It made me worry that perhaps this generation of machines would finally herald the end of my love affair with gaming. Wrong. Very wrong. This year has been a corker for gaming. The Xbox 360 has, I think, surprised a lot of people, myself included, by becoming THE essential machine for hardcore gamers. And both Wii and PS3 have made tremendous strides, boasting exclusive titles that make both machines near essential purchases. The next-gen is a great place.
The following may sound like a feeble assertion to the numerous full-time teenage gamers out there, but I’ve completed three games this year. Three! Well, five if you include We Love Katamari and Me and My Katamari, but they’re pre-2007 so ignore those. Anyway, I never complete games. I’m a dad. I have an actual job. Recently I acquired an ex-girlfriend. All of these things are very tiring, very stressful and very time consuming.
Yet amongst all of that I’ve seen three titles through to the end. Prior to that the last game I’d completed was New Super Mario Bros on the DS. Before that I think it was Panzer Dragoon Saga on the Sega Saturn. It takes something special to get me to last the distance.
That’s not a comment about why my girlfriend is now ex, by the way.
And they’ve all happened recently, too. First off, it was Portal. What a game! It’s one of those rare titles that comes along every now and then and offers something genuinely new. It’s so different, so clever. And it’s so short – wonderful! I’d love to get to grips with something like Final Fantasy XII, but I’d be dead before I see the end credits.
Portal lasted me three nights – and I loved every second. Valve’s curious shooter alone demands you pay £40 for The Orange Box. Personally, I think Half Life 2 is massively overrated. But sod that – think of it as a tasty bonus level of Portal.
Then came Call of Duty 4. I have an odd relationship with FPS’. I buy into the hype, but then I tend to find them a bit tense and abandon them once the bad guys start getting really violent. But Infinity Ward’s shooter kept me hooked until the end – every level, bar maybe two or three, had something fresh about it, something different. That feeling was enough to keep me going until I reached the conclusion. Then there’s the tremendous multiplayer to get your teeth stuck in to. Great game.
Most recently Assassin’s Creed has caught me in its spell. Forget what the forum fanboys are saying about disappointment – this is a special game. Yes, there’s zero variation in the missions, and yes, walking around very very slowly can be a bit annoying, but to reject it for those reasons and to ignore its incredible atmosphere is a crime. I’ve never seen another in-game world as convincing as that conjured by Ubisoft. The climbing mechanic is absolute class, and the fighting’s decent too. To cap it off, the story’s not half-bad either. I almost wavered toward the end of the game, but found the stamina to see it through. And I miss it now it has gone.
There are plenty more titles l look back at fondly from the last 12 months too – Sega Rally criminally underperformed at retail, considering what a great racer it is. Then there’s Colin McRae: Dirt, FlatOut Ultimate Carnage, Skate – all very decent games. I even enjoyed Stranglehold – the very antithesis of what I like in gaming.
Taking each machine in turn, they’ve all had some real highlights. From a hardcore gamer’s perspective, 360 has been outstanding. Halo 3’s pompous narrative didn’t propel me to the end credits, but the fun I’ve had online has been incredible. And playing co-op with Michael French and Ed Fear, the team behind MCV’s sister mag Develop, was brilliant. Despite their endless bickering. Honestly, they’re like a married couple.
Then there’s Project Gotham Racing 4, the wonderfully atmospheric Bioshock, Forza 2 and just recently Mass Effect. What a selection. And as it came out in February it’s easy to forget Crackdown – but to do would be unspeakably wrong. Realtime Worlds’ free-roaming GTA Mark II is possibly my game of the year. Not since GTAIII have I spent as much time just meandering, experiencing an in-game world. And its modern redefining of coin collecting, the Agility Orbs, is possibly the single best thing to happen in gaming this year. I really can’t praise the title enough.
But let’s not forget PS3 – after a lean spell, recently we’ve been gifted Ratchet & Clank, which is the pinnacle of the series to date. And I’m sure I’d love Ninja Gaiden Sigma if I wasn’t so naff at games. And I’m gagging for this Friday’s release of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. And with all the recent DLC for Motorstorm, Evolution’s racer just seems to keep giving. Or selling, I suppose.
Despite the fact that Wii Sports remains as compelling today as it was when the machine first arrived, there’s also been a couple of gems for Wii. Trauma Centre is as wonderfully odd on Wii as it was on DS, and what can you say about Super Mario Galaxy? Though it most likely won’t make the same impact as the legendary Super Mario 64, simply because it doesn’t break new ground in quite the same way, it’s easily a better title. And to better something as unarguably perfect as Mario 64 is the sort of achievement that makes you believe in a higher being. And I shouldn’t forget Metroid – which I’ve barely had time to touch yet. Damn the need to sleep!
Chuck in some awesome downloadable titles such as Super Stardust, Every Extend Extra Extreme and the quite magnificent Flow, and you’d be a fool to say anything else about 2007 other than this – 2008 has a lot to live up to.