By 2006, the Xbox 360 was already on store shelves and the PS3 was due for release that year. However, the PS2 and Xbox weren’t about to be forgotten about anytime soon. Those systems may have been in their twilight years, but they still had some worthwhile games for us.
Featuring destructible environments, fantastic sound, and what were stunning graphics for the time, Black allowed the last-gen consoles to have one last moment in the sun before the next-gen took over. Upon its release, Black received great reviews from critics and fans alike. Unfortunately, the planned sequel for Black was eventually scrapped, but there are many of us out there now who remember a time before Call of Duty was the king of first person shooters, a time when Black was the best shooter in town.
The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II
Released first on the PC, and then on the Xbox 360 a few months later, BFME2 was the hotly anticipated sequel to the first Battle for Middle-earth game which went down extremely well with real-time strategy fans and Tolkien nerds alike. The game features two campaign modes, one which allows you to play as the forces of good, and another which puts players in command of the forces of evil. The game also featured an online mode which allowed players to wage war against one another across iconic locations from The Lord of the Rings.
It wasn’t just the Lord of the Rings themed aspects of the game that were great. The RTS mechanics were very solid and allowed players to feel in control as they commanded vast armies. Console RTS games can often be a challenge given their lack of controls compared to a PC, but this game did an excellent job of making things simple for players who would be using controllers. The game received a great response from fans and although the game’s servers shut down in 2010, players can online using Virtual Private Network programs.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Was it really ten years ago I stumbled out of that prison sewer and, bleary eyed, starred across the beautiful open world of Cyrodiil? The moment you step out from that dark tunnel and into the light is a classic moment in gaming and one that none of us will soon forget. In many ways, Oblivion marked the beginning of the new-gen by treating us to a beautiful, vast open-world game that simply wouldn’t have been possible on the PS2 or Xbox.
Oblivion presented gamers with a massive fantasy open world that allowed us the freedom to play however we wanted. Fancy playing as a great knight who vanquishes evil with an enchanted sword? Go ahead. Want to be a vampire assassin who uses stealth and cunning to defeat your enemies? By all means. The graphics were stunning and a beautiful soundtrack accompanied you as you explored the world. Just listening to the game’s soundtrack instantly transports my mind back to roaming the lush green hills of Cyrodiil, the fact it was ten years ago is hard to believe.
Tomb Raider: Legend
By 2006, the Tomb Raider franchise was not enjoying the respect and admiration it had once enjoyed when the series first began on the PlayStation. The previous Tomb Raider game, Angel of Darkness, had been met with largely negative reviews and it seemed Lara Croft’s glory days were over. That was until Tomb Raider: Legend came along.
Legend was the first Tomb Raider game not to be created by Crystal Dynamics and instead the task was given to Core Interactive. It was do or die for the Tomb Raider franchise, and Core Interactive knew it. To the relief of fans everywhere, Legend was a big success and breathed life back into the franchise. Given the recent success of the Tomb Raider reboot and Rise of the Tomb Raider, it may seem hard to imagine that were it not for the good folks over at Core Interactive, the Tomb Raider franchise may have died over a decade ago.
Everyone loves to imagine how they’d handle a zombie apocalypse and Dead Rising allowed us to realize such a fantasy. Stuck inside a large shopping mall full of thousands of zombies, players are given the freedom to tackle such a predicament as they see fit. Will you look for survivors and get to the bottom of just what the hell is going on, or will you simply hide in a locker until help arrives? Maybe, like me, you threw caution to the wind and charged the nearest group of zombies with a spiked baseball bat. Dead Rising is one of those games where if you can imagine it, you can probably do it.
Given that it was released on the new console, Dead Rising was also a real treat in terms of what it was able to do. Over 800 zombies could appear on screen at once and this gave players the feeling they really were battling a zombie horde. Dead Rising really gave us a zombie game we’d never had before and it’s not surprising that yen years later, the franchise is still very much alive, or undead you might say!
Once again we have another great game that was a lovely last hurrah for the PlayStation 2. Set during classical Japanese history, Okami uses Japanese myths, legends, and folklore to tell the story of a the Shinto sun goddess who transforms into a white wolf in order to banish darkness from the land.
Okami’s most striking feature is its absolutely gorgeous art style, which uses cel-shading to make the graphics look like traditional Japanese paintings. Upon its release, Okami received critical acclaim and was one of the best reviewed games of 2006. Unfortunately, the game didn’t sell particularly well upon release, but thanks to word of mouth, the game has since gained a large fan base and has been re-released on several platforms such as the Wii and on the PlayStation 3 via PSN.
Since the series first launched back in 2006, the Just Cause games have become synonymous with over the top action, open-world freedom, and explosions so big even Michael Bay would blush. Just Cause 2 may have been the first game in the series to be a big hit, and the recent release of Just Cause 3 seems to be following that trend, but the series would be nowhere without the release of the original Just Cause on the PlayStation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360, and PC.
It’s really amazing to think that the PlayStation 2 was capable of running a game as massive as Just Cause. The open-world spanned a whopping 250,000 acres (1,012 km2; 391 sq mi) and allowed players to cross it freely without being interrupted by loading screens. Players were encouraged to hijack every type of vehicle from cars to planes as they wreaked havoc across the map. With a focus on verticality, Just Cause allowed players an endless supply of parachutes with which they could perform gravity defying stunts which made for some real good times.
Even before it was released, Bully was met with some serious opposition from busybodies who decided that the name alone was so provocative that it ought to be banned. Strange given that, unlike most other video games, you can’t kill anyone in Bully.
Bully puts players in the shoes of James “Jimmy” Hopkins on his first day at his new school, Bullworth Academy. The game challenges players to build up their social cred among the other students while attending lessons, exploring the school and the nearby town, and trying to stay on the good side of all the various cliques. In some ways, the game plays like a teenage GTA. Instead of cars you can zoom about on your bike, skateboard, or moped. Your stink bombs and slingshot are your weapons, and the rivalry between the different social factions are gang wars. Several ace Rockstar titles have been released since 2006, but we’ve yet to see a sequel to Bully. Here’s hoping we hear more from Bully soon.
Guitar Hero II
Guitar Hero 2 not only included all the things that made Guitar Hero great, it also improved on these features. The career mode was still there but the game also featured a much needed Practice Mode which allowed players to practice specific parts of a song at their desired speed. Certainly a useful tool to have when you’re trying to nail Free Bird on the hardest difficulty.
Speaking of Free Bird, Guitar Hero 2 also featured a fantastic track list. The base game featured over 40 songs from popular rock artists such as Avenged Sevenfold, The Rolling Stones, Nirvana, Deep Purple, Rage Against the Machine, Aerosmith, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, and Guns N’ Roses to name but a few. Xbox 360 players could also download tunes from the first game via the Xbox Live store. The Guitar Hero franchise may have had its glory days, but lots of gamers have great memories of getting together with their friends and bashing through some of their favorite songs.
Gears of War
For many gamers, it was Gears of War that really showed off what the new-gen consoles were made of. Gears of War told the story of the Earth like planet Sera and its inhabitants, who are fighting a losing war against the monstrous creatures known as the Locust, who seek to destroy humanity. Gears of War was distinct in its style in that while it was a essentially a sci-fi shooter, it had a very grounded feeling. There’s no power armor or plasma rifles to be found here and the developers took inspiration from the Vietnam war and WWII rather than from sci-fi movies.
As good as Gears of War’s campaign was, it was ultimately the multiplayer that really gave the game its lasting appeal. Not only could you and a friend play through the entire story in local or online co-op, but the game also featured online multiplayer that pitted teams against each other. Dying in a match was permanent, and so players were encouraged to stick together and use tactics to out-gun and outmaneuver the enemy team. It’s a testament to the series that, a decade on, the Gears of War franchise is still very much alive. I for one look forward to seeing the new Gears game currently being developed for the Xbox One.
So there you have it, ten great games that turn ten this year. Time flies by, so carpe diem, friends, and play some great games!