Special: Goodness, gracious, great games of 2006!
Last year we asked the question "What if the gaming industry stopped?
". And our answer was to highlight the 52 games (one for each week) of 2005 that we considered "the best", whether they were the most original or the most epic or games that were just plain fun. In other words, if the gaming industry stopped in 2005, those were the games we'd still be playing in 2006.
Naturally we thought, what would our list look like for 2006? So we did it again.
Now, this list isn't a true "Games of the Year" list. Instead, it is a list of games that the staff of Gaming Target believes stand apart from the pack in some way. They may not be the "Games of the Year" to some people, but they are games released this year that should
be played by as many people as possible. Because of this, the games are not ranked, they're listed alphabetically. However, we have chosen a handful of games as the cream of the crop, which we will highlight on Friday.
So what if the gaming industry stopped? If we could pick up a different game every week, this is what we would play in 2007...
Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day (DS)
Did Brain Age set new standards for graphics and sound? Definitely not. Did Brain Age make me any smarter? No, not really. Eh, maybe a little. Did Brain Age change the way we look at handheld games? You betcha. For the lucky ones that own it, they get to take part in a few minutes a day of some of the most addictive brain teasers ever offered in a video game. Sure it's just simple math and matching games, and the graphics and sounds are straight out of the NES era. But for a game that so closely resembles homework the only question that needs to be asked is, ?Is it fun?? And Brain Age answers that question with a resounding yes. ? John Scalzo
Charged largely by the hype that Bully was going to be GTA in a school world, Rockstar proved the world incorrect by creating something that was far less GTA and much more harmless ? pure satire. Placing the gamer in a world they likely recognize (a school), throwing in more cliques than a WWE locker room, a heaping helping of amusing stereotypes, and giving freedom to the gamer to do things their way, Bully goes to show the scope of the talents roaming around their studios, perhaps proving once and for all that they're not just 'The GTA guys.' - Adam Woolcott
Call of Duty 3 (Xbox 360, PS3)
Treyarch, who took over from Infinity Ward for this Call of Duty sequel, made an admirable attempt at duplicating last year's success of Call of Duty 2. The game still provides some brilliant sequences, regardless of game stopping bugs on both systems. It's definitely worth at least a rental for the single player campaign.
So why, may you ask, is this game on the list? It's the same reason why you'll want to buy this game after you've run through single player during your rental. It's the Multiplayer dummy. Treyarch really hits the bullseye in this area. COD 3 ships with 9 multiplayer maps and 6 varied game modes. The new feature of having drivable vehicles such as tanks, jeeps and motorcycles available for online play, make things even more exciting While the Ps3 version lacks an online ranking system and limits online multiplayer play to 1 person per console, both versions still run smooth as butter, while supporting 24 players. Additionally, the 360 version allows for up to 4 players per console to get online and lets you see your ranking against other Xbox Live gamers. Bottom line, this game will keep you up at night. - Jose Martin
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (DS)
Continuing the series' long-standing tradition of being 2D, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin proves that old traditions are still well alive and kicking in today's next-gen society. Providing players with hours of evil vampiric slaying fun, Portrait of Ruin tweaks the formula a bit by giving the player the ability to use two characters at a time providing double the pleasure, double the fun. Especially on multiplayer mode. While the game doesn't have a visual ?wow' factor, some of the 2D sprites look absolutely amazing (mostly the game's bosses). Another new innovative idea is the use of the Nintendo DS's WiFi ability in order to connect to the internet and sell items to other players who will connect to your DS. While most of the items in the game are literally useless, this provides an entertaining prospect to the game and gives players a reason to farm the same creature instead of doing it purely for exp. For players who completed the game and got the ?true' ending, plenty of surprises remain in store for them once they pass the game in continuation with the series' bonus modes and hard modes. - Jason Young
Company of Heroes (PC)
When it comes to re-living the intense battles of World War II, don't look for Call of Duty. Instead, look at the game that revitalized a genre: Company of Heroes. From it's gorgeous graphics-card eating graphics to the game's incredible AI, Company of Heroes set the bar as the definitive next-gen strategy game. Breathing life from such films as Spielberg's ?Saving Private Ryan' and Tom Hank's ?Band of Brothers', the game took palyers on a ride through the most intense battles of World War II as they controlled Able Company starting from D-Day. Additionally, the game's multiplayer simply rocks and is accessible to most players from the get-go. While the game required players to have serious gaming rigs on their PC in order to play the game in its optimal settings, upgrading for it is worth every penny. This is a game that will continue to be measured up against in regards to military strategy games, and will continue to set that bar higher as new expansions become available in the future. - Jason Young
With tongue firmly planted in cheek, Grasshopper's Contact brought a he, full-featured RPG to the DS. For American RPG fans who are disappointed that Nintendo seems uninterested (and rather hostile to the idea) in bringing Mother 3 to America, Contact will bring a little bit of joy to their faces. And any game that has the stones to make fun of Sony's Ridddggggeeee Raaaccccerrrr presentation is A-OK in my book. - John Scalzo
Ready At Dawn
Showing that sometimes spin-offs can be just as good as the originals, Daxter takes the constantly evolving series that is Jak and Daxter and brings the light hearted nature back to it. Occurring sometime between Jak and Daxter and Jak 2, Daxter takes the role of bug exterminator in this brave new world as he tries to figure out how to rescue his friend from the cruel hands of his captors. The game features locations not unlike Jak 2, only tailor made for the little Ottsel and his new bug spray gun. Daxter can shoot, hover, and swat his way through a series of fascinating stages in gameplay that only Naughty Dog could come up with. When players tire of the main story, there are still a series of fun minigames that make great references to recent classic films such as the Matrix and Braveheart- all testing the player's reflexes. We can only hope that we'll see Daxter and his rapier wit show up again for another outing on the PSP in the years to come. - James Dauer
Dead Rising (Xbox 360)
?This game was not created, approved or licensed by the owners or creators of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead.?
Clever marketing tactic to connect Dead Rising to the greatest zombie movie of all time or cover your ass business-speak? Either way, this small bit of text on the cover of Capcom's latest zombie opus clues gamers in to exactly what's going on in Dead Rising. While the save system is unorthodox, Dead Rising is the first game to recreate the feel of a zombie horde bearing down on a small group of survivors. For pure bloodshed, Dead Rising's cup runneth over with blood in a truly spectacular display of goretastic fun. ? John Scalzo
Who can forget the enduring image of actor Matthew Broderick (David Lightman) in the classic ?80's film, Wargames, as he fumbles around on his home PC, unknowingly hacks into Norad's Defense system and starts playing ?Global ThermoNuclear War?. Of course, he didn't know he was actually close to precipitating real war but in our twisted minds, many of us gamers wouldn't mind the thrill of actually watching global Armageddon on our PC monitors, especially if we were pushing all the launch buttons.
DEFCON truly capture the feel of that aforementioned film and gives you a sense of maniacal exhilaration that only destroying all of mankind can deliver.
Modern Real Time Strategy games (RTS) are a mainstay of PC gamer's diet. However, sometimes in the fog of beautifully rendered explosions and fancy animations, the grittiness and tension of the subject matter is somehow lost. War isn't supposed to be so damn pretty.
No problems here, DEFCON makes no attempt at testing your graphics card's Anti-Aliasing or Anisotropic Filtering capabilities. It gets by, quite gracefully I may add, with a simple 2d map of the world. Add in the ominous blue, black, red, green, and white lighting and flashes and it actually feels like your staring at a NORAD defense computer system located in the bowels of a mountain in Cheyenne, Colorado (not that I know what those actually look like but this game makes me think I do)
DEFCON takes the best of strategic play, tactics, critical thinking and pure adrenaline and wraps it up in a surprisingly compelling (and cheap) package. Top it off with multiplayer that allows you to fight each other, form alliances, betray your friends and do your best to sneak 10 nuclear missile equipped attack subs off the coast of California. Being the 5th Horseman of the Apocalypse has never been so much fun. In the words of the immortally idiotic David Lightman, ?Is this a game or is it real?? - Jose Martin
Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories (PS2)
A sequel to the 2003 cult hit Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories takes place several years after the original and features almost none of the same characters that were in the original. Anyone who played the first Disgaea can tell you that the real draw to the game was in the gameplay, and Disgaea 2 is no slouch when it comes to this. Featuring more customizations than the original Disgaea, Disgaea 2 is an easy enough game to beat, but one that will take several weeks of non-stop playing to master. For that reason alone we're still working through the intricacies of Disgaea 2, and plan to do so long into the new year. - James Dauer
And that's the first ten. We'll see you tomorrow for part 2.
See the whole list:
Part 1 (You Are Here)