Five Games that didn’t get Enough Credit or Make Enough Money
by Thom Peart
5. Ico (PS2)
Yes I know, Ico is considered to be one of the greatest PS2 games of all time. Since its release the game has won numerous awards and has been praised as an intimate, emotional experience. It was also one of the first titles to prove that games were capable of showcasing art, as opposed to turning your child into tomorrow’s serial killer.
Many prestigious game designers have cited Ico as influencing their games, including Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid 3), Eiji Aonuma (The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess), and Jordan Mechner (Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time). Even artists outside the gaming community have given it praise, including Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy director, Guillermo Del Toro, as well as Radiohead’s guitarist, Jonny Greenwood.
You would think then that, upon its release, Ico was smashing sales records and selling out within hours. You would think that, but you’d be wrong. Upon its release, Ico sold moderately at best. Despite good reviews it struggled to compete with other games and for a while faded into obscurity with only a small cult following behind it. There are two main reasons why it never got a good start. The first is that the North American version was released with a different cover to its European and Japanese siblings. The North American cover was meant to look more exciting and action oriented in order to try and attract gamers. The result was this monstrosity…
The second is due to the odd name of the game, along with a lack of advertising in order to explain it. The game popped up with no fanfare or explanation and so gained none of the attention it deserved. For a while, it seemed Team Ico would have to accept that their first game would be a hidden gem that only a few would truly appreciate.
However, through word of mouth, the game began to get the recognition and prestige it deserved and today it is considered one of the best games ever made. It came 5th in IGN’s top 100 PS2 games. In 2011, Sony released the Ico/Shadow of the Colossus HD collection which received great reviews and sold well. A book, Ico: Castle In The Mist was also released in 2011 (and from personal experience I can tell you that it was very good.) It seems that Ico has finally gotten the attention it deserved but it could so easily have remained in obscurity, as is evident from the lukewarm response it received commercially.
4. Lord Of The Rings: Battle For Middle Earth 2 (Xbox 360)
BFME2 was one of the first and only good Real Time Strategy games ever to be released on consoles. RTS games work well on computers with the aid of a mouse, but seldom do the controls transfer well to the controller. However, the designers behind BFME2 were able to achieve this with almost no problems to speak of. Instead of just copying and pasting the original control scheme onto a controller, they worked from scratch to see what did and didn’t work. The result was one of the best RTS games available for the 360.
However it’s not just game play that BFME2 excelled in. The designers had the rights to all of Tolkein’s Middle Earth lore as well as rights to the recently (at the time) released movies, including character likeness and music. The result was a fantastic RTS that allowed you to recreate your favourite battles from the movies with classic characters that did and didn’t make the movies. Want to see Tom Bombadil take on Sauron? Go ahead. Fancy creating a scenario where the Rohan and Gondorians go to war with each other? Be my guest. As well as a lengthy and interesting Good and Evil campaigns the game also featured online multiplayer. Unfortunately the community is almost dead these days but you can still play locally with up to four friends.
However, due to the fact that RTS’s are usually so bad, and therefore unpopular, gamers were hesitant to pick this gem up and so, even today, the game still doesn’t get the popularity it deserves. Perhaps if more people played this they would see that RTS games can work on consoles and we might see more released in the future. If you’re interested in RTS games, you’ll enjoy this. If you’re a Tolkein fan you’ll adore it.
3. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Xbox 360/PS3)
Movie licensed games almost always suck. They’re almost always shameless cash-ins designed to make the movie they’re based on as much money as possible. More often than not, movie licensed games feature shoddy game play, awful voice acting and no replay value. However, there have been a few gems in the past including Spider-Man 2 and GoldenEye 007. These games got the critical acclaim they rightly deserved but X-Men Origins: Wolverine didn’t, for one very important reason. The film it was based on sucked.
You see, any gamer worth his salt will know that movie game tie-ins are generally to be avoided. The only way these shoddy games make money is by targeting young kids and their parents who simply buy the game because it’s got the film’s cover. Of course a seven year old doesn’t know the difference between Iron-Man: The Game and Metal Gear Solid 4 so he’s going to sit there happily, blasting enemies as his favourite super-hero. However, whilst the film X-Men Origins: Wolverine was rated a 12A, its video game counterpart was rated an 18 certificate due to extreme gore and beheading. Therefore no decent parent was going to buy that for their kid.
The game was marketed towards adults, who had seen how bad the film was, and assumed the game would be a waste of money. They couldn’t have been more wrong. The game itself told a unique story that fleshed out the lackluster film and added much needed depth and intrigue to the characters. Hacking up baddies, playing as the world’s greatest badass never got old, and if you kept leveling up through multiple playthroughs, you could become an extraordinarily powerful mutant God capable of taking down anything. The game also featured voice work from all the actors as well as great graphics and a host of Wolverine’s friends and enemies. One of the best features though, was Wolverine’s healing factor. Wolverine could take so much damage his adamantium skeleton would be showing but– take him out of the action for a moment and you could watch as his body healed itself in real time. If you’re a fan of Marvel, do yourself a favor and pick this one up.
2. WET (Xbox 360/PS3)
WET was a third person shooter released in 2009 by Artificial Mind and Movement and produced by Bethesda Softworks. It was based on the grindhouse film style and followed the tough-as-nails heroine Rubi Malone as she blasted her way through enemies using Prince of Persia-style acrobatics to the sound of a fantastic grindcore soundtrack.
The game featured a distinct art style as well as sections where Rubi enters “Rage” mode. In Rage mode the games visuals turn red and Rubi moves faster and does more damage. The game’s name derives from the euphemism “Wet-Work” -a messy job or task that involves one’s hands becoming wet with blood. One of the most refreshing aspects of WET was that it featured a tough heroine who didn’t wear a skimpy outfit or have massive breasts (*cough*Tomb Raider*cough*).
However WET wasn’t perfect and had some issues that stopped it getting the praise it deserved. WET wasn’t broken by any means but it was rough around the edges and its visuals were worlds away from the likes of Uncharted 2. However critics enjoyed the soundtrack, acrobatic combat, and Rubi’s badass character, and for a small price, you can too.
1. Just Cause 2
What’s the most important feature in a game? Graphics, gameplay, story? No. The most important feature is fun and I’ve yet to play a game more fun than Just Cause 2. You know those five minute moments of absolute fun and chaos you find in most games? Well Just Cause 2 is a game made entirely of those moments. You are dropped into a massive open world and your main objective is simply to cause chaos. Blowing up buildings, hijacking helicopters and taking over army bases all count and your only limit is your imagination.
Just Cause 2 gives you a grappling hook you can shoot and an endless supply of parachutes. Simple enough, but the possibilities are endless. You can use them to zip line onto cars or hijack helicopters chasing you. You can even attach an enemy to an explosive barrel then shoot the barrel and watch him get pulled up into the sky. This game is one long adrenaline rush from start to finish, and pulling your parachute cord the moment before you smash into the ground never gets old. The map is the biggest open world ever made for a game and has no loading screens whatsoever. Even when you’re in a jet plane travelling hundreds of mile per hour there is not a single judder in the draw distance, nor a moment of pop-in from the textures. Not only is this game fun, it’s really good looking.
What makes this game really special is the amount of cool little Easter eggs you can discover. The best of which is a replica of the LOST island. Yes, you read that right. The game features an island that, if you fly over it, will cause your plane to crash for no reason and leave you stranded on an island that features The Hatch and the creepy sound of The Smoke Monster.
The game is truly massive. Not just in size but in scope. I bought this game when it was first released and over the past couple of years I’ve kept coming back to it. There are so many collectibles and missions to do I’ve still only completed about 80% of it. 80% in two years!
Why isn’t this game up there with Grand Theft Auto IV and Call of Duty? It’s a mystery. Despite good reviews and strong sales the game just isn’t the household name it should be. However, recently the domain name Just Cause 4 got purchased, so I think it’s pretty safe to say we’ll be seeing more from the Just Cause franchise in the future.