Grand Theft Auto IV – April 29
By 2008, the Grand Theft Auto series was already a giant in the gaming industry and, following games like Vice City and San Andreas, we couldn’t wait to see what Rockstar was capable of creating with the power of the Xbox 360 and PS3. There was an enormous amount of hype in the run up to release of GTA IV, and fortunately it more than exceeded our expectations.
Unlike past GTA games, IV told a more grounded and gritty story of an immigrant named Niko as he tries to escape his past and build a new life in Liberty City. It’s not long before our protagonist finds himself steeped in a world of crime and corruption as he fights to survive. Not only was the single-player content (including DLCs) incredible, GTA IV also offered online multiplayer which was complete anarchy and enormous fun. While there were plenty of game modes such as racing and team deathmatch to take part, many players just enjoyed cruising around the map blowing each other up in helicopters. Good times.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots – June 12
The Metal Gear Solid was well-established as a classic series for the PlayStation by the time Guns of the Patriots came out. The original game had blown us all away on the original PlayStation and both Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater had been huge hits on the PS2. Solid Snake had cemented himself as a gaming icon and his final game, Guns of the Patriots, offered us an incredible but bittersweet conclusion to his tale.
Metal Gear Solid 4 was highly anticipated for the PS3 and was arguably even a system seller. As the final chapter in Snake’s story, there was no way that veteran Metal Gear fans were going to sit this one out. The game was a smash hit upon its release and offered players everything they could hope for in a Metal Gear game. Snake’s final outing had us tearing up several times and was backed up with fantastic gameplay that could only be possible on the PS3. It’s hard to believe its been a decade since we last saw our battle weary hero. Snake, if you’re out there, we salute you!
Braid – Aug. 6
The Xbox 360 not only featured some great Triple A games, it also brought us loads of wonderful indie games via the Xbox Live Arcade. There were lots of interesting games available, but arguably Braid was the best. Developed over a four year period by Jonathan Blow, Braid is a platforming puzzle game which sees players solving puzzles by manipulating time in order to help the main character Tim rescue a princess.
Not only was the gameplay of Braid excellent, forcing players to think outside the box, it also featured a multifaceted narrative which shone light upon the character of Tim and the nature of his relationship with the princess. We won’t spoil anything, but the end features one of the best surprises we’ve seen in a video game and additional texts presented to the player at the game’s end have had fans speculating for years on the game’s exact meaning. Braid was critically acclaimed and Jonathan Blow has since become a well known name within the gaming industry. If you’ve not yet experienced Braid, then do yourself a favor and check it out.
Dead Space – Oct. 14
Dead Space tells the story of an everyday engineer named Isaac Clarke who works on an interstellar mining ship. All hell breaks loose when the ship comes under attack from an alien threat called Necromorphs, who kill their hosts and then reanimate them as highly disturbing and twisted creatures.
As a survival horror game, Dead Space was enough to make even the most hardcore horror fans sweaty at the palms and playing as an everyday guy, rather than a jacked up space marine, certainly made us feel more vulnerable. Standard weapons are foregone in favor of a tool Isaac uses called the Plasma Cutter which can be used to strategically dismember the limbs from your enemies in order to slow them down and reveal their weak points. Dead Space forces players to think before they shoot and it was a refreshing change up from just jumping in guns blazing. The game released to critical acclaim and saw two sequels.
Fable II – Oct. 21
As the sequel to one of the most popular RPGs on the original Xbox and PC, Fable II was highly anticipated as an Xbox 360 exclusive. Players were eager to return to the charming world of Albion, a land loaded with pesky monsters and that classic British humor. Fable II is full of adventures to embark upon and evil creatures to slay, but after a long day of being a hero, you can head back to your local pub, have a few pints, and then try and impress the other patrons by farting as loud as you can.
Fable II took everything that made the original game great, polished it up, and added some cool new features for good measure. You’re completely free to play as a noble hero or an evil villain and your character’s appearance will change based on your morality. The main quest is engaging and memorable, featuring a notable cast of characters, including the dastardly Reaver who’s voiced by non other than Stephen Fry. You’re also accompanied on your quests by your faithful canine companion who can alert you to nearby treasure and help you fend off enemies. The Fable series may be on ice for now, but we hope we get to return to the land of Albion one day.
Fallout 3 – Oct. 28
If Fable II was a charming and tongue-in-cheek RPG, then Fallout 3 is the exact opposite. Set in a nuclear wasteland, players must fight tooth and nail to survive against all manner of mutated creatures from Ghouls to the terrifying Deathclaws. Everything in Fallout 3 is designed to kill you and much of the food and water you’ll find is irradiated and will cause your Geiger counter to start clicking.
Developer Bethesda had already become well known among gamers for the release of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion back in 2006, but Fallout 3 cemented it as one of the finest studios around. Like Oblivion, Fallout allowed players to create a character of their choosing along with the skills to play however they please. Want to be a mercenary armed with a plasma rifle? No problem. Fancy shooting down Deathclaws with mini nukes? Go ahead. The game encourages players to experiment and has a ton of area to explore, enhancing its replayability. There were also lots of memorable missions and characters, including your faithful canine companion Dogmeat and the infamous quest which offered players the chance to detonate a massive nuke and wipe out an entire city. We just can’t believe it’s been a decade since we escaped from Vault 101.
LittleBigPlanet – Oct. 28
Released exclusively for the PlayStation 3, LittleBigPlanet was highly anticipated by gamers for its fun platform gameplay, undeniably adorable icon Sackboy, and its wealth of user-generated content. The main game sees players exploring a number of stages that take inspiration from real life locations from around the world including Japanese garden, the dry deserts of Mexico, and the busy streets of New York.
While these levels were certainly excellent, and included superb narration from the great Stephen Fry, it was the ability for players to create their own levels and share them online that really kept fans coming back for more. An intuitive editor allowed gamers to create custom levels using assets from the main game and then share them for others to enjoy. The amount of creativity shown by players matched even that of the professionally designed levels. LittleBigPlanet spawned a number of sequels and spin-off games with the latest installment, LittleBigPlanet 3, seeing a release on the PS4 in 2014.
Gears of War 2 – Nov. 7
The original Gears of War was released back in 2006 for the Xbox 360 and was critically acclaimed for its engaging story, intense shooting gameplay, and very fun online multiplayer. For the sequel, developer Epic Games went even bigger and turned everything that made the original game great up to 11. As described by designer Cliff Bleszinski, Gears of War 2 is “bigger, better, and more badass.”
Gears 2 continued the story of Marcus Fenix and Delta Squad as they battle against the Locust horde. The story was more bombastic than the first and saw moments where players would engage against hundreds of enemies. The online was better than ever and included a new mode called Horde, which saw players team up to take on ever increasing waves of enemies. Gears of War 2 cemented the series as a classic for Microsoft and we’ve since seen several installments, most recent of which was Gears of War 4 for the Xbox One.
Call of Duty: World at War – Nov. 11
Following the release of the hugely popular and critically acclaimed Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in 2007, the next installment provided by Treyarch took us back in time to the Second World War. Countless games had already been set on the Western front during WWII, so World at War took us to the Pacific theater and the Eastern front where players could experience a lesser known side of the war.
The campaign was excellent and told a story from the point of view of both American and Russian forces. In the American side of the single-player, players fight against Japanese troops as they take part in key battles such as the taking of Peleliu beach and the Battle of Okinawa. On the Russian front, players must take on the Nazi’s and are eventually part of the Battle of Berlin and the assault on the Reichstag. The online multiplayer that made Modern Warfare so popular also returned and saw players waging war against one another across a variety of maps that featured more verticality and room for strategy. Killstreaks also got a makeover and players were able to call in an airstrike or unleash a pack of vicious dogs. Though World at War may sometimes be overshadowed by the Modern Warfare trilogy, it was a damn fine entry in the franchise and is a game many of us have great memories of.
Left 4 Dead – Nov. 17
When Left 4 Dead was released, Valve was already a household name among gamers for the critically acclaimed Half-Life games. While gamers were still eagerly awaiting new on Half-Life 3 (we still are!), the announcement of Left 4 Dead was certainly got our attention. Left 4 Dead was a four player co-op game where players would need to work together if they were to survive the overwhelming zombie horde.
The game was critically acclaimed upon its release and was praised for its fun co-op gameplay, intense action, interesting characters, and distinct personality. The game makes players feel as though they’re trapped in a classic zombie film and only players who remain alert and work together will make it through. The zombies themselves come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, each with their own abilities. The Boomer is a hulking giant which spits bile at players, blinding them. Hunters are weak but extremely fast and agile and can overwhelm players easily. The tank is insanely strong and can soak up a massive amount of damage whilst the Witch is hard to provoke but, should you get too near, can kill you in just one hit. Left 4 Dead is the perfect game to play with friends and will have you shouting, celebrating, and laughing heartily.