Video games. They’ll give you square eyes if you play too long. Or, they are a darn sight better entertainment than watching EastEnders or Coronation Street for an adolescent. Aside from the movies, where else can you get immersed in the globe-trotting escapades of a secret agent, race a Ford GT through the streets of San Francisco, or have an entire urban city as your playground? Certainly not in Albert Square.
I’ve chosen to write a small blurb on a selection of games that trigger that sweet smell of birthday and Christmas wonder years nostalgia for me, on the ground-breaking PlayStation 2 console. They remind me of a simpler time; with no rent and bills, no worlds to try and change and no diets to adhere to. A time when, in fact, I should have been taking “study leave” a bit more literal! DISCLAIMER: May trigger some happy memories.
Hitman 2: Silent Assassin
Stepping into the cold-hearted shoes of Agent 47 was at its best in the most suited of locations; snow covered St. Petersburg. As much as I have enjoyed the most recent instalments of the series, I was disappointed that all of the missions were just set in the United States. The European element of the early entries really provided it with that extra gritty feel, which was at its peak with Hitman: Contracts. What I particularly loved about the Hitman games is the trial and error and tension in obtaining that “silent assassin” rating at the end of the level. Ultimately, players had the choice of bursting in with the dual hand guns or sneaking around and lacing the steak tartar with rat poison. Sinister as either of those options sound, the latter provided more of a satisfaction with the game.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Oh. My. God. Helicopters! Motorcycles! The build up to this game was huge. I remember my friends and I playing GTA3 all that time and not once missing either of these items (proving how good a game it actually was). Then when this was announced, the idea seemed completely from left-field! Along with the pop soundtrack, pastel colours, Miami Vice scenery and left, right and centre references to films such as Scarface, this game oozed every 1980s. This retrospective setting made the satirical points shine with dramatic irony, making this game more of a stand-out entry for me. Also, who couldn’t enjoy stealing an Apache and flying along the coastline to the tune of Flock Of Seagulls? :/
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
The tension can be cut with a knife similar to that of Hitman; creeping in the shadows within spitting distance of an armed guard, checking your noise and light meter constantly waiting for him to pass. Of all the Splinter Cell games I always seem to find myself going back to this one. Pandora tomorrow was a fantastic game; the early Eurostar mission was one of the best levels in the series, but I felt the outdoor jungle aspect removed that claustrophobic tension of crawling through air vents and lift shafts and then hacking a computer terminal before the target came back to his desk. Chaos Theory went back to the urbanised locations, corporate office buildings and military installations feeling like a more polished version of the first game. The only minor thing I really missed was the quick-switch move from one side of the door frame to the other. It’s the little things.
Max Payne 2: The Fall Of Max Payne
Remedy’s noir-inspired, painkiller-addicted and gravelly-voiced New York homicide detective stood tall amongst other games in terms of it’s storyline and vision. In true Rockstar games fashion, it was rated 18 and ultra-violent. The John Woo-styled bullet time dodges and graphic novel cut scenes were highly engrossing and unique. I first played this on the PS2, but both this game and its sequel shined when played on PC. The mod community for these are still huge, ranging from simple weapon packs to complete Matrix conversions complete with a Kung Fu mod. Before Machinima’s overhaul in becoming an entertainment network in recent years, and before the rise of YouTube, it used to showcase game-based short films made by users in a similar way the cut scenes themselves are created. Max Payne 2 was the basis of many of those. I’ve yet to play the 3rd instalment, but from first glance it’ll be difficult letting go completely of the snow-covered nights of NYC.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Metal Gear Solid helped define the big budget and cinematic gaming genre. There’s enough cutscene content to fill an entire movie with more stealth and action than all the Michael Bay films combined (the game does share the same music composer). Snake (and Big Boss) are an interesting mash of 80s action heroes, and MGS 3 provides a detailed back story of Big Boss during the Cold War. This game has some great locations and set pieces and compelling plot that will keep you glued to the screen all weekend. The final battle in the snowy wilderness is visually stunning and epic, and to me is the most memorable of the series to date. MGS 2 would be in this list too, but you can blame that on Raiden!