Friday, January 07, 2005

Best games of 2004, sans spoilers

Finally finished Metal Gear Solid 3, and I can now confirm that it is a two-way tie for Game of the Year! Yeah, yeah, I should pick just one, but both are just too damn good. This is quite a surprise to me too you know? Ninja Gaiden had a virtual death grip on that honor. Seriously, it was very close, and the reason for MGS 3 squeezing in is that it touched me in a different, but equally powerful way that reminded me why I love games so much.

Even though the core of the game is still sneaking around, the different mission scenarios felt fresh. The situations Snake found himself in were engaging, and the characters, ah the characters, I’ll remember them for a long time. Especially the Boss. She wins the award, hands down for the most interesting and coolest character of the year. To say more would ruin the story. If you’ve ever liked any Metal Gear games, this is the pay off, the greatness you knew the series would eventually attain. How weird is it to say a prequel story is what it all was leading up to? Well, somehow it happens that way and it makes you want to play through each installment again.

If you’ve played MGS 3 for a bit then quit, I don’t blame you. Even with the new tweaks, the controls are still not as slick as the Splinter Cell games, and it starts really slow ... BUT it just builds, and builds, and builds, and unlike other big titles of 2004, the ending is great. I will say no more on it. Seriously, I want to give you more hints, but it’s better to find out for yourself. Avoid spoilers!

Ninja Gaiden on the other hand just out right kicked my ass. It’s the type of game that raises your expectations for everything that comes after it, setting the bar if you will, but that’s not all. It makes you realize we’ve been settling for less than stellar gameplay in this 3D generation. Yes it’s damn hard and that turned a lot of people off. I can see the point the developers wanted to make though, as the challenge of the game is so great, so much more difficult than any recent game I can think of, that the natural reaction of a person is to go back and choose an easier setting. But the true beauty of this game is that its like life, you stick to it, push yourself, and all of a sudden everything becomes easier. Ok, the camera isn't perfect, but neither is life. The important thing is, the game totally makes you feel like a bad ass ninja master, because if you beat the game, you truly are.

Runners up
Half-Life 2 was also insanely awesome, but it’s hard not to feel a bit cheated by the ending. There were so many things that just left me in awe playing through the game that it was just so anti-climactic. I know a lot of folks are griping about Halo 2’s ending, but it didn’t bother me. Mainly because the story just wasn’t that strong, I had no personal investment. Same for Doom III and Far Cry, all were loads of fun to play through. I would be remiss if I didn't mention how much I enjoyed Dead or Alive Ultimate and Rumble Roses, but they didn't crack my top five. For those of you who know me, it's quite shocking isn't it? There are tons of other great games I played last year and still more I haven't, but I'll leave it at this for now.

Evil is around the corner
I’ll tell you what though, if Resident Evil 4 came out in 2004, it would probably be a three-way tie for top honors with MGS 3. I was lucky enough to finish the game for a review last month and good god, it was fantastic! I admit to being a Resident Evil freak, but that doesn’t mean I’m forgiving of weakness in the series. I’m so glad it’s finally coming out next week because I’ve been itching to play through again, and again. I would tell you what else I want to do in the game, but this post is spoiler free baby so deal with it. Although it sucks for Gamecube hardliners (all 10 of you out there), I’m so glad RE 4 is coming out for the PlayStation 2 because this is another shining moment for a veteran franchise (like MGS 3), and it needs to be experienced by as many people as possible.

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