The Games of Christmas (just) Past - 28/12/2007

So, you've guzzled mince pies and stuffed your face with those little sausage things wrapped in bacon. Well done fatty. If you're not fast asleep in your own festive puke, you'll be thanking a tubby man for spilling his sack right into your games console, (for those with abusive fathers, I'm talking about Santa Claus).


But what game made you descend to bended knee and praise Jebus for being born some 2000 years ago to the day? Which disk-shaped gift was the equivalent of receiving half a pair of socks straight from Lucifer? Read on you spoilt brat.

The Xbox 360; where do we start? In what has been one of the most financially successful years for the company, not to mention a pant-wettingly, fantasy-fulfilling year for 360 owners, it couldn't get much better for anyone associated with games, anywhere. Usually you have to wait consecutive years for titles like Bioshock, Call of Duty and Mass effect to arrive, but this year they all crashed into your living room, honking the horn and demanding you pay your gaming fare like some excitement-filled computer bus. Or a taxi driver from Nottingham. But there could only be one winner...

O come all ye Halo: Could there be a game that caused more controversy than Halo 3? The look of letdown on some people's faces on September 25th was in direct proportion to the mammoth marketing scheme lavished across every billboard and slapped upon every bottle of Mountain Dew in the run up to launch. But to everyone who isn't either ridiculously picky or nonsensically insane, Halo 3 filled gamers to bursting point with tasty plasma perfection - a testament to what actually listening to fans can do for a game. The campaign, featuring 4 player online co-op, was so jam packed with amazing moments that you didn't even need saved films to view them back; they were imprinted forever on your retinas. Multiplayer got more tightly tuned than Kylies behind did in her wonder days, and the ability to tweak each map through Forge meant hours of fun dropping tanks on your mates' heads. Screw the Orange Box for value; this is the single greatest gaming package on the market, and one that certainly won't leave consoles for a good while, (until the inevitable launch of Halo 4. You heard it here first).


I'm dreaming of a Wii Christmas: After overcoming its initial influx of hastily slapped together mini-games, the Wii came into its own this year with titles that actually warranted a 35 price tag- Resident Evil 4 and WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008. However, in spite of the fact cutesy characters were traded for ones who leak claret, there was only one game this year that stood out as an obvious example of the heights Nintendo can reach if they show a little effort. Mario Galaxy, triple jump forward.

Starry Night: The world famous Japanese developers may have spent most of '07 busy painting games pink to appeal to girls but there was no way they were going to water down their most revered franchise, (or infest it with little puppies). Although the first truly successful 3D platformer, Mario 64, gave gamers everywhere a tingling feeling that only Princess Peach could give Mario one magical evening, developers since have avoided the genre like a Koopa with the clap, knowing that apart from collecting coins/rings/golden tampax, it can't be taken anywhere new. However, In Galaxy, everything from the lavishly constructed worlds to the retro-driven soundtrack demands that you take a stroll down nostalgia road and marvel at the new real estate. The graphical style and enemy design is absolutely inspired; if any game deserved the words 'universal appeal', if only for disrupting the space/time continuum and providing both adults and tots with a mature slice of silly pie, then it's this. For being the first game to make you forget about the power of the Wii (or lack of) and enjoy the simple thrill of frolicking in the most beautifully realised world since, well, Mario 64, tip your cap to the portly little guy in the red suit (again, not your drunken father, Mr Super Mario).


PSchristmastree: Ok, I know what you're thinking: 'PS3, what games?' True, we might have to wait well into 2008 to see the best those crazy Japs (and moderately less crazy Alex Evans and Media Molecule) have to offer, but you'd be as contradictive as Mariah Carey singing 'all I want for Christmas' then asking for four Rolls Royce's to ignore your PS3 this crimbo. If you've resisted Resistance: FOM, survived lame Lair and sped away from Motorstorm, you've probably been bringing your mum regular cups of tea in order to persuade her to get you Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. If the game was in direct proportion to the number of cuppas you'd need to hint to your mother to lay down 40 smackers let's just say you'd need a mug the size of St. Albans to hold the brew.

Many returns of the Drake: So, it seems Sony finally got to grips with the power of their self-titled super console. In what many have proclaimed as the 'male Tomb Raider', (or: Lara Croft minus the two best parts) this title came out of nowhere for those eagerly awaiting Ratchet and Clank or the next Metal Gear Solid. Beating his preposterously proportioned female rival as the king of the jungle, Drake is a joy to control as you rocket down winding tropics and shoot men standing on precarious cliff tops, watching them plunge into the gorgeously rendered water below. There is a sense of scale to the game that most action platformers just don't achieve - a searingly scary saunter along the bows of an upturned ship being one of the highlights of the game. Short as it is, some of the set pieces will stick with you forever. Ever wish to escape from the December English weather, but don't want to shell out for a flight to Brisbourne? Drake's Fortune is the sunny solution. You cheap bastard.


Hark those herald angels, it's not over yet! Well, all the nice food has vacated the table and only the tacky, artificial remains of the tree are left embedded in the carpet, but you can still keep a little proverbial locket of optimism fastened around your neck in preparation for what promises to be a stonking 2008. Alan Wake, Fable 2, GTA IV, Banjo Kazooie, Metal Gear Solid, Gran Turismo 5, Super Smash Bros Brawl and an endless supply of Brain Training updates. What a time to be a gamer! (Apart from those Nintendo DS adverts with Nicole Kidman. We could all do without those.) Honourable Mentions: Rayman Raving Rabbids (Wii), Assassins Creed (360), Mario Kart DS (DS), Rock Band (PS3, 360), The Orange Box (360), Crysis (PC), Rachet and Clank (PS3), Call of Duty 4 (PS3, 360) Bioshock (360).

Dishonourable Disappointments: Kane and Lynch: Dead Men (PS3, 360), Guitar Hero III (all formats), Pro Evolution 2008 (all formats), The Simpsons Game (all formats), Two Worlds (PS3, 360), Splinter Cell Conviction (for not being out until mid 2008!)

- Ben Griffin


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