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Letters from the Front

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2008 was really the year that I fell in love with videogames and knew that I wanted to do something with them. 2007 was an extraordinary year for games with games such as BioShockThe Witcher, Mass Effect, and Call of Duty 4 alongside many others that would go down in the annals of gaming history. If 2007 was extraordinary then 2008 continued that momentum with some of the most iconic games seeing release.

Yesterday, we did PART I of the biggest games that saw release in 2008 and today is the last installment with PART II. Join me on a deep and personal look at some of the games that saw release that year.

Left 4 Dead

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Today, the zombie genre is a bit of a cliche setting, but back in 2008, it was still somewhat fresh with Valve taking the genre to new heights. Much like the rest of their games, Left 4 Dead was in development for a long time, and the early trailers showed off a more serious take on the game but what we received in the fall of 2008 was a more lighthearted and jokey version of the version we originally saw in the trailers they released.

Left 4 Dead focused on four unique player characters just trying to survive–a biker, a Vietnam veteran, a college student, and a retail salesman–the group would travel through zombie-infested locations that offered randomized encounters.

The most iconic and most famous level of the entire franchise is perhaps No Mercy. This first level was the most representative of what we could expect from the game. The mission started off with being on the roof of an apartment building, and you’d slowly work your way down to the streets below. Your only hope to escape is with a helicopter on top of a hospital roof and you would have to make your way through dozens of zombies to get there.

That mission alone and the rest of the entire game made Left 4 Dead one of the greatest games of 2008.

Far Cry 2

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In the present day, Far Cry revels in allowing you to explore exotic settings that aren’t really a mainstay in gaming and allow you to traverse these worlds in hilarious or over the top action moments like in the recent installment Far Cry 5 or 2014’s Far Cry 4. However, back in 2008, there was one game that would stand out from the rest and stand out within the franchise as a whole; it would tell a story that was a far cry from the original game. Far Cry 2 was the first sequel, and the first true open-world game of the franchise, it gave off a sense of weight that’s still left an impression on everyone that played it. The plot of the game focused on the adventures of a foreign mercenary somewhere in Africa, as soon as you land in the region, you’re quickly caught up in a brutal civil  war while on the hunt for an arms dealer named The Jackal. On top of that, the player character is infected with malaria so time is of the essence.

Instead of the B-movie and cheesy tone that the original had, Far Cry 2 was a far cry from the original with a story that focused on a country in the middle of a civil war and had a bit more of a serious tone that the rest of the franchise would leave behind in later installments. FC2 is a stand out amongst the entire franchise because of the tone, the setting, the mature themes, and the realistic mechanics. In alot of cases, I found myself running away or hiding in buildings to unjam my weapons or take a pill to keep malaria at bay.

Many of the features that would be seen in FC2 would later be expanded upon and arguably the realistic game mechanics would be left behind. FC2 stands out from the rest of the games within 2008 and the rest of the franchise as the franchise later included three more sequels.

Gears 2

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The original Gears of War became a classic, thanks in part to its incredible graphics, cinematic presentation, solid story, and it’s cover mechanic which would later become the standard for most TPS games. The original Gears was the first true next-generation game that we wanted from Microsoft when they released the Xbox 360.

Gears 2 upped the ante and expanded upon the original game in ways that would change not only the franchise forever but gaming forever with the introduction of Horde Mode, Halo 3 would later include Horde Mode in Halo 3: ODST, a year later and most of the games we see now include some sort of horde mode or countless waves of enemies coming at you.

Gears 2 picks up the story six months after the end of the original game. The Locust are incredibly powerful that they can now sink entire cities from below, and the humans are more vulnerable and desperate thanks to the spread of the rust lung disease. The COG fears that Jacinto might fall to the Locust and it’s up to Marcus Fenix and Dominic Santiago to take the fight to the Locust. Survival is at the center of Gears 2, but there’s also themes of family, love, and much more which truly expanded the premise of the game than the previous game.

When it came to gameplay, Gears 2 was fundamentally the same as the original game but it also improved and reworked some of the key features that were present within the original. The cover system was reworked so that you could cling more accurately to surfaces, and the weapons were buffed slightly to make them more balanced than before. The revival system was also reworked considerably. In Gears 2, your A.I teammates can heal you but you could’ve also crawled towards them more quickly and this improved the game and made it a lot fairer when it came to the game’s difficulty, especially on Horde Mode.

In the end, Gears 2 is / was the type of sequel that we wouldn’t see again, at least to me, especially as the franchise moved onto Gears 4. Gears 2 was building upon and expanding upon the original while tearing the foundation away and rebuilding something new.

Mirror’s Edge

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The original Mirror’s Edge was a critical hit when it landed in 2008, but sadly, it faded into obscurity as the game didn’t really translate into commercial success. It was the first game and the first franchise that DICE had created since Battlefield 6 years earlier. Nevertheless, jumping off of rooftops like a superhero was indeed thrilling.

I first heard of  Mirror’s Edge through a friend and I became curious because he told me about the game. So I went and rented it at Blockbuster when Blockbuster was a thing back in those days. Run after run, I continued to identify the flaws that were in my gameplay and take advantage of new opportunities that revealed themselves. Here was the thing about the original Mirror’s Edge and I guess to an extent this also reaches out to the 2016 reboot was that you had to look around your environment and you had to train your eye to spot different things.  After a couple of minutes heaving in my trash can because I had motion sickness, thanks to how the game was structured, I kept on playing for another hour and seeing what the game had to offer. When I returned it to my local Blockbuster, I really liked the original Mirror’s Edge and wanted some sort of sequel; my hopes were dashed after learning that the game failed commercially.

Today, I look back on Mirror’s Edge as a game that was far ahead of its time, much like many underrated games. Perhaps, after finishing up the reboot this past week, the original Mirror’s Edge would’ve been fine on its own and wouldn’t need a reboot.

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