January 03, 2007
Best of 2006:
The Power of Good Games Compels You
The year-end list is in, so let's get to it.
Game System of the Year: The Xbox 360. Yes, it's fashionable to name the Nintendo Wii the system of the year. Indeed the Wii is the next step in the evolution of gaming, since it's fully interactive, and wirelessly so. But the Wii is still too new and doesn't have enough games. It is the Development of the Year, with wonderful potential.
Meanwhile, the 360 dominated the game market in quality all year. In just 12 months, the 360 has become the standard-bearer in serious gaming. And online gaming through Xbox Live is solid gold. I spent 40 hours playing "Call of Duty 3" online through Xbox Live during a recent vacation. That's nuts.
As for the top 10 games of 2006, they are all four-star titles. And game-haters take note that only two are rated "M" for mature; four are "T" for teen; and four are "E" for everyone:
1. (Tie) "Call of Duty 3" for Xbox 360, Xbox, PS 2, PS 3: You can play the story-based version of "Call of Duty 3" if you want to kill Nazis in spectacular fashion, by yourself. It's more fun to go online and play gamers around the world on battlefields. Choose your poison: Capture the Flag, Team Battle or the everyone-for-themselves style of War.
The Wii version of "Call of Duty 3" isn't as entertaining, I hate to say, and it doesn't offer online gaming. The game is rated "T" for blood, language and violence.
1. (Tie) "Battlefield 2: Modern Combat" for Xbox 360, Xbox, PS 2: I hate splitting a tie for the No. 1 spot, especially since "Modern Combat" isn't great when you play it alone. But quite simply, for me, there has never been a more addictive online game than "Modern Combat."
You play as a soldier in current-day battles. The fields are unbelievably, gorgeously textured. Guns, tanks and helicopters provide unparalleled gaming entertainment. I played this for more than 400 hours before taking the disc out of my 360 and breaking it. It had to be stopped. It was destroying my life. It's rated "T" for language and violence.
3. "Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day" for Nintendo DS: This handheld game has the worst idea ever. Do math. Solve sudoku puzzles. Yet, it is highly enticing. You solve loads of brainteasers. The faster you win, the lower your "Brain Age" is calculated to be. Do you have the mental quickness of a 21-year-old or a 50-year-old? It's rated "E".
4. "Rayman Raving Rabbids" for Wii: In this little masterpiece, you play 70 mini-games by shooting mean bunnies with plunger arrows and silly diversions like that. It's the best use of the Wii's interactive wand so far. You do scads of wand waving to make things happen, rather than sit and push buttons. It makes me laugh a lot, and that is of great value to me. It's rated "E" for cartoon violence and comic mischief. It's also available for the PS 2.
5. "Scarface" for Xbox and PS 2: This version of the classic gangster movie uses the gaming ideas established by the "Grand Theft Auto" series. You drive around a huge city, get out of your car, then shoot and beat people to death.
What makes "Scarface" unusually fun is everything, from the cool cinematography to hilariously graphic language and intense killing missions. The PSP version tells a similar story, but isn't the same game. It's rated "M" for blood, gore, intense violence, sexual themes, strong language and use of drugs.
The rest of the top 10 games are nearly as great as those in the top five, but not quite.
6. The addictive boxing of "Fight Night: Round 3" for Xbox 360, PS 3, Xbox, PS 2 and PSP ("T").
7: The beautiful basketball of "NBA 2K7" for Xbox 360, PS 3, Xbox, PS 2 ("E").
8: The assassination tale of "Hitman: Blood Money" for Xbox 360, Xbox, PS 2 ("M").
9: "Tiger Woods PGA Tour '07" for Xbox 360, PS 3, Xbox, PS 2, PSP ("E").
10. The action-adventure of Lara Croft's "Tomb Raider: Legend" for Xbox 360, Xbox, PS 2, PSP ("T").