18. God of War 2
At a time when the PlayStation 2 should have been wheeled off to the great console retirement home, David Jaffe's Sony Santa Monica studio pulled off a game so magnificent that it blew 90 per cent of the next-generation competition clean away. God of War 2 did everything the epic God of War did, but with the scale turned up another notch. Like the original, it kicked off with what should have been a climax - a stunning assault on the city of Rhodes and a battle with its legendary Colossus - then, impossibly, just got bigger. For meaningful comparisons, we had to look outside of video games and talk about the work Peter Jackson and WETA did with The Lord of the Rings. That's how big â€˜the Jaffster' thinks.
Combine this with a blistering pace, some tricky puzzles and a melee combat system that puts even Ninja Gaiden to shame, and you had a fantasy action game of almost overwhelming power. When our anti-hero Kratos laid the smackdown with his mighty hammer, your eyes and ears knew exactly how that felt. As Jaffe has now left Sony, the coming PS3 threequel will have to do without him. Even with the power of Cell at their command, the team have their work cut out to better this.
Realtime Worlds' Xbox 360 debut was the year's dark horse. Unfairly dismissed as a GTA-clone swathed in fancy cel-shaded graphics, it was actually the most flexible, forward-looking open world game of 2007. In a way, it foreshadowed both Crysis (the exploration of super-powers in a large, physics-simulated world) and Assassin's Creed (assassinations, dynamic crowds and highly navigable architecture). What's more, it arguably bettered both in the final execution.
The key was in the ingenious super-power system. Through climbing and jumping, throwing large objects and engaging in fisticuffs, daredevil driving or shooting and demolishing your foes with high explosives, you could discover or earn upgrade points in the appropriate skill. The more upgrade points you gathered, the more impressive super-human feats you could accomplish. As a result, Crackdown got more and more entertaining the more you played it, and rewarded you for doing what you liked doing best.
One minute you're a pistol-packing putz, the next you're lobbing cars around and leaping across the rooftops like a man possessed. Suddenly those cel-shaded graphics made sense: this wasn't just a crime-fighting caper, but a great graphic novel bought to life. Maybe the mob-battling action was a little simplistic and repetitive, but Crackdown was never less than a blast. Plus, its drop-in, drop-out co-op option was so seamlessly integrated and so much stupid fun, that it made you wonder why all open world games didn't do the exact same thing. Missed it? You missed out.