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'll 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...
Shadow Hearts: From the New World (PS2)
Publisher: XSEED Games
"Thanks to the always-entertaining battle system, Shadow Hearts: From the New World manages to be a good, enjoyable game, but one that definitely has lost potential. The plot is intriguing at its core but it doesn't develop very well ? there's no urgency compared to Covenant. An increased level of challenge and dungeons will appeal to the level grinder crowd, or those who thought that Covenant was ruined by a severe lack of difficult areas. In general, Shadow Hearts: FTNW is an uneven 'spin-off' to a fantastic predecessor, but on its own is good enough to be a worthy successor until Nautilus stops playing around and delivers a true sequel to what they started." - Adam Woolcott
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner (PS2)
"If the greatness of a game was based on length of title alone, then Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner ? Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army would be white gold. After all, isn't the subheading an epic hook? ?Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army!? Sounds like something out of the Golden Age of comics. It's immersed in the time period with a clever script and the intricate fusion system. Nevertheless, this tale of Raidou Kuzunoha the 14th is a worthy addition to the line of Megami Tensei games and should be given a chance by anyone with an interest in more unorthodox RPGs." - Byron Tsang
Suikoden V (PS2)
"Gamers looking for an old-school style turn-based RPG, look no further. Suikoden V represents a throwback to the good ?ole days of the PSone where emphasis was placed on story rather than flashy summons, high-budget CG graphics, or streaming worlds. Both Suikoden and RPG fans will find themselves absolutely enthralled with the story, despite the number of issues presented in the game. If your looking for a traditional RPG experience with just the right amount of tools: look no further than Suikoden V." - Jason Young
Super Swing Golf (Wii)
As a newbie golfer (my handicap blows, so I won't state it) I really believe that the Tecmo did a great job with the controls. With one of the most accurate swinging motion in gaming history, I was able to literally pinpoint one of the major problems with my real-life swing thanks to the game. If you're a new golf player, you'll literally be having the same exact problems that you'll encounter in real-life through slicing the ball left or right. Controls aside, the game's single-player mode is extremely deep and is reminiscent of RPGs in the sense that every item you collect will somehow modify your character's stats. With a plethora of outfits to collect, including Kasumi and Ryu Hayabusa from DOA fame, characters to unlock, and multiplayer mode, Super Swing Golf is easily one of the top golf games available in today's market. Sure the game might not be realistic in terms of content (unless you really golf with hot anime babes and polar bear caddies) while the computer AI does it's best imitation of Tiger Woods, but it's got the most realistic swing while remaining fun. No matter how many times you may feel like bashing your Wiimote through your television. - Jason Young
Test Drive Unlimited (Xbox 360)
Developer: Eden Games
Ever wonder what it would be like to be a totally carefree wanderer through the world? Someone who could, oh let's just say, go to Hawaii for the heck of it. Then rent a car, get some easy delivery jobs, do some racing, make a lot of money, buy some houses and fill your garages with every ultra exclusive sports car and motorcycle in existence. Have you ever wondered what that would be like?? No, of course you haven't. That kind of lifestyle is beyond what most of us even fantasize about in our mundane, tedious lives (OK, I'm specifically talking about my life), unless that is, you happen to be a game developer at Eden Studios. Apparently, someone over there thought his dream would make a pretty good game and what do you know, he was right.
Test Drive Unlimited leaves 2006 as one of the more enjoyable driving/racing games of the year. It painstakingly and accurately models over 1000 miles of road on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. The car's interiors and sounds are dead on reproductions, down to the working windows, horns, radio and wipers.
The game's single player mode is fun at times, letting you live like a millionaire playboy while driving Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, Saleens and maybe a few pocket rockets like a Ducati just for good measure. These features are all fine but what makes ?Unlimited' really fun is the persistent online world, where you pass other Xbox Live drivers on the streets of the scenic island roads. You can set up head to head races, hold racing events, form car clubs, trade cars, buy aftermarket parts or get other accessories for your online character. Despite some shortcomings in the single player game, online racing in Test Drive: Unlimited delivers practically Unlimited
fun. - Jose Martin
Tetris DS (DS)
While the "Infinite Spin" crap still bothers me, Tetris DS is easily my favorite version of Tetris since The New Tetris on the N64. You can only describe the joy that is Tetris in so many ways, so I will let my review of Tetris DS do the talking as to why the classic puzzle series is still going strong: "Tetris DS is probably the best game Tetris fans could hope for on the DS. With all of the classic NES sights and sounds, Tetris DS looks and sounds better than practically any game of Tetris before it (but I still miss the Russian feel). It's a wonderful day that gamers can rock along to the Super Mario Bros. theme while dropping Tetris pieces. For the new modes, for the old nostalgia and for the awesome online play, Tetris DS is a must own." ? John Scalzo
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent (Xbox 360, PC)
Someone at Ubisoft clearly thought that Sam Fisher was getting long in the tooth ? that happens when you ship 3 Splinter Cell games in 4 years. So this year, Splinter Cell has evolved into Double Agent, a game where Sam looks like a bastard terrorist, but no...he's really a NSA mole looking to crush John Brown's Army who wish to control America by any means necessary. The main goal of the game is still to remain in the shadows to complete missions, but now you have double the objectives ? do things to make yourself look good for JBA, but also hinder them and help the NSA...it's all about being a double agent, after all. The new trick is some stages take place in broad daylight, making you act even stealthier than ever deemed possible; doing something to harm JBA right in front of their faces is so intense that one might die of excitement. - Adam Woolcott
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (Xbox 360, PC)
In the year 2013, an ?Advanced Warfighter? of the U.S military utilizes the IWS (Integrated Warfighter System). He has plenty of new gadgets and gizmos to go along with his state of the art weaponry. Playing the role of an elite member of the Ghost Recon unit has never been more enticing than in this latest entry into the Tom Clancy series.
The visuals here would have been close for best of the year if a little something called Gears of War hadn't come along and spoiled it. The PC version is even better looking if you can believe that. Geeky sounding terms like specular lighting, pixel shading and bump mapping are just some of the features that the PC version sports.
The single player campaign is riveting and tense. The urban environments of Mexico City are nicely detailed, lit beautifully and hardly ever feel cramped or limited like many other tactical shooters. The 360 space is large, the PC environment is even more expanse. Whether you get to choose between the 3rd person and 1st person views of the 360 or the 1st person only PC view, ?Advanced Warfighter' allows for precise character control and positioning.
A custom map editor (PC only), bug fixes, more MP modes, new MP maps, new coop maps, new weapons, more camo schemes, faces and different ?time of day? lighting for 8 original maps are more than enough reasons to keep fans of both versions playing this title well into the coming year. - Jose Martin
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas (Xbox 360, PC)
The only problem with Rainbow Six: Vegas is that they released it too close to Gears of War. That's a pity because many gamers, engrossed by GOW will probably miss the action in Vegas until next year. Other than that little misstep, Tom Clancy's storied franchise, that got its start on the PC, is back on track thanks to the efforts of Ubisoft Montreal.
Fans of the original PC Rainbow Six games might be pining for the days of the old planning session and equipment loadout screens but ignoring this release solely on the basis of what it lacks would be a mistake. You'll end up missing all that's been added and that isn't insignificant. Vegas has gone back and incorporated much of the gameplay style and feel of the original classics in this series. It may seem like Ubi's other great shooter (Advanced Warfighter) on the surface but it plays much differently.
You can set the game to ?Realistic' which means a quick death for any misstep (just how hardcore tac fans like it). Controlling teammates is streamlined and intuitive. Ai, both friendly and enemy is also much smarter than in other shooters released this year (most of the time). Room clearing and other authentic tactics are back with a vengeance and highlight the beauty of this style of gameplay.
Graphics are top notch and come damn near close to Gears of War. The sound effects are what you've come to expect from this developer's titles, meaning it's accurate and lively. In both PC and 360 versions, the single player campaign is top notch, coop is fantastic and online MP play has plenty of modes, options and thrills to keep you playing this instant classic all through next year. - Jose Martin
Tomb Raider: Legend (Xbox 360, PC, PS2, Xbox)
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Desperately in need of a makeover, the Tomb Raider series was passed off to the folks at Crystal Dynamics, the same crew behind the classic Legacy of Kain and Soul Reaver series. Transfusing a good deal of Ubisoft's Prince of Persia into the adventure series, Crystal Dynamics cleaned up the old archaic and cluttered control scheme and changed the visual design creating a game that was not only playable, but very entertaining. Lara Croft can now easily bound off walls, swing over gaps, dangle off ledges and tackle bad guys with such fineness that it's a wonder the series took this long to get fixed. One thing is for sure, Tomb Raider is back, and as long as they keep giving us solid gameplay like this, we could start seeing much more of the new Miss Croft, which really isn't a bad thing at all. - James Dauer
Tune in tomorrow for the final 12 games in our list of 52 Games We'll Still Be Playing From 2006 including seven titles that have received very special honors.
See the whole list:
Part 4 (You Are Here)