Last week, I posted a three-part series that documented my reaction to the Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo E3 2008 Press Conferences.
Originally, I had planned to run an additional three-part series this week, aimed at providing my list of the Top 5 Games I’ve Just Gotta’ Play per system in 2008 but in pouring through the announced release dates, I realized that there are not enough system exclusives to compile that list. And in the Wii’s case, there’s barely anything on their announced schedule that warrants my playtime at all. Here’s hoping for some late-inning surprises.
Anyway, I’ve decided to call an audible. While there were plenty of compelling titles announced during the show (MadWorld, Final Fantasy XIII on the 360, inFamous), they all drop sometime in 2009. For the purpose of this piece, I am going to focus on the Top 10 games releasing this year that have piqued my interest. I’m going to break it up into two posts. I’ve listed them in descending order (10 to 1) with the number one title representing the one title that I’ve got to play above all others. That said, they all look excellent.
Without further adieu, I present The Top 10 Games That I’ve Got to Play in 2008 – Part 1.
10. Sam & Max – Season One (Wii – August 2008)
I know this is a port of the six-part episodic series that graced the PC (via GameTap) last year, but I’ve never played it and it’s likely my aging Speak n’ Spell of a PC couldn’t run it even if I wanted to. As I am a console player by choice, the news that Telltale Games would port Season One to the Wii instantly grabbed my attention. That this is coming on a disc and not downloadable via WiiWare is probably for the best, as Nintendo still has those nagging storage concerns to deal with.
Anyway – I first encountered our ace detective dog Sam and his psychotic little buddy, Max, way back in the Spring of ’93 when I was a Junior at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Ironically, my underpowered IBM desktop struggled to run the LucasArts classic Sam and Max – Hit the Road without benefit of a boot disk but somehow I plowed through. I just had to work my way through every hilarious dialogue selection – if only to see Sam’s little buddy “sic ‘em up”. Of course, those were the golden years of point and click adventures and every LucasArts release was a true treasure trove of riches. Following that title, we waited and waited for word of a follow-up. When the 90’s drew to a close and stellar titles like Tim Shaefer’s Grim Fandango shuffled off to the lonely netherworld of bargain bins, many Sam and Max fans felt their dreams had evaporated.
Then Telltale saved the day. There were those that knocked this new iteration of Sam and Max specifically for its brevity. Apparently, each episode can be completed in about 4 –5 hours. So, when they dropped on a scattered schedule of a few months apart, fans felt burned having to wait so long for another teasing taste of their favorite dish. But, that’s the bane of episodic anything. You’re always left wanting a little more.
Since I sat that first round out, I get to benefit from receiving all six courses in one sitting. Also, the Wii is really the best system for this game – with the IR controls afforded by the Wiimote making a perfect substitution for the point-and-click play afforded by the PC mouse. The beauty is that I can play it all from the comforts of my couch.
9. Resistance: Fall of Man 2 (Sony PS3 – November 4, 2008)
I haven’t played the first game yet although I certainly intend to do so before this one drops at the start of the holiday buying season. I’m sold on both games based on one thing – they’re crafted by one of my favorite developers, Insomniac, the geniuses behind the stellar Ratchet & Clank series of games.
Where the first Resistance offered up a revisionist take on World War II in the European theater – with an alien invasion prior to the real world events changing the landscape and allying the world in a feverish battle against alien invaders – the follow-up brings the villainous Chimera to US soil circa 1950.
In proper sequel form, everything looks bigger in this one – with some truly mammoth boss creatures on display. Sure, the property does come off as a Reese’s mashup of Call of Duty and Halo (you got your Covenant in my Market Garden) but that makes for an interesting take on a genre (the World War II shooter) that has grown a bit stale.
This should be a big win for Sony this winter.
8. littlebigplanet (Sony PS3 – October 7, 2008)
This weird little game has stolen the show everywhere it’s poked its strange little head. Essentially, it is a traditional 2D platfomer with a major twist – the player can create the levels as they go – restrained only by their imagination. Anything can be dropped into the game, from normal household items like soccer balls and spatulas to whatever sick fantasies your mind can conjure to create elements of the landscape through which you traverse. And any part of the level can be crafted from scratch or improved upon using an extensive editor and the boundless, customizable art assets that the game ships with. The game also uses the Playstation Eye camera, allowing users to take snapshots of almost anything and import those images into the game for use in their level/character design. This being the age of social networking, players can upload and share their unique creations with the PS3 community, thus insuring a title with long legs. It will be interesting to keep this title in heavy rotation just to see what the world comes up with next.
It should be noted that the game does contain a traditional platformer scenario – with developer created levels and a story that tethers it all together – for those who choose to let the professionals do all the work.
It’s the extensive customization that really elevates this title. Like the forthcoming Spore, the direction of new gameplay experiences are being placed in the hands of the user on a more frequent basis. It’s a brave new world and we all get to be pioneers.
7. Mirror’s Edge (360/PS3 – November 11, 2008)
This game is going to get people sick. For years we’ve heard tales of people growing violently ill when playing a first person shooter. I must have a strong stomach as the rhythmic bouncing and swaying of my character’s perspective and HUD has never produced a single butterfly.
Then I got a gander of Mirror’s Edge, the new first person adventure title developed by DICE and published by EA. Mirror’s Edge appears to present a true first-person experience with every action seen through the player’s eye. Now, this has been done before in games such as the Namco’s Breakdown but this appears to be a real refinement of the idea – without the standard video game trappings like health displays cluttering up the screen. More importantly, where prior attempts resulted in some sluggish gameplay elements, the character in Mirror’s Edge is fleet of feet – employing the swift running acrobatics of Parkour to scamper through the game’s environments – climbing to dizzying heights and bounding across a vaguely futuristic cityscape. The shots revealed in the game’s trailers have been breathtaking (and stomach clenching). If the gameplay can match the revolutionary visuals, this one could be very special.
6. Too Human (Xbox 360 – August 19, 2008)
The long-awaited action RPG is actually poised to hit in just a few short weeks, meaning developer Silicon Knights is free to begin work on their next decades-in-the-making project. I kid, but their pedigree provokes it, as Silicon Knights is known for taking a very long time in working and reworking their titles. That said, their past releases have proven very rewarding (the original Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, Eternal Darkness) and next to Hideo Kojima, Dennis Dyack’s shop really knows how to create immersive, complete game universes in which to play and explore.
Too Human has been described as a Next Gen Diablo clone – probably good news to those Diablo fans who got all up in a tizzy a few weeks back when actual screenshots of a decidedly World of Warcraft looking Diablo III surfaced.
In this game, player’s take control of Baldur, a cybernetic Viking warrior, in the beginning of a planned three-part adventure. Though the game mixes the futuristic with traditional Norse mythology, it’s reported that the narrative actually takes place in the distant past so it looks like we are in “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” territory here.
Early word on the title is that the solo campaign can be blasted through in about 9 – 10 hours, this installment being mere prologue for bigger events to come, however this title appears to be designed for multiple playthroughs. In classic Diablo fashion, return exploration yields bigger and better loot that can be used to augment your cybernetic god. The game also ships with a fairly robust co-op mode which matches Microsoft’s marching orders to developers to design game experiences that can be enjoyed alongside your buds. Too Human can’t come too soon enough.