2008 Game of the Year
My pick for the best of game of 2008 is, without a doubt, Call of Duty 4 (despite it's late 2007 release date). I know that it appears I’m conforming to the pressures of the mainstream video game press, but I can’t argue with their decision to universally praise this game as the best the year had to offer.
While the single player game is getting undue praise for supposedly telling a meaningful story that makes you feel attached to the characters (and ultimately grieve for their death within the story), I think the story was the usual incoherent, jumbled mess that goes along with most 1st Person Shooter games. I couldn’t remember who was who and why I should care if the person died or not, but I did understand the whole “shoot the bad guy” concept well enough I suppose. This is a case where I agree with school of thought that hardcore shooter games are like porn movies; the story is there if you want to try and follow it, but you really only care about the action.
The online multiplayer is where the action is really at with this game, and it has kept me coming back for more since the first day of release. I was still playing last night toward my quest to reach my level cap for a second time, and have spent a total of about 96 hours of my life playing these online matches, and that's nothing compared to most of the online community. There’s just something that doesn’t get old about that feeling you get when you outsmart a tough opponent and get your revenge shot, or those moments when you enter “the zone” and feel like you’re single-handedly dominating the opposing team. The moments where teamwork comes together are also spectacularly staged; calling out enemy positions to your teammates over the headset, coordinating UAV drones and airstrike activations, laying down cover fire while your team gets in close for a grenade strike, littering the ground with claymore mines while sniping an enemy through what they thought was a solid and safe wall, or bringing down that damn helicopter with a well placed RPG round and hearing your team sigh in relief, are all moments that keep me coming back for more.
The game doesn’t do anything particularly new, but it takes proven gameplay and delivers everything in an extremely polished state. It delivers the movie-inspired thrills of the modern battlefield without that whole risk of death that keeps war from being good, clean fun in real life.
My runner up for 2008 Game of the Year - God of War: Chains of Olympus. It’s everything that makes the PlayStation 2 God of War games awesome, but on the small screen of the PSP. This is the best looking, sounding, and playing game released for any handheld device capable of playing video games. And unlike Call of Duty, it’s got a fantastic story that’s just simple enough to follow without bogging down the juicy action. I’m not sure that there will be a more impressive handheld offering until the next time Sony decides to do another PSP God of War game.