Bargain Bin: First-Person Shooter Edition

Do you ever find yourself with only lint in your pockets? Ever wonder how a modern gamer is expected to afford quality games, when they all seem to cost an arm and a leg? If cost is an issue, don’t stress: TGR is here to help you navigate the dire straights of Financial Valley via our weekly look into the Bargain Bin.

The Darkness (360, PS3)

There are better shooters out there than The Darkness. In fact, were I recommending a game based solely on the quality of its gameplay mechanics, The Darkness wouldn’t be anywhere on this list. It’s not a game that isn’t fun to play, but it just isn’t all that special. Sure, you have some really wonky powers to play around with — impaling someone with a tentacle never gets old — but overall, it never does much to really distinguish itself from the other first-person shooters out there. As a full gaming experience, however, The Darkness is a triumph.

One of the most story-heavy games I’ve played in recent years, The Darkness tells the tale of Jackie Estacado, mafia hitman and all-around nice guy. On his 21st birthday, he’s hit with a double whopper of trouble. First his Uncle Paulie, the local mob boss, mistakes Jackie for a traitor and subsequently tries to have him killed. Topping this, however, is his sudden inheritance of a demonic force known only as (wait for it) the Darkness. Beefed up by his new powers, Jackie sets out to get revenge on Uncle Paulie.

The story may sound a bit goofy at first glance, but it’s rather good. While a lesser game might take the revenge plot and leave it at that, The Darkness uses it to explore the costs of revenge, and the power of the evil inside all of us. Furthermore, its execution of the story is flawless. Where many games use long cutscenes to tell their story, the Darkness never takes the player out of the game. Just about everything is seen through Jackie’s eyes, which makes for some pretty brutal and heart-wrenching moments. I don’t say that lightly either; by the end of the game, you will really want Uncle Paulie dead.

Aesthetically, it’s not the best looking game this generation has seen, but its far from the worst. If there are any complaints, they stem from the lack of diversity in the visuals; the graphics are good, but there isn’t a lot of variance in them. Enemies are largely the same and the grimy city look does get old after awhile. The few brief moments of variation are just far too brief to be enough. The soundtrack too tends to be very generic. As with almost every demon-themed game ever, you’ll spend the majority of the game listening to crunchy guitars and staccato double bass pedals looping throughout. The voice acting and sound effects are generally excellent, though; I can’t think of a single character that hasn’t been played the way they should have been.

Some may take issue with the idea of a game that derives its quality almost solely from its story, and perhaps they have a point. The Darkness could have been a much more solid game if the gameplay was put together better. Even as it is, though, The Darkness is probably one of the best game’s you’re going to find on the market for its price. The biggest problem with it being $60 when it was first released was the fact that, like many games this generation, it was rather short and doesn’t possess a massive amount of replay value. It’s a fun, and gripping run the first few times through, but there just isn’t enough to keep you coming back indefinitely. Even so, The Darkness is definitely worth a try, and worth your money.

  • Amazon (Note: used Amazon prices are subject to change)
    • New – $19.99 New (360, PS3)
    • Used – $9.99 Used (360)
    • Used – $14.00 Used (PS3)
  • Gamestop
    • Used – $8.99 (360)

The Orange Box (PC, 360, PS3)

When The Orange Box first came out, it was a great deal: three high-quality games for the price of one. It doesn’t get much better then that, does it? Actually yes, it does. Like with most every other game ever made, waiting a little has made it even more affordable. Since its initial release, the price of The Orange Box has been cut practically in half. How does three high-quality shooters for $30 sound?

Included in the set is Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episodes 1 and 2, Team Fortress 2, and Portal. All three games are critically praised and have pretty big fan bases. Portal in particular has garnered popularity for its clever puzzles and level design, coupled with a bare bones yet engrossing story. That isn’t to degrade the quality of the other included games. Half-Life 2 is of course the sequel to the genre-defining Half-Life. Looking at its graphics, it’s hard to believe how old it is. It still plays great too, offering such fun gameplay treats as the beloved Gravity Gun. Team Fortress 2 as well is a great buy, featuring a nice take on multiplayer shooters with a fun graphical style, eight classes, and 16-player online battles.

The greatest appeal of The Orange Box isn’t that you’ll like everything in it. Maybe you don’t like puzzle games, or maybe single-player games just aren’t your thing. I, for one, am not a huge fan of online shooters; they tend to be bore me after awhile. If you like first-person shooters, then you’re probably going to find something in this package that suits you. If you don’t like shooters, well, wait until next week; we might have some games that fit your taste a little better.

  • Amazon (Note: used Amazon prices are subject to change)
    • New – $29.99 (PC)
    • New – $27.99 (360, PS3)
    • Used – $23.99 (PC)
    • Used – $19.99 (360)
    • Used – $23.90 (PS3)
  • Best Buy
    • New – $39.99 (PC)
    • New – $29.99 (360, PS3)
  • Gamestop
    • New – $29.99 (PC, 360, PS3)
    • Used – $26.99 (360, PS3)

Shopping Tip

Yes, EB and Gamestop will rip you off from time to time, but the fact is that in most places, they do have a bit of a monopoly going on. That sad fact acknowledged, picking up an Edge discount card isn’t a bad idea if you buy games on a regular basis. You get a 10% discount on used stuff and a subscription to Game Informer. And even though we all know that TGR is the best place around to go for gaming news, that isn’t a bad deal. After all, you could always clip out pictures to put on your wall or something. Anyways, the clerks aren’t just spouting the company line when they say the card pays for itself either. In the two years I’ve been subscribing, I’ve probably saved about $100 on used games, which is cash in your pocket no matter how you swing it.

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