Darksiders 2 for £12 and 2012's other underrated game bargains
18th Dec 2012 | 11:43
2012's overlooked games conveniently tend to be 2012's bargain games, almost as if the two elements are linked.
We've been through the deals out there with a fine-toothed deal-hunting comb to find you seven of the year's best games you can get for £10 - or thereabouts.
Soul Calibur 5
Price: £9.95, Zavvi
Street Fighter X Tekken, Virtua Fighter 5, Dead Or Alive 5 - plenty of fun brawlers came out this year, but so many of them clogged up the release schedule that perfectly solid games like Soul Calibur 5 managed to get lost in the mix. Obviously that's a bad thing - but at the same time it's a good one. Why? Because it means the price crashed to the level that we're allowed to call it 'budget' without stretching the truth.
But why should you bother with Soul Calibur 5? Because it's an enjoyable and fairly deep fighting game with enough silliness in its create-a-character mode to keep you chuckling along for months. While single-player leaves a lot to be desired (and it does hurt, what with the Soul series having such an excellent history of SP modes), playing Soul Calibur 5 with mates is one of those joys only games with truly solid foundations can bring.
The Darkness 2
Price: £9.99, The Game Collection
The Darkness 2 was ripped from the loving embrace of Starbreeze, had its gritty, atmospheric graphical style thrown unceremoniously in the nearest bin and was thrust into the hands of new developer Digital Extremes. They proceeded to make it look... different... and talk about nonsense like 'quad-wielding' and other ridiculous buzzword-heavy hype twaddle. It's little wonder fans of the original turned away in disgust and the game was forgotten pretty much the week it was released.
Except - and here's the dirty little secret - The Darkness 2 is really good fun. It's not perfect and has lost a lot of what made the original so great, but at the same time it has more than enough of its own making to keep you playing through its six-or-so hours of campaign. And do you know what else? Quad-wielding turned out to not just be hype, it's actually an intuitive, interesting and - most importantly - a fun system to play about with. And all this without even mentioning ripping people limb from limb.
Price: £9.85, ShopTo
The most uninspiring cover art the world has ever seen and a look that shouted "hey! I'm ripping off Gears Of War six years too late!" made the entire world collectively sigh with resignation at
And that's an attitude we're still fighting against now, ten months after the game came out. Ten months after we played it and realised that... well, it's not actually that bad. In fact, in many ways it's pretty good. And for under £10? Yeah, that's verging on excellent.
Standard third-person shooter mechanics are mixed with a robo-dismemberment system that never gets boring, some fantastic boss battles and a team loyalty system that's so well integrated you'll hardly even notice it's doing anything until you play through again and treat Big Bo like you hate him.
Max Payne 3
Price: £12.98, Blockbuster
Max Payne 3 divided opinion when it was (finally) released earlier in 2012 - though it divided it between those who thought it was good and those who thought it was excellent; not exactly a bad split. But while other Rockstar releases tend to hold their value for years, fat boy Max has seen his price plummet to the point it's now only slightly more expensive than a cheap bottle of vodka and some painkillers (note: don't copy Max, he's an idiot).
It sort of feels like you're cheating, picking up Max Payne 3 for a bargain price like this - it's such a well-produced game, so full of incredible production values and very clearly part of the Big Budget gang. But just because it's a premium production doesn't mean you should pay a premium price for the godfather of Bullet Time's comeback. Plus if you play the entire game in slow motion you're actually doubling how long you play it for, thus making it even more valuable. Success!
Price: £9.99, Zavvi
It's not as deep an experience as bigger brother
For a tenner it really is superb fun. Yes, its brashness might not appeal to everyone, and it is ultimately a shallow experience - but on the scale of games that are a delight to bang on for 20 minutes a pop every now and then it ranks highly. Though that may mainly be because that's a scale we've just made up specifically for Showdown.
Price: £12.85, ShopTo
Nobody wants to take a £50 gamble on a game that receives a mixed reception, whihch is probably why Lollipop Chainsaw sold about 20 copies. What do you mean 'it was Grasshopper's most successful release'? Well, that's thrown our blind assumption out of the window, damn it.
But for what can reasonably called a 'low' price, Lollipop Chainsaw is now at the kind of level where it's worth taking a risk on to see where you fall in the opinionosphere. We found parts of it to be good fun, but far too archaic and utterly lacking in others (http://goo.gl/oP0YW), but popular consensus was... all over the place.
One thing that's for sure is it's one of the more unique games to have come out in 2012, if not this generation. And come on - who wouldn't pay 13 quid to be able to run around as a chainsaw-sporting, zombie-hunting cheerleader with her boyfriend's head attached to her waist? Who indeed.
Price: £11.86, ShopTo
If we were measuring these bargains by the sheer wealth of content offered per pound, Darksiders 2 would run away so far from the the rest of the pack that they'd all instantly retire from this metaphorical race. It's a massive game.
Just as the first Darksiders did, the sequel mixes together elements derived from numerous other series': Zelda, God Of War, Soul Reaver, Portal, Shadow Of The Colossus and many more. Instead of ending up as some hideous chimera that can't do anything right, it's an endearing, engaging and exciting action-RPG. And it is, as we may have mentioned, absolutely massive - it will eat up months if you let it.
Though, ignoring all of the above, there is one clear, the defining reason to purchase Darksiders 2 at any price: Michael Wincott voices Death, and Michael Wincott has the greatest voice this side of Brian Blessed.
Price: £14.86, ShopTo
For a game that was attempted to be euthanised by its former publishers before being rescued from the pound and given a new lease of life in a loving, stable homestead, Sleeping Dogs is surprisingly good. You might expect something with such a long period of development, and dropped by the biggest publisher in the world, to be a piece of half-baked cack, but United Front's game strikes engaging, atmospheric and and enjoyable middle ground between Saints Row and Grand Theft Auto.
Don't overlook the fact that you're getting an absolutely huge sandbox game for just shy of 15 quid. The Hong Kong of Sleeping Dogs is often romp-worthy, always interesting and inhabited by only a few quirky but occasionally irritating NPCs, like the guy who is always - ALWAYS - trying to make you eat his 'pork buns'. Which probably isn't a euphemism.
Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes
Price: £15, Amazon
The Lego games have never strayed into poor territory and have rarely set off the 'cheap cash-in' alarms - but there was some scepticism surrounding Lego Batman 2. Mainly because slapping in a thousand and one (not an accurate count) other heroes and villains from the DC universe just seemed a bit desperate. Well, those who thought like that were poor, deluded fools - you don't want to be a poor, deluded fool, do you? Of course not. Which is why buying Lego Batman 2 for £15 is a thing you should do.
It's the Lego game we know and love with the addition of a genuinely engaging open world setting. You're free to explore the Lego-ey streets, climb the Lego-ey buildings and beat up the Lego-ey Jokers and Lex Luthors of the Lego-ey world. It's a steal for the price and the sort of game the whole family can enjoy together. Unless they hate Lego and superheroes. In which case trade them in.
Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning
Price: £12.99, Amazon
Kingdoms Of Amalur still gets unfairly maligned on the Twitters, forums and comments sections of the online gaming media, mainly by people who never bothered playing it. Take a risk - just under 13 Queen heads - and you'll see that, while certainly a way off being the definitive RPG experience, Amalur is a well-crafted, deep and sometimes beautiful world you can easily lose yourself in.
And with the death of 38 Studios, co-creators of the game (and, in fact, the studio's sole release), Kingdoms Of Amalur takes on a whole other level of poignancy. This is a universe rich with lore, created with care and attention and one that was very clearly built with future instalments in mind. If you get off on minor tragedies surrounding the games you play, you'll get off on Amalur. That's without even saying something like 'also the combat is some of the best you'll see in an action-RPG'.