Trusted Reviews: Games of the Year - Part One.
As our Andy noted back in November, it has been a fantastic year for games, In fact, it's arguably been the best year ever. However, all that bounty has left us in a dilemma. We originally planned a top ten list for the end of the year, but looking at the long list of titles we've been forced to expand that to twenty - and even then we've had to sacrifice a few of our darlings and lose a couple of still great franchise updates that we felt didn't quite do enough to justify inclusion: Sorry Unreal Tournament III and Sega Rally, apologies Guitar Hero III, Football Manager 2008 and Pro Evo.
Anyway, in true pop charts style we're going to start at the bottom and work our way up to number eleven. Then tomorrow, we'll be back to sock it to you with our Top Ten. Where will your favourites be? If you agree or disagree, have your say through the usual link below.
20. The Darkness
It's been eclipsed by the fantastic run of 3D shooters at the year's end, but in any other annum The Darkness might have been the stand-out FPS. What started out looking like a humdrum gangster caper with tacked-on supernatural elements transformed into the most compelling narrative-driven action game since Half-Life 2: Episode One, with some shocking moments and a structure that encourages you to use a range of demonic powers in cool, creative ways. Once the game hits its rhythm, it delivers a series of great action set-pieces that put you in mind of the best bits of F.E.A.R. The AI was not as strong, but what could be cooler than sucking a bunch of entrenched S.W.A.T. troopers into a tentacle-sprouting black hole?
The gritty visuals and awesome lighting are everything you would expect from the team behind Chronicles of Riddick. Yes, you could pick holes in the game - the urban environments aren't always that well-rounded or convincing, and not everyone liked the slower-moving explorations of a murky WWI-inspired netherworld. Yet the Darkness did something special: it restored at least one TR writer's faith in the power of the genre, and set the stage for the triumphs that were to come.
2007 bought us the best crop of off-road racers since the arrival of Colin McRae 04, WRC3 and RalliSport Challenge 2 in 2004. Colin McRae: DiRT was a departure for the series, but if its embrace of alternative motorsports diluted the core Rally experience, it still had superlative graphics and a great long-term challenge. Sega Rally was a more superficial treat, but its arcade feel and exotic locations gave it a glamour other racers couldn't match.
Yet of the three, it's Sony's Motorstorm that we just keep on coming back to. Evolution's PS3 launch title had superb physics, incredible graphics and all the deformable tracks and churning mud you could ask for, but it was its cliff-edge courses and manic car vs. bike vs. monster truck carnage that made it a petrol-head thriller. And having supported the game with extra courses, vehicles and other online content, Evolution has patched the game's major failing - a lack of long-term staying power. Played on a big screen and with the sound turned up, Motorstorm was the first hint that the PS3 had all the power Sony said it did. For us, it's the most fabulous and ferocious off-road racer of the year.