Kristan Reed: Quad bikes with SSX tricks meet lovely game engine. Up there with GRID and Burnout as the must-have racing games of the year.
Christian Donlan: A lovely surprise, and the kind of game that's going to have a core group of very devoted fans for years to come, hopefully. Turned quads from an instrument of celebrity mishap into something a little more likable.
Kieron Gillen: I had no idea. It's good then?
Alec Meer: SSX with ATVs, and a solid giggle for it. The PC port was a joke, however - the main menu took longer to load than the levels themselves. Which is kind of like packet of crisps taking longer to open than to eat. Honestly publishers, if you can't be bothered to properly optimise console ports for PC, just don't bother - otherwise it'll sell badly, suffer low reviews and you'll knee-jerk proclaim the PC is a dying waste of time. Also, any children you have will be half-wits. Only you can save them, by not being a lazy miser.
Simon Parkin: ATV games are so often presented with the exclamation-point superlatives of the extreme sports vernacular, graphic design hype overcompensating for the underwhelming experience beneath the presentation. Pure is different. The lingering descents from mountaintops are two parts F-Zero, one part Pilotwings, those slow-motion moments spent soaring through blue, blue skies providing relief from the hot roar of engines that will resume as soon as you hit the ground below. The ATV-creation system, which could so easily have been over fussy and tiresome, is executed with thought and elegance and the racing that these elements dress is never short of spectacular.
Rich Leadbetter: While we wait for EA to resurrect SSX, Pure will do just fine. I mean, to all intents and purposes, it is SSX, just with quad bikes. It's also a technically superb game that's beautiful to look at. I've seen this available to buy online for 10 quid, officially making it the bargain of the year.
23. Race Driver: GRID
Simon Parkin: Codemasters' delightful antidote to the earnestness of Gran Turisma and Forza was, for me, a rediscovery of what racing games can best offer. Service to realism can only provide so much enjoyment, and only to a niche audience at that. GRID, by contrast, delights in its videogame-ness, offering, without apology, an exaggerated, accessible version of the sport. The reapplication of Prince of Persia's time-rewind function was clever, the races in which you compete with and against a team-mate ingenious but, most of all, GRID polishes the rough potential of Colin McRae's DiRT into a bright diamond.
Oli Welsh: Not the best year for driving games, but GRID stood tall. TOCA fans understandably felt let down by the simplified handling, but once you got over it there was plenty of fun to be had with its sticky, tyre-smoking bump and grind. Over and above that, the structure, graphics, presentation, AI aggression and sheer sense of trackside drama all broke new ground, which bodes well for Codemasters finally making a Formula One game the whole world can enjoy in 2009.
Kristan Reed: Codies never seems to get the credit it deserves for the Race Driver games, but GRID seemed to be a bit of a breakthrough release on that score. In an era when racing games are struggling to offer anything new, the rewind mechanic was an interesting and brave move.
Alec Meer: Would be my favourite racing game of the year, were it not for TrackMania: Hugely Confusing Subtitle #12. The sim crowd can't stand it, but it hit just the right middle ground for me. Tellingly, I've reached for a time-rewind button that isn't there in every racing game I've played since. It seems such an obvious inclusion that I remain stunned it's not been around forever.
22. Far Cry 2
Kristan Reed: Lovely game world, solid gameplay, soulless characters. Coming to this after Fallout 3 was a massive comedown, but I'm determined to come back to it.
Christian Donlan: Struggles to hide the fact that you're a heavily-armed errand boy, and makes the bizarre choice of regularly punishing you for exploring, but it's strangely classy nonetheless, and not just because it wants you to know it's read Heart of Darkness and underlined all the "deep" bits.
Jim Rossignol: Okay, so this received a bit of a mixed reception, but I'm happy to be an apologist. Out of my gamer friends, I'd say only about a third actually liked it. Which is a shame, because I think if you roll with it, and get past the deranged AI and world-of-ATTACK you find yourself faced with in outside towns, then there's a game with an entire ecosystem of atmospheric experiences, and scope for John Rambo levels of cartoon death-mongering. Charging into an enemy camp with a flamethrower, a shotgun, and no real plan, is always the best way to approach any situation. It's a genuine shame that the same can't be said of real life.
Kieron Gillen: My favourite first-person shooter of the year, I think, if only because it's the one which genuinely tried. Well, that's not true - that's just a pretty phrase. I respect it because it tried. I love it because of being dragged away from the frontline by a buddy, with a big piece of shrapnel through my chest, watching my battered car explode, igniting the grass-fields. It's the best shooter set-piece the year offered me, and it wasn't even a set-piece. It was just something that happened. Something awesome that happened.
Alec Meer: I feel a little alone in loathing this. The crazyhyperspeedacting is something that forbids my picky sensibilities from forming any sense of association with the world, and the Respawning Checkpoints Of Death make for a game that's so entirely mechanical that playing it feels futile. I know there's clever stuff in there, but whenever I try to play it I just hit this wall of artificiality that drives me away instantly.
John Walker: It's funny how everyone says the same thing about some good games. Like Mirror's Edge - wouldn't it have been great without the combat? It's mysterious to me how a development studio can spend years creating a game, and somehow not pick up on the one thing everyone's going to say about it when it's out. Such insular development is so maddeningly stupid. Why the constantly respawning guard posts? Just why?
Tom Bramwell: The modern Ubisoft averages one or two daring, fascinating games a year, and does them with blockbuster production values, and while it invariably gets stuff wrong, it's getting better at getting things right. Perhaps the highest praise for this is that it's an FPS sequel made by a different developer, but nobody even mentions that any more.
21. RedLynx Trials 2: Second Edition
RedLynx / PC
Johnny Minkley: I had to Google this, for God's sake.
Rob Purchese: RedLynx Trials 2 put our office in a state of competitive frenzy, so much so that we now have a flag on the wall. It's the only thing on the wall. I also recorded the fourth-fastest time for the tutorial level on the internet one evening and I was ever so proud. Even if I wasn't in the top 20 the next morning.
Kieron Gillen: As archetypal a videogame as that one with a square pixel rebounding between two extended rectangular arrays of pixels, updated to modern technology - proper physics, online scoreboards, auto-sharing and downloadable ghost modes, amusingly brutal ragdolls - and released into the wilds of the internet. It's the sort of game which makes me want to take anyone who says there's only strategy games and shooters on the PC, put them on a motorbike and force them to ride across a series of precariously constructed beams, barrels and general death-traps.
Alec Meer: I am so crap at this it's not even funny. I adore watching people play it, however.
Tom Bramwell: This saved my life. Having flown somewhere to meet friends, I found myself trapped in a boring hotel in a boring town for two days afterwards, but then Kieron put me on to Trials 2, and by the end I was gutted to have to leave at all. Then I almost missed my flight home playing it in the departure lounge, and turned two people onto it on the plane. And this was before I could hook it up to the net and beat my friends at it. I then spent the next few weeks probing ghost downloads and manipulating the physics to strip another fraction of a second away and top the office leaderboard. For long-time EG readers, this was 2008's Slitherlink.
And we'll be back tomorrow with 20-11. It's getting real.
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