It's always strangely satisfying and yet utterly compelling to read countless articles listing the successes, failures and obscurities of a particular console generation. The joy lies in recognising where you've had the same experiences as another gamer, or seeing where your path diverged despite having similar tastes or the same machine as the owner. The funny thing is, it's quite possible to own the same gaming machine as another human being but have absolutely no cross-over of game ownership, such is the world we live in.
I will write this as a category-based analysis rather than thinking of the games as a top ten or a best to worst format. Enjoy!
Best overall: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Only because this showed how plot in a first person shooter could be exciting and stealthy, and launched the omnipresent multiplayer. The "ripple effect" it had on the industry this generation has been undeniable. A great shame that the following games in the series forgot all about the contrast between stealth and blazing action.
Pleasant surprise: Just Cause 2. Despite being a massive GTA fan, I think I enjoyed the accessible fun in this far more than the leaden seriousness of GTA IV. It also made a good point: why stop the player from accessing all the best vehicles and weapons from the word go?
Honourable mention: Test Drive: Unlimited. It don't have the tightest handling system but buying new cars and having the freedom of city roads and countryside was welcome. The ease of multiplayer racing was also a handy feature. Anybody remember the acronym they used? MOOR?
Best DLC/downloadable title: Minecraft for ridiculously addictive gameplay and reminding me of The Legend of Zelda in a good way.
Most replayed: The Orange Box. I can't say away from Half-Life 2's introductory levels and well crafted plot. The solid gunplay, shootouts in canals, the ruined aesthetic of City 17, excellent vehicle sections to break up the on-foot running and gunning; I suppose variety would sum up HL2 in a word.
Biggest disappointment: Bioshock 2. Loved the original, barely played four hours of the sequel. It wasn't even really Bioshock, in my eyes. Bad pacing, bad characters, torturous and disengaging setting, and felt rather pointless to play.
Waste of time/money: Kinect. Really didn't find anything I enjoyed. The concept was good, taking the Wii one step beyond, but all I really played was Kinect Adventures. It's very irritating that MS are pushing this as a requirement for the Xbox One without having proven its worth with the Xbox 360.
Biggest time sink: Either Oblivion or Skyrim. Excellent locations, appropriate music, (generally) fun combat systems, if a little slow and heavy at times. I embraced being a stealth/archer character in Skyrim and the game turned out a little too easy, but from what I've read that has historically been the case with The Elder Scrolls series.
Most trophies/achievements: L.A. Noire. Got them all, although the drive in all cars was a bit of a beast. Even though the questioning system was flawed it was nice to feel part of a world and chase crooks all over 1940s L.A. What's more, the plot reminded me of old fashioned PC adventure games in many ways: go to location A, find item B and cross-examine with person/place C. Good stuff.
Longest time spent unlocking one achievement: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare's 'Mile High Club.' This, in my mind, goes down as similar to the Nintendo 64's Goldeneye feat: beating Facility in 2:05 to earn the invincibility cheat. You have to have the same razor sharp twitch skills, suffer the highest difficulty level and pray that either enemies, flashbangs or scientists are all working in your favour to ensure you win the day. Difficult, but definitely possible with extreme perseverance, this achievement had me squeezing the life out of the controller at each reload.
Achievement not unlocked: Grand Theft Auto IV's 'Rolled Over.' No matter how many slowly passing Saturday afternoons I'd pop in the disc and load up GTAIV, drive straight to the airport and start hastily crashing and flipping, never have I unlocked the achievement for rolling your car five times in a row from one crash. I've tried police cars, Turismos, 4x4s. I've tried high-impact crashes, I've tried sudden right hand turns, both with and without handbrake usage. I've even tried doing it with an ambulance after remembering how wobbly they were in GTA III. Alas, it remains a sore disappointment that I don't wish to elaborate on any further, thank you very much.
Looking forward to: Titanfall. It looks like it'll cure me of the weariness I feel about Call of Duty's excellent but long-in-the-tooth multiplayer. The jumping mechanic does seem rather "Halo-like" but it should slightly tweak the approach of a system that is creaky and ageing. I do question how engaging the story will be given that it's part of the multiplayer game, but only time will tell.
Which games would you choose for the same categories? Let me know in the comments box below.