5. Ace Combat: Assault Horizon
anyone overlook the latest Ace Combat? Oh, right, it’s a flying game, and who
plays those anymore? If you missed Assault Horizon, however, you missed the
most balls-out, boredom-searing firestorm of fun that came out this year. You
don’t need a fetish for planes that go neeeeorrrrrewww to love this game
– the sheer audacity of the dogfight mode, the ridiculously pumping soundtrack,
and the wonderful variety of missions mean that if you ever enjoyed Top Gun
(for reasons other than the volleyball scene), Assault Horizon will grab you by
the gonads and never let go.
narrowly past skyscrapers, unloading a roar of bullets into the tailpipe of an
ace nemesis merely one plane-length ahead, as fiery construction work rains
down all around you. Skimming the snowy skyline of Moscow in an Apache and
doing freaking barrel rolls to avoid anti-air fire while saturating the streets
below with rockets. For heaven’s sake, this game has a quick-time event for a fist
pump. Assault Horizon flies in the face of “serious” games, transforming
moments of seeming action absurdity into transcendent bliss.
review of Ace Combat: Assault Horizon
4. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
this game created with the intention
of being overlooked? Its pedigree: developed by a team headed by someone that
worked on Okami; a hard to pronounce name; very, very Japanese. So we could understand
why the world might ignore El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, and after it garnered
lackluster sales even in Japan, it was only a matter of time before our fears
for the US and European launches were validated.
because El Shaddai really is one of the year’s most memorable games, if not
technically “the best.” Judged solely on gameplay, there are valid complaints.
The combat is fun but basic, while the platforming is manageable but sometimes
painfully annoying. Those concerns really don’t matter, though, because El
Shaddai is a rare case in which gameplay is an inconsequential method for
getting from one gorgeous stage to the next.
never played a game that looks like El Shaddai. Each stage is a wonder of
colors, sound, concept and technique. Each level is distinct from the last,
whether it’s an aquatic wonderland or a futuristic cityscape. The beauty of the
game is singular, and thanks to its sales failure, will never be repeated.
review of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
3. Shadows of the Damned
Suda51, the mind behind No More Heroes and Killer7, as well as one of gaming’s
undeniable (and undeniably crazy) auteurs. Pair him with Shinji Mikami, the man
who reinvented both horror and shooter games with his Resident Evil franchise.
Then, just for good measure, throw in the famed composer of Silent Hill’s
hauntingly beautiful soundtracks, Akira Yamaoka. What does this development
dream team get you?
a commercial flop. Perhaps the ridiculously named demon hunter hero, Garcia
Hotspur, didn’t appeal to gamers… which is unfortunate, because he’s also
ridiculously badass and, as a Mexican protagonist, ridiculously one-of-a-kind.
Perhaps gamers assumed the undead-massacring combat was something they’d seen
before… which is a mistake, made instantly clear the first time you kick a
zombie in the crotch or battle a 900-foot horse-eating, darkness-pissing goat
man. Perhaps the juvenile humor, with guns named Boner and a setting composed
entirely of naked women’s bodies, was too much for some gamers… those gamers
should learn to recognize the difference between cynical sexual pandering and
gleefully unabashed, unmalicious raunch.
maybe, thanks to a lack of marketing or a poorly chosen release date, you just
forgot this game even existed. Consider this a reminder, then, and a strong
(hard, throbbing) recommendation.
review of Shadows of the Damned