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G&P: The Best of 2007 on Game and Player

G&P: The Best of 2007

The Editors  //  January 8, 2008

Our choices for 2007's finest games.

ame and Player may only be going on three months old, but those of us behind it spent the entire year of 2007 playing, thinking about and discussing video games. As rewarding excellence is essential to the critical idiom, we, the editors, present a list of the year's finest games — the first of an annual tradition.

Best of Show

Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo EAD Tokyo): 2007 was marked by some truly outstanding game releases. Although Halo 3 entertained millions online and Bioshock spooked the shorts off of millions more, it was an old and familiar face which we here at Game and Player feel gave the industry its biggest shot in the arm. Super Mario Galaxy not only surpassed gamers' expectations, it single-handedly redefined what we'll all expect to find in platform games from here on out. Toying with perceptions of space, gravity and perspective at every opportunity, designer Shigeru Miyamoto has given us something truly unique while at the same time returning the series to its roots. Don't be mistaken — this is a Mario game, the likes of which we haven't experienced since Super Mario Bros. 3. Sure, its sickeningly cute characters are a far cry from the horrors of Rapture, but who cares? Galaxy shows the "new school" what the "old school" already knew: when it comes to video games, fun is a lot more important than body count. Kudos, Miyamoto-san.

Honorable Mentions
Call of Duty 4 took a lot of folks by surprise this autumn. Rather than being overshadowed by Halo 3, it set itself apart with an addictive online system and genre-defining tactical play.

Of course, this list wouldn't be complete if the folks at Bungie didn't get some recognition. Say what you will about Halo 3 — the game's matchmaking engine is still the industry's best.

In terms of sheer value, The Orange Box is in a category all its own. It's not every day that consumers feel as though they're ripping off a game's developer. We're sorry, Valve. Really, really sorry.

Biggest Innovation

Portal / The Orange Box (Valve Corporation): Thanks to science fiction, most of us recognized the ray-gun in the trailer for Valve Corporation's Portal. Shoot it at surfaces to create little wormholes to pass through, right? But literature couldn't convey the idea as effectively as a demonstration, and a simple demonstration wouldn't involve as many uses of the tool (Aperture Science's Handheld Portal Device) as fictional challenges ranging from obstacle courses to brushes with high-tech industrial peril. Portal starts with the basic principle and modifies it, then modifies it again, then adds an element, then modifies that, adds more, and so on. Level progression is seamlessly heuristic — players intuitively accomplish what was baffling two hours before. Watching someone stop thinking linearly is almost as much fun as playing.

Purists might insist that the matter-bending brainchild really belongs to a small group of students of the Digipen Institute of Technology, who introduced it in the 2005 puzzle-adventure game Narbacular Drop. But designers at Valve are hardly strangers to the concept, their signature Half-Life franchise stuffed with posers on classical mechanics — and anyway, they were joined by the Drop team for Portal's development. Valve turned something original into something remarkable.

Honorable Mentions
Programs that alter a first-person shooter's game engine are nothing new. Bungie Studios, however, made a first by bundling, with Halo 3, applications for players to edit maps, as well as record and preserve every game or custom session — and then tied the features into its website. Halo communities, already strong, can now share martial-gymnastic feats and creative bugs, right down to the tiniest detail.

Though BioWare has always supported its roleplaying titles with felicitous dialogue, interaction between players and NPCs took a shift in Mass Effect. Players can act according to a certain posture, rather than selecting lines of script, and manage it within the rhythm of a conversation. Haven't the ends of virtual reality, after all, been what we know as natural?

Most Memorable Online

Halo 3 (Bungie Studios): Featuring a diverse selection of maps, a variety of game types, four-player cooperative, and a matchmaking system we wish every developer would adopt, Halo 3 is this year's most memorable online experience. The time spent refining all aspects of game balance allows for matches to be both fun and fair. Being able to relive any contest through use of the integrated theater provides not only a way of archiving every special moment, but improving strategy in very much the same way a professional sports team analyzes game film. With community-driven downloadable content created through Forge, new maps provided by Bungie and cyclic playlist tweaks, Halo 3, much like its predecessor, promises to be a title that garners play for many years to come.

Honorable Mentions
After being touted as a "Halo-killer," Call of Duty 4 nearly delivered. Though an improvement in every single way from previous Call of Duty titles, a limited matchmaking system holds the game back from coming out on top.

The days of one-on-one online play are gone. With many EA Sports titles now featuring the capacity for multiple users per team, it won't be long before artificial intelligence just doesn't have a place online.

Belle of the Ball

Bioshock (2K Boston): Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the prettiest...oh, who are we kidding. Few games of 2007 were as drop dead gorgeous as 2K Boston's Bioshock. Between its stellar graphics engine, haunting environment and (mostly) well-told story, it was hard not to get drawn into the world of Rapture. Water rippled, lighting was eerily lifelike and the sound mix was terrifying. Bioshock pushed gaming hardware to the limits, providing one's senses with one hell of a ride.

Honorable Mentions
Thanks to the dramatic direction of Andy Serkis, Heavenly Sword was able to leave the traditional shackles of the action genre behind. For once, players didn't skip the cut scenes.

Rock Band certainly looks good enough, but listen to this game's phenomenal 5.1 audio mix and you're suddenly reminded — sound matters too.

Some of us used to dread platforming levels in FPS games. Then we played Portal. Gabe Newell entrusted a young and practically untried team of developers for this one — Portal's overall level of polish is evidence of his good judgment.

Life of the Party

Rock Band (Harmonix Music Systems): Guitar Hero may have started the music game craze of this decade, but it's Rock Band that will carry the torch. Although the Guitar Hero games have allowed friends to get involved, cooperative play always felt like a last-minute addition. It's clear that Rock Band was designed from the ground up to be the de facto multiplayer music experience. Everything you'd need to get your band off the ground is in the box: substantial instruments, a huge (and still growing) track list and production values that are a definite step above the competition. Now if only Harmonix included a guide for picking your band's lead singer — the world only has room for one David Lee Roth.

Honorable Mentions
Dance Dance Revolution may have brought this sensational rhythm series to the Xbox 360, but take our word for it: you still can't dance.

Guitar Hero 3 is no longer the newest kid on the block, but it still makes us scream: "I've got blisters on me fingers!"

Are you the king of movie trivia? Prove it to your friends with Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action. This Xbox 360 party game improves upon its boarded predecessor in every way imaginable.

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