Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer
It’s that time of the year again. Top 10 lists abound, looking at the best in film, TV and music. But what about the best video games of 2007? Who’s going to give the skinny to all the gamers out there (you are out there, right? Hello?)? Oh yeah, that would be me.
But before I make my numbered list, a point of clarification is in order. This list is a matter of my own opinion. So before you flame me for leaving off your personal favorite or wonder why I’m showing so much love for Xbox 360 titles, know that the games on this list are games that I own or at least have actually played. Rainbow Six: Vegas may have earned rave reviews, but since I’ve never played it, it doesn't appear here. We all on the same page? Excellent. Let's do this.
|10. Madden NFL 08 – To be honest with you, I’m amazed this even made it. I’m not a sports gamer at all. My only exposure to this game in particular is at my friend’s house when he practically begs me to play with him. On a good day I can keep the point differential under two touchdowns. But even while my friend is giving me a beat down like he’s the New England Patriots and I’m the Miami Dolphins, I have to admit this is a pretty good game. EA Sports keeps finding ways of making the Madden games innovative while never compromising ease of game play. It’s probably the most fun I’ve had while losing. That might not sound like much, but as a gamer you’d understand that’s saying a lot.|
|9. Conan – Hither came Conan, the single-player action/adventure game. This is rated M for Mature, and for good reason. It possesses all of the elements you would expect in a game built around Robert E. Howard’s famous barbarian. Brutal violence, blood and gore, half-naked(!) maidens, and a Cimmerian more faithful to Howard’s creation than Schwarzenegger’s portrayal (and voiced by the excellent Ron Perlman, no less!) The game has a decent storyline and serviceable graphics, but the real treat is the gameplay. Conan is renowned for his mastery of combat and his prodigious strength, and both are on display throughout this game. Some might feel the hack and slash gets repetitive, but (as weird as this sounds) I’ve been delighted with the plethora of ways you can dispatch, decapitate, dismember, and decimate your foes. Crom!|
|8. Rock Band/Guitar Hero III – Wait a minute, two games in one spot? Yes. But consider Rock Band as the official holder of this spot, and that Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is getting honorable mention. I’ve played both, and as I wrote in a separate review, both are great fun. Rock Band is simply more dynamic, more interesting, and more fun than Guitar Hero III.|
|7. The Elder Scrolls IV: The Shivering Isles – With so many great games released in the latter quarters of 2007 (true of most of the games on this list), it’s almost hard to remember TESIV: TSI, a shimmering light in the void of quality games that was last spring. Technically this is an expansion to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, one of the best games of 2006, and certainly the best RPG of last year. That it has a place on this list is a testament to how good TESIV: TSI is; it has earned the right to be here. Just when you canvassed every last square mile of Cyrodiil and explored every last dungeon, this game opens a portal to the Realms of Madness and gives you hours of more Elder Scrolls goodness. Beautiful new environs, deadly new weapons, new and dangerous monsters, the fate of a world in your hands, and the freedom of open-ended gameplay to save it at your leisure, everything that made TESIV: Oblivion great is back (though on a smaller scale), and puts TESIV: The Shivering Isles in the seventh spot.|
|6. The Orange Box – Some might argue this game doesn’t deserve to make the cut, since it contains Half Life 2 and Half Life 2: Episode 1, both games that have been released in previous years. But as I argued before, there’s plenty more to be found in the Orange Box. The presence of Half Life 2: Episode 2, Team Fortress 2, and Portal (all new releases) are worthy of mention each in their own right. Put them all together with a classic like Half Life 2 (given a graphics overhaul, no less) and you get one of the best of the year.|
|5. Wii Sports (11/06 release) – Finally, a non-Xbox 360 title! And yes, I realize this is technically a 2006 title, but how many people actually got their hands on a Wii last November? These things have been harder to find than a Don Imus apologist (ZING!). And since I’ve already broken the rules of a top-10 list (see #8), I figure, what the hell? I’ve played the Wii very little, but it’s probably the most unique gaming experience I’ve ever had. Couple that with the fact that my girlfriend recently played this game and now wants a Wii for her very own (thank you, God!), plus the fact that this is the only sports game that a self-avowed non-sports-gamer (see #10) wants to own, and how can I deny that little white console with the funny controllers? Although if I ever lose my grip on one during a viscous backhand in a heated tennis match that sends it hurtling into my television, I reserve the right to retroactively pull this sucker off the list. Wrist strap don’t fail me now!|
|4. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – COD4 is actually the ninth installment in the Call of Duty franchise, and it marks the first departure from the setting of World War II. Yet beyond the change in time and place the set up and mechanics of the game remain faithful to the tried and true gameplay established in earlier titles. The single player mode is engrossing and stimulating, providing hours of enjoyable play. The graphics are outstanding and provide the closest any of us might get to an actual combat zone. The game really shines when you venture online for multiplayer games. COD4 has a ranking system that offers new weapons, accessories, and combat perks as you amass kills and complete various challenges that make you a more effective and lethal soldier. Ooh-rah!|
|3. Halo 3 – This was close. Very close. If the games in front of this one hadn’t been released, I would have put Halo 3 in the top spot. It gets the bronze medal because of its outstanding next-gen graphics (its predecessors were available for Xbox), excellent game play, and very good story. Let’s be honest. There were a lot of expectations for this game. It’s not perfect, but it’s damn close. It’s a great gaming experience, and it nicely wrapped up the Halo trilogy. About that ending, while not getting anywhere near the press as the ending to The Sopranos, it was almost as inconclusive. But I liked it. It was evocative of both Alien and Aliens, and while being rather open-ended it was a fitting (non-)end for the Master Chief.|
|2. Mass Effect – I’m a sucker for RPGs (role playing games), so Mass Effect was one of my most highly anticipated releases this year. It certainly did not disappoint. While playing it the three-member team structure is reminiscent of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and the over-the-shoulder point-of-view gameplay and fast paced action call to mind Gears of War. IMHO, Mass Effect is the hip younger sibling of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion with the same breathtaking graphics and innovative contributions to the RPG genre, set in an interstellar space opera (as opposed to the realm of high fantasy). One of the novel aspects of this game is the dialogue system. Instead of a list of complete, long-winded replies that you must read through before deciding how to respond, Mass Effect uses a “dialogue wheel” that gives you several succinct choices that convey the essence of your comment, but not its entirety. This makes conversing with NPCs (non-player characters) faster and more fluid, not to mention a whole lot more interesting. Mass Effect is RPG of the year and takes the silver in this top-10.|
|1. Bioshock – Earlier this year I wrote a review of this game that was entirely positive. I still stand by my assertion that Bioshock is one of the most original gaming worlds ever created, and that the combination of its stunning graphics and design, engrossing story, and stellar gameplay make it the best game I’ve played this year. Shameless Plug: Be sure to read the in-depth debate by the Cincitizens about the merits of Bioshock's being named Game of the Year! Now, go find some more ADAM, would you kindly?|