Very Important Games of 2008 (Pt 3)

Man, this is a topic where I keep thinking up of titles as I talk more about it. I don’t know how many parts this topic will entail but if you guys are interested, I’m willing to go all out until I mention every game I want to mention for this list. I hope that’s okay.
Oh, and for those of you who’re just tuning in and skipped the previous parts, what I mean by a VIG is a game that’s impacted the year 2008 somehow, whether by showing how progressive the year was or by how stagnant it was or just by how different it was from all the other years. The games listed here are not about greatness; but about their importance to the year 2008.

With that, let’s begin.

Spore (PC)
A number of ambitious games were released on 2008 but the scope of Spore really showcases that ambition. This has been Will Wright’s baby for about 10 years and when it finally came out, players were given the opportunity to guide the evolutionary path of a single-celled organism to its rise to a galactic civilization. This means that the game will implement all kinds of gameplay mechanics from an arcade-style game where you direct your cell to gobble up microscopic food to an mmorpg-style tribal gameplay to rts mechanics all the way down to an intricate strategy game involving galaxies, space ships, and species in other planets. The scope and ambition of this game really makes this game stand out from all others on year 2008.

Also, like many games on 2008, the biggest selling point about this game is its set of creation tools which allows players to make and share all kinds of different creature species. How you create the species doesn’t really affect how the creature acts unfortunately but this is another one of those games where creating stuff is just really fun and really unique. The game doesn’t allow players to actually interact with user-generated content except to browse through them in an encyclopedia and meet them as computer-directed NPCs and that’s probably the most disappointing thing about the whole creation deal.

The game was a mixed bag for many people, especially since it was in development for so long, but more than the game itself, what makes Spore important is EA’s decision to protect this game with very strict DRMs. The issue here is that the DRMs on Spore forbid the owners of the game in installing the game for more than three times, which most PC gamers found to be ridiculous and completely alienating. It is not surprising then that Spore turned out to be the #1 most pirated game in year 2008.

Fallout 3 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Though technically Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion with a post-apocalyptic skin, Fallout 3 was a very, very important sequel to come out in 2008 because it revived an old PC franchise in a way that appealed to majority of the gaming community while managing to maintain the deep roots of the franchise e.g. turn-based mechanics, character customization, dialogue consequences, and important story themes.

With a new mechanic called the V.A.T.S., the game allows players to freeze time and attack certain parts of an enemy, depending on how many action points they have. It’s a big nod to the previous iterations on the PC but more than that, it’s an intuitive feature that works quite well, making this an involving and intricate rpg although at first glance someone may mistake it for an fps.

The game is massive but seems to utilize all the regions of the game quite well as they all feature very time-consuming sidequests of all sorts and the stories that are revealed in these quests are said to be very surprising. There’s always stuff to do in the game and while many are limiting because they are simply too hard when not leveled up enough, the scope and the depth of the game’s universe is truly remarkable and it’s not surprising to read about people spending more tan 150 hours on the game.

Though this is very similar to Bethesda’s previous games, some mechanics have changed and these are important changes. Lock-picking now actually requires players to listen to the sounds the stick makes when trying to determine whether to lock-pick. Hacking computers and stuff like that is a really hard guess game where players have to pick out letters and are given a clue whether how many letters chosen are correct and the player then have to guess at one of the words shown on the screen. There are certain weapons which can be created by collecting schematics and the mechanics that plays out in stealing has been drastically changed so that players can no longer cheat the system.

Some issues have been reported for this game but they are issues similar to other Bethesda games such as the 3rd-person-view being unusable, lots of glitches and bugs and whatnot, weird dialogue trees, confusing sidequests, etc. but for the most part, the fact that Bethesda was able to work with such a completely unique concept and meld it so well with the gameplay style they’re known for is an important achievement, one that made 2008 so special for many, many rpg fans, especially for pc gamers who get to make and experience various mods for the game.

Race Driver GRID (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
FYI, I am not including the DS version of this game in this discussion.

That said, GRID is an important title for 2008 because it achieves something all the previous realistic racing simulation games still have not been able to do: a dynamic and intelligent computer A.I. This is a huge achievement for the genre as a whole and is something that should be noted by other racing developers. The computer-driven cars can actually mistakes and they actually act realistically to players, making intelligent cornering maneuvers and even being unpredictable at times. How many years has it been since racing fans have been wanting something like this? 2008 is finally the year this has happened and that’s what makes GRID such an incredibly important title.

Its focus on pure racing is also important as well since it feels completely fresh when so many other realistic racing simulators seem to put a lot of focus on tweaking and modifying cars with real engine parts and tires and whatnot. GRID abandons that aspect of it completely and focuses solely on actual racing, presenting career modes that are deeply involving and featuring tracks that have three different kind of racing styles from huge open races to narrow and tortuous European races to drift racing in Japan. The controls and physics are more suited for gamers into arcade racers but at the same time, it’s damage modeling and its graphics satisfy many fans of the realistic simulation genre. Thus, GRID also manages to be very accessible while being an extremely hardcore racing game at the same time. Again, this is an important achievement for the genre and now many are left wondering how future racing games will respond to such achievements.

Dead Space (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Finally, a western development team is able to do things right with the survival action/horror genre and though much of the gameplay is reminiscent and nostalgic of other Japanese horror games, there are many things where the game does a lot of things different and in most of these things, the game succeeds, making itself stand apart from many other games that were released on 2008. From its unique premise of taking place inside an abandoned space colony to the totally fresh concept of defeating enemies by dismembering their limbs, the game is an action-packed thrill ride that completely immerses the player into the horror of the situation. Judging by the way the game paces itself, from creature-blasting moments to anti-gravity puzzles, what presented in Dead Space is a unique horror game with unique weapons, unique enemies, and unique levels.

Not many people expected too much out of this one, especially since with EA as its publisher but everything the trailers promised for this game were pretty much delivered on this title, which sure was a fine achievement for the genre. Dead Space doesn’t have too many competitors but even if it did, its importance is hard to overlook and it’s truly one of the best games for those wanting intense action and a fresh atmosphere.

Unrelated to the game itself, another important thing about Dead Space is the fact that since it was released among many other big holiday hits, the title was largely overlooked by potential buyers of the game. It sold well for being a brand new IP but many analysts argue that if a game like this was actually released during summer or spring, it would have been a bigger hit with the gamers. This is a lesson too true for so many games released each year but in 2008, Dead Space was probably the biggest example of this lesson.

Resistance 2 (PS3)
Resistance 2 is Insomniac’s answer to all the criticisms people made about the first game. Many, many gamers complained that the first game’s narrative style was lame, that its weapon management ring was too cumbersome, and that it’s split-screen co-op feature felt tacked on. Insomniac responded to these complaints with four C’s: Compelling, Cooperative, Competitive, and Community.

Most agree that the singleplayer campaign of Resistance 2 was definitely not compelling even with its gigantic 300-feet-tall bosses because of its abrupt storytelling and trial-and-error method required for a lot of its levels but even so, most of them do seem to agree that gameplay mechanics of Resistance 2 in all of its modes are solid, especially since they are the result of inspiration of many other fps games. The weapon management is now the traditional setup, just a switch back-and-forth between two weapons and experience points are gained throughout all across the game’s three modes. This isn’t to say that the campaign of Resistance 2 was lackluster but the entire picture shows that the most important parts of this game are the multiplayer modes.

The multiplayer aspects of Resistance 2 are importance because they do things that no other shooter games have ever done before. The 8-player co-op mode is one such deal, featuring three different classes and 60 or so levels that change upon each playthrough, which makes teamwork a necessity. This feature also supports split-screen so people wanting to play Resistance 2 with a buddy sitting on the couch together, they with 6 other players online can experience something that is more of an mmo than an fps, which to many gamers was simply awesome and something they never expected out of the shooter genre.

The other unique thing about Resistance 2 is the fact that it’s currently the biggest multiplayer game on the console in regards to the amount of people can play in a single match: a big whopping 60. There is no other console game that supports this many players and actually succeeds. Only will PC gamers can object to this achievement since Battlefield 2 supported up to 64 players. On consoles though, R2 is the biggest multiplayer shooter, a surprising feat since its prequel supported 40 players.

The way it supports this many players is really unique too since it means that there are 10 squads of 6 people all competing against each other for different squad-based objectives. With huge maps bridged with anti-gravity devices and with these unique abilities players gain through experience called Beserks, the multiplayer is made to be balanced, even with so many gamers playing on a single match. That is a real achievement right there and that’s why this is one of the very important games of 2008.