Entry 122: The Magnificent Nine of the Year
9- Unreal Tournament III: Epic stayed true to the gameplay roots of the franchise, to save an otherwise aging formula lost in a year full of innovative games released. Though UTIII shipped with much fewer maps and gameplay types than its prequel 2004, at least they are of top notch quality, incredibly polished, with fun vehicles and a Warfare mode better than Onslaught. The user interface and single player storyline have been hugely criticized, yet I can live with them since the game appeal to both casual ( with a strong AI bot offline ) and the hardcore online.
8- Call of Duty 4 - Modern Warfare: don't get me wrong, Infinity Ward's offering deliver some intense cinematic moments and a multiplayer blast yet just like UTIII, it doesn't really bring any innovative features. The gameplay core remains an exact copy of all the previous WWII CoDs, which is a good thing indeed but just can't stand against the BioShock/Crysis/Portal innovative bandwagon. A bit overhyped and over rated in broad daylight, CoD 4 becomes in my mind a fluid dinosaur in a world of transition = great and perhaps could have been a 2006 GOTY - not in 2007.
7- Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar and Twilight of the Arnor Beta: THE only remaining TBS 4x star filling the shoes of Master of Orion's legacy this year by Stardock, a publisher so dedicated to their hardcore fans. A nich sub genre game for niche hardcore nerds that still can be played by any strategy addict. Endless customization options.
6- Gears of War PC: In no way should it have garnered any major award on most major gaming sites one year after the 360 release, despite being upgraded both graphically ( higher res ) and five new single chapters including a Brumak fight. Still, GoW PC looks like what a REAL high definition game should be on the PC: At 1920x1200 4x, it totally blows away the competition. To the scrupulous eyes af any videophile gamer, this action masterpiece coupled with Crysis just testify the PC as the superior technological platform should the user has the means to afford a high end one. GoW is a mouse killer ( had to change mine after two campaigns ), and still remains a man's game for talented gamers. Harder than any other shooter released this year.
5- World in Conflict: simply the best RTS of the year. Staggering battlefields and very high end explosions; fluid mechanics; simplified gameplay and unit types yet still deep strategically.
4- BioShock: what can I add to what's already been said about this intuitive art deco experience set in underwater Rapture filled with rage anf finesse? Could have been top crowned in a normal year; but this is 2007. The game would have been near perfect with the inclusion of a wider enemy variety and a better late game pathing, not to mention the unrewarding ending. BioShock sweep across the genre and should influence any future hybrid actioner nonetheless.
3- Half Life 2 Episode Two: permit me to split the Orange Box please ( Gamespot and most of the majors didn't unfortunately ). After all, the box in itself isn't a game. And Episode Two just enhance the saga the way only Valve can envision it. It may be overlooked, but Episode Two deliver the goods so flawlessly: fluid gameplay; no apparent bugs; a striking story filled with climactic moments; the best innovative action sequence ( final fight involving Striders and Hunters ); and the ONLY decent cliffhanger ending. Now what will come next? One can't wait to see Portal's GLaDos and Aperture's ship in Episode Three.....
2- Crysis: the shooter of the year. Technically, CryTek delivered a game for the future. Gameplay wise, Crysis just display what any modern shooter should offer: a barrage of high tech gear you constantly use within an unprecedented tri-dimensional construct. The late game alien portions may become increasingly linear, but still unleash some climactic scenery combining the best mechanics a hybrid modern/sci fi shooter can provide nowadays.
1- Portal: PC Game of the Year. Everyone should play the latest step in the evolution of 3D puzzle actioners, also rewarding the player with the best non-cliffhanger ending of the year. 'Nuff said.