The Dirty Dozen: a perfect line-up
As the GameCube and Xbox have been laid to rest and the PS2 is in her final hours, we take a look at some of the best games from last generation, and consider how they’ve held up a few years down the line:
Who would have expected a game starring Vin Diesel would have become one of the most progressive, immersive and utterly enjoyable First-Person Shooters of its generation? A deft fusion Metal Gear Solid and Deus Ex taking place in David Twohy’s superb Riddick universe, Butcher Bay perfectly encapsulates its protagonist’s primal aggression in a darkly beautiful and foreboding setting. It also boasts tremendous production values and outstanding graphics that could with little work easily belong on the Xbox 360.
Just a few years ago few would have dared anticipate a Star Wars game to become one of the most highly-acclaimed RPGs of all time? Taking cues from its famous source material but crafting an entirely new background for the game, you meet an entire galaxy full of colourful and interesting characters and partake in a huge quest spanning several planets and ultimately deciding the fate of the known galaxy. The best thing to happen to Star Wars since Han Solo.
Shadow of the Colossus (2006 – PS2)
Developed by Team Ico
Published by Sony
Everyone has a different delineation for how this game makes them feel. For some it is heroism; becoming a mighty giant-killer to save your incapacitated love. For others it is awe; paying respects to some of the largest and most intricately-designed enemies ever to grace a videogame. For some it is guilt; felling these mighty, often docile beasts for your own selfish means. Whatever you may think about Shadow of the Colossus, its wonderful design and unique perspective make it many things to many people, and undeniably a beautiful, wondrous and original quest. If only more games displayed such imagination.
Sometimes, revolutions happen and we don’t even notice. Along comes something so extraordinary; so progressive and influential, and yet barely a small few take note. The Sands of Time was such an example. It took the platforming genre by the scruff of the neck, added a fantastically agile and fluid protagonist, created a well-designed, muted and beautiful gameworld and removed the hateful platforming element of instant deaths. It all combined to create one of the most unexpectedly superb platforming games ever, and is to this day arguably still Ubisoft’s finest hour.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (2002 – GameCube)
Developed by Silicon Knights
Published by Nintendo
However immersive and innovative, there has for the most part always been a clear barrier between gamer and game. In a stroke of unmatched genius, Eternal Darkness sought to cross that void and actually mess with the gamer’s mind. And it worked; telling you your memory card had been corrupted, pretending your console had reset itself and hiding inventory items to trick you. It was a sadistic, brilliant and immersive way of getting under the player’s skin, and was incredibly effective. This elevated the game from a good survival horror to the realms of genius – which has, in many ways, not really been replicated since.
Ninja Gaiden (2004 – Xbox)
Developed by Team Ninja
Published by Tecmo
Combat. Brutal, visceral, stylish, unforgiving combat. That’s precisely the focus in Ninja Gaiden, and the game achieves this to magnificent effect. It is beautiful, easily being one of the Xbox’s nicest-looking titles, it is difficult, imploring and teasing you to try again, and it has one of the most fluid and elegant combat engines ever committed to a videogame. Truly one of the defining action titles ever.
Well, what is there to say about Halo that hasn’t been said before? It should be remembered for many reasons, but most of all because it was an incredibly successful and enjoyable fusion of peerless gameplay, outstanding design and genre-defining technology. Games have never been the same since.
Deus Ex (2000 – PS2, PC)
Developed by Ion Storm
Published by Eidos
One of the most successful cross-genre first-person titles ever to be released, Deus Ex is a multi-layered conspiracy and narrative-laden epic which has more depth and detail than three of its equivalents. Despite having a scope and vision far beyond most games, it was a resounding success on almost every level, and secured Warren Spector as a legend amongst game designers.
Metroid Prime (2002 – GameCube)
Developed by Retro Studios
Published by Nintendo
Metroid Prime is everything a devout Metroid fan could have hoped for from the series’ first foray into the third dimension. Managing to feel remarkably similar to its 2D forerunners and yet simultaneously quite unlike anything before it, Metroid Prime brought a sense of maturity and depth which was so notably lacking from most of the GameCube’s library. Even today, this is still a stunning, beautiful and muted game.
Just when the Resident Evil series appeared to have stuck itself in a rut, along came this action-packed sequel and blew us all away. All of a sudden ‘Survival Horror’ seemed so quaint and archaic; this was all about ‘Panic Action’, and it was sporting a nine millimetre to prove its case. Leon came, he kicked arse, and the Resident Evil series was born again.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004 – PS2)
Developed by Kojima Productions
Published by Konami
Putting Snake in the jungle is possibly the best thing Kojima and Konami ever did with the series. Eschewing much of the series’ traditional facilities, setting the game in and around the challenging jungle gave a very different feel to proceedings. No longer was it merely a case of avoiding and fighting enemies; now series protagonist Snake had to deal with the wildlife and the elements, too. Backed up by the typically excellent and touching Metal Gear storyline, and this should easily be remembered as one of the greatest PS2 titles.
Almost certainly the pinnacle of horror games to date, Silent Hill 2 has a dark and thought-provoking narrative and setting, oppressive and well-designed environments and utterly terrifying, inhuman enemies. Where it really earns its stripes though is in the storytelling and characters, exhibiting a dark and compelling portrayal of frightened people in extraordinary circumstances. Whereas Resident Evil is more likely to blow your head off, Silent Hill gets under your skin, and stays there.