My best pal Sean started a great series on his site last year called ‘The Year in Consumables’ where he offers up multi-part installments aimed at documenting the varied pop-culture entertainments he sampled and enjoyed in a particular year. It’s a great idea. A good way of offering up a Ten Best List for the year or at the very least, letting you readers know what was worth all the time and attention.
I’ve decided to crib from him and offer up my own list. While Sean has also documented his Top Movies and Music for 2007, I’m going to leap off his latest post and offer up a listing of the video games I enjoyed in 2007.
My criteria was simple. The games did not have to be released in 2007 – they just had to be played and completed by me in 2007. That said, I consider ‘Completion’ as making it to the end credits. That’s not to imply that I ripped through every bonus feature or multiplayer mode – just that I ‘beat’ the game in the traditional sense.
Also, I do offer up my Top 5 games of the year. For that list, I will only include games released in the calendar year 2007.
All right, prepare for shock and awe. First the lists of all games played (and beat) by me in 2007.
Gears of War
Marvel Ultimate Alliance
Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2
Splinter Cell: Double Agent
Lego Star Wars II
The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion
Tomb Raider Anniversary
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Super Paper Mario
Metroid Prime Corruption
Zack & Wiki – The Search for Barbara’s Treasure
Super Mario Galaxy
God of War 2
Wii Virtual Console
Super Mario Bros. (NES)
Super Mario World (SNES)
Donkey Kong Country (SNES)
The Legend of Zelda – A Link to the Past (SNES)
Super Mario 64 (N64)
The Legend of Zelda (NES)
Donkey Kong Country 2 (SNES)
Super Metroid (SNES)
XBOX Live Arcade
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Arcade
Pac-Man Championship Edition
Prince of Persia
Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Like I said, I don’t watch a lot of TV. When the kids are in bed and I’ve said good night to my wife, I’d rather play a game than mindlessly surf the tube. Hence the wide assortment of titles above.
Anyway, without further adieu I offer up the Top 5 Video Games I played in 2007. Again, all of these were released and played by me during that Calendar Year.
5. God of War 2 (Playstation 2)
For a brief period of time last year, I held on to a PS2 procured during my wait for the Wii. The PS2 has a nice healthy library brimming with great games (I highly recommend the two Metal Gears that hit this platform) so I sort of bemoan my ill-fated decision to trade this system in. That said, before I did trade it in, I made a stellar purchase in God of War 2 – one of the better action-adventure games I’ve played in the last few years.
I’m a sucker for a good 3rd-person action-adventure assuming the character that you spend the lion’s share of your time gaming as provides an adventure worth following. God of War’s Kratos stands atop Olympus in regards to character complexity. Take 300’s King Leonidas and infuse him with the Power of the Gods and you have a good idea of the type of bad-ass you get to control. Where the first God of War found Kratos working his way through the lands of pop-Greek mythology to avenge himself against the true God of War, Ares – the second game begins with Kratos being granted God-like powers. Then, in classic Metroid fashion, he is deprived of these powers – rendered mortal by a pissed-off Zeus – and sent off to redeem himself. Of course, Kratos takes the high road and decides to take his war to the King of the Gods, Zeus, himself.
While the 8-year old PS2 is a dinosaur in terms of processing power, God of War 2 benefits from a stellar art design. While the graphics can’t challenge the best that this current generation pumps out, there is an elegance to the artwork that makes the game pop off the screen. In addition, the developers have provided an expert mix of combat and problem solving – with each element serving the epic story.
The end teases a God of War 3 and really, it seems worth buying a PS3 for. This is a great achievement in action gaming and one of the best game experiences in the last few years.
4. Halo 3 (XBOX 360)
This was supposed to be the number 1 game of the year. After all, it was the final movement in an epic symphony begun several years back with the release of the first Halo on Microsoft’s fledgling XBOX. And while this was a great game in its own right, it disappointed on too many levels in telling this thrilling tale’s denouement. I think the problem lies squarely with Halo 2 and not in the way you might think.
When Halo 2 released, it garnered much fan-fare even if it did ultimately prove divisive among the rabid fan base. As with anything, overwhelming hype can weigh most anything down. Fanboys clamored for the chance to play Halo on Earth – as the teaser campaign for that game tipped to. Instead, they got a few fleeting Earthbound levels before they were whisked across the stars to a new Halo installation. In addition, they bristled at the surprise game play decision to recast the hero as the alien Arbiter – taking their mitts off the Master Chief for a few levels throughout the campaign.
Me – I enjoyed these ballsy narrative decisions. By replacing the MC with the Arbiter as your avatar, we got to see how the other half lived and the mythology behind this fantastic universe was blown wide open. Here, Halo moved beyond the cliché Space Marine antics and moved its narrative into a universe all its own. There was a fascinating subculture that we got to peak into with various religious and political machinations beginning to drive the plot. And the Arbiter, as voiced by the awesome Keith David, instilled real pathos to his story of a Covenant General disgraced by the player’s actions in Halo. Suddenly, I felt bad for all that I had wrought in that first campaign.
So, Halo 3 stumbles in refusing to follow these tantalizing plot threads and opting to play lip service to fanboy concerns. Gone went the Arbiter’s plight (oh sure, he’s here but he’s merely your wingman now). Also, the Gravemind plotline is continued but it really goes nowhere – least of all to the climactic boss battle you would think you should get after all of his incessant intrusions. While the game boasts some stellar set-pieces and the co-op multiplayer is a dream, Halo 3’s slight narrative brings this game down on my list.
3. Crackdown (XBOX 360)
This one surprised the hell out of everybody. In fact, most people didn’t think it was going to be any good citing Microsoft’s decision to tease its purchase with a free invite to the Halo 3 Beta. It just seemed like MS had to move product and they realized the Halo 3 Beta would act as the perfect salve for any bad taste acquired by this purchase. So – lo and behold – after the game dropped, it quickly became one of the most fun games I’d played in a long, long time.
On initial appearances, Crackdown appears to be another GTA clone – with a bustling wide-open city ready for your cybernetic law enforcement agent to clean up anyway you so choose. The comparison is apt as the developer, Real Time Worlds, is staffed by the guys who reinvented the GTA mode in the Playstation 2 release GTA III – the game that set the bar for sandbox fare.
Crackdown breaks from that mold by allowing the player to build up their super heroes through their actions. So the more you drive, the better you drive. The more agility orbs you find, the higher you can jump. Eventually, you get to the point where you can leap over (small) buildings in a single bound. Chasing these orbs and enhancing these abilities becomes more compelling than the fairly lackluster campaign. It becomes addictive to see how far you can take these heroes.
When you add in the dynamic co-op play and the ability to work with a buddy to take down the various crime families that plague the city, the game play becomes infectious. While eventually you run out of things to do, while the going is good, this game is as good as it gets. I’d like to see a sequel that expands upon the abilities and perhaps offers different levels of customization for different character types so two players can play together with complimentary abilities – each feeding off of what the other brings to the table.
Anyway, there’s a reason this game is called Crackdown. It’s a hard addiction to shake.
2. Bioshock (XBOX 360)
Bioshock would have been my number one if it had resolved itself about five hours earlier. While it just drips with production value and atmosphere, it runs itself a little too long and after a spell becomes quite repetitious. That said, for those first 15 hours, I was in a trance. Gears of War may have adopted the label of destroyed beauty but this was the poster child for it.
The world of Bioshock – an undersea Utopia that has since gone to seed – was like nothing I’d seen in a game before. The beautiful decay and the little details that went into creating this world were enough to pull my peepers away from the video game artifacts that still reared their ugly heads. In fact, I would say it was these clichés (all of the various item and health pick-ups) that really pulled me out of the narrative spell – especially when everything you can interact with carries that glow so many games employ as a crutch. Just make it part of the environment and let me use my well-honed eyes to find it on my own. I don’t need a Neon sign pointing me to the next Plasmid pick-up.
That said, this game boasts one hell of a plot twist. In a tale that’s as well crafted as most films, the big turning point really hit me and in one of those perfect Sixth Sense like turns, when you think back on all you’ve seen and heard, you realize that the clues were in front of you the whole time.
All I’ll say is, if you haven’t picked up this game yet, would you kindly?
1. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
I admit it – I’m a Nintendo Nerd – so for this game to make my number one shouldn’t really surprise anyone. Until you realize that I played Metroid Prime Corruption in this same year (the end of another beloved trilogy of mine and didn’t bother to list that game on this list). So just because it’s Nintendo doesn’t mean it is assured a place on my Top 5 list. (Don’t get me wrong – Metroid is a great game but much like Halo it ultimately disappointed me and didn’t live up to the promise of the prior games).
Nope, this makes the top slot because hand’s down, Super Mario Galaxy was the most fun I had with a game in a long, long time. With Mario set free from the constraints of proper story-telling (and gravity) the wizards at Nintendo were free to come up with one inventive level after another. The level designs are really some of the best 3D platforming I’ve seen to date and each new level presents some new challenge that makes you rethink the way to tackle it – all the while the controls remain as intuitive and pick-up-and-play as can be. There’s even a smattering of old school three dimensional 2D levels thrown in for good measure that are so much fun, you pine for a full-on game in that style.
With 121 stars to reclaim, the game play is through the roof. It probably took me close to 35 hours to nab them all and not once did I feel like I was going through the motions or repeating something I had already done. This game throws new surprises at you the whole way through.
While the game gooses that nostalgia button, it’s the new approach to tried and true game play that solidify this as a winner. This is one that will stand the test of time and deserves to be held up alongside the original Super Mario Brothers as a true classic.
This is the reason to own a Wii.