The other day, I posted Part One of my post E3 series – The Top 10 Games I’ve Just Gotta’ Play in 2008.
As I mentioned then, originally I had planned to run this as a three-part series, 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 were 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.
So, I decided to focus on the Top 10 games releasing this year that have piqued my interest. I’ve broken it up into two posts and 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. Today, you’ll all learn just what that title is. I’m sure the anticipation is killing you.
Without further adieu, I present The Top 10 Games I’ve Just Gotta’ Play in 2008 – Part 2.
5. Tomb Raider Underworld (360/PS3 – November 18, 2008)
I am a huge Tomb Raider fan going all the way back to the original release on the Playstation 1 back in November 1996. In fact, that first title so entranced me (finally – the Indiana Jones game I always dreamed of) that I almost missed the annual Thanksgiving dinner. I’m a sucker for titles that offer up equal parts exploration and puzzle solving and Tomb Raider really scratched that itch.
A year later, I thrilled to the globetrotting sequel, Tomb Raider 2, which stood as the premier title in the series until its blessed resurrection a couple years back with the release of Tomb Raider Legend on the 360. Yes, I know my beloved Lara lost favor with many in the gaming press but even in her darkest days, I still enjoyed putting her through the paces of whatever perilous temple the developers had designed for me. I will admit that I skipped out on the PS2 release – The Angel of Darkness – and from what I understand, I chose wisely.
This November, Eidos and Crystal Dynamics release the follow-up to the aforementioned Legend, which really did a great job reinventing the series and giving Lara a proper Next Gen introduction. Legend was a fantastic adventure with some brilliant physics-based puzzles, decent combat and some innovative level designs on display. From what I’ve seen of Underworld, the developers look to have refined the right moves they made in Legend and have crafted a worthy sequel truly designed from the ground up for the current generation of systems (remember, Legend originally began development for the PS2 and was arguable, a very pretty PS2 port).
Looks like no pumpkin pie for me again, this year.
4. Brutal Legend (360/PS3 – December 20, 2008)
Tim Shaefer is a god.
No game developer has milked more laughs, placed more smiles on my goofy mug or confounded my brain with loopy conundrums than this mad genius, the guy behind Full Throttle, Grim Fandango and Psychonauts. It’s guys like Shaefer that elevate this craft into the rarified air of true art.
Brutal Legend is his next big thing – and it’s a good one. Where Psychonauts found Shaefer plumbing the id for his crazy ideas, Brutal Legend exploits the superego – crafting a new universe inspired by the Heavy Metal murals that emblazon Shaggin’ Wagons and album covers the rock world over. And in an inspired touch, he’s drafted Tenacious D to lend their vocal talents to his twisted tale of a roadie who must journey through Rock and Roll Hell to save the heart of his beloved.
What was I thinking with that lead? Tim Shaefer is a Golden God.
3. Prince of Persia (360/PS3 – November 18, 2008)
Here’s another adventure-platformer that happens to drop day and date alongside the Tomb Raider title, meaning I’ve got some big decisions to make. Do I spend time with Lara? The Prince? Or my beloved family? Someone’s going to lose out and the last I checked, my dog can’t bend time.
Actually, it looks like neither can the Prince this time out. In fact, this latest version of the two-decade old Prince series finds another reinvention in place. Where, last gen’s Sands of Time expertly brought the Prince into the third dimension, introducing a number of game play elements (time manipulation, wall running) that have been co-opted by other action games since, the developers have looked to reinvent the Prince’s world – casting him in a dark storybook adventure featuring a new, lush animated style. The focus of the game is still a mix of action platforming and puzzle solving but the combat has been enhanced to provide for a more fluid experience. In addition, several members of the Assassin’s Creed team have pinched in on the Prince development, meaning a real sharing of ideas has occurred between Ubisoft’s shining jewels.
As an adventure fan, twin titles like this and Tomb Raider simply leave me with a pleasant dilemma. I know I’ll play both but the question is, what goes first? Hey, Thanksgiving comes next year too, right???
2. Gears of War 2 (360/PS3 – November 7, 2008)
Rumor has it that Microsoft sketched out a staggered release plan for the Gears of War and Halo series. Supposedly, the properties are on an every other year release schedule with GoW2 up this year and Halo (Blue?) next year. With Bungie’s defection, that rumor may remain pure wishful thinking but one thing we do know is that this holiday, Marcus Fenix is back to renew his “bro-mance” with his best bud, Dom and take the battle back to the Locust Horde.
I know, I thought I eradicated the vermin in the first installment but that mysterious off-screen Queen apparently has other plans. And from the looks of things, this involves throwing an absolute world crushing assault at Marcus and company. With massive enemy hordes to attack and drivable Brumacks on order, Marcus better hope that package from Balco is being sent Fed-Ex.
This game features 2 player co-op, a huge selling point for me, and will ship with a unique 5 player co-op mode – dubbed “Horde” that should extend the longevity of the title. My one wish is that lead developer CliffyB finetuned the narrative to give me a better reason to fight for Sera’s destroyed beauty.
1. Fable 2 (Xbox 360 – October 1, 2008)
Peter Molyneux likes to promise the impossible and then deliver most of it. He has some wild ideas and given enough time and infinite resources, I’m sure he’d truly change the world. He’s a creative guy – a real pioneer in game development – and his titles like Populous, Black & White and the original Fable have introduced some compelling concepts into contemporary game design.
That said, he did feel the sting a bit with the release of the first Fable – which was a solid action-RPG but not the go anywhere, do whatever you like fantasy world simulator that Peter had promised. There was a lot to do within the game but much of it was optional and didn’t have much bearing on the game world – meaning you could cheat on your wife, she’d hit the tavern and get drunk but then she’d be right back at home waiting for your blessed return. Just like in real life – only, without the frying pan to the noggin’ when you walk through that front door.
In Fable 2, Peter looks to have addresses the criticisms from the first title – presenting a world that truly does change based on the player’s actions. And, in an inspired touch, he has grafted true co-op drop-in anytime gaming, meaning you can invite your buddy in to fight alongside you or simply play the role of tour guide and show them some of the unique effects that your actions have had upon the populace. And if the townspeople want to call you “Chicken Chaser” every time you turn your back, they might think twice when your pal is there to back you up in front of those mean bullies.
Fable 2 will also feature a number of tavern games, that can be played in-game or through XBLA. Money earned in these games can then be transferred to the game world, allowing the player to purchase new weapons and equipment, thus adding to the persistent universe that Molyneux has crafted.
I haven’t seen much on the actual quest structure or story underscoring the title but the various ancillary elements – especially the co-op play – have elevated this to my Must Play experience this winter.
Mark my words. I’m going to be the Meanest Chicken Chaser that Albion has ever seen.