Meal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes
Shot through with fears from before gaming existed, MGS turned Konami’s grey attempts at early 3D into a cold, ornate, passionate tale of soldiers imprisoned by war.
It wasn’t a bad stealth game, either, more focused and accessible than its sequels. Silicon Knights’ remake for GameCube preserves its atmosphere, the production values raised to MGS3 standards, and makes the desire to return irresistible. It’s a great second edition of one of gaming’s timeless documents.
United Game Artists
Abstract yet emotional, serene but frantic, Rez is an elaborate study in the balancing of extremes. The simplest of shooting designs is grafted to a searing show of sound and light.
By sharpening surfaces and smoothing lines, HD restates why, despite Rez’s traditional on-rail mechanics, there’s simply nothing else like it.
Astonishing to watch, uniquely absorbing to play, it ends, for all but the most gifted of its audience, with a beautiful stab of unresolved regret.
Final Fantasy VII
Its cutscenes and in-game models are more incongruous than ever, but Final Fantasy VII still exerts an unshakeable hold on the imagination. Square’s world-building was at its zenith in Midgar, steampunk clashing against a rural idyll, while Tetsuya Nomura surpassed himself with the characters that, for good or ill, would define his later output.
Its materia battle design, too, is still a thing of beauty: flexible and deeply complex, a programming system that foreshadowed FFXII’s gambits.
The third most important industry in Iceland plays host to a virtual galaxy of a quarter of a million gamers. None of those subs-paying spacefarers has many illusions about what they’ve let themselves in for: one of the most complex and unforgiving games ever made.
Human interaction is at the core of this evolving single-server MMOG, and whether that interaction is via text, economics or laser fire, it fuels the game. Eve Online’s is the one true persistent world in videogames, one so vast and encompassing that it doubles as a social, economic and political experiment.
Disgaea: Afternoon Of Darkness
Disgaea never felt really at home on a home console. A game so based on fiddling and excursions into tens of randomly generated levels is far better suited to PSP’s portability and standby mode. There, Afternoon Of Darkness’ diabolical mathematics melt minutes into hours of what-if play. Can I get Laharl to wipe out that group of Nekomata in a single attack
Can I get him to inflict six-digit damage How about seven Disgaea is built to arouse such fervent tinkering from devilish but strident logic that broke the rules of SRPGs. And we still find it inspiring.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
It may be full of clockwork people telling campfire tales and stats-buffed beasts with entry-level tactics, but by packing enough of them into verdant Cryodiil and rooting them in The Elder Scrolls’ rich folklore, Oblivion works magic.
Acquiescing to its quirks is required but it’s the least the game deserves, even when its bugs seem to tower above the spires of Imperial City. Though as far from ‘perfect’ as you’re ever likely to find, its oddities and beauty have earned it the most active modding community on PC.
Jet Set Radio Future
Deeper, faster and harder than its predecessor, JSRF retains and accentuates what was important about it: the attitude. So many games have tried to recreate the skills and thrills of skating, and so many miss the trick that became JSRF’s philosophy: Turn It Up.
The sound track is peerless, and whether grinding vertically down a 200-foot dragon, leaping across Shibuya’s handrails, or just cruising the wrong way down a one-way street, there’s nowhere else that’s so exhilarating to simply travel through.
We’d never suggest that originality is the be-all and end-all, but it’s difficult to resist the thrill of the new. And what a rush of novelty Portal delivers: not in its technology, not in its perspective, not in its puzzles – not in any one element – but in their combination into a deliriously thrilling, mind-breaking firstperson puzzle-platformer.
And that’s before Valve wraps it up in a story that’s weird, deadly witty and oddly touching. Few developers could smash genres together so wantonly and produce a game of this staggering level of class. For Valve, it seems like a piece of cake.
EA has always been able to bring the muscle of licensed teams and desirable presentation to bear on its premier football series, but until now it hasn’t quite been enough to win hearts and minds dedicated to PES. Feel is crucial to football games – the difference between feeling a shot should go in and seeing it tipped over the bar, of having a player break through and sending the pass into space you feel he’s going to reach – and, finally, FIFA has convincingly captured it.
EA muscle’s still there, of course, in bells and whistles like Adidas Live Season. PES has much to catch up with.
Race Driver: Grid
It’s sometimes hard to see where car racing games can go next. Gran Turismo is staid – sims just incrementally better than last year’s version. And then Grid comes along, armed with a rewind feature, spectacular smoke and burnished light, intense nip-and-tuck races and an attitude that never stubbornly insists you achieve first place.
It blows cobwebs from the genre, with handling a great balance of sim twitchiness and arcade abandon, breathtaking speed, and a sense of being there like no other racer.