Best of 2008

So here we are. It's the 15th of October, another year has shot past and I'm still caught in the tail wind of 6 months away from gaming. My main game the last year or so has been catch up and hence this rather late, top 10. Fingers crossed the next one shan't be this time next year.  Anyway, without further a do, I present to you the finest video games of 2008, from my humble pixie point of view.    

List items

  • Now this is a turn up for the history books, not only is my favourite game of 2008 a console game but it's also a platformer. Yes, I've findly lost it. Or have I? The game is beautiful, inventive, strange and damn right ball busting at times. The levels created by Media Molecule are a delight to romp through, particularly with friends but the wealth of excellent user content is equally stunning. Mutliplayer really lets the game get it's groove on, four players trying to manoeuvre impact explosives with jetpacks is just one of the scenarios that had me in stitches (pun intended). Turning my pod into the Arcadia from Bioshock then watching (and screaming), in horror as my friends start showering crap all over it, before exploring the fan service level online. Oh, and the whole while dressed up as a blood soaked bunny in a dinner suit, complete with lightning ball in hand….I also have grand plans for my own level (currently in pre-production stages). Did I mention that Stephen Fry does the narration? Or that The Go! Team, Battles amoung others are on the soundtrack?

    Normal platformer? No, a bit more to it? Yes. Constantly charming, seemingly endlessly entertaining and one of the few games I've played to deliver an exciting, new experience every time I boot it up. Little Big Planet is a triumph both as a game, a social experience and creative outlet, and I love it.

  • We all run down the airport escalators, the infected have mostly been cleared out. The slick sound of boots on steel punctuated with brief gun blasts as we explode infected heads like carrion filled balloons. The arrivals bag collection is now eerily quiet, a silvery light coming through the windows above the locked up main doors. Corpses litter the floor, slumped against the walls, draped awkwardly over uncollected suitcases.

    "Right guys, here's the plan. We need to get through the metal fence here to get through to the terminal, so if we drive that van through here………"

    Somebody hits the ignition, the van tearing off towards the fence.

    "Not yet!!! Oh SHHIIIIITTT!!!!"

    All hell breaks loose, the van smashing through the fence before veering off into a wall. The engine and general chaos has alerted a horde, they come spilling out from the offices above us, screaming and howling down the escalators, a furious wave of flesh and bone. Chaos ensues. People are shouting, shooting in all directions, infected are running everywhere, blood and limbs flying through the air as we leg it into check-in. A pipebomb goes out turning the infected into a stupefied scrum as they chase the beeping device before it explodes, a cloud of blood and torn flesh in it's place. We're almost through, a molotov is thrown turning the entrance into a inferno death trap as the last survivor charges through. Suddenly, Phizz cries out in pain, a long appendage has snapped out through the flames, wrapping itself tightly round his body and neck. Before we can respond he's dragged away through the flames as bodies continue to charge through.

    "Leave him!", someone screams.

    "NEVER!!" as I charge through the flames, gunning down infected as I go. I catch up with Phizz now in the grip of the Smoker, "you ugly motherf**ker!" a yell as my M16 turns it into a blast of blood and smoke. Choking, and coughing I escort the now limping Phizz as we quickly head back to he others, rifle fire covering our retreat.

    Then a tank appears.

    Awesome. Best co-op game ever? Very possibly….

  • In a word, WOW! Penumbra: Overture was excellent and easily one of the best PC games of last year and Black Plague takes it to new heights. Exploration of the game world is unlike anything else out there, essentially being a 1st person point and click adventure. No combat, no weapons, just you, your torch and your noggin. Probably one of the scariest games ever made drawing up along side ****cs such as Silent Hill 2 and Thief: The Dark Project. Not only is the atmosphere dripping off your monitor but it's running into your ears as well, a dark room and headphones is highly recommended. The plot twists and turns coming to a conclusion worthy of the original and also possess the most terrifying villain since Shodan. I can't recommend this game anymore highly than that, I think.

  • No doubt this title needs no introduction, most people having rocked out and made arses of themselves on plastic instruments with Guitar Hero. The greatest party game ever? Oh, aye. The only game I possibly think of that can contend it's title would be Bomberman for sheer hilarity, but that's not what Rock band is about. It's about having fun with your mates, drinking beer, listening to great music, consistently hitting the Band Unision Power, nailing that guitar solo in Highway Star, finishing Boston's Foreplay/Longtime drum part on expert and being saved by your mates when you more likely fail. That's because of the drink though I tell you. Everything that was annoying about the original Rock band has been ironed out, and all that is left is this unique, silky smooth game experience. Oh, and Guitar World Tour is pants in comparison, so, yeah, don't buy it.

  • In complete contrast to the brutal combat dungeon crawl of Etrian Odyssey, Mass Effect presents a compelling story and strong focus on character development and interaction. It is an epic space opera complete with classic sci-fi inspired visuals and a stunning soundtrack from video game music composer veteran Jack Wall. Shades of Blade Runner blink in the seedy underbelly of the Citadel, Dune looms it's head in the shape of vast alien landscapes and huge worm like creatures. It's all wrapped up in a seriously hard sci-fi world reminiscent of an Iain Banks novel with lovingly detailed alien politics, social structures and technology. The seamlessly integrated 3rd person, firearm and psi-power fuelled tactical battles are exciting and never outstay their welcome. While combat never takes a back seat, the story is the focus of the game and the choices you make throughout are well realised and never feel forced unlike many other attempts. You genuinely have very real, impact making actions to make with actual consequences. Mass Effect is a marvel of what video games can achieve despite it's flaws and shows that gaming is as valid a medium as any other in telling a great story.

  • How can Atlus's old-school dungeon crawler even compare to the might of MGS4 or the charm of World of Goo? Well, because it does something games (and their developers) are terrified of doing. This game is so hard, so brutally uncaring that it makes Shadow of the Beast look like a puppy dog nightmare (awww, so cute!). Getting beaten to death by a group of pink butterflies in the opening stages is the norm and getting eaten alive by huge "Foes" only a few floors down is inevitable. This game is not afraid to kick your ass and tea-bag your corpse for having not planed your attacks fully or even just because you took one step too many. It doesn't even care about story or characters, it just wants to kill you. So why is it fun? Etrian Odyssey is such a masterpiece because it is challenging, cerebrally involving and well presented to boot. Drawing out your own map as you explore, planning every move, the excitement of pushing just a little further into the dungeon, your resources low but with just enough to deal with a few more eneimes, that Diablo **** "just a bit further" mix of excitment and fear. It's gripping stuff, not everyone's cup of tea I can appreciate though. This RPG is not about wheeling characters from one dull preset conversation to the next padded out with bland battles and item collection. This game is about survival. It's about taking on the demon, finding it's weaknesses and exploiting them. It's about delving into the darkness (or cute anime forrest in this case) not knowing if your expertly crafted team of warriors and mages even stand a chance. Be afraid, be very afraid.

  • Nothing new granted in many respects. It's essentially the same formula that's made previous WipeOut games so successful. What is so special about this one you ask? Well, if you have played it or seen it in person, you would not be asking that question. With it's superb presentation and impossibly beautiful ****the game oozes futuristic anti-gravity, hi-octane arcade racing into your eye balls as nothing has done before. It doesn't stop there. The controls, superb use of 5.1 DolbyDigital sound, clever track design, range of play modes, great online support, massively adjustable difficulty to suit all skill types and BLEEDING BEAUTIFUL GRAPHICS make this "the" arcade racer to have, play, love and obssess over. End of line.

  • Goooooooooooooooooo! Yaaaaaaayyy! Mostly because I can't really express the cute, huggable little blingters in any other way. Rarely have I had the pleasure of indulging in a game of such charm, with maybe the exception of Darwinia (and 2008's unfortunately under played Multiwinia). Technically speaking a physics based puzzle game, but at its heart World of Goo is a much more enterprising beast. It's organic feeling, consistently evolving game mechanic with you manipulating this stuff, the personality of it all, the music and world ****art design and it's ability to move you. Most important game since Portal? Very possibly. Puzzle games our are past, and most importantly our future. Fingers crossed there is more to come.

  • Not being a massive Metal Gear fan (just a wee one like), I never really felt like I was invited to this party. The prospect of playing a largely uninviting game which would likely openly insult me for not getting every in joke and reference was as appealing as going to a disliked old friends birthday party. I took it on the chin though, and marched in with my head up high expecting to regard it with cold discern and aptly leave. Imagine my shock and initiual guilt for staying until the very end and loving every melodramatic, explosive minute of it. It's a shame because I suspect that many uninitiated with the previous titles will lack the courage to tackle MGS4. It truly is the rare experiance of gaming at it's finest, delivering an emotional, action packed, tension wrought journey like nothing else out there.

  • What? A Square-Enix game, without Chocobos?! Indeed, and it's all the better off for it. TWEWY is probably the most original JRPG of recent times and narrowly whisked 10th place from the bold and inspiring Valkyria Chronicles (sorry Sega). Set in modern day Shibuya, Tokyo you play a spikey haired dolt suffering from memory loss and a messed up sense of **** It seems he's ended up in an alternative reality and must take part in a "game" of survival with a partner. To start, the strong visuals are fresh and interaction with a nice combination of point-'n'-click adventure with RPG mechanics is oddly endearing. The story is engaging, well written and avoids many of the stereotypical setups commonly seen while the combat is inspired. Action packed battles are real-time using a combination of D-pad, touch screen and mic inputs to control 2 characters (one per screen) delivering an exciting but tactical experience. There is so much to do in this game, from item collection to the frantic dual-screen combat its flawless and beautifully integrated. The only downside is that it's surprisingly hardcore, meaning the first few hours are a tough hurdle to overcome for some, but I assure you it's worth your time. A truly brilliant game.