Game of the Year Awards 2007 – part 2
This article was written by a number of Thunderbolt staff and picks up from where the first part of our Game of the Year Awards left off.
Bargain of the year – The Orange Box
You’ll be hard pressed to find a better deal than The Orange Box. For the price of a normal game, it included Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Portal and Team Fortress 2. Each are fantastic in their own right, but together they form the bargain of the year.
Best singleplayer game – BioShock
BioShock is one of the finest games we’ve played in years and it’s sole mode is singleplayer. Rarely does a game’s plot, gameplay, audio and visuals come together so well, but here’s that’s exactly what’s happened. The first person shooter genre is overcrowded to say the least, but BioShock stands out as one of the best and its engaging singleplayer is the sole reason for that.
Best multiplayer game – Halo 3
I had the fortune of participating in the Halo 3 beta earlier this year, when a friend an I sat camped in my bedroom for four straight days living on nothing but beer and crisps as we laid the smackdown on anything and everything that moved. The finished article lived up to all the promise that the preview showed, with level design that’s spot on, never allowing you to hold one position for too long. Matchmaking is still the best option for online gaming that I’ve seen so far, this time with the bonus of teaming up with other players from games you’ve just played in to keep the winning streak progressing.
Whilst Call of Duty 4 has some awesome ranking ideas, Halo 3 outpaces it with straightforward shooting action and excellent team play. If there’s any game to meet up with your mates on, then it’s Bungie’s baby. She’s a real cutie.
Best game developed from an original IP – BioShock
BioShock came out of nowhere. It’s full of fresh ideas, with stunning art direction, fantastic visuals, outstanding audio and gripping gameplay to match. It demonstrates the upmost conceptual integrity and consistency throughout, sucking the player into a world that they’ll never forget.
Not even a tie-breaking vote could help us decide between these two. Rarely do trilogies have such strong endings. Halo 3 not only gave us the same gameplay that we love, but new and innovative online modes. Its singleplayer is engaging and its multiplayer is quite simply the best out there. As a game on its own, it stands head and shoulders above the rest, but as a sequel, it can’t be beaten.
For many, the step between CoD2 and 3 was extremely minor, if apparent at all. A large proportion of gamers began to feel that the Call Of Duty franchise was falling into the same trap as Medal of Honor, a seemingly sinking ship that became a stale formula reeking of unoriginality. Fortunately, CoD4:Modern Warfare makes the giant leap that the franchise needed, bringing with it so much excitement and a package that is one of the best seen this year. CoD4 takes everything gamers loved from past titles and threw it into an even more intriguing mix of tight action and beautiful gameplay. With the single player campaign and online mode getting better with each edition, this is my worthy winner for best sequel 2007. It really is explosive stuff, and the developers should be praised hugely.
Surprise hit of the year – BioShock
I was worried that this now-famous title would fail to deliver a good gameplay experience. To be honest, the shooter mechanics and ‘powers’ are nothing new, and the game forces you through small, claustrophobic hallways a la Doom. However, the power of a good story prevailed, and the riveting atmosphere mixed with the vanilla gameplay perfectly. BioShock proves that you don’t have to do anything new to the shooter genre to do something amazing.
Best PC game – Call of Duty 4
A drama-free PC release? Say it ain’t so! Unlike BioShock and Crysis, games that have caused significant rifts amongst PC gamers, Call of Duty 4 snuck in and took the gold. No copy-protection screw-ups, no forced downloads, no ridiculous system requirements. The game itself is intense and a bucket of fun, provided you don’t need to pop anti-depressants after finishing the campaign- glory-filled war it ain’t. The fast and furious multiplayer also works flawlessly, masquerading as an RPG with cool little power-ups. If there was one PC game this year that you had to buy, especially if you wanted a hassle-free title, CoD4 was the way to go.
Best Wii game – Super Mario Galaxy
I came in expecting another Super Mario 64, but was pleasantly surprised to find something more akin to a 3D Super Mario Bros. 3. Galaxy is spectacle to watch and a dream to play. Everything I loved about the Mario games — wicked power-ups, secret rooms, challenging designs, immense variety — shines in Galaxy, and if it wasn’t for the decidedly dodgy controls at times, this may have just surpassed Super Mario 64. Doesn’t that just send shivers down your spine?
Best PS3 game – Warhawk
In an interesting move, Sony opted to release this online shooter in retail outlets and via download at the same time. Luckily, this gimmick wasn’t hiding any problems with the game – it’s a fantastic multiplayer shooter. Along the lines of Star Wars: Battlefront and other science-fiction games, Warhawk features plenty of vehicles and some attractively designed graphics to boot. While it didn’t topple any of the other online behemoths this year, it was the first of a steady stream of great games for Sony’s powerhouse. Here’s hoping that this trend will continue.
Best Xbox 360 game – Halo 3
The pressure was on for Bungie to deliver, and boy did they ever. Halo started the story and the second installment gave us multiplayer, the 3rd addition to this blockbuster series now had to wow us all with both halves and did so fantastically well. Ok, so the single player isn’t up to scratch with Bioshock, but the fact 4 players can drop in mid-game to help finish the fight gives Master Chief the edge. The battles with scorpion tanks are epic and the levels are well designed to keep you hooked; just as things start to get cramped you’re back out into the open again with the Warthog.
Without spoiling things, the very last section of the game is perhaps the most dramatic experience I’ve had the fortune to play, and this wow factor carries right on with the multiplayer. Bungie seem determined to keep things fresh with new additions such as the one-day-only zombie mode over halloween, but the excellent balanced weapons system and fantastically designed levels should hold your attention for long enough before craving new content. It’s absolutely stunning and well worth the long wait, and the Legendary Edition helmet looks superb too!
Best handheld game – Pokemon Pearl/Diamond
While the core gameplay hasn’t changed in the slightest, it’s still one of the greatest concepts out, and the Pokemon formula has been refined to perfection with this DS incarnation, with a meaty single player game to boot. There are lots of small things not seen before in a Pokemon game that you just have to admire, such as the poffin making, or fashion contests. And with the inclusion of a whole load of new Pokemon, it’ll be months until you get them all, let alone the whole band. Plus, the use of wi-fi for trading and battling means the Pokemon experience just got a whole lot communal, and it’s even easier to find that Pokemon you’ve spent your life searching for down in the wild.
Game of the Year – Halo 3
It was an extremely close run thing, but Halo 3 just pipped BioShock to our Game of the Year award by a single vote. Bungie’s masterpiece not only provided a fitting end to what’s been a fantastic trilogy, but once again pushed the benchmark for online play. Its use of Xbox Live is seamless and ever-present, infused into every part of the game. This year has been an outstanding one for videogames, especially for first-person shooters, and Halo 3 stands out as the all-round best game of them all.