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10 Least Bad Games of 2008

Here are my top 10 games of 2008 and why. If your own Favourite-Game-Which-Should-Obviously-Be-On-The-List is not on here then it's possibly, even probably because I didn't play it. And even if I did play it, what do I know, right?

10. Grand Theft Auto 4

This is a sometimes infuriating game, filled with strange design choices, odd pacing and a tone that seems to be suffering from MPD as it flits from serious and gritty to purile every five seconds. Fun though, innit?

9. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney
Many have judged young AJ's first entry into this series as a weak start, so I went into this with trepidation but came out pleasantly surprised. Apollo may not be Phoenix, yet - but he shows promise, so far.

8. Professor Layton and the Curious Village
A storyline which is basically a contrived excuse for a bunch of puzzles, a young boy with an, er, unexplained relationship with a top hatted Professor and over a hundred mostly-fun puzzles, this is the most fun I've had with my DS this year.

7. Dead Space

Not only is it nice to see EA starting to take quality into consideration but it's also nice to see a well-polished game which doesn't try too hard to be more than it is - a scary game with fun shooting mechanics in a space setting. Consider playing it on Hard mode.

6. Rock Band 2
Here in the UK, we got the original game this year too but this is the definitive version. The fact I can't often play the drums in my flat due to noise issues is a blessing in disguise - I relish the occasions I do get to play the game, ensuring that I'm unlikely to get bored of this any time soon.

5. Little Big Planet

It is a shame that the various issues that have plagued the game from the recall on release to the moderation problems to the server downtime have deadened the impact the game could have made but Media Molecule's achievement is still immense. Not only do I find the platform mechanics and single player levels fun in themselves but I know that I can drop in any time and find something new - or if I'm feeling creative, make something new by myself. Little Big Planet was what sold the PS3 to me and you can't say fairer than that.

4. Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2

It's easy to forget just how surprising this game was. Everyone thought they were getting a more colourful version of the original. Perhaps a few extra worthless game modes. What they got instead was more than anyone had hoped for. Six modes of play, none of them feeling tacked on, the very best leaderboard system ever devised and a system for multipliers which added a brilliant risk-reward element to the gameplay. There are zero barriers to your next hit of fun in this game. If you fail you can restart in less than a second and none of the modes start out too slowly in pace. You can see how you are doing score-wise against your friends by pressing precisely no buttons. It's fun from the moment it loads to the second you quit.

3. Fallout 3

Here's another game I was worried about. However much fun I had with Oblivion, it left me cold after hours with the game showed the game's failings becoming more apparent than the parts I had liked at first. I needn't have worried since Fallout 3 is simply a better game. Sure, it has a few things that are inherited from Oblivion which I wish would go away, like the shoddy character animation and occasional failings of the game logic. But damn it - this game has far exceeded the not-insignificant achievement of Bethesda's previous attempt, drawing me in to long, long play sessions like few games have managed to this year. That's why it gets my number three. Oh, and it's the reason that a late forties music soundtrack has been playing in my head for the last week. Thanks, Three Dog.

2. Braid

I went from having heard nothing about the game, to playing it, to loving it within the space of about a week. Quite apart from the beautiful visuals and soundtrack, the compelling thematic elements and one of the best game endings ever, what I first fell in love with are the puzzles. Jonathan Blow's claim that none of the puzzles required guesswork was true - sure, some could be passed using a brute-force approach of trial and error but there was always a more elegant, thoughtful way around it. This was admirable but even more so was the fact that each of the puzzles was a new and clever take on a limited set of gameplay mechanics. Braid is a masterclass in just how creatively freeing it is possible to be if you work with but a very limited set of tools - in this sense, it is the opposite of GTA4 which sometimes feels straightjacketed by trying to do too much.

1. Left 4 Dead

If you had told me a year ago that next year my favourite game would be very multiplayer focused then I'd have had doubts - but here it is. Okay, I admit it. I kind of have a thing for Valve. I have buckets of respect for their design ethic and almost everything they come out with has some sort of lesson in it that I hope other developers will take on board. It's difficult not to wave the Valve banner when they are producing material like this, though. Valve have shown what teamwork, what co-operative really means, now. If it were just the special Infected which you need the other players to rescue from sometimes then that would be neat but the level of dependence on your team goes far deeper than that. No other game has had me so worried about where my other teammates are, how I can best contribute, the best way to divide up labour as we face an onslaught of zombie mayhem. No other game has made me laugh so hard even as my team has just failed spectacularly to keep it together. Few other games have provided gameplay so rich with possibilities that it tells its own story depending on who you're playing with. I have this game twice - once on 360 and once on PC, just so I can play with as many people and in as many rooms of my flat as possible. If that doesn't qualify it for my favourite game this year, I don't know what would.
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About KestrelPione of us since 4:37 AM on 07.16.2008

Age: 30
Location: S.E. London, UK
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