30 Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
PS2, Xbox, Cube / Vivendi / Radical
8/10 (Kristan), Game page
Kristan: Unexpectedly ace, Radical's smash-'em-up was easily the super hero game of the year (in a year full of the blessed things), taking the openworld premise and building a decent, rewarding and relentless entertaining all-action title that rights the wrongs of previous efforts.
Throughout, Radical encourages the player to buy and upgrade new moves, giving players an almost insane arsenal of moves and 'weaponisations' (urgh) to choose from, making the not-so-jolly green giant one of the most destructive videogame characters ever. Were it not for the dumb AI and occasional duff mission we'd have been singing its praises even more.
Tom: I still haven't had time to play this, but I thought I'd put in a word for the film. That word will be: nuanced.
Kieron: If only the Kong sections were anywhere near as visceral as Hulk's Ultimate Destruction. More than any licensed game - perhaps even more than Lego: Star Wars - this understood the appeal of hulk. Hulk is the strongest one there is! Hulk Smash! Why do puny humans not leave Hulk alone? HULK SMASH! Fade to the sound of cars bouncing off buildings and the pitter-patter of enormous green feet running up the side of a building.
29 The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure
Cube / Nintendo / Nintendo
8/10 (Tom), Game page
Tom: I didn't actually vote for this, but it did well without me. It's a bit of a chore to play through on your own, but it still manages to be better than about 500 other games released this year. Played with friends, it's utterly brilliant - managing to be co-operative and competitive at the same time, and continually tempting you to do evil things to your friends. My favourite was when I managed to nudge Rob into a hole when we could see the exit. I won. He lost.
Simon: Threatening to stab your friends in the eyeballs if they get caught in the glare of a searchlight ONE MORE TIME while bouncing off the sofa was one of 2005's best moments for me. Zelda has never been so bonding.
28 SWAT 4
PC / Vivendi / Irrational Games
8/10 (Kieron), Game page
Jim: Genuinely smart level design and a streamlined miscreant-suppression system. A murderer's basement has never been this much fun.
Kristan: Why, if this is so good, have I not played it? I seem to have played every other game ever made in the genre. This job's weird.
Tom: Not played it, but it has given me one of my biggest laughs of the year.
Kieron: Sometimes it's good to burst into a room and just spray mace in the eyes of some whiny bitch who won't assume the position until they're foetal on the floor and weeping. And if anyone even mentions police brutality, time for a little collateral damage, y'know? Aside for the pleasures of "be"ing Vic Mackey from the shield, this was full of brilliant sections from Irrational (Who, along with the sadly ignored Freedom Force versus the Third Reich, had a pretty good year in terms of quality). It's worth playing just to go through the serial killer section near the opening, where you get to mace his elderly stubborn mom. Serves her right for raising such a bastard.
27 Burnout Revenge
PS2, Xbox / EA / Criterion
8/10 (Kristan), Game page
Kristan: So good is the Burnout series that Criterion can afford to churn out another title in under a year and still beat most of its competition hands-down. While this is definitely not the best Burnout title in my opinion, it's by far the most accessible, making it possible to feel like you're a one man wrecking crew - which is kind of the point.
The controversial introduction of the Traffic Checking system makes it possible (or even a requirement) to bash as much traffic out of the way as possible, but by doing so Criterion robs the game of a certain degree of skill, and makes it way too easy to rack up an almost permanent boost. This last point, in particular, removes the huge rush you used to get from suddenly being able to launch yourself at high velocity, and as such the game's simply not quite as amazing as it once was.
Even so, Criterion has improved the overall structure and progression system massively, got rid of the irritating commentator bloke and delivered something that’s absurdly good to look at from a technical standpoint (easily the best in its field). Elsewhere, Crash mode is much better this year, as is the online play - though the Guildford team still needs to learn the value of integrating the single-player experience into the online play. If only Criterion could add a 'classic' mode for us old school Burnout 2 fans, this would be utterly essential.
Tom: My favourite "Burnout moment" of the year was the Eurogamer Christmas day-out go-karting when I broke my flipping hand. (And then finished fourth.)
Kieron: Here we go, way to fast, don't slow down, or we're gonna cr-a-a-ash. Again.
26 WarioWare Twisted
GBA / Nintendo / Nintendo
9/10 (Kristan), Game page
Kristan: After the relative disappointment of WarioWare Touched!, the arrival of this gyroscopic sequel on GBA made up for that in some style. Delivering yet another hint of Nintendo's bold new direction, this mini-game compendium threw out traditional controls in favour of a motion-sensitive system where twisting the actual console itself directed the action on-screen. Not only was it hugely effective, it made Twisted a unique title that built on the already compelling premise of short, sharp bursts of reaction-based micro-gaming. If you don't get any joy out of this game, it's probably time to check your heart's actually beating.
Martin: I know 'innovative control systems' is something of a cliché to explain why we remain Nintendo fans in the face of their seemingly suicidal behaviour. But this game, like the DS, demonstrates that when Nintendo tries new control systems, they really mean it. Twisted was so smooth, that if the Revolution is only half as responsive as this, we'll be in for a good 2006 from big-N.
Mathew: Nintendo is just intent to make us all control our games in ways other than the d-pad and buttons, and though this game does use a cart roughly the size of a brick, it succeeds admirably, having me rotate my GBA around like a loony on the bus, forever trapped in WarioWare's oscillating gameplay haikus.
Tom: I had no idea how Nintendo could do a sequel to WarioWare. When it did, and it was Touched!, I figured the Big N didn't either. Then I played this. The best bits of the repetitive Touched are just borrowed from this. Let's give it the respect it deserves: you ELBOW PEOPLE IN THE FACE WHILE PLAYING IT. I can't wait till the Revolution lets me accidentally KILL people.
Kieron: I love this and I haven't even played it. It's that sort of game.
25 Pro Evolution Soccer 5
PS2, Xbox, PC / Konami / Konami TYO
9/10 (Tom), Game page
Kristan: I wish they'd stop releasing this every year. I might be good at it by now. One day I will turn over Mr Bramwell, but that will probably require doing a job that requires not reviewing 150 games a year.
Tom: Wrong. Also: I liked this because having become incredibly popular, they went completely against the grain and made the easy bits harder. Plus, there's still no other sports game that manages to convey the range of emotions that accompany scoring like PES does. Relief, bewilderment, confusion, ecstasy, and embarrassment - they map perfectly to what it does.
24 Guild Wars
PC / NCsoft / ArenaNet
9/10 (Kieron), Game page
John: If you close your eyes and imagine that all of Guild Wars' brilliant and innovative ideas for shaking up the MMO actually translate into a moment's fun, then it's great! Don't open them, or you might notice that you can't jump, or walk down the gentlest of slopes.
Jim: I found the soft-focus fantasy stuff a bit nauseating, actually.
Kristan: I think I'm actually allergic to MMOs. Or maybe just the concept of playing one game at the expense of all the others. I mean, life's short enough as it is. It'd be like only watching one epic 3000 hour long film instead of 2000 great normal size ones.
Kieron: I suspect this comment will be surrounded by the WoW massive bitching. Let's assume it is, and so, well, they said that the static nature of a classical MMO removed the ability to tell a narrative, but when a game embraced that they were upset they couldn't jump down cliffs they just stormed off in a huff. They said that they were sick of being outclassed by people purely on how long they've played the game rather than any expertise, but in the end they preferred being ganked by pubescents in contested zones rather than risking a fair fight. They said that the slow bleed of a monthly fee was elitist, but - in the end - actually, they liked it that way. We are the generation who bought more steeds, and we'll get what we deserve.
And if this comment isn't surrounded by WoW massive bitching, Guild Wars is just lovely and deserves to be at least twenty places higher than this.
DS / Nintendo / Q Entertainment
9/10 (Tom), Game page
Martin: Twitch Gaming at its most frantic. Shame that the DS's touch-screen isn't quite accurate enough.
Kristan: Damned right it isn't. I succeeded in scribbling my way through most of this, and once I discovered that, the appeal drained away for me. Almost a classic.
Tom: I succeeded in actually not being a cynical cock and really enjoyed it. One of my favourite high score games of the year, and just SO MUCH to unlock.
22 The Movies
PC / Activision / Lionhead
8/10 (Kieron), Game page
John: I liked that one about how Molyneux hates Kieron.
Kieron: I lobbed off my girliest line of the year in my review for this - that there's no point to making a movie, except your smile. And that's the only point you need. Girly, sure, but probably the truest thing here. Across the country, people are smirking at their own badly plotted mini-epics and everyone at Lionhead should feel proud of themselves.
DS / Nintendo / Nintendo
8/10 (Ellie), Game page
Martin: This game has been something of a sensation in terms of its capacity to reach out to the other 90 per cent of the population who never play games. Nintendo should continue to pursue these people; bringing non-gamers on board could make Nintendo number one again, with a spot of careful business planning.
Mathew: My sausage dog has a big, silly floppy Mario hat, and his tongue flops out when I scratch his throat. I keep forgetting he's not real. I rush home from work just to walk him, wash him and feed him. I'm a pet owner, and I really believe it. Nintendogs isn't only an incredibly interesting virtual life - it's also almost single-handedly responsible for more girls picking up gaming again. A phenomenon.
Jim: I hate dogs.
Kristan: Dogs make cars and houses smell. Interesting fact #2: my dad used to be a dog breeder in the late 70s/early 80s, and I grew up surrounded by salivating hounds. Six of the buggers. And one of them (a hideous, nasty Alsatian called Shadow) bit my eye when I was four and you can still see the scar. Unlike Jim, I love dogs, but they smell too much. Cats, however, are evil, but don't smell (much), so get my vote.
Kieron: The one party where Singstar didn't bring the damage was a mate's in Baths. Full of games journalists - not normally the immediate death of a gathering - a small clutch took over the sofa while cooing and purring over a tiny dog trapped in a handheld console rather than party-heartying. For this, I hate Nintendogs. Also, I'm mildly aggrieved that I couldn't find a magazine to do the joke of someone putting their DS in a sack and pretending to lob it in the canal. Actually, NGC were asking me to pitch them stuff in the pub the other week. Quickly! To the Bat-e-mail.