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20. Condemned 2: Bloodshot
Kristan Reed: Were it not for a couple of dodgy levels, this would have been even higher on my list. Monolith really built on the promise of the original with what must go down as one of the ugliest, most harrowingly brutal action games ever made. Beating up deranged tramps with pipes has never been so much fun.
Dan Whitehead: I haven't played this, but I thought the first game was laughably stupid and squandered a potentially interesting forensic adventure on clumsy hobo-mashing amid Silent Hill's leftover texture maps. It seems the sequel simply ramps up all the stuff I thought was idiotic first time around, so I'm in no hurry to find out if it's truly one of the twenty best games of the year. Is it? Is it really?
John Walker: The first Condemned was so dull. Kristan and I will one day have to fight about this in a disused car-park, attacking each other with rusty pipes and road signs, until either one of us is dead or has killed enough innocent tramps to be satiated. So yeah, I didn't get around to this.
Simon Parkin: Monolith stole the blueprint of hell and with it designed Condemned 2. A grotesque game both visually, thematically and ideologically, it trades the threat of violence and white fear that was so effective in the first game for its dumb and brutal reality, making what was terrifyingly implicit and making it plainly explicit. The linear path, forcing you to behave in monstrous ways without rhyme, reason or wit makes this the gaming equivalent of torture porn. Meritless.
Rich Leadbetter: Nobody's managed to match the brutality of melee combat quite as well as the creators of Condemned. This is a fine sequel, soiled somewhat by the utterly bizarro space aliens 'climax'.
19. Tomb Raider Underworld
Kristan Reed: Aha! Another chance to throw Lara to her death. Excellent! This is miles better than Legend. By building on the more exploratory approach of Anniversary and giving the series the best game engine by a mile, Crystal Dynamics delivered what amounts to the first 'proper' new Tomb Raider since 1999's Last Revelation. Apart from that ridiculous swimming bit near the beginning, it's got everything you want in a Lara game - great controls, taxing puzzles and oodles of atmosphere. Inevitably the combat's still rubbish, but hey.
Johnny Minkley: What a dreadful way to open a game. The first hour or so before you get to the island and the first major temple is tedious, clumsy, embarrassing nonsense. The running and gunning on the boat - are you having a laugh, Crystal Dynamics? But after that, it hits its stride and I really enjoyed the vast, multi-faceted puzzles - an impressive evolution of the core TR experience and a fine balance between challenge and reward.
Ellie Gibson: In retrospect, I still think I gave this game the right score, but I should have been more vocal in my review about the good bits. As a long-term Tomb Raider fan, I suspect I tend to take the better aspects for granted these days. Underworld is a good game with some great high points, especially if you love Lara, and I'm sorry I didn't convey that better.
Simon Parkin: Some critics have misconstrued Underworld's precision and polish for soullessness and yes, there are times when the design's meticulous order robs its world of credibility. But really this is a game of supreme competence, executed by a developer that understands its heroine and the laws of her universe in full. The game suffers in some ways by comparison to newcomer rival Drake's Fortune, both in terms of script writing and gunplay, but Lara's latest contains enough jewels of its own to be an expedition worth undertaking.
John Walker: The entire world has gone bats*** insane. Look at the reviews for this, and the reviews for the dreadful Prince of Persia, and then bang your head against a wall until you're dead. This is the best Tomb Raider has ever been, and I'm losing my mind over people's false memories of the original games, and the lack of recognition for the astonishing architecture and puzzle design here. It's epic. The story is complete toss, which is a colossal shame after Legend set things up so nicely. But this is a game about solving puzzles the size of hillsides while fluidly and beautifully leaping about. That POP could get higher review scores while being so loathsomely stupid as to be a series of tediously connected boss fights, and Tomb Raider could have the balls to include not one single boss encounter but instead replace them with elaborate and ingenious challenges and not get championed, makes me want to set fire to all of gaming.
Tom Bramwell: I have a soft spot for platform games that take you on an acrobatic cruise through gorgeous, untouched mysteries of the past, and then miraculously deposit you in just the right position to proceed once all the requisite buttons have been pushed and idols slid into their mossy holes. There's a lot of stupid rubbish in Underworld, but nobody outside Crystal Dynamics still manages the above - even the excellent Uncharted.