It was a good year for multiplatform games. Actually, let’s be honest – it was a good year for EA, among others. EA suddenly woke up and, for the most part, had a clue as to how to make accessible yet satisfying games.
Meanwhile, Activision – well, I didn’t buy any Activision titles this year. Insert joke about not exploiting my wallet.
## A Tangent About GTA
Here’s my biggest surprise of the year: In April, I finally welcomed Grand Theft Auto IV into my arms, and was met with what was essentially a series reboot. It makes sense, in a way. GTA3 was a new engine: revolutionary, but fairly light on the meat of the gameplay. The games that trailed after it on the same engine (Vice City and San Andreas) enhanced it, adding new functionality and depth. But now, GTA IV is a new engine, and so much of those enhancements had to be ditched. And so the game, while absolutely a GTA game, lacked the free-world fun of its immediate predecessors.
On Wednesday, I picked up Saints Row 2 on the slightly cheap. I’ve clocked maybe six hours on it as I write this, and in those six hours I’ve had far more fun than the probably 24 hours I clocked on GTA4. The experience is smoother, more polished, and just filled with little refinements that make me wonder why Rockstar didn’t think of them. (For those of you who haven’t played it, here’s one: both GTA and Saint’s Row feature car collection side quests. But Saint’s Row lets you put a picture of one on the screen, tells you in which part of town you’re most likely to find them, and *puts them on your minimap if they’re nearby*. The result is that I want to collect cars in SR2 but not in GTAIV.)
If you like sandbox-y crime games, and you like fun, please go buy Saint’s Row 2. Call it my Underdog Of The Year. They deserve the sales.
For emphasis, Yahtzee:
## High Points & Surprises
The game I spent the most time with on any platform this year is, undoubtedly, Burnout Paradise. Criterion really nailed how to do an open-world car game, have supported it lovingly with content across this entire year, and provided some of the most chaotic, crazy online gaming. It’s getting a re-release in 2009, and it’s completely worth buying if you haven’t enjoyed it yet.
Rock Band 2 has replaced Beatmania IIDX as my primary music gaming fix. (This may not be a shock to some of my friends.) While there’s still more Harmonix can do with the engine, they’ve really nailed the ability to license great content, create fun charts, and really make a fun end-to-end experience.
The first time I heard of Fallout 3, I was frightened for dear life, like all great fanboys who know something they love might get ruined. But my fears were for nothing, and the game ended up great. Easily the best FPSRPG since my beloved Deus Ex.
Dead Space is the best example of EA waking up. It is tense, it has atmosphere, and it honestly did make me jump a few times. It was nearly my best survival horror experience of the year.
After a few false steps, Capcom cleaned up with downloadable titles this year. Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix and Bionic Commando: Rearmed set really high bars for how to remake games with love and attention. Age Of Booty was a great action board game.
I had missed it in 2007, but The Simpsons Game was much better than I expected. I’ve been waiting seemingly forever for a proper Simpsons title, and it finally happened in 2007. Shame on me for missing it.
## Low Points & Disappointments
Devil May Cry 4 did nothing for me. I need to stop buying this series because it keeps not hitting me in the right spot.
I was excited for Mirror’s Edge, but the final product left me wanting. EA can’t get them all right, I suppose.
Every year I buy a handful of sports games – MLB: The Show, Madden, sometimes Winning Eleven – and every year I enjoy them for about two weeks. I wish sports games were cheaper, because they always end up being very disposable.
Why does Rock Revolution even exist? Not that I bought it, but nothing about this game ended up being a good idea. If nothing else, we can learn one thing: always have your press events staffed by people who can play games.