It’s no secret that Kane & Lynch: Dead Men was a pretty crap game. There are a few people that actually enjoyed it, but I’ll just go ahead and classify those people as weird. Somehow, the game sold over a million copies, causing Square Enix to green-light a sequel that no one wanted. Through some wacky voodoo witchcraft, though, Kane & Lynch 2 looks like it may actually be a decent and playable video game. Imagine!
Off the bat, I thought that it if K&L2 ends up being a really good game it would be some unprecedented turnaround unlike any other. Then I thought about it for more than 7 seconds and realized that this type of reversal in quality is more common than you’d think.
Here are just a few examples.
We all know the story here. Released a week before Halo 2 on November 2, 2004, the original Killzone was highly touted as Sony’s Halo killer. While the game featured great graphics, fantastic art style and unique setting, it was underwhelming in several other areas. The controls were hard to grasp, there were several annoying bugs and framerate issues, and the online multiplayer didn’t allow for worldwide gaming. When Halo 2 came out the week after, it solidified Xbox Live as the premier online service of the last generation, featuring seamless matchmaking while through the roof. Suffice it to say, Killzone left a lot to be desired.
After several years, along came Killzone 2 to improve on just about every aspect of the original. Graphically it was absolutely stunning, setting a high benchmark that was only surpassed by behemoths such as Uncharted 2, God of War III, and Final Fantasy XIII. The controls were vastly improved, the story is epic, and the multiplayer is something that Guerilla Games should hold their heads up high about.
Quite frankly, we can’t wait for Killzone 3. The Killzone franchise still isn’t as popular as the Halo juggernaut, but now one can debate which is better without being laughed out of the room.
Guitar Hero 5
It goes without saying that there were way too many Guitar Hero games last year. Metallica, Smash Hits, Van Halen, GH5, and Band Hero all released between March and December… and that doesn’t even include DJ Hero or the SKUs that released on DS. If there was ever a case of too much, too fast, this was definitely it.
Which kind of sucks for Guitar Hero 5, because it’s a legitimately great game. The only advantage World Tour had over Rock Band was the durabiltity of its peripherals, but ultimately fell short in every other way. GH5, however, gave their competitors a legitimate run for their money with the introduction of the Party Play mode. This allows players to drop in and out of a song, change difficulties, and play up to four of the same instruments, all on the fly. This seamless gameplay, along with the game randomly selecting new songs, made for an awesome experience to whip out when you had company over. Add in the ability to import songs from GH:WT and GH:SH, along with a now steady stream of DLC, and you had a robust library that set the Guitar Hero franchise back on the right track.
Let’s just hope Activision keeps their word and makes Guitar Hero 6 their only GH release this year.
Assassin’s Creed II
A bit of a weird entry because a lot of people (like me) loved the first game and enjoyed it thoroughly. Others despised it, citing how mind-numbingly repetitive they thought it was, and I totally understood where they were coming from. You were either able to look past it or weren’t — there was no in-between and ended up being a love-it-or-hate-it experience.
Fortunately for everyone, that was resolved for the second release in the series. The mission structure was far more varied than its predecessor, featuring more than just the same four mission types to play in every city. However, it also kept what was amazing about the first game: stunning graphics, several cities teeming with life, solid combat, a gripping story (though it admittedly got a little WTF-ey at the end), and the ability to climb and jump off of really tall crap.
Desmond is still annoying, though.
Final Fantasy XI
Street Fighter IV
There was a time when Street Fighter II unquestionably reigned supreme. Arcades, pizza parlors, your SNES — it was everywhere. A major part of its appeal was how easy it was to pick up and play by anyone, while deep enough to invest hours into learning different techniques and combos. That accessability was lost when SFIII released; those drawn to the simplicity of SFII were turned off by how obtuse the game had become. While it certainly saw heavy rotation at major tournaments, Street Fighter had suddenly lost what made it so special to the masses.
So when Street Fighter IV released, the gaming world appropriately went batshit for it. The franchise had finally gone back to its roots, where your kid brother could play it while maintaining tournament-level depth. Of course, there were almost 20 years between the two games, which is reflected in brilliant HD fashion and online play. It was exactly the tour de force the franchise needed, and now we can go back to the good ol’ days of buying five different versions of our favorite fighting game.
Did I forget a surprisingly awesome sequel? Sound off in the comments below.