By Brad 35 Comments
Probably aren't a lot of surprises in the games I picked for my personal list for the year, but maybe the order of these big names at least differs from yours. Let's have a discussion!
This would probably be way higher if I'd gotten to spend more time with the later levels, spent some time building my own, and then downloaded the best ones others have uploaded to PSN. I only spent a handful of hours bounding around the first few stages in two-player on the couch with my girlfriend--and the giggles that resulted were more than enough to ensure it a place here. Definitely going to put more time into LBP now that the unfortunate server and moderation issues have been ironed out.
9. Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise
If Trouble in Paradise were a PC game, it would have been released as an expansion pack for the original Viva Pinata--but then, it was priced like an expansion pack anyway. There were plenty of new areas and pinatas to complement all the recycled content, and the streamlined menus and more accessible information made this one the more pleasant experience I wish the first one had been.
8. Grand Theft Auto IV
Best sense of place in any video game this year, or perhaps ever. Rockstar captured the New York City feel sublimely, from the look of the skyline and the grit on the streets to the Helvetica font in the menus, the same as you see in the city's subway signage. Honestly believable characters, too. This is a crime drama for the ages.
7. Left 4 Dead
Mass zombie attacks will never get old, but Valve found a way to make them even spicier with the best cooperative shooting experience all year. Just as good as the action were the characters--Bill, Louis, Zoey, and Francis--and the contextual narrative that emerged through them. I actually sensed the dire circumstances of the undead apocalypse throughout every map, just thanks to the quips the four characters made, and the desperate scrawls left on safehouse walls by previous survivors.
6. Gears of War 2
I went from "Ho hum, more Gears" to "Dude, more Gears!" in the first 10 minutes. The campaign more than lives up to Mr. B's constant refrain of "bigger, better, more badass" with enormous, larger-than-life action. But Horde mode is the real star of the show, giving you a great way to play multiplayer cooperatively without all the foul-mouthed adolescents and matchmaking issues of the competitive online modes.
5. Burnout Paradise
The open-world single-player missions were moderately entertaining, but Paradise really came to life online. Tackling the dozens of over-the-top multiplayer challenges with up to seven friends, making enormous jumps, crashing head-on into each other--all with hilarious voice chat going the whole time--was the most fun I had online this year. It's this year's Uno! ...What does that even mean?
4. Dead Space
This wasn't the most original game of the year, but it might have been the best-crafted, most-polished one. Dead Space knows exactly what it's trying to do, and it does it incredibly well without straying beyond its scope. Great atmosphere and scares, surprisingly satisfying shooting, utterly gorgeous visuals--a real class act from EA Redwood Shores.
3. Metal Gear Solid 4
Flat-out best-looking game of the year that also happened to be the best-playing game in the MGS series. The marriage of cinematic production values and balls-out action offered the most stunning set-piece moments of gameplay I witnessed in this or any year. Solid Snake, I'm gonna miss ya.
2. Geometry Wars 2
Downloadable game at number two! Yeeeah. Bizarre Creations went so far above and beyond what they needed to do in a Geometry Wars sequel. The new modes were both more numerous and more ingenious that I could have possibly wished for, and the way the game integrated high score lists right into the menus and in-game displays really stoked your desire to beat all of your friends. I'll never get tired of playing this intensely skill-based game...until Geometry Wars 3, at least.
1. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
Yeah, you read it right. This was the most fun I had simply playing a game in 2008. The vehicle-building isn't a gimmick; it's absolutely integral to the gameplay. It gives you tons of options to approach the huge variety of mission objectives in unique, creative, satisfying ways. Plus, it was the funniest, cleverest game all year. Somebody at Rare really knows my sense of humor, I guess.