PSX Extreme: The 2008 Essentials
We will bring you our Game of the Year Awards feature in a few weeks time, but for now, we'd like to provide you with a list of our favorite titles of 2008. We're calling them the "Essentials" for all true gamers out there; those who absolutely must play the best of the best; those who refuse to be left behind. So - in no particular order - the 2008 Essentials are as follows:
As if we'd lead with anything else. Konami and Kojima delivered on most every conceivable level, and gamers everywhere owe it to themselves to experience this engrossing and moving adventure. Even if you were never a fan of the franchise before; even if stealth-based games drive you up the wall, you're not allowed to use that as an excuse. First of all, MGS4 is actually less about stealth than any previous title in the series, and secondly, the storyline and cast is unparalleled in the industry today. Thirdly and lastly, if you've ever wanted to become emotionally involved in a plot - and due to the fact that strict RPGs appear to be dying out - MGS4 needs to lead your list.
As a final note, after I finished interviewing Dave Jaffe yesterday (feature to be posted soon), I asked him what his Game of the Year was, and he said he was torn between MGS4 and Gears of War 2. But if someone "put a gun to his head" and made him pick, he'd go with MGS4. He then provided a comment which may be perfect: "Gears 2 is the better game, but MGS4 is the better experience."
Although the Final Fantasy VII sequel for the PS3 never materialized, PSP owners got the next best thing with Crisis Core. This action/RPG is easily one of the handheld's best titles currently available, and if you're a fan of the long-running series, you can't pass it up. About as riveting and absorbing as a portable title can be, and loaded with plenty of amazing visuals and flashy combat, Crisis Core remains one of the best accomplishments of the year. Square-Enix may be in the doghouse for many PS3 owners, but the unbelievable quality of this PSP masterpiece cannot be denied.
Innovative, charming and endlessly addictive for all micromanagement and content creation fans, LittleBigPlanet is a true-blue phenomenon. It's all about the community and giving the player as much freedom as possible to flex their creative muscle, and although it hasn't rocked the sales charts, the game's inherent appeal isn't subject to debate. Everyone should take the chance and grab hold of SackBoy to experience the world of LBP, and if you get sucked in, Sony will continue to fuel the fire by issuing continual updates (just check the Store; there's already plenty there). Great for all ages and fully capable of sucking up a lot of time, this gem is most certainly worth the price of admission.
Easily the best RPG of the year, Bethesda's Fallout 3 is often described as "a futuristic Oblivion," and considering the latter was one of the best games of the generation, there's nothing wrong with that description. The huge, atmospheric world and wonderfully solid gameplay mechanic lets the player immerse himself into a universe loaded with seemingly infinite possibilities. Something like LBP is worth every penny due to its originality and innovation, but Fallout 3 will sate your desire with sheer length and potential. Although 2008 was a pretty thin year for the genre, this highly accomplished title likely would've topped most anything else, anyway. A must!
The PSP enjoyed its best year ever in 2008, and although the PSP-3000 helped spur sales, software is always most important. And along with Crisis Core, Chains of Olympus represented the second part of an amazing PSP software duo that coerced many a consumer into snagging the sleek portable. At this point, there's little to no chance that any game with "God of War" in the title will be a disappointment; there's a much better chance it'll be one of the best titles in history. This one is no exception to that rule, even though many fans of the PS2 masterpieces didn't initially believe a handheld version could be great...oh, but it was. Freakin' great.
Guaranteed to be the primary opposition to MGS4 for Game of the Year amongst most all gaming publications, GTAIV effectively pushed the critically acclaimed franchise into the new generation. It used more realism and authenticity, instituted a new - and perhaps surprisingly well done - action and combat mechanic, and provided us with a more intricate and dynamic open-ended world than ever before. Like it or love it, there's no denying Grand Theft Auto IV's quality; even the story proved to be a big plus, and at no point did we get bored exploring the intoxicating landscape of Liberty City. A top-notch production and easily one of our favorites, GTAIV delivers the fun-filled goods in spades.
Many gamers out there instantly forgave EA once they tried Dead Space, and that's because the game is so damn good. Many will argue over whether it's a survival/horror title or straight-up action, but regardless of the genre, this adventure is freaky, creepy, in-your-face, and oh-so-brutal. This is one of the few titles in the past few years that has a legitimate chance at scaring the ever-loving sh** out of you, and that alone is one hell of an achievement. But the rest of this production - including everything from control to presentation to design - is stunning as well. Don't miss it, or we'll come and find you with our maxed-out Ripper...
12/19/2008 Ben Dutka