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Wouldn't it be cool if movie sequels were awesome as often as videogame sequels are? Imagine a world where Transformers: Revenge Of Micheal Bay, didn't feature big, dangly, robot testes, or a pair of Autobots who are for some reason talkin' jive, or even that Micheal Bay himself suddenly disappeared before filming. That's the dream...
This list details my Top 5 Stunning Sequels.
There are many examples of fine first sequels out there in Videogame Land and, as such, it would be fairly difficult to whittle them down to just five. So instead, I went down the route of finding the sequels I found to be the most positively different from their predecessor. Of course there are others out there, but these are among the best examples, in my opinion.
MILD SPOILERS ALERT!! Granted, these games are all at least a year and a half old, but if you plan on playing any of them sometime soon (which you should) then consider this a warning not to scroll down.
Assassins Creed II
The Original: had ambition. Its creators hoped to meld the murder proficiency of Agent 47 and the Prince of Persia's parkour skills with the fresh setting of a semi-accurate 12th Century Jerusalem. It gained a rather large following for its story, which happened to have a clever twist that saw the actual protagonist, Desmond Miles, reliving the memories of his Assassin ancestor, Altair, in a simulation in order to uncover the truth about his heritage, and find the means to fight a shady organisation known as the Templars (are these organisations ever not shady?), who have influenced events throughout history to serve their own agenda, and who are the mortal enemies of the Assassins.
While its narrative was well structured (for now, anyway), the gameplay was not quite up to scratch; it was horribly afflicted by fetch-quest fever and other repetition-based diseases which ultimately, in my view, denied it 'classic' status. Sooo, sequel then?
The Successor: took that ambition and ramped it up. The story hook of the original meant it was easy to move to a different setting and while still holding a firm connection to the plot. Here, it went to the Renaissance era of 15th Century Florence. Ass Creed II: Creed Harder tracks a new ancestor, Ezio Auditore da Firenze: a smart-mouth young man who witnesses the execution of his father and brothers by corrupt Templar officials. Ezio becomes an Assassin and vows to fight the Templars, who were able to install Jeremy Irons (or Rodrigo Borgia if you are being factually correct) as Pope to show they mean business.
The gameplay was hugely improved. It was far more varied, with new ways to creep about, kill targets and scale buildings; and the world was more open and detailed this time too, with a fine representation of the historical sites on show. To go back to Jerusalem after having sampled Florence's delights is not a pleasurable experience - it's that much of a jump in quality all round. It also helps that Ezio is a far more interesting character than Altair, but then both are infinitely preferable to Connor of AC III fame.
A visual representation of Jeremy Iron's dissapointment with AC III.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
The Original: was a brand new, singleplayer-focused franchise in the previously PC and multiplayer-only Battlefield series. It told the story of a squad of soldiers out to steal some gold from mercenaries, set to the backdrop of a full-blown war between the US and Russia. A decent stab at Three Kings with the added bonus of having no George Clooney, it was well-received, but hardly set the world on fire.
The Battlefield multiplayer was there too, though. While featuring destructible environments, teamwork and various vehicles to take out the enemy with, it was sadly a pared down version of the classic formula, and still used the health bar system when other FPS's had moved on. With online console gaming not being a truly big thing beyond the hugely popular Modern Warfare, Bad Company slipped under the radar, gaining a small but loyal following that probably set its eventual sequel on the right track...
The Successor: came into a much more online-centric console world, and benefited greatly from the feedback gained from the original's loyal fan base, stealthily rising to the Call of Duty challenge. It continued the singleplayer story with a much improved script full of witty banter, and allowed more of the multiplayer's style to bleed through in combat; the health system became the regenerating kind; and the actual multiplayer now captured the spirit of Battlefield - the carnage and chaos, the almost absolute destruction of an environment, the satisfaction of being in a well oiled team - and, as such, offered the first genuine alternative to the already tired CoD franchise for console gamers.
...just try to forget what has happened to the series since though, eh? It'll only upset you.
Irish, witnessing the horror of Battlefield 4's broken multiplayer.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
The Original: was a landmark in gaming history for its use of stealth, narrative, its wonderful soundtrack, and for its little touches that blew you away. Where else were you getting a boss fight that knew what Konami games you'd played by reading your mind (memory card)? Or use smokes to see security lasers? Or even see grown men wetting themselves at the feet of cybernetic Ninjas? That's right - nowhere.
Solid Snake's Shadow Moses Adventure became a critical and commercial smash, sparking many future games to implement wonky stealth sections in the same manner they tack on multiplayer modes now because of a certain shooter. In short, Metal Gear Solid was a game changer.
The Successor: was a true show of the PlayStation 2's power. I don't know about anyone else, but I don't think I've played any demo in history more than I did the one for Metal Gear Solid 2's Tanker chapter. Beyond the obvious fact that it looked sublime, the changes in gameplay made Sons of Liberty absurdly replayable, and despite all the manic rage-frothing at the stunning twist in the moments following the end of that section, that stellar gameplay remained from start to finish.
The various ways you could manipulate and toy with guards was incredible and slightly sadistic. Everything that made Metal Gear Solid so iconic remained, yet everything was improved also. Raiden gets a lot of stick for 'cheating' fans out of more time with Snake (and for being a bit of a lady-man lady), but in truth, Raiden's purpose was always to make you see Snake for the legend he is by taking a step back from him, and I think that worked perfectly. The same can't be said for every sneaky, gruff-voiced man, can it?
'' You might as well kill me Fisher, there's no way i could tell you how to be as cool as Snake, it's just not possible.''
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
The Original: was created by Naughty Dog, makers of the hit platformer, Jak And Daxter, who decided to venture into the barren wilds of the PlayStation 3 with something a little more grownup in theme.
PlayStation 3 had a tough start, high price, average games with flashy graphics, and firmly remained behind in sales to the other lot. Naughty Dog released Uncharted: Drake's Fortune during those dark hours. It was essentially Tomb Raider with a bloke called Nathan Drake - a handsome bloke with snappy dialogue and perfect hair. So, y'know, a whipless Indiana Jones And The Fashion Shoot Of Doom.
Uncharted was a mild triumph for Sony. Much was made of Drake's clothes' ability to get wet and dry off in front of your eyes, but there was a pretty decent action title there, too - one that had slick back and forth banter between its characters. Little did we know, this game's sequel would be part of the PS3's salvation...
The Successor: didn't do anything new, but it did everything better, crisscrossing the line between game and movie at a breathtaking pace. In addition to the solid combat of Drake's Fortune, Among Thieves created set-piece moments that were utterly thrilling to be a part of. The writing and voice acting (already pretty good before) were now some of the best in videogame history. For the first time since Metal Gear Solid 4, Sony had an exclusive title that truly demanded playing.
Having already made wildly popular characters in Crash Bandicoot and Jak (and Daxter), Naughty Dog could now add Nathan Drake to the list. They'll never make another character as popular as that, surely?
Though that Bill guy was alright in that other game they made.
The Original: was released at the tail-end of a year filled with big games (Ass Creed II, Uncharted 2 and Arkham Asylum among them), Gearbox's so-called FPS and RPG, with its comic book-style visuals and Mad Max hard-on, gained praise for its four-player co-op and weapon system. It was also damned for being repetitious, lacking any narrative depth, and its environments for being a tad bland. However, Borderlands still sold well enough (with help from some refreshingly good DLC packs that compensated for a duffer of an ending) to warrant a sequel, three years later.
The Successor: displayed more wit, variety, narrative depth, and memorable characters in its first hour than nearly the entirety of Borderlands' vanilla campaign managed. The scale of this sequel's world and the details held within so far surpassed its predecessor that it might as well be dirt under Borderlands 2's nails.
From the insane amount of gun variants all with their own little personalities, to the daftly wonderful cast who spew hilarious nonsense at every turn, everything is turned up to ridiculous levels, and Gearbox embraced that wholeheartedly. Whereas before the pop culture nods were mainly toward Mel Gibson's apocalyptic Road Warrior, here the references were from plentiful sources and arrived at a quickened pace, often in gleefully silly ways, too.
Also, it's worth noting that the DLC once again made the core game significantly better, best demonstrated by the introduction of arguably the greatest playable character in the series: Krieg the Pyscho.
Honestly, just listen to these Krieg's quotes, unbalanced doesn't cover it.
Agree? Disagree? Nodding politely? Why not throw in your favourite number two? Oh stop being childish, you know what I meant.