Bully served as the perfect showcase for Rockstar's unique brand of developmentally-stunted humor. The game featured a wide variety of engaging activities, from boxing and wrestling to bike riding and using your slingshot. I also appreciated the way that Jimmy "learns" from his classes - attending classes in-game either grants you new abilities or upgrades those that you already possess. Though Bully never earned the acclaim of the mainline GTA games, I found it to be a much more tonally consistent experience.
I had a great time with this lite ARPG. I was given the opportunity to play two of my favorite Marvel characters, Colossus and Luke Cage, who have never been granted their own individual games. Though the equipment system wasn't extensive, I did feel that I could maximize my effectiveness and match my playstyle with what was available. Ultimate Alliance also featured almost a precursor to Rocksteady's Batman combat, where different enemies (especially those that were shielded) required a different approach.
Though Guitar Hero II did not play as smoothly as later titles in the series, it did feature the trademark animation style and a solid tracklist. Highlights for me included Wolfmother's "Woman," The Foo Fighters' "Monkey Wrench," and Heart's "Crazy on You." Additionally, there was an absolutely radical (in every sense of the word) bonus track entitled "Less Talk More Rokk" by a band called Freezepop.
As a huge Diablo II fan, I was always looking for something to scratch that ARPG looter itch. With Titan Quest, my wish was granted. Though it had a slightly less cool wrapping (I liked the grim-dark tone of Diablo II and Blizzard's magnificent cutscenes), Titan Quest's ragdoll physics, unique loot system, and dual classing made it a significant evolution of the formula. I actually replayed Titan Quest upon the release of the Ragnarok expansion around the beginning of 2018, and it still held up!
Wii Sports served as an absolutely excellent introduction of the motion-control system, highlighting the strengths of this control scheme. All of the sports featured were engaging, though boxing just felt exhausting to me. Our favorite was tennis (with bowling in a close second). Something about using the WiiMote like a racquet was just really satisfying, and the quality of your serves depended on the timing of your swings.
New Super Mario Bros. was the first Nintendo handheld game I played since 1994. It also has the distinction of being the last Nintendo handheld game I've played. I played the entirety of the game on vacation at a friend's home while he was at work, and there was never a dull moment! I never fully made the transition to playing the 3D Mario games, and New Super Mario Bros. represented a comfortable but fresh evolution of the 2D formula. I loved the new mini and mega-Mario power-ups, and the ability to save a power-up for later.
I adored the original FEAR, and consider it one of my favorite games ever. Although it's since been ruled non-canon, Extraction Point picked up the action directly from the end of the original game. The visual effects and tactical rationing of the slo-mo ability were as enticing as ever, and Extraction point introduced a new laser weapon and deployable turret to increase the Point Man's strategic options. Though I'm not sure if I'd find the story as engaging today, at the time I appreciated how the game further fleshed out the world's lore and the family relationships of its characters.
Though not a particularly long experience, Episode One did an excellent job of maintaining my investment in the Half Life franchise. I enjoyed my continued interactions with Dog and Alyx as Gordon was hunted through the city. The highlight was undoubtedly the continued use of the supercharged gravity gun, allowing the player to yank enemies around and toss them at each other. It's a testament to the world Valve has created that I'm still excited to see where this story goes, 13 years after the release of Episode Two.
First of all, Gears of War was beautiful. Although much of the game consisted of dreary grays and browns, it's gorgeous rain-slicked surfaces left my jaw open with wonder. As I've mentioned in other lists I've created, Gears of War just has a sense of weight that made the player feels as though they really were these armor-clad, musclebound marines - the strained camera angle as a player executed a roadie run, and the oomph as Marcus slammed his back against a concrete barrier for cover. The encounters were so new and fresh - dodging the charges of an almost-indestructible Berserker, and hurling bolo grenades to seal emergence holes. The game also introduced an "active reload" system that made even cover-to-cover gunfights feel kinetic in a way they hadn't before. A brilliant new IP.
I still remember the feeling of exiting the sewers into Cyrodiil. It was the original "emerging from the Vault" that was later seen in Fallout 3. I've never been much of an RPG player. The closest thing you'll find on most of my lists are more action oriented, ARPG hack-and-slashers. But the Elder Scrolls series remains the most prominent exception. I find myself completely engaged in creating my character, leveling my skills and locating unique weapons and armor pieces. I enjoy the smaller pieces of the experience, such as lock-picking and looting, as well as the broad story lines such as the Dark Brotherhood, Thieves' Guild, or the Arena. Though I'd hopefully have more self-control today, I played so much Oblivion that I found myself noticing various colorful plants in my day-to-day life and internally listing off the alchemical potion effects of their in-game counterparts. I just couldn't get enough of it.