2006 SUCKED! It was not only one of the worst years in gaming, it was one of the worst years ever! After a wonderful time from 2002-2005, somehow we just came to an immediate stop of boredom, nonsensical headline news, and no good releases from any media (movies, music, video games, comics, etc.). In the gaming world in 2006, we were jump shifting to 7th Generation of Consoles where they were acting like PC Gaming making it a multimedia machine, not just gaming. Sure the hardware is outstanding with motion gaming and HD graphics, but the software (games) were piss poor! Nobody today would ever say “2006! That was a great year!” It was perhaps the most static year ever. Nothing significant has happened, nothing advanced, and nothing good was even made. Fuck 2006… but here are the 10 best games that came from that year.
Number 10. – Daxter
It’s nice to a Jak & Daxter game that takes place before Jak 2. Everything about this title is well done, from character development to lighting, from vehicle implementation to voice acting. It told a nice story that stay incredibly consistent with the timeline of the series, exterminating bugs is reminiscent to Ghostbusters, and even the mini games and features in Daxter is worth playing! Even the simple mini-games that revolve around Daxter’s dreams end up being enjoyable, in addition to upgrading his health bar and giving him new abilities. This is probably one of the strongest debuts I’ve ever seen, and the fact that PSP owners get an exclusive chance to try it out is just awesome. Daxter is currently in the Greatest Hits lineup for $19.99. If you have a PSP, you owe it to yourself to buy this game. This really is the last good game from the Jak & Daxter trilogy before Naughty Dog fully abandoned the series and Sony handed license to other developers who have no idea what to do with series.
Number 9. – Bully
Rockstar has gone from the gritty streets of Liberty City to the opulent buildings in Bullworth Academy. As insane as it may sound, this game centered around an under-appreciated child named Jimmy Hopkins and his adventures in a boarding school run by lackwits is exactly what sandbox games needed – its a huge departure from the usual urban setting and does a good job representing every style of gameplay contained within it. One thing that impressed me most of all with Bully was how polished the mini-games were. In past efforts, the controls would be clunky, or there just wouldn’t be enough substance to make them worth playing after their required time. Things that I expected to be shallow, like the boxing, arcade racing, and go kart racing areas had more depth than I was anticipating, and in the case of the go kart racing, it fared much better than the similar Motor Kombat from MK: Armageddon. Here, the controls for the mini-game are sharp, which makes them more fun to play time after time. With so much improvement being shown in regards to the environments actually looking and feeling like real places, I’m disappointed that a lot of character animations are still shoddy. Fighting animations are fine, as punches and kicks actually look realistic, and people react to them as if they’re being hit with a hard punch. Running and walking animations didn’t fare so well though , as they lack fluidity. In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t a major problem, but it did jump out at me here given how many things were improved upon the GTA norm. I’m surprised by just how much controversy there was behind Bully, since it’s so tame compared to the stuff you’d see in a GTA. Bully is definitely deserving of every accolade it gets, but many of the complaints against its content seem absurd after playing it. There’s no graphic violence, and much of the fighting is done out of either self defense or in defense of someone weaker than their attacker. Needless violence is punished in the game, so there’s even a moral lesson to be learned from it. Hopefully time allows people to forget about the pre-release complaints, and instead focus on the enjoyable gaming experience Bully provides.
Number 8. – Dead Rising
Even though Resident Evil forgotten about how to handle genres, at least there’s another Capcom series that executes it well. Despite spawning countless imitators in the Survival Horror subgenre it wasn’t until the release of Dead Rising in 2006 on the Xbox 360 that a video game had seriously attempted to approach the interpretation of zombies offered by the “Godfather” himself, filmmaker George A. Romero, nor his satirical takes and social commentaries seen in Night of the Living Dead. Forget creepy mansions with giant snake and Venus Fly Trap bosses or ominously-named Hunter creatures ready to decapitate you with one swipe out in the moonlit gardens; in order for the zombie genre to have its truly representative game equivalent, it needed to be set in the most recognizable and classic setting of them all: the American Shopping Mall. Humourous violence via ordinary retail items notwithstanding, the true achievement of Dead Rising was that unlike anything before it, it nailed (probably with a nail gun, too) one of the key principles of Romero’sDead series in making human survivors – not the zombies – the main threat to the protagonists. Whether it be the crazed Psychopath boss characters featuring a supermarket manager wheeling a Carmageddon-style trolley down the fruit and vegetable aisles or the especially memorable dual-chainsaw wielding and poisonous gas balloon-popping clown known simply as ‘Adam’, through to the more docile survivors with frustrating AI (purposely programmed that way for effect, too, I would argue) helplessly littered around the complex and in need of rescue, the game was brimming with personality and madness in equal measure. Add to the mix an overall story arc involving the gathering of these survivors for a dramatic helicopter rescue, all their internal squabblings and betrayals, and with an ever-present theme of the pointlessness and fickle nature of consumerism as Frank tested every item he found as a viable weapon, snack, or outfit, the long-awaited and faithful homage to Romero was perhaps too successful. Sure enough, despite the disclaimer “THIS GAME WAS NOT DEVELOPED, APPROVED OR LICENSED BY THE OWNERS OR CREATORS OF GEORGE A. ROMERO’S DAWN OF THE DEAD™” being placed prominently on the game’s packaging, the copyright infringement lawsuit duly arrived soon after the game’s release, ultimately ending in Capcom’s favour.
Number 7. – Company of Heroes
I have played a lot of World War 2 RTS games over the past few years, which has meant that I’ve had to deal with a lot of frustration and disappointment. Things had gotten so bad that I was beginning to wonder if anyone would be able to find a way to translate the action from that war into an RTS game that would be both challenging and entertaining. It’s a good thing that I hadn’t completely given up hope though, as my patience has been rewarded by Company of Heroes. Not only is it an excellent World War II RTS game, it is an excellent RTS game that ranks right up there with some of the legends in the genre. Yes, it is that good. I The game’s campaign is centered on the exploits of Able Company as they partake in the Normandy Campaign, from the storming of the beaches to the final blow that breaks the back of the German defenses. After the initial beach landing, you’ll face battles in both the countryside and cities of Normandy in which you’ll be faced with a variety of missions and challenges. However, the basics of the gameplay are always focused on acquiring and maintaining supply. Key locations on the maps are designated as manpower, munitions, or fuel points. Capture these locations and you’ll get a steady stream of the associated resources with which to create and upgrade units. If you thought the Ai presented you with a challenge in the game, wait until you go up against other players. The 15 mission campaign is challenging enough to give veteran strategy gamers a run for their money, but when the dust settles and you emerge victorious you have the skirmish and multiplayer modes awaiting you.
Number 6. – Paraworld
What? You never heard of Paraworld? I don’t blame you because 2006 is so forgettable that not even the Wikipedia site can provide information about the game and its creators. RTS game that gets maligned at every turn for having formulaic gameplay and a silly premise, but you know what? I had fun playing this for several days straight, and I plan to go back for more. You begin your adventure with three heroes sent to check out a scientific anomaly and wind up thrust into a world where dinosaurs, Norsemen, nomads, pirates, and ninjas co-exist and electricity does not. This parallel world might be mistaken for a dumping ground of ancient game clichés. Remember when all those things were cool individually? ParaWorld are basically on par with what you’d expect from a modern RTS. They don’t reinvent the wheel, and camera control is fairly free, allowing you to zoom, rotate, and drag the world with the mouse. The one camera quirk that I despised was the one-way zooming. You can’t place it just anywhere; you have to zoom in at some predefined angle each step of the zoom. Company of Heroes and several other RTSes lately have done this better, so I don’t know what led SEK to do it this way. Just don’t zoom in, and you’ll be fine. ParaWorld is a joy to look at and play! Definitely one of the most biggest miss outs for many games of the decade! The twist of dinosaurs going head-to-head with modern-day human heroes is reminiscent of Ash bringing his shotgun and Cadillac to medieval Europe in Army of Darkness. It sticks closely to the RTS formula, making it instantly familiar and accessible to RTS vets, but the peculiar universe and potential of the Army Controller interface could spark some interest in a well-worn genre.
Number 5. – The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
It may be hard to believe but there was a time when Obivion was one of the best looking games anyone had ever seen. The detailed character creator let you shape your hero into whatever you wanted; the amazing looking world was filled with people who kept their own schedules and went about their lives even while you were off questing; and those quests were something else. While the main quest was fun but forgettable, people still talk about quest lines like The Dark Brotherhood today. But while Oblivion is an outstanding game in many respects, its relatively dull setting of Cyrodiil and mostly boring, melodramatic story leave it somewhat below the other games for me. It may have polished the template set forth in Morrowind, but too much of the game felt like a soulless grind through a generic fantasy setting. I threw hundreds of hours intoOblivion, managed to level my main character until he could pick any lock, defeat any foe, and jump over most small hills. I sprinted into dozens of Oblivion gates, booking it past enemies and exploiting the glitch that let you quicksave, grab the Sigil Stone and warp out, then check the power granted by the stone and if need be, reload until you got something good. Man, did I have some mighty enchanted weapons in Oblivion. The Shivering Isles expansion went a long way towards addressing some of Oblivion‘s personality deficits, even if Sheogorath was insufferable most of the time. But as enjoyable as it all was, something about the game just felt hollow to me. I think it was partly that I played it on Xbox 360—this was when I’d traded my gaming PC for a mac, and was just getting back into gaming after taking a few years off. As a result, I wasn’t able to mod the game to the extent that so many others could, and past a certain point, I simply stopped playing. The only drawback is the horrible voice acting and the mediocre main quest the draws it back from becoming one of the best game of 2006.
Number 4. – The Legend of Zelda:
There are so many Nintendo fans out there that despise the Zelda series going for the cartoony direction in Wind Waker, and after so many backlash from the fans, Nintendo went back to the series old look with the best graphics at the time. Unfortunately, this is the only thing that this game in the Zelda series. I feel that this game didn’t add much than just be another Ocarina of Time with a different world and shinier visuals. One of the more unusual features of Twilight Princess is that, early in the game, Link will gain the ability to transform into a wolf. As a wolf, Link’s senses are heightened, meaning that he can follow scent trails, locate buried treasure, and even listen to disembodied spirits. Combat as a wolf is even more basic than swordplay. In his lupine form, Link has a quick attack that can be linked into a combo, and a lunging attack which corresponds to his human form’s jumping sword attack. His Spin Attack becomes a series of lunges, with targeting help from Midna. Link’s wolf form plays a more important part early in the game, as the later parts focus far more on swordplay and the use of Link’s many tools. This isn’t a huge loss, seeing as how Link’s tools make for more intriguing puzzles than the fixed abilities of the wolf, but it does feel as though something more could have been done with this alternate form. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a game that does what Zelda games do best. Swordplay, cunning puzzles, overworld exploration, and dungeon spelunking. This entry in the series distinguishes itself mainly through its stronger-than-average plot and sophisticated visuals, but it isn’t really a title to go into expecting revolutionary developments in the genre, which may be a disappointment for some. Twilight Princess offers a very solid experience, and will most likely appeal to those who have followed the series faithfully, and to gamers who are looking for an elegant puzzler.
Number 3. – Fight Night Round 3
I never thought that there would ever be a boxing game that would ever top Mike Tyson’s Punch out, not to mention an EA Sports game would ever make it this high on the list (shows how bad 2006 was as a year in gaming). The futility of the controls is the smoothest ever when using the right analog stick for jabs, hooks, and uppercuts that not only beat pushing buttons, but also redefined how we play sports games. All of these changes and upgrades lead to a multitude of decisions on which boxer you should choose, since they are no longer simply player models and facemaps who happen to be able to punch. It’s this very reason alone that made all of us wanna play this game again and again nonstop! The career mode can go as long as you want and you can decide if you want to retire to end your boxer’s legacy. Even the impact you cause on your fighter is effective to play and each time someone gets KO’ed it always gives us a big reaction, if not total satisfaction. Why do I need to tell you why this boxing game is so good? Go ahead of pick this game up and see all the fun that you’re missing! Fight Night Round 3 on the PS2 may not contain all of the graphical style of its next-generation brother, but rest assured that it has all of its substance. No matter which system you buy this game for, you’ll come out a winner. Congrats to the Fight Night team for putting this together; for the time being, this is as real as video boxing is going to get.
Number 2. – Mother 3
And speaking of unfinished stories, there’s one long awaited video game series that finally hasn’t had a new installment since the SNES by the end of the GBA lifespan. I have to admit that I’m not that much of a fan of Mother orEarthbound but to finally play a game that is this well crafted and passionated, I can say that this is one of Nintendo’s best games they’ve ever made. Mother 3 had a very long development cycle; it began development in 1994 as a Super Famicom title, but development transitioned to the 64DD, then to the Nintendo 64, and finally to the Game Boy Advance… unfortunately it’s never released in North America. Thankfully, there are fan made translations for ROM that actually given it’s Nintendo fans what they’ve waited for. For a game that uses 16-bit graphics at it’s fullest somehow is more impressive than the best graphics in the console department. After so many years, this game lived up to its hype.
More than anything else, Mother 3 is an exploration about the loss of a mother and how that one act topples the lives of all those connected like a series of dominoes. The young boy Claus ventures into the wild to kill the T-Rex-like creatures he feels are responsible for killing his mother; and then he disappears. With the loss of a wife and son, Flint spends his days in the wild looking for his missing son. And the remaining son, Lucas, grows up shy and alone—yet self-sufficient. Mother 3 is an excellent RPG. It has a deep emotional plot, crazy comedic aspects, and an excellent battle system. The exploration of the “loss of a mother” theme is handled amazingly well, though the plot twists and humor can serve to somewhat undercut the game’s more serious aspects. Mother 3 is a game that looks like it could have come out in the early ’90s, yet it sits high at the top of a list of the best games that came out in the new millennium. Despite all the advanced technology, it just goes to show you that, as long as a videogame has a strong story and great gameplay, it doesn’t matter how many polygons can be displayed on the screen at one time. Mother 3 may be the last game of its kind to ever be released. It truly is something special.
Number 1. – Metal Gear Sold 3: Subsistence
If there was just one game that need an upgrade overhaul to reach perfection, there is no better pick than Metal Gear Solid 3. This isn’t the first time Kojima has re-released a Metal Gear Solid title with extra content, as both the original Metal Gear Solid and its sequel, Sons of Liberty, received the same treatment with new features such as virtual reality missions, demo theaters, etc. Subsistence, however, is a far more ambitious update, as it not only offers much of the same content that Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance did, but also a totally revamped single player campaign in addition to a very in-depth online mode.The original Snake Eater used the same top-down, fixed angle camera as the previous two titles, and while the game was still widely praised, many fans felt the camera angle to be obsolete and counterproductive. Apparently Kojima agreed, as Subsistence now features a completely user-controlled 3D camera in addition to the default angle. The result is a single player experience that feels remarkably different as it not only changes the way players tackle the game, but the level to which they can appreciate it. One of the major flaws in Snake Eater’s camera was that players would often be spotted by enemies who, while off camera, were still very close by, forcing players to either slow their progress through the game to a crawl (by constantly stopping to scope out upcoming areas through the first person camera), or put up with an inordinate amount of alarms and dangerous situations that often weren’t their fault. Subsistence’s new camera angle completely fixes this problem by giving you any view of the terrain you desire at any time, simply by rotating the right analog stick (though it should be noted that certain boss fights do not allow players to use the new camera angle). This provides a single player campaign that is not only far more flexible in terms of stealth, but also the myriad survival aspects of the game, and while the new camera was the only real update to the single player mode, it’s arguably a big enough change to justify playing through the entire game again, even for those who’ve beaten Snake Eater more than once. In the end, it’s hard not to recommend a game that packs so much content on to only two discs, and for a budget price to boot. Even for those who have played and beaten the original Snake Eater, there is enough completely original content in Subsistence to provide several dozen hours of offline entertainment, not to mention an online multiplayer feature with massive replay value. Anyone looking for a great online action game for their PS2, or just a great stealth action game in general, would most certainly be remiss in not picking up a copy of Subsistence.
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