27 August 2015

FWS Top Ten: My Favorite Video Games

Wondering where the military field ration blogpost is? Me, too. The last three weeks have be devoted to getting my new classroom setup and go to mandatory district trainings. Ugh. This has pushed back the field ration blogpost back. So, here is a Top Ten on my favorite video games. I was born in the late 1970's, and was a kid in the 1980's, allowing to be fully involved in the Golden Age of Video Games. I had an ATARI 2600, saw TRON in the theater, NES, GameBoy, and I used to pump quarters into my local arcade while pumping my Reeboks! Yes, it was a good time to be alive. This made video games important to my life, and one of the primary sources of relaxation and escape from how crappy life really is. This journey from 1982 to 2015 involves a great deal of video games across all manner of systems and in various genres...except sports games...I hate sports games. In this Top Ten, we will be looking at my favorite video games. Please note, I did not include RAINBOW 6 simply because I've discussed that game in-depth, and I used that spot for another favorite.

My Personal Video Game History
Home console gaming would enter into my life on Christmas of 1982. My brother and I got an ATARI 2600 with about six games, and it was one of the best Xmas gifts I ever got. It was an magical plastic-and-wood box of joy, and since we were the only kids in our neighbor in Alabama that had an 2600, our house was very popular. Around 1987, another Xmas, another ATARI, this time it was an 7800. A year or two later, an secondhand NES would arrive, and in 1990, an original GameBoy was added to the inventory.
While I would still play the other systems, I was not thrilled by the console game selection in the 1990's, and became bored with video gaming by 1991. I hated jumping, side-scrollers, and the limited exploration of most console games. Arcades were still part of my social life, and it often you could find me and my friends at some Tulsa mall pumping quarters. But, I was hungry for something different. Then in summer of 1991, my father would buy an greybox Hewlett-Packard home PC running MS-DOS and Windows 3.1. This was a revolution for me and my relationship with home gaming. Given the power of the PC, I was able to run games like LucasArts Battle of Britain, Loom, War in Middle Earth. Instead of investing in another console during the Bit Wars, my (and parents) money was funneled into the greybox. Games like X-Wing, Terminator: 2029, Wolfenstein, DOOM, and Wing Commander filled my high school years. It was not until the original PlayStation came out that I switched teams back to a home console system.
Why did I not continue with PC gaming? Money and the bullshit factor. I was tried of pouring money into updating the greybox to run the next great game, and once I witness the power of the PSOne, I was sold. I just could not bring myself to invent into a computer gaming system with a terribly short lifespan. Consoles are good for five-to-seven years. I made my choice and I continue with that thinking. In Christmas of 1997, I got my own PlayStation with Wing Commander 3 and DOOM. For years, I would add to my collection, rent games from Blockbuster (remember that?), and adding Lid-Art to my PSOne. In 2002, my original PSOne died when the motor that spun the CDs burned out, and it was time to belly up to the bar, and buy an PS2. My wife and my mother bought me an PS2 after passing College Algebra, and immediately bought ROBOTECH: Battlecry. 
While I loved my PS2 and playing the utter fucking shit out of SOCOM on the thing, I was growing more interested in the big black box by Microsoft and that game called HALO. At this time, I was getting back into paintball, I wasn't sure that I could afford both masters. In winter of 2005, a meth addict broke into my duplex, and took my PS2 on a trip to the drughouse. While was shocked and heartbroken, this gave me the opportunity to switch religions.
With the insurance money and some Christmas cash, I bought an Xbox with HALO: CE...and I've never looked back. At present, I own an Elite Xbox 360, and my original Xbox, along with saving money for an Xbox One so I can play HALO 5. Yes, I know I have an addiction While retrogaming is big right now, and many of my friends are rebuying their childhood old systems, I do not look back with any type of fondness or golden nostalgia. To me, the 6th Generation of video games is really the furthest back I go when gaming, I personally think that video games, in general, keep getting better. However, I am concerned that the single player campaign is going to become an endangered species, and that online play will required no matter what. Gaming has been part of my life since 1982, and I believe it always will be.

1. HALO: Combat Evolved (2001/2011)
HALO is one of those gaming franchise that transcended beyond the console to be a multi-media empire. But, it all started on a new home video game console, and the success of the original 2001 HALO: Combat Evolved for the original Xbox gave birth to one of the greatest military sci-fi series of all time. When I bought my Xbox in 2005, I bought HALO: CE, and it was a damn nearly religious experience. I knew within a few hours, that HALO was going to be my game and that this game would be forever something special. Even to this very day, I play HALO: CE once a year, and I do not need to make nostalgia excuses for it, especially with the anniversary edition. It is a rock solid game that took the tropes and made them their prison bitch. This game carried a dynasty that expanded throughout all types of media and culture, and if it is ever made, the HALO movie could be the best video game film of all time...which is not a high bar. To me, HALO: Combat Evolved one of the best games I ever played, and we are still very much in love.

2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)
COD games are thought of in a bipolar manner by the gaming community. Some regard the COD franchise has the scourge of modern video games, and that COD encapsulates everything that is wrong with the industry. While others think of COD has a symbol of the power of video games and their rise to power and legitimacy in the wider world. With the erosion of COD franchise, it seems that the COD gravy train is ending with many saying that Call of Duty is dead. Proof can be seen in once proud COD gamers, who used to wasting hours in dark rooms with their Mountain Dew and Turtle Beaches, are now hid their addiction or have simply moved on, causing less players to be active in the lobbies; which only compounds the problems.
However, the game here is regarded as one of the best and most popular...and with good reason. COD:MW2 was the apex for the campaign, while Black Ops:II was the peak of the online combat experience. In MW2, we were treated to a good solid thrilling campaign that was filled with COD tropes that were not yet tropes. From rather cool Special Operations characters like Ghost, Price, and Soap, to easy-to-hate enemies, and various interesting maps to kill in (especially estate!). I still play the campaign of this game, and I still enjoy it, but it mixed with sadness. Simply put, COD have not been as good as it was during this game, and given the COD games being spit out today, it never will be again.  

3. Medal of Honor (2010)
The top-of-the-cake special forces units (Tier-One) have been the subject of video games since time immoral, and they will continue to be a story element in video games for the conceivable future. This by no means infers that these Tier-One groups are represented correctly. This applies to the Call of Duty games of the world. However, in 2010, the nearly dead EA military game series, Medal of Honor was rebooted with an eye to modern warfare in Afghanistan, specifically concerning Operation: Anaconda in 2002.
When I watched the first trailer for the game in 2010, seeing Tier-One in native clothing hunting Taliban/AQ and riding ATVs in the mountains of A-stan...I was hooked. To their credit, Danger Close Games interviewed and consulted with former and active duty Tier-One Operators to forge realistic gameplay and setting. The result was the most realistic game on Tier-One Operators and operators. The amount of respect paid to these elite warfighters was huge and touching, and the game itself while short was inspiriting. Truly, a game among games. I love this game for what is, and count it among the best of modern military shooter campaigns. It is a real fucking crime that the 2012 followup, Medal of Honor: Warfighter was so lackluster and disappointing. So bad in fact, that it EA put Medal of Honor in limbo and disbanded Danger Close Games. In October, FWS will be publishing a loving look back at MOH 2010.

4. Half-Life 2 (2004)
I played the original Half-Life on the PS2 conversion, and it was okay...but it wasn't until HL2 that the everyone, including me, woke up to this masterpiece of gaming. In some ways, HL2 pulled an Road Warrior on the audience, taking the world of Gordon Freeman, and altering it in a post-apocalyptic, post-alien invasion controlled Earth. The human races is one their collective knees, and they need a hero. I still play this game once-a-year, and enjoy it on the many levels that it exists. This game would also give us Portal and the machinima series Civil Protection starring Dave and Mike.

5. HALO: Reach (2010)
By the time of HALO 3, it appeared that the story of John-117 was ending and that the HALO franchise was going to have to find a new avenue to survive. While HALO Wars and ODST were okay, they were not the story that many fans wanted. Since the release of the incredible book The Fall of Reach, fans have wanted a game or film set on the doomed human heartworld of Reach. In 2010, we got that game, and next to HALO: CE, it was one of the best games in the entire line-up.
HALO: Reach does what many of us fans wanted, to put you in the boots of an elite SPARTAN SpecOps team kicking alien ass. Unlike the core HALO games,you are not the last SPARTAN, but a member of a team, and you are not facing the Flood or fighting on a Halo Ring, but on an core Terran colony. In much the same way as the Star Wars Prequels, HALO Reach attempts to show the SPARTANs at their military apex, like Lucas did with the Clone Wars, showing fully trained Jedi and not some kid, cyborg, or old man. To me, HALO Reach had one of the best stories. It was emotional compelling with unique characters, locations, and weapons. I love this game and I respect the balls it took for Bungie to make, and make it right.

6. Xenophobe (Arcade 1987)\
Ah, the 1980's! I spent many years in the arcade, and it was in 1987 that I met that one arcade game that made me fall in love: Xenophobe. Let's face the facts, there has not been a "good" ALIENS video game until ALIEN Isolation, but Xenophobe came close to giving us ALIENS fans something enjoyable to play that was similar to that dark world that we loved. Xenophobe was a unique fusion of humor, dark sci-fi, and classic arcade gaming that made an impression on gamers at the time. So successful was the arcade cabinet, that the game was ported to every major home console and computer gaming system from 1987 through 2004. That says something about the longevity of Xenophobe. I really wish there had been a sequel...maybe one day. If and when FWS ever gets an official office, Xenophobe will be in the office for stress relief.

7. Mass Effect (2007)
I've never been much for classic fantasy RPGs, either paper-and-pen or video games. Sure, I played D&D and Dark Tower back in the 1980's..but it wasn't until 2007 that concept of Mass Effect got me thinking that this game could a space-based RPG that I could get behind. When I finally played it as FemShep (of course), I was shocked how engrossing, beautiful, and complex the original Mass Effect game was. Even today, I love the first and third game...not a fan of Mass Effect 2. During a recent playthrough of all three games back-to-back, I continually impressed with the epic nature of the original Mass Effect, and I firmly believe that it is one of the finest science fiction games of all time. Oh, FemShep is the real Commander Shepard!

8. Wing Commander (1990)
At times, video games allow new types of stories to be told in a new medium, and that was the case with 1990's military sci-fi flight sim Wing Commander. This game takes concepts from The Man-Kzin Wars, Enemy Mine, Star Wars, and BSG to from a tale of Terran space jocks onboard a space carrier in the Vega Sector battling Killer Space Tigers. I played this a few years after its original release, but it was of the best games I played in the 1990's, and the second and third games were also good, but the first game will always have a special place in my heart.  

9. Star Wars: X-Wing (1993)
Flight simulators have always been one of the most popular computer games, due to the technologically ability and advantages of PCs over consoles to simulate flight conditions with a joystick...not some damned controller! Not all flight simulators were devoted to dogfights or simple simulation, there was an healthy market for space combat sims, and one of the best of all time was X-Wing by LucasArts. X-Wing would allow the player to take control of the iconic space fighters of the Rebel Alliance in historical simulations and live missions. This game was packed with insight to the world of Star Wars, and unlike the most Star Wars games, there was no fucking Jedi! X-Wing tells the story of the Rebel Alliance guerrilla campaign against the Empire via a military sci-fi setting, and not lightsaber duels. I loved this game back-in-the-day and its expansions, and it is still a game that I think holds up. This is the best Star Wars game there is.

10. Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 (2005)
World War II used to be one of the most common settings for military shooters around the turn of this century, and one of the best out of these Nazi-killing games was Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 created by Dallas-based Gearbox (who also finished Duke Nukem) in 2005. Road to Hill 30 was based on real world events, units, and even people during the pivotal 1944 Invasion of Normandy. This game was timed perfectly to take advantage of the popularity of the American WWII Paratrooper units ignited by Band of Brothers. While Road to Hill 30 is, at its core, an squad-command game, it is involving play with real history, real locations, and a compelling story. I love this game, and it is one of the reasons I still have my original Xbox. Road to Hill 30 was followed by Earned in Blood, which equally good, and you can use an STG44! However, the Xbox 360 Hell's Highway is merely okay, and is not anywhere as good as the original two. Pity. Today, Brothers in Arms is a shadow of it's former self. This game is today often overshadowed by the World War II COD and MOH games, but Brothers in Arms is superior.


  1. A little correction - you certainly didn't play Half-life 1 on PSOne as there was no such version. You propably meant PS2 conversion :). By the way I wonder Metal gear solid didn't make the cut, you strike me as a guy who would love it.

  2. Opps! I will correct that! I did enjoy the 1998 game, but not the ones before or since. If this was a top 20 list, you would have seen it there

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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