A few weeks ago over a few drinks, my best friend -- let's call him Gravy -- made an admission that rocked me to my very core: he was falling out of love with games.
I can understand why. He's got two growing boys, a demanding job and other interests to accommodate; so he doesn't have the time to trawl gaming websites for advice on purchase decisions. He just goes with his gut when it comes to games, and it's been telling him the same thing for the better part of a decade: sports games (soccer, rugby league and union as well as anything MMA flavoured) and "realistic" first-person shooters (pretty much any instalment of the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises).
He's hinted that there had been problems previously, so I'd made some suggestions to find his boundaries. Halo 3 and Reach drifted too deeply into sci-fi territory, he has no love of third-person action games (no God of War or Devil May Cry in his diet), and he's allergic to fighting games. I haven't thought about it for a while, but our recent pow wow has driven me to make a prescription of quality games to bring the spice back to his gaming life.
Halo may be a little too sci-fi for my buddy, but Crysis 2 has just enough modern hardware and human opponents to claw him back into his comfort zone. Yes: there's still aliens, and the ability to cloak may be a few decades ahead of the ghillie suit, but I think he'll be able to deal. The nanosuit abilities will also help to mix up the stale first person rut that the Modern Warfare games have lulled him into. I also think that Gravy may come to love the Ceph: the alien race that not only acts as opposition, but who's essence also powers your skin-tight adornment. Their variety, intriguing design and deadly movement will keep even the sharpest of shooters on their toes. It also helps that Crysis 2 features several heart-stopping moments with an unmatched sense of scale and destruction. Start spreading the news: New York's destruction at the hands of the Ceph and CELL should be able to revive any jaded shooter fan's love of gaming.
Feel the love or die trying.
Gravy doesn't have access to a solid internet connection, but let's just say that if he were to sign with a reputable provider, Crysis 2 will be well worth his time. The suit abilities, genre staple play modes and varied arsenal had me engaged for quite some time. It's not a stark departure from the Call of Duty brand of competitive multiplayer either: it still boils down to a run-and-gun formula, but it tastes a little bit different.
I imagine that one of the great challenges of trying to balance parenthood with gaming is finding age-appropriate options for your kids that are somehow engaging for you too. I've seen some suggest Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure, but that may be a slippery slope cost wise. Rayman Origins can be picked up rather cheaply in Australia because it was an inexplicable commercial failure in the Land Down Under.
Better yet, Rayman Origins is the greatest platformer on this generation of consoles. With charming visuals, responsive controls and a level of challenge that's both fair and hair-tearingly frustrating at the same time, Ubisoft Montpellier's masterpiece is family-friendly and engaging for men, women and children of all ages. I've even shared my plans to teach my niece to appreciate gaming through Rayman Origins' visual splendour and stoic challenge.
Gravy's youngest may be too young to play now, but the game's 4-player cooperative mode will be able to accommodate Mum, Dad and the boys. Hell, even if you don't have to find a game for four people to play at once, you owe it to yourself to play Rayman Origins. If nothing else, Michel Ancel's brainchild should set both of Gravy's boys up for a lifelong love of gaming.
I can't think of any sport that Gravy doesn't appreciate. Funnier still, I can't think of a single sports game that he's shied away from; even terrible, broken interpretations of games of local favour. The man paid $110 for Rugby League Live for the love of cake. It has to be the worst sports game that I've played on the PlayStation 3, and would rank amongst the worst releases across generations of hardware.
Nearly two years on, however, NBA 2K11 is still the premier basketball sim on the market. It may be stripped of its online multiplayer modes now, but the Jordan Challenge mode is still available to play and stands as a true a test of mastery. For a casual sports fan like me, these tests remain unconquered; but for someone like Gravy, who used to invest hours in even the most meagre of sports games, these may just be do-able. Let's not forget the Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown, local multiplayer, the My Player mode, jaw-dropping visuals and a decent licensed soundtrack either. NBA 2K11 is enough to draw any sports fan in front of their console of choice, and I'm confident that it will inspire Gravy's competitive spirit.
I should note that I've tried to pick games that are a little more affordable and available on multiple platforms. Gravy's a PlayStation 3 owner and there's some great exclusives that would just as easily jump-start the love affair -- Uncharted 2, Killzone 2 and inFamous to name a few -- but I want to help anyone with a friend who's drifting away from the couch.
What games would you recommend for a friend falling out of love with games?