2007 was a good year for games. Towards the end of the year especially, a lot of amazing titles came out, all which only supplemented an already strong year for the industry.
Of course, me being a normal guy in his 20’s (read: of limited financial resources), I couldn’t play every game out in 2007, nor every game for any particular console (since I don’t own every system), but I think between my PC, Xbox 360, and Nintendo DS, I’ve covered a fairly large portion of 2007’s games. So out of all the games I played this last year for these systems, here are a few that I felt stood out among the rest, in no particular order.
Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars (PC)
Back in the glory days of strategic Command & Conquer gaming, it seemed Westwood could do no wrong. Every iteration of their flagship RTS franchise seemed to push the genre further and extend the limits of how much fun one can have whilst commanding tiny men around a battlefield. Each addition to the collection of C&C titles, like Red Alert, offered a larger array of units, missions, and strategies. These games were good fun, and if you have a PC with an older version of Windows on it, I highly recommend grabbing these games from your local game store’s bargain bin (with the possible exception of the rather stanky Command & Conquer: Tiberium Sun)
As seems to be par the course these days, EA came along and bought out Westwood Studios. Their first project with the old team was Command & Conquer: Generals, a game that turned out to be more fun than was expected, but didn’t really feel like C&C. Many were afraid that this would hail the end of the franchise, or at least, the end of the franchise being any good.
In 2007 however, EA stepped back up to the plate with a continuation of the original series – Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars. This game, built on a modified version of the Generals engine, was a vast improvement over Generals, and in my opinion, really did a great job of earning back the Command & Conquer title. With three completely different races to play as, a great campaign, and solid online play, C&C3 earned a permanent spot on my hard drive for 2007, and probably well into 2008. If you’re a fan of RTS games, you should definitely try C&C3.
Orange Box (PC)
The Orange Box was one of those things that you know is going to be good, but which you don’t want to get too excited about because you don’t want to be let down. I’ll admit it – I was a bit skeptical about Half-Life 2 going episodic. The last thing I wanted was for a great game like Half-Life 2 to be broken down into bite-sized chunks that costed too much and offered too little. HL2: Episode 1 proved my fears wrong however, and Orange Box, which includes Episode 2, serves only to re-affirm how misplaced my skepticism was in the first place.
With Orange Box, you get three very awesome games for the price of one (four if you order via Steam). The set includes Half-Life 2, HL2: Episodes 1 & 2, HL2: Lost Coast (a neat tech demo HL2 level), Portal, and Team Fortress 2. This package also includes a special version of Peggle if you opt to buy via Steam.
I could go on and on about how much fun my buddies and I have been having playing Team Fortress 2 online, or how immersive the Half-Life 2 experience is. About how Portal is one of the most unique puzzle experiences I’ve ever had. I could even rave a little about how great Peggle is as well. I won’t gush any more, however – you should just go buy it and see how great it is for yourself. The Orange Box is the best value you could get for your gaming dollar in 2007, and FPS fan or not, you’ll find something you like here. $50 is hard to beat for three games… even on DS!
Mass Effect (Xbox 360)
Initially, I wasn’t sure that I’d like Mass Effect. I own Knights of the Old Republic, but never got too far through it. I wanted to, because I liked the story and the Star Wars setting, but something about the game was just too slow for me. When Bioware announced they were working on Mass Effect, I was excited to give them another try, and things looked better with each press release they gave. With some amazing screenshots, and videos of the in-depth conversations that take place in the game, Mass Effect looked to be a much more lively game than the KOTOR series for me, and upon trying it out, I was extremely impressed.
I was recently talking with Lethalanvas, co-creator of Wanderlust, and we both came to an agreement about Mass Effect – the game is really a true RPG, unlike the weirdness that games like World of Warcraft spin into the genre. Mass Effect isn’t all about crunching thousands of numbers, or sorting through hundreds of different sets of armor. No, in Mass Effect, you make decisions that actually have consequences… you literally carve out a place in the game world for your character. You can be a noble good-doer (Paragon), a dastardly scoundrel (Renegade), or anything in between – and the game will react in a smart and appropriate way. It’s hard to describe just how Mass Effect captures this essence of actual role playing so well, but I think it lies in the many moral decisions the game forces you to make as you play. Some carry more weight than others, but almost everything you do has a lasting effect on the rest of the game; the same permanence that your decisions in real life carry. In any case, if you’re a fan of RPG’s, and you have the time and patience to play a 40 hour game in it’s entirety, Mass Effect comes highly recommended from Marty.
The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass (Nintendo DS)
Many fans of the Zelda series decried Nintendo’s latest revision of the classic tale as blasphemous, usually citing the touchpad-only controls as too mainstream / casual. As with other Nintendo titles gone “all touch,” I reserved my judgement for when I actually got to try the game. In the past, I haven’t been let down by this new type of control, and with Phantom Hourglass, this is no different. Sure, it’s a bit wonky when you first try it out, but rest assured, once you get used to the controls, therein lies one of the best gaming experience to be had on the DS thus far.
Call me silly, but there’s just something about Phantom Hourglass that puts a smile on my face while I play it. I always get a certain satisfaction from charting my own course with the stylus and then watching Link’s boat follow it around the map. When I make link do too many rolls or sword spins and he gets dizzy, I can’t help but smile at the goofy sound effect and animation. And who doesn’t get a kick out of drawing a patch for your trusty boomerang, and then watching it fly around exactly as you wanted? Phantom Hourglass is packed with all the little extra touches that people expect from a Nintendo game, aside from the standard epic story and amazing graphics (for DS, of course).
Though I haven’t yet had the time to finish this game, my only complaint so far is that the Dark World theme from the SNES game, featured in almost all of the trailers for Phantom Hourglass, doesn’t seem to be in the game. I could be wrong though, since I haven’t finished it, but if I were a gambling man, I’d put my money against it at this point. It’s a shame really, because I thought the remix of the tune for the previews was a real treat, and Nintendo has a huge library of music for the Zelda series, so why not toss a bone to all of us long-time fans now and then?
Regardless of this single caveat, Phantom Hourglass is a must-have title for DS, so if you haven’t played it yet, go pick it up.
Other 2007 games I enjoyed, but didn’t want to write about, include:
Assassin’s Creed (360)
Call of Duty 4 (360)
Gears of War (PC)
Halo 3 (360)
Games I enjoyed in 2007, but which were not released in 2007:
Civilization 4 (PC)
Clubhouse Games (DS)
Counter-Strike: Source (PC)
Gears of War (360)
Gun (360) (aside from the torturous end boss fight)
Saint’s Row (360)
Sim City 4 (PC)
Tetris DS (DS)
Yoshi’s Island 2 (DS)
And finally, how about a short list of games that I wanted to try out, but never had time to (full versions, anyway):
Eternal Sonota (360)
Unreal Tournament 3 (PC) (despite my rage for it’s mediocrity)
Thanks for reading, and be sure to let me know what 2007 games you felt were great with a comment below!