Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Best of '05 - The Games!

Here we go: I figured i'd kick it all off with my picks for best games of 2005. A note about this whole thang: I don't pander to popular opinion, and at the same time i don't resist it - this here little list is all about personal opinion - don't tell me i'm crazy, this much i already know...

Be sure to come back later in the week for my picks in music, and the grand finale - Steve's list of his ten best films of 2005 - a list i pretty much gaurantee will be different from the lists you've probably been seeing up to this point...

2005 was a damned great year for games, between solid performers for the classic consoles, and the first round of fire in the next gen system wars. Many gamers took a look at stuff like Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, Tekken 5, or Doom 3, and asked the question - do we really even NEED next gen systems yet? The PC also had a little mini-boon in the fall with some solid first person shooters and Guild Wars. There was also a grand little portable called the PSP...

So lets get on with it...

- Top 10 Games of 2005 –
1. Shadow of the Colossus (ps2)

It was tough choosing between this one and Guitar Hero, but in the end – I simply have to go back to the mindblowing experience this game was. What is essentially a collection of 16 larger than life boss battles is in fact one of the most brilliantly executed, gorgeously designed, and wonderfully presented games I’ve ever played. Your jaw will drop repeatedly – the gorgeous environments place you in a truly immersive setting, mist hanging low in the trees of dense forests, sun bakingthe golden sands of deserts, and immense bodies of water. Then there’s the beautifully sweeping score, the entirely heart-wrenching and emotionally engrossing story (told in minimalist fashion), and the simply awe-inspiring bosses.

2. Guitar Hero (ps2)

If you at all dig rock n roll, or you’ve ever had “guitar god” aspirations, you will never have more fun with another game… ever. Guitar Hero’s expensive package includes a guitar controller which you use to play along with the game, rocking out to everything from “More than a Feeling” to “Thunderkiss 65”. The whole thing is surprisingly easy to pick up and play, the 47 songs included are brilliantly chosen anthems, and the action is addictive as hell. Add a second guitar and you’re into some dynamite multi-player action. The most fun I’ve had with a game all year!

3. Call of Duty 2: Big Red One (ps2/xbox) and Call of Duty 2 (pc/xbox 360)

Yeah, I have to cheat a little here. World War II first person shooters are really nothing new, but these two games have gone the whole nine yards to perfect the formula. Call of Duty 2 gives us the first true “next gen” war shooter, with some damn incredible graphics and visual effects – wonderful level design, and all around brilliant presentation, while it’s sister game, The Big Red One, is one of the most technically brilliant of the “last gen” War shooters, and gives us a group of characters and a narrative flow to latch onto. Both games have some amazing set-pieces, weather it’s COD2’s Africa campaign, or the Allied raid on Point Du Hoc, or manning the gun turrets of a Liberator bomber, or storming the beachhead at Normandy in The Big Red One. Both games are as good an experience as you’re going to get in a World War 2 setting. I couldn’t choose a clear victor between the two – so i simply had to give em both the #3 spot! Yeah they’re both WWII shooters, you have done this before… But you’ve never done it better!

4. Forza Motorsport (xbox)

Microsoft kicked me in the ass this past year. After a lackluster demo I really didn’t know what to expect from this one. Would it topple my beloved Gran Turismo? Not entirely, the car selection is awesome, no where near GT4 numbers, but the quality of the choices makes up for quantity. The graphics are fantastic, cars all feature damage models. And the physics engine is highly realistic. All perks shared by GT. Where this game edges out GT4 is in the single most important category – it’s just more FUN! Cars are a little looser on the road, allowing for some crazy drifting, without it becoming an arcade racer. Car customization is as detailed as GT, only the game also brings cosmetic modification to the table – allowing you to add body kits, decals, custom paint jobs etc to all your vehicles. Forza is quite possibly the best racer available on current platforms, even if GT4 does trump it in a few areas.

5. Gran Turismo 4 (ps2)

Over 700 cars! Let me say that again… over 700! Gran Turismo is back with a vengeance, and what’s made the game so outstanding has returned as well, refined and polished to the nth degree. The racing is tight – the closest to reality you’re going to get. There’s also a wealth of tracks and options – the always exhaustive car-customization. You will NEVER find a more in-depth driving simulator than Gran Turismo 4.

6. Indigo Prophecy (xbox/ps2/pc)

The old school PC Adventure genre lives again! Indigo Prophecy has done what so very few games could in the last decade or so – it takes the formula for a classic adventure game (like those you used to play on your Tandy 1000) and makes it fresh again. You needn’t have rock solid reflexes, just the want to enjoy a well told, adult oriented, story.

7. Tekken 5 (ps2)

One of the single most solid fighters ever released. The Tekken series has been around for over a decade, but never has it come anywhere close to the heights of this one. The stable of characters is diverse and huge, the fighting engine is easy to learn – yet impossibly tough to master, and my god these visuals are something else!! Doubters of the PS2’s potential need only take a passing glimpse at this sucker! Not only a high ranker on this very list – but a solid contender for “best 3D fighter of all time” throne.

8. F.E.A.R (pc)

F.E.A.R is all about atmosphere. The game terrifies like none before it! The technology present is solid, with some incredible interactive environments which respond to every shot fired (if your machine can handle it). Play it alone… in the dark… with the sound cranked- only bring a spare change of clothes…

9. Doom 3 (xbox)

Technically a 2004 release (but ported to the Xbox in 05). Many believed that there was no way in hell that Id’s Doom 3 engine could work on the venerable Xbox hardware, this game proved them resoundingly wrong. Gorgeous visuals, stellar art design, and beautiful sound coupled with some simple yet utterly intense and riveting game-play make this one a winner.

10. The Warriors (xbox/ps2)

This is how you handle a movie property. Not only does The Warriors logically handle the concept behind the film (feuding street gangs) by resurrecting the brawler genre – but it fills in backstory that was wasn’t present in the film, and does a dynamite job of doing so. The presentation is Rockstar’s typical A-game, and the fighting mechanics are simple yet deep. There’s also some solid multi-player action and some great mini-games to occupy your time while you ain’t beating the tar out of The Baseball Furies.

- Honorable Mentions -

Guild Wars (pc)
Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 (xbox/ps2/pc)
Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood (xbox/ps2/pc)
Quake 4 (pc/Xbox 360)
Project Gotham Racing 3 (xbox 360)
Perfect Dark Zero (xbox 360)
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (xbox/ps2/gc/pc)
Far-Cry Instincts (xbox)
SoulCalibur III (ps2)
Legend of Heroes: Tears of Vermillion (PSP)
Jade Empire (xbox)
Kingdom of Paradise (psp)
Advent Rising (xbox)
NHL 06 (xbox/ps2/gc/pc)
Socom 3 (ps2)
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (psp)
Resident Evil 4 (gc/ps2)
Dragon Quest VIII (ps2)
Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones (xbox/ps2/gc/pc)
Gun (ps2/xbox/xbox360/gc/pc)

"Where there's Smoke... There's a long haired hippy in high wind trying to spark one up!"


Mitch said...

Can't frigging find Guitar Hero anywhere!

I think you just sold me on Doom 3. The local Rhino has a used copy. Might have to pick it up next time the nephew wants to go.

SteveTP said...

i think you should - it should be going mega cheap now as well if it's the regular (ie non-metal case edition).

Dude - the game should include a defibulator - or at least some nitro for those with heart conditions in hiding. Chest pains man! It's that intense :)

Oh - and don't take the sucker's route and play this bad boy on Easy... it KILLS the experience. Make sure it's dark - get an optical cable into the xbox - and crank this sucker! :) The 5.1 is awesome (and a major source for arterial stress) as well :)

Mitch said...

It's the regular edition, and I think it was 15 or 20 bucks.

I got me one of them Advanced A/V X-Box Pack thingamagigs--component hookup to the TV and optical to the receiver. You're making me wish I had the damn game right now. :)

SteveTP said...

you really really should :)