Friday, January 02, 2009

In Which I Choose The Best Games Of 2008

It's over. The year of 2008 has released a monstrous amount of great titles. And shit too, but the good outweighs the bad in most cases. Here are my picks for the best games released in 2008.


11.) The World Ends With You
While this should be a top 10 list, I'd feel remissed not to mention at least one handheld game, so the official number 11 spot on my Top 10 list belongs to The World Ends With You. A fantastic and creative spin on the JRPG genre. It's almost as if it reinvented the whole genre with one tiny little game on a portable system. If you like RPGS, and own a DS, you must own this title. Now.

10. No More Heroes
While the Wii has been without some notable titles for a while now, we can't ignore that most of the games worth playing were really frontloaded. Released way back in January, No More Heroes was a new Wii exclusive action game created by the insane mind of Suda51. Right now, I'm going to explain his nick name. His first name is Suda. His last name is Goichi. "Go" in Japan means 5, "ichi" means 1. Thusly, he gets a puntastic nickname. No More Heroes is a vile, gory, hilarious send up of action. You're main character uses a lightsaber like blade and when the battery starts to fade you have to shake it in a suggestive manner. It's a violent game with a heart of gold. A must own Wii exclusive title.

9. Boom Blox
Another must own title that came out earlier in the year for the Wii as well. Think of it as Reverse Jenga. Blocks are stacked up high, you must destroy them. In some cases, you actually have to play normal Jenga too. It sounds simple enough, but it's a freaking blast to play, and keeps staying interesting. The Wii motion controls add a whole new element and actually work to it's benefit as opposed to hurting it like a lot of other games out there. It's hard to explain the game without playing it. Really, if you own a Wii, there is no excuse for not owning this game.

8. Burnout Paradise
Burnout has always been a great franchise. I'd go out as far as to say that Burnout 3 is one of the top 10 games of both Xbox and PS2s life cycle. It was a phenomenal game that still stands up today. The games following didn't hold up quite as well, and Burnout Dominator, being the only non Criterion developed title, is the only one you could really say wasn't a great game anyways. HOWEVER, the reason Criterion didn't work on Dominator for the PS2 was because they had moved on to greener pastures. They were working on a whole new game for the new cutting edge consoles. Burnout Paradise left behind the menu system, and instead adopted the open world mentality of todays gaming and it works great. The only downside is that there is no restart option. But that's about to change. They have updated the game numerous times, at one point they made it so you can actually have the time change and add motorcycles. And now, there are even more free updates down the line, and we're even getting a restart option. In terms of racing, this year belongs to Burnout. Hands down.

7. Audiosurf
Here's a little ditty of a title you may not know exists. Audiosurf is an independently developed game that was launched early this year. I purchased through Steam for just 10 dollars. The game is like a combination of F-Zero and puzzler KLAX. You take your song, yes YOUR song, as in anything without DRM on your hard drive, it maps the song, turns it into an audio visualizer you can drive on and you take your little ship and collect different colored pieces, "hot" and "cold" colors, for the best score possible by getting them in groups of three or more. Each ship has it's own special ability, and the game even tracks your high scores via a world wide leader board by song. It even includes the Orange Box soundtrack, so you can play along to Still Alive whenever you feel like it. For 10 dollars, I recommend you buy two copies, it's THAT good.

6. Left 4 Dead
Everything I've read is a lie. The Zombie Survival Guide seemed like it would have prepared me for the zombie apocalypse. What the book didn't prepare me for, however, was the other side of the infestation. Me and three other movie stereotypes are destined to fight an ongoing string of the undead that move at incredible speed, and have varying super powers. They're either 800 pounds and spit on you, some have giant tongues that attempt to lynch you with it, are terrified of flashlights and will rip your face off if you scare them, can climb walls and pounce you like a cougar in heat, or are built like a fire truck. This book has wound up being useless. Instead, all I need is three competent friends and a lot of bullets. L4D is the best multiplayer game this year. You feel like you've accomplished something if you manage to survive your final onslaught. The story is nothing, but it doesn't matter, all that does matter is that you don't get two functionally retarded people that don't quite grasp the concept of teamwork, leaving you and a buddy alone to fight a Tank all by yourself on a helipad.

5. Prince of Persia
A lot can be said about the Prince series. It's a decades(as in two....) old franchise that started out as a marvel, with it's brilliant rotoscoping to make it look like, by 1989 standards, that you were controlling a living, breathing, human being. His movements were fluid and realistic. It felt like he had weight to him and everything. Whether time has been gracious to the Price or not is up to you. Us as legitimate gamers all recognize that, even with flaws, Sands of Time was one of the best little games to come out during it's time frame. Now here we are in a new hardware generation. What do they do? They decide, why the hell give it a realistic look like Assassin's Creed? Sands of Time was their best work and it almost had a Disney quality to it. As the franchise god more brooding with it's sequels, interest waned. So they went with a more beautiful cell shaded quality to it's art. The results are breathtaking. While in terms of visuals, it may be one of the best games to look at. The details in the back ground, to the character models are all great. Some animations are better then others. It's nice to have the option to not even bother with the dialog if you don't even care. A lot can be said about the difficulty. You can't die in the traditional sense. Your partner, Elika, acts as a sort of checkpoint system. If you fall, using magic, she'll save you and bring you back to the last flat ground you were standing on. Sometimes it's not bad, other times it will make you throw a hissy fit if you fall. And you will fall. Calling this game easy because you can't doesn't make this game easy. You will "die." You WILL fall to certain doom, and you will start sequences over. There isn't even a trophy or achievement for "not dying," instead, it's an achievement dying less than ONE HUNDRED TIMES. Also, the combat system is great I feel. It's one-on-one situations. Boss fights are all about stringing together the best combo you can using the best possible option to your disposal. Sometimes the enemy will be resistant to throws, so you have not choice but to attack him with your sword, break his resistance to throws and start your combo from there. At the end of the day. Say what you will about the difficulty and the ending, the game is a god damn blast to play.

4. Far Cry 2
A shocking entry from me. An entry that I didn't think I would even care about. I'm tired of your typical FPS title. This, however, is not your typical FPS title. Remember those complaints I had about GTA IVs sandbox in my biggest disappointments? Probably not, since I'm posting this after that on that same day, and you'll probably read this first. It doesn't matter. What does matter though is that I feel that the in a game like GTA IV, while it's an open world, when it comes to the GAME part of it, it feels like it's holding your hand all the way through. You really don't have much deviation, and in most cases, if you stray from the path it's almost a guaranteed fail. Far Cry 2 is in no way, shape, or form that kind of game. Oh, that's right. Far Cry 2 is an open world FPS. You're stranded in a nondescript, stylized Central Africa. You have malaria, so you have to pop your pills every literal half hour or so in real time or else they'll find you face down in the dry grass being raped by a boar. You basically take on the roll of a mercenary. You're initial intention, and overall objective is to take down a black market arms dealer, The Jackal. That's basically it story wise. You aren't given much hints. You progress through doing your typical go here and do that kind of missions. You can actually take on two missions at once, and it's up to you who's side you're going to align yourself with. Even if the missions themselves are lame, it's the law of the land that makes it exciting. There are guard outposts everywhere, very few cars, and lots and lots of grass. You can charge a outpost guns blazing and clean house, but it's sure to cause you some damage, and at least one health syringe. The best option is to sneak through the back door, crouched with your machete, and ambush. You actually feel as though your almost cheating the game at times. Although the game will also try and cheat you. If you don't buy your weapons, and just take them from the lifeless corpses you're leaving behind, you're in for some issues. They aren't well maintained, and chances are, in the heat of a fire fight, they're going to jam up on you. Oh? That rocket launcher? That rocket was bad. The rocket fell out of the tube, and is spinning wildly on the dry grass, igniting it then blowing up. Fire spreads too. At an alarming and realistic rate. If you get caught ins some dry grass, you're gonna get burned out. It'll also set off ammunition boxes. If you're wounded and are in the danger zone of your health, when you hit the heal button, you are treated to a delightfully gruesome animation of you fishing the bullet out with a pair of pliers or something to the liking of that. And there's a buddy system. If you maintain friendships, when you go down for the count, they'll come to your aid. But that one time. After that, you need to meet up with them again to ready them at a save house. Also, if they get injured, you have to help them. Because if you don't. They die. And not like "He died, but was nursed back to health, to meet him again, go to the bar" kind of die. I mean, you will never see that dude again. won't be able to help. So you will have no choice but to take your pistol to his head to put him out of his misery. God damn this game is good. I'm gonna stop typing and go play it right now....

3. Fallout 3
I can't lie to you people. I'm not very far at all into Fallout 3. That doesn't mean it's not awesome. The presentation. The visuals. The RPG elements, the VATS system. Everything about this game is so painstakingly designed, you can't help but appreciate the level of awesomeness this game presents. I can't say much else in terms of what to say about this game. Unlike Far Cry 2, everyone knows this game is awesome. There is nothing else I can say that could possibly sway your opinion on it.

2. LittleBigPlanet
You know what made Super Mario Bros. a fun game? It obviously wasn't the intricate story line. The hours of painstaking attention to detail. It was fun because it was. Plain and simple. The character designs were quirky, and the levels were lovingly designed to be tests. They were designed to beat you. That's what makes LittleBigPlanet my second favorite game of the year. LittleBigPlanet takes a stupid premise of "this is planet where everyones imaginations run wild" and that's why it exists, because as humans, we dream at night, and turns it into a romping great time. There is a story mode, but you don't give two shits. You only play through that to unlock design stuff. The meat and potatoes of LBP is the level creator. You can create basically whatever the hell you want. The developers have given you all of their level design tools. The levels they made, can be made with the tool set presented in game. You don't have to make shit if you don't want to though. You can mooch off of the hard work of others. All you do is go to the community section on the main menu, and choose any god damn level you want. There are generic platformers. Mario clones. Sonic clones. Racing games. Roller coasters. Star Wars. Sword fights. At one point a real working R-Type. Pinball. Pachinko. Puzzle games. Tetris. There is even a god damn real working calculator that will make you question what the hell YOU'RE doing with YOU'RE time if this guy can figure out how to get a calculator up and running with some switches, pieces of wood, and twine.

1. Metal Gear Solid 4
It's fucking Metal Gear Solid. In fact. The fourth one. The last one. The story actually wraps up. I've never had a problem following the story. Although apparently a lot of people do. This game wraps it up. Granted, the cutscenes are 45 minutes, but it wraps it up. And in terms of gameplay, this is the best Metal Gear has ever felt. Everything is fluid and great. Sneaking is as essential as ever, and much more than just "hide in this conveniently placed shadow!" It's great to see old faces, wrap up loose ends, and has one of the most satisfying endings in history with the games "epilogue." Plus, Act 4 is probably one of the most epic and amazing stages ever designed.

Mega Man IX, the game that reminded us that we suck.
Call of Duty World at War, the game that reminded me that war sucks. Especially in the 40s.
Bionic Commando Rearmed, the game that reminded why I hated this game as a kid
Mirrors Edge, proof of concept
Smackdown '09, the little wrestling game that made me believe again
Dead Space, proof that horror games can actually be scary AND good AND American
Saints Row 2, proof that being a criminal doesn't have to be full of moral decisions.
Smash Bros. Brawl, proof that Nintendo CAN make something good if they actually try.
Battlefield Bad Company, proof that you don't have to be Call of Duty
Space Invaders Extreme, proof that retro can still be awesome if you don't fuck with it.
Quantum of Solace, proof that movies games don't have to be masterpieces
Tales of Vesperia, proof that we don't need Square.
Professor Layton, proof that I'm an idiot.