Christmas Traditions: P’s Christmas Video Games

IT’S CHRISTMAS! And even though we’re atheist here at nerds get bored, we are most definitely materialists, so let us all enjoy the sharing of material goods, making friends happy, and enjoying a few ourselves! And no need to worry about all the debt until January! But there’s something more to Christmas than that. Our houses are made to look prettier with little ornaments we’ve kept from the past, and a few new ones to be rediscovered next year. We all get together and inact scenes that were so much fun last year. It’s tradition! That’s what it’s all about. It’s about recapturing the joy of our childhood and the warm spirit we used to believe came from Jesus. A little older, and it’s still warm and cozy and hell, even more ridiculous than ever! But some of these traditions are very different than others. Sometimes we do things in the run up to Christmas that have absolutely nothing to do with the season of good will and kindness to all men. That’s what these lists will express! All the crazy little things that nerds might like to do in December each year. Firstly, here are some of the video games that may get played this month.

Now, I am sure there are all sorts of games out there purely devoted to Christmas themes, mostly likely older ones or more family friendly ones. However we here at Nerds Get Bored are hardcore gamers, and therefore this list is about the mainstream games that, perhaps due to Christmas release dates or just pure accident, have become part of Christmas for us and our consoles.

P’s Top ten Christmas Video Games

10. Rome Total War

Told you this would be odd! Well go back a few Christmases and you’ll find me marching my red roman legions over a digital map of southern europe to victory against all the little barbarian bastards of Europe. The game is very satisfying and often held up as the best Total War game of them all. Aside from the traditional resource management and unit building that goes on with most RTS titles, what made this game special was the battles. As two armies meet on the big map screen you get the option to surrender (no shame in that AMERICA!), automatically resolve the combat to give the most statistically likely outcome (you know, for pussies) or engage! Now upon engaging we are taken to our battlefield. We study it, look at all the hills and fences and rivers, and pretend to be making decisions any more profound than walk quickly towards the enemy and hope we have bigger sticks. Then we get a look at our armies, and whatever enemy units are close enough to get an oggle. Archers at the front, cavalry at the flanks and everyone else ranked in between in decreasing layers of awesome and finally we are off! There are so many satisfying moments in the average battle. A hail of arrows, blotting the sun, and striking down a horde of rampaging brutes, leaving behind only a handful of baffled survivors, trying to figure out which way to run. Or maybe they get past your arrows and a rabble of fur clad burley men clash into a nice pristine row of red shields, bristling with spears or short swords! Then you notice the AI hasn’t remembered to move its left flank. Time for the charge of heavy infantry! Iron clad demons charge over the field, leaving a cloud of dust behind them, they hit the enemy, cover them, and the enemy disappear, replaced only by a line of bodies strewn out behind the horses. CIVILISATION BITCHES! Very Christmassy.

09. Buzz TV

Ok, this is a little more family friendly. Later on we’ll have a list of Christmas board games, but until we have some trivial pursuit related craziness, this game will do for establishing your intellectual dominance over the family. A great collection of varied games all designed to test specialised knowledge and reaction times. With lots of cartoony humour and fairly simple rules, it’s very much a family game with an intellectual edge. To be fair my grandmother is generally better on general knowledge than me, but she ain’t so quick on the buttons these days, heheh. WELCOME TO THE FUTURE GRANDMA! A colourful, fun and educational family game. The main lesson being that I am awesome, and you all suck.

08. Wii Sports

Another family pick. Let me take you back two years. I, and most other gamers, were snearing a little at the Wii. We considered it gimmicky, and light playing for people who just dabbled in games as a novelty. Then my sister asks for one for Christmas along with the Wii fit, which she has heard is a great way to stay in shape. So we order one online, just before the massive rush that occurred that year (November shopping, it rocks!), and the Wii Fit. Then my sister fell down the stairs and broke her ankle. She spent the rest of December, and most of January, wheelchair bound. To be expected really. Like the time we bought mum a painting and a combine harvester took out her eyes. But this didn’t stop the fun of course!  She unwrapped her Wii, and Wii Fit and all was happy and well. The Wii Fit sat under a chair until February, but the Wii came straight out and after a few antagonizing moments spent leaning over the back of the TV, all was hooked up. The game that came with the console was Wii sports which did a great job of showing off the fairly impressive capabilities of the system. And although the vigorous punching and screamings of “die” in the boxing game does appeal to the Mike Tyson approach to family unity it’s the bowling which we still play every christmas to this day. It’s all the fun of real bowling without the fucking kids jumping around and all the teenagers making out in the gutters.  The Wii fit did come out, was used religiously for two months then put away forever, like most fitness gadgets really. But Bowling is still fun and at least it helps free up a few calories for that turkey.

07. Age of Empires 2: The Time of Kings

Another RTS. Quite simply this is a game I got for christmas when I was ten and have been playing each year since. It’s simple enough. You are given a camp fire and a handful of humans at the dawn of man and you must nurse them through the ancient times (not covered as thoroughly as in the first games of course) and into the glory of the medieval age. You train units, build up a big impressive city with a wonder or two and then march across the map to your hated enemy. Korea get’s a lot of affection for a certain kick ass naval unit, but every nation has its special units to explore! The cheats are, as always marvelous. Killing a random opponent, building massive structures in the blink of an eye and of course the rocket shooting cobra car, just a little less funny than the first games laser trooper of the third games epic George Crushington! Even without the cheats the game is a tad easy though. When you’ve reached the stage that you can build a giant wall entirely around your enemy and kill them off at your leisure with arrow towers you really have to wonder what the AI is doing with its time. Hardly Napoleonic tactics, but then look where they got him. Great game, can’t imagine Christmas without it.

06. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Another strange choice. This was the game that launched the series into its current status as the quickest selling games series of all time. The game has no subtlety, and apart from the Ghillied up mission there’s really not much variety. But one thing that this game got absolutely right is the simplest element of the FPS. You aim, you shoot, it dies. It achieves this so enjoyably by giving you awesome modern guns, with great physics and easy to use gameplay, and by animating the enemy deaths so flawlessly. A flash, some smoke and a great big cloud of blood bellows out from behind your falling enemy. Throw in some exotic backdrops and you’ve all the makings for a classic, fun game. And nothing spells christmas like liberating the ill-equipped brown people of nowherestan, who all hate santa!

05. Little Big Planet

The controls here are ridiculously hard. That’s the first thing to be said really. It really hasn’t gotten the 3D dynamic right and the game should be 2D. But that doesn’t stop it being incredible fun. The physics are very well designed, the visuals bright and inviting, and the gameplay, apart from some difficulties, is very simple. A lot of people have found endless fun in the endless customisation available, but I find my dose of sack-bound silliness in the basic single player campaign. And there’s certainly some challenges to be had, and not all because you thought the platform was further back than it was. There is something very christmassy about the childish characters, garish colours and trying not to fall into a pit of fire or acid. And of course there’s Stephen Fry’s voice, which is to the ear what soft buttery scones are to the middle class.

04. Resident Evil 2

If you don’t see the connection between blasting away pale brain-dead scum and the birth of our lord Jesus, then you can just leave this site right now! Wanker, glad he’s gone. Now, for the rest of us let’s talk about resident evil. The first game was an acquired taste really. You get some naff dialogue, not much ammo and badly animated characters with tiny heads wandering around a painfully coloured house for hours looking for keys. I didn’t play it for all that long, but when I bought the second from a second-hand game store it became an instant favourite. Collect guns, health, and the membrane of undead scum on the sole of your shoe as you blast and solve you’re way through Racoon City. Nothing beats the fun of taking out a zombie with a head blasting Desert Eagle, and the mercenaries mini-game was a great addition and a staple for future games. So what does this have to do with Christmas? Well one year I just so happened to have nothing else to do in the weeks leading up to the big day and so played it through. The day I reached the basement level was the day we put up the decorations, and the positive feelings of those shiny little baubles and glittery strings of plastic have passed on to this grim post apocalyptic zombie game forever! So load up the Remington, and pack the Jill sandwiches, it’s Christmas time again!

03. Lord of the Rings: The return of the King

For three years in a row we had Lord of the Rings at Christmas. For the last two, we had games to play at the same time. EA’s Lord of the Rings games featured footage from the films, some of which we wouldn’t even see until the extended cut almost a year later. Interviews with the cast featuring their opinions on the game are also a welcome addition. The gameplay is easy enough, simple hack and slash action. As you hack, a meter fills which affects what grade you get for each kill. When completely filled you get a few moments on Perfect mode, in which every kill is “perfect” and strikes deal much more damage. This inevitably results in frantically searching for more enemies to kill before the time runs out. The difficulty can be ridiculous though, especially the epic battles as you desperately try to bring the number of orcs on the wall down to what is, apparently, an acceptable level. The less fun levels involve dank little dungeons, usually playing as hobbits, fighting through a mass of boring opponents. However a very pretty stage selection screen makes these slogs easy to avoid. As you play you’re character levels up. You stop getting move upgrades at level 9. You therefore imagine you’ll be maxed out soon. However having played this game every year since 2003, my Aragorn eventually reached level 30 and I began to wonder, just how far does this go? So I had a quick Google and found that this game goes up to THREE. HUNDRED. LEVELS. That is more than WoW, and it doesn’t necessarily take less time to climb a level. Maybe by the time my grandkids are making lists like this I’ll have Aragorn maxed out.

02. Onimusha 2: Samurai’s Destiny

The minute I opened this, I stuck it on the TV and played whilst the others unwrapped the rest of their gifts. The first game had been a very simple but very satisfying slasher, but far too short. So the prospect of a longer expansion of this story was very welcome. As usual the opening movie was breathtaking, and maybe the best of the series. A little bit of disappointment to see we don’t get to continue with Samunuske, but Jubei is a pretty awesome substitute. The simple act of attacking an opponent is great fun and battles, though repetitive, remain fun throughout, and the new feature of establishing friendships through appropriate gift giving (what could be more christmassy?) adds a little element of favouritism to proceedings, especially as who likes you the most will affect the ending. Inevitably of course I do just give all the presents to the one with tits, but the option is welcome. As you gather new and impressive weaponry each with fantastic magical properties and special moves, you become more adept at hacking down to size the myriad of giant demons who stand between you and the Demon Lord Nobunaga! Giant hammer to the face! The mini games you unlock are also great little pieces of nostalgic fun.

01. Soul Reaver 2

Let’s take you back nine years, why not. The year is 2001. The Enron company has filed for bankruptcy with devastating consequences on its shareholders, a strange monolith was discovered floating around Jupiter, Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman have reached the Christmas number one spot with something stupid, like all of Robbie’s other stuff and a few months ago a couple of buildings fell over (can’t remember the exact date). I have unwrapped series one of family guy (the only DVDs of it we’ll get for a few years before fox realise they’re idiots), series one, two and three of Bottom on VHS and three more DVDs for my fledgling collection. We think we’re done! Everyone’s merry and ready to start on the turkey. Then it is revealed that there is one more gift. Me and my sister come next door to find a massive wrapped box in the centre of the dining room table. Our minds race! What could it be? We both tear at the paper and catch glimpses of the packaging underneath, trying to assemble them in our excited young minds. What this could possibly be? Then I catch the three greatest words in the English language. Play. Station. 2. It’s the sort of thing that’s so awesome you can’t actually begin to fathom what to do with it. Setting it up and making sure that is was all working was my IT man father’s first instinct. I spent most of this lengthy installation time reading the backs of the two games we had been given. The Simpsons road rage was my sister’s interest, but she was busy trying out her new pink hairdryer, so after Dad left to tend to his electric shock wounds, I got first go, and I played the game I had wanted this console for in the first place. Soul Reaver 2. The first game had been magic. You are a mutilated vampire seeking revenge against his six vampire brothers, five of which you kill. There was lots of free roaming, lots of secrets and plenty of little gory moments. Now retrospectively the sequel has a lot of problems. The combat is very simple, and not that satisfying. The gore is toned down and you have fewer options on killing your foe, no more fire or impaling on scenery. The plot is far more convoluted and silly and the gameplay is simplified terribly. No more secrets or free roaming. But the scenery is still great, the dialogue wonderful, and when I stick it in it still reminds me of that amazing christmas nine years ago.

And so these are the games I play each year. At least these are the games I always plan to play, I inevitably leave it till there’s only a week left and consequently play about a fifth of each one. And I’ve just spent two hours writing this list, so without further bollocks, I shall bid you farewell and good luck with your own Christmas Gaming! 

P for playing playstation! WHEE!

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About Nerds Get Bored
We're Nerds, and man, do we get bored. Our Twitter: @nerdsgetbored

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