Year in consumables: 2008 games

BraidI am mixing up my order a little bit this year. In the past I have done music, movies and then games. This year I am doing a reverse order. Games are first because I am more or less done with games to play from last year. I am still catching up on movies but expect to have that up by weekend, err… end.  Since no one cares about the music one, it can go last. (If you are at all interested in last year’s lists you can find them under the best of tag, but here is last year’s games post.)

Of course, that’s not to say that the game had to come out in 2008 to make the list. I simply had to consume it in 2008. (Although, games from last year still on my list for this year are Tomb Raider Underworld and maybe Fallout 3.)

Last year I ranked 10 games and then did a list of the Xbox Live Arcade games with a rank of 5. This kept them separate, but I won’t be doing the same this year. If you didn’t already figure out why, you will see in a minute.

So, here is the list of full retail games I played (and almost always completed) in 2008:

  • LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Series
  • Assassin’s Creed
  • The Simpson’s Game
  • Army of Two
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3)
  • Iron Man
  • LEGO Indiana Jones
  • Ninja Gaiden 2
  • Battlefield: Bad Company
  • Too Human
  • LEGO Batman
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
  • Fable II
  • Dead Space
  • Gears of War 2
  • Prince of Persia

And the XBLA games:

  • Braid
  • Asteroids & Deluxe Asteroids
  • Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3
  • 1942: Joint Strike
  • Aces of the Galaxy
  • Castle Crashers

That’s a longer list than last year because last year had way more XBLA than retail games. Thanks to Ed’s gig with Avault I was able to play a few games I may not have on my own. This was good (Dead Space) and bad (Iron Man). Anyway, those are the lists and here are the thoughts (and ranks – I don’t keep you in suspense either):

  1. Braid: You read that right. I just picked an XBLA game as my favorite of the year. (I suppose the image at the top gave it away.) This little platformer pays homage to Super Mario Bros. and other games of the past and it was hard, but not too hard. It was old school hard. It made you think to solve its puzzles. I mean really think. Think so hard that I had to hit the YouTubes a few times for hints. The gameplay is all based on manipulation of time and is unlike anything I ever remember playing in the past. It innovates while it homageates (that’s for you W.) The painted visuals and music are simply beautiful. You feel like you are playing a piece of art, not a game. This game is so amazing I was gushing about it to anyone that would listen. People that didn’t play games at all. I am going to play this game again in a few months and I bet it is still hard for me to figure out a lot of the puzzles again. Playing a game again and having it still be difficult; that is the mark of a great game. According to its site it should drop for the PC soon. If you aren’t a gamer you can read more about it on its wikipedia page. Finally, read a real review that Ed wrote.
  2. Assassin’s Creed: Up until I played Braid I thought this was gonna be it. I didn’t plan on playing this game when the year started but it got good buzz and I grabbed it from Ed once he was done with it. The game more or less replaces the guns in Crackdown with swords and crossbows. The buildings with castles. The cars with a horse. The only thing missing was being able to play with a friend, but then, that might ruin the story a bit, which was excellent. The game isn’t so derivative though. The story and world aren’t quite as open ended as a Crackdown or Grand Theft Auto, which is good, but still I sometimes found myself making trouble just to get out of it. I like games like that even though they suck more time from your life because of it. I am very much looking forward to the next chapter in the life of Altair.
  3. Dead Space: Here’s another that I had never planned on, but again had such awesome buzz that I had to play it. For the record, I pretty much dislike anything to do with zombies or rage viruses or whatever. That said, this game transcended that dislike pretty easily with a great story and some good puzzles. My only issue with the story was it wasn’t always easy to keep track of where it was going or had been. This was funny because it was so well constructed and provided to you in a couple different ways — think BioShock — that if you play it again, you wonder how you didn’t follow it all, which is what I did. Anyway, if you want a real review you can read Ed’s since this was one of his Avault games.
  4. Prince of Persia: Now the ranking becomes tougher. This was the last game I played for the year so it is fresher in my mind and that might be what gets it ranked a little higher than maybe it should. However it is also indicative of the types of games I tend to enjoy most these days. Games with a great story and puzzles. Do I not like games with the killing anymore? Ask Altair. I love how many different ways you can assassinate or fight people. This game feels very much like Creed but removes the element of killing, or at the very least tones it way down. Your character never kills a living human and only dispatches reanimated baddies, kind of like in Dead Space. No blood here though. Anyway, both Creed and Prince are Ubisoft — I have to imagine they are my favorite game company — games and both feature crazy acrobatics to move about the world. It is like a puzzle to just get around the world. This game was short enough that I played it twice so that I could complete all achievements. I might knock it for the shortness if I didn’t have so much fun playing it and breathing in the story. I also won’t knock it for not having a penalty for dying if only because it doesn’t subject you to annoyingly long reload times for no good reason. My only knock might be the mini-game button non-mashing. I can do without this *feature* started (for me anyway) with Tomb Raider Legend and in a few other games this year.
  5. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots: I was one of those people that bought a PS3 just to play this game. The bonus was I got a good Blu-ray player out of the deal but it sure was a helluva a price to pay for one game. Was it worth it? For the most part, yeah, it was worth it. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with some elements of the game, like playing as Old Snake or the need to sometimes get killed a bunch of times before figuring out what needed to be done. If I wanted to play a game as an old man I would… I would… well, I don’t want to. Guy was as grumpy as a real grandpa despite probably only really being my age. Although, I guess I can be cranky too. Anyway, I liked the return to a more normal MGS experience than the third game was. I still rank the second game as the best in the series but this one might be second best. I didn’t kill much in the first play thru and I got about half way thru a non-kill play thru before I lended the game and system out to Ed. I haven’t picked that game back up since I got it back, but I probably will.
  6. Fable II: Now here is a game that felt pretty much like the first one, but was just so much better and I think I enjoyed the first game more than most. However, I think I had greater expectations than what the end product actually was. Now, don’t get me wrong, the game was great and all that, but it didn’t seem to deliver as much evolution as I thought it was going to deliver. That said, it was still fun as hell to play. Any game with a dog as your faithful companion, the ability to have 20 kids with 7 wives and come out with only 20 STD’s and then transmogrify yourself from man to woman (or woman to man) at the end of it is nails in my book.
  7. Gears of War 2: I figured this one would be higher on the list, but there were many great games this year so here it is at seven. The game added enough to the first to not break what you liked about that one but also add new bits to justify it as its own title. The single best thing about it was better attention to telling the story and the first lacked heavily in that area. Otherwise, the cover system still kinda sucks compared to other games like Rainbow Six Vegas that utilize the technique. Ed and I are playing a c0-0p Insane campaign now but have taken a break for this month.
  8. The Simpson’s Game: Another puzzle game with a decent story and great Simpson’s humor. The game begs, borrows and steals from all kinds of games from the past and had me laughing a lot. It is about as close you can get to playing an episode of the show. Just a fun game that I would recommend to anyone that likes the show, particularly if you find humor in Homer meeting 8-bit Homer.
  9. Battlefield: Bad Company: This game was nothing spectacular. It is a basically straightforward first person shooter. Played them too many times. Where it excels is in the story, or rather, in the humor strewn throughout the story. I laughed my ass off a lot playing this game. It was just plain fun to play and there is nothing wrong with just being that.
  10. LEGO Batman and LEGO Indiana Jones: This is kind of a cop out pick. First, I think Too Human probably grabs this spot if it were only up against one of these titles, but I can conveniently bundle them together to push it out. Anyway, if you are child or an adult it doesn’t matter, you will find these two games fun to play (along with any in the prior Star Wars series). You don’t have to know a lot about the Batman or Indy stories either. The games are cute with the humor and fun to play. I can’t wait to see what they tackle next.

So, that’s the so-called top 10. Too Human was a good game and I enjoyed it more than most on the internets. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was a good idea that wasn’t executed excellently. It also had mini-game button stupidity so that helped put it out of my 10. Army of Two was pretty good to play and had some fun with the interaction/humor between the two characters. Definitely a game to be played with a real buddy rather than the AI. Iron Man was just a bad game but did well with the mythos. The game nearly gave me some kind of carpal tunnel type syndrome with its poor choice in control layout. The difference between flying and being on the ground was night and day and I dreaded any time I had to fly, or especially hover. Lastly, Ninja Gaiden 2 can burn. Here’s a game that was visually excellent and extremely maddening to play. Out of any game this year, it was closest to costing me a new TV or window because my controller surely would have destroyed either had I actually thrown it.

What do you think of my list? What does yours look like?