Summer's a bad time for video games. Christmas is too far away for any major releases, and Xbox's summer of arcade is vastly underwhelming.
But the recent announcement of Watch Dogs streams a ray of light across the games industry: A high-budget game that values both narrative and creativity. Players will hopefully be empowered with the ability to hack anything and work their way out of deadly situations with their space-smartphone.
We're going to have to wait at least a year until the game is released, however, so here are five narrative driven titles to tide you over until the good games start popping up.
Alpha Protocol is the swan song of choose your own adventure books. The game is comprised of two modes, conversation and action. Its action sequences are bland at best, allowing a decently skilled player to kung-fu their way through a healthy swath of stealth-themed missions. Conversations, however, are what break the norm.
Players are able to pick between the "three J's" of spy fiction: Jack Bauer, Jason Bourne, and James Bond. Trigger happy psycho, stone-cold professional, and smug prick in other words. Every playstyle has its own unique quirks, and players will form alliances with unique characters with no single playthrough being the same as the last. So if you're looking for a choose your own adventure book and you're willing to put up with some quirks: Check out Alpha Protocol.
4. Amnesia: Dark Descent Amnesia is the ultimate horror game. Players awake in the shoes of a nameless protagonist with, you guessed it, amnesia. Descending into the pits of a castle rife with horror ambience, they quest to figure out why the heck they're being constantly pursued by deadly monsters at every turn. Amnesia is a unique title in that it removes all power from the player. There are no weapons available, and players need to sprint towards the nearest hiding place at the first sign of trouble. In terms of ambience, you can't do any better than Amnesia and the price is ideal.
3. Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines VtM: B is another immersive title, except this time you're taking the role of a newly embraced vampire. The game was released alongside Half Life 2, and widely overlooked by gamers as a result. Divergent plots are, again, the word of the day. Centered around four major setpieces, players explore an overarching plot chock-full of bit players with engrossing sidequests. If you're willing to overlook a couple of rage-inducing dungeons, Vampire is one of the most immersive RPG experiences that you'll find on the PC.
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2. Bioshock Ken Levine's brainchild is the spiritual successor to one of the most popular FPS/RPG hybrids of all time: System Shock. The game, while extremely linear, features a progression system that evokes the golden age of PC gaming. Players are given a major ethical choice in the form of little sisters. The young genetically modified girls collect the game's experience points, and players have the option to either suck out their souls or return them back to their original little girl-state. The ethical binary affords a little replay along with a fun test of the player's ethics within a video game.
1. Deus Ex Deus Ex is a case study in how narrative can make a video game wonderful. Taking every good thing to come out of the cyberpunk genre, Deus Ex became a shining beacon of hope for people who like understanding why they're slaughtering hordes of nameless guards. Deus Ex features a manufactured virus recently released onto the streets, and a vague illuminati connection. The rest of the plot is up to the player to figure out (or not).