games / Columns

The 8 Ball: Top 8 Criminal Games – Yakuza, Grand Theft Auto, More

September 11, 2018 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Yakuza: Kiwami

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week I’m tackling crimes, specifically games where you play the criminals. For this topic, I specifically only picked one game per series. I didn’t want to have like three or four GTA games on here, that would kind of defeat the point. Also, I wanted to try and focus on semi-realistic games. So nothing like Thief (which is somewhat medieval fantasy) or Syndicate (cyberpunk) are here, although a few of these games do contain fantastical elements. Also I haven’t played A Way Out, so I can’t judge that game too much. Let’s begin!

#8: Hotline Miami

I enjoyed Hotline Miami well enough but funny enough Hotline Miami 2 kind of soured me on the first game somewhat. Still, Hotline Miami had a great look, a better sound and some inventive gameplay. The criminal gameplay just had you running into different places and murdering everyone around you with whatever you could get your hands on. Guns, swords, bats, or even your bare hands would be used to kill dozens of guys. It has some good twitch gameplay and you really need to be on the ball if you want to get anywhere far in the game.

#7: Gunpoint

Gunpoint combines two crimes into one nice package: murder and hacking. The loop of the game is that you are given jobs to break into various buildings and usually either steal some computer files and/or kill someone. The primary thing in the game is hacking though, and you can rewire doors, switches, lights among other electronic stuff in the buildings. You can set up traps also, like wiring a pressure plat to cause a switch to electrocute enemies that walk by, which is always fun.

#6: Hitman (2016)

I really wanted to like Hitman but I was just not that good at the game. I think I hit the 4th or 5th mission and while I would usually kill the targets, it wouldn’t be a stealthy or impressive kill. Even saying that, I was impressed as hell with the game. It did an episodic game really well, it was a technically impressive game and Hitman was just a fun game, even if you were fumbling around in it. Just chucking a tomato sauce can at someone’s head is endlessly satisfying. I hope I can get into the sequel a bit more but I think I’m just not suited to this type of stealth game.

#5: Watch Dogs 2

The first Watch Dogs was a mess, the story was bad and the gameplay had a lot of half-formed ideas that didn’t quite gel together. The various gameplay elements do gel together in the sequel though and it’s buoyed by a much better story and an actual character that you care about. The hacking systems are relatively the same in the game, but it feels like a much more dynamic world so hacking is a more enjoyable activity. The crimes you do in Watch Dogs 2 aren’t as malicious as in the other games on this list but you still are the wrong side of the law.

#4: Sleeping Dogs

I really dug Sleeping Dogs for the realism it somewhat has. I’m not talking about combat, but more just about the game world. Like, because it takes place in Hong Kong, you drive on the wrong side of the road and guns barely make an impact for at least half the game. The game has a story of a Hong Kong movie as well with the main character going undercover to join a gang to try and bring it down from inside. However to join the gang, you actually have to do crimes such as shaking down people and theft. While you do gain experience for doing “lawful” things, you get points for doing criminal things as well, so you have to balance it out. Also, rain-slicked streets looked superb in Sleeping Dogs.

#3: Yakuza 0

This was the first Yakuza game I played and I still think it’s the best one. It nimbly brings two disparate stories together with both Kiryu and Majima’s quests intersecting in key points. The combat system might be a little more stilted than in Yakuza 6 or Kiwami 2 but the plethora of weapons more than makes up for it. Also, I think this game has the best leveling system that I’ve seen in the Yakuza franchise with you just requiring to dump money to unlock new skills and upgrades, instead of some arcane point system. Also, because it was set in the 80’s, it had a very distinct look compared to the other Yakuza games.

#2: Saints Row: The Third

Saints Row is the successor to when GTA games were somewhat wacky and zany. So, basically, it’s the successor to the PS2-era of GTA games. The first two Saints Row games were passable but had issues. The third is where the franchise really stepped up and became a truly memorable thing to behold. Everything is dialed up to 11, not really the world so much, but the characters and situations that you meet and complete. Like, one of the first missions just gives you a Predator Missile strike ability that practically breaks the game, and it only gets more ludicrous from there. I can pretty play Saints Row: The Third at any time and have fun.

#1: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Now don’t get me wrong, GTA 5 is a much…much better playing game but I still think San Andreas is a better overall game. Part of that is because it introduced so many systems that GTA still uses, like car customization, leveling up certain skills, swimming, bicycles, and generally better shooting mechanics. It wasn’t perfect but Rockstar squeezed about as much as they could from the PS2 hardware to make San Andreas. The thing I most appreciate from San Andreas was that it didn’t take itself entirely seriously. Sure, there was a grounded story with CJ trying to resurrect the gang then make it back to Los Santos after events go bad, but then you also get stuff like a jetpack (which was awesome) and a mission to burn pot fields with a flamethrower. This was a slightly wackier tone than the GTA series had before, or frankly since.

For comments, list your favorite crime games and why.

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Top 8 Law Enforcement Games

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The 8 Ball (Games), Marc Morrison