It's kind of hard not to notice a lot of Xbox games on this list. Well, the reason for that is that I just bought the Xbox in March 2005 - I was a PC-only gamer. I also have to admit that 2005 wasn't such a hot year for the PC, but just looking at some of the titles coming out in 2006 makes me forget about that in a second. There are a few PS2 games here as well - I don't actually own one, but I have good friends who let me borrow it if there's a game I'm particularly interested in. Enough babble, on with the show!
Special Achievement Awards
Best Original Music - Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy)
This was actually a very tough call with Shadow of the Colossus, Jade Empire, Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich and Fable: The Lost Chapters all being strong contenders. But Fahrenheit went for the whole movie theme and without Angelo Badalamenti (he composed the music for Mulholland Drive) the game wouldn't be anywhere near as compelling, thrilling or interesting.
Best Licensed Music - Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
An easy choice. Driving through Los Santos listening to hip-hop music that was actually relevant, then heading out to the countryside and tuning into The Dust (K-DST) was a treat. The DJ's and the commercials are hilarious, but it's the music that shines and makes the driving such an enjoyable experience.
Most Surprisingly Good Game - Oddworld Stranger's Wrath
I didn't expect much of this game, just thought I'd try it out because it looked fairly interesting and I'm the type of guy who likes checking out something new. To my surprise, Stranger's Wrath turned out to be an innovative, creative blend of classic platforming and some wierd first-person shooting with a bizarre cast of characters and a kooky story to boot. It's a damn shame no-one played it.
Best Story - Jade Empire
As I've played through Jade Empire, I had the feeling like it's something I've already seen before. And yet I was listening through every dialogue, I thought the characters were all compelling and interesting and I just wanted to see how it'll all play out in the end. At a glance, the story doesn't seem all that original or remarkable. But it keeps your interest throughout the game, and that's what really counts in my book.
Best Graphics - F.E.A.R.
Even though I've only played the single-player demo, that demo was graphically the best thing I've seen all year. The lighting, the shadows and those particle effects... made me want to run out and buy a new PC... if I only had the damn money.
Most Outrageous Game - Destroy All Humans!
You play as a short alien with a nasty attitude and a Jack Nicholson-type voice who's out to get our DNA so his race can continue to reproduce through cloning. The government blames all the destruction and mayhem you cause on the communists. If you for some reason leave while the game is running in the main menu, your sidekick will start screaming stuff like "Oh, don't mind me, I'm just a fictional character, a flow of electrons in your console. Don't pay any attention TO ME!!" or "Well, it's your electric bill. You could just turn off the console, you know. Haven't you heard of global warming?" Outrageous!
Biggest Disappointment - The Movies
The tycoon part of the game is pretty standard which means boring as hell, but the thing that really let me down was the movie maker. Placing scenes one after another onto the film strip is not something I would call fun nor creative. It's called the movie maker, yet you are unable to do what movie making is all about - directing. You cannot take control of the camera. It's a great concept, I hope they build on it - this just isn't going to cut it.
Top 10 Games of 2005
10. Oddworld Stranger's Wrath
Oddworld Stranger's Wrath is a very fun, weird and surprisingly deep game that will surely give you hours of quality entertainment.
9. Fable: The Lost Chapters
You really have to wonder why weren't The Lost Chapters included in the original game. It makes the game more fleshed out and clear (The Grey House, for example). I loved Fable, but the truth is that it was too short for an RPG. The Lost Chapters fixed that and that was enough for me.
8. Ninja Gaiden Black
Ninja Gaiden Black is essentially Ninja Gaiden with some additional content. While the core game is a true masterpiece, the question that remains is Black worth your money if you already own Ninja Gaiden. To put it quite simply, no. If by any chance you missed the original, then it's a must have.
7. Need For Speed Most Wanted
While I enjoy Burnout and Midnight Club, when it comes to racing games there's no other franchise like Need For Speed. The graphics are excellent, the cars look amazing - but what makes this game great are the thrilling cop chases.
6. Shadow of the Colossus
Nothing but boss fights? Sound kind of boring. But the moment you see the first boss you know you're in for one hell of a ride. Sure, the game could've used some sort of content while travelling and the controls were far from perfect, just like the camera - but I had no problem ignoring all those issues just so I can get to the next colossus.
5. Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy)
To be quite honest, Fahrenheit (or Indigo Prophecy, as it is known in the U.S.) is an amazing experience which shouldn't me missed by anyone, especially adventure and movie fans. Movie? Yes, in some ways I don't even consider Fahrenheit a game, but more of an interactive movie. It's cinematic, has great and well-developed characters, an interesting story and unique gameplay.
4. The Warriors
I thought it'll turn out to be a good game, get a 7.something score and that would be fine. I would've still picked it up. But then it started getting great scores all over the place with bold statements like "The Warriors revive a somewhat dead beat-em-up genre". I was intrigued. When I finally played it, I was blown away with it. The fighting system is deep yet simple, the sound is great - be it the voice work or just the smashing and the clobbering, the story is rather long and there are loads of bonus missions, stuff to unlock and so on. The co-op mode is a blast, it's hilarious to see what kind of chaos can 20 people make smashing everything in sight and trying to bash everyone's brains out.
3. Jade Empire
Jade Empire has its flaws, the combat system for example, but it's far outweighed by the good things such as the story, the characters and the sheer charm of the Empire. I find the latter more important because no other genre of games can make you really feel like you're a part of that world, not even adventure games.
2. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Vice City is still easily my favorite intallment in the series, but really, the GTA formula is a long way from becoming stale. There's nothing that wasn't previously said about San Andreas, both by the lovers and the haters so I'll keep it short and sweet - I love it.
1. Civilization IV
When the developers of one of your favorite series of all time give you the same brilliant gameplay that made the past games so good - and improve everything that was an issue and add a ton of new features, how the hell can you complain? Truly, Civilization IV stands far above all games released this year.