5 Most Under-Appreciated Games Of This Console Generation
Spec Ops: The Line
An obvious choice for a list of this nature, it’s crazy to think how few people played this compelling and thought-provoking shooter. Thanks to something of a marketing disaster, The Line was pitched as a squad-based military bro-shooter rather than gaming’s answer to Joseph Conrad’s magnum opus ‘Heart of Darkness’, and suffered commercially as a result.
Walt Williams’ choice-driven narrative brilliantly portrayed the brutality of war in a setting which drews parallels with Conrad’s depiction of the death-ridden Congo jungle, and this was expertly weaved into a somewhat standard shooter-like campaign to create one of this generation’s unsung classics.
Voice-acting legend Nolan North stole the show as Captain Walker, a character who developed believably throughout The Line’s continuous barrage of unfortunate events, but a high-standard of voice acting was deployed by developer Yager throughout – and The Line really benefited from this.
If nothing else, it proved middle-tier projects can continue to succeed so long as developers are willing to think outside the box, and Yager managed to create a truly spectacular experience, which somehow gave off the illusion of being just another game.
Call Of Juarez: Bound In Blood
Red Dead Redemption isn’t undeserving of its status as gaming’s greatest ever Western, but it comes across as somewhat unjust to me that the second installment in Techland’s Call of Juarez series gets nary a mention in that debate.
Benefiting from the focus of linearity, in contrast to Redemption’s open-world approach, the Dead Island developer created an authentic Western feel to everything from the game’s solid first-person gunplay to the title’s sound design, and the experience was brought to life by the engaging story of the McCall brothers.
Much like many Techland releases, Bound In Blood lacked polish, and thus the Call of Juarez franchise wasn’t given the kind of lift it deserved (even if it would later come close to being killed off thanks to the abomination that was Call of Juarez: The Cartel). And yet for me it’s the best title the Polish developer ever produced – and should be heralded as one of the unsung shooters of the generation.
The latest installment in Michel Ancel’s beloved Rayman series proved to be something of a commerical slow-burner when it was released late in 2011. The retro 2D-platformer was universally adored by critics but swallowed up somewhat by a barrage of higher-budget releases despite its evident brilliance.
Ditching the 3D Rayman from the series’ second and third installment (The Great Escape and Hoodlum Havoc), Ubisoft went back to their roots on this project and created one of this generation’s most visually stunning, joyous experiences.
Astoundingly smooth mechanics fused with a game engine that encouraged artistry to create the greatest platformer of the generation (yes, even including Super Mario Galaxy).
Rayman Origins wasn’t exactly a flop – in fact a sequel, Rayman Legends, is due out soon – but not nearly enough people played what is arguably Ubisoft’s best ever release, and that can only be seen as a total injustice. I can’t recommend this one enough.
Vanquish suffered from a derivative story, somewhat bland art style and unlikable characters, but it’s also (mechanically-speaking) the best shooter of the generation. There are few games that are as fun to play as Sega’s bullet-hell third-person experience – a game that seemingly set a new industry standard without anyone noticing.
The sheer amount of flying bullets, explosions and general mayhem happening at any one time on your screen in Vanquish is genuinely incredible – and its razor-sharp mechanics have you flying around the battlefield at electrifying speed, slowing down time to execute accurate bursts of fire and rolling to avoid an enemy’s melee attack – leading to some of the most enjoyable, fast-paced gameplay imaginable.
In itself the game was a tad light, featuring a medium-length campaign and a few bonus missions, but there’s no point in Vanquish when you’re not having a blast. On that basis alone, it’s a must-play title.
A game cursed by the sky-high standards of its publisher’s previous output, this groundbreaking cop thriller will arguably be looked back on as one of Rockstar’s duds. And yet, I’d wager that Team Bondi’s open-world detective epic is one of this generation’s most important releases.
The Australian developer nailed the iconic post-war Los Angeles aesthetic and showed the world what Pixar-standard motion scanning technology can bring to the games industry. Aaron Staton’s portrayal of LAPD detective Cole Phelps helped create one of our medium’s greatest characters, and the title’s use of facial animation – as you try to tell if a witness is lying while trying to get to the bottom of a case – is truly captivating.
Sure, the game suffered from pacing issues, dull action sequences and a not always brilliantly-realised plot, but Rockstar were willing to take a risk on a Triple-A, big-budget adventure game with a major difference, and for the most part the publisher’s gamble paid off.
L.A. Noire is a game that, in technical terms, has only been topped very recently by Naughty Dog’s magnificent survival-horror release The Last Of Us, and it deserves to be remembered as one of this generation’s most significant titles in regards to the progression of video games as an entertainment medium.
Do you agree with these choices? What do you think is the most under-appreciated game of this console generation?