We probably don't need to tell you how great BioShock is, but we're going to anyway. Never in the history of gaming has there been a more extraordinary but believable world than the underwater dystopia of Rapture.
The aquatic city was founded on the misguided philosophy of one man, and the development of addictive, DNA-altering plasmids sealed its denizens' watery fates. It was haunting, gorgeous, and smart. Hopefully the industry never forgets the lesson it taught us: Games can be intelligent and still let us shoot bad guys in the face.
What started as a campy game about a science experiment accidentally unleashing creatures from an alternate dimension somehow ended up one of the most beloved series in gaming. Half-Life 2 probably has something to do with that.
After a twenty-year stint in stasis, protagonist Gordon Freeman wakes up to find the situation is even worse than before. Humanity has been all but enslaved by alien forces, and major cities are being subjected to a very believable near-future version of evil overlord-induced dystopia. It's 1984 with the Combine instead of Big Brother, and it's one of the most atmospheric, mature games ever made. Now if only Valve would finish the series.
The original Deus Ex was one of the most advanced games of its time, but it's the more recent Human Revolution that we believe will really stand the test of time. It's a game that asks the important questions, answers them, and then changes its mind when it witnesses the consequences.
There may be no other work of fiction that's explored the idea of machine-augmented humans on such a personal and practical level. What really would happen if the very rich could turn themselves into powerful cyborgs while the poor remain subject to the weaknesses of flesh? And it couldn't have released at a better real-world time than 2011, a time when the rich and poor are practically at war with one another. Simply brilliant.
Eric Chahi, the creator of last year's unique downloadable title From Dust, developed one other truly notable game: Out of this World, known as Another World in Europe and Outer World in Japan. It's actually rather simple, but it's also one of the most beautiful games we've ever played.
A bored scientist accidentally (stupid unpredictable science!) transports himself to "another world," where he immediately almost drowns, very nearly gets devoured alive, and is imprisoned in a cage with only a strange alien creature for company. Its painterly visual style and unique one-gun mechanics were so ahead of their time that most games still don't live up to its standard.
Portal, Portal, Portal. We sometimes find it difficult to express just how much we love Portal. As a comedy, it's hilarious. As a work of science fiction, it's compelling. As a proof-of-concept, it's engaging and intuitive. As a game, it's a masterpiece.
From the moment we realized just what a portal was to the final, explosive, gasping-for-breath moment, Portal had our imaginations by the balls. GlaDOS may be the most devious A.I. ever devised, and the subtle tie-ins with Half-Life just increased gamers' feverish love for all things Valve. If Portal's not great sci-fi, we're going to shoot our own portal on the moon so we won't have to live on this planet anymore.
Date: March 23, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*