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The list that follows takes elements from the following games:
Fallout- World Creation
Chrono Trigger- Time Usage
Deus Ex- Atmosphere
Gears of War- Weapons
Half-Life 2- Physics
I Am Alive- Backstory
Left 4 Dead- Co-Op
Metro 2033/LL- Grit and Choices
The Walking Dead- Art Style and Impact of Decisions
Rage- Vehicular Mayhem
As Game Informer has often done in the past, I have composed a list of games that perfectly would resemble the archetype of the post-apocalyptic/apocalyptic game genre when combined. I will state the things that each of the above games does best in each category, a la GI's Perfect RPG and Perfect Character models. I hope you will read, enjoy, and comment.
World and World Creation
The Fallout series, since its inception, has had an artfully constructed world= full of dark humor, wit, and rich story and characters. This world, overall, and everything that it encompasses, is one of the best gaming worlds ever created, even beside normal RPGs such as The Elder Scrolls and Mass Effect. In the post-apocalyptic genre especially, Fallout reigns supreme.
In-Game Collectibles and Upgrades
Darksiders Series (1)
Darksiders I boasted a plethora of in-game content and side collectibles to find and obtain in order to upgrade War to his fullest potential before facing down The Destroyer. From crafting the Armageddon Blade to finding the final piece of your Abyssal Armor set, finding each hidden item was a rush. Whether it be standard life shards or wrath cores, Darksiders I knew collecting. And then II came along with an open world to find even more collectibles in... Nothing compares.
Time Usage and Consumption
Chrono Trigger has an interesting usage of the properties and qualities of time. Time seems like such a mundane thing, but as we discovered in Chrono Trigger- much like the recently released Cloud Atlas, everything is potentially related throughout time. With seven basic companions stretched across millions of years and thousands of cultures, Chrono Trigger's understanding of the natural progression of time- past time, present time, and future time, is quite astounding and grounding. Many games could do with a look in this direction, if not for a story basis, then for continuity's sake.
Atmosphere and Thought
Deus Ex (1)
Human Revolution was great, and Invisible War was meh, but the Deus Ex game that I am really referring to for the purpose of talking about a stellar and moody near-future, post-apocalypse atmosphere is the very first Deus Ex. Set in a world where most everything is slowly going wrong, or already has, the dark and gritty story gets down to business early, and the characters within it- for good or ill, are quite memorable as well. Now sure, Metro has a very memorable and atmospheric setting, and is a recently created series of semi-prominence, however, Deus Ex is the beginning of moody atmosphere in gaming. And certainly nailed things well with the noir thoughts as well.
Weapons and Items
Gears of War Series
For Xbox 360 owners, enjoying the generation's exclusives has been a dream come true, and nobody knows that more than Gears of War fans and proud owners. Throughout the series' bromances and gory action has been a riveting story of loss and triumphs, and also, a healthy respect for the badass arsenal carried by COG and Locust alike. The weapons of Gears put most other gaming devices to shame, even those of epic games such as Unreal Tournament. In the post apocalyptic realm though, the arsenal of Gears could really turn the tide of battles, and you'd be lucky to find one of these almighty weapons in any post apocalyptic wasteland you're wondering around in.
Physics and CCCCCOMBO Breaking!!!
Half-Life 2, true to the Half-Life series' ingenuity and innovation, was one of the first games to really pioneer physics engines in gaming as a must have for a good game to function, and look where it sent the gaming market today. Not only was the physics system a first, but, despite its glitches here and there, it is actually still one of the better ones out there today, with its mix of Havok and other engines. Some people could learn a thing or two from it. Oh, and the fact that we still don't really quite comprehend or understand why we love the Half-Life series could be implemented into the perfect apocalypse setting as well. That innate feeling of love wouldn't be bad in any game developer's book.
BackStory, Back Schmory
I Am Alive
While it starts off without filling you in on too many details, for a downloadable game, I Am Alive features more content than many post apocalyptic retail releases do. Sure, we all know Fallout's backstory, but I Am Alive's version of the apocalypse, its survivors, and how they managed to cope...somewhat, are the truly intriguing mysteries of the wasteland. Combine this with an interesting plot, and the pretty good platforming it boasts, and the game was excellent overall- if with its flaws. That's the kind of backdrop you want for a perfect apocalypse.
Left 4 Dead Series
It might not always be as crazy as Borderlands with zombies, but Left 4 Dead has a pretty solid reputation for some really intuitive and exciting cooperative content and campaigns. In fact, Left 4 Dead, even with its great AI, is really ten times more enjoyable with other, capable survivors of the zombie infestation than three brain dead mannequins helping out against the onslaught. Wouldn't it be great and insane to add that co-op element to the perfect apocalyptic game? Why not, right? I mean, imagine if Fallout had co-op- how awesome would that potentially be? Plus, you know...this apocalypse would probably have zombies...so, we might need some capable assistance from the franchise that has done zombie infestations justice over the past few years, besides Dead Rising.
True Grit and Tough Choices
Metro Series (2033 and Last Light)
So, I bet you're surprised that I didn't have Metro down for its incredibly oppressive and ominous atmosphere, right? Well, that'd be because it has already earned its spot on this list in another way- the choices it tasks you with making. No choice is easy in Metro, and your survival always depends upon those choices, often at the detriment of others, sadly. In a world gone mad and bad, even the good guys have to be a little grey sometimes, and nobody knows that more than Artyom. I mean, heck, the man had to nuke the already nuked world for crying out loud at one point, but more on that at a later date maybe... In the dark, the wrong choice could easily lead to your death. Now isn't that something to be hanging over your head for a whole game?
In a series that starts off with the world being at war...again, but not with fellow continents, but instead an "alien" force, you know these games are going to be dark. After an unsuccessful European front ends in catastrophic failure and the eventual death of the main character, Nathan Hale, things look like they're as dark as they'll ever be. Then comes in Resistance 3 with a hush and a whisper, before plunging n the knife deeper and twisting it a few times. Enemies are harder to kill, more abundant, and now they've invaded the US and are seeking to wipe out the last bastion of humanity in the entire world- a world the Chimera have terraformed to fit their needs. Don't even mention the fact that the remnants of the shattered human race that have survived are not only starving and gaunt, but many have resorted to cannibalism to survive for one more day at a time. That's just the exposition as well... A true apocalypse needs a dark story, and sure, it might have some humorous moments at times...but there is always the darker reality bearing down on you, in its oppressive, desperate last chance manner... It's the feeling that things are bad, and won't soon change, that needs to really be impacting.
The Stalker series is one, like Fallout, that has many noticeable and differing enemy variations and units to evade, battle, and trick. From the radiated monsters to the surviving army officials and mercenaries, the interesting series certainly has some difficult enemies and opposition. I'd like to see more of the same from games such as Stalker, Rage, and Fallout in the perfect apocalypse universe- although, admittedly, more of Stalker-like encounters that seem more varied, less spawned, and more open and few and far between.
Artistic Stylization and Impact of Decisions
The Walking Dead
I really love the artistic flourishes of The Walking Dead Season One, and the fact that Telltale is doing the comics justice in their own way with the games and episodes. What would make any apocalypse better, and compliment the beautifully rendered surroundings, would be a cell-shaded, comics oriented, Borderlands styled art style. Also, the fact that you will often remember and regret your decisions, as there will be no shortage of hardships and tough choices makes every call a bad one, and an intriguing thought as well.
Vehicular Mayhem and Slaughter
Another great game by the ID/Beth teamup, Rage is also an apocalyptic crawler, but from more of an FPS oriented Doom approach than anything. Set in a future where meteor impacts have greatly decimated the land, arks/vaults with the few survivors have opened to show the terrors of the wastes, and crazy bandits roam about lawlessly- the world could do with some law and order. Luckily, you, your gun, and your best dune buggy can dole out the appropriate justice where needed. Complete with kart racing, monster hunting, buggy battles, missiles, chainguns, and other mounted armaments- Rage is just as much fun in the driver's seat as it is on foot, if not more so. Therefore, why not add this way of locomotion to your perfect formula as well? It just completes the set.
Who Should Publish it?
I see no other game developer already so attuned to the post apocalyptic regime, and set for the chaos that would ensue than Bethesda Studios. Therefore, they should be the stewards of the perfect post apocalyptic world and game, whenever that should come, if ever. I can only hope it will come with Fallout 4...