FPS Game Of the Year: Half Life 2 - Episode 1 Notable mentions: Prey, Battlefield 2142, Dark Messiah, Ghost Recon
2006 has been a good year for 'pretty good' shooters. Prey took the Doom 3 engine, tarted it up and produced something pretty playable out of it. It was, however, quite short of spectacular, which was slightly disappointing. Dark Messiah showed real potential and the single player was pretty good, but the experience was let down by atrocious multiplayer.
Ghost Recon was fantastic on the PC, with plenty of tactical action to be had. However, not only did it not support AA and HDR (an annoyance for high end GPU owners) but it was also stupidly hard in some sections, with only a checkpoint system keeping you from going totally mad.
Arguably one of the biggest disappointments of the year for me was BF2142, which felt like nothing more than a mod for BF2. However, the rest of the team disagree with me on this, so I'm willing to be a stooge.
However, the one thing we could agree on was that the guys at Valve did a great job with Episode 1. Sure, it was only 5 hours, but it was another 5 hours of awesome HL2 gameplay. It was fun, balanced, and had some great stand-out moments that you look back on - a hallmark of a great game. Not only is HL2 the most fun shooter of the year, it's also notable for showcasing what some are predicting will be the future of games - episodic gaming. With Episode 2 due to arrive early next year, we'll have more action to get into in the new year, rather than having to wait 3 years or more for another dose of Gordon and Alyx. We like this idea, and we can't wait. Bravo to Valve for the programming and the novel distribution method!
Half Life 2: Episode 1
Console game of the Year: Loco Roco Notable mentions: Gears of War, Tony Hawk's Project 8, Guitar Hero 2, Splinter Cell: Double Agent
Whilst bit-tech is primarily a PC site, we have been playing more and more console games this year as we get to grips with, for the most part, the Xbox 360. We didn't want to leave out the consoles, so we lined up some of our favourite games across the different platforms this year to decide which we liked the most.
Gears of War was a real bone of contention. Whilst Tim maintains that it's an awesome game, both Ryan and I agree that it's an awesome game for the first couple of hours, which turns into a massively repetitive one after that. Yes, it has spectacular visuals, but the gameplay is just the same thing over and over again.
Tony Hawk's Project 8 misses out on the top spot by virtue of being the eighth game in the series - so you'd hope they have it right by now. After the disasterous Underground series, Project 8 takes the series back to its roots and then some. The pinnacle of skateboard gaming.
Guitar Hero 2 was fantastic fun to play this year, and is probably the game we have laughed the most playing. Multiplayer is awesome, with one person taking bass guitar and another lead - but it was let down by a bit of a poor track selection.
Splinter Cell: Double Agent was also a top game that we enjoyed, coming out on the 360 a few weeks ahead of the PC version. Whilst there were commendable efforts to bring the series back to stealth gameplay - such as the warehouse sections - these were ultimately too repetitive and the main missions still suffered from the fact it was easier to gun most people than sneak past. Still a great game, though.
In the end, our favourite game of the year was the sole reason to own a PSP - Loco Roco. Coming out in the middle of the year, it totally blew me away by being ludicrously fun, outstandingly cute and, well, being a Nintendo-like game for the PSP. It had a fantastic soundtrack, great visuals, and put a platformer spin on a fundamentally puzzle-based game. It was so different from anything else all year - again, real innovation - that it was compulsively addictive. Playing it through to completion was immensley satisfying, especially with the knowledge that none of the poor Loco Rocos have been left behind. You did save them all, right?