For my first Top 5, I'm taking inspiration from Game Informer's "Top 50 Games of 2008" article from a couple of months ago which I just recently read through again. I played a lot of the games mentioned in their list, but there was one glaring omission that really bothered me that will rank pretty highly on my list.
Top 5 Games of 2008
5. Gears of War 2 - The follow-up to Epic's groundbreaking Gears of War promised to make everything bigger, badder, and better. I suppose it was bigger, the environments certainly seemed that way, and the battles were more epic in scope with tons of enemies on screen, but I'm not sure it was necessarily all that much better than the first. I enjoyed some of the little changes, and Horde mode was fun while it lasted, but I was a bit disappointed with the lack of "Oh shit!" moments that I was sure would be all over the place. Sure, the worm was cool and all, and the last couple of levels were really good, but getting there was down right boring at times. I realize this sounds really negative for what I'm calling one of my top 5 games of the year, but I really expected to be blown away by this game, and for it to be the Game of the Year. Still, for a year with so many great games, number 5 ain't bad.
4. Left 4 Dead - This one honestly surprised me. I hoped it would be good, but never truly expected it to blow up as big as it did. I figured I would play it, probably my brother, and not too many other folks. It's amazing to me that an idea as simple as "we'll have this co-op fps with zombies attacking everybody" could have taken this long to happen, and the popularity to be as enormous. The fact that there really is little content on the disc speaks to the pure fun of running around blasting zombies back to hell with your buds. Unfortunately for me, almost all of my fun was had running around with the A.I. as my internet connection has kept me from online gaming since early December. However, my love for the undead knows no bounds, and if it's the AI that I must play with, then play with AI I shall. I'm patiently waiting for some decent DLC in the form of new campaigns and possibly a new survivor or two.
3. Resistance 2 - Speaking of bigger, badder, and better, Resistance 2 boasted all of the above and actually managed to deliver and then some. The campaign was full of memorable moments (the theater in Chicago!), the Chimera brought out the big guns and hardly ever let Hale catch his breath, and every boss fight was a blast to play. Insomniac didn't stop with a kick-ass campaign though, they included a 60 player competetive multiplayer mode, and an even better 8 player online co-op mode (which ended up eating most of my time with the game). The co-op was basically a second campaign which ran parallel to Nathan's story from single player, and was just a blast when you actually had players that were working together. I absolutely loved every part of this game, especially the 1950's America overrun by alien invaders setting. Quality all around, and easily one of the best reasons to own a PS3 so far.
2. Silent Hill Homecoming - This is the one left missing from Game Informer's list, and I can't imagine why when something like "Midnight Club" made the list. There are few instances in gaming that get me as excited as a chance to journey back to my favorite fictional town, Slient Hill. Homecoming borrowed a bit more from the movie than actual previous games, and the story centered more around Shepherd's Glen and it's connection to Silent Hill, than Silent Hill itself, but everything else that we've come to know and love from the series was represented well. There was fog, creepy nurses, sirens, and not a lot of ammo scattered about. Standout scenes for me included the Police Station, Alex's first return to this childhood home, and the hospital scene. The puzzles were toned down a bit and there was more of a focus on combat this time around with some genuinely creepy, tought to kill enemies. For me though, Silent Hill is always more about the story, and I thoroughly enjoyed Alex's. Another welcome entry into the Silent Hill mythos.
1. Dead Space - Yep, game of the year as far as I'm concerned. If nothing else, I will remember 2008 as the year of the resurgence of the Survival Horror genre. It wasn't all about sequels though, and while I fully expected to enjoy Dead Space, I had no idea just how much I would end up loving this game. I remember reading the Game Informer article a year before the game released, it looked good, sounded even better, and the game officially went on my radar. Then the prequel comic from Wildstorm hit with art from Ben Templesmith (so of course I had to read it). I fell in love with the story of the Ishimura and it's inhabitants. The game finally hit, and everything was even better than I'd hoped. The controls were rock solid, the atmosphere and lighting were amazing, and when the necromorphs finally attacked, the combat was fast, bloody, and satisfyingly gruesome on a level that most games never come close to achieving. The weapons all performed differently, and were all not only useful, but fun to eviscerate enemies with. Speaking of enemies, Jesus! These were some of the nastiest looking baddies I've ever seen in any medium, with a bit of a nod to John Carpenter's The Thing mixed in with something straight from the imagination of Clive Barker, and that's some high praise indeed. There weren't many, but the boss encounters were amazing, with some titanic sized monsters that required a bit of thinking to get past. The story itself was the only minor complaint that I read in most reviews, but from the comic, to the animated movie, to the game I thought it all blended well together. I'm assuming that EA is planning on making this a franchise, I genuinely hope so. I can't wait for another one.
And there it is, my top 5 from last year. Honorable mentions go to NHL 09, The World Ends With You, Lego Batman, and Metal Gear Solid 4 (which was only omitted because I haven't finished it yet and I was only going to include games I had finished in the list).
I'm thinking for my next Top 5 I may go with my top 5 "worst games that everybody else loved from 2008" or something like that. I can think of 5 off the top of my head right now that I just couldn't get into, and they sit unfinished on my shelf as I type this.
Anyway hope you enjoyed my list, and of course feel free to agree or disagree, or even share your own top 5 in the comments.