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PlayStation 2 Archives - Page 1

January 25, 2008

Grand Theft Auto Lawsuit Settlement: You Get $35, Lawyers Get "One Million Dollars"

One Million Dollars!

It's not often that People Magazine and video games have a lot in common, but in the February 4th issue (the one with Heath Ledger on the cover ... tragic) if you flip to page 50 there an interesting Legal Notice concerning one Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Just in case you forgot in 2007 Rockstar Games proposed a settlement for a class action lawsuit concerning the infamous Hot Coffee modification. As a result any US citizen who was officially "offended and upset" by the ability to unlock this hidden content can now claim up to $35 in compensation.

The exact amount you may be entitled depends upon directly upon how much documentation you have of your "outrage":

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas First Edition Disc: Replacement Disc
Detailed Store Receipt: Cash payment up to $35.00
General Credit Card Statement or Check: Cash payment up to $17.50
Disc/Purchase Details: Cash payment up to $10.00
No Disc/Purchase Details: Cash payment up to $5.00

Full details on the program can be found at and you must submit your claim by May 16, 2008 to be eligible for compensation.

Curious about this lawsuit I actually went through the trouble to download the many long and detailed legal documents when I came across this little gem on page 11 of the Motion for Preliminary Approval document concerning the attorneys' fees:

E. Attorneys’ Fees, Costs and Disbursements. Finally, as mentioned above, only this past Friday, the Parties agreed on an amount to compensate Plaintiffs’ Counsel for attorneys’ fees and costs and disbursements in the amount of One Million Dollars ($1,000,000), the entire amount of which will be paid separate and apart from any amounts made available for payment to the Class and Class Representatives, as set forth above. This agreed upon amount includes approximately Forty-Five Thousands Dollars ($45,000) for costs and disbursements and approximately Nine Hundred Fifty Five Thousand Dollars ($955,000) for attorneys’ fees, a highly reasonable request and well within the range previously approved by this and other courts. A full and formal application for attorneys’ fees and costs and disbursements will be made prior to the proposed final fairness hearing for approval of this Settlement.

So to sum up, you can get a brand-new Hot Coffee-free version of GTA: SA and, at most, $35. While the lawyers who are representing you, me, and all the other "little people" damaged by this outrage on humanity are getting a mere "One Million Dollars ($1,000,000)".

Of course I couldn't help but think about the upcoming class action lawsuit against Microsoft concerning a few days of downtime for Xbox Live in late 2007. In that suit three angry Texans are asking for $5 million dollars from Microsoft ... but it's not really about the money.

As the plaintiffs' lawyer, Jason Gibson, explained to MTV News, "These are not guys looking to get rich". "They are college-educated. These are not young kids who just turned 18 and [want] to sue for the fun of it. This is, to them, a real issue." Gibson went on to explain, "They're not going to get a windfall or anything like that."

No, it seems that "windfall" would be reserved for the lawyers...

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:00 PM | Comments (10) | Posted to Business | PlayStation 2 | Xbox |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 9, 2008

Gaming Steve Review: Final Fantasy XII

Final Fantasy XIIFinal Fantasy XII
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Price: $19.99
Platform: PlayStation 2
Category: Role-Playing
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Release Date: October 31, 2006

Hi everyone, Chuck here, on board for my first review at Gaming Steve. For my first time out, I thought I'd touch base on a slightly older game that's gotten a bit lost in the shuffle of all the shiny new consoles hitting the market in the last year or so: Final Fantasy XII.

It was asked about by a caller on the most recent podcast, and as I am playing through the game for the third time by chance, and am supposed to be covering the console RPG beat, it seems fate has decreed this is where I should start, sort of like a spiky-haired androgynous young man who stumbles on a huge adventure.

The Final Fantasy series is one of the most venerable console RPG franchises whose roots extend back to the original Nintendo console. The series is known for three main gameplay elements: a long, deep RPG experience that can last 100 hours or more if all the optional sidequests are performed; a large cast of detailed and interesting characters; and numerous, super-pretty cutscenes that blur the lines between game and interactive movie.

Final Fantasy XII delivers on all these fronts and adds an element new to the series: a single-player RPG experience informed by the latest trend in RPGs, the Massively Multiplayer RPG.

Final Fantasy XIIWith that out of the way, let's look at the game's positive qualities, which I have given the stunningly original name of "pluses".

First, the game has really stunning cinematics that tell a great story through the game's cut-scenes. These cut-scenes really show just what the PS2 is capable of in the hands of a technically proficient game design crew that knows the hardware they're designing for intimately. Final Fantasy XII ranks with God of War II as the best-looking games ever to grace the best-selling console of all time.

Second, the game has a really solid mechanical structure that make it a joy to play. Combat is interesting, requires a lot of tactical management and can be intense, both visually and in that "if that doesn't work I'm dead meat" sort of way.

Similarly, the game allows for interesting and varied character advancement, that follows a more freeform path than other offerings in the Final Fantasy series. You can tailor your characters to the way you like to play the game. While generally speaking a balanced party is most effective, the game doesn't force you to play that way. If you want to have an entire party of black mages blasting away with damage dealing spells, an entire party of tough fighters wearing heavy armor, or a party of lightly armed skirmishers, you can.

The world of the game, Ivalice, is an enormous, fascinating backdrop for your adventures and feels like a living, breathing place. Some NPCs will only be in a given city for a short while, while others are permanent residents you can visit again and again and whose dialogue changes as you advance through the game. For a series not known for true sequels, the Final Fantasy franchise has now visited Ivalice three times, in Final Fantasy Tactics (an original Playstation classic which has been remade for the GameBoy Advance and soon for the Nintendo DS), Final Fantasy XII and FF XII: Revenant Wings. The creative folks at Square can't seem to get enough of Ivalice and I'm inclined to agree.

Then there's the story and especially the characters. Final Fantasy XII lags a bit behind FF X in the quality of its story, but that game had the best story of any console RPG, ever so matching it would be a bit tough. Where the story really shines, and the writing behind it, is in the characters. Each main character of Final Fantasy XII (6 in all) and several of the minor characters are interesting and detailed enough to carry their own game. They're people you want to root for (or against) and that you're interested in enough that you want to see how it all turns out for them.

Finally there's the overall feel of the game, which I really like. It's a very old school RPG. There's a lot of killing things and taking their stuff, treks through unexplored deserts and jungles and dungeons. Lots and lots of dungeons. Tombs, mines, cave complexes, temples, ruins and star destroyers ... err, Imperial Dreadnought-class Airships.

Final Fantasy XIINow for the game's drawbacks, which we'll call "minuses" for the sake of consistency. Most of these drawbacks fall under the "too much of a good thing" heading.

For example, while the cut-scenes look amazing and have the fine voice-acting, cinematic direction and dramatic musical score we've come to expect from the series, there's too many of them and they tend to come in waves. When the story advances, for example, first there will be a cut-scene about our heroes. Since we know them well, have been playing them for the entire game and since they're interesting characters, these tend to be extremely interesting.

These are usually followed, however, by touching base with the villains and their machinations. These aren't nearly so interesting. For starters, the villains are much less interesting as the heroes. They don't have motivations you can sympathize with or understand. They're eeeeeeeeeevil. 70's comic book evil.

Also, unlike many other Final Fantasy games, the villains aren't even anyone you've interacted with. Seymour, one of the main villains of Final Fantasy X, was someone you came to hate gradually, as you fought him again and again. The villains of FF XII are characters you get to know through repeated cut scenes, but don't ever actually interact with before you fight them and kill them. For the main villain of course, this is the end of the game. Meaning you'll have spent hours watching the exploits of someone you don't particularly care about, even in a "man I really want to kill that guy" way.

Often, this second cut-scene is then followed by a third cut-scene. In all it becomes too much, it's too long a break away from the action and if you hit a wave of cut-scenes at 4 a.m. at the end of a marathon game session, dozing off during the cut-scenes is a distinct possibility.

Next there's the grinding and camping. These are terms familiar to any MMO player and likely familiar to most RPG players. Power levelling is a great thing in an RPG. It's that happy time when the monsters are powerful enough to be really challenging, you're gaining levels regularly but you're not being overwhelmed by the opposition. That's as close to Diablo-esque RPG perfection as you're going to encounter.

Final Fantasy XIIGrinding on the other hand, is when you really need to be higher level to fight that next boss but the monsters that give you the most experience aren't particularly interesting, or challenging. While there are several side missions that can help mask the grinding, or at least make you feel like you're doing something (other than grinding), the middle of the game especially has long periods where you are either grinding for experience or grinding for gold to upgrade needed equipment. The difficulty curve of the bosses spikes well beyond the typical monsters, meaning you need to kill lots and lots of them in order to be an appropriate level for the bosses.

Finally, there's the fact that the game's two main drawbacks, the grinding and cut-scene waves, show up at different times. Early and late in the game, when the gameplay is just about perfect, you're going to be sitting through waves of cut-scenes. In the mid-game, the cut-scenes are relatively rare, but you're going to be grinding for XP or cash. At least they help you out if you're playing the game for a second time by letting you skip the cut-scenes.

So what's the final verdict? FF XII is an excellent game with some serious flaws. The gameplay ranks with the best of the series and delivers a compelling old-school RPG experience that feels more like Final Fantasy III for the DS than Final Fantasy X. The middle period of the game can be a tough slog at times but if you watch for areas you like, that give you good XP or loot and spend a little more time there, you can minimize the pain and breeze through areas you find boring.

The characters are first-rate and the writing is superior. The cut-scenes are just grouped together in waves and focus a little too much on a group of villains that weren't worthy of the amount of screen time they were given. Either seeing the villains less or giving them a point of view other than "I want power so I can conquer the world, duh" would have made a huge difference in how interesting the story was. A little more Magneto, a little less 70's Lex Luthor would go a long, long way here.

Still, despite its flaws, Final Fantasy XII is a worthy entry for the franchise and a game worth keeping your PS2 plugged in (and off eBay) to play.

PLUSES: Super-pretty cut-scenes; great characters; rich, compelling old-school RPG gameplay.

MINUSES: Too many cut-scenes focusing on stock villains; level grind occasionally feels forced.


Posted by cwrice at 12:00 PM | Comments (9) | Posted to PlayStation 2 | Review |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 4, 2008

Watch All of the Cut-Scenes From The Simpsons Game

I am a totally crazy die hard Simpsons fan – I've seen every single episode and listened to all the cast commentaries for every single episode currently out on DVD ... yeah I know I have a problem – but yet even I couldn't get through The Simpsons game. The whole "point" of the game was to make fun of the entire video game genre as a whole, but yet in the end the gameplay ended up being everything they were making fun of to begin with.

In fact the only reason to play the game was to see the hilarious cut-scenes, which were written by same writers as the show. And without watching those cut-scenes I always felt like I was missing an episode of the show and my "collection" wasn't complete (yes, once again I know I have a problem!).

But thanks to the miracle of YouTube I can finally watch those fantastic cut-scenes without actually having to play that pesky game (and now I can sleep at night knowing my "collection" is complete ... please don't judge me!).

But wait? You say that you're not a Simpsons fan? Why on Earth should you waste your time to watch these clips? Well all I have to say is this, they feature "the nerdiest nerd in the computerverse" ... Will Wright!

Yeah ... I thought so.

The remaining cut-scenes can be seen after the jump.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 12:15 AM | Comments (5) | Posted to Culture | PlayStation 2 |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

December 31, 2007

Matt's Massive List of the Top 25 Games of 2007

Every Christmas I like to ponder my fave 20 odd games of the past 12 months, but with 2007 turning out so utterly insane on the release schedule front, I had to up that number to 25 in the end. I'm almost all gamed out at this point, still unsure where I found the hours to plough into all these darn things, but truth be told? It was worth it, as this past year has been just about the best 12 months for video gaming ever. Seriously. So many highs. So many classics. Let's take a look at 'em, in fact...

25. Folklore (PS3)
Folklore - It may not push the polys, but Folk's one of the sexiest looking games of the year, and by sheer artistry alone.While Folklore has its issues – stilted storytelling and some repetition to be precise – its sheer originality shines through like nothing else. Playing young blonde Irish chick Ellen, the intro of this bizarre and quirky fantasy gem sees you heading to a deserted "Oirish" town to find your missing mother, only to get sucked into a colourful, crazy Elf land known as the Netherworld along the way.

Describing Folklore from here on out's kinda tricky however, as there are precious few like it. Only one springs to mind in fact. I could ramble on about its adventure gamey premise, which has you solving an overarching mystery by collecting items and chatting to NPCs. I could touch upon its RPG influences, earning experience points along the way while pursuing side-quests on the down low. I could even describe its beat 'em up combat, and the barmy manner in which you steal enemies’ souls by yanking the controller around like some kinda child abusing step parent.

Far more accurate though, would be to simply call it the "Japanese Kameo" - a 360 launch game I was somewhat fond of back at the time. That same imagination, emphasis on creature powers, and the bashing your way through a vibrant fantasy land all comes through present and correct. But now with added style.

Inventive use of the Sixaxis' tilt function in its brawler combat keeps Folklore interesting for the duration, and the bizarre plot'll keep you reasonably entertained for much of that time too. It's the universe itself which stands out above all else though, with chapter 1's blue-tinged forest world standing out as one of the most purely memorable virtual environments I visited all year.

Far more accurate though, would be to simply call it the "Japanese Kameo" - a 360 launch game I was somewhat fond of back at the time. That same imagination, emphasis on creature powers, and the bashing your way through a vibrant fantasy land all comes through present and correct. But now with added style.

Inventive use of the Sixaxis' tilt function in its brawler combat keeps Folklore interesting for the duration, and the bizarre plot'll keep you reasonably entertained for much of that time too. It's the universe itself which stands out above all else though, with chapter 1's blue-tinged forest world standing out as one of the most purely memorable virtual environments I visited all year.

Some actual voice-acting, more variation and the inclusion of a two player mode would have gone a long way – plus I'd be lying if I said I'd finished it – but there's no denying Folklore's a pleasingly original and incredibly imaginative title that all PS3 owners should at least sample.

24. Hotel Dusk (DS)
Hotel Dusk - Remember that old A-Ha vid? The one which swallowed Chris Griffin? Imagine a whole game of that.With all the high-profile blockbuster releases hitting consoles recently – not to mention a surprising stream of PC exclusives – it's been easy to forget what a damn good year the handhelds had too. Along with Syphon Filter, Lumines and Zelda sequels hitting the PSP and DS respectively, this little touch pad wonder stole my heart like nothing else.

I hated it at first, mind you. The concept of a Raymond Chandler, film-noire style murder mystery transported to handheld form – courtesy of some good old point 'n' click stylus action and a brilliant new paper book visual style – sounded hot in theory, but the opening hour's so god damn deathly slow, it made me wanna flip the DS shut and flush her down the bog.

Sticking with Dusk through initial hardships reveals a marvellous game however; a living, breathing detective novel in the palm of your sweaty hands, oozing with unique style and gorgeous hand-drawn artwork. It's truly gripping stuff once you get into it, even if the sucker almost plays itself to a certain extent, and you forever find yourself anxious to unlock that next chapter and see where the hell it'll head next. I guess it really is a book in many ways...right down to how you hold the darn thing.

23. Virtua Fighter 5 (PS3/Xbox 360)
Virtua Fighter 5 - VF5 can be an ugly looking game at times, at least by DOA standards. Got it where it counts, though.I never got around to hammering Fighter quite as much as I would have liked to these past 12 months, yet make no mistake, it's undoubtedly the finest 1v1 beat 'em up the genre's ever seen.

The latest update to the 3D fighting originator doesn't disappoint in its depth, range of moves, nor sheer brutality, with so much to see, learn and keep in mind at any one time that merely playing it alone becomes a martial art in and of itself. It's no wonder the Japanese treat it like its own sport at this point, dedicating entire arcades to it and it alone.

As a die-hard fan of Dead or Alive – one who maintained that game's under-rated brilliance in defiance of all detractors due to its online mode – VF5's recent re-release on the 360 with added LIVE functionality was the deal breaker that broke the fanboy’s denial. I admit it, it's the one. The grand dragon. King of the fighting castle. DOA hasn't had a go since.

Most impressive of all, is the mere fact said online mode even works at all, let alone how fun it is. One so fast-paced, tactical and fluid seems bizarrely lag-retardant, making versus battles insanely fun...even when lacking skills as I so readily do. "Winner Stays On" would have been nice, of course, along with some improved presentation. SEGA nail the hard part...but it's all a little barebones, no?

22. Super Stardust HD (PS3)
Super Stardust HD - The PS3's greatest secret, one can't shake the feeling that Stardust'd be raking in far more hype-flavoured praise had it shown up on Live ArcadeThe PS3 took quite the PR battering in 2007 – particularly in the first half – endlessly shanked by the masses for its lack of grade A system sellers and subsequent reasons to live. That's since been alleviated by some of the more recently released semi-classics on this here list, but some'll argue it still lacks that single all-encompassing killer that its rivals so readily boast.

Regardless of what's found on store shelves though, the Playstation Network's been cultivating itself quite the array of downloadable solids in the meantime. Along with the likes of Flow, Warhawk and Everyday Shooter, Super Stardust headlines that particular list for me; a pleasing take on the now done-to-death top down arcade “schmup”, taken to most ludicrous extremes as to breathe fresh and invigorating life into the genre.

With insane amounts of action, inventive boss fights and its ever enjoyable assortment of spruce-up-able guns, it houses surprising depth and variety too, blessing the PSN with its nearest equivalent to a Geo Wars in the process, and some might say even surpassing it. A must-have for PS3ers then, that pleasingly fetches for a mere 5 pounds (or 10 of your Earth dollars).

21. Crackdown (Xbox 360)
Crackdown - The one they all forgot about, but don't sell him short. My opinion of Crack's gone up in fact, thanks to the ace DLC of late.While Grand Theft 4 was expecting to dominate the year on the free-roaming, sandbox tip, its delay 'til 2008 left quite the humungous void in the genre. A void pleasingly filled by Crackdown, as it turns out; a simple, straightforward, yet relentlessly enjoyable open ended arse kicker that surprised a hell of a lot of people in '07. Me included.

Blasting around futuristic metropolises with a buddy in tow, whacking crime lords en masse, while "accidentally" slaughtering civilians by the hundreds, demonstrated a scale of conflict and sheer spectacle matched only by the upcoming Mercenaries sequel. That you could play it online was a breath-taking achievement alone, never mind the rest.

Crackdown was another 360 winner that set '07 off as it meant to go on, and although a year's gone by since and many may have moved on, orb hunting's still just as much fun as it was back on release. Brilliant stuff.

20. Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction (PS3)
Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction - Not exactly the most challenging game o' the year, Ratchet shines in the fun, spectacular and oh so pwetty departments.With the Playstation franchises of old starting to show up on PS3 at last – arguably those that made the past systems what they were in the first place – the brand's return to form seems far more inevitable at this point. If recent sales bumps are to be believed, it could even happen sooner rather than later, and a large part of that's down to this particular game.

Ratchet & Clank's hardly a huge re-imagining for the series, true. Returning the boys to futuristic city-scapes to bash enemies, collect moola and tweak themselves out in the most bat-s**t weaponry seen this side of Professor Farnsworth's lab, it's pretty much business as usual. As someone who rarely touched a Ratchet before though, it proved nigh on impossible to drop.

It'll blow your mind technically, too, showcasing the most epic of views at all times, with a rock solid 60 FPS that refuses to falter. If the PS3's cranking out this kinda stuff just one year in, one can't help but crack a grin at the mere thought of what lies in store. That said, as far as Insomniac games go, I'm probably more of a Resistance guy myself. For all Ratchet's beauty, humour and unbridled chaos, it's all a little easy. Hard to die. Baby-like.

19. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
Super Mario Galaxy - Perhaps it's time to snag Mario 64 on the Virtual Console to give 'er another bash. Galaxy has me in the mood.In hardcore circles, it's become somewhat cool to mock the more mainstream Wii at this point, kicking the poor money-spewer in the privates while he sits in the corner crying. Counting his cash. Despite a tumbleweed-tinged wasteland of an opening year though, the sleek white VHS box actually enjoyed one heck of a run from September onwards. From the five games adorning this page alone, you'd be hard pressed to play-down its exclusives at this point, and when coupled with launch beauties Zelda and Sports of '06? There's plenty to enjoy on the system right now.

Many cite this to be the flat-out best game of the year in fact. The greatest platformer of them all, so they say. Unfortunately for me – as blasphemous as it sounds – when it comes to Mario games, I ain't a big 3D guy. As much as I loved the original 2D titles of old – the ones, might I add, that I credit for my even playing games – when the series hit that extra dimension, it kinda left me behind. I missed the sensation of holding down B then hammering A. The smoothness of it all. The simplicity.

That's why you see Galaxy struggling down here at #19 then, because beyond that, it's about as perfect as a video game's ever been. Taking Mario back to the purer platform action of 64, minus the ominous fluids of Sunshine, it's a love letter to Nintendo fans who've stuck with 'em through thick and thin. Conclusive proof, if detractors required it, that they still possess the skill to pump out utterly amazing, truly inspired video game masterpieces centered around nothing but pure, unbridled fun.

With a return to Mario antics of old – the inventive suits, the bopping Goombas, and the lobbing of red shells – the added emphasis on planets and screwed-up gravity then bless it with pleasing originality, constantly reinventing the wheel while maintaining the feel of yester-generations. How one can dream up demented 3D levels like these boggles the mind, but you forever feel in the company of possessed geniuses regardless.

Don't be put off by its child-like exterior either. Think you're too old for Mario? Think again. The game's tough as hell. It remains incredibly addictive in spite of this though, with brief blasts often turning into multi hour-long marathons, and you forever anxious to see just what lurks round that very next bend. There are so many little avenues to explore and additional worlds forever popping up, it's damn hard to tear yourself away. I also appreciate the return to a slightly more sinister Mario vibe too, one encompassing battle ships, ghost houses and the epic lava fortresses of old. Ah, memories.

Not really my genre then, but a fantastic game regardless. If you own a Wii, it's sorta un-missable.

18. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (PS3)
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune - Uncharted. Hella gorgeous, no doubts there, but often at the expense of PDZ-esque slime. I wish it wasn't laminated in glue.This however, is a little more my platforming pace. Drake's the unholy melding of Tomb Raider's platforming and Gears' combat, with a little Indiana Jones thrown in for personality's sake. Playing Sir Francis Drake's ancestor – Nate – hot on the trail of Pirate Dad's buried treasure, the game's a swashbuckling ride through Amazonian jungles and Goonies-style caverns with a healthy dose o' humour packed in on top. That old skool adventure movie vibe one hasn't felt since the '80s returns in full force as a result, in an effortlessly loveable tale that's just what the PS3 ordered.

It handles well, given Sixaxis holdbacks, plays tight, and many call it the best looking console game of the year too (not me, of course). Cooler than all that combined is simply the storytelling though; Drake's a funny guy, and his facial expressions, voice acting and stream of expletives prove forever entertaining. Courtesy of Jak & Daxter developers Naughty Dog – another of the Playstation alumni helping re-forge the shards of Sony – their trademark wit and storytelling prowess shines through in droves.

Much like Ratchet, Drake's another most definitely worth a ganders on that front, even if it's still, perhaps, not quite that Halo killer Sony require. Now where's our new Jak game, Dog?

17. Pacman: Championship Edition (Xbox 360)
Pacman: Championship Edition - Trust me. Amazing-ness contained within.In the genre of budget-ware arcade titles that have since become all the rage, Pac goes down as downloader of the year for me. This was Matt crack in '07 in fact; I'd often finish work, collapse on the sofa, then play the damn thing 'til bedtime. I never came close to topping out my friends' leaderboard mind you, a worrying sign of old age. Or perhaps their superhuman, freakish skills.

Pacman as a franchise, means nada to me, but Champ's beautiful neon upgrade turned a previously dull and dated concept into ever scrumptious candy. It was the five minute time limit, enforcing addictive quick-fire replays like never before. It was the gorgeous new face-lift, beautifully bright yet lovingly respectful to those that cared. And it was the unbridled skill required, as lunatic ghosts ramp up to ludicrous speed, a mere motion blur of eyes in those final dying seconds.

Pacman did the impossible, by not only updating one of gaming's flagship titles for the new millennium with 100% success, but also knocking Geo Wars off as the be-all, end-all of downloadable Arcade games. Now if only the 360 had a D-pad worth a poop, we'd be in business...

16. Project Gotham Racing 4 (Xbox 360)
Project Gotham Racing 4 - I took this myself, of course, thanks to Gotham's vital photo mode and pleasing web integration.I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting the world outta PGR4. Even as a Gotham mega-fan, this felt like one too many. After an initial hour of mild boredom though, it ramped up into one of the year's finest, a pleasant surprise, and a modern racing classic.

With tight handling meeting fab courses and a perfectly pitched selection of modes, it's the racing game that keeps on giving. Blazing around a snow-capped Nürburgring in a 1950's rocket car – Covenant's "The Men" blaring out of the speakers to particularly haunting effect – is a major highlight of recent times, as are the numerous online battles and cat 'n' mouse shenanigans since enjoyed over Live. That PGR4's a visual step above its already utterly gorgeous predecessor doesn't hurt either, rounding this off as a series high point right up there with #2.

15. MotorStorm (PS3)
MotorStorm - Heart-warming to see so many PS3 games among the list, no? Or should I say...a relief.As much as I love me some good old Gotham though – Geometry Wars Waves in particular – MotorStorm's the one that beat it to the finishing line I'm afraid. The game may have lacked modes, a wealth of courses, and even the ability to play on worldwide servers, but in terms of pure, undiluted fun alone? It's the pick of an extremely packed pack for me.

It's that rickety feeling of blazing across desert which MotorStorm nails so well. The bouncy suspension, insane jumps and ever satisfying smashes go toe to toe with Burnout on the edge-of-your-seat front, yet MotorStorm piles on a far greater sense of skill, hints of strategy and more enjoyable online mode than that ever did. Of course, it doesn't hurt that MotorStorm is – still – one of the most graphically stunning games on top. System show-off material, no doubts about it.

For those, like me, depressed at its lack of content on release, hit up the Playstation Store for some ace new DLC that decks it out nicely. Rumours are, we may even see a sequel soon too...

14. Ninja Gaiden Sigma (PS3)
Ninja Gaiden Sigma - Gaiden's without doubt a top 10 desert island Dig disc, and this right here’s the definitive version.PS3 wise, here's my pick of the lot though. A graphical upgrade to an all-time fave, Sigma doesn't feature higher for the simple reason it's a mere remake when all's said and done. But what a remake, eh? The gorgeous world, the lethal combat, those slamming decapitations...bloody hell, do fighting games get any better? Kratos and Dante fans'll claim so, but I think we all know they speak rubbish.

Much like MotorStorm, Sigma too has been further fleshed-out via the penny pinching art of downloadable content, with a wealth of new challenges, game-types and additional levels to slice your way through. Not that it needed anything of the sort of course; Sigma was already packed to the decapitating gills.

With Gaiden 2 recently announced and heading our way sooner than some might think, Siggy's release provides ample opportunity to get up to speed, reawakening those skills of old while prepping for a second Team Ninja arse kick-o-thon. If its follow-up is anywhere near as tough as this son of a gun, chances are you're gonna need it.

13. The Witcher (PC)
The Witcher - Another notch on the bedpost, eh Geralt?I’ll never get over how good this turned out. Back on release, first impressions proved poor, but sticking with The Witcher showcased one of the better RPGs the PC's seen in years. If not ever.

The load times make it borderline unplayable at times – slightly alleviated by recent patchings – and it may lack the spit, polish and more professional voice-acting of a higher profile US-backed outing, but there's no denying that this Polish developed masterpiece delivers the goods where it counts. Moral dilemmas? Inventive quests? A truly captivating world? A whopper of a yes on all fronts.

Its non-US heritage awards it with a fresh and original voice too, one far darker and more mature than we've come to expect of its genre. I talk not about the player's ability to bed every single female the game throws their way, but its pleasing use of more contemporary metaphors in its plot, themes and side-missions. And the aforementioned "casual relations".

Combat's fun, the music's great, and for all its presentational flaws, the character interactions rock. Half-way through its 50+ hours, I already dread its end.

12. Assassin's Creed (PS3/Xbox 360)
Assassin's Creed - PC version should arrive in early ‘08 by the way, console-phobes. I believe it's the same exact game.Creed's a controversial beast that suffered primarily from its time of release if you ask me. Back in the slow summer months of death, we would have been all over this, no doubt proclaiming it a much-loved masterpiece and a welcomed new franchise with which to milk via sequels. Nestled between the all-encompassing classics released towards the latter half to the year though, its flaws and repetition shone a little too brightly, subsequently meeting with alarmingly more scepticism than I think anyone expected. Along, of course, with just about the most wildly varying review scores of any game ever.

A pity really, as it's hardly a dud by any stretch of the imagination (hear me, GamesTM?). Taking the concept of parkour and melding it with a Hitman-style assassination sim, the concept sounds perfect on paper. Although the game subsequently grinds the idea into the ground by its sheer stubbornness to add any kinda variety onto such a solid base, the blueprint alone's enough to see it through to borderline brilliance.

One thing you may not be expecting from Assassin going in, is that it's also quite possibly the finest looking game ever made too. Not only does it have easily the best character model of them all in Altaïr – iconic, memorable and truly bad ass in just about every way – but the undeniable scope, the bustle of the crowds, and the sheer amount of architecture on screen at any one time is truly unparalleled...even by real-life. You can't believe what you're seeing half the time.

It's a game that rewards perseverance more than anything. Once you perfect the free-running – bounding around like a gymnast while smoking fools via the most awesomely slick "have it!" knifings – one'd be hard-pressed to say it ain't fun. Even the infamously dreary sci-fi plot starts to meander its way into the storyline with some mild success at times. Ubi's Sands of Time – one of the finest games of them all – had a similarly inspired way of working respawns and deaths into its underlying mechanics, and Assassin does so too. Quick-saves, loading screens, even menus themselves are all part of the game world, and it's pretty inspired stuff for the most part.

What was ultimately not the be-all, end-all of gaming as we know it then, was at least a diverting platform game with a difference, boding well, more than anything, for perfected sequels down the line. I'm truly curious to see which direction they offshoot for said follow-ups, as there's a wealth of potential avenues to pursue. Blade Runner style futuristic free-running, perhaps? Pretty please with sugar on top.

11. The Orange Box (Xbox 360/PC)
The Orange Box - Yeah, yeah, TF2's great too, whatever. Whine an e-mail to my 10 year old Compuserve account back when I still gave two poops. Joke.More specifically, Portal, which left such a startling impression on me in its miniscule run-time, that it's burrowed a place in my heart forever.

True, it’s not quite the revolution some’ll claim. The game's based on an indie freeware project if you weren't aware, one known as Narbacular Drop. Valve's buying up of developers Nuclear Monkey though, and subsequently reworking their concept into the Half-Life universe comes off as a stroke of genius here, bringing with it a much larger audience and a far brighter spotlight in which to sing. Much like they did with Team Fortress, in fact.

And to be honest? While the portal zapping stuff's fun as hell – blowing holes through space and time amidst brain-imploding 4D puzzles – Portal's true strengths – story telling, narrative and humour – are all Valve through and through. Those tiny hints of a plot? Its creepy presentation? That psychopathic robot? Few stack up at such things.

Breaking free of your chains in the game's final stage – then escaping through the inner workings of Aperture's labyrinthine test chamber – is a truly unique experience in particular, backed up superbly by the ever enjoyable voice-acting and oh so dark dialogue. Its monumental achievement even more impressive in light of the game's meagre 2-odd hour long run-time. I'm just crossing the old fingers for a Portal gun in Episode 3 now.

The rest of The Orange Box line-up’s fine too, don’t get me wrong, but for me, the pack's pretty much worth buying for Portal alone. Amazing stuff.

10. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii)
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption - Apologies, Wii haters. Of which I used to be one. Homie came through in style. Eventually.The game which signalled the changing of the tide for the Wii; since Metroid's release in the year's tail-end, things have most definitely looked up for lovers of Nintendo. Not just one of the better titles out for the system itself, Corruption's without doubt my fave of its series too; an epic blend of Metroid's trademark deep space alien exploration, with inventive new Wii-mote waggling FPS action and far more focused level design.

Four years on since the series' conception, it still retains such unique and distinct style of its own, in a sub-genre of the first person shooter no one else dare touch. It doesn't hurt that Corruption's also the first – and indeed only – Wii game to see my jaw so regularly drop from mere graphics alone. The detail, art design and rock solid frame-rate impress hugely, with sights like the Valhalla and the game's endless stream of boss lairs pretty darn breath-taking to behold. System specs be damned.

I could have used some extra tweaking on the aiming system, and enemies that don't take 10 zillion hits to floor, but there's no denying Corruption's one of the most satisfying single player experiences of the year, and one of the most atmospheric to boot.

9. Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)
Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 - GRAW2, once again, had an exclusive PC counterpart (not pictured), a separate entity also fun in its own unique way.As with 2006’s premier instalment, many of the year's greatest online memories are housed within this game for me. GRAW2 was hardly a massive reinvention for the series – and in fact, barely indiscernible from its daddy 90% of the time – but with such a rock solid, yet finely chiselled base, who are we to complain?

The ramped up difficulty to the always-fun co-op campaign meant I only just finished that sucker recently – despite literally hundreds upon hundreds of hours ploughed into the ruddy thing – but 16-player one-life show-downs against the CPU fail to grow tiresome it seems, thanks once again to GRAW’s pleasing roster of missions and expert combat model. The promise of a second co-op pack dropping any day now means she'll see no rest any time soon either.

Call it an expansion to the first game all you will – I won't argue there – but GRAW2 did continue everything great about its ever impressive predecessor, still maintain its position as a top of the rung Xbox Live shooter, and showcase some of the best bleedin' visuals of the entire year along the way, and that deserves much kudos.

What beckons next for the franchise? Rumours speak of a return to the series' more realistic roots. Mixed thoughts on that, myself.

8. Halo 3 (Xbox 360)
Halo 3 - I call this one “The Flying Scotsman”. God bless save-able videos.I'm pretty much all Halo'd out at this point, so will try to keep this brief. Most of us have had our time with the single player mode by now though I'm sure – blazing through it in excess of five or six times in its varying modes – yet multiplayer lives on, just as fun as ever. As far as pick up 'n' play online action with a group o' buddies goes, are there any better in fact?

Perhaps not. Halo 3's easily one of the most polished, tightly crafted and well made titles of the year...but not my personal fave. Soz.

7. Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition (Wii)
Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition - Resi on the Wii’s just about the most natural a shooter's ever felt if you ask me. Next stop: Umbrella Chronicles.While I've yet to nab Umbrella Chronicles (believe it or not, I don't play 'em all), Resi gets a well-deserved look in regardless. It may speaks volumes that arguably the Wii's greatest game yet is a mere remake when all's said and done, but as I like to tell myself, it's an ever rare system where cross-platform ports have the bizarre potential to drastically improve upon themselves via that ever enjoyable remote.

Along with Zelda, Resi 4's the textbook example of that, a game that takes the previously ace Spaniard slaughtering antics from Gamecube and PS2-ville, then promptly ramps it up another twelve notches to the realms of utter brilliance.

A stunningly twisted and atmospheric outting already – now with controls to match its beauty – rediscovering it all over again in 2007 was a six month long highlight for me. Bundled bonus modes and a budget-ware price sealed the deal as a must have for all, and in my opinion, almost give sole reason to own the Wii alone, never mind the rest.

6. Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (PC)
Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar - LOTRO's player base has dropped to depressing lows lately. Ironic, given the fab-ness of recent updates.My LOTRO sessions have sadly lightened these past few months, yet blame not this game, but the stupidly busy release schedule of late. This sucker's actually one of the few MMOs to keep me enthralled for a year's solid play you see – and believe me, I've played 'em all. I can't foresee a quitting any time soon either.

Turbine played it smart really. They took the greatest license of them all, then melded it to the greatest game. You might as well be playing Rings of Warcraft for the most part, thanks to a similar range of classes, identical questing system, and barely a handful of improvements – or even alterations for that matter – but as safe as Rings feels, the results speak for themselves. One of the tightest games around. The one MMO to really go toe to toe with WoW itself...if not in numbers, then at least in quality.

If you're yet to grow bored of these fantasy MMOs – which judging by WoW subscription figures, is a China-esque number of peeps – LOTRO's a fine alternative then, and a great addition to an extremely packed genre. I had some damn good times right here in fact, and with a wealth of add-on packs in store, here's to the many more that head our way.

5. Bioshock (Xbox 360/PC)
Bioshock - What’s the bet on a sequel announcement within the next six months?.Bioshock may not have had particularly long legs, nor quite lived up to its System Shock heritage, but there's no denying Ken Levine's latest boasted one of the most truly memorable video game worlds our pastime's ever seen.

As a huge fan of the first person, RPG-slash-adventure game genre, this ticks many of those same boxes while even one-upping Shock in the atmosphere stakes to boot. Like a beautiful film or a gripping novel, it constantly draws you in, forever anxious to see what twisted designs lurk in the next hub. Not to mention, how its impeccable storyline will resolve itself.

A large part of that draw's down to the aforementioned world though, meticulously rendered from the ground up with not even a single pair of rooms ever looking the same. Rapture is an amazing achievement, with Irrational's undeniable brilliance being their ability to disguise what is ultimately pretty much just a corridor shooter by surrounding it in the most gorgeously original underwater setting ever seen. Some whine about the combat, others the repetition, but this sheer beauty alone proves more than enough to overlook both for its duration. Eye-scraping final boss aside.

Yeah, it's easy. Too easy, in fact. The inability to truly die, and the unlimited respawns that go with it, essentially turn Bioshock into more of an interactive story than a traditional video game. If nothing else though, more recent DLC has spruced up the toughness for those that demand it, while also fixing up one or two other minor niggles along the way. I'd sure love to retackle some of those Big Daddy show-downs in light of this, minus the ever reliable safety net of the god-awful Vita Chambers.

For an absorbing, deep and endlessly rewarding single player experience then, Bioshock most definitely stands out as one of the better seen in recent years.

4. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – Shadows of Chernobyl (PC)
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – Shadows of Chernobyl - Worryingly ugly on low-end rigs, and insanely buggy back on release, STALKER's still the home to many a fab memory.Proof, if ever needed, that in spite of stupidly expensive system upgrades, endless patch woes, and constant crash headaches, when gaming's at its genre-busting very best, it does indeed come from the PC. It's just a shame a game like STALKER comes round maybe once every five years at this point. If that.

With such a sordid and long-winded development history – one up there with Duke Nukem himself – I guess pondering whether it lived up to the hype's irrelevant at this point. Did any really remain? STALK's an incredible achievement in its own right however; a spooky, free-roaming scavenge 'em up, with alarming scares and immense ambition.

Yeah, it's frustrating, hard to get into, and much like The Witcher, a distinctly non-US title immensely rough around the edges. But my god. STALKER'll show you a world and an experience simply never seen before. One unique...incredibly absorbing...and absolutely terrifying. Love it.

3. Crysis (PC)
Crysis - Add two parts Far Cry to one part CoD, multiplied by some Battlefield 2 with a sprinkle of Republic Commando, then bake for way too long, et voila! Crysis ahoy.Developer Crytek's unofficial futuristic follow-up to the supreme masterpiece that was Far Cry, Crysis is the first jungle-ised FPS to stack up to the lofty leaved shoes of its predecessor. Who are we kidding? It's the only one to come close. Those same epic views, those long distance sniper duels, and the ever enjoyable skinny dipping return in force, yet Crysis throws in some pleasing new additions that send it off on a crazy original tangent on top.

I reference the bionic suit, of course. Playing a super soldier of tomorrow comes with pleasing benefits you see; super strength with which to toss enemies into the air with, super speed with which to outrun Road Runner with, and even a full-blown cloaking device, for donning your best Predator impression while going "waaaaaaaaaah" from up in the trees. One alteration which I do think would have made these abilities infinitely cooler mind you, is if you didn't have to switch between 'em all manually. Rather than charge forward at 200mph, leap across a humungous ravine, then sucker punch a grunt 10 miles into the distance in one seamless motion, it makes for a far more stop 'n' start affair instead, as you fumble with the required buttons like a two year old.

When you eventually get the hang of it though, flicking between powers subconsciously, Crysis comes alive. I worship the ability to tailor the game to your own individual play-style via said abilities, such as flipping the cloaking device on, modding all your guns with silencers, then popping off headshots in a full blown Sam Fisher style. You can just as easily whack on full armour, grab an AK, and mow dudes down like Commando though, along with everything in-between. It's just as much fun either way, and beautifully free-form in that regard.

Such freedom extends to the level design of course. There's a sandboxy feel to the combat that I've never really experienced in an FPS before, only truly limited by your insane imagination and ability to think on your feet. There's a sequence early on where you take control of a village for instance, with the Koreans rolling in two tanks to promptly take it back. You're tasked with taking 'em both out – single-handedly, of course – but told no more. Mr Matt – blind idiot that he is – neglected to search the building he was in, and thus find the stash of rocket launchers awaiting him, so instead had to improvise.

So I cased the town on the stealth tip, noticed there was a petrol station on the outskirts, and put two and two together. I peppered the tanks with fire to draw their attention, ran like a spazzo into referenced petrol station, then darted out the back exit and off to safety while cloaked. The pair of behemoths opened fire in my general direction, blew the fuel tanks up, and in a full-on Robocop style, pretty much everything within a 30 meter radius went up in flames. Minus yours truly. Don't thank me...thank The Suit!

Or how about the time a chopper caught sight of me out in the wild? I legged it for miles into the nearest building for refuge, dodging mini-gun fire the entire time, where I caught my breath, counted my ammo, and began plotting an all-important escape route. I was shortly interrupted however, when said chopper decided to bombard my hide-out with missiles, promptly sending the roof caving in, crushing my skull with beautifully deforming physics in the process. I died instantly, in fits of laughter. Only in Crysis do you see this kinda stuff. Randomly, at that.

Only a slightly schizophrenic final hour lets her down really. With the game starting out like some kinda jungle themed squad shooter, your buddies are then slaughtered one by one by some kinda extra terrestrial evilness lurking in the bushes. Where the game goes from here, I'll resist spoiling, but many highs here and the odd low there, it rounds itself off with a truly anti-climactic urine-soaked ending that feels nicked from a far inferior game. You can kinda forgive it though, considering the five or six hours that precede it are some of the best video gaming of the past ten years.

Enjoy sniping dudes? Loved that Far Cry? Think the sandbox combat of Halo 3's as good as it gets? Crysis shows 'em how it's done. It's a shame no one's able to play it, really...

2. Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)
Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat - Sadly, we're hearing CoD5 is not only a return to WWII, but Treyarch are in charge...With all these games touching down in quick-fire succession, it's been interesting to compare their contrasting styles and mechanics. Take Call of Duty 4 for example; the gameplay feels archaic and even somewhat forced next to Crysis' more open-ended style – particularly the more you replay it on the harder difficulty modes – but it stubbornly refuses to care. CoD doesn't want your freedom you see. He cares not for your special abilities either. He has a job to do, and he's gonna do it. To showcase the most awe-inspiring, rollercoaster ride of your freaking life...and pretty much nothing else.

Yeah, there's no way to deviate from said rollercoaster, and expecting even a mild hint of choice results in bitter disappointment...not to mention death. But for what it does? A 100% linear FPS extravaganza conceived from day one around sod all but the set-piece and pure thrill? CoD4 might well be the greatest game the genre's ever seen.

That sensation of war feels simply unmatched here. While the loudness, the screams, and the explosions are nothing new, the culmination feels truly perfected at last. Grabbing the nearest rifle and getting stuck in'll see brilliance blossom, once you behold the beauty that is CoD's extreme arsenal of modern weaponry. Screw World War II, I say...bring on WWIII!

Surprisingly awesome amidst all this is the storytelling. Particularly – spoiler warning – the concept of playing, well, dead people. For all the zillions of times we've died then quick-loaded in shooters over the decades, there's something unnerving and flat-out eerie about unavoidable death sequences from which there's no escape. I talk partially of the presidential assassination in the game's intro sequence, sure, but more specifically the mid-game nuke scene and subsequent flopping to the ground, dead. Dark, soul destroying scenes that left me quite speechless. The gunship level's one of the other more memorable experiences of the year too, just as messed up in its own, notoriously humorous way.

Somewhat controversially, I'd also say CoD4 throttles Crysis in the visual department, simply due to how fab it runs. It's oh so detailed, animated to perfection, yet buttery smooth at all times. It doesn't hurt that CoD4's multiplayer mode is arguably the best of the year too; a fantastic array of unlocks adding a pleasing dollop of depth to an already riveting experience. If it'd boasted co-op missions and a single player mode longer than an hour, it'd most likely be game of the year.

But who am I kidding? The real reason it ain't is ‘cos of the rap.

1. Mass Effect (Xbox 360)
Mass Effect - There are a zillion tiny niggles you could whine about in Mass, but at the end of the day? It's the most fun I've had in years. Particularly playing “Renegade”.AKA the greatest sci-fi film never made.

Once in a blue moon, a rare game plops out that just feels tailor made to you, and you alone. Much like Deus Ex in its prime, Mass Effect is one such beast, tapping into my dorky sci-fi fetish, love for space exploration, appreciation for a deep RPG story, yet sheer need for real-time combat. The engaging characters and effortlessly brilliant BioWare dialogue ain't so bad either.

But you needn't be a fan of such things to appreciate Mass. Like all good classics, it's accessible to everyone, regardless of tastes. It may be glitchy at times, bugged to hell at others, and thus far from the most solid game of the year. It is however, easily my favourite. Commanding my own crew of memorable personas, hitting the furthest reaches of space, then saving the galaxy from an (apparent) megalomaniacal's why we play games, no? That you can then craft your own face and essentially paste yourself into the heart of this most epic of movie-like experiences bulks the gravitas up ten fold.

In fact, I'd say Mass does arguably the greatest job an RPG's done yet of actually letting you, well, role-play. Levelling up, tweaking stats, and modding your load-out is fine and dandy, but while such dated concepts have since become synonymous with the genre, let us not forget what the term actually means. Mass truly lets you get inside your character's head you see, tailoring not just his look and back-story, but his fundamental personality to your liking. Throughout my 30 odd hours of play-time, I felt as if I was genuinely crafting a character of my own – one who's actions were all of my choosing – truly different and distinct next to everyone else's. That's role playing by definition, and comparing to so-called staples of the genre, makes me milk-laugh right out my nose.

The ability to kill major characters, dictate wars, and ultimately affect the outcome of an entire galaxy is shockingly epic stuff, and the promise of being able to carry the resulting toon over to the following two games with hopeful repercussions should add appropriate depth to every such decision too. How Bioware'll pull off such a promise, remains to be seen I guess, but god damn I can't wait to see.

Sure, it's got issues. With so few city planets, and real-time conversations gone, I think it's blatantly obvious some major cutting back occurred during production. Yet you oddly care not. Mass does so much right, the glitches feel invisible. 'Cos you're there. When it touched down in fact, I locked myself away, called in sick, and barely ate for three days straight 'til I saw her through. Know the last game I did that for? The KOTOR series.

Says it all, I hope.

Honorable Mentions

Of course, there were many more where that lot came from. Including, but not limited to...

God of War II (PS2) – What one could call the game I missed out on, I've yet to plough more than one measly hour into Kratos' latest. This short play time alone solidified it as a fitting swansong for Sony's aging champ though, in the last major exclusive the PS2 seems worthy of, and I'll no doubt give him the proper bash he deserves one day down the line. So long then, ugly black grill...we sure had some fun times, didn't we?

Spider-Man 3 (PS3/Xbox 360/PC) – Undoubtedly 2007's "game they all got wrong but me", I for one dug Spidey 3. Forget the critics, ignore the haters, it was fab. The game that is. Not the film. God not the film.

Tabula Rasa (PC) – I only sampled Tabula in beta form, but had myself a surprising blast regardless. If not bogged down by stupidly large amounts of "real" games – not to mention a life-time sub to LOTRO – it might even have seen a purchase. Perhaps worth a revisit in the slow summer months then.

Super Paper Mario (Wii) – Any high-profile, well received Wii game deserves some love – not to mention an instant buy, let's be honest – and Paper Mario certainly falls into that camp. The fusing of traditional Mario platforming with a more adventure gamey, RPG twist sounds ace in theory – and the end result is indeed pretty darn swish – but for some odd reason, Paper just never sucked me in to the level I expected. I love the platforming side, and yearn for an entire game like that, but the RPG angle doesn't quite do it for me. I feel like it's forcing me through hours upon hours of child-like cut-scenes and never ending dialogue in order to reach the good stuff. A shame, 'cos it really is good too. A rainy day game, I guess.

Earth Defence Force 2017 (Xbox 360) – I dunno about you, but after the past three months, my bank manager's put a hit out on me. Too many damn games...and too many expensive ones, at that. EDF stands out like a black clansmen with that in mind, an insanely cheap value pack of a game, boasting 50 odd humungous levels, 150 weapons of insanity, and some of the most unbelievable, awe-inspiring showdowns ever seen in video gaming. For under 20 freakin' quid. It's simple, there's nowt to it, and it's utterly, stupidly cheesy, but much like the B-movies that inspire it, there's a loving sense of fun permeating throughout Earth from head to toe. So much so, you grow to love the sheer jankiness of it all almost instantly. Another budget-ware beaut then, to match Resi4, hopefully signalling a return to more simplistic, value-for-money offerings long since needed in this industry.

Endless Ocean (Wii) – Less game, more bizarre deep sea diving sim, Endless Ocean is strictly one for the hippies and stoners among gaming's more laidback. As a diver let loose in a free-roaming sea, able to take missions, explore and, er, stroke big fish (no euphemism, I promise), it's what can only be described as a twisted melding of GTA, by way of Flow. Those after action, noise and gunfire will point and laugh, but us into pretty sights, relaxing times and a general ambience of beauty will find much to suckle on here. Custom soundtrack support, surprisingly pretty underwater views, and another pleasing budget-ware price sure help the cause...although nothing makes up for the sub-Dreamcast era graphics seen up top. You gets what you pays for, I guess.

Mutant Storm Empires (Xbox 360) – A pleasing follow-up to the Live Arcade launch title we all know and love, Empires may not have quite lived up to the superb precedent set by Reloaded, but it's still – yet another – fab little top down shooter managing to keep the genre afloat another year. The ability to play online co-op for the first time in any of these games since the late, great Smash TV gives it instant reason to exist – minor lag and a serious boat of confusion aside – even if it gets frustratingly brutal in the game's dying levels.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS) – Hourglass deserved a spot further up this page, but "Top 26 Games of 2007" doesn't really tongue roll does it? A lovely little game, regardless, Hourglass is up there among the DS' finest. As yet another Zelda game to chuck on the stacked pile, there's precious little newness here in terms of series reinvention, minus the initially aggravating stylus control that sees hairy palmed hands obscuring the screen 90% of the time. With a little practice and some minor patience, it starts to work though, with screen-swiping sword fighting a blast in particular (no doubt boding well for the upcoming Ninja Gaiden game touching down in 2008). Like the DS' Metroid excursion, Hourglass is very much a condensed take on its older brothers for the most part, retaining all the hallmarks of a real Zelda title, while removing much of the fat along the way. Dialogue is brief and zippy, dungeons can be rounded off in no time, and the plot propels forward pleasingly swift on top. I also love the puzzles, the sound, and the return of that old Wind Waker vibe of old. But I could go on forever so let's move on...

Warhawk (PS3) – My time with Warhawk's been limited thus far. Truth be told, I'm so utterly rubbish at it, I can seldom stay alive long enough to move. The 10 odd second clumps of action I've been witness to before owning can commence however, hint at much in the way of cheeky online fun, with the airborne Warhawks themselves standing out as a genuine treat to wield. It's hardly a Battlefield killer, of course, and the ground combat suffers from Sony Analogue Stick Syndrome, but if little else one has to award the guys immense love for stripping the original game of its lacklustre single player component and re-imagining the project as a budget-ware online game. The sorts of practices other large publishers could do well to follow suit with, eh Shadowrun?

Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD (PS3/Xbox 360) – With some let down by 2006's Arcade port of Street Fighter II, it seems Capcom ain't giving up the cash-in cause just yet. Puzzle Fighter HD took the 10 year old PSone block falling classic, spruced up the presentation beautifully and added pleasingly addictive online play for good measure, resulting a bit of a perfect fit for the 360's downloadable arsenal. It's even out for the PSN for those more inclined. I'll admit, as he who never owned a PSone, this was my first real exposure to the game, but with the mechanics sussed and the lag ignored, it's housed endless fun ever since. Stand-by for a similar HD spruce-up for Turbo itself next, not to mention of course, Street Fighter IV…

Switchball (Xbox 360) – Forget about the above though, puzzle game of the year's right here, boyos. A criminally under-rated Arcade title no one dares talk about, Switchball's everything great about the Live download service quite literally rolled into one. A fantastically spruced up take on the previous year's Marble Blast Ultra, Switchball takes the ball rolling vertigo-tinged 3D shenanigans of that, adds a huge dollop of beauty on top, then works in some of the most imaginative and giggly mazes ever imagined. The use of materials and physics is pleasingly fresh, with helium balloons, metal balls and fully animated cloth used to inventive effect, while the bundled co-operate and oh so funny race modes give it tremendous shelf-life on the multiplayer tip too. Strange how it never took off really, though I'd argue the trial game does her no justice. The good stuff requires an unlock.

Forza Motorsport 2 (Xbox 360) – I was suitably into Forza back on release, and certainly had a blast tinkering with her at the lower levels. As the cars got faster, the courses more trying, and the competition more extreme, it kinda left me behind to a certain extent, and then the release of PGR4 pretty much buried it for good, but that initial month of experimentation and grease-covered fondling? Fun times, right here. Looks gash, mind you.

Everyday Shooter (PS3) – Another trippy PS3 indie, and one most certainly boasting its fair share of flaws, Shooter still stole dozens of hours of my life in the year’s dying months, thanks to its artsy twist and original spin. For a 2D shooter, its lack of online scoreboards and flaky firing can't go unpunished, yet neither stop it going down as one of the more bizarre and intriguing games of late.

Sam & Max (PC) – Episode one touched down in 2006 of course, hinting at the greatness shortly to come, but the bulk of the series saw fruition throughout '07, including – I'm sure many would agree – the best episodes of the bunch. Despite proving episodic content works wonderfully when done right, the return of Sam & Max feels all but ignored in most circles – odd, considering how rib-bone starved for non-shooting content the PC's been of late – but those who sampled Telltale's delights didn't regret it I'm sure. Sam and Max are just as funny as ever, their new cohorts are fantastic – Bosco in particular – and the pleasing new down-to-earth puzzles make 'em far more manageable games too. The point 'n' clicker's back, friends, resuming right where he left off. Now roll on Season Two...

And there we are for 2007. Quite the ride, no? What were your picks of the year in video game-ville?

Next up: The biggest disappointments of 2007!

Posted by Matt Robinson at 2:00 PM | Comments (6) | Posted to DS | Feature | PC | PlayStation 2 | PlayStation 3 | PSP | Wii | Xbox |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

December 13, 2007

Gaming Steve's Top 10 Video Games That Nobody Played in 2007

Sure everyone loves to read about the best games of year, but just how many times can you read about Super Mario Galaxy and Mass Effect? I’m here to tell you about ten excellent games that somehow fell through the cracks in 2007, all of which well deserve your time and attention. So after you've gotten your fill of Call of Duty 4 and Halo 3, give one of these gems a try. You won’t be disappointed.

The Darkness10. The Darkness (Xbox 360, PS3)
Perhaps releasing a dark, gritty FPS in the middle of the summer wasn’t such a good idea in retrospect. After all, who wants to battle demons, eat hearts, and hide in the shadows when they can go outside, eat hot dogs, and soak in the sun?

Well now that the weather can turned cold and wintry you owe it to yourself to check out this fantastic title from Starbreeze Studios, the makers of the 2004 “way better than the move” Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. Based upon the Top Cow comic book, The Darkness successfully mixes horror, action, and adventure into a unique First-Person Shooter. Without giving too much away you become possessed by a demonic force and you’ll need to combine FPS gunplay with your unique demonic powers. It’s a cool combination that never gets old and allows you to play the game in a variety of ways. Do you use demonic stealth power and kill your enemies at a distance, or will you just run and gun down your foes? Oh yeah, and don’t forget to eat your enemies hearts to boost your power! That never gets old.

One of the more interesting aspects of this game which was included for no other reason other than to add to the game’s atmosphere you can literally sit and watch entire movies, television shows, cartoons, and music videos inside the game itself. I actually watched To Kill a Mockingbird on a TV within the game, which is either really sad or cool (I still haven’t decided which). It’s little touches like this which make this game stand out from your standard FPS fare.

Plus it doesn’t hurt that this game looks fantastic, especially on the PS3. Now that you’ve finished Halo 3 and Crysis look toward The Darkness to fill your FPS fix.

Orcs & Elves9. Orcs & Elves (DS)
Developed by John Carmack and id, Orcs & Elves was originally released as a cell phone games last year … wait! Come back! Don’t let its history scare you away! This is unlike any cell phone game you might have played in the past. This game is actually … good!

Orcs & Elves does its best to recreate the feeling of those old school fantasy RPGs released in the 80s/90s but combined with modern FPS gameplay aspects. Think Quake but with magic and goblins and with a dash of RPG thrown in for good measure, and after years of starvation from the old-school dungeon-crawling genre, Orcs & Elves is like a five-course feast that will stuff you with RPG goodness.

The game starts out as your standard FPS fare – walk through corridors, kill monsters, collect loot, improve your weapons – but as you play you’ll start to see why this game received such acclaim when first released last year. The combat is addictive, quests are fun, your selection of weapons is extensive, characters are silly, the plot is always changing, and the game is expertly paced. Cut from the “just one more turn” school of gaming, this game will continuously keep you engaged and challenged.

Filled with fun quests (including bartering with dragons and drinking with ghost dwarfs), monsters which actually require tactics to defeat, and a plethora of weapons and magic this is a game which will keep you engaged from beginning to end. For $20 you won’t do much better when it comes to old-school monster-killing.

Odin Sphere8. Odin Sphere (PS2)
So why is this game on the list? Didn’t Odin Sphere get a freaking ton of press these last few months? And wasn’t everyone saying that this was the “last great game for the PS2”? Yes and yes, but all of this press and goodwill has not translated into sales. It’s a real shame as this game lives up to the hype and shouldn’t be missed.

The graphics are insanely gorgeous, the action fast and furious, and the gameplay innovative. Sort of the “Pulp Fiction” of video games, Odin Sphere tells its story through five protagonists, each of which you’ll get a chance to play. Each character has its own unique fighting style and controls, which always keeps the game fresh and new. Plus as you explore their history you’ll reveal a larger, overarching story as each character intersects with the others. The final result is an epic story that continuously keeps you interested throughout.

Gameplay is your “standard” 2D-fantasy-action-epic-RPG (heh, when was the last time you played one of those?), only on this world all of the levels are designed like spheres (get the title now?). Like the classic game Defender, the levels continuously loop and will only allow you to escape once you defeated the appropriate number of foes. Oh yeah, and you need to kill monsters in order to grow your power-ups from plant seed. You know … like sheep.

Come on people! Isn’t the PS2 like the best-selling game console in the world? Don’t you have like four or five PS2 in your house collecting dust? Why aren’t you playing this crazy beautiful game?! Send your PS2 off in style with this fantastic game.

Etrian Odyssey7. Etrian Odyssey (DS)
This unique 3D dungeon crawler RPG was released in May 2007, but good luck finding it in the stores. No, this was not a runaway best-seller (have you even heard of it?). Rather the publisher, Atlus, seemed to release just enough to supply to meet the limited demand for this game. That’s a real shame as this is an excellent and challenging RPG which is perfectly suited to the DS.

The top screen is used to display the dungeon using relatively simple 3D graphics from a first-person point of view. While the bottom screen is used to map your progress through the dungeon, just like the classic days when having a pad of graph paper next to your computer was mandatory. And this simple act of mapping your progress really connects you to the adventure and makes you want to explore the 25-level dungeon.

Extremely challenging and well-designed, Etrain Odyssey is a refreshing blast-from-the-past. The gameplay is relatively simple – build party, kill monsters, gain levels, explore the dungeon – but with a wealth of character customization you’ll actually enjoy the occasional grind just to level-up your characters and try out their new abilities. Oh yes, and the music is easily the best ever to appear in a DS game to date.

If you cut your teeth on rigorous dungeon crawls from the Apple II+ days this game will be right up your alley. And when you complete this long, brutal game, you will have (in your best John Houseman voice now) “Earned It!” Bonus: The sequel is being released in Japan next year.

Jeanne D’Arc6. Jeanne D’Arc (PSP)
If you are a fan of strategy role-playing games then this was the year to own a PSP. Over the past few months we saw the release of three great SRPGs for the PSP – Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness, Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, and Jeanne D’Arc. All three are excellent games but Jeanne D’Arc stands above the rest … and is probably the one you ignored.

With a strange name and an even stranger storyline – the retelling of the story of Joan of Arc within a fantasy world with talking animals, demons, and magic powers -- Jeanne D’Arc is an attractive and vibrant game that is accessible to newcomers and SRPG veterans alike. Unlike other SRPGs which require a PhD to completely understand Jeanne D’Arc takes the time to explain to you how the elaborate combat system works. And between the intense battles and the intense story you’ll never be bored by this 30-hour game.

If you’re looking for a solid strategy game and aren’t afraid to learn a bit about history (granted this history has talking dogs and orcs) you won’t find a better PSP game this year.

Rogue Galaxy5. Rogue Galaxy (PS2)
This action-RPG was created by the legendary Level-5 (Dark Cloud & Dragon Quest VIII) and was an immense critical success in Japan. So when it’s released in the States a year later it is, of course, completely ignored. Perhaps everyone was busy playing Gears of War or was busy dreaming of Halo 3 when this Rogue Galaxy was released, but if you missed this game and you love RPGs then you owe it to yourself to pick up this gem of a game.

Sure I could go into detail about the beautiful graphics, immersive storyline with plenty of unexpected twists, and a fun action-combat system, but what you need to know is this. If you like RPGs then you will like this game. In fact, I put this game up against any RPG released on the PS2, including all of the Final Fantasy games, and say that this game is as good if not better than all of them. And the action-combat system actually makes combat fun, unlike those tiresome turn-based combat systems which take forever to complete.

And since this game was released nearly a year ago you can get this game cheap! In fact, I just saw this game in the bargain bin at Best Buy just the other day. This game does not deserve the silent funeral that is the gaming bargain bin. So while you are waiting for Final Fantasy XIII to released sometime in the year 2000-who-heck-knows, break out your PS2 and start exploring the Rogue Galaxy!

The Warriors4. The Warriors (PSP)
This game should actually be on this list twice – once for when it was originally released for the PS2 and Xbox in 2005, and now for when it was released for the PSP. One of the greatest movie licensed video-games of all time, The Warriors actually surpasses the movie as it expands upon the film and allows you to fully explore the world of a gang-ridden New York City circa 1979. Somehow Rockstar managed to take a simple two-hour movie and fully flesh out a 15-hour game, telling the story of how each member joined The Warriors (Swan, Ajax, Cleon, Vermin, Cochese, Cowboy, Snow, Fox, and Rembrandt … even their names are cool) and their rise to from street-rats to one of the strongest gangs in New York.

But what makes this game so great? Where to start? Let’s see – the combat is deep, the world is fun to explore, each character feels completely unique, the story is interesting, the music and voiceovers are fantastic, and the rival gangs are truly original. Where else can you fight gang members who walk around in top hats and mime makeup? And with twenty gangs in the game you’ll always have someone interesting to fight.

The PSP version is a near perfect port of the original PS2, or if you want get the PS2 or Xbox versions for a song. If you love Rockstar and the “feel” of their games then it owe it to yourself to pick up this gem. It’s as if this movie was custom-made for Rockstar to turn into a video game as no other game “feels” more like a Rockstar game than this one.

Listen to Cyrus, “Can you dig it?”

Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure3. Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure (Wii)
It’s amazing that the Wii is so popular but yet there are a surprisingly small number of truly good games out for the Wii. Outside of the core Nintendo titles there are precious few good games to be found. And what’s even more amazing is that this excellent game, which can easily be enjoyed by families, can’t seem to find an audience (especially in Japan where this game is completely bombing). Maybe it’s the cartoon graphics or the strange name, but don’t let this gem of a game slip you by.

Sure there is a main plot, but the core gameplay consists almost entirely of puzzles. You will need to solve a series of levels, each of which is presented to you with a Rube Goldberg-type layout. By correctly performing a series of mind-bending actions you’ll be able to solve the puzzle and receive your prize. Those familiar with the popular Hapland games will feel right at home here (and for those of you who have never played the Hapland-style games make sure to check out these mind-boggling games).

The puzzles in Zack & Wiki range in difficultly from easy to fiendish, but yet are never frustrating enough to make you quit the game in its entirety. Plus the game has its own in-game help system for those who are truly stuck. And best of all the game fully utilizes the Wii Remote where your on-screen actions mimic the actions of the Remote. Need to go fishing? The Wii Remote mimics a fishing rod. Need to light a torch? Wave the Wii Remote into the firepit. Using the Wii Remote in this manner feels natural and is a lot of fun.

Something else worth mentioning is that this is a great game to play in a family or party setting. The puzzles lend themselves to group with one person controlling Zack and the others helping out. Others can even use their Wii Remotes while you are playing, which turn into a “Wii laser pointer” device, to help point out areas for you to explore. In fact, I would say this game is even more fun to play with others, especially those who aren’t the “gaming type” as the puzzles and Wii controls will appeal to just about anyone who likes to have fun. And for those “gaming types” out there, don’t be turned off by the colorful graphics and funny animations. Even the most jaded gamer will crack a smile when playing this game.

At $40 this game is a total steal and one of the best games out for the Wii right now. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed with this one.

Overlord2. Overlord (Xbox 360, PC)
One of the best games of the year, Overlord feels like a lost treasure from Bullfrog before they sold out to EA. Overlord is one of those “multi-classed” games that is hard to categorize. If you combine the strategy of Pikiman, the humor of Fable (although this game is actually funny), the wickedness of Dungeon Keeper, your standard RPG elements, and even a little bit of SimCity base-building and you’ve got yourself one fantastically unique game.

You play as the Overlord, a nameless, faceless brute who controls an army of goblin-like minions who tell as many jokes as they do throw punches. There are four different types of minions, each having a different ability, and through them you’ll need to traverse through a fantasy world and defeat seven “goodie-two-shoes” heroes. And although the combat and strategy elements are fun, it’s the simple act of exploring the world where this game really takes on its character. Everything you will see is familiar, but twisted. Hobbits are gluttonous brutes, elves are morose sloths, dwarfs are physocpathic moneybags, and so on. Diving deep into this “Lord of the Rings-esque World Gone Bad”, and then systematically destroying most of it, is a truly fun experience.

As a bonus unlike so other games which contain humor, the humor in this game is actually funny! The graphics, the voiceovers, the quests, your minions – everything is colored with a wonderful contemporary British humor. You’ll come for the game, but you’ll stay for the jokes.

Best of all you can play this game on the GameTap service as well as the Xbox 360 and PC. So if you were looking for an excuse to try out this excellent service now you can sign-up just to play Overlord. And you too can “be evil … or really evil!”

Portal1. Portal (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
Sure you’ve heard about this game for months now, seeing one fantastic review after another, you have probably even heard all about the “cake”, but have you played Portal?

No seriously, have you sat down and dedicated yourself to play Portal from beginning to end?

Or your friends?

Or your family?

Or your friends of the family?

I’m serious here. Not since the release of Tetris has a game been so perfect and shown the true power of the emotional response that gaming can achieve, and Portal is a game no man, woman, or child shouldn’t play at least once in their life. If you consider yourself a “gamer” and haven’t played Portal yet, well, then you simply aren’t a “gamer”. It’s just that simple. Your knowledge and understanding of what gaming is and what it can accomplish will never be complete until you play and experience the sublime masterpiece that is Portal.

Sure Grand Theft Auto and Halo get all the headlines and press, but Portal is something more. It is one of those extremely rare games that show the true power of what gaming can convey across multiple levels. Portal is up there with the genre-defining masterpieces of Super Mario Brothers, Tetris, and The Legend of Zelda, but perhaps even better. Portal is perfect in every measure of gaming, and in most measures of popular entertainment as well.

But why you ask? Let’s examine the ways:

The story is engaging and has a clearly defined three act structure, just like the greatest movies and plays of all time.

The visuals convey the world of Portal perfectly, everything is familiar but yet odd and at no time will you be taken outside of the game because of a misplaced pixel or design element.

The sound design beautiful, perfect, unearthly and will haunt your memories for years to come.

The controls will make you do things you never though possible and expand your mind in new directions. You’ll accomplish things you’ll never knew were possible just a few short hours before you started to play this game.

The ending is easily one of the greatest endings of all time, for any medium, and will keep people talking (and singing) for years to come.

The length is perfect. Sure it is short; taking only around 2-3 hours to finish, but this allows Portal to be played exactly like it should. If Portal was yet another 25 hour FPS it would have been remembered a good game with interesting controls and that would have been it. But by being short it allows you to appreciate every single second that you play the game, lets you marvel and how they were able to pack so much story into such a short period of time. There is no “dead time” in portal, no filler content, no repetitive tasks. Portal is exactly the perfect length for the story it needs to tell, and it will keep you wanting for more. And at three hours there is no excuse for you no to play this game at least once. Everyone can finish the game of Portal.

Portal isn’t just a game … it is art and helps move the entire medium that much closer to being respected and viable medium for telling a complex engaging story as good, if not better, than any other popular medium.

So once again I ask … have you played Portal?

Posted by Gaming Steve at 1:00 PM | Comments (40) | Posted to PC | PlayStation 2 | PlayStation 3 | Review | Wii | Xbox |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 5, 2007

The Inhuman Achievement

I always find it amazing that no matter how hard developer makes a video game that someone, somewhere will manage to accomplish the impossible. Whether its finishing Blast Corps or finishing the last level of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! with a perfect score I am always continuously amazed at the level of human accomplishment when it comes to video games.

The latest inhuman achievement to appear in a video game is finishing the attempting to play “Through the Fire and Flames” by Dragonforce, which is unlocked once you complete Guitar Hero 3. It’s no shocker that this is the hardest song ever put in a Guitar Hero game but after seeing this song in action one has to wonder ... what were they thinking? I've seen impossible video game tasks before but this just seems, I don't know, beyond impossible. The song is over eight minutes long and you have to play so fast that your guitar sounds like its producing a steady stream of machine gun fire. But yet someone has managed to finish this song on Expert level.

Again, humans always continue to amaze me:

Posted by Gaming Steve at 10:00 AM | Comments (20) | Posted to Culture | PlayStation 2 | Wii | Xbox |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 19, 2005

Jack Thompson Thrown off Alabama GTA Case

Jack Thompson vs. PongLast week it was reported that anti-game crusader Jack Thompson removed himself from an Alabama lawsuit against the makers and sellers of Grand Theft Auto III. It appears these initial reports weren't quite accurate.

In Strickland vs. Sony, the families of two police officers and a police dispatcher killed by then 18-year-old Grand Theft Auto player Devin Moore are suing Sony, Take-Two, Rockstar, Wal-Mart, GameStop for damages, based on the premise that GTA turned Moore into a triple murderer. The plaintiffs were being represented by Thompson and his legal team.

On Thursday, November 3rd the defense argued before Circuit Court Judge James Moore in Fayette County, Alabama that Thompson should be removed from the case for alleged misconduct. However, rather than wait for the ruling from the Judge -- which could have lead to much embarrassment for Thompson and potentially damaging to his anti-game crusade career -- Thompson simply removed himself from the case on Monday, November 7th. At the time of his departure Thompson told Game Politics, "The other side wants to make me the issue. The important thing is that the clients be served."

Well it appears that Thompson spoke too soon as yesterday Judge Moore ruled on whether or not Thompson could dismiss himself from the case ... and it couldn't have gone much worse for Thompson.

In an 18-page decision Judge Moore excoriated Thompson's professional conduct and outright rejected his attempt to withdraw from the case. Instead, the Judge revoked Thompson's Pro Hac Vice (visiting) admission to the Alabama Bar, which essentially forced him off the case and removed his visiting Bar credentials. In addition, Judge Moore noted that he was referring the matter to the Disciplinary Commission of the Alabama Bar for "appropriate action."

Thompson, as one might expect, was furious and issued a scathing letter to Alabama's Judicial Inquiry Commission, questioning Judge Moore's ethics.

In a profession in which prior actions and decisions carry enormous weight, this verdict could seriously derail Thompson's future anti-game effectiveness. Only time will tell but for the time being Thomson will no longer be able to practice law in the state of Alabama. Thanks to Dennis McCauley of Game Politics for breaking this story and continuing his exhaustive work on this matter.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 1:00 PM | Posted to Culture | PlayStation 2 |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 10, 2005

Kingdom Hearts 2 Will Include the World of Tron

Kingdom Hearts 2 with TronHey all you Kingdom Hearts fans (you know who you are!). While you patiently wait for Kingdom Hearts 2 to be released (is this game ever coming out?) some new world information has been released in Japan. From this Japanese magazine preview it appears that Sora and the gang will be traveling into the world of Tron!

I have to admit that the first Kingdom Hearts was pretty cool, especially when you got to explore the world of Jack Skeleton and Halloweentown, but exploring the world of Tron would be so freaking cool. Of course this game has been in development so long I wouldn't be surprised if it came out with the PlayStation 3 at this point (only kidding ... sort of). Now if Disney would just get started on that Tron 2.0 movie we'd be all set (all pictures after the jump).

Kingdom Hearts 2 with Tron

Kingdom Hearts 2 with yet more Tron

Kingdom Hearts 2

Posted by Gaming Steve at 2:00 PM | Posted to PlayStation 2 |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 8, 2005

StarCraft: Ghost Questions & Answers

Nova escaping from a marineWith all of the buzz around the new World of Warcraft Expansion people almost forgot about Blizzard's "other" game, StarCraft: Ghost. Although this game has been in development for what seems like forever, from what was shown at Blizzcon this game appears to shaping up quite nicely and we might even see it before the end of 2006!

Until then we can enjoy this nice little Q&A on Blizzard's new game and eleven brand new screenshots (after the jump). Enjoy.

Q: What is StarCraft: Ghost?
A: StarCraft: Ghost is a tactical-action console game set in the StarCraft universe.

Q: How will StarCraft: Ghost be different from other tactical-action console games?
A: StarCraft: Ghost will be different from other tactical-action games in many ways. As the game's hero, elite Ghost operative Nova, players will be able to:

Utilize a Wide Range of Elite Ghost Abilities
o Outmaneuver your enemies at sonic speed
o Infiltrate bases and sneak past guards using the cloak ability
o Utilize powerful psionic abilities
o Lock down vehicles and electronic devices to immobilize them
o Engage in both face-to-face firefights and planet-scale warfare

Leverage the Resources of an Entire Army
o Take control of familiar StarCraft vehicles, such as the Siege Tank and Vulture
o Wield a variety of weapons, such as the Perdition Flamethrower, Gauss Rifle, Torrent Shotgun, and a variety of explosives
o Join your allies in battle and do your part to ensure mission success

Experience the StarCraft Universe in 3D
o See the world of StarCraft on a personal level
o Visit familiar planets from the StarCraft universe
o Explore 3D environments designed for strategic interaction
o As Nova, players will be able to hang from wires, climb poles and scale walls, and negotiate tightropes

Unveil the Next Chapter in the StarCraft Saga
o Experience story-driven missions complete with plot twists
o Play a crucial role in the rich StarCraft history
o Engage in combat with a variety of fully rendered characters from the StarCraft universe, including well-known units from the Terran, Zerg, and Protoss races

Q: What new features have been added since the Blizzard console team took over the development of StarCraft: Ghost?
A: The goal of Blizzard's console team has been to expand and evolve the strong foundation already established for StarCraft: Ghost. The majority of this work involves making changes to the graphics engine, incorporating a number of characters, weapons, and vehicles, and designing and implementing StarCraft: Ghost's new single-player and multiplayer features.

Q: What can we expect to see from StarCraft: Ghost at BlizzCon?
A: BlizzCon will offer the first opportunity for the public to see StarCraft: Ghost in its current form, with the latest single-player and multiplayer features implemented. In particular, multiplayer has been expanded to now accommodate up to 16 players over Xbox Live and Also, gamers will be able to control newly playable Zerg multiplayer units and experience the newly unveiled "Invasion" multiplayer scenario. The new single-player level that players will be able to see takes place on the lava­-scorched planet of Abaddon, which has never been seen by the public prior to BlizzCon.

Q: How many players will StarCraft: Ghost support?
A: StarCraft: Ghost will accommodate up to 16 players on Xbox Live for Xbox owners and for PlayStation 2 players.

Q: How long will the StarCraft: Ghost single-player experience last?
A: Development of the single-player missions has not been finished yet, but we plan to create approximately 12-15 hours of single-player content.

Q: When will StarCraft: Ghost be released?
A: While we have not yet announced a street date for StarCraft: Ghost, we anticipate that the game will be complete in 2006. However, as with all of our games, we will not release StarCraft: Ghost until it meets the high standards that our development teams and our fans demand.

Q: On what platforms will StarCraft: Ghost be available?
A: StarCraft: Ghost will be available on the Xbox and PlayStation 2.

Q: What rating do you expect for StarCraft: Ghost?
A: With StarCraft: Ghost still in development, it's too early to determine what ESRB rating it will receive. Right now, we're wholly focused on making StarCraft: Ghost into a Blizzard-quality console game, and we will have a better idea of what rating it will receive as we get closer to release.

Q: Who is developing StarCraft: Ghost?
A: StarCraft: Ghost is being created by Blizzard's console development team.

Q: Why did Blizzard enter the console arena?
A: We began our early development efforts in console gaming, and we have always been excited about returning to this arena. Additionally, we've wanted to revisit the StarCraft universe for some time. With StarCraft: Ghost, we are able to do both. Also, due to the game's control interface and tactical-action nature, developing this title for the console systems makes the most sense. In addition to expanding StarCraft's rich storyline, the game gives players a chance to experience the sci-fi universe from an all-new perspective.

Q: Will there be a PC and Mac version?
A: No. StarCraft: Ghost is being developed for console systems only.

Q: How many copies of StarCraft have been sold?
A: To date, the StarCraft franchise has shipped over 9 million copies.

Balancing act in a Terran Supply Depot

Fighting a Firebat in First Person POV

Marine Busting through the Door

Nova applying a stealth-kill maneuver

Nova caught by a patrol

Nova escaping from a marine

Nova firing on a Dragoon

Ruins of Helios

Terran Bunker

Terran CommandCenter

Ziplining in on a Terran Supply Depot

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:50 PM | Posted to PlayStation 2 | Preview | Xbox |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 2, 2005

Guitar Hero to Rock Your PlayStation 2

Guitar HeroSamba De Amigo was one of the very first rhythm games ever released way back in June 2000 (six months before Dance Dance Revolution came to the states) and although it received excellent reviews it didn't sell that many copies. Not only was it a Dreamcast exclusive (ouch) but perhaps there just wasn't that large of a demand for a maracas simulator. But for the handful of people who actually played the game had a memorable time as the maracas were a lot of fun and multiplayer was a blast.

Well move over Samba De Amigo ... you have meet your match!

The new PlayStation 2 game Guitar Hero arrives in stores today and it comes with its very own guitar controller! Now that is just freaking cool. So far the reviews have been excellent with GameSpot saying "Guitar Hero plays fantastically, it has great music, and, for a change, it's a rhythm game that's accessible to beginners." The game's music selection contains tons of headbanging rock, and it was developed by Harmonix, makers of the fantastic rhythm games Frequency and Amplitude, need I say more?

The only downside? The price of the Guitar Hero Bundle (game and controller) is a little expensive at $70, but if history is any indication of games with crazy special controllers usually retain their "ebay value" over time. And with $60 Xbox 360 games right around the corner $70 doesn't seem that expensive ... did I mention that it comes with freaking guitar!

If you've ever been interested in the rhythm genre, this is the game to buy. Get it now!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 1:00 AM | Posted to PlayStation 2 | Review |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!