We here at TVGB have trouble controlling our enthusiasm for games. They’re like Pokemon: we gotta catch ’em all. Silly introductions aside, the Holidays are coming, and we thought it would be useful to put together a list of the games the staffers most desire this holiday season. If you don’t have your trusty Lancer with you to cut through the crowds, at least you can buy with confidence.
Tomb Raider: Underworld
Lara’s back in another installment of Eidos’ über popular series and this time she’s in search of Thor’s ancient and all-mighty Hammer. Underworld and its predecessors, Legend and Anniversary, are the work of Crystal Dynamics who took over the series a few years ago. In Underworld, they’ve expanded on Lara’s acrobatic abilities to give her more freedom to explore the environments, making the experience less linear and more immersive. Unfortunately, all that freedom seems to have come at a bit of a cost as the tomb raiding can get a bit buggy at times and the game could benefit from a quick patch. But that doesn’t mean Underworld is not fun. It is in fact arguably the best Tomb Raider game to date.
Call of Duty: World at War
Call of Duty: World at War is Treyarch’s follow-up to Infinity Ward’s masterpiece, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. CoD4 is a tough act to follow, and while it is not as groundbreaking as its predecessor, World at War’ succeeds on all accounts.
WaW brings the fight back to World War II. This at first may seem like a mistake, given the surfeit of WWII games that have come out in the past decade, but Treyarch sends the player to the Pacific Theater where few games have taken place, and brings in the deep multiplayer that made CoD4 so addictive. Metacritic shows an average score of 85, but the multiplayer itself is worth your cash.
Rock Band 2
The original Rock Band took the immensely popular Guitar Hero franchise to its logical conclusion, and sold a whole bunch of copies while doing it. However, Harmonix’s hit was criticized for faulty hardware, low levels of difficulty, and a subpar track list. Rock Band 2 fixes those problems and lets you play the first Guns N’ Roses single in more than a decade. Also, the guitar parts are harder, the bass lines are more interesting, and the kick pedal doesn’t suck. Sounds like a winner to us!
Ok ok, so the game isn’t that inventive — it doesn’t really look or play any different from its predecessor. But the first one was responsible for turning me into an insomniac for a few weeks, and Rock Band 2 is the same except better. And we can get behind that.
What a refreshing change of pace this game is: a first-person action title set in a Brave New World society that seemingly gives the player unprecedented freedom. Everyone who saw Sebastian Foucan jumping off walls and sliding on pipes in Casino Royale wanted to be able to do the same. Faith, the main character of Mirror’s Edge, allows you to do it with style.
While the game is certainly something unique, it may not have turned out to be everything it could have. The levels are somewhat similar, and the story isn’t as intriguing as it could have been. But the game is fun. Subtle aspects including the camera, blurring effects, and the dynamic presence of Faith’s hands and legs really give the impression of momentum, which is at the heart of Mirror’s Edge‘s gameplay. It’s a shame it didn’t live up to everyone’s expectations, but the foundation is there for a fantastic sequel.
Prince of Persia
This is a new game, with a new prince, and new art direction. The combat is different, the level design is different, and you now have a pretty co-star named Elika. She helps you perform longer jumps, create more powerful combos, and make you wish you had a girlfriend like her in real life.
For our full impressions, check out our full written review of here. Though to sum it up, the new prince is a jerk and the game is really fun. It’s not perfect, but that’s mostly because Elika isn’t real.
The bigger, deeper, and darker sequel to Lionhead’s Fable is a success if you’re willing to invest in the society. Like Fallout 3, Fable 2 gives the player an incredible amount of freedom in a vast, complicated world to do as he or she pleases. In fact, the main idea of Fable 2 is to provide the player with choice. You can choose to destroy villages, horde or give away money, defend the innocent, or dominate the weak. You can choose to have unprotected sex, have children who grow up to hate you, your wife can divorce you and take half of your belongings. You can run a business as a blacksmith and make a lot of money doing it. In the end, it’s an amazing adventure game that could use a patch or two. Trust us: invest a little time in Albion, and you won’t be complaining much.
I’m a big fan of renting games. I’m not a hardcore completionist, and with the exception of a select few multiplayer hits, once I beat the single-player campaign, I have trouble booting a game up again. After I’ve beaten it on hard, I get bored.
The truth is, depending on how you play a game, some of the titles on this list could be rentals. Fallout 3 — no matter how you play — is not one of them. You cannot fully experience this game in a week, unless you play it for 7 days straight. Even then, you would also have to have no need for sleep or food. It’s that big.
The brilliance and scope are hampered a bit by technical flaws, as discussed in our review — it has messy visuals, glitches, and a somewhat repetitive combat system — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth owning. In fact, this is one great game and you owe it at least 100 hours of your time.
Space, it turns out, is scary. Especially space with limited save points, angry, determined monsters, and low lighting. That’s what EA Redwood Shore’s new title convinces us of very quickly. Dead Space is a survival horror game that pits you, Isaac Clarke, against a swarming army of Necromorphs in a ship with precious few light bulbs. It’s hard, eery, and has some of the best death sequences we’ve ever seen. You don’t just fall down dead in Dead Space, you die in style. The story is pretty good, though the gameplay can get a little repetitive. Still, the title is unique in its style and execution. You won’t find a better sci-fi horror title out this year.
Gears of War 2
Gears of War was awesome. Gears of War 2 was supposed to be bigger, better, and more badass. It did not disappoint.
The first Gears was criticized for having a weak story and lacking much of a human element. Along with tweaking the gameplay mechanics, Epic expanded the story in Gears 2 by offering more insight into the Locusts and broadening the scope of each level. As a result, Gears of War 2 is epic in ways that the first only tried to be. We’re not sure if you’ll buy the melodrama of Dom’s search for his wife, or the numerous campy lines from other NPCs, but that sort of doesn’t matter. You’ll be too busy chopping up Locusts with your Lancer to care. Oh, and the multiplayer is pretty good too.
This is an extremely well crafted shooter that fixed many of the problems of its predecessor. Its technical flaws are too small to notice, and the graphics continually amaze. It might suffer from a certain amount of cheesiness, but it also suffers from a severe case of cowabungusitis — that is to say, it’s great. If you like killing things, we recommend this title wholeheartedly.
Left 4 Dead
It’s very difficult to not fall in love with Valve. Their games look good, have solid stories, and most of all, they’re hypnotically fun. They’ve got style. And they continue this tradition with Left 4 Dead.
This is a zombie shooter that should feel like it has been done before, but the 4-player co-op, sleek level design and scaling difficulties make it addictive. Valve seems to understand that shooting zombies just doesn’t get old. Neither does cooperative play, which is what makes this shooter tick. The difference here is that the co-op isn’t merely four people shooting zombies next to one another. You have to help your teammates by giving them medpacks or ammo when they are in need. And when you find yourself surrounded by 20 blood sucking, fast moving zombies, your teammates must return the favor.
Mutual dependence is the intangible aspect that makes this game so special. It makes for a more intense, fraternal experience. People invariably scream into their headsets — in my case, begging for help — really loudly. And any game that leads to your losing your voice deserves your money.
Needless to say, not every good game released this year made the list — The Last Remnant was so very close to making it — but we had to draw a line somewhere and the top 10 was it. Did the opinions of TVGB staffers unfairly rob someone? Are you drooling over LittleBigPlanet, Wii Music, or Street Fighter 2: HD Remix? Let us know, and good luck handling the holiday crowds.