Game of the Year 2008: 10-1
It’s time to round of our summary of the games of 2008. Disagree with our conclusions? Post a comment or head over to the forum.
Bionic Commando: Rearmed is living proof that classics can be updated to please both fans and new players alike. Rather then reinvent the wheel, the folks at Grin expanded on what made the original so great. Adding various weapons, secrets, new boss encounters, multiplayer and a load of other features, you’d be hard pressed to find anything else on the PS Store or Xbox Live Marketplace as robust as this. Yes it’s unforgiving, and yes you still can’t jump but once you’ve learned to swing with the best of them, you won’t care.
Indie developers producing classic games is becoming an increasingly rare tradition as multi-millon dollar blockbusters dominate the sales charts. PopCap Games are a big fish in a small pond, but Braid broke through the mould and was a tremendous success this summer. A traditional 2D platformer at first glance, it had an emphasis on puzzles which require careful application of knowledge. With an enchanting world, an artistic style on par with the likes of Shadow of the Colossus, critical success by the bucket-load and perfect timing to appeal to a niche audience, this the greatest 2D game of the year.
8. Left 4 Dead
I can’t quite remember but I think it was 28 Days Later that introduced the running zombie. Now Valve wants to see how well we’d do, putting us in the survivors’ boots and scaring us stupid with horde of runners, exploding fatties, long-tongued zombies and jumping predators. Now don’t think that that’s not enough types because it’s the combination that’s lethal; a perfect set-up of blinding the player, attracting hordes of zombies and then seeing your saviour being picked off by those bastard Special Infected. This game is the definition of co-op play; go out there on your own and be prepared to say your last goodbye. Even if it’s just in pairs, you stand a better chance. With every battle there’s a sense of achievement as the game plays fairly; the AI Director can cut-short a moment’s rest unexpectedly (there’s no time to rest during zombie apocalypse!), zombies are easy to kill but their numbers make up for it, you can push back the undead whilst reloading. It’s fast, furious and unexpected. When you’re not redecorating with red paint, the ambient sounds (the sobbing Witch accompanied by evil choir wails is undoubtedly unsettling) and tinkling piano music forever put you on nervous tenterhooks, readying your vocal chords for the imminent moment when things turn nasty. Yes, it may seem like a Half-Life 2 mod and be short with only four chapters, but if that’s all you see you’re missing the point. This is co-op play with a meaning, a history of and about survival, and dare I say it, better than Counter Strike in its heyday. Running away has never been so much fun.
7. FIFA 09
This year, EA finally delivered the FIFA that we’d been waiting for and overturned the notion that its series was nothing more than a pretty but ultimately shallow pretender. FIFA 09‘s gameplay is well balanced, realistic and incredible enjoyable. It doesn’t feel scripted as it once did and genuine skill is required to master the finer points of the game. On top of this, the Be A Pro mode has been fully extended into a season format and it’s also possible to play 10 vs. 10 online. There’s still plenty of work to do in the Manager Mode, which suffers from dodgy match scheduling and an unrealistic transfer market, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that this is by far the best FIFA to date.
This is possibly the most eagerly awaited PlayStation 3 game of the year and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. While it might be a simple, solid platformer, it’s also the most creative medium since Lego and this time there’s no chocking hazard. Many people are still yet to be convinced by this game saying that unless you’re creative you’ll be wasting your money. They couldn’t be further from the truth, for a start the game comes with over 50 pre-made levels. Not to mention the ever increasing number submitted by other players; it’s quite possible to play a completely new level everyday, without the urge to even open up the create mode. Although Having said that I urge you to try it. The feature is so intuitive that before you know it you’re coming up with amazing enemies and death defying obstacles. Quite simply if you’ve yet to buy it, what are you waiting for?
5. Fable II
Ah, Fable II. Both critics and fans alike found themselves, for the most part, remarkably disappointed with Fable. We let ourselves fall victim to the hype machine with which Fable will forever be associated with for a generation of gamers. Yet, we still allowed ourselves to get excited for Fable II, developer Peter Molyneaux’s second attempt at creating the game he said he wanted to. And, for the most part, it was worth getting excited for. While Fable II still wasn’t perfect, it was still one of the most enjoyable games in years. Fable II was simple, and better, never tried to be anything but. Players were guided along through the storyline with the help of a glowing magical trail, combat was kept to just a few buttons and triggers and your companion throughout the game was a quiet dog that you could love or abuse on command. But in spite of this simplicity, Fable II was a captivating game that grabbed your attention. The colorful graphics revealed a rich world and the combat, purposefully simple, was addictive, fast and most important, fun. Even better, Fable II makes us comfortable being excited for Fable III.
So you think you’ve seen it all. You lived as Big Boss and took down your master in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater; you’ve saved the world multiple times as Solid Snake from devastating nuclear tanks in Metal Gear, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, and Metal Gear Solid; you’ve even stopped Solidus Snake and saved the world from a terrorist attack by the Patriots in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Good Old Snake is back, though, and this time he’s fighting an entirely new generation of soldiers in an age where even he has to change with the times. Featuring the best pieces from the past entries in the series, Metal Gear Solid 4 is easily the best game I’ve played all year, and even ranks up as one of my favorite games of all time. With great graphics and sound design coupled with the intense gameplay and amazing cut scenes, Tactical Espionage Action has never been so good.
The original plan didn’t work and the Locusts are back with bigger a bigger arsenal – they’re now sinking entire cities. Marcus and Dom are thrown onto the front line once again to save the human race from imminent defeat. Luckily, they’re not on their own, and some wacky characters are in tow to lend a hand against bigger and badder enemies. The gameplay is manic and tense, debris fills the air and environments look more authentic than before. Gears of War 2 isn’t just another videogame, it’s an experience.
2. Fallout 3
A barren wasteland after a nuclear explosion over the capital city of the USA awaits your arrival. Escaping from the vault in search of your father, soon it becomes clear that the population of what was once the thriving Washington DC aren’t a forgiving bunch. Decades have passed since the great war and the city remains divided into barricaded settlements and roaming gangs, each with their own agenda and offering scant rewards for their dirty work. A twisting storyline intertwined with individual backgrounds offers a glimmer of hope of what is essentially a battle of wits, a survival of the fittest. Plan your trips across the wasteland tactfully, choose your battles wisely and barter your way to a bigger gun than your foe. Fallout 3 is quite probably the greatest feat of exploration seen on a console.
Few games manage what GTA IV delivered. With the success of the previous edition’s of this franchise, Rockstar was expected to deliver a perfect game and in many ways, they succeeded. The depth of this game is unrivaled by any title currently. Days – real life days – can be spent driving aimlessly around the streets of Liberty City with friends – both non-player characters or your real-life buddies – participating in a broad range of activities, from playing darts and drinking to straight up gang-banging. The storyline, centered around immigrant Niko Bellic, was extremely well-presented thanks to excellent voice acting and an impressive graphics engine that really allowed the developers to bring the character’s emotions to life. While still shrouded in some controversy over the adult subject matter, GTA IV proved that Rockstar doesn’t need to rely on shock and awe to sell games – GTA IV sold well because it was quite simply one of the best games ever produced.