Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Twelve Achievements of Christmas

Have a quick trawl back through the weekly sales charts for this quarter and you get a pretty clear idea of what games are going to be under the Christmas tree-since the end of September certain games have either been riding high in the charts or making brief but explosive high placed entries. It’s pretty clear that the likes of Vanquish won’t be landing in many consoles on the 25th, while Call of Duty: Black Ops is going to be all over the place.

Clearly, there’s nothing special about figuring what everyone will be playing, but as you’ll have seen from Bojeeva’s epic quest to double his gamerscore this year (a quest sadly derailed by his decision to go multi-platform), the Megabit’s team loves the ping of an Achievement or a Trophy almost as much as we love a good game. So here we are, The 12 Achievements of Christmas, our selection of the best achievements to be found in the Christmas hot list of games. Some are here simply because they’re great fun, others were chosen because they represent easy points, while a few were picked out as a genuine challenge that you can feel proud of yourself for meeting.

In the interests of festive fairness, we’ve left platform exclusives off the list, so there’s no Halo: Reach or Gran Turismo 5 points to be harvested here. If you’re feeling a little disgruntled at that we’d suggest you take a deep breath, calm down, and go play on a Wii for a while to reacquaint yourself with trophyless gaming.

Call of Duty: Black Ops
The With Extreme Prejudice achievement in Black Ops is just the sort of challenge we like. The demand that you use only rockets during your helicopter escape is comparatively easy at first, but becomes tougher when you encounter fast moving helicopters towards the end. It’s just our sort of achievement, not so difficult as to become a joyless grind, but tough enough that you’ll really feel you earned that 25G or Silver trophy.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
For some people the joy of Assassin’s Creed is the stealth kills, for others the collecting, for yet more it’s the medieval parkour. For me, it’s about clambering breathlessly all over ancient ruins, something I’ve not done since Miss Pearl let me know the only way I could get an ‘A’ in maths. But I digress. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood continues the Assassin’s Creed tradition of having you locate shrines hidden inside landmarks by way of death defying acrobatics and climbing which remain the best, most vertiginous parts of the series. In Brotherhood, my particular favourite is in sequence 7: Il Collosseo.

Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit
Remember when you were a kid and the dodgems were all about crashing into each other? Then one day you thought about the name ‘dodgem’, gave dodging a try and realised that all that crazy swerving and the chance to frustrate all the other drivers was so much more satisfying. Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit’s Godzilla achievement, in which you have to earn a medal on the Run to The Hills course WITHOUT using any weapons, is very similar, in that it removes a touch of the bang and crash from the game and adds a surprising amount of tension in the process. It differs from dodgems, however, by being a bit tricky. You’ll need to practice to get this one.

Fallout New Vegas
I guess a lot of Fallout: New Vegas players would happily swap all the achievements for a game that worked, but if you have managed to patch your copy into working order then there’s no doubt about which achievement to chase. Getting the Hardcore achievement and the 100GS/Gold Trophy that goes with it won’t be easy. You have to play the entire game in Hardcore mode, in which the difficulty is increased by way of starvation, dehydration and exhaustion, not to mention the stinker-your ammo now has weight and you’ll have to limit how much bang you can bear. Given that you can put 100s of hours into just an ordinary game of Fallout, we reckon getting ‘Hardcore’ might take you until next Christmas.

Pro Evo 2011
I have a confession to make. As if enough of you didn’t already hate me for my Overrated Games feature, here’s another reason: I’m a Gooner. And being a Gooner, there was no way I couldn’t love Pro Evo 2011’s Possession Play trophy, which asks you to maintain a 60% possession rate over the course of ten matches. If that isn’t a recipe for some Arsenalesque supernumerate strings of cultured passing, insouciant one-touch football and a lot of good, old fashioned pinging-it-about-a-bit, then I don’t know what is. You’ll notice of course that there’s no mention of actually having to win those games...

Star Wars: Force Unleashed II
It may be short, but at least they fixed the auto-aim since the first game! What hasn’t changed is the rather appealing way the game ingratiates itself with you by raining down low and mid-level achievements and trophies throughout the course of a playthrough. Like its predecessor, this is a game with only a few big payouts, but a near constant stream of small rewards. Our pick at the moment is Lucky Streak, a 20GS/Bronze trophy which asks you to rack up 300 kills without dying yourself. Given that the Force Unleashed games expect you to rack up a bodycount like Jack the Ripper with Smallpox disposing of 300 enemies isn’t so tough, but the tension as your killstreak mounts and you realise that a moments inattentiveness or a badly timed bossfight could set you back to square one is what makes this achievement fun.

Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor’s Fear The Reaper award isn’t particularly difficult, but it does have that ‘angry, old testament God’ factor as you rain destruction down upon your enemies from on high, using a target-painter to call down airstrikes on your enemies. Careful targeting is required to make sure you get all the baddies rather than just the seven vital ones, but even so, you’re still looking at earning this achievement in only a matter of minutes whilst having a whale of a time.

You know how I said earlier that I’m a Gooner? Well even now, fifteen years on, I still hear it all the time: Nayim from the halfway line! Spurs fans have so little to celebrate that nearly two decades later they’re still crowing over a long range goal from a player who wasn’t even theirs at the time. For the sake of catharsis, how can I possibly resist lining up an Arsenal eleven and going for the Distance Shooter trophy?

Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption’s Hit The Trail challenge is only a Bronze Trophy, or a 10GS Achievement on the Xbox 360, but if you’re lucky the challenge to ride from Blackwater to Escalera between sun up and sun down can be one of the tensest, most enjoyable achievements the game offers. As soon as the other players on your free- roam map notice that you’ve been hanging around in Blackwater all night before tear-arsing Southwards at dawn, they’ll know what you’re up to, and all of a sudden every coloured dot on that map is either converging on you or moving to cut you off, resulting in a thrilling race from one side of the map to the other. Of course, you might end up in a free-roam full of dozy cowpokes who don’t even notice what you’re up to, which would be a shame, but hey, 10GS is 10GS.

EA Sports MMA
Mixed martial arts. You either get it or you don’t. I don’t. Our revered blogmaster Bojeeva, on the other hand, likes nothing more than watching a couple of glass-jawed rednecks getting sweaty with each other, and it’s in honour of his MMA packed Christmas list that we bring you the Rocky Choke for a Bronze trophy. All you have to do is win a fight using a ‘rear naked choke.’ That’s right: a rear naked choke. The achievements list doesn’t mention whether hair mousse and body oil are optional, or whether your heart will break when you hear real boxers laughing at you. Still, as I said above, a trophy is a trophy.

Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock
Regular readers will know that I have two gripes against the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games. The first is that the whole purpose of the controller seems to be to separate you from the game rather than immerse you in it, while the second is that the tracklists have gotten progressively weaker in each version. Well, Warriors of Rock isn’t likely to fix that first complaint, but the tracklist is one of the best we’ve seen in ages-a genuine mix of old and new rock, flashes of metal, a touch of industrial and the odd dash of alternative thrown in. With the likes of Been Caught Stealin, Fortunate Son, What do I Get and Rocking in The Free World on offer, it’s going to be hard to resist the urge to go for the Gem Hoarder’s 20GS on offer for playing 75000 notes.

Mafia II
Ah, Mafia II, you’re like Grand Theft Auto with all the choices removed and replaced with a sizeable dollop of rat pack charm. A third person cover shooter disguised as an open world game, but with enough Godfather II and Mad Men thrown in to ease any disappointment. And best of all, it’s loaded with comparatively easy achievements. We particularly like Cruise Control, where you’re tasked with maintaining a constant speed of 30MPH for five minutes. It may not sound like much, but that means no braking for traffic lights or junctions, no colliding with other cars, no accidental powerslides into someone’s front garden. Once you’re edging towards that fifth minute, the tension starts to ramp up and you start to feel slightly ashamed that you’re driving like you’re granny yet still having a heart attack every time another car gets a little too close.