The holiday season is upon us and with the jingling bells, festive lights and awkward family gatherings a veritable avalanche of amazing games are at our gamepad worn fingertips. With many choices comes great responsibility, so what games will you spend your hard earned holiday windfalls of cash on? We recruited Jens Pulver to help you answer this very question. After hours of contemplation and debate, Jens and MiddleEasy compiled the following items that should be at the top of every gamers list and at the bottom of every tree. This is Jens Pulver's Holiday Buying Guide-Only at MiddleEasy.com.
Assassin's Creed: Revelations - Now available (PC/360/PS3)
One of the most unique and engaging new franchises of this generation, for better or worse, AC started the 'parkour' genre of game with a dash of religious conspiracy thrown in for good measure. Where AC 1 had it's share of faults, the intriguing plot and thrill of the hunt made it's redundant gameplay an afterthought. AC II improved in all areas and engaged further with a new hero and the continuation of the Templars Vs. Assassins storyline. With AC Brotherhood, Ubisoft added a fresh new take to multiplayer gaming and further pushed what we thought was possible in an AC game. Now with the final chapter of Ezio Auditore's and (possibly Desmond's) tale on deck, Ubisoft looks to refine and close out this generation with a bang.
"When I'm done with my big run I'm saving these games. I will get 'em all, I love AC I was playing the first two over and over like God of War, I played the first one then the second one then I went back to the first one again. That way I can get every little achievement and conquest. It's hard in these games not to go through the storyline right away so I go through all the side quests and everything. I want to get 3 done twice before I play the fourth but I'm so excited for the fourth one. The storyline and gameplay is sick and I'm surprised they haven't made a movie out of it yet. The feathers are the only thing I don't do. It's not that exciting." - Jens Pulver
Star Wars: The Old Republic: (PC) December 21st, 2011
Bioware has spent the last half decade creating what looks to be the definitive WoW killer in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Any fan of Knights of the Old Republic should have no problem getting into this next gen MMO. With countless hours of recorded quest dialog, massive worlds to explore, your own personal ship and gameplay that is transcending genres, it's time for everyone to take a long hard look at TOR. Will it be enough to give up our 100 mounts and 90 pets in WoW? Maybe. I wish the would have made a Mass Effect MMO for the non Star Wars fans out there.
"I'm afraid to get into more MMO's but everything I've heard about this is good. I would definitely like to sit down and check it out, but there are so many games sometimes that you don't know where to start but it seems like it's going to be amazing, almost too much of a good thing really and after playing WoW for so long I don't know if I want to put all that time into another one...but if there were one MMO out there, it seems like this would be it. I don't know if I'm ready to jump in again, but who doesn't love Star Wars?" - Jens Pulver
Witcher 2 (PC) Now available
Poland thought so highly of their game by their native studio CDProjeckt that their prime minister gave Obama a copy of the game when the two nations met earlier this year. True story. The Polish prime minister also laid out plans for a series of screen door installations to US Navy vessels around the world, but Obama turned it down in a cost saving measure. That story is not so true, but entirely plausible.
Witcher 2 is without a doubt game of the year. An apologetically adult tale of a monster hunter and a kingdom torn apart by civil war, the Witcher 2 is the reason we play video games. Just writing about it makes me want to play it. With graphics that look better than some CG movies and what seems like a billion different ways to even progress through the game...it's amazing, but it will also demolish your gaming rig if you don't have some solid horsepower. However fear not, console goers: Witcher 2 looks to come to 360 and PS3 sometime in 2012.
"I was all over this one and I played it one time through and I thought, OK now it's time to go rogue side instead of elf side, and I go to the end...I'm always playing through to get another ending. I've probably played through Witcher 2 five times now, changing little things here and there hoping to get a new ending. The story is amazing and I really got into that." - Jens Pulver
Dragon Age II (PC/360/PS3) Now available
A series that has been long debated in the MiddleEasy office, Dragon Age on the consoles is a far, far departure from the modern day classics on PC. The spiritual successors to the loved Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights series of games, Dragon Age II is Bioware's latest 'choose your path' opus. Dragon Age on the consoles is passable at best, Dragon Age II however, rights the majority of wrongs by it's predecessor, but the game truly shines on PC. With more intuitive controls handled by the keyboard and mouse, the PC version is the definitive version of Dragon Age II that makes this list.
"Man! HAHA I love this game. It's old Baldur's Gate style where you are just taking down the enemies and it's not automatically rolling for you, you actually do the everything. Dragon Age II is great, I'm currently on my third playthrough as a rogue and now I think I will change it up and try out being a tank warrior or a mage...I'm the kind of guy who will play a game through to get different scenarios and this game is it for me baby. I can play this game all day." - Jens Pulver
Diablo III (PC) 2012
It may not be out until 'sometime next year', but the baller Diablo III special edition should probably be preordered this year, just in case. Want to know what's inside? Stay a while, and listen. This $100 package includes the game, a behind the scenes look at the production of Diablo III, in game aesthetic wings for your character, a WoW pet, a 4gb flash drive that looks like a soulstone and the coup de grace': a Diablo skull to put on your desk while you play. Or you can just order 1 year of WoW and get Diablo III for free digitally. We love you, Blizzard.
"It's like, man, I don't have enough time in the day! This is like Dragon Age for me, it's like Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights and those were the games that got me hooked back in the day and this is yet another game that's coming out that I will be getting no doubt about it. And like all the others I'm going to have to go back and play the old ones. Man, I don't have enough time in the day..." - Jens Pulver
Battlefield 3 Now available (PC/360/PS3)
One of the best reasons to own a gaming PC: Battlefield 3 is wildly different from the consoles to the PC. The consoles boast a perfectly fine 12 on 12 multiplayer experience (I'll be honest, I won't play the single player, but I hear it's good) where the PC has intense and drastically varied 32 on 32 action. Killzones morph through the environment, jets fly overhead and tanks rumble through the destructible environments. You and your teammates will work to change the battlefield and your tactics will have to adjust accordingly, stay frosty...Shooter of the year and an amazing experience.
"Ugh, I have just lost my first person touch man, I gotta get my hands faster cause they are slow, they are slow. Battlefield is pretty incredible in how you can lay back and support or you can run and gun and get after it. It's going to be a tough game to defeat, the things that they are doing with the environment and the graphics aren't being done anywhere. Man, I mean you have Call of Duty but this is different.
I'm trying to drop the ammo and stuff and support the guys, nothing really like it out there. I haven't had a whole bunch of time to play it but I'm going to take a lot more to play. As far as what class I play I'm going to go out there and try to help...It's kind of like Warcraft with this game, a lot of people are playing it that shouldn't you know? They are just running around out there. So I will be dropping the rounds maybe the medic. Like in Warcraft, especially in PVP where everyone complains about the heals. So then I went and had to be a healer you know. But I can go off in Warcraft and do my own thing too, and especially because in a game like Battlefield, even if I'm expertly picking off guys with my sniper rifle I feel like a camper. So I like being up in the action helping the team. Like in Warcraft I want to be doing the big damage with everyone else but then they tell me 'Jens, you can't do damage if you're not getting healed' so then I go heal and everyone feels good.' I guess it all just depends on the mood really." - Jens Pulver
World of Warcraft (PC) Now available
It's never too late to throw your life away for a few months and take a vacation on Azeroth, and now with the completely reforged 1-60 experience and a free to play game until level 20...It's time, adventurer. It's time to play one of the best games ever made by the artisans at Blizzard. What are you waiting for? Be it PvP or solo questing, online gaming has never been so finely tuned or engaging. The end game experience alone has millions of players logging in to kill Deathwing this winter. Go make an undead warlock right now. You have absolutely no reason not to.
"You know, I'm on and off it all the time, but I always say that people don't understand WoW. Maybe people my age or older, or younger people don't understand the graphics...But WoW, everyone plays, and I have friends all over, out west, everywhere and so this level of entertainment is huge. I will be playing but I'm also talking to my friends! That's better than a phone call! We're on that and I'm hanging out with other fighters...I;m not gonna throw them under the bus but they are UFC fighters, and or UFC caliber. So that's relax time. I would definitely say on the whole social side of gaming, yes you must still play WoW in 2011. It has Elves, Dragons, troll and Ogres. It's everything I loved as a kid in Dungeons and Dragons, all of that stuff so yeah WoW is now the Godfather of them all and so yeah on the social side it must be played. The only down part is all the time wasted in these raids, people going to the bathroom, AFK, this and that. So now I only dabble, but I PvP and arena." - Jens Pulver
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (PC/360/PS3) Now available
Tried, true and mother approved, Call of Duty continues to blow away sales records and gamers minds. With a refined engine and the comforting embrace of a well worn mutliplayer suite, CoD remains the preeminent shooter experience on the consoles. With forward thinking web features like Call of Duty: Elite and a more balanced experience, CoD looks to retain it's crown as the videogame sales king. With that said Titanic was the most popular movie of all time at one point.
"Now for this I will be a kid in a candy store. I'm crazy for Modern Warfare 3, that's my FPS right there. It's above BF3 only in the sense that I've played them all. Even back in the day on PC with Call of Duty and Call of Duty Offensive. You know, and before that I was a MOHAA guy (Jason's note: extremely awesome and nerdy reference) and that's what got me into online in the beginning. So in a way I will always be with CoD. A funny story about that, I went to the show in Vegas with all the guns and military and I've never shot a gun personally in my life. I've never been hunting. But I'm at the gun show and I'm asking about these guns, I'm asking about that gun and the reflex sights and the holographic sight. So they ask 'how do you have this knowledge?' and I go 'CoD man!' So I'm going off and I'm all about it." - Jens Pulver
Crysis/Crysis 2 (PC/360/PS3) Now available
Predator was a huge movie for me growing up, and I always thought it was BS that Arnold defeated the beastly alien. Give me a shoulder mounted cannon and that shimmering camouflage any day of the week over some mud and booby traps. Crysis lets me be that predator, and it's awesome. The first Cysis continues to cripple PC's today, and Crysis 2 continues that honored Crytek tradition with visuals that must be seen to be believed. A few months ago Crysis 1 was released on PSN and XBL, pick it up then go get the more linear sequel. You won't have any better time looking down on your pray and crushing your foes any way you want outside of Arkham City.
"Loved it. I haven't played it in a while and when I do it will be like saying hello to an old friend. I mean, if you love first person shooters and you love a good storyline, this is it. I'm running it on my Alienware, the graphics are mind blowing and without a doubt I thought that game ended three time it's so good. You have your suit, which is so cool, and can be used defensively or not. Leveling up is a blast with that suit. I'm about to go through and play it again. If you are a graphic fanatic like I am you have to play it, and if you haven't shame on you...Shame on you!"
The Alienware M17 and M18 gaming laptops Now available
The rig every gamer wants to have-and it's portable. The M17 is owned personally by Jens Pulver. It has a full sized keyboard, a screen that will support 1900X1200 and is just plain sexy, man. This will run anything out right now at the highest settings without a hiccup. The Xbox 360 and PS3 have plateaued (OK maybe not the PS3), so if you want to experience the next gen, this is how you do it. Believe me, the next generation is here and it's beautiful.
"M17 goes to town, I'm playing everything and now I see the M18. I don't know if I've seen anything like it to have that kind of portable power. I talk to people all the time and people that travel that say 'oh I'm on my laptop I can run jack' this fixes that. Now if only they could fix the internet connection in the hotels. That's what we need. Some people on their laptops are running minimal settings and even at home man it's my desktop I'm on that M17 my God man. I can't fathom the M18. It's heavy but it's worth every minute of lugging it around but again some people go and flip on the TV, but me, I go and I play my games and it's worth every strenuous moment in a back pack. I run Witcher 2 as high as I wanted it to be, no glitches no breaks." - Jens Pulver
Cooking Mama/Cake Mania (DS/PC/Mobile devices)
Sometimes you just need to make some coconut crusted shrimp at the bus stop, am I right? Be it on the DS, 3DS or on your phone, Cooking Mama and the equally addictive Cake Mania are fun for every demographic of player. In fact, they should make a commercial of a big tattooed biker guy baking cakes as his lengthy beard half covers the screen. Your marketing departments can have that one for free.
"My wife owns them all. Every friggin one made." - Jens Pulver
Red Dead Redemption GOTY Edition (360/PS3) Now available
One of the greatest games of all time and the best open world game ever made, if you haven't played Red Dead Redemption by now you deserve to take at least one or two punches in the arm from Lil Evil. The final adventures of John Marston will not disappoint you, and after putting 100 hours into the single player game virtually cattle rustling and bad guy shooting, you can go online for an equally satisfying multiplayer experience. Online you can meet up with a Friend or go at it alone, taking gang hideouts, liberating stolen gold from a mine or even having an old fashioned horse race. The multiplayer is just as good as the singleplayer, and I promise you: many late nights will be spent in the Armadillo saloon playing liars dice with friends.
"I wish I could have played that 2 times. I was so mad at the end that he dies at the end and I was so mad and I tried it so many times to see if I could shoot all the guys...But he dies man and the son comes which is cool I guess. I love that game man, I would just hunt. You can do anything, it's perfect." - Jens Pulver
Gears of War 3 (360) Now available
The final chapter in the space marine saga from Epic games, Cliffy B and Co. wrap up the trilogy with a bang in Gears of War 3. After an unsettling calm period between GoW 2 and the start of the finale, Marcus Fenix, Dom and a whole slew of characters head out to find Marcus's father and finish the job against the seemingly insatiable Locust hordes.
GoW 3's Horde mode and curb stompingly addictive multiplayer is back, coupled with the fate of Carmine and all of the tied up loose ends in the surprisingly human (for a muscle-head action game) single player story. GoW 3 is a fantastic and fitting end for a game that kick started the 360 fidelity of this generation.
"And now back to consoles I have to say Gears of War 3. I haven't gotten into my GoW 3 because I've been up at the gym but for me it's like traveling. At home I got the PS3 with surround sound hookup, my computer room is stupid, I have like 5 laptops surrounding me plus my desktop. Then I have an Xbox room, so I need to go up there and just play through the Gears series again now with the third one coming out. Gears of War 3, it's sick." - Jens Pulver
Dead Island (PC/360/PS3) Now available
You're just on the resort island of Banoi, partying and loving life...Beaches, babes and booze are the only open missions in your journal that you have any motivation to complete-until the dead decide to rise up and ruin the sand down your pants fun. Dead Island can best be described as Borderlands meets Left 4 Dead. You and up to four friends will attempt to unravel the mystery behind the horror on the once peaceful resort that you were chilling on with addictive loot grind action. Each of the four playable characters have their own strengths and weaknesses, fitting the usual tank, DPS and buffer/healer/jack of all trades paradigms seen in online RPG's. With a buggy yet extremely fun experience to be had, this is 100% one to pick up and enjoy with some friends this Xmas.
"I've had so many people tell me about this game it's ridiculous, some people love it and I got some people telling me it's repetitive fighting the zombies but I tell you what, when the zombies take over every day is going to be repetitive am I right? Yeah, I've heard so much about this game I'm going to have to give it a try. Throw it on the list! I hear it has RPG aspects so it has to be played. If it's like Borderlands with zombies? Ho ho are you kidding me?" - Jens Pulver
FIFA 2012 (360/PS3/Wii)
EA Sports continues raise the bar in their vaunted Football franchise. Now FIFA is even more accessible for the newb but rewards the players with actual knowledge of the sport. Precision dribbling, authentic licensing for teams across the globe, graphics and gameplay that must be seen and felt to be believed; FIFA demands to be noticed. It grabs your soccer jersey and shoves it's smooth online play and litany of features that every type of Fifa player can appreciate right into your face. This is the type of game that you will play on Christmas day with a bunch of people that don't know the Manchester United from the Chicago Fire, to the guy who asked for the Ronaldo jersey for Hanukkah for hours on end. That's how good this game is.
"My brother and my brother in law just got it. It's amazing. Now I can go online and play my brother. I can set up my own league and tournament and now instead of everyone staying in the same room it's online. FIFA has always been big for me but it seems like in 2012 they really turned it up a notch in the multiplayer side of it. FIFA 2012 is one of the best sports games out there. I've been playing FIFA for a long time, I love FIFA and the hard part, when you start playing with someone and they don't have soccer knowledge and they aren't breaking or too many people are crashing on the ball it's like kid soccer. It's like the kids coach screaming 'spread out spread out'. Guys really need to strategize as attacker and defenders. it's tough going 2 v2 on FIFA but that's fun.The best sports game out right now." - Jens Pulver