The Year in Review 2006 Feature - The Next Level

The Year in Review 2006

A look back at our definitive picks of last year.

Article by TNL Staff (Email)
January 10th 2007, 04:30PM

John's Top Five Picks of 2006

5. Elite Beat Agents (Nintendo DS)
Publisher: Nintendo   Developer: Inis

There have been a lot of great DS titles this year, but out of all those games, this one still steals precious seconds from my day. I literally wore down the tip of my stylus playing it. It's the perfect game for playing five minutes at a time. I never had a chance to play the original Japanese title, but I might go back and pick it up to hold me over until EBA 2 hits the shelves. As a bonus, humming J-Pop won't be as embarrassing as singing along to Ashlee Simpson anyway. .

4. Viva Pinata (Xbox 360)
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios   Developer: Rare

Easily the biggest surprise on my list, especially after the debacle that was Perfect Dark Zero. Yet, I heard nothing but good things, so over the holiday (with a hell of a lot of doubt) I popped a copy into my brother's 360. In the end, my only disappointment was that I didn't have a memory card with me. It was sad leaving all my little piñatas behind. The world thought Rare lost its sparks, but it turns out there's still some life in Microsoft's 375 million dollar investment. I'm back to believing in you Rare, what's next?

3. Company of Heroes (PC)
Publisher: Relic   Developer: Relic

I rebuilt my computer to play this game and it did not disappoint. As much as I like RTS games I usually have issues micromanaging my resources, defenses and offensive capabilities. With no dirt farming and minimal base building this game is more my speed. Resources, defense and offense are all rolled up into those crucial resource points, which lets me focus on a comprehensive strategy. Of course I still suck, but I always go down in a blaze of glory.


2. Gears of War (Xbox 360)
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios   Developer: Epic Games

This one was an easy pick, because Gears is quite possibly the best looking game I've ever played and it has the gameplay to go with it. It's the showcase 360 title, and yet another game that managed to live up to its own deafening hype. I was surprised by the solid single player and keep going back to it. Next time, though, Epic needs to up the ante by actually providing a plot without giant emergence holes in it.


1. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Xbox 360, PC)
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks   Developer: Bethesda Softworks

I have to admit I wasn't a big fan of Morrowind. I picked it up for Xbox and played it for all of about 20 minutes. So, I didn't really expect to play Oblivion that much, but given the drought of 360 titles I went ahead and grabbed it. 40 hours later I finally put it down, and in those hours I barely scratched the surface of what it has to offer. I constantly consider popping it back in and getting sucked back into its grasp. .

2006 Overview

2006 is finally over and I feel like I can breath a sigh of relief with the last two console launches out of the way, until my credit card bill is due anyway. The question is what I'm going to remember about this year down the road. Will it be the year Wii launched? The year PS3 hit the market? Or the year the 360 came into its own?

Personally most of my year was taken up playing whatever new release there was that particular month on the 360. Thankfully it was a drought but not a famine, and one that Microsoft could probably afford. That being said, some solid titles made their way into my system and I couldn't have been happier. And surprise, surprise after what seem liked absolutely forever, a game finally topped Halo 2 on the Xbox Live play charts. After a shaky launch in '05, 360 hit its stride in 2006.

The end of the year excitement was a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows. I have surprisingly got a lot of use out of my PS3…as a blu-ray player. It's odd to think that the industry leader has an uphill battle ahead of them, but after a disastrous launch it's the truth. Bring on the games Sony and please hurry. Resistance was good, but now my controller's collecting dust. The Wii so far has shown some potential, but I'm not sure that I need any more mini game collections or ugly ports. Give me a game that I can't play on another system. While everyone else seems to be excited over making miis and playing Wii Sports, I'm playing Zelda and hoping more is on the way.

So what am I going to remember about '06? Well, read on my friend. It all hinges on 2007, because history is written by the winners.

2007 Outlook

With all the major systems out (and the Phantom finally put out of its misery) '07 is shaping up as the next gen battleground. What I'm looking for (other than a couple of extra hours in the day) is all the games I've been promised. This is war and none of the big three can afford game delays, because next year is going to tip the scales in someone's favor.

As I was saying earlier, my PS3 has unfortunately become a defacto blu-ray player. While there are plenty of games to look forward to (Motorstorm, Virtua Fighter 5, Lair), there's nothing to play right now. Sony cannot afford to roll out a title or two a month like Microsoft did last year. It's going to take a lot to sell a $600 system to the masses. One title won't do it, Sony needs an instant library. It's got some good looking titles lined up, but they need to hit their release dates.

Even with some quality titles announced for the Wii, I'm still a little bit worried about it. My worry is that in a year's time, the Wii is going to look dated and interest is going to fade fast and third party support will go with it. It's going to take some real innovation to prove that the Wii isn't merely the Zelda/Mario/Metroid/Smash Brothers player. Next year is going to show if this is Gamecube II for Nintendo.

As for Microsoft, they're gonna need to keep the momentum going. Microsoft is heavily leveraging its Halo brand for next year, but success or failure isn't going to hinge on one title. Halo is gonna hit and hit big no matter what. They need their AAA titles spread out over the course of the year and not swallowed up in a Halo holiday haze.

So basically my '07 demands boil down to my own greed. I spent a ton of money last year on these systems and I want good games all year round! In this next gen battle the only guaranteed winner is the gamer. And if Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo don't comply there's always Burning Crusade to keep me warm at night….

Until next year...

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