So then, Eurogamer's Top 50 Games of 2007.
The main administrative point worth making is helpfully illustrated by the fact that it became apparent in our voting that people wanted to separate The Orange Box into its constituent parts. The dissenters in that debate were Face-Off Hero Richard Leadbetter and Eurogamer's publisher Patrick Garratt. Rich's seemingly not unreasonable point, and I might as well quote his email, was that "while Portal would score highly if it was a solus release (perhaps XBLA or PSN), I can't believe that it would be high up were it not for the company it is keeping in The Orange Box", and that "it meant more contributors played it [than otherwise would have]".
This is true, but our argument with the EG Top 50 has always been that it should reflect how we play games, how we choose to play games, and how we are compelled - professionally, financially or otherwise - to split our time across games, so that it reflects how we spent our year as much as our preferences. Facts like Orange Box's weighting of people's reaction and exposure to Portal, Half-Life 2: Episode Two or Team Fortress 2 are important things to demonstrate, rather than blemishes to try and iron out - if only because ironing them out would be far more arbitrary, whereas including them has meaning.
So, as we often point out, the EG Top 50 is not definitive. Top 50 lists never will be unless they fairly reflect what everyone who plays games thinks, and even then they will be open to criticism because not everyone has played everything. The point of ours is to show you how we approached, digested and now view 2007 collectively. And so we can argue with Alec Meer about how much he likes Peggle. Hopefully you will enjoy the result, and it will give you a better understanding of the site's contributors in the year ahead, as well as something new with which to beat us from here on out.
50. Stuntman Ignition
Kristan Reed: Surprised? Don't be. There's not another game like it on the market, and it manages to deliver on what Reflections was trying to achieve on the PS2 five years ago. The stop-start memory game nature of the gameplay makes it quite irritating to begin with, but once you get in the zone, it's probably the best "pass the pad" game I've played in years. Spent ten hours straight playing this until 1AM the other night, if that's any clue as to how moreish this deceptive little game is. Pick it up in the bargain bins and be glad you did.
Kieron Gillen: I have to question the wisdom of a designer who thinks it's a good idea to put insta-kill lava on the first track, because that's not my idea of crazy-love time. If you get past that initial eye-rolling, it's a decent enough racing game which pursues its twist with vigour. In short, fun, but no Sumotori Dreams, that's for sure.
Rich Leadbetter: Reflections' original concept was excellent, but its totally unforgiving 'you're shit at games' implementation went down like a cup of cold sick - Ignition is the game it should have been. Easily accessible, great fun, and equipped with masses of replayability as standard, this is a bargain bin essential for 360 owners (it's toss on PS3, alas). A less than refined game engine prone to slowdown is its only weakness; if this were running on, say, the Burnout platform, it would easily be up there in the top 20.
49. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2
John Walker: In the name of all things shiny, don't play the PC version. Being such a PC-ite, I approached the 360 version assuming the negative, and was really blown away. The excitement of the tiniest details made it for me, like having my team-mates shout, "There's two... no three, over there, behind the red car!" Blubbwubbubb - he's right! And he felt more right for having made a mistake.
Jim Rossignol: I thought this was spectacularly boring. Characterless, toned down, lacking the balls or the brass of half the shooters this year.
Kristan Reed: The original got all the attention, but it was the far superior sequel that actually delivered on everything Ubisoft was trying to achieve with this superb tactical shooter. Minus all those ridiculous difficulty spikes and checkpointing issues which made the last one so evil, this was no great innovation, but certainly a satisfying revision. Alongside CoD 4, it made serious wargaming fun again.
48. Virtua Tennis 3
Kristan Reed: Just enough of a revision of VT2 to make it a satisfying sequel. A ton of mini-games, and online play (if you could actually get a lag-free game going) made it worthwhile.
47. SEGA Rally
Kristan Reed: Evidently a real marmite game. I realise some of you think I'm a loony for giving this a 9, but it's one of those games that you don't really 'get' until you've invested a long time into it. The importance of the track deformation technology at the heart of the game might not necessarily be apparent to begin with, but the more you play it, the more you realise it's no stupid gimmick. With rumble also a key factor, it was, to my mind the best arcade racer I've played since Burnout 2.
Tom Bramwell: I was smitten with this after a day at SEGA Racing Studio playing the same three or four tracks over and over. But when I finally had a bash on the retail version during a couple of sick days (shh - don't tell), I thought it rather bland and unremarkable. Bashing people was much too effective, and the relationship between particular environments and the cars' handling seemed less pronounced than it had during an excitable afternoon in Birmingham. I know Kristan loves it, and it's certainly good, but I felt no compunction to return to it after a few hours booting around the early championships.
Simon Parkin: The 'arcade racing' term is essentially meaningless (or at very least misleading). It's really a catch-all classification for racing games that feature cars that don't really handle like cars. This is either because the developer couldn't really be bothered to approximate what the real cars do (or couldn't afford to find out) or because they thought they could do better. In SEGA Rally's case it is surely the latter: the game is a riot of fun. Who needs reams of proprietary statistical read-outs pulled from real-track vehicle testing when all players really want to do is tear across the Serengeti kicking dust or mud up into their purser's windscreen?
46. Rock Band
Tom Bramwell: Rock Band has rocked/stage-dived/bitten-the-head-off-a-batted its way into the top fives of a lot of US-centric end-of-year game lists, so its placement low down the list may puzzle a few of our foreign friends. The reason is that I'm the only one here who owns it. It's not very easy to get hold of in the UK, and the teething problems with hardware are an additional level of put with which to be off. Conceivably, then, you might never read an end-of-year feature on Eurogamer where we try and stack this against its semi-direct competition, SingStar PS3 and Guitar Hero III. Unless of course you read this sentence, where I point out that I prefer the flawed Guitar Hero III for guitar, SingStar PS3 for karaoke, and Rock Band for playing Rock Band. I only wish that Activision and Harmonix/MTV would sort out the wretched patch issue so I could play it with the former's Gibson Les Paul, which is a much more refined plastic axe, and one with which I'm far more comfortable. Certainly as an attempt to impede sales of Rock Band it seems stupid for Activision to withhold permission - granted, GH3-owning PS3 gamers might be more inclined to dabble in Rock Band's solus release if the guitar were compatible, but a) how are you losing business from people who have already bought your product, and b) what's wrong with letting them use your toy in preference to MTV's, because surely their actions have a good chance of rubbing off on their friends?
Kieron Gillen: Clearly, only Tom's played this. Bloody EG awards voting system thingy.
Keza MacDonald: I've played it too! Admittedly it was Tom's copy, and I didn't exactly get to play it through to completion, but as a single-player experience this might as well be Drum Hero. The guitars are completely broken and aren't a patch on Guitar Hero, and singing on your own is a bit depressing. I think the problem is that it does everything, but it doesn't do anything exceptionally well, with the notable exception of the drums - it feels half-finished, experimental, rough around the edges and afraid of getting too difficult, rather like the original Guitar Hero. With its multiplayer focus, it's a bit stuck between pick-up-and-play party game and classic Harmonix, pure rhythm-action gamer's game. But, just like its spiritual predecessors, the infectious joy of making music means that its faults melt away in a wave of adrenaline once you get into it, and as a multiplayer pretend-music experience it's simply without comparison. It's far less suited to rock posturing and showing-off than Guitar Hero is - but then, there's always the (much higher-placed, ha!) GH3 for that.
Kristan Reed: Santa's bringing me this, isn't he? Can't wait to try the drums...
Tom Bramwell: Yes - the secret truth is that I bought Rock Band for Kristan. Ladies - this is the sort of amazingness you're missing.
45. The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar
Codemasters Online Gaming / Turbine / PC
John Walker: It's quite clear that Tolkien was ripping off Blizzard, and he should be ashamed.
Kieron Gillen: It's a solid enough MMO, but that it's included only shows what a weak year it's been for the genre. That the first thing I think of when I look back on my time with the game is the fact you can play the instruments on your keyboard says how genuinely uninspired it is. It's like your favourite bits of the books being Tolkein's terrible songs or something. And the hobbit-forming puns! Man!
Rob Fahey: It should, by all rights, have been a total car crash of an MMO - but LOTRO was actually that rarest of things, a polished, playable and hugely enjoyable MMO at launch. It's not about to kick WoW off the throne, but it's a damned good second option, and a great place to start in MMOs for those who haven't touched gaming's equivalent of Class A drugs just yet.
44. Tomb Raider Anniversary
Kristan Reed: Okay, the 360 port wasn't nearly as good as it could have been (though did have achievements as a nice carrot...) but based on the PC version, this was, along with Uncharted, the best action adventure of the year, and thoroughly deserving of its 9/10.
Jim Rossignol: Seriously?
John Walker: Approaching the game with no nostalgia for the original (I began my journey with Lara with TR2, which was also a completely wonderful game), it certainly felt a little more hollow than Legend. Losing the crew may have given the game a more solitary atmosphere, but it also lost the wonderful sense of humour that had been added. Thankfully, the level design was superb, and while the T-Rex encounter was a boring boss, the rest of the game, and especially that level, offered a proper joy of exploration. But bring back the gags.
Tom Bramwell: Based on my experience hopping through the first quarter of this on the PC (the port for which is amazing, by the way), it's good, but John's right that it feels quite lonely and humourless. Kristan vehemently disagrees with me when I criticise it, so let's do some more of that: the Xbox 360 release is technically appalling. Next to Assassin's Creed's engine, it's gone flying into a cocked hat so hard it's knocked the bottom out and sent wicker flying into my eye, and now I'm dead. So, er, play it on the PC. Perhaps with Radio 4 comedy on in the background.
Microsoft / Big Huge Games / Xbox Live Arcade
Tom Bramwell: I have no idea whether this is good, but I would like to say that Carcassonne definitely is!
Rob Fahey: Personally, I thought the Live version of Catan was a bit disappointing. It's a great game, but it just didn't translate terribly well onto the console - in stark contrast to the brilliant version of Carcassonne, which was a perfect example of how to make board games work on Live.
Alec Meer: Not quite as riotously entertaining as the boozy tile-collecting and arguing about sheep I occasionally meet up with a few Settlers-loving friends for, but pretty damn close, even down the AI suddenly getting stroppy. This is the kind of thing I want to see more on Xbox Live Arcade, not poxy Pac-Man and Double Dragon remakes.
42. Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions
Square Enix / PSP
Simon Parkin: Old, grouchy and mean to the kids this, the grandfather of Nippon Ichi's upstart SRPGs, is still a bewitching place to visit. Its mechanics are solid, reliable and just flexible enough to be interesting; its story is ambitious, verbose but compelling; it's diminutive sprites and artwork fizz with life and personality. If it weren't for Disgaea this would comfortably be the system's best title.
Rob Fahey: Arguably one of the best things ever to come from the Final Fantasy franchise. It was great to go back to FFT after almost ten years and discover that I hadn't been remembering it through rose-tinted glasses - it really was as complex, involving, beautifully presented and utterly addictive as my memory claimed.
41. Picross DS
Nintendo / DS
Tom Bramwell: Slitherlink is my puzzle game of the year (but did it make the top 50? FIND OUT LATER), but Picross is a close second. For the uninitiated, a certain number of squares on the big grid in front of you are meant to be shaded in, and your only clue as to which ones is a sequence of numbers next to each row and above each column, which tell you how they will be grouped without giving away the actual position. When you solve the puzzle, the result is a silly little picture. Hence Picross. The DS implementation doesn't make the best use of the screen - offering a zoomed-out view that forces you to squint and a zoomed-in view that gets too close - and the punishments for mistakes, as opposed to errant guesses, are harsh, but the act of playing it is almost endlessly rewarding. The promise of downloadable puzzles hasn't been realised as well as it might have been - unless it's improved considerably since I last glanced - but with so much on the cart you'd have to be seriously moany to complain. Like me.
John Walker: If I had my act together, I'd have attempted a coup of Picross DS to have it replaced with the latest Illust Logic from Slitherlink gurus Hudson. While Picross DS offers all those charming extras like daily puzzles and various downloads, there's something far more comfortable and entertaining about Hudson's Japanese-only version. So I thought I'd hijack this comment to promote it, and simultaneous pitch a review to Tom and Kristan.
Kristan Reed: Best puzzle game on the DS for me.