I recently reviewed the games released in 2008 which I wish I had played. 2008 was yet another great year for gaming with several outstanding title. It is now over and it time to summarize the games I actually spent time with during the last 12 months. I’ll be starting with some games which were a bit disappointing and at best regular.
Regular at best
First up is unfortunately the Norwegian massive multi player online role play game (MMORPG) Age of Conan. I had great expectations for this game even though I never played any other MMORPGs before. While Conan was supposed to bring more fighting and new elements to the MMORPG experience it was rather disappointing. The disappointment came perhaps not so much from the game itself but by the genre. Grinding and silly kill-30-bugs-quests is not something for me.
While Age of Conan failed at bringing more fighting to the MOORPG arena, other games focus only on the fighting. I tried a couple of them in Virtua Fighter 5 (360) and Fight Night 3 (360). I am no big fan of the fighting genre either and I guess both were doomed to fail at entertaining me for a long time. While Fight Night is a decent game, Virtua Fighter is a flat out boring.
With Fallout 3 coming out this fall and the previous Fallout games being recognized by many as some of the best games ever, I had to try Fallout 2 when I stumbled over it. I have many good memories with games released in the late nineties and early 2000 but I think the memories are better than the games themselves. Fallout 2 could not live up to the expectations I have of a game today and it was uninstalled fairly soon.
2007 and 2008 provided a lot of good shooters and I have played several of them this year. Going through Call of Duty 5 World at War, Bad Company (360), Halo 3 (360), Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (360), Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 (360), Rainbow Six Vegas (360) and Rainbow Six Vegas 2 (360) has been fun. However, none of these games provide any ground breaking experiences. Nevertheless, I should mention a few things which I really liked about Battlefield Bad Company. The sound is very good, and a gun shot actually sounds different indoors and outdoors. It is furthermore always fun to blow things up and the ability to take out the enemy’s cover with explosives is something which should be implemented in all shooters. Last but not least I love the silly humor in the game. It makes the characters more likable and credible. It is perhaps not appropriate in all games but I think Dice (the developer) succeeded quite well.
Crackdown (360) and Saints Row (360) are somewhat more open sandbox games than the plain shooters. I greatly enjoy the freedom these games provide. Crackdown was one of the first open and quite good games for the 360 when it was released early 2007. Since I did not get an Xbox until early 2008 I could not play it until this year. Saint’s Row is shamelessly ripping-off Grand Theft Auto (GTA) but does so with style and I am really looking forward to playing the second game in the series.
My 2008 was as mentioned dominated by shooters and sandbox games. However, I also played a couple of other good games. The only strategy game I played this in 2008 was World in Conflict which I wrote about earlier. With stunning visual but only a limited amount of strategy it turned out to be a good game. With a bit more strategy added to the mix, it could have been a great game. The next game is perhaps a bit of a surprise. I have never been a fan of racing and car games even though I have played classics like Indianapolis 500, Test Drive, Outrun, Street Rod and Stunts on the PC, Gran Turismo on the Playstation, Ironman Super Off Road on the Nintendo and Pit Stop on the Commodore 64. Forza 2 (360) was really a nice surpise. I enjoyed it and I might pick it up again when I have more time. Another game I should pick up again in Braid. The highly rated platform game was a bit of a disappointment in my eyes after reading all the outstanding critics. By all means it is a good game but it is not as good as expected and I have not finished it yet. When that is said, it is a truly remarkable achievement to make such a good game for one person.
The great games I played in 2008 are also dominated by shooters. With Gears of War 2 (360) coming out I had to replay one of 2006s best games, Gears of War (360) before I started with the new installment. Playing through the first game with a friend is still as fun as it was back in 2006 and the 2008 experience is even better. GoW 2 extends GoW in several ways and it is a blast going through it in two player mode. I have not played any of them online but it is supposedly great fun.
I am as said not much of a multi-player gamer on the 360 but I have had my share of online gaming on the PC the last year. Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare was in fact the first game ever, I have bothered to play a lot online. It arrived late 2007 but I continued playing it a lot way into 2008. The fall 2008, the CoD series got a new installment with the “copy cat” CoD 5 World at War. Even though World at War is a good game it was not as fun to go back to world war 2 as it is blasting away with modern weapons in CoD 4. On the other hand, 2008 gave us another great, hectic shooter in Left 4 Dead. Left 4 Dead is a massive zombie onslaught from Valve (which I was a big fan of until the decided to rip us off with their “European friendly prices”). Nevertheless, Left 4 Dead is a truly great game which I have had way too little time to play.
I would say the last two games I will mention fall into a category which I have been a huge fan of since System Shock (particularly the second) and later Deus Ex back in the nineties and early 2000. Both Mass Effect (360) and Bioshock have huge elements of shooters but they also have RPG elements and characters which can be developed to the players taste. Mass Effect 2 is probably one of the games I am looking forward to the most at the moment. Mass Effect succeeded at providing an interesting universe, good story and great game play. It was a bit repetitive in the end but I was particularly happy about playing such a game on the 360. Being a big PC fan I was a bit surprised how well the controls worked on the Xbox.
The last game I will mention is perhaps not a great game in the way Gears of War and Mass Effect are great games. However, having in mind the limited resources the developers have had to make it and how fun it actually is to play, I would say that Mount and Blade is a truly great game. Even though it lacks a good story it provides hours and hours of fun slaughtering other knights and taking over the kingdom. Try it!
Game of the year
My choice for the game of the year is not a very original one. Grand Theft Auto 4 has already won several such awards elsewhere but I cannot say how much I appreciated the care Rockstar (the developer) has put into every detail of the game. It is far from flawless (checkpoints anyone?) and it has received critics for several issues. Nevertheless, it has a great story, great developing characters and an amazing level of detail. Nico Belic is furthermore the most interesting protagonist since Gordon Freeman in Half-Life.