Best and worst from the first half of the year


posted 8/22/2006 by The GN Staff
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With the year a little more half over (or with half the year remaining if you are the optimistic type) we decided to talk to the staff to see what three games they really liked and what three game they thought they could have been better off without as well as what new industry trend they saw and liked. There was some consensus among the group (GRAW was a big winner and X-Men: The Official game a big stinker) and some disagreement (Sean and Charles both liked New Super Mario Brother while Matt thought it was a bad trip down nostalgia lane) but the curious thing was that there were a few people who had trouble coming up with three bad games. This either means that there haven’t been a lot of really bad games out this year or that our bad game detection system has stopped a lot of poor purchases. Either way here’s our list of what we have and have not enjoyed so far this year.
Randy Kalista – Staff Writer
Top three from the first half of 2006
Let’s skip the no-brainers (Oblivion, Half-Life 2: Episode One, and Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords. There, happy?) Now, here are my next to theTop Three games of 2006:
1.      Dreamfall: The Longest Journey (PC) The game draws uncanny parallels to contemporary social tribulations. With the most memorable cast I’ve encountered all year, this action adventure unapologetically battles the evils of colonialism, military occupation, religious oppression, and racial profiling. Complain about the clunky combat controls if you want, but this is the finest interactive storytelling I’ve witnessed since Indigo Prophecy.
2.      Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach (PC) – This choice will undoubtedly elicit some boos from the crowd: But I stand firm. The character system places unspeakable significance upon the unique abilities of each individual class; the art style boldly pushes the steam punk and high fantasy envelopes; and the adventures have some of the most preeminent writers on the planet cooking up tasty, full course meals. And it has one of the most mature populations you’ll find in online gaming -- a factor that cannot be ignored in MMOs.
3.      Hitman: Blood Money (Xbox). The bald man is so back with six million ways to make other people die. The settings are richly planned from every angle; the scenarios are intensely gratifying to complete, although -- and this is my only nitpick -- the gameplay feels a little too familiar for returning fans. Not that these chapters are any easier to complete the first time around; it’s just a little less heart-pounding if you already know the deal.
Worst three from the first half of 2006
I’ve been lucky. I haven’t subjected myself to the buckets of drek that splashed store shelves this year (True Crime: New York City made it to the PC? And I couldn’t even stand the demo of Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War). This particular crop just didn’t reap in all the 4-star reviews they could have.
1.      Auto Assaualt (PC)- Despite its refreshing breath of post-apocalyptic air, Auto Assault is scratching a rather specific itch. Click-and-wait combat is contested, but long fantasy jogs have merely turned into longer sci-fi commutes. And while MMO fans clamor for mounts, they apparently don’t want to be encased in a steel-clad Honda Passport for 98% of their $14.99 a month. Where did all the momentum from those “Most Anticipated of E3” awards go?
2.      The Godfather (Xbox)- So The Godfather game didn’t capture the legendary splendor of the films. But as a standalone, it shells out Tommy gun barrels full of addicting Grand Theft Mafioso play. I grew neurotic about taking over businesses. I lost sleep accumulating lucrative rackets. I perfected my fat-cat sneer with each and every rival storefront torched. And I did it all with the pin-striped panache that a San Andreas gangsta-gangsta couldn’t touch.
3.      Desperados 2: Cooper’s Revenge (Xbox). With this one, I want to take back my disclaimer about this list not getting splashed with a bucket of drek, because Desperados 2 is bucket-o-drek bad. Beyond its pulpy Wild West veneer (which is always good) the exasperating controls frustrate the gameplay all the way to high noon. Forget Desperados and the horses they rode in on.
Industry Trend(s)
Long live the franchise. In the first half of 2006, unless your original IP was named Prey or Rockstar presents Table Tennis,then your Metascore didn’t break the 80% waterline. In those cases, Table Tennis isn’t going to set off a rash of copycats. But Prey is likely to usher in a new sci-fi staple with its topsy-turvy tactics and its non-sequitur portal play. Half-Life 2: Episode Two ships later this year with a puzzle-shooter (all you get is a portal-opening gun) in the tell-all title, Portal. This soon-to-be-trend is doomed to be copied to greater and lesser effect in coming years. Most shooters (with the exception of the throwback mechanics found in games like Painkiller) have gradually layered complexities in the holy name of innovation. But Prey’s incongruent path movements add greater dimension without leaving players shooting off rounds of question marks.
For the rest of 2006, expect franchises to keep pushing their proven winners. Splinter Cell Double AgentBattlefield 2142. Even Guitar Hero II. Not to mention the annual sports titles like Madden NFL. Best of luck to original works like Dead Rising or Ninety-Nine Nights. Maybe they’ll turn into the comeback kings of 2007: Dead Still Rising, or perhaps even a prequel called Eighty-Eight Days.
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