Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top 3 Games of the Year, 2008

After the excellent success the Xbox 360 saw in 2007, I didn't think it possible for 2008 to top it. We had some huge heavy weights released that year, including Mass Effect, Halo 3, and of course, BioShock. Strong titles, and the three games that were my main reason for purchasing an Xbox 360 to begin with.

Fortunately, 2008 proved to be a very strong year for gaming, despite my original low expectations. Whether you're a fan of shooters, RPGs, sports games, single player, multiplayer, or anything in-between, there was something for everyone and often covered via multiple platforms.

As the gaming industry itself further matures and grows, the general budget and quality of the games released, regardless of platform, is also raised, and with the results like what we've seen this year, it's no wonder that video games are now one of the most highly grossing entertainment mediums in the world.

Unlike previous years, where I specifically focused on just the top 3 titles for the Xbox or Xbox 360, this year I'm going to open it up to include all platforms. So, without further delay, let's end off 2008 with Arbiter's Judgement's Top 3 Games of the Year!

3) Gears of War 2 (Xbox 360) - Bigger, better, and more badass indeed, Gears of War 2 is the hugely anticipated sequel to the blockbuster original, and it delivers a great gameplay experience. Marcus and Delta Squad are back to once again protect humanity from the Locust Horde, and this time the Coalition of Ordered Governments is taking the fight to the heart of the enemy.

Gears of War 2 features the same excellent pop and gun gameplay and cover system from the original, only refined to even more precise levels. Unreal Engine 3 has been enhanced to provide us with one of the best looking games ever available, and the musical score is top notch. Epic Games even hired a professional writer to actually add some measure of story to the game this time around.

Unfortunately the more grandiose flare of Gears of War 2 also has a few severe cons, such as the issues that weren't corrected from the original game also being more bigger, badass, and frustrating than ever before. You will curse and swear over the horribly implemented Checkpoint system, and the game's shoddy turret sequences will leave you exasperated.

If you can ride these out, however, in both Campaign, multiplayer, or the newly featured Horde mode, Gears of War 2 is a must play and one of the killer games for the Xbox 360 this holiday season. Now, how do you like your toast, 'cause I like mine crispy!

2) Fallout 3 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC) - The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Game of the Year Edition took my top spot as Game of the Year for 2007, so is it any surprise that Bethesda's next masterpiece, Fallout 3, should make an appearance on this list? I'd think not.

Ironically, I have yet to fully explore Fallout 3 myself, and thus this is my first entry into any year-end list that I have not personally experienced in full. The Staff, however, has completed the PC version of the game, and aside from several serious issues with LIVE's integration, he has nothing but praise for the game. His only other major gripe is that Fallout 3, sadly, comes to an end, but despite that logical eventuality, Fallout 3 provides an immersive and engrossing experience that's without question worth witnessing first hand.

I myself have recently picked up the Xbox 360 version of the game, and while I've only been able to play it for about 2 hours, I'm very impressed with what I've seen thus far, and I can't wait to properly sit down with and play through this epic.

1) Dead Space (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC) - I closed off my Dead Space review by stating that it is a "...masterpiece of the art form, and a new standard from which I'll judge many future titles." and after a second playthrough, this high compliment remains.

Dead Space is the single greatest game I've had the pleasure to play this year, and it came out of no where. It really is a sleeper hit, and the game that resembles one of my all time favourite classics, System Shock 2, with a greater degree of accuracy than any other game before it.

As Isaac Clarke, you're a simple engineer assigned to a maintenance team that's sent out to find and repair the damaged vessel, USG Ishimura. Upon arriving, a horror is unleashed, and Isaac is quickly separated from his colleagues and struggling to survive against hordes of undead known as Necromorphs.

While it sounds cheesy, Dead Space's story is very well done, and the game itself blends several genres beautifully together. From shooter, to RPG, to survival horror, Dead Space has all these elements, as well as some wonderful innovations of it's own (the zero-g sequences are great, as an example, and let's not forget being able to dismember your enemies). Combine this with some solid graphics and a truly exceptional sound mix, and it all culminates into an exceptional atmosphere that completely immerses the player in a realm of tension and horror.

Dead Space is a game that should not be missed, and thankfully, it's available on three excellent platforms so you really have no excuse. The game also takes anywhere between 15 to 20 hours to complete on a single play-through, and with the amount of upgradeable weapons available, there's plenty of replay value here.

With such a stunning and complete package, it is my pleasure to award Dead Space this year's Arbiter's Judgement Game of the Year.

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