We are taking a new approach for GR's 2008 Awards. The 10 Best Games of 2007 were awarded by
the people in the office not drunk at the time a select group of people. But since we forgot about Uncharted there were an insane collection of highly-marked titles in 2008, so much so that we – nay, the entire gaming press – have been accused of going soft, we have expanded our judging panel. And we have opted to use an intricate, no-fail system of ranked votes, ordinals, some Boomer zombies, and a dartboard with a picture of Belgium on it.
[Judges: Jesse Costantino, Greg Damiano, Duke Ferris, Chris Hudak, Blake Morse, and Nick Tan (that's me)]
Before we get onto the awards, though, let's take a breather and recap
my opinions the unexpected greatness of 2008. If I were to point at anything as the highlight, it would be the high quality of downloadable titles. Not just Braid, but a host of titles available on the Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, and Wii's Virtual Console ascended to the top of the heap: Castle Crashers, Geometry Wars 2, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, PixelJunk Monsters and PixelJunk Eden, World of Goo, Art Style: ORBIENT, Rez HD, Bionic Commando Rearmed, N+, Wipeout HD, and the list goes on and on. It was enough that we actually decided to review them. 'Nuff said.
This rebirth of downloadable titles has as much to do about small developers trying to prove that low-budget games can be as enjoyable as high-profile blockbusters, as it does with the saturation of said blockbusters, developers realizing that casual market is just as lucrative as the hardcore market, and the government "bail out", Madoff-stricken economy. The closing of Free Radical Design and the soon-to-be-closed Ensemble Studios as well as the well-publicized financial struggles of Midway were mere bellwethers in the storm of corporate restructuring and layoffs (press included…).
But let's not be too sullen. What this has meant to players is the time to appreciate the rich cornucopia (and please imagine a horn of plenty with controllers and rectangular cases pouring out of it) of gaming. Where 2007 was the year of the first-person shooter and 2008's lineup has no shortage of them with Gears of War 2 and Resistance 2, 2008's list has no one-sided love to any genre.
Still, even with the balanced representation of each game type, 10 spaces are not enough. (Not even 20 spaces would be enough, really.) That we all came to a consensus is a miracle. Thus, the judges have picked an Editor's Choice from the litter of great games that unfortunately did not make the Top 10.
So with that, let's begin!…
Blake's Pick – Far Cry 2 – You know that it would be untrue, you know that I would be a liar, if I were to say this game didn’t set my world on fire. The flames might have looked awesome, but what keeps me coming back for more Far Cry 2 is the open-ended story mode and the solid multiplayer. I love this game. It is by a wide margin the FPS I have spent the most time with in the last year, and it didn’t even come out until the 4th quarter. Play this game if you love blowing stuff up and setting things on fire, and so by that I mean, all of you. ~ Blake
|Nick's Pick – Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 – I'm not one to like falling into a routine, but the Shin Megami Tensei series is one routine I'm happy to go through, dive through, and eat through every year. If you find people who say that games aren't art or that that games have no meaning, throw this game at their empty skulls for a critical hit and then hit them again with Almighty damage. Or if there's a TV nearby, knock them into it so that they can be slaughtered by their suppressed desire for having fun. And of course, by that, I mean, save them.|
|Duke's Pick – Fable II – Fable II is an amazing, ambitious, innovative, beautiful, and broken game. It tries to be so many things at the same time, it really defies categorization, breaking taboos across both genres and sexes. It's less of a game and more of a playground – a delightfully funny world to explore, straight from the mind of Peter Molyneux. He's a modern day Walt Disney who has built a virtual theme park that easily gets my Editor's Choice for 2008.|
Jesse's Pick – Mirror's Edge – A beautiful, innovative, and unapologetically challenging title that
divided as many critics in 2008 as did Assassin’s Creed in 2007. Yes, you
will have your ass handed to you in enough ways to put the Kama Sutra to
shame, but for those with patience, Mirror’s Edge pays off in spades.
Its first-person approach to parkour revitalizes old platforming
conventions, and its time trials are the single-most rewarding (and
singularly difficult) gaming experience I’ve had all year.
|Greg's Pick – Spore – It was a flash in the pop-culture pan. Within weeks, Spore creatures outnumbered humans. (That's just accounting for all the hot dog-shaped monsters alone.) The gameplay is too shallow, but the simple fun and technical accomplishments are grossly underrated. ~ Greg|
Special: Swanson's Pick – World of Goo – Building shit with goo bubbles? Sounds like a winner to me. This
delightful dowloadable game from developer 2D Boy drops you into an
animated world where your goal is to build, swing, and puzzle your way
through various obstacles. With an entertaining storyline and a
clever physics system, my only complaint with this game is that it
ended too quickly. This is a great game that I would recommend to
anyone. ~ Nick Swanson, GR's
#10 No More Heroes – A game about an otaku who dresses like Michael Jackson, sneers like Johnny Rotten, rides a bike straight out of Akira, and wields a light saber like a Jedi. No More Heroes is one of the most outlandish, frenetic
pop-cultural mash-ups ever seen on a console. That it was released for
Nintendo’s uber-casual Wii only magnifies its counter-cultural geek cred.
The combination of stylish ugliness, tight gameplay, 8-bit-era allusions,
and persistent irreverence made this title the biggest no-brainer Wii
purchase of 2008. ~ Jesse
#9 Saints Row 2 – Saints Row 2 has everything that made GTAIII fun: violence, drug use, nudity, profanity, all that stuff that a certain former Florida lawyer would tell you is corrupting your mind and forcing you to commit felonies. It had all the fun and humor without all of the social obligations and 'grittiness'.
I have spent way more time spraying crap from a hose and lighting shopping mall patrons on fire than I have spent calling my cousin to go bowling. So if you're on Live, keep a lookout for the naked asian chick with blue hair covered in tattoos and sounds like 50-Cent, homey. ~ Blake
|#8 Left 4 Dead – Zombies, zombies, zombies!!! Leave it to Valve to create the best Zombiepocalypse FPS to date. It’s hard to not love a game that pits you against endless waves of mobs of the undead. Since enemy spawn points and weapons locations are randomly placed before each level, nothing ever plays the same way twice, giving L4D unlimited replay value. That sensation of panic when a Tank suddenly bursts through a wall and starts smashing you and your allies left and right never gets old. Combine all that with some great online multiplayer and you’ve got one of the biggest hits of 2008. ~ Blake|
|#7 Grand Theft Auto IV – For those that would expect Grant Theft Auto IV to be higher on the Top 10 list, I am surprised as well, though it's hard to say that this installment is that much of an improvement. Editorially, Grand Theft Auto IV in bold headlines as "Game of the Year" has a whopping lot of name recognition buzz, but it's just not Revolutionary enough for us. Of course, I don't think anyone would want to say that to Niko's face. Let's just hope he's too busy getting phone calls from his girlfriend to notice. ~ Nick|
|#6 The World Ends With You – Every time we think Square Enix has finally jumped the shark for good, they come up with something unbelievably impressive totally out of the blue; in this case, The World Ends With You. A cyberpunk thriller set in the trendy streets of Shibuya, our hero Neku must walk between two versions of reality while he plays the Reaper's Game if he wants another chance at life. Neku, however can't remember what he's lost, or how, or why he should even care about the Game. Blending psy powers, clever combat, a deep storyline and trendy fashions, TWEWY puts the DS onto the 2008 list. ~ Duke|
|#5 Rock Band 2 – I must admit something: I was Rock Band-ed out. Perhaps I was too absorbed, too jaded, too involved in wanting to "expert" each part, but then again, perhaps it was Fallout 3. Either way, it was not until Game Revolution had its annual Christmas get-together that I was reminded of why Rock Band 2 won me over in the first place – the solid peripherals, the rich catalog of downloadable songs, and the refined multiplayer modes. Sorry, Guitar Hero World Tour, but Rock Band 2 has won this battle too. ~ Nick|
|#4 Braid – Imagine stepping foot in a Monet painting, a picture speckled with dabs of radiant colors that meld together without a single stroke of the brush. It is here that you search for the princess and open your eyes to a world of time and challenging puzzles, of keys and trickery. May you fit the pieces together and be lost in the subtlety, the music, the homage to the jump of Mario, for Braid has changed the landscape of downloadable titles now and forever more. ~ Nick|
|#3 Metal Gear Solid 4 – Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots proved that yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Whether you think I'm talking about Solid Snake or Hideo Kojima is up to you. With vastly improved controls, a tongue-in-cheek look at itself, and just plain old more fun, MGS4 completely revived the series. The best wartime stealth gameplay of any game is the reason to pick up this title and the smart (if crazily complex) story is the reason to keep playing it. We just wish they made it for the Xbox 360 too, because half of you are missing out on one of the best of 2008. ~ Duke|
|#2 Fallout 3 – People say that "war never changes". How simple they are. They do not see that peace is unattainable, that life will always struggle to be alive, for those are the rules and they always will be. Thus, the saying is redundant, something said with power to mask its lack. But then, I can grin widely, for I know the truth: That for man, by his being, must fight. He is rebellion. He is the seeker of dreams that would contradict his nature. And thus he falls until he fights once more. For man finds peace in war and war in peace, the strength I have ever searched for. ~ Nick|
#1 Little Big Planet – Other than having a lead character with the