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Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

"It's a little bit hard to work out without knowing the altitude of that dragon..."

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Reader Top 50 of 2005: 30-21

Including two of our favourite imports.

30 Forza Motorsport

Xbox / Microsoft / Microsoft

Gary Dean: "Brilliant first stab by Microsoft, hard to fault apart from annoyingly crap replays."

Saku Mikkola: "Driving at its finest. With all the performance tuning and visual personalisation options it will probably be on my top list for the year 2006."

Segnit: "My most played most loved game this year. I love you Eurogamer, I love you!" [Get off! - Ed]

What we said: "Forza succeeds by being one of the very few racing games that has the potential to appeal to all driving game fans. It'll unite the action drivers by being accessible and fun, the mod crowd for having a bewildering array of customisation options and after-market enhancements, and the hardcore simulation fanatics by its blistering attention to detail and enormous degree of challenge. With Microsoft's typically brilliant online implantation underpinning everything, alongside its determination to break technical boundaries Forza Motorsport is a quite staggering achievement for a first attempt and is a must have for any driving game fan - even if that means buying an Xbox in order to play it."

29 Football Manager 2006

PC, Mac / SEGA / Sports Interactive

What we said: "What you really want to know at the end of this dissection is whether it's worth shelling out for all over again? Yes, if you want the best version of the best football management game ever made. It would be wrong to expect some kind of radical reinvention, and once again we're firmly in 'incremental update' territory. As with almost all annual game franchises, it's a game of spot the difference, and as many changes as SI can reel off, the differences really aren’t hugely significant. That said, and curious bugs aside (that doubtlessly will be patched over and over), the best just got better. Again. Abandon hope, all ye that enters here. Let's compare addictedness ratings by Christmas..."

28 Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories

PSP / Rockstar / Rockstar Leeds

Roger Goose (hitting on what turned out to be a common theme): "You can play it on the loo."

Dave Mager: "It allowed me to justify the purchase of a PSP, to my wife. Even if it was a rubbish game (which it wasn't), that's enough to make it into my top spot!"

Jon-Michael Gibbons: "Without being a whole new GTA experience, was amazed that I could play GTA on the toilet!"

What we said: "Liberty City was where it all began - both for the series, whose original top-down effort began there, and for the Rockstar monopoly, which began with GTA3 - and its return here is the best advert yet for Sony's claims that the PSP is as powerful as the PS2. In gamey terms, its return also underscores the series' strengths, and best sums up the game's approach: not so much more of the same, but just plain the same, since you're patently not bored of the same. Not a truly outstanding new Grand Theft Auto game then, but an excellent PSP game. Although I do wonder how it'd do in a year's time."

27 Ninja Gaiden Black

Xbox / Microsoft / Tecmo

Andries Beetge: "It manages to perfect my 2004 GOTY, Ninja Gaiden, and for that I am grateful."

Craig Townsend: "A GOTY Edition, to what should have been 2004 Xbox GOTY but was pipped out by the overrated Halo 2 in some cases. Heaps of new features, spent 30 hours on story mode and at least 20 hours on missions and still going, great game."

Daylen: In one swoop Team Ninja entered and dominated the hack 'n' slash adventure genre with Ninja Gaiden. Ninja Gaiden Black pushes the game ever closer to perfection by including the fantastic Hurricane Packs and loads of more content. Climbing your way up the difficulty ladder with the skilled and versatile Ryu Hayabusa never gets dull because you're pitted against new, more cunning and aggressive enemies, and beefed-up old foes at earlier stages. No other game has ever inspired me tackle the harder difficulty levels because only NGB gives me the blood lust and desire to become more powerful. Mission Mode is a total thrill ride that'll have you yelling in excitement when you finally slaughter that boss ladder. NGB is, in this gamer's opinion, the greatest, most thrilling, most satisfying game of all time."

Ollie Fox: "Ninja Gaiden was a damn near perfect game. Ninja Gaiden Black was just perfect. Brilliantly fun combat, gorgeous graphics and this time DECAPTITATIONS ARE VERY MUCH IN. TAKE THAT YOU SQUEAMISH GERMANS."

What we said: "You've never played a game that's simultaneously as gorgeous, entertaining, inviting and downright hardcore as Ninja Gaiden. No other game manages to deliver on the potential of controlling a ninja with this much flair and authority - it is one of the finest action games ever made. Sever my spinal cord if I'm lying."

26 We Love Katamari

PS2 / Namco / Namco

James Jack: "Dares to be crazy."

Wing Cheung: "How can you not love a game which lets you roll up absolutely everything? The best section is rolling up a skinny sumo wrestler into a truly fat bastard. Simply hilarious. We Love Katamari is the dogs' testicles, and you can roll that up too."

What we said: "The problem with a universally loved game [like Katamari Damacy] is that there are so many reasons why it's loved. That's why it needed Keita Takahashi and why, however much it pained him, we're glad he agreed to do it. He's recognised that sequels to this kind of game are more likely than any to fall foul of the law of diminishing returns. We Love Katamari is distinct enough without breaking itself, and turns loving itself into a way for us to continue loving it - in the process eking about as much out of its successes as the core concept's likely to support. He hasn't made a sequel - he's made a different kind of follow-up. Given his achievements first time around, that shouldn't come as any surprise. Takahashi-san, I wanna hold your chin!"

25 Jade Empire

Xbox / Microsoft / Bioware

Felix Kemp: "Bioware did an incredible job of bringing us a very believable oriental world. It really feels alive, with the beautiful scenery, great immersive sound and incredible facial animations. Despite having only two attack options, the amount of different techniques add depth to the combat. Could have had a more open mind for the good versus bad side."

Craig Marr: "Like a good book, couldn't put the controller down. Although 27 hours straight can't be healthy."

What we said: "It's a truly beautiful game, which presents a lovingly crafted and genuinely fascinating world, a host of fantastic characters and a great sense of freedom in terms of your actions in what is mostly a very polished package, and I'd happily recommend it to any Xbox owner. However, in trying to strike a balance between action and stat-based combat, Bioware seem to have fallen between two stools. Action fans will find the combat too simple, while RPG fans will find the inability to customise their character to any major degree frustrating. As a hugely enjoyable new game from one of the world's most talented developers, it deserves a place in any collection, but it falls sadly short of the status of all-time classic which some seem to want to confer upon it."

24 Burnout: Revenge

PS2, Xbox, Cube / EA / Criterion

Synkro: "Because it is fast and pure destruction."

What we said: "Crash mode is still as stupendously compelling as it ever was (righting the wrongs of Takedown) and is not only a massively addictive single-player game, but insanely good fun in six-player online mode. The real let down is the racing, in that it's simply not as much fun as it used to be, and as such Revenge can no longer be considered the best Burnout game. That's not to say it's 'not fun', because we had a blast, but tasked with weighing it up against its predecessors, it's a slight backward step. Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but in this case, taking the heat out of the game wasn't what we were hoping for."

23 The Movies

PS2, Xbox, Cube, PC / Activision / Lionhead

Andy Barton: "Original, fun, scope for an amazing online community and an ever growing game."

Carl Jackson: "Allows a great deal of creativity rarely seen in games. Of course there are limits, but it ticks boxes most games don't and appeals to a part of me other games can't reach."

Ed [lies - Ed]: "This is one of the best games I've ever played! It has a fresh and original concept (somewhere between The Sims and Theme Park) coupled with a really nice game interface, graphics are quite good and the soundtrack is tremendous (I especially appreciated the humour in general and KMVS in particular). And as there are endless possibilities (sandbox plus online content), I don't think I will stop playing it soon. Be careful though; it's quite an addictive game and it tends to reduce your sleeping time!"

What we said: "As a pure management game, I'd mark either one or two marks beneath this. But it's not a pure management game; it's something else, all of its own, and for bringing a slice of the magic of the movies to the monitor screen, it deserves our respect. Not quite a star set in cement on an LA sidewalk, but definitely far above the singer/actress/model-working-between-jobs-in-a-bargain-diner."

22 Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan

DS / iNiS

Ben: "Everything. It has a perfect difficulty curve (remember those? The things games used to have before they all became save-anywhere collect-em-ups?), flawless control system, fantastic music, and incredible amounts of replayability just because it's so damn fun. It's genuinely funny and surprisingly moving. Also, after playing it (especially the last level), I feel pumped-up, energised, and motivated to do actual things in the real world. No other game has such meta-effects."

Mike: "The whole feel of Ouendan is amazing. It's incredibly simplistic and feels so natural. When you do well you're ecstatic, and when you do poorly you don't get annoyed at the game - only at your own inability to succeed at it."

Kathryn Birch: "You get to motivate a horse to stop a robber! And a businessman to beat up a giant blue rat! It's the only rhythm-action game I've ever played without a single song on its soundtrack I couldn't bear to listen to more than once. It's the only game in the last few years that's had me physically shaking from adrenaline and tension by the end of the last bit. It's utterly, cosmically sodding marvellous."

Kees Gajentaan (who we swear to god we did not make up): "I wouldn't have bought this game if Eurogamer had not done an article on this - so a big thanks for pointing this one out! Sure, other games took more of my time in 2005, but none were as surprisingly good fun as this. Osu!!"

What we said: "Ouendan has commanded its place in our game-card slot with real urgency, and we've found ourselves reaching for it at every available opportunity. It's not likely to be a game you'll travel with - the need to be precise obviously rules it out of contention unless you're on a plane or something - but it is a game that any self-respecting DS-owning music game fan must acquire, and replaying old tunes to build up big scores with a succession of masterful strokes is a skill that you'll want to reaffirm as often as you do in its genre-rivals on other platforms."

21 Gran Turismo 4

PS2 / Sony / Polyphony Digital

David Walker: "Force Feedback at its best."

Another person whose name our script ate: "The AI is stupid, tyre wear sometimes can be completely unrealistic, 24-hour-races on B-Spec are not fun, rallying somehow turned out a lot worse than the rest of the game and there are way too many races at 'Driving Park' or 'Tsukuba'. However it still was my game of the year because of 'Nordschleife' and 'El Capitan'."

What we said: "While this is unquestionably the pinnacle of Polyphony's attempts to capture driving in game form, it still isn't - and isn't even trying to be - the pinnacle of racing games. And that's where the series needs to start heading if it wants to keep us coming back with another wad of notes every four years."

Merge with your own faces again tomorrow. OSU!!!