In what is quickly becoming the internet’s worst kept secret, it appears that famed developer Bethesda is gearing up to announce the highly anticipated “Fallout 4.” As one of the general public’s most beloved games of the previous generation (feels weird saying that…), the hype train for “Fallout 4” is beginning to resemble a locomotive in India, as fans across the world eagerly await any news regarding it.
While developer Bethesda is usually so generous with their game content it can feel greedy to make requests, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few items on every fan’s wishlist for “Fallout 4,” as well as a few generally accepted flaws in “Fallout 3” that could use a fix. Personally, I know I can think of five things, I’d really like to see in “Fallout 4.”
The Ability to Play In A World Affected By the Ending
I’d have to say my biggest disappointment with “Fallout 3” was that the game just kind of ended. There was the usual climatic final mission, but then you just got a cinema explaining the consequences of your decisions in the final moments. At that point if you wanted to keep exploring the world, you could only load up a save before the final mission and do it from there, with the finale being forever left on your to-do list.
It was a baffling decision that felt like one of the few genuine design flaws in the game. How could a game with so much to see and do just end? While the expansions and New Vegas fixed this particular problem, I expect that Bethesda will learn their lesson from “Fallout 3” and allow us to not only continue to explore the world after the credits role, but hopefully alter it in some noticeable way based upon the ending.
Incoporate Greater Grey Area Options
While “Fallout 3′s” karma system was one of the more involved of all the games that afford you character building moral choices, it’s hard to deny that if you really wanted the world to reflect your personal choices, the only real paths available were to be a paragon of virtue or the most evil bastard that ever lived.
That’s always been troublesome to me considering that morality in the “Fallout” universe is ambiguous to say the least. Forcing players to ultimately choose between comically good and evil just to get the game to react never really felt in-line with the rest of the world. It would be great if the karma system better incorporated the choice to live somewhere in the middle (neither entirely good or evil) and if the world reacted to you in this manner just as they would if you lived on either polar side of the morality scale. After all, as Bruce Campbell quipped, “Good…bad….I’m the guy with the gun.”
An Expanded, Region Specific Soundtrack
As much as I loved Three Dog and the game’s unique (and often disturbing) selection of 40′s and 50′s music, after a while I’d often turn off the radio as the DJ banter and songs didn’t take long to repeat. While this is expected in a game of this length, it was nonetheless annoying.
An expanded song selection would certainly go a long way to fixing this in “Fallout 4,” but what would really be great is if more individual regions of the map had there own radio stations. After all, it’s not hard to imagine a number of small range pirate stations would pop up here and there, and having certain songs only available in certain areas through those stations would go a long way to cutting down on the music monotony.
Longer Emphasis on Survival
When you first enter the world of the Capital Wastelands, you feel appropriately small and helpless. Nearly everything could kill you instantly and, since the game allowed you to go anywhere at any time, getting in over your head was easy. In those early moments it was vital to scrounge for any and all available resources, even if it meant near certain death to do so.
As the game went on, however, it didn’t take long before you were so stocked with equipment you would often pass up valuable items simply because you couldn’t carry them. Within only a few hours of play you go from fist pumping because you found a clean bottle of water, to better stocked than the local Wal-Mart. While this kind of character building is expected in RPG’s, it would be nice if a better balance was placed on resources availability so that the incredible survival aspects of the game don’t just disappear after the first few hours.
It’s understandable that your character will become more powerful and adapt overtime, but you should never feel as complacent in your available resources as you did in the later parts of “Fallout 3.”
More Imaginative Weapon Crafting
One of the things I liked about “New Vegas” is how developer Obsidian wasn’t afraid to take some chances with the design, since they knew the established “Fallout 3″ formula was strong enough to hold the weight of the occasional tweak and innovation. Among those tweaks was an expanded ability to better your items and weapons through the occasional pick up and crafting. It worked because it makes sense that in an apocalyptic world you would become somewhat adept at making do with what you have, and making what you have better based on what you find.
It was a step in the right direction, but it could go much further in a sequel. There’s tons of seemingly useless items floating around the “Fallout” universe, and it’d be great if you could find uses for them through a more involved crafting system. “Fallout 3” did have the occasional blueprint that allowed you to do this, but it felt too clean and simple. Allowing players a crafting screen to play around with that isn’t necessarily dependent on strict recipes would go a long way to expanding our involvement in the world, and our desire to explore it.
It’s hard to not have had doubts at some point about the title though, considering the substantial development time and departures of major developers during which. There is, however, precedent for games surviving that type of ordeal, as an elite group of titles managed to survive long delays, and massive amounts of hype and expectations, to emerge as great games. I can think of 8 in particular that were well worth the wait.
Honorable Mention – “Fallout 3” – A definite candidate, but “Fallout 3” gets a lot of love on this site, so just once I wanted to give some other titles their dues.
8. Mother 3
I remember seeing the first blurry and ugly screens of the “EarthBound 64” project in Nintendo Power, and being ecstatic about the prospect to a sequel about my favorite game ever.
As time went on screenshots and other news releases became fewer and fewer, until many started to believe the whole thing may have been an elaborate hoax. Then around 2004-2005, word got out that a third entrant in the cult hit “Mother” series would finally see release…in Japan. Not content with letting the land of the rising sun have all the fun, a dedicated group of American fans released an incredible and thorough translation of the title, so almost everyone could finally play the long awaited sequel.
While admittedly not the best game on this list, the “abandon all hope” mentality was strong regarding this one, and the dedicated translation efforts go to show that you can’t get in the way between fans and the games they really want.
7. LA Noire
Not all long awaited game are continuations or sequels.
The only original property on this list, there were rumblings of a 1940′s noire style video game dating back to 2003 when developer Team Bondi was formed. Originally set to be published exclusively by Sony, as the years wore on the game would switch publishers to Take Two, and seemingly grew in ambition as the release date kept slipping and slipping. Until the game graced the cover of a 2010 Game Informer, many even believed it to be quietly axed.
While reception to “L.A. Noire” was somewhat mixed due to its polarizing gameplay style, there is no denying the technical marvel of the graphics, or the pitch perfect execution of its retro style. The first video game to ever be accepted as an entrant to the Tribeca Film Festival, “L.A. Noire” emerged from an endless development cycle quite possibly something greater than it was originally conceived as.
6. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The only reason this one isn’t higher, is because it was somewhat inevitable.
Still it was 1991 when “A Link to the Past” had Nintendo fans the world over gushing over the series’ brilliance, and outside of “Link’s Awakening” for the Game Boy, it would be 1998 before the true follow up to the series would see release. In the middle was a whole lot of nothing, as Nintendo remained mum about their most anticipated theoretical title, only casually referencing it, and often speaking of only delays.
Of course you probably know how this one turned out, as “Ocarina of Time” is widely regarded as one of the best games ever, and shows anticipation is a benefit if you can capitalize off of it.
When you consider the amount of work put into making a complete game even functional, it’s amazing that game developers have the time to create some of the coolest objects in the game, and hide them places where they may never be found. Yet ever since some hidden credits in “Adventure,” video games and secrets have gone hand and hand.
Of these secrets, the best are the hidden weapons. Often maniacally tucked away and requiring a great deal of luck and effort to ever wield, they usually serve as unopposed killing machines worth every ounce of time and energy used to harness them, though the journey to do so is often more difficult than the game ever would have been if you’d chosen not to seek them out.
I love them though for their holy grail like status in many of the titles they are featured in, and these are five of my favorites.
The Sword of Kings – “EarthBound”
Any day I get to mention “EarthBound” is a good day.
While not the most powerful of the 1/128 items, it is the only weapon that one of your characters can use in the game, giving him a significant offensive boost. It also must be unlocked against a very tough enemy at a point where, if you haven’t been level grinding, you are lucky enough to survive a battle with, much less play the odds of defeating enough to find the fabled sword.
To this day I’ve never unlocked the Sword of Kings, though I regularly try.
The MIRV – “Fallout 3″
There is a weapon in “Fallout 3” called the Fat Man that shoots a mini-nuclear warhead that nothing in the game can withstand. The MIRV shoots 8 of those warheads at once.
To unlock it, you must find five transcripts from the Keller family spread throughout the world. Unless you’re cheating, these are not easy to just run across, and even doing so yields no guarantee you know what the hell they lead to. Piece it all together though, and you’d find your way to a hidden section of the national guard depo where the most powerful, and unnecessary, weapon ever in a video game lies.
Even in a world built upon, and still teeming with, nuclear atrocities, the MIRV might just be the greatest war crime ever constructed. It’s also happens to be fun as hell.
Biggoron’s Sword – “Ocarina of Time”
A gaming secret in a major release that few people knew about? There was a pre-internet time when such a thing was possible.
You may think there is no greater sword in “Ocarina of Time” than the Master Sword, but you would be wrong. To get it though, you have to complete a VERY lengthy quest of which there are very few hints of its existence, or where to go next during it. Make it through this hellacious and confusing journey though, and you’ll be rewarded with a two handed sword that does twice the damage as the Master Sword, and looks 10x as intimidating.
Finding the Biggoron’s Sword without the step by step instructions was a truly rewarding experience back in the day. Even with the walkthrough, it is still one of Link’s greatest all time weapons.
Whoever discovered this gun in the game, and the sequence to get it, is an obsessive compulsive evil genius. The Scarab was clearly not meant to be found by 99.9% of the people who played “Halo 2,” as the commonly accepted process to acquire it demands tremendous skill, potential hours upon hours of patience, and a split second moment of reaction thats absence negates the previous two requirements.
Your reward is a normal looking gun floating above a warning marker in a seemingly unreachable part of the level, that just so happens to pack the firepower of a tank, and will obliterate any single obstacle in your path. The gun only lasts one level, but the thrill of acquiring it is forever.
Excalibur II – “Final Fantasy IX”
Though I’m sure this isn’t factually true, from my personal knowledge and experience, this is as hard of a hidden weapon to unlock as exists.
See, if you play “Final Fantasy IX” the normal way (beat the main game, do a few side quests, enjoy yourself) it takes you about 45-50 hours to complete. To unlock the Excalibur II, you’ll need to get to this 4-disc adventure’s final boss in under 12 hours.
It’s not a challenge any sane individual would ever undertake, and requires all of your powers and efforts to complete. Manage to do so though, and you are rewarded with a sword that can deal the series’ 9999 damage max to even the most powerful of enemies at will, not to mention more hardcore nerd bragging rights than you could acquire even through sex with an actual un-paid human.
So I’m very curious to know what your favorite hidden weapons are, and which are the most difficult you’ve ever personally found. Be sure to let me know in the comments below.
As Halloween draws near, here are the final 10 greatest horror games of all time, any of which would be more than worthy for a Halloween night marathon.
10. Alien vs Predator 2 – A couple funny things about this game being on this list. One, its actually more of a sci-fi shooter than a full on horror game. Two, there are three main stories to play through and two of them (that have you playing as the alien and the predator) are entertaining, but far from scary. What gets it on the list is the 5-8 hour colonial marine campaign. If the best aspect of horror games is how they make you feel like you’re not ready for what’s next, then this may be the best example of it.
Around every corner waits a new threat, and the tension of awaiting it is only outmatched by the fright itself. It may be a sci-fi game but it’s also one of the best examples of the “haunted house” effect I can think of. You would think that the heavy arsenal at your disposal would help, but it only leads you into a false sense of security. The “Alien vs Predator” movies may have been abominations, but if you never played this game, I can’t begin to adequately describe the terror you are denying yourself.
9. Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth – An almost impossibly underrated title, where as most horror games take elements of the works of H.P. Lovecraft for their scares, this is a direct adaptation of several of those titles. What I love about the game is how much it feels like a love letter to the genre, as so many elements present in the game are horror conventions that are effectively implemented so that they sure to give any fright fan an impossible to shake ear to ear grin. Well, until it’s replaced with a look of cold fear that is. As much as “Call of Cthulu” is a fun experience, it is an even greater trip through pure terror. The monsters design is superb, the ammo is appropriately sparse, the sound is a highlight reel of bumps in the night, and the game features some of the best set piece moments you’ll see in the genre.
Particular mention here must go to the escape scene in the town of Innsmouth, where your early investigations lead you to conclude that everyone in the town is incredibly indifferent, and even hostile. That instinct would turn out to be dead on as the entire populace starts chasing you with the intention to kill. It’s a flawless escape sequence that puts you into the game like few other titles can even hope to do, and is a perfect example of the brilliance of this title.
8. Dead Space – Picking up “Dead Space” originally for a quick play through, I didn’t understand the hype. After all, at the time it was being heralded as the savior of the survival horror genre and one of the most terrifying games ever made to boot. My mistake was only playing the game for a short burst though.
“Dead Space” is a game that begs you, even dares you, to immerse yourself in it. Turn off the lights, shut down the phone, crank up the volume, and see how far you can make it before the sheer terror overwhelms you. The brilliance of “Dead Space” is in the collection of all the little things it does well, like removing a lot of the traditional HUD elements on the screen and subtly putting them on your characters back, or how almost all of your weapons are mining tools re-purposed for your current slaughter needs. There’s also the bolder elements like the horrific creature design, and the emptiness of the space station setting making you feel like you are truly fighting your way out of hell and into the unknown. I was gravely mistaken for thinking “Dead Space” was anything less than one of the greatest horror games of all time, and I now recognize it as perhaps the prime example of effective atmosphere in gaming.
7. Left 4 Dead 2 – The greatest zombie game ever made? Well…not quite but it is certainly the most entertaining. Valve struck horror gold when they devised the idea of allowing 4 players to fight their way through the zombie apocalypse in the original “Left 4 Dead.” With the sequel, they perfected the experience by incorporating more enemies, more characters, better levels, and more modes.
The entire game works because of its intense level design which is open enough to make you feel like you’re not boxed in, but still linear enough to make the choke point moments work. Even better is the community aspect, as “Left 4 Dead” perfectly allows you to live out those conversations you have with your friends about what you all would do in a zombie apocalypse. That’s not to say the game is entirely about fun, as the scares are plentiful and often come in the form of the sheer overwhelming numbers you face, and the special zombies that complicate your survival intentions with their unique abilities (especially the Witches, which are essentially the nuclear weapons of the zombie horde). “Left 4 Dead 2″ is a simple idea executed to absolute perfection.
6. System Shock 2 – Remember earlier when I mentioned that “Dead Space” is perhaps the prime example of atmosphere in gaming? Well, that’s because there are a couple of other contenders on this list, with “System Shock 2″ being chief among them. The theme of the game is isolation, as you are sent to investigate the sudden stoppage of the world’s most advanced ship. One it becomes clear that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong on board, your only companion is a surviving analyst who guides you to her location, and your only goal is to survive and hope that by reaching her you can regain a sense of perspective about what is going on around you. In your path is a host of mechanical and organic enemies as well as a very real sense of hopelessness that threatens your progress more than any in-game element.
“System Shock” is the spiritual pre-cursor to “Bioshock” and many of its elements were highly influential on the “Deus Ex” series. While that gives you an idea of how revolutionary it was at the time, I’m happy to say I can do no real justice to the game’s atmosphere. You are truly alone in this world. While it’s a world filled with incredible amounts of backstory and political intrigue if you go looking for it, that doesn’t make it feel any less unwelcoming. Capped off by one of the greatest plot twists in video game history, “System Shock 2″ is one of the few great entrants of the horror genre in the games are art debate.
I probably don’t need to tell you, as there is a good chance most of you have seen it at least once already, but the third installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise, “The Dark Knight Rises,” hit theaters this weekend, and is attempting to bring the series full circle by pulling off the rare cinematic feat of releasing a third movie that equals, or even surpasses, the quality of the two that came before it.
The history of movies is plagued with bad third installments (“The Godfather Part 3,” “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “Spider-Man 3” to name a few) and very few successes. While this can be attributed to a number of factors, the fact remains that a complete movie trilogy usually falls apart at number three. What’s odd is that video games do not share this problem. In fact, the history of video games has shown that the third installment can sometimes yield a truly great game, if not the greatest of the series.
Don’t believe me? Then take a look at some of the greatest third games of all time.
The “Tekken” series hasn’t quite disappeared off the face of the earth, but the series’ heyday has long passed. “Tekken 3” was the pinnacle of the series’ excellence, and to this day remains one of the most perfectly designed fighting games of all time. “Tekken’s” established gameplay style reached absolute excellence, and did so with one of the greatest roster of fighters ever assembled. “Tekken 3″ also added a couple of very fun game modes in Ball Mode (a competitive beach ball contest) and Force Mode (a “Final Fight“style brawler), that were so entertaining in their own rights, it seemed like Namco had finally resorted to rubbing it in other fighting game developers faces.
“Tekken 3″ remains the 8th highest rated video game of all time on Game Rankings.com, and more importantly is still fun to play today. The first two “Tekken” games were good, but thanks to “Tekken 3″ they are also largely irrelevant.
“Grand Theft Auto 3″
I dreaded writing this list, because I knew I’d have to include this game. The truth is that I have nothing more to say about “Grand Theft Auto 3.” Over the years I’ve exhausted every single combination of words to describe how “GTA III” is one of the greatest and most revolutionary games of all time, and how its overnight release changed the entire video game industry. I simply can’t go on anymore about its amazing gameplay that is bested only by its mature storytelling, which is further overshadowed by the incredible little design decisions that permeate the entire game. I’m also sick of mentioning “GTA III’s” classic line up of characters, and those unforgettable radio stations that lent “GTA III” one of the greatest game soundtracks of all time.
And of course, I can’t fathom bringing up one more time how this, the third release in an otherwise previously non-noteworthy series, completely stunned everyone who never saw it coming and changed this franchise from cult hit at best to worldwide phenomenon considered both the most popular in its field at the time, and the most artistically sound as well essentially making it “The Beatles” of video game series.
Yup, I’ve just got nothing more to say about “GTA III.”