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Press Start’s Top 5 Games of 2007 December 29, 2007

Posted by Chris in Uncategorized.
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Ho ho - of course we're kidding 

Here we go then. The five games we feel to be the very best that 2007 had to offer. Agree? Disagree? Feel fairly indifferent about the whole thing? We’d love to hear from you – so please feel free to use the comments box below, and let us know what we shamefully missed from our top twenty-one.

5. No More Heroes

 Travis Touchdown And The Lightsaber Of DOOM

Chris: People often say that the best videogames make you forget you’re playing a videogame – they immerse you in their worlds so thoroughly that you become one with your avatar. No More Heroes isn’t like that – it constantly reminds you that it’s a game, with its gigantic floating pixel signs for save points, missions and destinations, and its presentation frequently referencing the 8 and 16-bit eras of gaming. It’s deceptively complex, seemingly very repetitive at the outset – indeed a snippet of dialogue slyly references this fact – but context sensitivity and timing adds great depth to the combat. It’s stylish, hip, funny ha ha and peculiar, and its lightsaber-swishing finishing moves all but make any future Star Wars Wii game utterly redundant. It’s just an immensely satisfying game, brimming with thrillingly bizarre boss battles, and a palpable tension in the build up to these intense scraps. We’re championing No More Heroes because few others will be willing to do so – we’ve a feeling its idiosyncratic approach will win it as many enemies as fans. But something so wonderfully inventive, something so full of ideas and genuine love for its medium, deserves to be celebrated by those who do fall in love with it. Which is precisely why it finds itself sneaking into our Top Five by the back door. Its blistering climax is a big help, too.

4. Mass Effect

Massive and - yes! - effective; that's Bioware's terrific aRPG alright

Chris: If you believed everything you read about Mass Effect before its release, then you may well have been expecting The Best Game Ever. That it only slightly disappoints in that respect shows what an accomplishment Bioware’s space opera is. Okay, the combat is occasionally clunky, the AI a smidge on the weak side, and it’s very, very dialogue-heavy. But the ‘skip’ button will barely be used by most players, such is the quality of the script. Its plot may be a pick and mix from sci-fi influences ranging from Phantom Menace through to Battlestar Galactica, but many of its story choices represent genuinely tough moral dilemmas – certainly more complex and agonising than those much-touted Bioshock quandaries. Experiment with your characters’ abilities, and you’ll find the action is much more than Ghost Recon Lite, while its universe is detailed in astonishing depth for those prepared to explore its vast, expansive galaxies. As one of the most compelling virtual worlds of the year, with several memorable NPCs and events, its technical shortcomings were but minor niggles. And this is just the first in the series – assuming Bioware can iron out the few problems present here, Mass Effect 2 could be a bona fide masterpiece.

3. Halo 3

Halo 3 - a bit good in co-op (and not too shabby in single-player, either)

Mike: Those pesky Japanese history teachers are lining up again, peddling their revisionist agenda on the back of a theory that Halo 3 wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. This is nonsense, of course. Bungie’s magnum opus was a gargantuan undertaking, a game where so many balls were in the air that how very few of them were dropped was a near-miracle.From the immensely satisfying campaign mode with its epic encounters and 30-seconds-of-fun redux with added equipment tomfoolery, to the ridiculously comprehensive Xbox Live matchmaking and custom game variants. How about the almost-infinite possibilities of the Forge map editor and rules configurations, or the laugh-out-loud pyrotechnic mania of 4 player online co-op through the entire campaign (battling a Scarab with 3 friends has to be one of the Top 5 gaming moments of all time)? Not forgetting the razzle-dazzle and file-sharing of the Theater (sic)’s replay functionality, or the “it’s-the-future” integration between the game itself and Bungie’s own website, of course. Halo 3 proved to be a hugely ambitious and defining event in the Xbox 360’s software library. Revisionism be damned: the game was, remains, and will continue to be rather more than a little bit good.

2. The Orange Box

 Half-Life 2: Episode 2 - marginally better than Portal (yes, we went there)

Chris: Five games for the price of one. In any other year, Valve’s astonishingly generous package would easily be the game of 2007. And for many, it probably will be. Half-Life 2 is still astounding several years on, while the underrated Episode One shows just how far aheda of the competition Valve is when it comes to characterisation. Episode Two miraculously takes things a step further, with several compelling set-pieces, twists and plot developments, in six of the most perfectly-paced hours of gaming you’ll ever encounter. For me, it remains the highlight of the package, though many more would argue the corner for incredible first-person puzzler Portal. Easily the most unique game of the year, its dialogue crackled with a rare intelligence and pin-sharp wit, with its physics and momentum-based conundrums all brainteasers of exceptional quality. Its brief three-hour runtime aside, it would have easily made our top 20 on its own, as would multiplayer classic Team Fortress 2. This online shooter’s Incredibles-esque visuals and supremely balanced gameplay were unfortunately affected by all-too-frequent lag – a shame, as it’s one of the most purely enjoyable Live experiences we’ve had all year.

1. Super Mario Galaxy

Galaxy - where one level can make entire games redundant (in this case Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz)

Chris: When you play a game and you immediately start considering not whether it’s one of the best games of the year but one of the best games you’ve ever played, then you know you’ve got your number one of 2007. It’s difficult to pinpoint one thing that makes it so brilliant – it’s simply amazing in almost every single respect. Special mention must go to its astounding soundtrack – hearing traditional Mario themes and some brand new tunes replendent in fully orchestral clothing is an ear-tickling delight, while its rim-shaded visuals are absolutely lush, and crammed with countless imaginative little touches. As for the gameplay, I think the following (from a post I made on the rllmuk forum over a month ago) just about sums it up:

“[the variety is both] the blessing and the curse of the game. It’s like Nintendo are handing out the nicest sweets in the world, and you taste one and think ‘Wow! That’s amazing! Give me another’ and then they say ‘no, have this other amazing one’. And it’s just as good, but in a different way. You fancy another of those, or maybe even a taste of the first, but then the third tastes possibly even better. And so on, and so on. I’ve never known a game use so many ideas once and then throw them away. It’s almost too generous in places.”

So there you have it. Super Mario Galaxy is the nicest bag of sweets ever made; the tastiest videogame treat of 2007. Roll on 2008!

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Comments»

1. Henke - December 31, 2007

Absolutely spot on with the top 2. Great read.

2. Chris - December 31, 2007

@Henke: out of pure curiosity, what would your personal top 5 have been?

3. Matt - December 31, 2007

Dunno about No More Heroes or Mass Effect (not played them yet), but that top three look pretty good to me.

I would have to add PGR4 – it’s all good, the bikes provide a different approach to the courses and a variation on the challenges. The difficulty is perfectly judged, you can breeze through on silver medals but you really have to work to clear it on the higher settings. Overall a classy racer which doesn’t bog you down with mind numbing engine tinkering and automotive ‘dress up barbie’ – it just wants you to stick the pedal to the metal and scream round corners sideways. Aces!

Also, Skate – shows up the Tony Hawks series for the combo-athon it is. Skate sees you finding a line, nailing the line, and showing off to your mates. Perfect chill out game and the only one for years which I’ve played through again and again, and then gone back for some more – simply for the sheer fun of dicking about!

Keep up the good work into 2008 yo

4. Chris - December 31, 2007

Thanks for your comment, Matt. PGR4 was in our Top 20, but just missed out on a Top 5 placing, and Skate was pretty close too – in all honesty, there’s almost been too many games in the last quarter of the year to play any game for as long as they really deserve! But yeah, we love those too as well.

And we certainly will keep up the good work – keep reading us, and we’ll keep providing interesting stuff for you to read. Cheers!

5. Ben - January 5, 2008

Good work again, always a good read. As Henke said the Top 2 is spot on.


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