5 Must-Plays for Beginner Gamers
Trying to become involved with anything new can be daunting. When I first decided I wanted to get into gaming I didn’t know where to begin. The first thing to be decided is which console to dedicate your gaming life to: Microsoft, Sony or good old PC? Personally I chose the teenage boy favourite: the Xbox 360. This was a bold move seeing as though my gaming experience prior to this included Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega Mega Drive and Crash Bandicoot on PS1, as well as a minor obsession with The Sims on PC, but the Xbox 360 seemed like a safe bet. That being said, although I think of myself as a well-established gamer now, the features of the Xbox One daunt me and make me revert back to my twelve year-old self playing Crash Bandicoot and the Wrath of Cortex on my PS2.
Once I’d set myself up with an Xbox 360, username and account the next hurdle was deciding which game to try first. I was intimidated by the many gaming terms which were being thrown at me and didn’t have a clue what I wanted to play: did I want an RPG game? A first-person shooter? A sand-box game – whatever on earth that meant?! All I knew was I wanted something simple to take my Xbox 360 virginity. Now, although I do know what all of these terms mean now, and anyone can find out with a quick Google, it’s still a daunting world to break in to. I felt as though most people inherently knew these terms and I was completely clueless and would make a fool of myself in an online gaming situation – hence why I still haven’t ever bought an Xbox gold membership!
Portal (2007) & Portal 2 (2011)
After a lot of deliberation and research the first franchise I decided to tackle was Valve’s Portal. This franchise initially confused me as I’d seen Portal 2 in game shops but never Portal. I soon discovered this is because Portal came as part of a package within The Orange Box which includes five separate games. Once this mystery was solved I could begin gaming.
Pros for a beginner: in some ways Portal is the perfect game for a beginner gamer; but perhaps I just think this as it was my first Xbox 360 experience and will always be special to me. It is primarily a puzzle solving game using logic and problem solving, two things I am quite often lacking. However, once you get used to the portal guns and wrap your head around you ability to teleport it’s fairly straightforward. It’s fairly short, extremely linear and there’s nothing to jump out and shoot you in the face: all of which are desirable aspects for beginners. The story gives the game an intriguing quality to help move things along as well as loveable GLaDOS throughout the two games and Wheatley, voiced by Stephen Merchant, in Portal 2.
Cons for a beginner: as I’ve said, I consider Portal to be a perfect game for a beginner. One negative aspect could be the need to think logically and get used to thinking with portals, so if someone was completely useless with problem solving it may not be the game for them. However, as I’ve previously said, I completely lack any level of logical though in general life and I still enjoyed it once I got used to it. I think the story, especially within the second game, is extremely enjoyable and makes it feel like less of a puzzle game than it actually is.
Best bit: my absolute favourite bit of the franchise is the section narrated by Cave Johnson in Portal 2. They’re hilarious, clever and occasionally caused me to reload chambers just to hear him again. “I’m the man who’s gonna burn your house down, with the lemons!”: classic Cave, genius.
Assassin’s Creed (2007), Assassin’s Creed II (2009), Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood (2010), Assassin’s Creed Revelations (2011), Assassin’s Creed III (2012)
The second game franchise I decided to delve into was Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed. I will be honest, the thing which initially made me interested in the game was discovering that Ezio was able to put corpses into piles of hay and down wells, but I did still enjoy even once the novelty of that had worn off. It was quite different to Portal in the majority of ways: it’s third person, it’s open world, it involves fighting, it introduces side missions and collectibles. However, I do love it just as much as I love Portal.
Pros for beginners: I found it very good for getting me used to less linear games, such as Portal and even Crash Bandicoot and older games, as Assassin’s Creed is much more open-world. The side-missions, and optional missions in the later ones, and collectibles, such as flags and feathers throughout, were a challenging yet nice addition to my gaming experience. These optional things give you something to focus on if you don’t want to rush through the story. Also, although I would argue that the games only decrease in quality from the first, you can stroke cats and dogs as both Haytham and Connor in Assassin’s Creed III which is a cute detail within the game.
Cons for a beginner: as I’ve said above, there are a lot more features to this game than in linear games such as Portal which is quite hard to get used to initially. I think I was a bit daunted when I played the first Assassin’s Creed and, now I’m much more experienced, I’m eager to replay it as I know I will enjoy it a lot more. Similarly, due to the addition of side missions and such, I often lost focus with the story. Although it’s not on the same level as Elder Scrolls it was much more open-world than I was used to and I often became preoccupied with view-points and flags when I should have been focussing on the story.
Best bit: the best bit of the entire franchise for me is the game-play in general. Although it was a jump from Portal I think the puppet system made the transition a lot easier as the controls were straight-forward. This may be one of the reasons why I liked the later games less as they changed a lot of controls from game to game which seemed illogical and annoying to me, but Assassin’s Creed got this absolutely right for a newbie.
Borderlands (2009), Borderlands 2 (2012)
Gearbox’s Borderland 2 is, quite possibly, my favourite video game ever. It was, again, quite a leap in terms of game-play from Assassin’s Creed which is why I think I favour the second Borderlands over the first. By the time the second one was released I was a little bit more adept with a controller and could fully enjoy the story without worrying about controls, Class Mods and the vital importance of Slag weapons. I am currently on my fifth play-through of the story with my third character, having also played through all of the available DLC once: it’s safe to say I am a huge fan of the Borderlands franchise.
Pros for beginners: the stories of the games are amazing. That is one of the biggest selling points of them. Another massive positive is that up to four people can play together which makes it more of a social game than others but, then again, it can be played alone as well. I think that’s one of the reasons it’s often said to be “wife-friendly”, because it’s such a team game rather than having to fend for yourself on the streets of Venice with only a hidden blade for help.
Cons for beginners: to be honest, I would not advise starting with Borderlands as a complete beginner; it should be seen as a game to work up to. But it’s definitely worth the wait. It’s not that the game is necessarily hard it’s just a lot to take in, what with the various elemental weapons to wrap your head around, skill points to spend on specific skill trees as well as different styles of shields and grenades to come to terms with. Again, I think all of this is why I enjoyed Borderlands 2 much more as I was used to those things after having made beginners mistakes on the first!
Best bit: my absolute favourite aspect of Borderlands is the exciting prospect of elemental weapons. As charmingly macabre as it sounds, it’s nice to be able to set an enemy on fire with a few sniper bullets knowing that he will burn to death and you can move on to your next victim. It’s safe to say using elemental weapons has caused me to cackle on multiple occasions.
Whenever I tell people I’m playing Catherine I struggle to explain what it’s about, or even what style of game it is. It is described as a “puzzle-platformer psychological horror adventure video game” which sums it up better than I ever could! It follows the trials and tribulations of Vincent over about a week of his life with Katherine, his girlfriend, and Catherine, his accidental lover. It’s a long story that even Vincent himself doesn’t seem to fully understand. At times, it’s easy to forget that you’re playing a game: it’s more like watching a film, in which you’re responsible for the destiny of the characters, which is punctuated with an arcade game. It may sound weird but it strangely works.
Pros for a beginner: as it’s such an unusual style of game I think a beginner would have as much chance of success as a more experienced gamer. As there aren’t many games of a similar genre I think most people will be in the same position of cluelessness. A positive for anyone wishing to play it, not just beginners, is the eight possible endings. As all decisions in Vincent’s life are the player’s responsibility, even down to what he writes in his texts, the plot is changeable meaning the game is quite short as it’s meant to be played multiple times.
Cons for a beginner: I don’t think there are any negatives for a beginner particularly. As I’ve said, it’s a strange style of game for most people to play as it’s so unusual. One possible negative could possibly be the “nightmares” which Vincent experiences and the player must tackle. As it’s a puzzle game these sections can be frustrating and seem impossible at times, but if I got through it it’s definitely all possible!
Best bit: the best bit of Catherine for me was the bar scenes. As these are completely free and determinable by you they are so much fun. You can walk around, text in the bathroom and talk to whoever you want. I just wish I had realised sooner that the things you do in these sections affect the ending!
BioShock (2007), BioShock 2 (2010), BioShock Infinite (2013)
Of all of the Xbox 360 games I have enjoyed BioShock is the one I have devoted the least amount of time and attention to. This lack of dedication has nothing to do with the game itself. It is mostly down to the demanding aspect of my life which is university, and which annoyingly must be my priority for the time being. I was initially drawn to BioShock because it is so beautiful. The graphics are really different, interesting and mesmerising. I saw many pictures and images of the game and wanted to play it based solely on the look of it. The first experience I had of the BioShock franchise was watching my boyfriend play BioShock Infinite which, as such a thoughtful girlfriend, I had bought him for his birthday. I got so involved in the story, as a spectator, that I decided I wanted to start from the beginning myself.
Pro for beginners: the game has a momentous plot which draws you in and wills you to keep playing; the story itself is really enjoyable to follow and be a part of. Also, as previously mentioned, it is truly beautiful. It is even worth playing just to stare at the graphics for a few hours!
Cons for beginners: it is really quite a creepy game! I was so tense the first time I played that I got a headache and sore shoulders! It is also a bit confusing when the game starts throwing plasmids and different weapons at you. I was expecting these additions after having watching BioShock Infinite but it is a bit disconcerting at first. However, once you get past those two things, it is a game which is easy to slip into and become completely absorbed in.
Best bit: the best bit of BioShock for me is simply the graphics. It is a beautiful game to simply star at, it just happens to be teamed with a good story and enjoyable game play.
What do you think? Leave a comment.