10. Driver: San Francisco
First entry in today’s top ten is a vehicular game called Driver: San Francisco. The game takes place in a minimalistic version of the city, with the same name (duh!), after the events portrayed in the prequel, Driver 3, where you play the role of John Tanner, a detective that tries, along with his partner to take a little vacation after they captured one of the most wanted criminals, Jericho.
But because this is the starting plot, you can simply guess that things will change, and not for the better. An escape plan, placed in motion by one of his mercenaries, succeeds with a grand explosion. After your fears come true regarding Jericho, you take it upon yourself to pursue him.
Unnecessarily, the game allows you about 10 seconds of gameplay where you just drive forward then another cutscene follows where you end up extremely wounded after an encounter with a truck. Miraculously you wake up in your own car, and not long after that you discover that you’ve got yourself a new superpower: the ability to transfer your soul into another body that’s behind a wheel, and control it like it’s your own. From then on I’ll let you discover it…
Gameplay and Features
As aforementioned, a new (and possibly unique) feature makes its way into the game, called Shift, where you have to possibility to control *any* car in the game. Upon viewing the city in Shift mode once you hover with the reticule over a car and you can receive its model and stats.
The story revolves around the Shift feature with several options available, like fast teleportation between your last used vehicles, which proves extremely useful during chase or race sections. Due to the multitude of new features, each new unlocked feature provides a quick tutorial on how to use it and will sometimes show you what you can use it for.
A bit later in the game, you get access to a golden bar on the HUD which can be considered a ‘mana’ bar since it’s usage differs based on what do you want it for. It can activate nitrous or perform a ramming maneuver, the latter option damaging the enemies’ car at the risk of some damage to your own.
The game contains lots of side-missions, which are needed to be completed in order to continue the main story, dares and challenges spread across the city for an extended gameplay length. The types of side-missions can differ from simple races to pursuits or even doing stunts. The dares contain simple objectives, including keep the speed above a certain limit for an amount of time and jump with your car using the hills to reach a total jump height.
As for the challenges they are a bit longer which require you to complete a certain type of race (my favorite is the relay race, will be covered a bit later) or a time attack while brutally attacked by the police force. From all of the mission types you receive credits which can be used to purchase new vehicles and garages.
Each new garage bought will unlock a certain number of cars. So as you’re not left guessing, each garage shows the player what vehicles it will unlock, thus giving the user the choice to buy the respective one or search for others. The players can also purchase upgrades to the ram, nitrous and power bar.
The vehicles and rest of aforementioned things are not the only unlockables, as the city itself unlocks bit by bit after completing several main-story missions. With the increasing size of the available area for cruising, it becomes harder to Shift through the map so you have the ability to zoom out and cover a wider area than at the beginning (the ability to zoom out growing with almost each increase of the map, in the end covering almost the entire city at once).
My favorite race mode (Though there’s only 1 and is unlockable only by purchasing the Deluxe version of the game) is the Relay Race, a 3 lap race where at the start of each new lap, your vehicle transforms into another. From a sports car, through to a truck and finishing up with another 4-wheeler.
Being a quite old game already, the multiplayer is almost dead, however you can still play with your friends in one of the numerous gamemodes like Tag or Trailblazer. In the gameplay below there’ll be shown a multiplayer race between a friend and I on the Tag mode. Basically it follows the rules of a normal game of Tag.
An NPC car glows at the beginning, the first to ram it takes that glow. Other players have to try and steal the glow by touching your vehicle and hold onto it as long as possible. The glow is lost if an opponent takes it, you enter shift mode or completely crash your car (which forces you into shift mode – as you’ll see in the video). First to 100 points, wins the game.
Cars and Map
There are 140 cars available for purchase, of every kind available: Muscles, exotics, family cars, drift cars, trucks, ramp trucks from makers like: Ford, Audi, RUF, DAF, Fiat, Lamborghini, Dodge and so on. Each car has different stats, some of them being more tied to the asphalt while others borrow the behavior of ice-skating professionals.
The map is just a fraction of the real San Francisco but the developers tried to add the most recognizable locations and landmarks like the Russian Hill or Golden Gate Bridge. While the asphalt dominates the terrain, there are sections where you can drift across the dirt with buggies or other racing cars.
– Decent part of San Francisco with most of the known attractions integrated into the game
– High amount of cars, every type being available
– Decent story
– Shift Feature
– Cockpit View
– The AI doesn’t seem rubberbanded but still limited by top speed, making the races quite easy.
– Some of the challenges are plain hard (One of them took me around 20-30 tries)
Release Date: PC/PS3/Xbox360/Wii – Sept 2011, Mac OS X – March 2012
Genre: Racing, Action-Adventure
Developer: Ubisoft Reflections
Steam Store Page: Click Here
Onto the remote parts of the world, Crysis’ story takes place on the exotic fictional islands called Lingshan near the Philippines. Set in 2020, the main protagonist, Nomad, along with his Special Op Team, is inbound for a rescue mission where a group of scientists have been captured by the North Koreans. Though the initial objective sounds quite easy, especially when you wear a nanosuit, at the drop-off point several unpredicted elements derail the initial plan and the need to adapt becomes crucial.
Gameplay and Features
The game introduces the notion of the nanosuit, a special armor that allows the wearer to perform superhuman actions like travel at extreme speeds, become hulk-like strong, jump several meters high, become invisible and of course, as armor against enemy projectiles. Each of the mods can be activated by simply using the mouse. Crysis also contains a power bar, like in Driver: San Francisco, which is used by all of the above-mentioned functions.
Its depletion is mostly based by the action and its usage. For example, if you choose to go invisible, you can prolong the time available, by standing still or at least moving as slow as possible. Running whilst invisible depletes the power bar quite quickly. Also shooting any weapon causes the power bar to insta-deplete leaving you vulnerable for a brief time.
The game allows extended weapon customization like types of scopes, accessories (laser sight, flashlight), silencers and so on. Those weapon elements can be unlocked by picking up weapons that already have them integrated. The unlocked parts will be available every time you pick up the same weapon. It is also possible to use some of the unlocked parts on other weapons, like the sniper scope can be placed on the AK-47.
Fast transportation units are available covering all 3 ways of traveling: Earth, water and air. Some earth based vehicles contain turrets which can be controlled with the mouse. All the vehicles have a turbo system, which it’s pretty self-explanatory as to what it does. The vehicles have a damage mechanic integrated, allowing you to die if driving too reckless.
The Lingshan Islands
The Lingshan Islands provide a gorgeous landscape to explore with different elements of nature and technology, from forests and jungles and lakes, from simple huts to oil refineries and shipyards. The game isn’t open-world, more like semi-open, since even if the maps are huge they are loaded separately after their specific story missions.
– Gorgeous game, a reference point in computer benchmarking for a long time due to its system requirements on extremely high settings
– Medium weapon-customization
– Koreans shouting like rock’n’roll singers at you
– Possibility of stealth kills
– It can become a bit repetitive.
Release Date: PC – Nov. 2007, Xbox360/PS3 – Oct. 2011
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Developer: Crytek Frankfurt
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Price: 14.99 $/€
Steam Store Page: Click Here
Similar Games: Crysis 2/3
8. Saints Row II
Welcome to Stilwater, a fictional city torn apart by gangs with each controlling their own territories alongside the big boss: Ultor Corporation. Five years after the events of the first Saints Row, you find yourself breaking out of prison. Once you reach the shore, you try to re-establish contact with the old gang and recruit some new ones.
After you got yourself a place and gathered a skeleton crew together, you let the city know that you’re back to take what once was yours. Besides the tons of comedy lines in the game, there’s also some quite suspenseful drama scattered throughout the whole story.
Gameplay and Features
Saints Row II is the last from its series that still looks a bit like its nemesis: Grand Theft Auto and claws on realism. The most important thing to mention about the game is the big size of the map with 2 nice cities to roam in. As for the vehicles to roam with, you can choose between cars, boats, planes and motorcycles. It also contains far more challenges to participate in than any GTA game to date. From the Fight Club to being a “quite unorthodox” police officer to the extremely amusing Septic Truck Challenge where you have to spread the houses you pass by with excrement.
Customization is at home in Saints Row II, allowing you to modify almost anything to match your own tastes. Your cars can have custom bodykits, spoilers and rims, your safehouses (called ‘Cribs’) can have TV’s, office desks, queen-size beds and even a stripping pole (no, you won’t be the one stripping), followed by your clothes and looks, and even tattoos, even your own music playlist with songs bought from the in-game shops.
The weapon variety is quite big, from blade weapons, to bats, pistols, revolvers, smg’s, shotguns, assault rifles, snipers, rocket launchers and so on. You also have the possibility to wield 2 pistols and smg’s at the same time. The player can also utilize the marksman aim (it zooms in for better aiming) to take care of the enemies at a more efficient rate. On the same menu like the weapon wheel there’s the ‘food wheel’ where you can purchase food and drinks so you can heal quickly during a fight.
The story progress is based on completion of activities scattered around the whole map from which you’re rewarded with ‘Respect’ points that are spent on main story missions. You are allowed to stack up Respect points so you can continue the main story by doing more missions one after another.
But for each time the characters dies, you lose a portion of the respect bar. The main story is divided into 5 sections, covered by each gang, including the Third Street Saints Row. Each time you complete a mission from any of the rival gangs you get to control the area in which the mission took place, but that doesn’t mean it will be yours forever, rival gangs will attempt to take the block back. To let them know that the area is yours, you have to kill the commanders of the group.
A second way to earn respect, though at a much lower rate, is by doing multiple mini-challenges like consecutive headshots, driving on two wheels, driving on the wrong side of the road and so on. Each of the challenges have 9 levels, the 9th awarding the most respect, and on some of them, even if you do more than the max rank, you will only receive the max rank reward. The levels are spread through Bronze-Gold 1-3 each.
Another small thing that can be found in the first crib you get, is the possibility to play a third person shooter wave-based zombie mini-game in which … well, you have to kill zombies. Weapons are lying on the floor with limited ammo and you have to see how long you can survive for. Great addition if you’re bored of the ‘real world’ inside of the game.
Vehicles and the Cities
As mentioned earlier there is a large variety of vehicles you can choose from to reach point B of your destination. Each earth vehicle (besides the motorcycles) can be customized with new paints, rims and even special extras like decals and bodykits. After the customization, your vehicle is automatically stored in your garage inventory, available anytime you’re at any of the owned garages or cribs.
As in GTA, the vehicles resemble real-life counterparts. Also the game gives the possibility, unlike the aforementioned, to purchase different cars, even exotic ones with the money you got from killing and stealing. The map is composed of 2 big cities and a further 2 small islands that contain a nuclear power plant and the prison you were locked in, sort of like Alcatraz.
You also find your poor neighborhoods with garbage dumps right in the middle of the area and some richer areas full of hospitals and villas. Everything about a normal city is there. The only thing lacking is some wide green spaces, otherwise it would’ve been complete.
– Excellent story, can bring out some tears to someone sensitive.
– High variety of weapons, vehicles, customization.
– Gives the player the possibility to purchase the vehicles instead of just stealing them
– Unfortunately, the PC port is extremely horrible on performance, where being a 2008 game, I have issues on running at high with a quad core and a GTX 560Ti.
– The graphics are quite low (if you’re about that part) compared to its same year releases.
Release Date: PS3/Xbox 360 – Oct 2008, PC – Jan 2009
Price: 9.99 $/€
Steam Store Page: Click Here
Similar Games: Grand Theft Auto III/Vice City/San Andreas/IV/Grand Theft Auto V
7. Mass Effect 2
The second futuristic game in this list is Mass Effect 2, a BioWare production, where humanity found a piece of technology that advances their scientific progress about 200 years. The human race made contact with different alien species that integrated them in their own Alliance. Since then, a lot of things happened.
After the final mission from the series’ beginning, you find yourself floating randomly in space after your ship got destroyed by an unknown alien vessel. Two years later, you wake up in a facility where you have been almost completely repaired. You play as Commander Shepard, who got recruited by a shady-reputed organization called ‘Cerberus’, and your mission is to find out why the human colonies are disappearing without a trace.
Mass Effect 1 vs Mass Effect 2
Unlike the first Mass Effect, this title is more focused on the shooting part of the game than its RPG side, and the equipment purchase has been replaced with upgrades. Now there’s a short cooldown after every skill you use, you cannot heal yourself or the others anymore, you have to wait for them to die, and you need to take cover if you’re hurt.
The health bar on your player has been replaced by a Call-of-Duty-like health regeneration. You cannot explore planets anymore but scan them from your ship and send probes to it to extract minerals used for the upgrades. Minerals can also be found while doing missions. Various important hotkeys like Journal, Skill distribution and so on have been eliminated completely. You can access them from the Escape menu.
There are a lot fewer weapons and you can only upgrade their type, not the weapon itself. The new ship has 4 levels of access, each having its own personnel and the ability to get quests, both big and small from them – except for the Captain’s cabin. There, you can purchase pets to take care of. You no longer have access to any type of weaponry, but only those that come with your specialties; same goes for the rest of your crew.
Gameplay and Features
In Mass Effect 2, every decision and chat option you choose affects the whole story at its ending. You can choose to be evil, or kind, and even somewhere in-between. Also choosing the wrong options can alienate the team that helps you and lock one important combat ability of theirs. A cover system has been implemented which can sometimes cause quite the stress, since the same key is used for running – an issue that was in the first game as well.
The enemies are diverse and use every type of weapon you also have access to, be it biotic or hardware. There are 2 mini-games that are used to access various locked items like PDA’s, vaults and even doors.
The mini-games consist of user-friendly ‘Find the pair’ game with some different variations. One is to find the matching icon on a circuit board and connect them, and in the second one you get a look of what you have to find from an infinite automated scrolling list.
You are always assisted by 2 crew members (which you have to choose from your entire team). Each crew member wears 2 weapons and has different skills so a varied team loadout is recommended to excel in any stage of the game. Randomly, depending on by whom you’re assisted, they will give replies during the mission cutscenes or give their opinion about certain spots on planets.
The game offers a high amount of missions, both primary and secondary that take place on various environments from futuristic cities to arid areas. Some secondary missions can be picked-up in the middle of another mission, sort of like missionception, usually in the form of lost items by various npc’s encountered throughout the city. Delivering the lost item to the person will earn you a nice little reward.
It is recommended to start the series with the first game, since Mass Effect 2 allows the player to load the first game’s save. This is because some parts of the story in ME2 have connections to the first game. I lost my save and there were some discrepancies in my story, but nothing gamebreaking.
– Gorgeous story, kept me on the seat for 6 hours at a time.
– Lots of environments
– Multitude of missions in different forms
– Story is molded by your choices both made in this game and its prequel.
– Both funny and dramatic dialogues.
– The mini-games become too repetitive and boring
– The features in the game are way poorer than in the first
– Too much DLC.
Genre: Action role-playing, third-person shooter
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Price: 19,99 $/€
Steam Store Page: Click Here
Similar Games: Mass Effect Series, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas.