As we approach the launch of the new consoles, exciting new game releases are becoming scarcer and scarcer. To remedy this, the Fate of the Game staff has decided to bring you The Hit List, a twice-monthly spotlight focusing on overlooked yet still highly enjoyable gaming experiences that you may have missed.
Now is a great time to catch up on these undersold titles. We’ll bring four of these games to your attention with each entry, until we run out … or something. Here is the first volume!
Dalton’s Hit: The Saboteur (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
Pandemic (Star Wars: Battlefront, Mercenaries) definitely outdid its previous works with this game. Buried by EA due to a poor reaction to Mercenaries 2, and I guess lack of interest at the time, The Saboteur was the last title the ill-fated team released before EA unceremoniously shuttered the studio. The Saboteur spoke volumes about the studio’s love and devotion to the open-world genre, a genre, I might add, that it helped build during the final days of the PS2/Xbox era with titles like Mercenaries and Destroy All Humans.
Ah Paris, nothing like it, really, in video game form or real life for that matter, and that is the case as well in The Saboteur. Paris and the surrounding countryside are fully realized, at first in dire black and white with only the red of blood and Nazi insignias, to highlight the tone of the era. As you progress in the game by liberating different areas from Nazi control, these areas burst into full technicolor to illustrate being freed from Nazi oppression. It really is a unique and breathtaking game mechanic to behold.
The Saboteur is a third-person, open-world shooter, not unlike Pandemic’s previous work, Mercenaries. This time the game has stealth and disguise elements as well. The gameplay (click for trailer) is, for the most part, great, and the shooting is top-notch. The driving mechanics are worth mentioning as well, but some vehicles handle better than others for sure, which makes that aspect kind of a mixed bag. In addition, you can also fight hand to hand and perform stealth kills. One mechanic that maybe could have used a little more polish is the Assassin’s Creed-style climbing, but it’s functional enough not to drag the game down too much. What you get with the Saboteur is a unique backdrop for an open-world game and fast-paced driving and combat in what once was a highly over-saturated era for video games. As one of my favorite games of the generation, I can’t recommend The Saboteur enough.
Thomas’s Hit: Transformers: War for Cybertron (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
Transformers: War for Cybertron was released on June 22, 2010. High Moon Studios (Darkwatch and, more recently, Deadpool) developed the title under Activision as the publisher. Perhaps there was too little marketing alongside the release or the fact that Red Dead Redemption was released at the same time, but in my opinion War for Cybertron was overlooked and under-scored. This is the best Transformers video game I have ever played and I’d dare to say the best ever developed.
War for Cybertron features a two-sided campaign letting you play as Autobots and Decepticons, switching back and forth throughout the story. One of the biggest selling points for my friends and I playing at the time was the cooperative campaign. The game also had a competitive multiplayer component along with the Escalation mode. The Escalation mode is more like a survival mode, where you and up to three other players would hold out against multiple waves of AI controlled enemies. There is no shortage of replayability with War for Cybertron.
The gameplay in War for Cybertron is amazing. Transforming from vehicle form to robot form in the midst of combat is truly spectacular and fluid. I love the art style, though the Cybertron-only setting did get a bit old. Besides that, War for Cybertron brought a unique Transformers experience like no other. If you missed this Transformers experience, please take my advice and give it a try.
Jed’s Hit: Earth Defense Force 2017 (Xbox 360, Vita)
Originally released on the 360 in 2007, Earth Defense Force 2017 epitomizes the word “awesome.” Your basic mission is to kill hordes of giant ants, spiders, robots, and battle ships. Watching the screen fill up with dozens of enemies is one of the many ridiculous and over-the-top pleasures of this wonderful game. The ability to blow up ANY building with one rocket, cheesy dialogue, broken vehicle controls and the worst-looking item pick-ups ever only sweeten the crazy experience of Earth Defense Force 2017. It is truly a third-person shooter to be reckoned with, both for its nonstop, balls-out arcade gameplay and hilariously incompetent design choices. Earth Defense Force 2017 is also refreshingly simple in an age of accounts, sign-ins, submenus and the like: when you get to the title screen, you simply select whether you want a one-player or two-player game. Ah, gaming bliss.
Tyler’s Hit: Crackdown (Xbox 360)
Crackdown was the first great open-world game for the Xbox 360, a new franchise from an unknown team on a still-fresh platform — in other words, a huge financial and creative risk. Publisher Microsoft Game Studios had quite a challenge on its hands to move units, so they decided to include beta access to Halo 3 in an effort to boost sales. Still, Crackdown ended up moving only 1.3 million copies globally in its year of release.
The real shame is that the title exceeded expectations and showed us some of the really amazing capabilities the open-world genre could — and eventually would — adopt. Borrowing elements as well, like leveling up character abilities, being able to jump great distances a la Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, and weaponizing vehicles made for an unmatched sandbox experience. Little known is the fact that Grand Theft Auto creator David Jones was the creative force behind the franchise, leading the development team to create a sequel and another IP before going defunct in 2010.
Crackdown is a testament to what led to so much homogeny in gaming late in the generation. Sometimes you create an excellent new IP with a ton of potential and memorable gameplay, but sales don’t justify the risk and therefore producers aren’t as eager to fund them. Still, they are a pillar of the medium, and Crackdown demands to be played for its influence and its greatness.
Stay tuned to Fate of the Game for The Hit List: Volume 2, coming in 2 weeks, and be sure to let us know in the comments which games you think belong in The Hit List.