30. Assassin's Creed
Alec Meer: Realised the city-running concept beautifully, but its crimes upon storytelling are unforgivable. What annoyed me the most, though, was how it constantly, unnecessarily reminded me that I was actually boring future-guy in an VR machine, even between the unskippable and monstrously tedious exposition - electronic auras around NPCs, the Memory Not Retrieved electro-barriers to stop me reaching certain parts of the city... Whenever I started to feel comfortable in Altair's skin, the game would then inexplicably go out of its way to slap me around the face and remind me that I wasn't, in fact, a superfly 12th century assassin.
Kieron Gillen: Currently resting in the part of my brain where I keep the answer to the question "What is the most beautiful game ever?" Perversely, I like it best as a casual game - it's not something which stands up to lengthy sessions. In an hour burst, it's oddly relaxing. And I can sit on a ledge overlooking Damascus all day. That said, the sci-fi wrapper is the single worst idea of this gaming year.
Simon Parkin: All of Tom's reservations and criticisms in his review were right and true and will stand the test of time (unlike those of, say, Penny Arcade). But there's still something in me that wants to tell everybody that they should play the game if only to see twelfth century Damascus. It's an astonishing moment in videogames: when you first top the hill and see the city stretching out in front of you, bustling with reality and the rich sights and smells of historical unfamiliarity. Then later as you squeeze through its tight and busy side streets there's a revelation as to how narrow and unimaginative most of videogaming's 3D settings have been thus far. Then, when you're hassled by some beggar for spare change deep in Jerusalem's back alleys you can literally ask yourself "What Would Jesus Do!?" Before throwing them to the ground for the achievement points, obv.
Tom Bramwell: You dirty thief I'll have your hand for that!
Jim Rossignol: Great Medieval free-running game, shame about everything else. What were Ubisoft thinking?
Tom Bramwell: What with all the excitement about this not being the most amazing thing in the history of things which are amazing, the fact we rather liked it seems to have been glossed over. But we did! Yes it's stupidly repetitive, and the simon-says assassinations and narrative structure are a bit calamitous and self-defeating (compare the overall Third Crusade arc to BioShock, for example), but if you invest yourself in the world and suspend your disbelief willingly, rather than demanding that it's done on your behalf, then there's a great deal of fun to be had. It also puts a lot of other game engines to complete shame, and there's even something comically lovable about the absurd NPC dialogue.
Rich Leadbetter: Many games have attempted to realise a 'living, breathing world' within the digital domain but this game is the first to successfully pull it off. The technology on display in Assassin's Creed is obviously astonishing; I just wish that it wasn't crammed with so many basic schoolboy errors in terms of game design. The fact that you've seen all but one of the mission variations by the time you've made your first assassination is shocking. Regardless, the environments, the level of interaction, the control system, the excellent combat and the need to see everything were more than enough to keep me playing right through to the end. Regardless of my issues with this game, the inevitable sequel is one of my most anticipated games of 2008 - I just hope Ubisoft get some decent game designers and PS3 programmers on the case next time around.
John Walker: I tried hiding in some hay when chased by the police and it didn't work at all. Ubisoft, you'll be hearing from my lawyers.
Kristan Reed: Visually astounding, but just quite...dull. I'm picking my way through this at the moment, and all the time I just want to go and play Prince of Persia instead. The openworld might make it a great game to show off, but the missions just haven't really engaged me so far. Unlike the other other openworld hitman game, Crackdown, I don't feel empowered by the freedom, but that I'm having my time wasted by having to traipse around everywhere. I'm also quite tired of being chased by guards for the crime of running around.
Keza MacDonald: What infuriates me about this is that it plays the game for you. I never felt like I was actually allowed to interact with this beautiful world; neither fighting nor free-running actually involves much input at all. Any idiot can press A and run forward to get to the top of even the highest tower - it hardly imbues one with a sense of achievement. Also, allowing you to move around during a cut-scene does not make it interactive, and is fast becoming one of my many personal hatreds.
29. God Hand
Capcom / Clover Studio / PS2
Kieron Gillen: If you took Operator's Please "It's just a song about Ping Pong" and replaced "Ping Pong" with "Fighting", you'd end up with God Hand. One of the many games I wish I had more of a chance to play this year, if only because I could end up saying something something like this. Except in a nasaly midlands accent.
Dan Whitehead: Arse. I completely forgot this came out this year. I wish more games involved this much deranged humour. And spanking.
Jim Rossignol: This game is ridiculous. I couldn't recommend it to anyone, and yet it's still one of the greatest games ever made.
28. Trauma Center: Second Opinion
Nintendo / Atlus / Wii
Keza MacDonald: Yay! Nobody else is going to comment on this properly, are they? Fine. Like Zack & Wiki, this proves that third-party developers can use the Wii properly, and is a fine example of what the console is for. Despite the inevitable waves of dross that accompany the most successful consoles, I really believe in the Wii, and Mario Galaxy, Zack and Wiki and Trauma Centre have reassured me greatly during 2007. This is the most tense and urgent game I've ever played, and as close to being a proper doctor as I'd ever want to get. It demands quick thinking, quicker reactions and a great appreciation for hysterical Japanese storytelling. Like Phoenix Wright, it's often a hilarious parody of its real-life inspiration - where Wright features clueless judges, completely baseless accusations and masked impostors as prosecution attorneys, Trauma Centre has lasering viruses to death and operating on a bomb and magic live-saving healing gel. I love it to pieces and am currently slicing my way through the sequel.
John Walker: I know that even mentioning that Wii/wee jokes are old hat is old hat, but come on: Trauma Center Wee. That's funny.
Kieron Gillen: I like slicing people up.
27. God of War 2
Sony / Santa Monica Studio / PS2
Kristan Reed: If anyone's doubting the PS3's prowess, they might want to take a look at what this game did for the PS2 seven years into its lifespan. Absolutely unbelievable graphics layered on top of the most satisfying and accessible hackandslash gameplay ever conceived. In my personal top ten, and second only to Okami as the PS2 game of the year.
Jim Rossignol: Violence! More violence! Push-button violence! Brilliant.
Kieron Gillen: The definitive moment with GoW was before I even played it, forcing Rossignol to watch a video of the initial Colossus fight. And then I had to convince him that it wasn't for the PS3. A technical tour de force marred by vile difficulty spikes.
Matt Martin: Not as fresh as the first, I'd rather have a Primal sequel from Sony (only kidding). I'd rather have a Rise to Honor sequel.
Rob Fahey: I threw a brand new PS2 pad across the room and smashed it (I meant to hit a cushion, honest) during that last boss battle's crappy quick- time-event button mash fest. I never finished the game. Seriously, God of War is great - it's visceral, atmospheric and hugely impressive when it gets into its stride - but QTEs suck. And blow. And then suck some more.
26. Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction
Sony / Insomniac / PS3
Tom Bramwell: I almost let this pass me by. Almost. I'm glad I didn't - always destined to come second in a new-Mario year, it's still one of the most amusing and enjoyable Western platform games ever, and even in light of the plumber's starry turn still has a lot of funny and ingenious ideas to share with you. And Captain Qwark.
Kristan Reed: Essentially a high-def remake, but still a fantastic platform shooter with some excellent highlights. The second best PS3 game out, currently.
Tom Bramwell: Apart from GripShift. Oh no! I forgot to vote for GripShift!
Simon Parkin: Judging by Metacritic all reviewers other than our own David McCarthy are knobbers. No it's not 'just their opinion': they're categorically wrong because Bladestorm is empirically brilliant. Reinventing both Koei's unique and recognisable brand of sprawling battlefield epic as well as the events of the 100 Years War the game transcends genre to create something wholly distinct and fresh from the rest of gaming. If you were put off by the demo then please take a chance the full game in the New Year as this is important and interesting: two rarities in videogames.
Kristan Reed: Seriously? I might have to take it out of the shrink-wrap then...
Tom Bramwell: GripShift! GripShift GripShift GripShift!
EA / Crytek / PC
Tom Bramwell: GripShift!
Kristan Reed: Another 'wish I had a decent PC' title. Soon. Soon.
Kieron Gillen: Don't hate Crysis because she's beautiful. Love her, because she does the open level thing like nobody else. Up the difficulty level, think on your feet and you get something that's as improvisational as anything else. While I understand when Halo fans talk about how they can approach a conflict in so many ways, I can't help but think that if they played the best sections of Crysis their cerebellum would explode from their ears or something.
John Walker: It's pretty much all about the punching down buildings and chopping up trees for me. And that's enough.
Rob Fahey: Yeah, I'll probably pass on paying 2000 pounds to play a fairly generic looking FPS game, thanks all the same. I'm all for pushing the boundaries of technology, but Crytek have succeeded in making a game that most people won't even think of playing until the hardware it needs drops in price - by which point the game will be a fiver in the bargain bins. Doh.
Alec Meer: I had a whale of a time pushing the demo to its limits, but the final game quickly felt clinical and artificial, even before it descended into pointless alien gibberish. There's a lack of character to it - I just don't care about who or where or why I am, and the scope for sandbox'o'death isn't enough to compensate for that.
23. The Darkness
Rob Fahey: I know at least two people who stopped playing The Darkness because it "wasn't scary enough". These people are idiots. The whole point is that the tables are turned - you get to play the scary monster, the thing that goes bump in the night and then impales you on a writhing tentacle of demonic flesh while simultaneously eating your mother's face. On that front, bloody brilliant. And having that bloke from Faith No More howling "feed me with murder!" in your ear helps, too.
Alec Meer: Yes, the watching telly on the sofa bit was pretty incredible, but I'm genuinely surprised this made the top 50.
Matt Martin: Started well but those tentacles did my head in. I'd like to think I'll go back to it, but I doubt it.
Kristan Reed: In what was a fine year for shooters, Starbreeze was smartest of all for releasing this well ahead of the onslaught. Didn't quite live up to its heady promise thanks to some horrible interlude levels and strangely empty cities, but when it got into its stride it was damn near one of the most engaging games of the year.
Dan Whitehead: God, this game bored me titless. The ooh dark and scary storyline and voice acting made me lol like a monkey, while the spookily empty levels just left me itching for something to do. And what's the point of giving the player all these groovy demon powers if the gameplay never actually requires you to use them in interesting ways? And don't get me started on the ending. Three cheers for games that finally let you do the cool stuff you've been waiting for all game...in a non-interactive cut-scene. Bravo.
Kieron Gillen: I like The Darkness. I like the setting. I like the character. I like the chopped-up WW1 soldiers. I liked that scene. I liked the tentacle-rape undertones. But it's no Crysis and my peers need to be beaten for voting it above it.
Tom Bramwell: I played it for half an hour, turned off the console and never turned it back on again. Literally - my 360 died after I finished playing the first bit The Darkness. The disc lies in there, entombed, which is the sort of gothy destiny the greasy Neil from The Young Ones muppet in the lead role probably wanted.
Simon Parkin: There's a moment, deep in the final act of The Darkness. You've followed your nemesis, Paulie Franchetti back to his mansion - the man who murdered your girlfriend Jenny in front of you and probably raped your kitten or something too. You've killed 8 million henchmen with esoteric tentacle weapons of unspeakable evil and you're wearily scaling the winding staircase of a dusty bell tower for the final confrontation. When you get to the last room he's there, wounded and pathetic, shuffling on his backside away from you. A cut-scene plays and then the game presses interactivity back into your hands. It's you and him and he's half-dead and powerless and you're not. I literally held my breath, hoping that, after 15 hours of super-violence on this ugly revenge rollercoaster there might finally be some small moment of redemption. I walked around the room, searching for some ingenious narrative side-door to open and escape through; some way to end the game without the need of a bullet. That there wasn't one and I had to pull the trigger in cold blood was perhaps my biggest gaming disappointment of the year.
22. World in Conflict
Sierra / Massive / PC
Alec Meer: The best explosions of 2007. Probably of 2008, too.
Kristan Reed: A game I'd love to play if I had a PC capable of running it.
Tom Bramwell: Before you think about giving him your sympathy, readers, bear in mind that Kristan recently upgraded his 50-inch 720p plasma TV to a 50-inch 1080p LCD TV. No wonder he can't afford anything.
Kieron Gillen: My favourite RTS of the last twelve months. Picking up where the Ground Controls left off, it takes its online-shooter... but an RTS multiplayer idea and goes wild with it. The single-player game, while agreeably Hollywood, is a little shallow, but the subtle interplay of the online arena took up far too much of my time. Also, reigning champion in the ongoing best in-game nuclear explosion.
Dan Whitehead: Like Herbert West and his fluorescent syringe, any game that can make the desiccated corpse of real-time strategy look vibrant and hungry is more than worthy of big, big praise.
Jim Rossignol: Less like a game, more like an elegy to the World War III that never was. Sigh.
21. World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade
Blizzard / PC
Kieron Gillen: The only thing I don't like about those first twenty Draenei levels is that I've no idea how to spell "Draenei".
Oli Welsh: It's like World of Warcraft, but better. In space. This is how expansions should be done. It would have been easy for Blizzard to get comfortable on their giant beanbag stuffed with laurels, but in fact there isn't a single aspect of WOW that wasn't affected and improved by Burning Crusade. The game continues to tower above the rest of the MMO competition where it matters: artwork, accessibility, sense of place and character, richness of storytelling, inter-class dynamics. The Blood Elf starting areas in particular are a perfectly formed and richly satisfying RPG experience in their own right. And the music, God, the music. It's a dead heat between Mario Galaxy and Burning Crusade for soundtrack of the year, but one thing's for sure, they're both all-time classics.
Rob Fahey: It certainly wasn't all things to all men - given the size of WoW's player base, it couldn't be - but I remain a huge fan of the Burning Crusade. The new zones were beautiful, the new raid dungeons vastly impressive - and the whole thing kept WoW fresh and interesting for yet another year. Mission accomplished.
Alec Meer: I spent almost as much time playing this as I did sleeping this year, and the sense of accomplishment is roughly equal.