Has it really only been 12 months since the last avalanche of “Best Games of 200X” awards? Well, we all love a good list, and you won’t find a better barf bag of random praises than our own Platinum Chalice awards, the place to have someone else’s gaming opinions shoved upon you.
How important are these awards? So important. Real important. What do the other guys have, gold trophies? Screw that. We blew our entire 2009 budget on a seven foot triple-goblet covered with the only precious metal officially sponsored by King Louis XV. And if platinum’s worth more than gold, then our awards are instantly twice as awesome as everyone else’s.
So let’s begin. These are, without any doubt (because we said so), the best games of 2008.
The Horde is coming. First, you hear the screaming, the primal cries of hundreds of hungry infected. Then, you see them coming: Zombies charging down alleyways, zombies crashing through windows, and MORE ZOMBIES breaking down doors. You burn them with Molotov cocktails, blow them up with pipe bombs and unload dozens of shotgun shells into the writhing waves of flesh crashing against you. The carpet of dead bodies around you grows thicker, but the Horde is relentless.
Above: OH SHIIIIIIIIIIII-
Every time you think you’ve cleared an area, there’s always a Hunter ready to pounce on you or a Smoker ready to surprise any stragglers. No matter how many times our team falls to the ground just inches from the next safe room, Left 4 Dead never feels frustrating or repetitive. Instead, it’s full of wonderfully stressful “last stand” moments that pit you and your team against the impossible. You will die a lot, but that’s really part of what makes the game such a blast. Just be sure not to play when Fragile Ears McCursy Pants isn’t around.
Remember the Helm’s Deep scene in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers? Gears of War 2’s Horde mode – 50 increasingly intense levels of frantic siege battle – feels a lot like that. However, the vicious variety of the Locust Horde – from sniping Drones and mace-wielding Maulers to slobbering Blood Mounts and explosive Ticker time bombs – makes an army of orcs and trolls seem downright tame.
If you’ve had a chance to explore Fallout 3’s irradiated wasteland, then you already know that there are few things more rewarding than being locked in a life-or-death struggle with a mutant horror and not only killing it, but watching as its face splinters and explodes in slow motion. It’s like a giant, gruesome middle finger in the face of your enemy, and the rush that comes with it will instantly propel your self-image from hopeless wasteland survivor to conquering badass. It’s nasty, sure, but blowing the heads and limbs off of sneering raiders and roaring Super Mutants in a horrific bullet-time display – courtesy of the turn-based VATS targeting system - is infinitely more gratifying than enemies who just fall over dead when shot, maybe even with a little spray of blood if the publishers aren’t feeling too timid.
The spectacle reaches a ridiculous fever pitch, however, once you add the Bloody Mess perk to your character’s skill set. Blast a crab-like Mirelurk (for example) in the face with that turned on, and not only will said face shatter in slow motion, but all of its stunted crabby limbs will fly off for no clear reason other than that maybe the blast was somehow SO POWERFUL as to create a massive, organ-jellying shockwave within its shell. So while the plot, characters and ruined world of Fallout 3 are awesome, make no mistake, it’s the chunky goresplosions that propel it from being merely “great” to one of the best games of 2008.
Pfft, Fallout 3 may contain awesome bloodshed, but that game wasn’t designed around the very need to dismember your antagonists, just the luxury. Dead Space’ll make you feel bad-ass with every single kill.
Last year we handed this out to Konami for rewarding our years of unwavering fandom with Contra IV and Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles. That one-two punch of classic gaming was more than enough to secure the award. Apparently Capcom saw that and felt the need to utterly destroy Konami’s two-game offering and splurted out not one, not two, but five retro revivals, each one a fitting entry in its respective legacy.
First and foremost is HD Remix, the totally re-done, outrageously gorgeous updateto the single most popular fighting game of all time. Before that we had Mega Man 9, a game so fantastically old-school we gave it a whole week of ongoing content, celebrating everything he and Rush have brought to gaming over the past two decades. These two alone represented a surefire win, one by proving 17-year-old games still have online relevance and unbreakable gameplay, and the other by proving an even older series is just as fun today as it was in the ‘80s.
Mere weeks prior to Mega Man 9 was Bionic Commando Rearmed, perhaps our favorite of the bunch. They took the original NES game and spruced it up with hyper-detailed HD visuals and one of the best remixed soundtracks we’ve ever heard, thereby making an already excellent title ready for its next-gen debut. And finally we have Commando 3 and 1942: Joint Strike, two more revamps for gamers who’ve been killing bad guys since “Sweet Child o’ Mine” topped the charts.
In other words, old people.
Want the retro feel without so much running and gunning? Square-Enix went back to the well and revived Final Fantasy IV, Chrono Trigger and Dragon Quest IV this year, each one a 30-50 hour epic wholly deserving of your time.