Our Generation – The Open World Genre

It’s time for the fourth part of the “Our Generation” series that we’re running, and we’ve hit the Open World genre.  There’s been an influx of these games over the last 8 years, largely due to the increase in power from the consoles, but also because Grand Theft Auto showed everyone what was possible with the right script and imagination.  There have been a few critical successes (the Saints Row series), and some commercial failures (The Godfather II), but there have also been some great time killers out there, ones that you should think about getting if you spot them going cheap.

 

Prototype 2 Box ArtAndy – Protoype 2

 

This was the hardest category yet for me to choose from, but my choice of a hidden gem for an open world game is Prototype 2.  The game is set some two years after the first and features a new player character in the form of James Heller, an army guy.  The star of the first installment, Alex Mercer, returns as the big bad this time around and after being to exposed to a DNA altering virus, Heller begins to evolve and develop some pretty awesome super powers; this pitches you against the military and Mercer who seemingly have plans to use this concoction for nefarious ends.

 

The real fun in this game comes in levelling up your abilities, and the open world style gives you lots of opportunities to do this; from clearing out infected hives to hacking military terminals, there is a good variety.  To assist you in doing this, you can run up buildings then leap and glide through the air great distances; when you arrive at your destination you could perform a powerful ground attack, destroying military forces.  If you prefer the more subtle approach you can steal the identity of a passerby, by consuming them.  It’s a great way to play portions of the game in a stealthy fashion, like walking into an enemy base undetected before creating a distraction with a bio-bomb and hacking their computer terminal.

 

This game gives you so much freedom in the way you approach fights and tactics you can use, even allowing you to take control of vehicles and rip gatling guns from tanks.  I’m grinning from ear to ear just thinking about it… I’m visiting GAME tonight on another matter, perhaps I’ll see if the copy I traded is still there?!

Prototype 2 Scene

 

Driver San Francisco Box ArtGraham – Driver: San Francisco

 

I played the very first Driver game on one of my first PC’s back in 1997, I loved the idea but technically fell short of my expectations.  Fast forward to 2011 and the release of Driver San Francisco, it was if they had been waiting for technology to catch up with what they wanted to achieve.  There was Driver 2 in between but this felt too similar to the first game in the series.  [And everyone needs to forget Driv3r! – Matt]

 

You are still John Tanner and after chasing your foe, crime boss Charles Jericho, across the world, you see him escape following his trial, so with your partner Tobias Jones you engage in a massive man hunt across San Francisco (title gave it away didn’t it!).  With a Sixth Sense style plot line the actual manhunt sees it take place in Tanner’s subconscious after falling into a coma, this opens up a massive amount of options because what isn’t possible in ones mind?

 

The game has come a long way graphically as you would expect and got some favourable reviews but it was largely forgotten relatively quickly, I think I can understand why.  With the manhunt taking place in the mind of an unconscious cop a new mechanic comes into play called ‘shift’.  Shift allows you to move into the cars of other motorists to aid your cause, you can soar high above the city to target a car and with a press of a button you find yourself in the drivers seat.  The gamers who want reality don’t enjoy this kind of in plausible addition, but for those of us who want something a little different it is refreshing to find.

 

If you take the main story out of the equation the open world streets of San Fran are a joy to drive, and with many separate missions from criminal hunts to stunt driving it offers much to keep you amused.  There are over 100 licenced vehicles to drive, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.  Driver San Francisco didn’t really fill the 5 year void between GTA IV and GTA V, but it gave it go.

Driver San Francisco Scene

 

The Saboteur Box ArtMatt – The Saboteur

 

I bought this when it was already cheap and EA had thrown the Midnight Show unlock key out for free which removed “bras” from the “dancers” in the opening sequence (seriously, and pointlessly), in what I can only assume was an effort to do something with the game, and as it only affected second hand copies I don’t see what the intention was.  Maybe it was to try and shift more copies by making the headlines with either “EA is dropping it’s project 10 dollar scheme”; or “This game’s got boobs in it!”, with the second one being more likely.  But I didn’t pick it up for that, I grabbed it because I’d read a fair amount of info when it first went into development, and was looking for something that GTAIV hadn’t managed to do, satisfy me story-wise.

 

The Saboteur is set in WWII Paris, with you as the anti-hero, an Irish racing driver/bomb expert helping the French resistance give the German occupiers a hard time.  It’s a simple enough idea in a familiar historical setting that was crying out for something that wasn’t a first person Nazi hunting simulator, and it worked.  It was nice to look at, fun to play, some good characterisation (if a bit predictable), and had the bonus of giving you the freedom to do what you want and go where you want, from the rooftops down to the city streets.  The city had it’s own charm that was enhanced by the fact everything was black and white and lifeless in the occupied areas, and when you liberated them the colour returned and you were given a more vibrant setting to play in.  Cars were easy to drive and surprisingly nippy considering the time period (I was worried at Mafia-style realism from them), and the movement and shooting was very reminiscent of Mercenaries 2 (which was my backup choice for this piece, and by the same developer); forgiving when it needed to be, but not too easy.

 

I had a lot of fun with The Saboteur, it kept me going through a summer games drought, and I’ve got fond memories of racing through the French countryside and causing mayhem in the outlying villages, or climbing the Eiffel tower just to jump off.  It wasn’t a serious game despite the serious setting, and it wasn’t slapstick or intending to be humorous either; it just was what it was, a WWII game that actually managed to make you feel like a hero at the end.

The Saboteur

 

Just Cause 2 Box ArtRoger – Just Cause 2

 

There has been quite a few open world games this past generation, and none of them have I enjoyed more than Fallout 3.  Now while I would love nothing more than to talk with you about Fallout for the next few pages, I have a strong feeling that a lot of you have played it.  This is after all, an article about the games you may have missed over this generation which is now coming to a close.

 

Just Cause 2 was made by Avalanche Studios and was released in 2010.  It has one of the largest game worlds I have ever played in.  With over 400 square miles to explore with no loading screens is absolutely impressive.  Just Cause 2 has you play as a mercenary working for an agency called “The Agency”, and your one and only goal is to cause as much destruction as you possibly can.  Why? Just ‘Cause.  Don’t expect an award winning story and be prepared for some horrible voice acting, but don’t worry, it’s all about the game play in this title.  Imagine driving a vehicle at full speed and then deploying your stunt parachute.  You fly upward out of your vehicle as it careers into an enemy encampment and explodes in a ball of flames.  You then use your grappling hook and glide yourself to safety.  There really is no shortage of things to do.  If you love blowing digital things to bits and performing amazing stunts in cars, boats, planes, and tanks, then look no farther than Just Cause 2!

Just Cause 2 Scene

In the final part of “Our Generation” we’ll be awarding the Master Miller Trophy for stealthiest/under-the-radar missed gem of a game for this generation, as well as giving our thoughts on the runners up.  You can also read about our other overlooked gems too by following the links below this article.

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Matt

Co-founder & Editor at Codec Moments

Gamer, F1 fanatic, amateur DJ (out of practice), MGS obsessed, tech geek.

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