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Game On, Bitches!!

With a new year comes new ideas. After 30+ movie game reviews, I came to the realization that movie games inherently suck. Only a rare breed will be good and the rest are shit like SPIDER-MAN 3. So the Videogames-to-Flix column is evolving into something similar but different. Now I'll be writing one game review and one game commentary column per month. The reviews and commentary might not pertain to movies or they might be Hollywood's next cuddle-buddy. Whatever fits will be there.

And now for the first commentary of the new year.

GAMES YOU SHOULD PLAY IN 2008

Originally, I thought that I'd do a best of the year column on games. But considering that I still haven't played (or completed) some of the year's best, I'd rather use this space to recommend some great games instead of just declaring them THE WORLD'S GREAT MUTHAF*CKIN' GAMES OF 2007!!!! I don't feel guilty having missing some the year's best offerings (MASS EFFECT, METROID PRIME 3, DRAKE'S FORTUNE, RATCHET & CLANK, LEGEND OF ZELDA: THE PHANTOM HOURGLASS) because playing through a game is such a longer process than, say, watching a movie.

Consider this - watching the top 10 movies in any given year will likely run you between 20-30 hours. Playing through the top 10 games of the year might take you 80 hours (unless OBLIVION was released - then 200 hours). While you can get a good sense of gameplay from a short amount of playtime, to truly enjoy games like BIOSHOCK, HALO 3, and many others, you really need to finish the story. With that in mind, I give you ten eight games you should have played in 2007, but can still totally enjoy in 2008 (or maybe 2009).

CRACKDOWN

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My hands down favorite game of 2008 was CRACKDOWN. Lots of gamers picked this game up because it guaranteed admission into the HALO 3 beta. What they may not have realized was that this was one of the best sandbox games ever made. From the creator of GRAND THEFT AUTO, David Jones, CRACKDOWN flips the proverbial script and casts you as a cop and not a killer. Not only are you cop in CRACKDOWN, you're a super human cop the likes of whom would scare the crap out of ROBOCOP. Typical games would deliver this gimmick without thinking things through. Typical games would focus on upgrades to weaponry, accessories, and vehicles as a central gameplay component. CRACKDOWN offers these upgrades but makes one incredibly innovative decision.

Instead of focusing on horizontal gameplay (i.e. driving and running on streets), CRACKDOWN takes things vertical. The vertical design of CRACKDOWN is what sets it apart from similar above average sandbox games like JUST CAUSE, THE GODFATHER, and SAINT'S ROW. Climbing up huge hundred story buildings has never been so much fun. As many fans of the game can attest, you'll never look at a city skyline the same ever again. You'll want to just hurdle yourself to the top looking for another agility orb.

This amazing design decision is supported by fully functional online cooperative play, downloadable content, and an extensive array of missions. While missions are designed to be simplistic and mildly repetitive, the varying difficulty sets them apart. If you can't take down one boss battle, just shift gears to try a different one. Everyone should be able to beat this game; what differs is the path that they take.

CRACKDOWN is a must-own for any XBOX 360 owner. Toss in a bargain basement price of $29 at Amazon (look for it cheaper used) and this is a no-brainer. If you're looking for that gem hiding behind million cases of GEARS OF WAR and HALO 3, CRACKDOWN is it.

BIOSHOCK

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If you know anything about video games in 2008, you know that BIOSHOCK was the must-have single player game. It was the cream of the crop survival horror game. Filled to the brim with tight and intelligent gameplay, BIOSHOCK proved that a first person shooter with a great story (and without multiplayer) is still entertaining. Big Daddy showed up to the party that was '08 gaming and told the other games to go hide in the coat room or he'd bash their heads in.

What made BIOSHOCK so successful was a well thought out story, phenomenal voice-acting, genuine scares, and challenging mini-games. For me, BIOSHOCK came out of nowhere to steal the show. Sure, I knew that BIOSHOCK was going to be unique and fun. However, I had no idea that a game could still come in and revitalize the FPS genre. There was no indication before release that this was going to be anything more than an above average shooter.

If you're looking for a game to scare the bejesus out of you in a whole new way, BIOSHOCK deserves your bucks. The critics and the awards are spot on for naming this one of the best games of the year. Now go and buy this sucker.

THE ORANGE BOX

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Five games on one disc. One of these is considered to be one of the greatest of all time. Given some time, one of these will also be considered in that company. THE ORANGE BOX is definitely the best value on this list because of the variety of games included and the extensive amount of play time the allow for. Considering that TEAM FORTRESS 2 is without a story, you could play that game forever.

For me the standout game on this disc is PORTAL. I like to say that this game is a mixture of TETRIS and HALO. Or, to make things even simpler, its a first person puzzle game. However, saying that ignores the wonderful storytelling and voice acting. Somehow, this game makes two hours worth of gameplay seem to last forever. This is the perfect game for any modern gamer looking for a mind-bending challenge to keep themselves on their toes.

Did I mention you also get a crapload of HALF-LIFE 2? Hells yeah. For those of you who, like me, didn't have a PC capable of showing of this baby, now is your opportunity. The scope of the graphics are pretty amazing and this game is three years old. No modern gamer should continue playing without at least a couple hours worth of this game under their belt.

SUPER MARIO GALAXY

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Wheeeeee! Mario is back and what a fun adventure he's got hiding under his cap. While SUPER MARIO SUNSHINE lacked that certain creativity that makes up the backbone of a Mario game, NEW SUPER MARIO BROS. brought the Italian plumber back on track for a renaissance. With that head start and nearly a Wii in every household, 2008 marked this dude's return to prominence. SUPER MARIO GALAXY is the best single player experience on the Wii.

The magic lay in the simplicity of the concept, the power of storytelling, and the perfect learning curve. Anyone who knows how to hold a Wii-mote can start this game. Anyone with a heart can connect with the story. And, anyone with brain can grasp the initial puzzles. These aspects mirror the origins of SUPER MARIO BROS. and show that the platform genre is not passe. Instead, it just needs a lot more polish than maybe it is accustomed to receiving. Playing this game is like seeing an old friend carrying a super cute puppy dog, riding a chinchilla, and bringing you the greatest Tootsie Roll Pop ever. Pure fun that you can never grow out of.

HALO 3 CALL OF DUTY 4

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This was supposed to be the slot I held for HALO 3. Then I (finally) played CALL OF DUTY 4. Now, I will always defend my review of HALO 3. That game provides an incredible multiplayer experience that you can invest years of your time. But the single player experience is completely overshadowed by CALL OF DUTY 4.

The single player experience in CALL OF DUTY 4 starts off much like many other above average war games. It took me an hour or two until I found some of the kick ass moments. Like GEARS OF WAR, CALL OF DUTY 4 brings the cinematic experience into a fully interactive medium. A lot of games attempt to do so, CALL OF DUTY 4 does so and does it in a grand style. The gameplay is a hodge podge of shooter stylings, vehicular mania, and satellite annihilation. F*ck they even send attack dogs after you!

CALL OF DUTY 4 ups the ante and proves that games truly are the future of entertainment. The boys at Infinity Ward took their copy of HALO 3 and stomped on the case until it exploded. This game proves a can't miss experience that will remain fresh for years to come.

ROCK BAND

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I never, in a million years, thought that playing plastic instruments would bring me joy and entertainment. I got my first taste of GUITAR HERO II at the beginning of this year. While I enjoyed the challenge of the game, something was missing - teamwork. In swoops ROCK BAND. When I first saw the video of Peter Moore playing at E3 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8zfV19ihwA), I was incredibly skeptical. However, several weekend killing "band practices" later, ROCK BAND has earned its place as one of the best games of the year.

For me, the big separation between GUITAR HERO III and ROCK BAND is the song library. While GUITAR HERO III seems to focus on metal heavy guitar songs, ROCK BAND has a very diverse selection of songs. Some songs are tough for the guitarist (Metallica's "Enter Sandman") while others put the pressure on the drummer (The Outlaw's "Green Grass & High Tides"). Throw in 40+ downloadable tracks, and ROCK BAND just has a much more accessible and varied pallet of music to choose from. Pretty much everyone (except N*SYNC fans) will find something to love.

PAC-MAN CHAMPIONSHIP EDITION

Yet another game that I looked upon with great skepticism. There hasn't been a good Pac-Man game since MS. PAC-MAN (okay, maybe PAC-MAN VS. was decent), so what could change that trend. Nevertheless, I downloaded the demo of PAC-MAN CHAMPIONSHIP EDITION fully expecting to quit after the first minute. Seven months later this game is still my go-to time waster.

What makes this game so special is the blending of old school design and simplicity with next gen control and showmanship. The graphics are nice and shiny without ruining the old school arcade vibe. Pac-Man looks and moves like he should. The ghosts (Blinky, Inky, Pinky, & Clyde) look great and their sped up movement adds a whole new dimension to the game. There are plenty of tweeks to the game that make the experience new without breaking the original design. Some of the levels have different maps, while others have different lighting. PAC-MAN CHAMPIONSHIP EDITION is one of the best downloadable games of the year. It is a must-have for any XBOX owner.

WARIOWARE SMOOTH MOVES

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Last, and surely not least, is WARIOWARE SMOOTH MOVES. One of the first marquee titles designed especially for the Wii, WARIOWARE is one of the silliest video game experiences you can have. The endless supply of mini-games require the player to place the Wii-mote in a multitude of strange places. My personal favorite is the spank your butt motion that is required for the last challenge. You will feel required to do the motion, but God forbid anyone walks in to see you doing it. The silly single player mode is supported by an excellent two player mode that is perfect for group gatherings.

WARIOWARE was the second game, after WII SPORTS, that showed me the joys of motion control gaming. Not only is the gameplay spot on, but the game's sense of humor adds a lot to the experience. Wario continues to be one of the best new characters that Nintendo has ever come up with. If you own a Wii, you need WARIOWARE SMOOTH MOVES.

That is all for now. Be sure to add the MyJoBlo XBOX GamerTag to keep track off your fellow Schmoes.

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Source: Cool Columns

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