The Year in Review 2007 Feature - The Next Level

The Year in Review 2007

A look back at the staff's top picks of 2007.

Article by TNL Staff (Email)
January 12th 2008, 05:50AM

Travis' Top Five Picks of 2007

5. The Orange Box (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
Publisher: Valve   Developer: Valve

Ah, the controversial Orange Box... Does it count as a single product, or is it a bundle? We've decided to allow compilations this year, so it's hard to exclude The Orange Box. I actually have mixed feelings about this one. Episode Two is most certainly an improvement on the already enjoyable first, but it might be a bit too much without any major evolution of the gameplay or even the graphics. Portal, too, was easily the funniest game of the year, clever, original, and charming, yet painfully easy for a puzzle game, and over as soon as it started. Team Fortress 2 is undeniably a perfect evolution of the original, marred only by a skimpy number of maps. Still, when you take all three of these and put them together, it's hard to deny that that there is a lot of quality gaming to be found.

4. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl (PC)
Publisher: Capcom   Developer: Capcom

It might not be the best shooter of the year, but looking back on the year, this one really stands out. During a year with an appalling glut of first person shooters, amid cries that the genre has gone cookie-cutter, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. showed that it could do something really different. With a giant, open-ended world that nearly rivals Oblivion's, and non-linear gameplay with a ton of depth and some light RPG elements, it was something fresh during a time when it was sorely needed. There were games with better reviews, but make no mistake, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. will be better remembered than most of them.

3. Sam & Max: Season One (PC)
Publisher: Telltale Games   Developer: Telltale Games

2007 also saw the completion of one of the first truly successful episodic series. The Season One set (be it Telltale's version or Dreamcatcher's) boasts all six episodic adventures, which add up to a whole lot of old-school adventure gaming. It's been really great after so many years without any humor in our adventure games to finally have a return of two of the genre's funniest characters. It's been really reassuring to see this series succeed and even pave the way for a second season.


2. Trackmania United (PC)
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive   Developer: Nadeo

I'm not really sure if I love Trackmania or hate it, I just know that there has never been a more sure-fire way to piss away my day five minutes at a time. Fiendishly combining and remaking all the content from the previous games in the series with a load of all new tracks would be bad enough, but the way Nadeo have seamlessly integrated sharing of user-created content to allow a literally unlimited amount of unlockable levels is downright devious. A dangerously addictive blend puzzle, platforming, and racing with no end, and a bottomless ocean of content is a dangerous toy to dangle in front of an editor with work to get done. I think I might need to check into rehab.


1. Crysis (PC)
Publisher: Electronic Arts   Developer: Crytek Studios

It's hard to deny 2007 was one of the strongest years ever for the FPS genre, and it took a lot to stand out, but Crysis completely blew me away. It's like a testosterone-fueled Hollywood action flick, but with a huge, dynamic, completely interactive world. The suit powers had me so spoiled I found myself reaching for them in other games, only to lament their absence when nothing happened. Crysis is a celebration of everything that makes first-person shooters great. .

2007 Overview

The fourth quarter has been such a mad storm of high-profile blockbusters, it's almost hard to remember the rest of the year. I can't think of a time when we've been so deluged in AAA titles, and it's almost enough to burn an editor out. It should say a lot that I have an unopened copy of Bioshock sitting on my desk, and I've wanted desperately to be able to play it, but haven't had the time, yet.

But the central story arc of this year has been the storied journey of this generation's newest contenders. This year was the real proving ground for the Wii and the PlayStation 3, and it's been an interesting saga. The PlayStation 3 has struggled tremendously to gain traction in the North American market, with no hope in sight. Meanwhile the Wii has continued to be a sell-out for the entire year, despite having a software library that has made very little impact on the sales charts. It seems like the paradigm is shifting.

We've also seen a flood of creativity and new series to really get excited about. From Bioshock to Mass Effect to Assassin's Creed, it really seems like a staggering number of this year's top movers and shakers have been fresh faces. Sure, none of them could fell the mighty Halo 3, but even Madden struggled to keep up with the new kids.

2008 Outlook

This year is filled with uncertainty. It seems like the industry blew its wad this year, and has kept the media largely in the dark about the future. Without good old E3 to hype up the coming year, and surprisingly tame showing at TGS, it seems that no one wants to play their hand too early.

Sure, we have the long-anticipated Spore, Grand Theft Auto IV, and Metal Gear Solid 4, among others, but it seems like we don't know much about 2008 that we didn't already know back in 2006. It's obvious that the industry isn't just going to slow down, and this year will be as packed as the last, but it's an odd feeling not knowing what's coming even as the year turns.

new generation has hit its stride, and unfortunately that means the tide of new properties we've been enjoying will probably soon give way to a flood of sequels, both to this generation's early hits, and last gen's orphans. It's one of the tides of this industry. Remember in 2004 there were hardly any original series selling worth a damn, and now we've been spoiled rotten by a year packed exciting new ideas, and now we're going to get ready to see them all again. Expect Gears of War 2 by the year's end along with a host of other old, familiar friends.


Patrick's Top Five Picks of 2007

5. Tales of Destiny: Remake (PlayStation 2, JPN)
Publisher: Namco Bandai   Developer: Namco Tales Studio

What could be considered in my view as the definitive remaking of a 2D classic, Tales of Destiny: Remake was exclusively released to the Japanese market this year on the PS2. It's a complete redux of the classic PSOne sleeper hit with sweet high-resolution graphics. The greatest addition was the tweaking to the series' famous LIMBS system, which now adds aerial parries and juggling commands to make things even more intricate. It looked great and played wonderfully, so it's a true shame that it's locked up in the land of the Rising Sun. It is also, very import friendly, as fan translation and skill sets should be up by now. A must-buy for fans of 2D and RPG aficionados.

4. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii)
Publisher: Nintendo   Developer: Retro Studios

It's rather disheartening to see such dismal sales for a great game like Corruption. The third and pseudo-final title for the Prime series, Corruption felt like a sort of apology to fans disappointed by Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Everything about the third game feels new and refreshing. The level design is just brilliant, the visuals are the best in the series and Samus goes through the most wardrobe changes in one single game in the history of the famed bounty hunter and tailing Metroids. Though it takes quite a while to getting used to extending your arm at the screen for hours on end to aim at Space Pirates, Corruption's experience is solid enough to either tie or shake off the first Prime from its high pedestal.

3. Persona 3 (PS2)
Publisher: Atlus   Developer: Atlus

Though the import was released earlier in 2006 to the Japanese market, its initial American launch still qualifies it for a valid 2007 contender. This game is great, if not for the refreshing tandem of scholastic activities by day and Tartarus demon hunting by night, then for its astute character designs and concepts by Kaneko and Soejima and the very intricate and engaging battle mechanics. Care to spend Saturday night with that cute girl down your row in physics class? Or perhaps you'd rather kill some time killing demons with utmost flash and flare till the 25th hours bell rings. The choice is entirely up to you, creating a unique and unheard of experience in RPGs released here in as long as I can remember. High-stylized, addictive and sporting another quality localization by the good folks at Atlus, Persona 3 should be considered in your stockpile of PS2 titles while you still get the chance to.

2. Odin Sphere (PlayStation 2)
Publisher: Atlus   Developer: Atlus

O' have the tides of gaming have changed. It felt as if it were yesterday when quality 2D games were all the rage on store shelves and dimly lit rooms. Alas, it feels like this current generation is pushing the industry into multimillion-dollar titles all involving either war veterans or blue alien chicks to make out with. Nevertheless, there is always the underdog and Vanillaware was there to answer the call this year, with two great 2D titles, the greater of them being Odin Sphere, a beautiful telling of both Norse mythology and fantasized storytelling. By sheer mention of the title alone, it should be clear how unique and precious this gem of a title is. By reliving the same events behind the eyes of the five main characters, players can unveil the truth behind the war destroying their land. The music is blissful, the art is astounding, and Oswald is likely the greatest character to witness in the last few years. Like my #3 pick, it is another Atlus title worth picking up. If you can find it, that is.

1. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
Publisher: Nintendo   Developer: Nintendo

A timeless classic. We all know it's the truth and might as well succumb to its sheer brilliance, Super Mario Galaxy is no stranger to deep innovation and reinventing the wheel. It recreates bits and portions of what made each earlier Mario game successful, or at the very least memorable. And whether remixed compositions of old scores or intuitive gameplay is the reason, the greatest part of Galaxy is the sense of discovery which eventually spawns into the player's mind. Every Star feels worth collecting, a real accomplishment and, at best, worth playing a second time through. Which, once Luigi is unlocked, totally justified and necessary to collect the 121st star ride to the great hidden galaxy in the sky. Revolutionary, as they would call it. And we wouldn't have Mario any other way.

2007 Overview

2007 may very well be the biggest year in video gaming history. Unlike every preceding year where two or three large titles would jump the starting line for market supremacy, this year spawned roughly a dozen triple-A titles, which consumers everywhere had to struggle to choose between. Even those with only a DS faced the difficult decision of picking one title out of a slew of masterpieces. Though 360 titles like Mass Effect, Bioshock and Halo 3 left their sizable mark on gaming this year, even the PS3's Uncharted, Ratchet & Clank and most importantly Heavenly Sword were quite impressive. The Wii's offerings started off garnering little to no attention (see: Super Paper Mario and Metroid Prime 3), but Galaxy surely has an impact on old and new fans everywhere, in a way that almost made us all remember what made the name Nintendo in the first place. It was a very solid year, which for the first time in my sights, seems to have set quite the bar for upcoming holiday seasons and yearly wrap-ups to come.

2008 Outlook

Judging from the large quantity of quality titles in 2007, there's still much yet to be discovered in 2008. And with the New Year having just rolled around the corner and games like No More Heroes and Super Smash Brothers Brawl well on their way before the end of February, the gaming industry (or at the very least, Nintendo) is sending us a gentle yet very swift kick to the nuts to remind us all that there is still much to show in '08. Coupled with the inevitable teaser trailers of Square Enix plaguing titles like Final Fantasy XII, XII Versus and Agito, you never know when the great gaming madness will end. Though thankfully, we all humbly welcome the 5 or 6 new Tales games approaching soon in '08. Bring on the New Year and the Majinkens!


Hit the next page to read Andrew M and Rich G's picks...


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