space sims (Wing Commander/TIE Fighter) and polish it until it gleams with radiant storytelling and space environments, and you've got this treasured masterpiece.

The first Freespace got everything pretty much right, but Volition outdid themselves on their second outing. Introducing dense nebulas to their already painterly regular space environs, the cosmic ether is a wonderful place to fight in. The pace of the game is leisurely at the beginning, but quickly ramps up to a deadly tempo as you fight to save humans and their Vasudan allies from the return of the Shivans, the antagonists of the first game. And boy, they return with a vengeance. Don't be comfortable now that mankind's built a huge new capital ship named the GTVA Colossus, the Shivans can more then match it. The twists and turns in the narrative are never anything less then captivating, and the entire game does everything to make you feel apart of an epic struggle betwen spacefaring civilizations. In the end, questions will linger, which unfortunately must remain unanswered as it doesn't look like we'll ever get a Freespace 3 due to poor sales of FS2. One of the greatest injustices in history.

4. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Chaos Theory - Ubisoft
Yes yes, another Tom Clancy game. What can I say, I've got a hardon for this particular brand of realistic gameplay. Also why I find Counter-Strike such a disappointing and disgusting phenomenon. Ah well, back to Sam Fisher. Splinter Cell was one of the greats, and why it isn't on this list is simply because Chaos Theory, the third one in the series, just takes everything from Splinter Cell and makes it better. Better weapon mechanics, better graphics, better lighting, better enemy AI, better level design, and holy shit they added a knife for Sam! Truly, the most important addition to any series, ever. Slicing someone's throat open from the side with it is one of the most satisfying moves in gaming.

Chaos Theory is also superior in its addition of a fantastic co-op mode online. Instead of sneaking around by yourself, you could actually sneak around and perform stealth knockouts with a teammate. While limited to four levels, it was not a thoughtless addition and provided some genuinely exciting and tense action. While not anywhere near as cinematic or annoyingly labored with its storytelling as the Metal Gear Series, Splinter Cell is the superior stealth genre series in my humble opinion. PS: don't get SC Double Agent, it's a buggy mess on the PC.

5. MechWarrior 2 - Activision
I must be honest and open. BattleTech is my favorite fictional universe, bar none. While I am also a huge Star Trek fan, my first love has always been BattleTech. I can still remember walking into a game store in my wee youth and stumbling into the back, where I laid eyes on a 3025 Technical Readout, the one with the Marauder on the front. Sure didn't know it at the time, but I would end up collecting a large part of that universe's books over the years. I actually paid 144 dollars for a vinyl model of a Timber Wolf and have it sitting on my shelf. This universe obviously means a great deal to me. And the closest gaming portrayal of the BattleTech universe is the classic MechWarrior 2. The Clans are my favorite faction in BattleTech, so to be able to immerse myself in Clan Jade Falcon or Clan Wolf was incredibly enjoyable. Plus, the completely open weapon loadout customization and just the well thought out gameplay mechanics make the actual game a joy to pilot. The fluff of the universe is simply icing on the cake for a simulation which portrays 20-100 ton walking machines of warfare. Another classic which you can't really get to play on Windows XP or Vista these days, but what memories!

6. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - LucasArts
The very first RPG I ever played. And goddamn, couldn't have started off on a better foot. This is sorta like deciding to watch your very first superhero movie and picking The Dark Knight. Everything that comes after just seems like a letdown. That's kinda how I feel about KOTOR. And you've gotta know this about me, I fucking hate Star Wars. Never been fond of it. But this game... this story just sucked me in and never let go. I absolutely had to keep playing to find out what was going to happen to these characters I'd become attached to. To do this to me, someone who had never played RPGs, didn't like em, and had no interest in Star Wars either, well... that's just about the highest compliment I think I can give. Too bad its sequel couldn't match the great story of the first one. But alas, lightning in a bottle only happens every once in a while.

Honorable Mentions:

Dawn of War - Never liked Starcraft. But played the hell out of this
Max Payne 2 - Bullet time physics never felt so fun.
Quake - Another classic of the genre, paved the way for shitloads of mods
TIE Fighter - Without this triumph, we would never have gotten Freespace 2


  1. you forgot Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Counter-Strike for Half-Life.

  2. Actually, I wasn't crazy about either of those. If you want, I'll elaborate on why.