Columns & Blogs

When it comes to renewable resources, two video games stand out

I’ll admit I cheat on games.

I’m not referring to the traditional use of cheating to get me through a game. I’m talking about my non-diagnosed attention deficit gaming disorder, which rarely lets me focus on one game at a time. The gaming companies are largely to blame — particularly around this time of the year — because they bombard gamers with dozens of new products. So I spend a couple hours with one game, then sneak to the other room to play another — I won’t cheat in front of them. As soon as I beat a game, it’s pushed away to the corner to collect dust.

But to be honest, most video games don’t deserve a ton of attention. Even some of the greatest games hold little replay value after finishing the game.

I think that’s what separates the best games from ones that are merely good. Rarely do games have what I call renewable resources: story modes with multiple outcomes or strong multi-player modes.

Two of the best games released in 2008 had both.

“Grand Theft Auto IV” had the best story mode of any game released last year. The entire story mode is open-ended, giving the gamer the choice to undertake certain missions alongside the game’s main story line. This franchise set the tone for open-world games, and it raised the genre to another level with “Grand Theft Auto IV.”

But not only was the game’s story mode solid; the developers also added 15 multiplayer modes that allow up to 16 different players on the same map. It’s a lot of fun to gather up a group of friends and work mob jobs or team up as cops to shut down criminals.

To add even more to the replay ability of the games, the developers will release “The Lost and the Damned” in February.

The downloadable pack, which is available only for the Xbox 360, adds a new storyline to the game and should add hours of gameplay.

Valve’s “Left 4 Dead” was the major release late last year that defined what online play should be about.

The game — available now for the 360 — puts the gamer in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. A group of four survivors must work together in four separate episodes that play out like different movies.

As a single player, “Left 4 Dead” is an exciting game. But with friends onboard, “Left 4 Dead” is one of the best multiplayer games ever.

Few games allow up to four players to trek through the main story mode of the game. “Gears of War” and “Halo” made teamwork integral with two players in a story mode. “Left 4 Dead” adds two more to the equation. And you must rely on your friends to make it through the game. If we ever see a zombie invasion, I’m pretty sure this is how it goes down.

These two games have continued to log playing time on my 360 for about a month now and likely won’t be banished to the corner for some time.