Yes, I realize a blog citing the best and worst is pretty self-indulgant. But, what the hell, if everyone jumped off this bridge, so will I :)
so, I'll start with the five best games I played in 2007...
Yep, this one sits at alot of other people's #1 spot, which is cool. It certainly does alot to deserve a high rating. Top notch gameplay, bar raiding graphics, and some freedom to combat approach makes this awfully fun. Any other year, it might have ranked higher for me, but it had some stiff competition, and honestly, compared to it's predecessor, Far Cry, it did little to push the envelope, beyond raising the bar for graphics yet again. Yet, even as a newer sandbox game, Crysis didn't quite inspire the same sense of ultimate freedom of approach that Far Cry did so long ago. Complaining aside, the game rocks, and deserves #5.
Honestly, I'm not a big fan of puzzle games, but I had more laughs and head scratching moments playing this game than any other this year. It truly is an inspired game, down to the final, hysterical song. And, there's cake!
3. Rock Band
Easily the best group play game ever made. Nice touches like getting the crowd to sing along when you play well does a great job making you want to play even better. Definitely not as challenging as GH3, but it is far more fulfilling, and encourages even the most cynical of people to play after they watch for a while. Great songlists, weekly DLC, and some great graphics make this game very accessible for just about anyone!
2. Mass Effect
This game came very close to beig my #1 game this year. Thoughtful, engaging story, more meaningful dialogue than previous Bioware games, near cinematic gameplay, and characters with depth and personality that only Bioware seems capable of delivering on a regular basis. While loading screens and texture loads were a turn off for some, they did little to distract my attention from the story. What did, however, were the countless sidequests that eventually begin to look like eachother, and do little if anything to add to the depth of this game, outside providing more hours to waste your time. If Bioware found a way to make the sidequests more meaningful to the main story, this game would probably never leave my 360's loading tray.
1. Call Of Duty 4
This was, without a doubt, the best game I have played this year, and in many ways, the most engaging I've played in a long time. This game was inspired, and it shows in nearly every mission. Unique approaches to typical military missions, like sinking boats, or firing artilary from an aircraft to provide cover for an SAS unit, or a two-part sniper mission unlike any other ever invented...this game finds creative ways to keep missions and combat fresh throughout. Also, intensity of combat, from bullets tearing through the plaster of wasted apartment complexes, exploding cars, high speed movement, and C.O.'s who actually shout orders worth listening to, do alot to seel the intensity and authenticity of this game. The story is made more convincing because of the intense combat and sometimes unbelivable scenerios that are sometimes genuinely surprising. It's a short single player campaign, but it covers alot of gorund, and tells a complete story, that may not be the most original, but it's telling through the missions is certainly the most convincing since Half Life 2. This game not only took my best game of the year nod, it also sets the bar very high for other shooters that follow in it's wake.
Now, some other random awards...
Biggest letdown of 2007: Assassin's Creed
Halo 3 was saved from this dubious honor by the repetivite, uninspired, and tiresome gameplay of Assassin's Creed. At least Halo 3, while not a very inspiring addition to the franchise, was enjoyable to play. I can't make the same claim of Assassin's Creed. This game took a wonderful premise, and a potentially original story, and suffocated it with repetitive missions, uninspired combat, and a one note approach to combat that was truly shameful for a game with such high production values and more undeserved praise than any game I can recall in nearly a decade.
The game I most wanted more from: Unreal Tournament 3
I think Gears of War spoiled me, and really got me ready for the definitive multiplayer game of the year. What I got was a game that plays no better than the last Unreal installment. While some interesting additions have been made to the multiplayer, the gameplay seems a little too arcade for me, especially in light of the gritty, intense, and unique approach to combat Gears offered up under the flag of the same studio. It's a good game...but honestly, so was the last UT, and honestly, after the time spent on improving this franchise, fans deserved something better.
Biggest Surprise of the year: Team Fortress 2
This is the most refreshing multiplayer experience I've had in quite some time. After so many shooters that either take a simplified arcade combat approach, like Halo 3 or Unreal Tournament 3, or the other extreme of the realistic spectrum, like Call of Duty 4, TF2 does a great job striking a perfect balance between fun and easily accessible gameplay, with thoughtful and stretegic use of different classes. The Warner Brothers stylized graphics do alot to sell it's accessibility, and for as good as it is, I don't think I was quite prepared for how good it actually was. Easily Valve's best multi player since Counterstrike, and probably ranks along side Call of Duty 4 as the best multiplayer game I've played all year.
Games I'll have to wait another year for: (tie) KOTOR 3 and Mechassault 3
I had more fun playing Mechassault online than any other multiplayer I've ever played, and while it was too arcady for the die hard Mechwarrior crowd, the multiplayer for 'just pick it up and go' fun was unmatched by anything I can think of, and I desperately want an installment on the 360. KOTOR, as well, is a franchise in desperate need of completion, and every year a third installment fails to come out, is another year that fans must slave through games that they wish were as good as KOTOR. But, Fasa's dismissal by Microsoft, and rumors of an MMO version of KOTOR being released, will probably insure that these games will be on a similar list for me for quite a long time.
Game of 2008 I'm most looking forward to: (another tie) Lost Odyssey and FarCry 2
Both these games look like they're going to deliver, and deliver well. Lost Odyssey is easily shaping up to be the true turned based successor to Final Fantasy 10, with the same epic feel as the best FF games, and the traditional turned based combat system that has been all but abandoned by all game makers as of late. Some stunning visuals are definitely most welcome to all of us waiting for that true Next Gen japanese RPG.
FarCry2, after Crytek sold the project to Ubisoft to work on Crysis, had a huge questionmark over it's head on how good it would be, from everything to graphics to gameplay. But, thanks to two things, a game engine arguably as stunning as Cryengine 2 and an a truly open ended, interactive environment, makes FarCry2 look like it's going to be the true successor to Far Cry die hard fans all hoped it would be, and most likely, even more than we ever dreamed it could be. My hat's off to Ubisoft on this one, and I only hope that the game delivers in the way all the trailers and interviews hint it will.
And, that'll do it for me. I'm sure I missed some great games, and forgot to trash some truly bad ones, but I only have so many systems and so little time to play everything I want to play. Overall, 2007 really shaped up to be the gaming year everyone hoped it would be, and while our opinions vary from here to there, I think gamers were rewarded with one of the deepest pools of games, and remarkable ones at that, that we've seen in quite a long time.