Every game I have written about in the last two parts was great and should be played. Since not everyone has the means, time and the necessary desire to play titles that are published for each platform, the fact that some are system exclusive may narrow your personal playing field. But if judgments have to be made as to the best game of the year, the decision making tree has narrowed my field to these two worthy contenders!
Championship Match: Deus Ex: Human Revolution vs. Saints Row: The Third
My original idea, of which a few hundred words have just been highlighted and deleted, was to decide the games on the common factor of what each does well, which game executes on its greatest feature the best. Deus Ex does a good job of presenting the player with scenarios and a wide range of tools to get through them. If there is any fault, it is that sometimes it is obvious what tool is required to take a certain path (i.e. gas filled chambers can be automatically bypassed with the right lung augmentation). Saints Row continues the tradition of allowing players to cause mayhem on a scale that is usually reserved for Hollywood. But after blowing up the one-hundredth police car, the toy does loose some of its shine.
The problem with this approach is that both games do what they do well. Not perfectly, but well. In a world that has games with code, engines and objectives that are plainly broken or riddled with bugs, good execution is a rare commodity. I would not call either game technically impressive as both are what I expect a good-looking Xbox 360 game to look like. The pair has voice acting that is good in some places, unappealing in others. So the question has to turn to which would appeal to people that are not me the most.
If someone approached me and said “We have two persons that have the exact same tastes and preferences. I know, it’s weird; but they exist and we have them. They each have a thirty six inch television, an Xbox 360, a couch and an otherwise identical living room. One gets to play 2011’s Deus Ex game and the other the new Saints Row release and we have cameras in the room to gauge their happiness. We will give you one million dollars in tax-free cash, Mr. Byers, if you can correctly predict which game this virtually identical person will enjoy the most. No, you cannot ask questions about either’s past experiences with games or other media.” Not knowing anything about these twins, I’d have to say that the person playing Saints Row would probably have a better time.
Saints Row is a run n’ gun, modern crime game with a bunch of humorous elements and is, really, a distillation of one of the greatest, most influential games ever produced, Grand Theft Auto 3. Deus Ex has tons of character development choices, and depending on what gear one decides to carry around, it can be very difficult to defeat some of the bosses. The biggest flaw, from a design perspective, is that players are given a range of ways to deal with guard-level opposition, guns/explosives, sneaking, and computer hacking. But at several points there is only the option to defeat another cyborg in combat. Not only that, but defeat a cyborg that only seems to know how to kill. A man/machine love child that does not care how many computers you can hack into or how you can get NPCs to do whatever you want after they have tasted your silver tongue. I can see one of the clones in our bet/experiment getting disgusted with the game if they were not spec’ed “right” and kept dying at the hands of the first boss. One can tell after fifteen minuets whether Saints Row is a game someone would like.
The tale of Steelport starts out of the gate with over-the-top action and maintains a high degree of silliness throughout the game. There is no real character development and the choices made in the game are not very meaningful (if one wanted to be hyper-critical, the same could be said for Deus Ex, from a narrative perspective). Towards the end of the crime game, assuming the experiment subject buys everything there is to buy, his or her Leader of the Third Street Saints will be a borderline super hero that can only be taken down by a small army of police helicopters, national guard tanks and opposing gang bangers, combined. There is no real satisfaction like this in Deus Ex. In terms of just stupid fun, Saints Row is always going to win.
If I knew the subjects really enjoyed role playing games or the Metal Gear series (or the first Deus Ex) then it’d be a different call. Fortunately not everyone has the same taste and there are more flavors than chocolate and vanilla. However, if a million bucks was on the line and you had to guess if someone would like more than pink bubble gum or a more generic flavor, you’d pick chocolate or vanilla. In addition to being a game that plays towards the lowest common denominator, the third Saints Row game is also very slick and fun to play. There is a huge variety of activities, character customization options, and an astonishing number of track marks from where all of the immature jokes were injected, sometimes in a genuinely funny manner. Like in the game’s dick.
It is a hard game not to like if you can appreciate a little blue.
Winner and my Game of the Year: Saints Row: The Third