When it comes to evaluating your video game purchased based on the amount of cash you had to part with in order to play it, titles fall in one of three categories. The first are games you feel were worth every single penny that you spent, the second are games that you severely overpaid for because of quality issues or truncated length, and the third are games that make you feel like you committed highway robbery by paying such a pittance for the honor of playing it.
This latter focuses on the third category: games that were so robust and filled with content and replay value that it makes the $60 (or however much you ended up paying) investment seem woefully disproportionate to the fun and enjoyment derived.
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
It is incredibly hard to believe that there were actually some people complaining about the price tag of Blizzard's latest real time strategy masterpiece. Some were griping that Activision had bumped the price up from $50 to $60 (which is understandable), but others were whining about Blizzard's decision to partition “StarCraft II” into three separate games, one for each of the race's campaigns.
If “StarCraft: Wings of Liberty” was just the campaign, this complaint might have some merit, as it only lasts about ten hours or so and has limited replay value outside of achievements. However, “StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty” also comes packed with one of the most deep, addicting multiplayer experiences ever. You can easily invest countless hours mastering strategies for the game's three races as you claw your way up the rank ladders, and on top of that, the constant flow of new custom maps (crafted by both Blizzard and community members) means there's always something new to play. The story mode is already awesome (though perhaps not worth the full price of admission), but as any true “StarCraft” fans know, the campaign is just the bonus. The meat of the game is its multiplayer, and in that regards, “StarCraft II” delivers an endless buffet of Zerg-rushing, Reaper-harassing, Stalker-warping goodness you won't tire of any time soon.
Call of Duty: Black Ops
I'll just get this out of the way right now --”Call of Duty: Black Ops'” campaign mode isn't that great. Without cooperative multiplayer to add buoyancy to an experience dragged down by predictable storytelling and heavily scripted action sequences, the story mode is little more than a fun distraction, especially since it's easily beatable in a handful of hours. Like “StarCraft II”, though, “Call of Duty: Black Ops” earns its stay with the insane amount of content that the developers have packed into its multiplayer offerings.
Essentially, “Call of Duty: Black Ops” takes everything that made “Modern Warfare 2” successful and adds more. There's several new customization options that allow you to detail everything from your clan tag to your face paint, contracts, Wager Mode and much, much more for multiplayer enthusiasts to lose themselves in. Treyarch could have just left it at that and “Call of Duty: Black Ops” would've been worth its price tag, but they upped the ante with the ridiculously challenging and entertaining Zombie Mode as well.
Casual fans probably will get their $60 from “Call of Duty: Black Ops” and then switch to “Killzone 3” or something similar come 2011. Hardcore fans, though, know there will be no alternative until “Modern Warfare 3” is inevitably released sometime in the future.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Unlike “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” the story mode of “Battlefield: Bad Company 2” was actually a blast to play. It couldn't carry the game on its own, but it was a surprisingly decent addition to a franchise that was built on having awesome mulitplayer and completely lackluster single player. Where you'll get more than your money's worth, though, is online, in the robust multiplayer mode of “Bad Company 2”. There's four different variants to choose from, but at the end of the day, the game is all about leveling up your soldier to unlock new gear, commandeering vehicles and murdering the crap out of your opponents. It's an insane amount of fun, especially if you're playing with a good team who works as a cohesive unit instead of going lone wolf as the Recon class, and is probably the best multiplayer shooter released in 2010. Yes, it's even better than “Halo: Reach.”
However, being excellent isn't enough for “Bad Company 2”. Electronic Arts has stuck to their word to deliver downloadable content periodically. Every so often, new maps (some of which were just varieties of preexisting maps, granted) have become available, consistently giving gamers a reason to come back for more. Even better, if you bought a new copy of “Bad Company 2”, these maps were entirely free.
On top of all that, if you drop $15 for its Vietnam-based expansion pack, you extend its replay value even further. $75 for two games that you'll end up spending hundreds of hours shooting people from helicopters, running over enemies with tanks and calling in mortar strikes on machine gun emplacements? Sounds like quite the deal.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
“Castlevania: Lords of Shadow” wasn't quite as good as its obvious source of inspiration, “God of War III”, in terms of actual quality, but it was definitely loads longer. Clocking in around thirty hours of relentless platforming, demon slaying and puzzle solving, “Castlevania: Lords of Shadow” is an anomaly in a genre where eight hours of gameplay value for a $60 title seems like the norm. I felt completely satisfied that my money was well spent when I completed “God of War III” in around ten hours, but with “Castlevania: Lords of Shadow”, there was absolutely no question that I had gotten more than I expected. More isn't necessarily always better, but in “Castlevania's” case, it was a nice change of pace to be able to savor the experience over a lengthy period of time rather than beating it in two or three sittings.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
When you think of an expansion pack, you normally think of a game that adds a few new weapons, maps, a couple new units and an additional campaign that you can clear in under ten hours. That's the conventional understanding, at least. Expansion packs for Blizzard's MMORPG titan “World of Warcraft”, on the other hand, do a bit more than that. Games like “The Burning Crusade” and “Wrath of the Lich King” introduced a dizzying amount of new content that radically altered everything from the in-game world to its fundamental mechanics. Some full-fledged sequels don't even do that.
However, instead of creating new worlds like its predecessors, “World of Warcraft: Cataclysm” reshapes the world of Azeroth that “World of Warcraft” veterans have come to know and love over the years. Virtually every inch of the terrain that fans used to be intimately familiar with has been radically restructured to the point where its practically unrecognizable, and with each new zone comes a wealth of new dungeons and quests to tackle. Two new races are also introduced, and all the various tweaks and changes that have been made to “World of Warcraft” makes “Cataclysm” an exceptional addition to the franchise that should have no problem luring back reformed addicts for one more fix.
Record of Agarest War
It's unfortunate that “Record of Agarest War” suffered from one of the most misguided marketing strategies ever. Instead of embracing the fact that was an incredibly in-depth JRPG that catered to the kind of hardcore fanatics who would have no qualms about dropping $45 on a role-playing adventure that spanned dozens upon dozens of hours, the publishers launched one of the most juvenile advertisement campaigns that made “Record of Agarest War” look like little more than a trip into the bizarre and perverted genre of anime-inspired soft core pornography.
If you had even the slightest bit of dignity, you probably elected to pass up “Record of Agarest War”, if only because every single one of its ad-spots pushed illustrated breasts over gameplay with a shamelessness that defies any semblance self-respect. For every horny gamer who picked up “Record of Agarest War” and was promptly disappointed to find out that the game didn't revolve exclusively around hentai, there had to be at least a few hardcore gamers (you know, the demographic that should have been marketed to begin with) who were so insulted by Aksys Games' insistence on treating them like they were a 12-year old with more raging hormones than common sense that they decided it wasn't worth their time.
Tangential rant aside, “Record of Agarest War” is easily worth more than the $45 it asks for. The game is incredibly in-depth and will take hundreds of plays to complete if you pursue all the various options and features that it has to offer. It's a game that RPG fanatics will enjoy more than casual gamers, but if you're one of the kind who finds grinding and leveling thrilling, “Record of Agarest War” is jam packed with enough content to keep you occupied throughout the rest of winter.