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The Top 20 Games of 2005
Posted by Diggler - 23/12/2005 1:51

Well slappers, 2005 is finally drawing to an end. While it didn't quite hold the golden line-up of seminal classics that last year did, it still offered up plenty of worthy sacrifices never the less, and as the new year beckons - not to mention the new generation too - I felt it time for our annual post-mortem TPS Report.

Rather than ramble on about a load of absolute nonsense like last time though, this year things are a fair bit more focused. These are the games that truly touched me in 2005. Not in my bathing suit area, but emotionally, deep in my heart. Particularly brilliant works of genius that I'll remember well beyond the mere month they came out, for many more years to come.

Needless to say, those you missed out on all deserve a butchers immediately. In fact, one or two are system sellers in my book - games you simply can't ignore, regardless of whether or not you own the damn machines to play 'em on.

So get reading, ponder the results, and of course...let me know what your personal picks of 2005 were. I'm all ears.

20. Call of Duty 2

(PC/Xbox 360)
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Little has changed, but Call of Duty fans will be more than satisfied
For Call of Duty 2, Infinity Ward improved dramatically upon their massively successful first outing of 2003. It's not a radically original game however, hence its low spot on this list.

On the one hand, CoD2 retains that unfortunate linearity of its prequel, but it's more than made up for by the sheer spectacle of the whole thing. This game pulls off the loudest, angriest, meanest and most "fuck off" war experience we've yet seen; from the first bullet to the end sequence it's basically one big, loud noise. Vicious. Nasty. Scary.

Graphics are also far more detailed this time around, and have some beautiful effects thrown in too, in particular the best snow ever. Characters are thankfully more realistic as well, avoiding that fat, chunky look of the original.

The opening Russian missions are all a little déjà vu, but the British missions are a significant improvement, with the final American missions simply stunning. There you'll find the greatest take on the much-overdone WW2 beach assault seen so far, shaming even Medal of Honour's famous beaut.

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I've always been a bit shit at CoD multiplayer. In my defence though, I seem to be the only player in the world with a big arse arrow pointing at their head every time they die
My biggest gripe is that next to some of the other FPS titles recently - namely Half-Life 2 and a certain Monolith classic - CoD2 feels a good two or three years out of date. There's no interaction with the world at all, meaning no ragdoll deaths, no flying debris, nada. This makes the whole thing feel very "flat" at times. It's still all about the big arse scripted sequences that dazzle in their linearity as much as they do their immense size.

Still, one could argue that you don't play a CoD game for its physics. It's all about being knee deep in the dirt, engulfed deep within the craziest, most aggressive and terrifying battles of your life. Sure enough, that same mass carnage and noisy destruction is back and just as loud as ever here, with the big old set pieces thankfully out in full force.

Sound is this game's true jewel though, with a top range 5.1 rig it'll turn your computer room into a war zone. In particular, the sheer power and weight behind the explosions has to be heard to be believed. This is truly an aural orgasm.

For high octane World War II thrills, there's been none better this year, and not only is Call of Duty 2 a solid PC first person shooter, it's also one of the best games on Microsoft's new Xbox 360 too.

19. God of War

Despite Microsoft dominating most of the headlines in 2005, it's still been an incredible year for Sony. God of War - like one or two others on this list - drew every last ounce of power from the ridiculously ancient PS2, and magically moulded it into a scrolling beat 'em up to rival the very best.

God of War is all about hitting stuff. With big weapons. Really, really hard. Oh, and fucking
You are Kratos, a mortal seeking revenge on Ares, the God of War, battling evil beasties and decapitating minotaurs throughout Athens along the way. While both the genre and playing style are nothing new, as a 3D slug fest God of War is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular yet seen. Kratos handles wonderfully, firing off gorgeous moves and bad arse combos almost subconsciously, making combat immensely satisfying and gloriously violent to boot.

The game has a balls-out unapologetic attitude that is quite alarming in places; you'll rip people's arms off, tear their buddies apart at the torso, sacrifice innocents with a grin on your face, and even *gasp* see the odd titty. The real pièce de résistance comes in the form of a 3-way gang bang mini-game in the second level. Cripes.

Despite the aging limitations of its platform, God of Wars displays some truly stunning, if scaled back views. More impressive is its soundtrack though, with rip-roaring battle sounds and an amazingly captivating orchestral score rarely matched in gaming.

God of War is probably the closest you'll get to Ninja Gaiden on the Sony machine, showcasing that same rock solid, high speed combat, minus the over abundance of frustration found in the former. If it lacks a little in the longevity department, it more than makes up for it pretty much across the board. Not to be missed.

18. Psychonauts

Psychonauts is The Simpsons game we always wanted. It's silly and cartoony, yet oddly mature and humorous at the same time. In fact, along with Conker, this is probably the funniest game of 2005.

Psychonauts are explorers of the mind, and as Rasputin - the newest recruit in a school for pyschonaut students - you get to do just that. This concept provides ample opportunity to explore a more surreal style of platforming as a result, with each level set inside a different character's head, whether it be a WW2 vet, or a hippy chick stuck in the 60s. As a result, each looks - and more importantly plays - completely differently to the last.

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Psychonauts has that old skool LucasArts vibe to it, but is way more action-orientated
Yet while Psychonauts is a joy to play, it's the story and humour that impresses most of all. Never have we really seen gaming toons brought to life as pitch-perfectly as we do here, with Psychonauts' roster of zany school kids and off-the-wall teachers shaming even most cartoons. The genius behind the game is Tim Schafer - he responsible for such PC classics as Day of the Tentacle and Full Throttle - and thanks to similarly inspired visuals and exceptional voice acting here in Psychonauts, you'll laugh your arse off and piss them panties on a regular basis.

The visual style is very much reminiscent of Tim Burton too - minus the pretension - with beautiful colour schemes and insane architecture that often defies gravity.

As with all great, original games though, no one bothered to buy this beauty state-side. Don't let the same thing happen here - games like Psychonauts are a rare treat, one fully worthy of a purchase and endless replays. It's an off-beat platform adventure classic for gamers who play for the sheer enjoyment of a unique experience, as opposed to raw challenge and relentless shooting sprees.

17. Republic Commando

Speaking of which! Actually, I kid...Republic Commando is one of my fave shooters of the year for the very reason it feels so unique and different to its peers, and I mean that as both an FPS, and a Star Wars game.

Whether you prefer Star Wars, or Tom Clancy, Republic Commando's got you covered
It's the best of the prequel-era Star Wars titles by a mile, delving deep into the Clone Wars with a voice and a style way more interesting than the movies ever demonstrated. It's simple really; you're a clone carrying out missions behind enemy lines, fucking up droids for the Republic, and stabbing Wookies in the back when no one's looking. For all its simplicity in the storyline though, it's in the playability that it shines.

For me, this was the squad game of the year, and although it lacked Brothers in Arms' more detailed (read: fiddly) mechanics, and Quake 4's slightly superior team mate AI, it's just more downright fun across the board. Interacting with your squaddies is a blast in particular, their humour and relentless banter coming across like some kinda futuristic Band of Stormtroopers.

I was expecting to enjoy Commando on a more simplistic Star Wars fanboy level, but never did I expect it to be such a damn solid first person shooter in its own right. The game does an amazing job of not only transporting you right into the center of an epic intergalactic war, but more importantly demonstrating what it'd feel like to experience the whole thing with three buddies backing you up.

Poor multiplayer options and the conspicuous lack of a co-op mode hold it back, but it's still one of the better Star Wars games seen in years, and also the game for long-time fans who perhaps want a bit more bite to their saga, one the prequel trilogy maybe didn't deliver on.

16. Guild Wars

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Ignore the name, Guild Wars can be enjoyed as a solo game just as much as the rest
On the one hand, Guild Wars is an exceptionally well developed RPG. The concept and design is near flawless, and it results in not only a polished, stunning technical tour de force, but also the first and only free MMORPG.

It does away with the annoying reliance on groups, loot arguments and troublesome cocks that so regularly plague MMOs, by letting you play solely with your mates via instanced game worlds, cornered off zones that no one else can enter. If you're a typical MMO fan and thus have no friends though, you can also invite AI team mates into your groups instead...ones who unfortunately demonstrate way more intelligence than the average MMO player.

This is an amazing idea if you ask me, and if nothing else it demonstrates a different and way more original take on the online RPG angle, one that's kinda, sorta like the persistent multiplayer component of Neverwinter Nights, yet done a thousand times better.

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Christmas hits Guild Wars
It's also very much a "new skool" MMO in terms of content, with an endless stream of quests and new areas to keep you occupied, with zero emphasis on mindless grinding. I haven't even touched on the immense PvP combat either, with fabulous self-contained battles way more focused, competitive and professional than the usual random, ganking crap so often found in the genre.

This is all wonderful, fabulous stuff, but where Guild Wars falters for me is more on an artistic level. The world is kinda sterile and bland, the characters are non existent, and there's very little originality to be seen in the combat system too. It's an impeccably well thought out game, but one built solely from the brain, not the heart. Next to Blizzard's monster of a classic, it pales in comparison for this single reason.

Still, if you are how do we say "financially challenged", Guild Wars offers exceptional value for money. After splashing out on the core game, there's no monthly fee, with future costs revolving only around expansion packs. For that fact alone, it deserves a ganders, providing a wonderful and accessible addition to the MMORPG line-up...even if it kinda fudges the first "M".

15. Quake 4

(PC/Xbox 360)
Playing Quake 4 takes me back in time to PC gaming's golden era of yester-decade. It's ridiculously dated on the one hand, offering very little new apart from, well, the greatest graphics I've ever seen, however my love for Quake 4 lies more in its heritage, and that's a force to be reckoned with, man.

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Grab this one on PC if poss, the console version has..."issues"
This really is Quake II brought up to speed in every possible way, something you'll either love or hate depending on your ties to the original game. I certainly know which camp I fall into though - that was the single, specific title that finally forced me to upgrade to a 3D graphics card. Seeing those dull brown 'n' grey corridors instantly transformed into gorgeous orange and florescent green views for the first time, all wrapped up in a liquidy smooth frame rate that looked like butter on my screen, was pretty much the single defining moment that kept me playing games for life.

Quake 4 ignores its more recent peers and goes straight back to that well, continuing the Quake legacy with aplomb. Admittedly, the opening act is pretty damn laborious, a trait that may well see many overlooking this beaut, but trust me, beyond that it quickly builds into one of the year's finest.

It also blows away Doom III on top of that, boding well for future projects in iD's glorious engine, hopefully shutting up many of the whiners who claimed the king had been slain. All eyes now aim squarely at Quake Wars: Enemy Territory for a worthy follow-up.

14. Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath

Whether familiar with the Oddworld games or not, Stranger's Wrath is surprisingly approachable. Especially for such an...odd game
In stark contrast to the previous offering, it's always nice to see a game try to be that little bit different than the rest. Stranger's Wrath enjoys the impressive double whammy of not just being oddly original in its setting and gameplay dynamics though, but also remaining pleasingly accessible at the same time. It's so damn easy to pick up and play, despite being completely barmy and off the wall in pretty much every single way.

You play Stranger, a dark and mysterious bounty hunter, tracking down marks and earning cash in the beautifully eccentric Oddworld universe. It's an FPS for the most part - one built from the Halo engine so they say - yet while you shoot guns of course, these are no bloody guns I'd ever seen before. For all its weirdness and crazy weaponry though...it just fucking works. It also doubles up as a damn solid third person platform game on top, one with a storyline surprisingly well conceived and beautifully fleshed out too.

Arguably the game's most impressive trait of the lot though, is its freaking gorgeous graphics. Everything from the characters, to the detailed towns, to the vast desert plains look truly stunning, and if Kameo hadn't recently overshadowed it in this area, it'd be a contender for looker of the year.

Either way, Stranger is one of the most interesting and just flat out bad arse characters we met in 2005, and his story here makes for a fantastic adventure that kinda caught me off guard. An imaginative blessing.

13. Lumines

Finally, there it was. After the longest seven days of my life, Sony's new PSP had arrived. I ripped it from its box and laid it gently in my hands. It was small, yet oh so perfect. Mechanical, yet beautifully organic. My fingers caressed the smooth, shiny exterior, blood rushing to my penis, and I felt a switch indented down the side. What was this? I gently flicked it on. Lumines appeared on the screen. Dear god, it was love at first sight.

What's that? You own a PSP? But you don't own Lumines? Hah! I just spat Ribena all over my monitor
As addicted as I got to this oh so simple yet truly ingenious puzzle classic, it never quite matched up to that very first time. Perhaps it was hearing Mondo Grosso's beautiful housey scorcher "Shinin'" blaring out of the speakers. Maybe it was the pretty flashing lights eliciting a minor epileptic seizure on my part. Who knows, but it just blew me the fuck away like no puzzler ever had.

I'd taken an extended leave of absence from the handheld world prior to getting my PSP, pretty much since the days of the original Gameboy. Needless to say, things had clearly moved on a whole lot since good old Tetris. And yet, they hadn't. Lumines still held all the same, beautiful qualities that made Tetris such a classic, but it'd been wrapped up in the most glorious combination of sounds and visuals that I never even thought possible in the palm of my hand.

Its total playtime must surely double every other PSP game in my collection put together, and for anyone who's played it, its not hard to see why. As I say...love at first sight.

12. Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones

As a platform game, The Two Thrones was outshone by one or two other beauties on this list, but as a complete package - one that melds setting, character and story together so seamlessly - it's by far the best of the bunch.

Enough Prince of Persia coverage, I promise. Until the next one of course...suckers!
The finale to the slightly bumpy, yet on the whole hugely impressive new Prince of Persia trilogy didn't disappoint, with some beautifully solid platform antics that matched acrobatic brilliance with solid combat way more successfully than its previous outing.

The Prince has been to hell and back at this point, with Thrones kicking in with him at his very worst. Using his graceful athleticism, skilled swordplay and of course, ever-stunning time bending abilities, its up to our boy to put right evil deeds and save the world one final time. Prep yourself for one heck of a ride.

I still say Sands of Time is the real beauty of the series - a genuine all-time classic with considerably better graphics and a far greater atmosphere on top - but seeing these characters come full circle and wind up their mesmerising tale here in Thrones is certainly worth the price of admission in its own right.

I'm sad to see this series come to an end, but something tells me Ubisoft won't sit on the franchise for too long before another Prince game pops up. In the meantime, for more bad arse PoP action, don't miss out on the recently released and stupendously awesome PSP Revelations game.

11. Kameo: Elements of Power

(Xbox 360)
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I'll admit, Kameo didn't grab me at first. Now though...fucking hell, it's my baby. Rare is back, and better than ever
Kameo is one of the few must-haves currently on release for the 360, one that shows us a world and an experience just not possible at this level on any of the older systems.

Whether it be the massive, epic views that stretch for as far as the eye can see, the endless stream of enemies that swarm your screen in the hundreds, or the inventive use of physics in creating the most brilliant and beautifully hilarious puzzles yet seen in an adventure game, it sure is a wonderful showcase of the 360's arse kicking new abilities.

Visually, Kameo is particularly impressive. The sheer amount of detail and special effects piled on screen at once is far greater than anything you've seen before, creating a look that, at times, rivals CGI.

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To see this on an HD-TV is to do a sex wee
Arguably even more incredible is its soundscape, featuring the most luscious of music that easily ranks up there as some of the year's finest. Sadly, the voice acting often lets it down.

Technical accomplishments aside, Kameo also boasts fabulously entertaining gameplay dynamics on top. The concept of battling evil by morphing into elemental warriors is a damn fine concept, with each of your characters continually adding their own unique spin on the game. Whether it be burning enemies alive as Ash, or rolling around like a bowling bowl as the spherical Major Ruin, it stays fresh and invigorating from beginning to end thanks to this.

All in all, Kameo is a wonderfully zany adventure game that sits right up there with anything the Gamecube put out last generation, the traditional home for such titles. For more details take a ganders at my recent Xbox 360 ramblings here.

10. Jade Empire

Despite that now infamous IGN review of 9.9/10, Jade Empire just never seemed to take the world by storm as it so richly deserved. Perhaps not quite BioWare's best RPG, it's still a fabulous culmination of everything they do so well, and sits right up there just one notch below the much-hailed Knights of the Old Republic for me.

It's the single player RPG of the year for me, and as a nice bonus, is 360 compatible too
As well as the usual assortment of inventive quests, in-depth character development and ever complex inter-group relationships, it's the storyline in particular that managed to blow me away, full of interesting showdowns and killer plot twists.

It's the same fable BioWare's always spun in many ways, with you playing a supreme being of amazing untapped power, spearheading a fellowship to thwart evil, but it's reworked here into a much more underused eastern setting to die for, giving it its own, unique charm in the process. BioWare pull the strings perfectly, starting off slowly, but gradually drip-feeding you its wonderful cast of characters as the plot progresses, and in turn raising the stakes hugely for what's to come.

Its new real-time combat system was far from perfect - simplistic and lacking next to a true beat 'em up - but it still blows away the archaic turn taking we're usually lumbered with in RPGs. In my opinion, it's something the genre's needed for the longest time now, and I hope to see fellow RPGs tweak and twist these mechanics that Jade introduced. Thankfully BioWare themselves are continuing with the real-time combat for their next console outing - Mass Effect - and if that game's just a fraction as good as Jade here, I'll be a happy man.

Jade Empire may have been short, but it sure was sweet, and much like a good martial arts movie - or any of BioWare's previous games for that matter - it's one epic journey that I'll enjoy taking over and over again.

9. F.E.A.R.

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Come on, does it get any more fun than that?
Despite my personal admiration and subsequent preference for Quake 4, it's quite clear that F.E.A.R. was the best single player FPS released on the PC this year. In fact, it's pretty much the closest thing 2005 saw to a new Half-Life 2.

The combat is bewildering in its brilliance, showcasing high-end PC graphical features at their very best, with the game's wild assortment of weaponry also destined to be long remembered for many years to come. Pinning enemies to the wall with the nail gun, zapping them into charred skeletons with the particle weapon, or just blowing the shiny entrails outta them with dual pistols, it just never got old for one minute.

No mere frag-fest though, F.E.A.R. also boasts expert use of scare tactics - at least in its opening half - designed to shock and terrify with all the finesse of a top of the range horror flick. A few months on, I couldn't begin to recount the plot, but for those few days it takes to complete, the game sucks you in like nothing else, and it's all down to these incredible horror stylings, and its intense, bleak atmosphere.

Most of all though, it's the expert use of slow-mo that really brings it all together, culminating in F.E.A.R. going down as yet another in a long line of Monolith classics, and easily their best since the late, great No One Lives Forever.

8. Mario Kart DS

(Nintendo DS)
It only came out this past month or two, but I can already see myself playing this sucker for a long, long time. While the DS' Mario 64 port felt a little off to me, not particularly well suited to the system's controls, its go-karting alter ego makes that same transition almost flawlessly. In fact, I think this is the single best Mario Kart game yet, besting even the classic Super NES original from '92.

Mario Kart's always been a blast, but when portable, and more importantly, freakin' wireless, it positively shats all over its previous outings
Thankfully this new rendition even includes a bunch of those classic SNES tracks, spruced up and remade in full 3D for the first time. You'll also find GBA, N64 and Gamecube tracks too, but this is no simple "best of" though, throwing in a fine selection of brand new offerings on top. Most pleasingly of all though, is its cutting edge online component that, truth be told, is a system seller in my book.

Mario Kart online is phenomenal. It's oh so simple...oh so fast...and oh so bloody fun. Not only are there no wires - thanks to good old built-in wireless internet access - but there's also no server browser, no IPs, no favourites, no ping filters, none of that pap; you simply turn it on and click a button and it puts you in a game.

A mini grand prix in fact, one waged between 2 to 4 players. You'll play four races between you, accumulating points based on where you place, with the eventual winner walking away with the trophy. This affects your overall score tally (a simplistic Win/Loss ratio) and thus somewhat dictates your level. That's it. That's all. Like I say...oh so simple, yet oh so bloody fun.

It's an amazing technical accomplishment really. The process of getting into a game is so effortless, and lag is for the most part completely invisible too, that I'm completely gob-smacked it all works so well. In fact, wherever you find yourself enjoying portable Mario Kart - whether it be lounging on the couch, curled up in bed, or squatting for a dump on the bog - it's surprisingly easy to forget you're playing against real people at times. Just last night I said to myself, "Wow, that's some good fucking AI", before giggling sheepishly as a remembered I was playing against two Brits and an American.

Hell, you even get a nifty logo function, letting you personalise your character and your kart with its own emblem. If you're reading this then you'll recognise mine a mile off.

If there're any faults with the game, I'd say that the buddy list is a little bizarre and not particularly fleshed out enough. In keeping with the game's simplicity, the fact that there's no chat function of any kind is good in a way, as it means backtalk and whining is instantly done away with, but I would have loved some kind of Pictochat function for chatting among pals and arranging games.

Speaking more long-term, I also get the feeling Mario Kart online won't last forever. A year from now will there still be people logging in and scanning for games at all hours? Perhaps. How about two years from now? I doubt it. With no server browser of any kind though, it's gonna be impossible to know who else is out there, and whether sitting there waiting for a game in your undies at 2am is a fruitless waste of time.

Either way, I would grab this sucker ASAP and enjoy it right now while it's hot. It's not only a wonderfully addictive online racer, but the best damn game on the DS by a fuckin' mile.

7. Project Gotham Racing 3

(Xbox 360)
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I finally managed to win my very first online race this week by the way (...mainly because everyone else left...)
Earlier in the week I was talking about how the 360 lacked a killer app...a single, unique system seller to rival the very best. I think I may have been wrong. The more I play it, the more I realise...Gotham could well be that game. PGR3 is a genuine stunner, in fact, one of the best looking, yet also most glorious to play racing titles of all-time.

Even on the most humble of TV sets, it looks amazing, with epic city views coupled with amazing high end motion blur effects to die for, but when then played through a super bad arse high definition TV, it pretty much spits out the greatest visuals on any game ever made.

That alone makes it a must have for a shallow shell of a man like me, but when coupled with Gotham's awesome car handling and staggeringly fab online multiplayer, it reaches genuine new heights for the genre. In a way, the racing itself is the same as it's always been - speed up, slow down, turn corners - but it's these online features that allow it to truly tower over the competition as if they didn't exist. Battling against fellow players, climbing the online leaderboards, then watching the best of the best race on Gotham TV, it just all feels so alive. So bustling. So global.

Between this and Mario Kart DS, I can't even begin to imagine going back to soulless single player racing games. We have seen the future, and it is plural.

6. Mercenaries

It's an all too common occurrence when much-hyped games fail to deliver on their promise. Mercenaries is the exact opposite though; I think it's safe to say that no one really expected it to turn out anywhere near as good as it did. It's just a flat-out mind-blowing console game, one of the greats that deserves its fair share of sequels and a place in the hall-of-fame.

Many have never even played Mercenaries, let alone own it. Don't be one of them
The balls to take the free-roaming GTA style and rework it into a rock hard military shooter, minus the glitz, glamor and cheese of the former, paid off beautifully. Where it betters Grand Theft Auto though, is in its much spruced up combat; oh so much more responsive, skilful and satisfying here.

As a merc caught up in a Korean war zone, it's up to you to take missions from a variety of nations, earning credits and building up your arsenal as you assassinate, sabotage, or just completely level rival assets. As with GTA, you have choices as to not only which missions you'll accept, but also how you'll tackle them, and with what means. You can jack any vehicle you see, of course...except here they're tanks, not Skodas.

I just pretty much adore every damn thing about this game, from the pleasing orchestral score, to the atmospheric, foggy visual style, to the gloriously over the top physics and explosions, to the amazing variety of objectives and missions at your disposal. It's a frickin' huge, fun game, one with tons of optional side content and endless secrets to uncover, yet one that, unlike GTA, doesn't look like an absolute dog in the process. For me, it's easily as good as those games, if not slightly better.

Mercenaries kick-started the year perfectly, and even 12 months since its release I still look back on it fondly and pop it in for the odd blast. A wonderful, under-publicized title...that I've oddly yet to complete.

5. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

A modern classic that's hogged way too many pages of The TPS Report already. Needless to say, if you're still to experience Sam Fisher's latest and by far greatest outing in both single player and co-op modes, you've missed out on some of 2005's bestest moments.

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Sam resorted to drastic measures to ensure all Chaos Theory reviews were favourable
Whether into your shooters, your stealth games, or you just love fiddling around with kick arse gadgets, Chaos Theory excels. The game has way more depth to it than any other spy game yet seen, allowing you to customise your load-out and play style to cater to your every mood. Sick of the shadows? Bring along the shotgun attachment, and blast those fuckers right outta the way. Wanna be a bit more sadistic? Stick to the knife, and impale 'em from behind while you watch 'em bleed in the dark. Or lastly, and perhaps best of all, take the more inventive route, using the environment to do the work for you; snapping necks while you hang from above, and pushing poor saps off the top of light houses.

Not only is Chaos Theory the culmination of everything great about the Splinter Cell series - the expert use of vision modes and the crazy gadgets in particular - but it also melds combat way more successfully than in the previous games this time out. The guns are now considerably more capable, with the enhanced physics affording fire-fights a far more gritty and satisfying edge. It's also one of the prettiest games on this page, with a graphical engine that happily goes toe to toe with Source, Doom III and F.E.A.R., and possibly one-ups each of 'em at times too.

As a side note, Splinter Cell 4 has been recently confirmed as an Xbox 360 title well into development, but it looks like the Fish will be going off the rails and getting completely "Jack Bauer"ed up this time around. Early screenshots even show an incarcerated and shaven headed Sam breaking out of prison. Bad boy...

4. Battlefield 2

Click to enlarge
Don't miss out on Special Forces either, it's probably the best add-on of the year, and makes BF2 taste oh so much sweeter
When it comes to PC shooters - particularly of the online variety - boy are you in a tough race. It takes a true stunner to stand out among the ever increasing crowd, so it's with some admiration that Battlefield 2 stares down at its peers from such an amazing, lofty height.

Its success is quite simple really; all Dice did was take the solid base of their Battlefield game, and fix up every single tiny problem. As a result, grouping's become a joy, teamwork's an absolute riot, graphics are simply stunning, sound is awe-inspiring and most of all, the sheer fucking fun of it all, is really quite unmatched. While enjoying a decent game of BF2, there's this wonderful underlying feeling of everything just slotting perfectly into place as a result. It just feels so polished.

A proper single player mode would have knocked this up even further in Dig's wee little list, but I guess if nothing else this title solidifies the Battlefield series as one focused on multiplayer action and little else. Along with its surprisingly fab expansion pack Special Forces, nothing else comes vaguely close in the online shooter field for me though, so I guess it's been successful, and perhaps most pleasingly of all, I think it's fair to say that Counter-Strike has finally been dethroned.

3. Resident Evil 4

A frantic, gloriously violent shooter that deserves to be put up on a pedestal next to Doom, Half-Life and all the other gaming greats of our time. As a mammoth, long-awaited title that didn't let us down at all, Resident Evil 4 breathed major new life back into the Gamecube in its latter days, then went and did it all over again among the much more competitive PS2 line-up.

FPS Doug eat your heart out
The game has so many great moments, the entire thing just feels like one epic, uber set piece. Evading enemies from all sides, diving through windows, blowing heads off, being chased upstairs, kicking pursuers off ladders, getting decapitated outta nowhere...man, the pace just never lets up. It's brutal, relentless, yet always utterly amazing fun.

A game can survive solely on mindless blasting if the feel of the guns and satisfaction of the kill is up to scratch - of which there's no doubt it is here - but when then accompanied by Resi 4's glorious scripting, fantastic item management, and mind-blowing boss encounters, it creates a game rather unparalleled in the console shooter field for me.

In particular, the siege sequence in the farmhouse with Luis remains a stand-out moment of the year. Taking pot shots at ominous shapes through the windows, frantically trying to barricade all the doors shut, realising that the armies of Las Plagas are breaking through your meagre defences, and finally the ensuing chaos that kicks off as they pile in en masse, all culminates in an experience that truly sticks with you for the duration. Its sheer ferocity and edge of the seat carnage would almost be hilarious, if it wasn't so utterly terrifying, and I would certainly defy anyone to walk out of that house with a clean set of undies by the end.

One not to miss, this, and with the price plummets of recent times, even worth buying a Gamecube for...the far superior of the two renditions.

2. World of Warcraft

Click to enlarge
As much as I try to get into 'em, WoW has just killed off every other MMO for me
Although it actually hit the states towards the end of 2004, we in Europe didn't get our first taste of massively multiplayer Azeroth 'til gone February. Needless to say, almost a year later, many of us are still just as engrossed in the World of Warcraft as we were back then...if not more so.

WoW will forever go down as the first MMORPG that truly got it right. Yeah, there'd been a ton of success stories before it; EverQuest's immense population, Eve's lush atmosphere, City of Heroes' immaculate character creation, and so on and so fourth. Each and every MMORPG had problems though, an epic list of blemishes that held them, and indeed the genre as a whole back.

Blizzard retreated back to their lair, took note of all these shortcomings, and crafted the one that would finally hit the nail on the head. The first MMORPG that's also just a sodding fantastic game in its own right.

Click to enlarge
Burning Crusade is due this time next year, and will double the size of the game
Among so many things it pulls off perfectly, the emphasis on questing and self-contained storylines make it shine. It's something MMOs have yearned for since day one, and yet it's taken almost 10 years to show up. Thankfully this does away with all the traditional grinding and monotony of the genre, and simply lets you get on with having fun and going on genuine adventures.

At the same time though, it's the "smaller" things that stick with you too. That first ride up the mountainside towards Ironforge, the jaw-dropping Gryphon ride over the Searing Gorge, finally snagging your mount after wearing endless holes in your shoes, and perhaps most of all...being engulfed in that gorgeously stunning and beautifully atmospheric musical score for months on end.

Part of me wishes WoW was an offline single player game, one rid of the startlingly horrendous community and piss-ant brats that plague it 24/7, where the only thing you need to worry about is the stunningly crafted content and beautifully realised universe. Oh, and one with no monthly fee.

Either way, what an incredible game. MMO fan or not, miss out on this classic and you don't deserve to call yourself a gamer.

1. Shadow of the Colossus

SotC is a truly unique adventure game, comprised of 16 massive boss battles and, well...not a whole lot else
Picking a best game of 2005 was ridiculously easy, all being said. There's been some great stuff put out this year, yet Shadow of the Colossus is still in a completely different league than the very best of the rest. It's almost a different genre of entertainment, no mere video game. A title that strives for the heavens with such creative force that it compels the PS2 to do things that one could never have dreamt possible.

There's so many timeless moments that stick with you in this game. The first time you see that startlingly gorgeous intro, bathed in the most glorious music ever to inhabit your auditory canals. The first time you mount Agro - your wonderful horse - and set off together into the great unknown. The first time you spot a Colossus in the distance, like some kinda mythical beast plucked straight outta Tolkien's finest pages. And, of course, the first time you kill said beast, with the startling feelings of guilt that creep into your consciousness as you realise...perhaps you shouldn't be slaughtering these stunning creatures.

Without giving too much away, this particular showdown played a large part in solidifying this bad boy as my fave game of the year
Shadow is the most engrossing game I've played in ages, one with wondrous views, epic battles and a gameplay experience unlike any other, all wrapped up in an affecting story that will haunt your very soul 'til the day you die. It also has possibly the best ending ever; the perfect "P.S." to not only one of the most enjoyable adventures you'll ever experience, but also one of the most touching to boot.

Colossus positively mocks the next-gen, never mind this one, proving massive specs and multi-core CPUs mean fuck all when true talent's involved. I could ramble on for hours about the thing, spoiling its every in and out, but I'll resist for the time being...at least until February when my fellow Europeans see it hit store shelves.

Oh, and Agro is the coolest damn horse you'll ever see, in game or not.

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The Polynomial. Like playing a rave

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Fallout 3

Enjoying a fully modded out re-visit. Wow

The Road

Pretty much due to the above

Breaking Bad

Already shaping up to be the best season yet

Explosions in the Sky

Easing the pain of living in a post-Friday Night Lights world

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The TPS Forum
Official boards for the site

The old Edge forums gone independent. The busiest and most interesting gaming board around, worthy of multiple visits a day

Another exceptional gaming forum, featuring one of the friendliest communities on the net, and up to the minute news

A more US-centric gaming board, with huge piles of traffic and even the odd famous face

Gaming Shows

The 1up Radio Network
1up.com's collection of weekly gaming podcasts, the pick of which would have to be ListenUP, full of juicy rumors and interesting banter week in, week out

Area 5
Formerly The 1up Show, since losing their jobs the old video editing team have continued doing what they do best, in an independent internet-based TV show, covering whatever upcoming games they can get their hands on, and various other bits and pieces

Fully Ramblomatic
A hysterical gaming blogger posting what he calls "zero punctuation" video reviews that have to be seen - and heard - to be believed

A Life Well Wasted
Freelance journalist Robert Ashley's internet radio show, with a far more interesting and professional demeanor than your typical podcast. Interviews, fast-paced editing and catchy tunes abound

On the Spot
The humongous gaming site known as Gamespot broadcasts a video show each week, in which upcoming games are demoed live on air, and viewers are invited to send in questions to find out more

The Hotspot
Gamespot's audio-based companion to On the Spot, in which site editors cover the week's news while simultaneously poking fun at all that is gaming

Gaming Steve
A more mature podcast, hosted by a long-time games industry professional armed with a ton of insider info and loads of interesting opinions. The Dig's been known to post articles and stories on here from time to time

Quick-fire internet-based TV show with console reviews and comedy sketches. Funny as hell

Major Nelson
An interesting "blogcast" hosted by a Microsoft employee, featuring stacks of exclusive behind the scenes news and interviews relating to all things Xbox 360

The Kojima Productions Report
Official podcast from the team of Hideo Kojima, creator of the much-loved Metal Gear franchise. Full of news and interviews relating to all things Metal Gear, it's probably one for die-hard fans only

Pure Pwnage
Mockumentary series on the life of a pro gamer. Episode five is possibly the funniest thing on the internet

Other Sites

What you could call gaming's homepage. Constantly updated news and links on the entire industry, from minute breaking headlines, to funny arse viral vids

Game Trailers
Easy to use multimedia-rich web site offering official trailers, video demos and sneak peaks at all the upcoming releases

Game Videos
Sister site to 1up.com, focusing on game trailers, video interviews and even the odd documentary

The Gamespot front-end, and the gaming equivalent of the Internet Movie Database. Includes detailed reviews and extensive video features on pretty much all systems and games ever made

Giant Bomb
Speaking of Gamespot, the controversial "letting go" of editor Jeff Gerstmann resulted in him starting up this new venture with fellow former writers of the site. Great podcast in particular

Discounting the audio and video shows mentioned earlier, 1up's main site is also worth a visit in its own right. Not only bustling with quality gaming articles and extensive developers' blogs, it also doubles up as a massive friends network, ideal for meeting fellow gamers and joining like-minded communities

Live Marketplace Feed
The most up to date and reliable way to keep track of all the new Xbox Live Marketplace content, from new weapons and map packs, to movie trailers and game demos

Xbox Reloaded
360 backwards compatibility can be a minefield. This blog attempts to shed some light on the issue by playing original Xbox games for you and reporting back the results

The ultimate resource for walkthroughs and cheats

Disposable Media
A wonderful (and free) E-zine, full of reviews and articles on gaming, movies, music and TV. Puts most high street mags to shame

A must-have for all PC gamers, X-Fire is a buddy list and communications tool that keeps constant tabs on what games both you and all your mates are playing, on or offline

A contender to the X-Fire throne that has pretty much overtaken it straight out of the gate. Valve's Steam client contains friends lists, downloadable games, Live-style achievements and plenty more to sink your teeth into

Convert your Xbox Live gamercard into an image, for use on forums and web sites for free. That's mine further down

Ain't it Cool News
The latest news, gossip and spy reports from the world of movies, TV and (occasionally) video games

Writer, director and actor Kevin Smith - he of Clerks fame - records a monthly podcast in which he and fellow pals discuss everything from trying to felate oneself, to the time his dog got covered in ejaculate. Riveting stuff


Matt Robinson, 2011

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