The year 2007 was an incredible year for the videogame industry. I'd even be willing to go out on a limb and say that it was one of the best ever. Our year-end awards here at GamerNode weren't decided over tea and crumb cakes - it was more like acid-edged blades and baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire. There were even horses, and a man on fire. Kyle killed a guy (but let's just keep that between us).
Needless to say, 2007 had many great games, but 2008 may very well be set to top it. As a matter of fact, this article started as a list of just about 30 titles. I can't begin to tell you how much difficulty I faced trying to narrow it down to only a third of that, but I probably would never have completed the task without setting some requirements.
1) Unless the game has been distinctly labeled as a 2008 release, it didn't make the cut (or else you know Resident Evil 5 would take the number one spot).
2) The second requirement was imposed late in the article-writing cycle, not only to make things easier on myself, but also because I thought it'd make for a more interesting, less predictable list of games. Original IP only; No sequels! That's right, there go all of my "safe" answers like Metal Gear Solid 4, Final Fantasy XIII, GTA IV, or Super Smash Bros Brawl. Not even Star Wars was exempt from this mighty ban.
Anyway, get your own weapons ready (preferably flamethrowers), because I'm sure each and every one of you will find some reason to hate me over the course of the next couple of pages. Ready...aaaaaannd...GO!
10) Army of Two (360, PS3) -
I've said it before, and I'm sticking by my story; cooperative play enhances the gaming experience in nearly every situation. EA's Army of Two shows that at least somebody agrees with me. The game is based entirely off of tandem combat and obstacle navigation, making players rely on each other much more than your standard co-op game. Gone are the days when a shout of "cover me" or "I'll take the left" encapsulates the entire tag-team strategy. In Army of Two, the team must act as a unit...or fail. As a bonus, interactions between the leading duo can be pretty funny, even in the game's somewhat grim setting.
9) Saboteur (PC, 360, PS3) -
Pandemic Studios have certainly shown the gaming community that they know how to deliver open-ended gameplay in a sandbox of warfare. Although Pandemic's Mercenaries 2 (a sequel) has been hogging the spotlight as of late, it's their OTHER 2008 offering that has landed on today's countdown. Set during WWII, Saboteur tells the tale of Sean, an Irish race car driver and general tough guy seeking revenge on a particular group of Nazis. The stealth action will take players from the city of Paris to the coastline, and into the mountains of Germany on a free-roaming tour of Europe. Film noir and pulp action influences are evident throughout, and the war serves only as a backdrop to a completely original story, so don't worry about playing the same old WWII game yet again.
8) Left 4 Dead (PC, 360) -
Turtle Rock Studios has a vision. That vision is to take the near-perfect competition found in Counter-Strike and apply it to cooperative zombie warfare. Left 4 Dead pits a team of four players against an ocean of zombies who are just dying to munch on your gray matter. It's up to these survivors to protect each other long enough to escape the outbreak. Additionally, four other players can join in as beefed-up, commanding members of the zombie hordes. This is a game of true survival, with limited ammo, creepy locales, and a massive amount of enemies. It's like Dawn of the Dead...on the Source engine...with co-op...and counter-op. Need I say more?
7) White Knight Story (PS3) -
White Knight Story wowed gamers with it's beautifully rendered scenes and nearly flawless animation when its debut video was shown at the 2006 Tokyo Game Show. Since then, only a few new pieces of footage have made it into the spotlight, but everything about this game screams, "play me!" The combat is especially refreshing, and seamlessly blends real-time action with pre-defined tactics while maintaining a new-yet-familiar RPG feeling. This all comes as no surprise, of course, considering JapanStudio and Level 5 (Rogue Galaxy, Dragon Quest VIII) are behind the project.
6) LittleBigPlanet (PS3) -
Speaking of refreshingly original games, LittleBigPlanet is really unlike anything I've seen before. Aside from how wonderfully stylish the game looks, it also presents gamers with new ways to approach the games we play. Not only do players have a variety of methods by which they can physically interact with their environment (woohoo for physics!), but the game is actually a miniature game creation studio, allowing players to design and share content with others over the Playstation Network. This game has the potential to be endless, and it's all about fun.
5) Dead Space (360, PS3) -
The survival horror genre has seen a large amount of growth over the past few years, expanding into new settings, new subject matter, and even new realms of gameplay mechanics. Everyone seems to want a piece of the survival horror pie, and EA is offering up Dead Space - a deep space sci-fi fright-fest. The development team is taking the the concept of fear very seriously, researching horror movies and making sure to run the gamut of ways to scare people. They want gamers to be afraid to play. The protagonist is an engineer with no combat training, and the vessel on which the game takes place isn't exactly overflowing with weaponry. This is going to be a bit of a challenge; custom-built tools of war are surely in order. On top of everything, the game features top-notch visuals that bring the situation to life, and will quite possibly bring nightmares to your slumber.
4) Brutal Legend (360, PS3) -
It's hard to imagine that a game put together by Tim Schafer and his team at Double Fine Productions could be anything but incredible. They did, after all, create the surreal and captivating Psychonauts. Well, these wild imaginations have run wild once again, grabbing Jack Black and a handful of rock idols along the way. In Brutal Legend, roadie Eddie Riggs finds himself in an open world of all things heavy metal. The elder metal gods have created a place where spiders "spin guitar strings out of silk, and if you chop a tree down the cross-sections are perfect tires, and there are V8 engines growing underground. ...all these things are just waiting for you to discover." Of course, humanity has been enslaved by demons, and Eddie is charged with building an army against them. You can bet that the cast will be colorful, and the tasks will be insane. It's got that Schafer magic, and that's enough to land on my list.
3) Prototype (PC, 360, PS3) -
Another open world game, this time set in New York City, Prototype tells the tale of anti-hero and amnesiac Alex Mercer (the Prototype), the Infected (a mutant race that has invaded the city), and the U.S. military (you know them...sortof). Little else is known about the details of the game's story, but as for gameplay, Radical Entertainment is claiming "more gameplay per square foot than you've ever seen." Mercer is a total badass - a shapeshifter with the ability to "consume" human victims in order to increase his powers. These include turning his hands into giant blades, armor-plating his skin, assuming the form of other individuals, and acrobatically navigating the city like no human being could ever hope to do. The city itself will evolve as the game progresses and the mystery of the whole situation unfolds, making for a truly dynamic experience.
2) Spore (PC, Mac) -
Oh, Will Wright... Casual gamers and uber-nerds alike have all found reasons to absolutely adore him. From SimCity to The Sims to Sim-anything-else-you-can-imagine, Will was there to show us the way. His newest project, Spore, is what one might call an "evolution sim." Players act as grand puppeteers, guiding organisms up through the generations, eventually taking control of entire societies, and even worlds. The game features a massive amount of procedurally generated content, from the creatures that populate the game universe, to the very place itself. Furthermore, Wright has dubbed Spore a massively single player game, because as players progress, their creations will begin to show up remotely in other users' worlds. They become AI-controlled parts of those other players' games, tagged with their creators' information. It is quite an interesting concept - something Spore just seems to be full of.
1) Dark Sector (PC, 360, PS3) -
We all loved Gears of War, right? How about Resident Evil 4? I though so. Dark Sector is a third-person action game that borrows heavily from these two triple-A titles, sporting an over-the-shoulder view in a dark and gritty world, and even using Gears' pop-and-shoot gameplay mechanics along with plenty of context-sensitive actions. Digital Extremes has worked arm in arm with Epic Games in the past (Unreal Tournament 2003, 2004), so it stands to reason that Dark Sector would be influenced by their masterpiece. In Dark Sector, players will have a small arsenal of firearms at their disposal, along with the powerful glaive - a boomerang-like blade that not only minces enemies to pieces, but can also be imbued with various elemental properties to inflict even more damage or solve environmental puzzles. Add to that some stealth elements and huge boss battles, and you've got a winner on your hands.
Well, there you have it. Amidst all of the big-name sequels and heavy hitters coming in 2008, there is still a wealth of original content on the way. There is a lot to look forward to this year, and hopefully I've even been able to introduce a few lesser known titles to you, the GN faithful. Feel free to make comments, ask questions, throw cans, spew venom, or what have you. I will be here to receive it all.
Videos of some of the games can be seen at the link at the top of this story!