The annual "Best of" TPS list almost didn't happen this year. If you hadn't noticed from the sparse updates of late, things have been getting the better of Dig's free time, and with it, gaming has fallen a tad by the wayside. Not good, considering this year's holiday season was every bit as crazy as the last
Since Christmas I've been locked away in the TPS towers though, plowing through game after game after game with the sole intention of compiling The List for you guys. I didn't get through everything
- hence the odd missing beaut and unfinished morsel - but never the less, here are the ones that not just rocked my world in 2008...but more importantly I played
30. Braid (Xbox 360)
|A Live Arcade exclusive that takes NES nostalgia into exciting new places, Braid's one fucked-up game and a half. You will lose hair|
A weird one, this. Part old skool 2D platformer - Super Mario as interpreted through more mature, squinted eyes - cross-bred with the most brain-imploding puzzles and four dimensional noggin' teasers imaginable, Braid's certainly not for everyone. An inspired, smart and shockingly complex game at times...while so obtuse that only a guilty trip to gamefaqs'll provide solace at others, I enjoyed a major love/hate relationship with this thing from start to finish.
Mixed thoughts run rampant throughout the rest of the game too. Art and sound showcase lovingly crafted watercoloured backgrounds, met with luscious, soothing violin themes...that just as often feature ugly character models brought to life via crap-tastic animation. Then there's the story, and its overly ambiguous nature. A tale of unrequited love, perhaps? Or a whopping great big metaphor for the creation of the atomic bomb? It's open for interpretation, and darn interesting in theory...yet in practice feels kinda shoe-horned in, pretentious and flat-out bizarrely told.
Rewinding time, slow-motion, and what can only be described as inter-dimensional puzzle solving has never been so riveting though - if also so frustrating - ultimately rendering Braid a peculiar, but interesting experiment all in all. One that I'd still have no real trouble recommending to everyone...had the price not been ridiculously extortionate as to border on wallet sodomy.
29. Spore (PC)
|Sims creator Will Wright's much-anticipated follow-up, and a game that really did promise the world|
While I'm happy to include it among the year's finest, there's no denying that following the years upon years of waiting and immense media hype, Spore was something of a let down. A strategy-slash-god game that strived for the heavens - taking you from a single-celled amoeba to a space-faring armada - it could have been the most epic, ambitious interactive experience ever devised. Sadly, it's all a bit of a baby game in practice though.
Cutesy, cuddly and simple - rather than deep, complex and engaging - one can't help but ponder whether the original vision for this game mutated over the course of its development in fact, with genre-defining bliss dissipating in favor of mass media acceptance...and the great big dollar sign.
Charming enough in its own right though, Spore is fun stuff regardless. Lovely visuals, a fun atmosphere and the most addictive character creation ever
make it more than worth a peek. Just don't expect the universe. Literally.
28. Boom Blox (Wii)
|Ball-tossing, block dragging shenanigans with full waggle, Boom Blox deserves our love and attention, people. Despite pitiful sales, a sequel's on the way thank god|
An under-rated outing that many won't have heard of, Boom Blox comes courtesy of Steven Spielberg of all people, in his first gaming endeavor since the early Medal of Honor titles. Expect nowt in the way of tracer rounds and beach assaults here though...Boom Blox is a far more simple, laid-back outing that puts the Wii to far more intriguing use than that.
Naturally, it's a mini-game collection, all revolving around the primary concept of manipulating blocks via gravity. There are Jenga-style tower games in which you pull beams out with a delicate touch, baseball-style "hurl the ball to knock shit down" missions, and some far more demented and character-based FPS sequences in which you mass murder cute, cuddly creatures as they attempt to dismantle your block-based castles en masse. Describing the actual gameplay's tricky as you can tell, but ultimately Boom Blox is a physics toy above all else; one built somewhat beautifully around the Wii's motion sensing capabilities. Most importantly of all; it works darn well.
Designed primarily for big groups and families to fool around with in unison, you'd be forgiven for expecting another children's toy in Blox on first firing it up. Delve a little deeper though, and you'll find plenty here for the hardcore gamer too, in what's probably the best full-priced Wii game since Super Mario Galaxy.
27. Mercenaries 2 - World in Flames (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
Joining Spore as one of the year's minor let-downs that I originally had massively high hopes for, there's no denying Mercs 2 dropped the ball somewhat next to its still-incredible predecessor. Boy, remember how much I loved
|Pandemic's follow-up to the Grand Theft Warzone beaut that was Mercenaries. More of the same, with less cool|
On the one hand, this ups the original in terms of scope, action and the inclusion of an all-important co-op mode...one that Crackdown
fans in particular will feel right at home with. But all the style's gone, man. The atmosphere. The beauty. The feel. It's now a big dumb Bruckheimer flick, choc-full of cheesy "humor" and massive amounts of eye-rolling, with zilch lurking beneath the all-important surface.
I miss cruising those foggy mountains with Michael Giacchino's haunting score rattling my nerves. The ingenious way in which the "deck of 52" was integrated into the plot. The adrenaline rush of tracking a mark, taking him down, and tossing him into a chopper in exchange for the all important pay-cheque. Such an awesome concept. So well executed. So utterly castrated here.
That aside, it doesn't play amazingly differently to the last game at the end of the day, so it ain't all
bad. Mercenaries was - and indeed still is - a work of pure brilliance, hence the sequel's placement on this here list too. But I hate it when a series pile-drives artistically for no real reason...particularly when it doesn't bother updating the things that matter, like gun handling and combat, which as if it needed saying, have moved on in leaps and bounds since 2005...
26. LostWinds (Wii)
|I fell out of touch with the downloadable Wii stuff shortly after this came out. Much else worth nabbing over there?|
One of the few other Wii games I really touched all year, LostWinds is an inspired lil' platformy puzzler that every Wii-er should have nabbed by now. Available only via the system's download service, Winds is a truly unique outing that makes inventive use of the controller by factoring in physics, weather and gestures to control your wee avatar. Rather than merely hop around the screen via button presses you see, LostWinds has you "blow" your dude around by hurling guffs of wind at him. The way the game builds on this inventive concept via items and upgrades as it progresses is particularly brilliant, but I'll resist spoilerising anything on that front for those who've yet to sample.
It doesn't hurt of course, that LostWinds is perhaps one of the flat-out prettiest Wii games yet too, reminding heavily of Wind Waker, while blazing along at a flawless 60 FPS to boot. Oh so gorgeous. Oh so cute.
Yeah, it needs a map, and the lack of hand-holding in where to head next can prove somewhat annoying, but for me this is a far superior puzzle game to the over-rated Zack & Wiki
, and one of my fave titles on the system, period.
25. Siren - Blood Curse (PS3)
|Tense sneaking, bizarre visions, and plenty o' running like hell...all in a day's work for Siren - Blood Curse. I'll never look at Japanese cops the same way|
Another downloadable game, that has since seen release on store shelves this side of the pond. Siren is a PS3 remake/reimagining of the 2003 PS2 survival horror title Siren, that's about as quintessentially Japanese and, well, disturbing as the genre's ever known. Third person sneaking. Pitch black rooms. Plenty o' gore. You know the drill.
More importantly, it's up there with the most genuinely frightening video games you'll ever
play. Massive jumps and a genuine feeling of intense fear overcome much of the game's jankiness and mildly crappy control scheme. If anything...such gripes only add to the bizarre freakiness of it all really. Never would I have imagined that a shitty camera and rickety stick sensitivity would dramatically improve a game, but they sorta do here...giving it an insane hand-held feel that matches its horrendous scares wonderfully.
The "previously on Siren" segments, the ability to buy small packs of episodes as you so wish, and the sheer size
of the damn thing in total (10 gigs, give or take) all provide quite the leap forward in the downloadable game space. A feat that could well provide an early hint as to where shit's heading, if you ask me.
24. Rainbow Six Vegas 2 (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
|More counter-terrorism antics from the Rainbow boys, thankfully putting closure on the terrible ending from the last game|
Released way too early for its own good - complete with bugs, glitches and iffy performance all round - not to mention the somewhat questionable decision to drop a gigantic chunk of the potent night time atmosphere that made its predecessor so great, Vegas 2 still contained just enough
of the first game's slickness to secure its position as one of the year's better online shooters.
Soz haters, but that Clancy formula just never grows old, man. The storming of rooms, the abseiling down skyscrapers, and the capping fools in the head with a silenced pistol all prove just as thrilling as ever, while the new Call of Duty
"inspired" character progression adds an extra incentive for the power gamer too.
I'm particularly gutted that the campaign was castrated to just the two players after the original game's four player jizz-fests, but one might argue that the level layouts click just a tad better because of it. Multiple entry points and tag-team set-pieces work beautifully with a pal, while good old Terrorist Hunt mode and versus action continue to rock it hard for the larger groups. Now how about some originality next time?
23. Dark Sector (Xbox 360/PS3)
|DS sees you playing a black ops agent, infected with a crazy virus early on that endows you with super powers. The coolest of which? A predator-esque blade thing|
Way under-rated and a great little third person shooter, Dark Sector was about as fab as Resident Evil rip-offs got...until a certain other such beast popped up more recently. You can read about him
Still, the graphics, art, combat and all-important inclusion of the glaive - a Krull-like frisbee device - gave Dark Sector some much needed coolness in the year's early months, in a game that took me by pleasant surprise given its mediocre reviews. Sadly, it takes a colossal nosedive in the latter half. Hot human on human action makes way for a monotonous slog through endless sewers and lame zombie fights (with, most annoyingly of all, zero ammo the entire time), grinding out much of the early love it secured in the process.
Which is a shame really, seeing as the core's so solid.
22. God of War - Chains of Olympus (PSP)
|PSP or PS2? Can ya tell?|
The single handheld game I touched all year, but by all accounts one of the best, God of War's PSP outing took Kratos' over the top, button-bashing massacring portable to pleasing effect, boasting all the luscious visuals, intense combat and grizzly violence you'd expect...while bypassing the system's ever-nagging lack of a right analogue stick in the process. Bravo.
Particularly impressive is the sheer scope of the thing. While not quite
up there with the PS2 games, the size and spectacle that God of War's become known for translates perfectly, so much so that you'll regularly freeze in complete awe, bemused as to how this is all going on in the palm of your freakin' hands.
True, it's way too easy, and a bit on the short side, but multiple play-throughs prove a must, in what is easily one of the PSP's few genuine masterpieces. Still looks amazing.
21. Rez HD (Xbox 360)
|A retro rail shooter with a techno face-lift, Rez proves hard to describe|
Eight years on since its original Dreamcast release, Rez is just as fun, just as weird and just as trippy as it ever was. It ain't for everyone though...namely blind, deaf mutes.
Essentially a rave in your bedroom - mixing TRON-style graphics, slamming beats and StarFox-by-way-of-Panzer-Dragoon gameplay - its 2008 high def remake seems so well-matched to today's hardware, one can't believe it took 'til now to appear.
The vector graphics, intense speed, risk/reward gameplay, and tight integration between audio feedback and controller input result in a one of a kind experience in Rez, that's every bit music making package, as it is on-the-rails shooter. 10 months on since the game's release, I still whack it on regularly.
And how about that final level, eh?
20. Far Cry 2 (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
|Nowt in common with the previous Far Crys, FC2 is an open-ended FPS set amidst the glorious African countryside|
Ubi-soft' s much anticipated follow-up to its all-time classic original is one major casualty of Dig's hectic schedule of late, but what few hours I've spent with Far Cry 2 have gone down reasonably well I must say. It's no where near as memorable as that first game, nor as ground-breaking by any means...yet bears none of the heartbreak nor flat out laugh-ability of the more recent console follow-ups
either. I guess we can chalk that up in the win column then?
FC2 boasts nowt in common with any
of the previous titles now that I think about it. A Far Cry in nothing but name, it's more of an FPS GTA than anything. Transported to an African warzone, you play a gun for hire here, roaming the beautiful countryside and capping dudes for cash, as you progress an overarching plot to assassinate an arms dealer.
Particularly intriguing are some of FC2's more original concepts, such as pulling bullets outta your body to heal, and NPC rescues in favor of a respawn system. Like many free-roamers though, the true
fun comes from discovering the world for the first time...before the monotony of endless driving takes over, but at least FC's missions impress along the way. That is, the few I've managed to get through.
19. Wipeout HD (PS3)
|WHD does exactly what its name hints at, ludicrously well, and at a budget price|
Further proof that for premiere downloadable fun, the PS3 is firing on all cylinders right now. Wipeout's long-awaited HD update proved not only worth the wait, but a sodding good bargain at only ?12.
Lovely sci-fi visuals, ace beats, MP3 support, online modes and a never faltering 60 FPS make HD everything you'd expect from such a beast. It's fun, spectacular, and sorta hard to fault really, with multiplayer games proving riotous in particular.
18. Call of Duty - World at War (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
|I've yet to test out that 4 player co-op mode. In light of Vegas' dropping the ball on that front, perhaps such antics can bring back the CoD love|
There's much to like about World at War. That same visceral Call of Duty 4
action, taken back to the more familiar, but always welcome World War II setting. The addition of the Pacific theatre for the first time in this series is a welcome one in particular, offering up not just a pleasing change of scenery, but by far the best Jap-centric action found in any such WWII outing yet.
As an enemy, the Japanese fight somewhat distinctively, laying ambushes, playing dead, and making your assault of pacific islands a relentlessly dark and terrifying prospect the entire time. Remember that? When war games were genuinely scary
? It's that old Omaha Higgins boat sensation, alive and well once more.
Sadly the game just as often loses me when it dips back into the old Nazi slaughtering shenanigans of the Euro theatre, and it's here where I promptly switched off. That's a bit of a contrast next to the un-putdown-able nature of CoD4, I must say.
17. Condemned 2 - Bloodshot (Xbox 360/PS3)
|This game deserves far more love than it ever got. Monolith remain one of gaming's most under-rated devs, taking their love of the first person perspective to brave and inventive places|
It's a tad disappointing that the Condemned sequel fails to match up to its supreme earlier outing, but after such lofty expectations, not entirely surprising either. The first Condemned remains one of the 360's prize launch
jewels may I remind you - and a game I revisit as often as my shattered psyche will allow.
Here that gritty realism has taken a back seat to supernatural shit-ness unfortunately, while characters and storylines have turned flat-out mental by comparison. Yet fear not, fellow horror junkies, as Bloodshot more than earns its right to exist through far more important means. It plays simply brilliantly
I must say, improving on pretty much everything you could think of - game-play-wise - from the first. The combat specifically, is deeper and more extreme, while the detective and puzzle solving is still - as I said back on release - my fave to be found in any such game yet. Not that there's much out there like Condemned, of course. Scanning victims for DNA, looking for gunshot entry wounds, then pursuing blood trails to murder scenes all remain thrilling, heart-pounding, yet relentlessly satisfying moments that I simply wish we could see more of.
Monolith crafted a very unique first person experience here, and further adventures with alcho-nutjob Ethan Thomas would be most welcome down the line. Let us just hope they make an ounce of sense next time.
16. PixelJunk Monsters (PS3)
|Tower defense games have become all the rage lately. Monsters here is one of the best|
PSN title, but arguably the best of the bunch. The PixelJunk "brand" has been somewhat hit or miss so far for me, but Monsters is a fantastic, strategic, fun little romp that I've sorta grown to love in recent months.
A tower defense game in which you thwart monsters from over-running your base, it's not a particularly easy game by any means though. Trial and error becomes the name of the game - my one and only gripe with the thing - as you research specific weaponry, upgrade your towers, and suss out the underlying layout required to better each of its treacherous missions.
Nailing a level perfectly while blowing away each and every duder can't help but smile on your face when it all comes together though, while charming presentation and glorious tune-age further cement the coolness. Yum.
15. Grand Theft Auto IV (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
|Niko, you showed such promise. Why did you turn into such a dick by game's end?|
I loved it back on release
, but with hindsight and some distance, GTA4 finds itself in a truly odd place for me. And I know I'm not alone. It's quite possibly the most un-fun
amazing game I've ever played, you see. Rockstar create this incredible location, amazing amount of content, and stunning experience to behold...that's oddly flat and a little boring to actually sit down and play. Quite impressive, really.
The recreation of New York is second to none. No mere videogame in my eyes, but a full-blown virtual tour, one at its best when merely wondered around and explored on your own terms, as if on vacation. Pursuing the missions proper subsequently chips away at that love piece by piece though, given how they're all so goddamn boring, and/or frustrating. If I never have to endure another motorbike chase level, I'll die a happy death.
Largely due to such lackluster missions and the crap-tastic "dates", GTA4 wasn't everything it could - and indeed should have been then - at least in my opinion, but it's still something of a technical marvel and regularly jaw-dropping in a whole host of other areas. Multiplayer was particularly new and original, even if a tad short-lived.
I just can't wait for the downloadable add-on pack more than anything now, which I hope makes good on the single player front, and finally provides some thrilling objectives that actually do this amazing environment justice.
14. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 (Xbox 360)
|More top-down neon arcadey blasting from Bizarre Creations, Geo Wars 2 is every bit as good as I hoped it'd be|
At long last, 2008 saw release of the sequel
we'd all been waiting for since the 360's appearance. Forget Kameo, PGR and other such launch tomfoolery...Geo Wars was the true
reason we all bought a 360 some three years back. Thankfully, its follow-up failed to let us down too. Adding a fuck-ton of new modes, a pleasing visual upgrade, and some truly ingenious leaderboard integration, Retro 2 made good on all that Geo Wars promise, while simultaneously catapulting it into the all-time classic status to boot. But who are we kidding? It was already there.
Those put off by the first game's ludicrous time requirements will find plenty of quick-fire fun this time around in particular, with new game-types that you can be in and out of in three or four minute chunks, tops. Meanwhile the more die-hards among us'll find just as many epic, time-consuming modes and high scores to conquer for many a year to come.
Weapon power-ups and online multiplayer would have perfected it, but either way, this is probably the best game on Live Arcade to be honest, and truly must-have stuff.
13. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky (PC)
|A prequel to 2007's oddball free-roamer, Clear Sky returns to Chernobyl for more eerie FPS exploration. And mutant slaughter|
Boy do I love me some S.T.A.L.K.E.R.. A series so confident and sure of itself, it seldom dumbs down the experience, its world, nor its sheer brutality in favor of any kinda mass accessibility. No sir, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. will throw you in at the deep end - of a fully functioning nuclear warzone, no less - and make you scavenge for your very life. Which almost instantly includes fighting for survival by the very skin of your teeth.
That sure wasn't easy in the original title, and in Clear Sky - its 2008 prequel - not much has changed. It's still just as hardcore, and to be honest, initially frustrating, but when compared to the likes of Far Cry 2 - which emulates that same S.T.A.L.K.E.R. style with a far more forgiving, hand-held approach - I'd take the former any day of the week.
Clear Sky does improve on its predecessor's format slightly in other areas though, with tighter combat, less bugs and better use of the Chernobyl environments (early swamp zones proving a particular highlight), but it can't escape the "mission pack" feel for the most part either. I haven't made a huge amount of progress in the main story though, so hopefully that'll change over time.
Then again, given my extreme fondness for the original, 'tis no bad thing really. You can read up on that here
. Can't wait to finish her off.
12. Mirror's Edge (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
A first person platformer? Assassin's Creed
minus the assassinating? Nothing more than a life-less tech-demo? Whatever your interpretation of Mirror's Edge is, there's no denying its controversiality. A title splitting opinion like a razor blade through coke, Mirror's a love it or hate it kinda deal that sure ain't for everyone.
|It's interesting to note the crazy directions first person games have taken this past year, and as a free-running sim set predominately above bloody high skyscrapers, Mirror's Edge is one of the most original of 'em all. It doesn't hurt that it has a lovely look to it too, reminding somewhat of the Perfect Dark universe, only pulled off a million times better|
You know me though, I'm a lover at heart. Personally, it's the Matrix game I've always dreamt of, taking the high-speed, gravity-defying on-foot chase sequences seen...well, in the first movie...into a fully interactive, truly exciting, and oddly original first person experience that'll dazzle you...as often as it makes you hurl. There's a tremendous sense of freedom and sheer power
felt from navigating these vertigo-inducing rooftops and nailing those jumps, rolls and grabs you see. Enough, in fact, to make ya wanna do it around London on a weekend. Or is that just me?
The concept of highlighting nearby paths through these mile-high obstacle courses by casually painting items, walls and drainpipes red works surprisingly well, giving you subtle hints as to where to head next, while still feeling natural enough, necessitating skill, and never negating the constant sense of speed and urgency that a game like this strives for. Sorta inspired, that.
That's the game at its best, anyway. At its worst though, it's far more fiddly, if not downright annoying, primarily due to the mildly baffling inclusion of enemies. In terms of story, they serve a purpose I guess, but as an experience...Edge really doesn't need 'em. Nor want them. They end up ruining an otherwise one-of-a-kind game in many ways, turning it regularly into the most mediocre and mundane of FPS titles. I tried to make things interesting on this front by going for the "don't shoot a single dude in the entire game" achievement, which sorta back-fired by making the whole thing ludicrously hard and even more fist-chewingly painful. Not recommended.
I guess at the end of the day though, the solitary platforming and original perspective were just way more than enough to overcome the troublesome combat for me. It's quite simple, really; first person platforming works. The kineticism is amazing, the jostling view through the eyes of a runner is perfect, and best of all...there's just nothing else that plays even vaguely like it.
ME's pitiful sales mean we'll never see a sequel by all accounts, but hey, at least it dropped to bargain prices almost instantly. You can grab it for a meager 20 sheets now with ease.
11. Ninja Gaiden II (Xbox 360)
I must admit, I entered 2008 expecting it to headline this list. With the original Xbox' Ninja Gaiden
going down as quite possibly the best brawler/action game of all-time, the thought of next-gen tech powering that same balls-out combat and those monitor-licking visuals seemed like a match made in heaven. And in many ways, it is
|Ryu returns for more epileptic ninjitsu action, this time with the aid of next gen power. The gore's amped up since last time...but hows about the gameplay?|
Ironically though, Gaiden's biggest prob proved to be Itagaki - the visionary creator of the series - himself. For all the man's skill, he's not particularly known for pushing the envelope in his subsequent sequels after all (see; Dead or Alive), thus for all Gaiden's magnificence, it's not hugely...different, really. More importantly than that, the effects of the man's shit-canning from Tecmo, and setting sail for greener pastures the second the game shipped, are regularly more than evident. It feels rushed out, somewhat unfinished, and in dire need of another three months.
That stuff's a huge pity, as when Gaiden II works, it really
fucking works. Main character Ryu handles better than ever, while the added weapons, obliteration techniques, and new-found fascination in being the goriest game of all-time
excite and impress like never before. It's such a pity that framerate issues, the odd ugly level and a major sense of d?j? vu hold it back then.
One thing's for sure though; warts 'n' all, Ryu's still 2008's ultimate video gaming bad arse. Think you're safe, hiding away atop a neighboring skyscraper to our boy's? Think again, fucko. Ryu will jump from the rooftop and fly through the fucking window
to obliterate your arse. Hell, just the way he kicks open a door or a chest with such vigor results in insta-wood every single time. As if to say "FUCK YOU CHEST"
Err, excuse me. I need to take care of myself.
10. Mario Kart Wii (Wii)
|While not the first Mario Kart to be playable online, it sure works beautifully here|
I kinda feel like I know this game better than anyone on the planet at this point
. I've memorized every single course, know every bloody shortcut, and have pretty much mastered each and every character along the way too.
So it's with some worry that I regularly get my arse kicked every time I play online. Thus is Mario Kart's beauty, or ultimate flaw, depending on your point of view. It's the racing game that anyone can play, and more importantly, win
at. First go - or thousandth - the insane strength of the power-ups and the game's insistence on auto-balancing each and every facet mean no two races ever end the same. Regardless of skill, the winner of one race may just as easily place 12th the next. I personally love that, have had some amazing times, and recognize it for the lighthearted insanity that it is. But those who take their games a little more seriously, and demand skillful perfection and record breaking times each and every go...well, I guess it wasn't for them.
Pity really. I can't get enough. Still.
9. Left 4 Dead (Xbox 360/PC)
|Another Valve masterpiece, right up there with Half-Life 2, Left 4 Dead still has some issues you oughta know going in|
Your first go on Left 4 Dead'll leave you thinking it's quite possibly the best game ever made. I exaggerate not. From conception to realization, to level design to sheer scares, it's hilariously genius right across the board. The zombie genocide sim we always wanted, cross-bred with the co-op experience of a life-time, Dead has everything going for it really, and seemingly nothing holding it back. Blasting through hundreds upon thousands of the brain munchers with three friends, amidst screams of "ARGHHH!" and "Witch!!!" prove hysterical and timeless, and you'll hold onto these thoughts for a good week or so too.
Sadly, it really is a one-trick pony though, and thus lacks hugely in the longevity department. Every level plays worryingly similar, there's little variation in the set-pieces, and while the much-hyped dynamic AI makes every round play differently to the last, it also castrates the level designer's ability to a certain extent, and places it in the hands of a robot. I don't particularly like that idea.
Dead is an amazing game either way though, and deserves a place in every collection, PC or 360. I just wish they'd mixed up the levels a little, added some variety, and included twice the missions. It's a shame that initial love doesn't last forever then, but hey, while it does? You're in for one hell of a treat.
8. Fallout 3 (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
|An FPS/RPG hybrid from the Elder Scrolls masters, Bethesda's long-awaited Fallout sequel takes us back to those nuclear wastelands in a match made in radiated heaven|
My one true regret in 2008 was that I never got to enjoy the massive 50 hour long Oblivion
-style love-in with Fallout 3 that I just know
awaits me. Just haven't had the time, man. As I write this, I've spent just five or six with the sucker, and although barely scratched the surface...know that this is a game - much like that - which I'm gonna love for many a year to come.
It's sorta my perfect game, really. All of Oblivion's size, scope and depth. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s post apocalyptic atmosphere and tension. A BioWare game's sense of moral ambiguity and choice. And, of course, a Fallout game's dark sense of humor and quintessential je ne sais quoi all rolled into one. Oh my. I'm building my own Washington Monument just thinking about it.
|F3 boasts a far stronger emphasis on characters and dialogue than Oblivion ever did, hinting far more towards KOTOR/Mass Effect territory|
A wondrous introduction set inside an underground vault kicks off Fallout 3 to fantastic effect, with as I touched upon back on release
, some hilarious, if potentially dark decisions to make. Once shit hits the proverbial fan and you're set lose upon the nuclear wastelands up above though, F3 reverts far more into Elder Scrolls territory. A central, and enigmatic storyline presses you forward, yet you're just as free to explore, side quest and mutant hunt to your hearts content too. The size of the world, the amount of content, and the sheer variety of stuff to see has already floored me to the extent as to feel bewildered, yet I know people with literally 10 times the number of hours under the belt saying the exact same thing. Gulp.
The series' more ardent long-time fans may whine about differences between it and its freakin' 12 year old predecessors
, but for me it's about as perfect a decade-late sequel could have ever been. Imagining those old isometric classics viewed from a first person perspective in my head...well, it couldn't look closer to this if it tried.
In just my first few hours of Fallout 3, I've experienced tough, guilt-inducing decisions, gory, satisfying combat, and a wondrous sense of exploration that only Bethesda seem capable of mustering up. I'm so happy these guys make games. I'm so pleased they exist.
I know there's far more waiting for me in F3 than I've even begun to glimpse at though. It's my future love. All sitting here, waiting for me to undress it.
Boy I can't wait.
7. Dead Space (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
You know, I was uber psyched to get my hands on the Resident Evil 5 demo recently. Follow-up to the original, over-the-shoulder, third person shooter masterpiece that casually invented an entire genre
some four years ago, I was positively giddy with excitement to sneak a peak at its next installment. I exaggerate not in such claims either; your Gears of War
s and even Dead Space here simply would nay exist without Resident Evil 4
's wondrous new concepts and sheer balls
to take shooting in a whole new direction.
|RE4 meets System Shock, Dead Space is a claustrophobic horror game set on board a space station. Tense combat, slick visuals and insane polish make it one of the best games to come out in years. You owe it to yourself to play this thing|
I bring this up because, while said demo was "fine" - and more of the same, I guess - I think it speaks volumes that after dusting her off and sitting there at my 360's dashboard...staring at ugly Xbox avatars as ya do...I couldn't help but think to myself that...psssst, ya know what? That ain't a patch on Dead Space
Indeed sir, it seems that EA - of all people - have one-upped Capcom at their own game here. A third person, survival horror masterpiece set aboard a spaceship, that is about as shiny, well produced and down-right perfect
as any game released these past 12 months. There's just...nothing really wrong with this thing, folks. It's pretty much the most flawless title I've played in years.
Awesome, original weaponry drives forth some truly awe-inspiring shoot-outs that are quite unlike any other you've ever experience, while the look, style and incredible audio showcase video gaming at its very best artistically, right across the board. It's a horror flick, sci-fi nerd-gasm of the highest order, that once sampled proves hard to drop.
The basics are wonderful, in that simply running around and raising a gun remain fun throughout its 10 odd hours, but Dead Space contains so many ace set-pieces on top of this solid foundation, that I could sit here rambling on about 20 all-time classic video game moments with ease. One by one for hours.
Really though? Why spoil it for yourself. Such pixel perfect, nerve-wrecking morsels should be witnessed first hand. So do so. Now.
6. Rock Band (Xbox 360/PS3/Wii)
|Drums are my weapon of choice. Much fun|
It's strange to think that Harmonix' genre-defining console music playing package only touched down on these shores some 7 or 8 months ago - particularly when our American brethren were playing it over a year back now - but there's no denying the impact this game's had on the videogame industry as a whole since devouring up shelf space on launch. Along with the Wii, the new fangled music game movement has drawn in a whole new type of gamer to our favorite hobby, while simultaneously providing enough raw challenge and depth for the die-hard to latch onto too.
Guitar Hero may have introduced the concept of faffing about with Fisher Price toys many years back, but Rock Band here was the game that really took it up to a whole new level, giving us not just cheap-o guitars to tool around with like idiots, but an entire friggin' band
in a box. Experienced with three pals, rocking out for hours on end, there is simply no multiplayer experience like it. At all.
Activision have since attempted to strike back with Guitar Hero: World Tour - a lame duck of a game which let me down something fierce by comparison - while Rock Band itself has just enjoyed a sequel that I've yet to pick up. This is the one that's sucked up waaaay too much of my time this past year though - quite possibly more than any other on this here list - and been one humungous friggin' hit in the dorms, let me tell ya.
5. LittleBigPlanet (PS3)
|LBP then. The long-awaited Pixar-style side scrolling beauty. The one heralded as the savior of all that is Sony. Did it deliver?|
Many expected a fantastic level creating package outta LittleBigPlanet. The chance to realize ideas and produce their own levels alongside a buddy or three. And that's fair enough. What they probably weren't expecting however, was a darn fine platformer in its own right though. But by golly, it sure as hell is one.
The bundled campaign from Media Molecule is far more than a bunch of freebie levels you see, but a fully featured game in its own right, choc-full of ingenious invention and utter amaze at every turn. From demented boss fights to hilarious puzzles to downright spectacular vehicle usage, it's one of the finest platformers seen in years. Being able to play on or offline with up to four players doesn't hurt either, and the confused hilarity that comes with it has to be seen to be believed.
Arguably even more impressive - naturally - is the community output that's since sprung up in the game's wake. From peeps literally
recreating Space Invaders inside the LBP engine, to Dead Space themed stages, to "museums" detailing how to craft your own Star Wars costumes, there's just an endless supply of new content hitting each and every day in alarmingly large bundles. Too much, one might argue, in that it's impossible knowing where to begin.
All in all, LBP is a truly unique and progressive video game that'll be remembered for many a year to come, for pushing this medium forward in a whole host of intriguing new ways. My only minor gripe is that, as good as that previously mentioned campaign is, it's also the
most frustrating game of the year as well. Difficulty spikes and endless deaths come thick and fast, in a way, way, way
more punishing experience than I think its baby-faced exterior would have had you expect. I tell ya now, few people will finish this thing.
4. Fable II (Xbox 360)
Oh boy, was I all over the place on this thing. Originally, it was let-down central, choc-full o' disappointment and many a Diggler sigh. May I remind you how much I adored Fable
after all, and for a good dollop of hours, had this pegged as something of a downgrade.
|More humorous fantasy adventuring from Peter Molyneux, Fable II started out poorly, but grew on me big time|
I finished the entire game without that opinion changing much too. The roughness and lack of polish nagged in particular, while the much-hyped canine companion seemed to add little to the Fable experience beyond looking - admittedly - cool as hell.
I'd done little more than blaze through the central storyline at this point though, and it wasn't 'til long after said plot had wrapped itself up - and I went on a genuine explore
- that Fable II really grew on me. When I saw how optional little side activities like starting a family, engaging in a threesome, and, err, slaughtering an entire town added to the experience, love shortly appeared. I also pursued some of the many side quests at this point, some of which, in retrospect, were without doubt the highlight of the entire game ("Chesty!").
This is how one should play Fable II if you ask me. Finding a happy medium between good old plot progression and leveling up your dude, while also tinkering with the world and prodding beneath the hood. Seeing what sorta demented craziness you can pull off, and what the game's limits are. As a linear adventure game, the main quest is alright, but it's the world as a whole
that truly impresses.
|Gushings aside, there's plenty of room for improvement next time, particularly on the multiplayer front. How about additional players? The ability to use our main characters? A camera that works?|
Taking up jobs, exploiting the economy, or merely fucking with the NPCs provided quite the laugh then, turning things around for me by a full 180, but it was on discovering the co-op mode than Fable II truly
secured a place in my heart though. The camera is absolutely horrific - bizarrely locking you and a pal within a single shared screen - and many may abandon it instantly as a result, but by mastering the art of the left bumper - which thankfully snaps the camera back at any point you so desire - it becomes far more playable. With it? Awesome times and hilarity blossom in force.
I've since played through most of the game again with two more people, and feel that as a multiplayer experience, it's something of a marvel. MMOs do the whole multi-person dungeon crawling thing well, sure, but always seem to make massive concessions due to their online nature. Simple animations. Quasi-turn based fighting. Low-poly environments. You know the drill.
Fable II taps the same sense of epic multiplayer adventuring of an MMO, but with all the plusses of a single player game. It's beautiful for one, character-driven for another, totally hilarious throughout, and bustling with fantastic dialogue. It also has far more enjoyable - and more to the point - real-time
combat, and even boasts hugely enjoyable missions that are a particular riot when experienced alongside another. Helping each other out with achievements, trading rare items, and merely conquering towns together remain hugely fun too, long past the end-game sequence, when most, I fear, will have packed up and left. Their loss, though.
Saying that co-op "saved" this game for me is unfair, as I was well on my way to loving it prior to that, but bloody hell, it sure didn't hurt. Just give us our own screen next time, eh Peter?
3. Metal Gear Solid 4 - Guns of the Patriots (PS3)
|Worth buying a PS3 for? You betcha|
I've had quite the rollercoaster-esque love affair with Metal Gear over the years. You can read more about that here
, and here
, but I'm proud to say that journey has culminated in undiluted adulation of the highest order. I worship
Solid Snake's final outing provides more than a fitting swansong to one of gaming's most beloved heroes, improving on its earlier incarnations tenfold along the way. Part stealth 'em up, part shooter, part brawler, and part mech-game, there's no pigeonholing Metal Gear really, never more so than in Patriots. The more westernized combat makes shoot-outs a frickin' blast - at last - while the gadget use and stealth abilities are so far advanced as to finally approach Splinter Cell quality. Well, almost.
|Mixed feelings on this whole scene. If only it ended with the gunsh...|
But it ain't about the minutia. MGS4 as a package
is what works. One that mutates and fluctuates all over the freakin' place, having you sneak through buildings one minute, mow down "zombie" grunts the next, then blaze through the most picturesque European city on a motorbike at the drop of a hat. All so memorable, yet all so outta leftfield...you never see any of it coming. It's a truly fantastic feeling to play such a high profile, well-produced game that keeps you guessing and surprised at each and every turn.
I guess Metal Gear's single problem is, that from a story telling angle, it just doesn't know when to stop. The ending is beautifully poignant and fitting in particular, and could have potentially haunted my very soul 'til the day I die...if of course it had ended when it should have. Instead we get all MGS2's infamous, convoluted shitty end sequence magnified by a million, in a final, closing cut-scene that goes on and on and on for way too long, until its positive
it's completely lost you, and all emotion and empathy you had for its character has - once again - leapt out the window. Instead of paying attention to old dude's rambling on, you find yourself thinking things like "damn, that tree looks good". 'Cos fuck me, it sure does
. Oh, did I not mention? How this is possibly the prettiest game ever made?
You will still feel an insane amount of affinity for Snake, iffy ending aside. Just about the most you probably ever have for a digital creation yet. A guy who's had the shit pummeled outta him, time and time again, yet keeps on trucking and coming back for more 'cos it's the right thing to do. He is put through the ringer to the most insane extremes here - in a "Frodo at the end of Return of the King" kinda way - and your heart sorta bleeds for the chap at numerous occasions. Particularly amidst that final chapter. A thrilling climax to a triumphant game.
All in all rounding off a one-of-a-kind series, from one of gaming's true greats.
2. Gears of War 2 (Xbox 360)
|More cover-based squad shoot-outs with Marcus and co. Been there, done that, you say? Think again. Shit just got real|
There are three distinct stages to Gears 2 acceptance that every player will find themselves going through on firing her up. Firstly, the opening sense of d?j? vu in which you dismiss it as a money grabbing mission pack that's no different to its predecessor in any way shape or form. Secondly, the realization that, hey, this thing's actually pretty damn cool, and is definitely ramping things up a notch if nothing particularly else. To third and finally, the admission that Gears 2 is one of the year's top titles, a fantastic follow-up, and honestly? One of the 360's better games, period.
I can't believe it's been three freakin' years since the system launched already, but sure enough, Gears 2 personifies pretty much everything fantastic about Microsoft's inhaling white box in one huge sweep. A true work of visual brilliance that - along with Metal Gear - is just about the prettiest game you've ever seen, top of the line shoot-out gameplay that takes on any other title in its field, including any PC shooter you'd care to mention, and of course, fantastic multiplayer integration, from the most epic co-op experience to the five man skirmish mode to good old versus shenanigans and beyond.
|Some'll fault GOW2 for its emphasis on vehicles and on-rail segments. Not I|
That's Gears in a nutshell, and it fucking rocks. Hard.
Above all else, one must pay tribute to the final act. A true work of brilliance that feels like all your fave sci-fi movies rolled into one, with gorgeous art work, amazing level design and truly epic sights and sounds that dwarf just about anything gaming's ever chucked your way. Ever
. And of course, experiencing all that alongside a buddy for the first time? Only doubles the fun.
Gears 2 sorta snuck up on me to be honest, and I honestly wasn't expecting the world from it, given how similar it came across to the first. An hour in, I felt justified in that opinion. But bloody hell. 10 hours later, and it quite simply turned into one of my fave games this year, not to mention one of the most entertaining (and possibly unintentionally hilarious) titles you'll ever play.
Dom's such a dick.
1. Devil May Cry 4 (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
What is this...a joke? Major upset time? Has The Dig gone nutso
? Perhaps! But while I never for one second would have expected to come outta 2008 hailing Devil May Cry 4
as the new king of fighters, a monumental achievement, and one of my very favorite games ever
...when I look back upon the year, I have to say...this is the one. The game I poured my heart and soul into. The one I mastered like no other. And the title I just, well, had the most flat-out fun
|Check out Nero smoking these fools|
It's quite simple I suppose. Ryu dropped the ball sir, and Dante was there to pick it up. Scratch that. Fuck that guy. Nero
's the star here. A fantastic addition to this series that has finally made it palatable to me, with truly unique moves and utterly inspired controls; he's a riot to wield for both newbies and the hardcore alike. I love
the guy. There's simply no character as fun to play as, nor as captivating to watch dish out justice in my book.
From upper-cutting dudes into the air, to body-slamming 'em down at 100mph, and every single sword swipe and shotgun blast in-between, he just struck a nerve with me, as a gamer. From controls to moves to the underlying feel
, he handles 100% perfectly in my hands. That's a rare thing, I know. To find a game seemingly built for you, and you alone. DMC4 is that game for The Dig. It's chemistry, and I can't really explain it.
I've spent approximately 70 hours with it at this point, and feel like I've mastered every major and minor facet of Nero from head to toe along the way. For all those hours ploughed in though - and the countless times I've finished this masterpiece in varying difficulty levels since - there is essentially a whole other untapped game
here in Dante's levels. I'll be honest, I can't hit shit with the guy. To the extent where it's sorta embarrassing to watch. And that speaks volumes as to the depth and nuance of Devil May Cry's fighting system. That it can take so many tens of hours to get to grips with, but ultimately require hundreds upon hundreds to genuinely master. Check out YouTube
if you think I'm spewing shit.
|Burial? Haha. Owned this douche|
Yeah, I whined about the latter half of the game back on release, and stand by those complaints. Repeating every level backwards is a childish ploy designed to extend the game's length artificially, and one I kinda wish wasn't there. But then again, part of that disappointment was the lack of Nero for me. Had those levels seen you controlling old Blue Arm instead of Dante? I'd probably have no such qualms. And I tell ya...one day, I'll master him to that same degree.
Let us just hope for some co-op missions next time round anyway, or even a little versus action, huh? I can't think of anything cooler in fact, than to go tearing up dudes in this universe alongside a friend. In the meantime, I'll also set sights on Bayonetta - the upcoming mash 'em up from DMC's original creator, Hideki Kamiya. It'll take a lot to better this game though, I'll tell ya that much. 'Cos in my book guys? It's the best game since Mass Effect
Which says a lot, given the year we just had...
The Witcher - Enhanced Edition (PC)
|Check out my original review for the full low-down on everything Witch-y. Just multiply my gushings by a hundred for this amazing upgrade pack|
If you like your single player RPGs, do not miss this brilliant, original, adult adventure. You may recount me scoring
it a 7.5 back in 2007. I since upgraded that to an 8.5 due to an exceptionally ace patch that fixed up some technical issues, but with 2008's more extravagant "Enhanced Edition" hitting store shelves, I'd now push that up to a whopper of a 9. And you know how rare those are around here.
New animations, re-recorded dialogue, further improved load-times, and a nice chunk o' new content? Well, what can I say? It's just an amazing, all-time great, now pretty much perfected.
The upcoming console port - which is itself an enhanced edition of this
- should prove interesting. But how much longer can these guys milk the same - albeit exceptional - game before we witchers demand a genuine sequel? Dunno. Don't care. I'll happily play through this again and again 'til that day comes. What a game.
Mass Effect (PC)
Speaking of enhanced editions. True, Mass Effect's PC outing adds little to nothing over its console forefather in terms of pure content, but it does
dramatically fix the entire catalogue of glitches and performance issues that plagued that game like the AIDS virus. While you lose a little something hunched over a monitor compared to experiencing it through a big arse HDTV with 5.1 sound, all previous framerate issues are smoothed out, it looks and feels better than ever, and on the whole goes down as the definitive version for me.
Plus, okay, I just wanted another excuse to talk about Mass Effect. The moody, jaw-dropping, genre-splicing RPG sci-fi masterpiece that took over my life last year. A game that if you are yet to experience, really ought to be second on your list of things to do. The first being sort yourself the fuck out
MotorStorm - Pacific Rift (PS3)
One of the big PS3 games - along with Resistance 2 - that I just haven't had time for yet, my copy of Rift's sitting right here next to me, anxiously waiting some lovin'. The few courses I tried seemed fun so far...I must admit though, I kinda miss the desert.
PowerUp Forever (Xbox 360/PS3)
|As its name hints at, Power-Up Forever lets you - yep - power-up forever. Not the greatest game ever, but a nice enough diversion for my fellow top-down shooter junkies|
Released the same year as a Geometry Wars sequel, all other top-down shooters were gonna feel somewhat tepid by comparison, but PowerUp Forever ain't bad in its own right. Given its next-to-nothing coverage anywhere
in internet land, I feel it my duty to bring her to your undivided attention.
Mixing elements of Mutant Storm by way of Flow
, it's a more living, breathing take on the somewhat over-done genre, with all sorts of organic architecture and gross looking bugs to blast along the way. The graphics are striking, very unique and distinctive, with bags of detail and lovely effects, but it's the music that truly impresses, all ambient and breakbeaty, and well worth of seeking out.
Sadly, while fun at first, the actual gameplay is worryingly void of variety, making it a short-lived affair, albeit one still worth a punt.
Pure (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
And finally a wee little chunk o' love for a game that came outta nowhere, went toe to toe with MotorStorm without a worry, and perhaps best of all, reminded me hugely of Dig-fave, SSX. Sure, it's on quad bikes, not snowboards, but that same trick-centric feel, sheer fun, and gravity-defying euphoria is very much present...something of a gift, in light of SSX4's recent rumored cancellation.
The lack of split-screen's a massive downer for me - kind of a requirement for racing games in this day and age - and one might argue it lacks its own personality at times. Really though, Pure's one of the better racers to come out in a long, long time, and definitely worth a bash at the depressingly low prices it's already dropped too.
Hall of Shame
Prince of Persia (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
|Sands of Time, eh? What a game. Let's talk about that. Not this|
A good year or two back, there were rumors and leaks of a new Prince of Persia, titled "Ghosts of the Past". It spoke of cell-shaded graphics, an Ico-inspired love story, and a throw-back to the more luscious look and spirit of Sands of Time that we all enjoyed so dearly. Coupled with next generation power, it sounded too good to be true.
It since seemingly dropped that sub-moniker and saw release as simply "Prince of Persia", yet while it does technically feature much of what was promised, the end result is ultimately a shallow, disappointing facade for kids.
I guess it's admirable what Ubi-soft tried to do. Craft an artistic, beautiful and undeniably "warm" experience like Sands of Time, but one far more suited to the mainstream in its gameplay (and thus able to capture an audience this time). In practice though, there's just no challenge, no depth, and the whole thing plays like one gigantic sodding quicktime event. And honestly, is there a single person who actually enjoys those?
The sublime and nimble platforming that PoP invented - then more recently reinvented - is rendered insanely simple, if not flat-out boring here, while the love story and emotional angel is ruined by lame characters and cornball dialogue each and every time. Even more worrying, PoP is the latest in a trend of god awful videogames in which you can't actually die
. So not only is there no fear of repercussion...but no reward, no incentive...and no excitement either.
The cell-shaded visuals and orchestral score really are something - and make you really wanna
love this thing - but ultimately it's barely one notch above Dragon's Lair in the interactive department. And god that makes me depressed.
Star Wars - The Force Unleashed (Xbox 360/PS3)
|Star Wars mega-fans should probably play Force Unleashed anyway. It's a genuine episode 3.5 in terms of story, even if it handles like a drunk Jawa|
Award for Hot Blonde Bimbo of the Year most definitely goes to Force Unleashed, as for all its bland hack 'n' slash soul-destroying gameplay, it's one amazing looking game for sure. Along with Gears 2 and MGS4, the junkyard level in particular might well be the most beautiful looking slab o' gaming seen all year, with literally miles upon miles of ship parts and battered TIE fighters going on for as far as the eye can see. For the average Star Wars nut like I, there are few sights quite so potent.
The story and cut-scenes are also, to be frank, freakin' awesome too. The material is fantastic, the direction is second to none, and it really does almost feel like the long lost Star Wars movie we were promised in many ways.
I guess FU (*snicker*) would classify itself as a Force-based fighter first and foremost, and the subsequent powers are impressive for the first five minutes, true. But you can only toss Wookies and Stormies off bridges a finite number of times before you yearn for something more, and sadly the actual melee combat's sluggish, laggy, and unsatisfying, which is sorta unforgiving for a lightsaber sim. Lacking in particular is anything worth mentioning on the combo/unlockable moves front.
That's all very much a disappointment after the other colossal beat 'em ups released earlier in the year, which all did a far better job of making you feel like a genuine, all-powerful, superhero bad ass
. Thus leaving The Force Unleashed feeling more like The Force Going Out For a Brief Walk by comparison.
Too Human (Xbox 360)
|I had massively high hopes for Too Human - prior to the demo - but among its myriad of problems, it remains the "hold-the-stick-at-enemies" combat system that depresses the most. Seriously, Dennis...WTF?|
After being let down with the demo, I drunkenly decided to snag this anyway. To be honest, it's alright, and as another mindless brawler there's enough here to plough through with a mate in good a couple o' evenings if you like to get your loot on. I personally like the setting and look of it too - Mass Effect done on the cheap, if you will.
But yeah, like Force Unleashed, it suffers immeasurably from coming out the same year as DMC4 and Ninja Gaiden II. With bash 'em ups like those around, why would you look at this?
The unfortunate answer is of course, you wouldn't.
Bionic Commando Rearmed (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
Overhyped, over-rated and over...orange? Bionic Commando Rearmed was another bit of a let-down for me, given how long it was in development and the 90%+ reviews it recieved. Then again, as big an NES fan as I was back in the day, I oddly never really had the attachment to the original that most do, and thus come at this remake from a brand new perspective. Make of that what you will.
As a downloadable game, it sure looks lovely however, and I'd kill to see something more timeless like Flashback get a similar such upgrade. In fact, why the hell hasn't that been done yet?
Ninja Gaiden - Dragon Sword (DS)
The second most over-rated game of the year, and as a massive Gaiden rim-jobber, a personal let-down
for me too. Dragon Sword dispensed with the series' technical, skill-based button-bashing combat, in favor of the far more thrilling art of...scribbling. That's right, drawing on dudes
to wipe 'em out. Dear lord.
Kudos go towards this game for showcasing the DS graphics in a surprisingly pretty light at least - even if it does, sorta, cheat by integrating hand-drawn backgrounds.
Really though? I wish this thing didn't exist.
Army of Two (Xbox 360/PS3)
Hey folks. Here's how you take the most insanely awesome idea ever, and completely fuck it up from head to toe. Well played!
PixelJunk Eden (PS3)
|More PS3 download antics, and further proof of the pretty, artsy games currently running riot over there. Shame about the gameplay|
For a chilled-out artsy game about collecting pollen in a garden, Eden's not half fiddly, frustrating and bloody annoying to play. I'm a big fan of the pretentious "games as art" movement as you guys probably know by now - and mop that shit up like nothing else - but Eden just seems to go out of its way to piss the player off as much as humanly possible from start to finish.
Not a horrible game, but I expected more.
No More Heroes (Wii)
Probably the first Wii game that I had to physically give up on
'cos the graphics were so incredibly bad that I couldn't stomach it anymore. I wish I could get over that. I really do. Perhaps there's a great game in Heroes just waiting to be discovered. It makes me feel physically sick to even look upon it though. Gag.
Burnout Paradise (Xbox 360/PS3)
I'll try and sneak this in at the end so that no one notices, but aye, while Paradise is most definitely not a bad game by any means, it's definitely one of the biggest let-downs of the year for me. S'always frustrating when you can't get on board a super high profile title that everyone else seems to love, but Paradise is exactly that I'm afraid. The one that just didn't
ring my bells.
As a big lover of the previous Burnouts - particularly around the "Takedown" era - the new open city approach seemed to lose all the series' tightness and focus for me. Tense, spectacular races turned frustrating and lame due to the lack of dedicated racing circuits, while the challenges making up the bulk of the single player game felt mundane as fuck and boring to boot. And hey, while we're at it, where's my beloved Crash Mode gone too?
Hats go off to developers Criterion for really pushing boundaries (and generosity) with the DLC...but I guess at the end of the day, this and Test Drive have pretty much cemented the open world racer as really not my thang.
LOST - Via Domus (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
And with that, let's stick a fork in 2008; it's time to get our 9 on. Shit's gonna be epic.