As I whittled down my 2009 ’Games of the Year’ list, I came to the realization that ten slots just weren’t enough. The past twelve months have been overloaded with ’so bad that they’re good” games, in particular shooters. Take these five examples: they all have solid mechanics and cohesive gameplay, but their general clunkiness, absurd storylines, horrific voice acting and dubious subject matter keep them from even being mentioned in the same breath with games like Uncharted 2. They’re games that shouldn’t be good, yet enough fun is packed into them to make the experience worth the effort Most of them can be grabbed new for less than $20, all of them are guaranteed to put a goofy grin on your skeptical face.
5. Wheelman (PS3, Xbox 360)
Vin Diesel is a man of many talents. From his deep, raspy snarls to both of his facial expressions, this modern B-movie icon knows how to please his fans, which admittedly isn’t that tough to do. In Wheelman, his fans get 100% certified Diesel as his video game company helped develop its paper-thin storyline and unlikable characters. Thankfully, the gameplay mechanics shine as brightly as Vin’s bald dome. With a flick of the right analog stick you can make your car punch other cars (it veers wildly to either side like a last-ditch hook from an aging boxer), while a single button press can make Vin jack a car by leaping from one moving vehicle to the next. It’s a solid mix of hilarity and ridiculousness, and guaranteed Diesel-powered entertainment.
4. Bionic Commando (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Despite what many others have said, the Bionic Commando reboot really isn’t as bad as you think. Sure, the angsty hero is a doucheking and the story has one of the dumbest, most incoherent twists ever to be burned onto a disk, but the sensations that come from swinging through its intricately crafted environments are nearly unparalleled. Unlike the Spiderman games, you are in full control of each tethered swing and must analyze each landscape to plot out the best route. Having a rocket launcher with you to rain fire down on foolish guards is a welcome bonus, as are the mid-air helicopter battles and massive, screen-filling boss fights. Also, the final battle has you swinging on angels. ‘Nuff said.
3. The House of the Dead: Overkill (Wii)
Someone on the Overkill development team watched Grindhouse. The end result is a game that, while blatantly stealing most of its best ideas from the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino shockfest, redefines the phrase ’over the top’. Incest, zombie clowns, strippers, tentacles, brains in jars, puppy eating, and the most uses of the f-word in video game history are all part of this epic insanity, and it gets even better when played with friends. Be sure to whip this one out the next time someone claims that the Wii is only for babies.
2. WET (PS3, Xbox 360)
Another apple plucked from the Grindhouse tree, WET was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2009. While the slow-motion diving, samurai-sword flailing, and relatively simplistic gunplay were nothing extraordinary, the game’s aesthetics were off-the-wall crazy. Indie rock tunes blare out during each battle, all while badass heroine Rubi flips off of walls to slice mad dudes into itty bitty chunks. A combo meter ticks up in the corner, urging you to kill more and faster. A handful of wildly unpredictable level, like a Shoot ‘Em Up-esque mid-air gunfight and a highway-destroying car battle ripped straight out of The Matrix Reloaded, fly at you like bottles at a rock concert. WET may not be entirely original, but its style makes it a sublime action extravaganza.
1. 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand (PS3, Xbox 360)
I can’t really describe how magnificent of an experience Blood on the Sand truly is (maybe there’s an obvious reason why – Ed). The story is a work of genius, with Fiddy’s diamond-encrusted skull getting stolen after his entourage’s cars are destroyed. Mr. Cent and his G-Unit accomplices (Tony Yayo, Lloyd Banks, and the delectable DJ Whoo Kid) must team up to stop these diabolical deviants, and they must do so using the only weapons that they are able to find, which just so happens to be a steady string of rocket launchers. Blood on the Sand channels the arcade ridiculousness of games long forgotten, including everything from the bullet-time like “Gangsta Fire” to an f-word infused curse button. If the absurd setup wasn’t enough to garner your interest, the relatively solid Gears of War-esque shooting mechanics and two player co-op mode should be enough to entice even the most ardent Fiddy-haters (like me). I honestly can’t recommend 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand enough, especially if you’re the kind of person that gets a kick out of The Room.
Honorable Mentions: Rogue Warrior for channeling the Steven Seagal ponytailed-assassin vibe better than any other game this year, Raven Squad for having some of the best-worst voice acting of all time, Jurassic: The Hunted for coming up with a more nonsensical title than last year’s Legendary: The Box, and Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust for making my ‘all time worst games’ list despite being less than a year old.