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Letters from the Front

 

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2007 raised the bar for gaming and it raised the bar for what video games are capable of doing, 2008 maintained that momentum and left us by the end of the year with some great memories. From the original Dead Space to Fallout 3, many of the games that released that year continued to push the medium in unexpected ways.

I’m taking a deep and personal look at some of the games that released in 2008 and the impact they’ve had on me going forward. Some of these games went on to do some great things with the sequels they’ve provided in the years since 2008 while others fell into obscurity like Mirror’s Edge, the impression that they’ve had on me is everlasting.

Here are some of the games that released in 2008 that made the year unforgettable for me, join me on this deep and personal look at some of the games that would later forge the person that I am today.

 Grand Theft Auto IV

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Playing GTA back in the day almost felt like a rite of passage, at least to me and for many of the kids in the early ‘2000s. When GTA III came to the Xbox, I was already in Middle School and GTAIII captured not only my attention but many of my friends and classmates. GTA was the game that every kid played despite their parents telling them not to as controversy’s surrounding the game were up and center in many people’s lives.  I’d eventually get through GTA III and make my way across Vice City in the 1980’s and travel to San Andreas with CJ in the 1990’s.

When Grand Theft Auto IV released in 2008, it was a redesign of the franchise and pushed it into the modern day. It was set in a more modern Liberty City and you took the role of Niko Bellic, a Serbian war veteran from the Bosnian War who has to come to America to seek a better life for himself but it doesn’t take long for him to get in trouble. The game told a more darker and somber story about the American Dream, one of the great strengths of the franchise is that it focuses on satire and makes fun of our way of American life but in Grand Theft Auto IV, it was more subdued and the game wasn’t as silly as previous games in the franchise.

Over the course of the game, the story would get progressively darker as Niko begins to take jobs from the Italian and Irish mafia and the story never really reached the same heights as it did in previous games and that’s fine. I actually prefer this more darker and somber story then most of the other stories within the GTA games and I hope to see a return to this type of storytelling within Rockstar Games.

Dead Space
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I had no idea that the original Dead Space would become one of my favorite games of all time. It was completely unexpected that EA would push for something like this, considering that they’re a publisher usually not synonymous with survival horror games. When I first saw footage of Dead Space, I thought it was something Alien-inspired but I was wrong when I got the game that October. By the end of the game, I was completely enamored with the game and quickly wanted a sequel, as a fan of the horror genre, this game was a perfect envision of what horror should be.

The setting and the atmosphere of the Ishimura was something that would later stay with me as gaming progressed. The dark hallways, the unsettling isolation, the creepy atmosphere all stayed with me and frankly, it would become a symbol of something that I wouldn’t see again, even in horror games until Alien: Isolation in 2014. I remember feeling terrified and spooked as I turned the next corner and walked down a creepy and dark hallway, and a cold sweat covered my hands as I walked down that hallway and played through the game as I was scared to know what was going to happen.

The original Dead Space would later become one of my favorite games of all time and to this day, there hasn’t been a game that has lived up to the original Dead Space. A masterclass in the horror genre, one of a kind that wouldn’t be seen again.

Call of Duty: World at War

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World at War breathed fresh air into the World War II genre after countless games showing the same battles like Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, World at War decided to do something different which was to show the battles of the Pacific Theater and the Russian advance east towards Berlin after the fight for Stalingrad’s soul in 1942.

World at War is one of my favorite Call of Duty games of all time. It’s not the best but it’s up there right next to Call of Duty 2, Call of Duty 4, and others but it is one of my favorite games of all time within the franchise.

In 2008, I was still in grade school and this game was all the rage at the school, much like GTA 3D trilogy was earlier in the decade. All of my friends were playing the latest games and that included the newest Call of Duty. As the years progressed, everybody including myself began to hop off the train as it was clear to see that Call of Duty had evolved into something that wouldn’t reach the same heights as World at War.

I wish that the developers return Call of Duty to being something like World at War, create as something as unique and awesome as World at War. Man, do I miss this game.

Here’s to you, World at War.

Battlefield: Bad Company

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I have a long history with the Battlefield games, I was one of the original fans when Battlefield 1942 released but it was Bad Company that really cemented my love for the franchise.

The campaign really stood out to me and it remains one of my favorite campaigns within the franchise, just short of its sequel that released in 2010. Bad Company was the first game within the franchise to feature a full-scale campaign, and it’s characters were some of the memorable characters that I’ve ever encountered within gaming. It felt very B-movie and was incredibly cheesy which was the entire point, which was a refreshing pace in the military genre after countless games felt depressing and dull.

I would like to see Bad Company return for one last hurrah before being sent off into the sunset. I think it’s a right time to see the franchise come back, the latest rumor from the rumor mill is that 2019’s or 2020’s Battlefield will be Bad Company 3 which reportedly takes place within the Vietnam War as a followup to this year’s Battlefield V.

Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway

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Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway would be the last game in the franchise that we would see before Gearbox moved on to create Borderlands, the franchise that they’re most synonymous with.

The Brothers in Arms games was the closest thing to a video game version of Band of Brothers, it told the story of Sgt. Matthew Baker of the 502nd PIR Regiment of the famed 101st Airborne as he drops into Normandy and Holland, the series revolved around him and how he deals with the loss of his men.

Hell’s Highway was the third game in the series which saw him and his troops dropping into German-occupied Holland during Operation Market Garden and what occurred there was the plot of the game. Hell’s Highway wouldn’t live up to the other two games in the series but it was still a good game and it still warrants a sequel after a huge cliffhanger ended the game.

As for today, in the present, Gearbox is developing the new game which reportedly takes place during the Battle of the Bulge and is the last game in the franchise according to some reports. I feel like too much time has passed and the interest isn’t there but we’ll see.

Fallout 3

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I’m saving the best for last.

In Fallout, the Eastern Seaboard was never shown before as the previous games took place in the West Coast around California and Nevada. Fallout 3 was the first game set on the East Coast, in the city of Washington D.C in the year 2277, it’s weird having a game set within a city that you know and been too multiple times, but when you’re presented with a post-apocalyptic version of that same town, the imagery takes on new weight. Seeing a bombed-out version of the capitol immediately grabbed my attention. Museums I had visited like the Museum of Technology and the most iconic American monuments I’ve visited like the Washington Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial took on new meaning.

A setting can only get you so far, and that’s where the features of Fallout 3 comes into play. An RPG providing you with melee weapons, weapons, XP based combat, perks is really nothing new, but how everything came together to create one of the best RPG’s in a long time is an achievement and the brutality of the weapons that Bethesda gave you made those tools more powerful. Entertainment like a Boy and his dog, Mad Max, Wasteland, and many others influenced  Fallout 3 and influenced Bethesda’s work on the game, and it clearly shows. I would reckon that those inspirations helped craft Fallout 3 into a masterpiece.

Outside of combat, gameplay revolved around your actions. Your actions would affect the game entirely, even down to the story and your dialogue choices would affect how the game was played. These choices weren’t new as BioWare had done it a year prior with Mass Effect alongside their games from the previous generation but this decision would later go on into games like Fallout 4 and New Vegas with New Vegas adding the decision to add factions and having the ability to join which faction you liked the best and fighting for them.

Fallout 3 was a revolution within the RPG genre, it’s open-ended quests and the absolute freedom that Bethesda given you is something that really hadn’t been seen before and it will later go on to become one of the things that Bethesda would later be known for, that freedom to do what you want, that freedom to do what you please; even though I don’t play the game anymore, I value that open ended freedom that Bethesda gives you in their games, it’s unprecedented. You could skip many of the questlines that you were supposed to get just by getting to Three Dog or Rivet City when you weren’t supposed to head to Rivet City until a few hours from the start of the game, that freedom to go do whatever you want or be whoever you want really defined Fallout 3 in a way that Fallout 4 never really captured.

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That is some of the biggest games turning 10 this year, stay tuned for PART II coming tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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