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AusGamers Game of the Year 2007
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 02:36pm 23/01/08 | Comments
2007 had some of the biggest highlights the videogame industry has ever seen. We at AusGamers have been keeping a close eye on this and have compiled our Game of the Year list with 10 of the best 2007 had to offer.

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition
Throughout our 2007 year of editorial on AusGamers we talked a lot about the coveted Game of the Year. There were a stack of massive games released throughout the year (most towards the end though), and I can honestly say in my 10 years of videogame journalism, I have never seen a year with so much to offer. Not only did we get some great games, we also saw the PS3 finally released in Australia in the wake of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 head-start and the Wii’s late ’06 arrival, and for the first time since the machines had been released elsewhere, it felt like the console wars had truly just begun.

Nintendo’s Wii immediately dominated both headlines and sales charts with shortages popping up all over the world. The cheaper, more widely appealing machine was in high demand throughout 2007 and its momentum has barely swayed since launch. Sony, on the other hand, had a real hurdle to get over here in Australia with their $1000 price-tag for the PS3, add to this a real lack of launch titles (Resistance and Motorstorm aside), and things were looking bleak in the Sony camp. Microsoft never battered an eyelid in the face of the two new contenders and rode their head-start out with style thanks to such releases as Crackdown, Lost Planet, GRAW 2 and the coveted Halo 3 Multiplayer Beta (which was inextricably linked to a purchase of Crackdown – clever marketing M$) . While all of this was going on though, Sony were pushing their PSP handheld to the nines, but it looked almost impossible for it to catch Nintendo’s break-away DS.

The PC proved to be no slouch amidst all this home-console kafuffle with Blizzard maintaining their MMO reign thanks to the release of the Burning Crusade expansion for World of WarCraft. While THQ managed to pull a massive rabbit out of their hat with S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl finally going gold after several years in development, they were also responsible for bringing Chris Taylor back into the RTS realm with the hardware-pushing Supreme Commander. A lot of excellent expansions also found their way to the PC in the early parts of 2007 giving some much needed life to existing titles on the PC platform in the face of so much hype and push around the console market.

The Orange Box
All of this was really only around the first quarter of 2007 though, and things would most certainly gear up post this. We saw the release of the co-Aussie-developed BioShock hit the Xbox 360 and PC, respectively. Xbox Live Arcade was proving to be a viable platform, as was Nintendo’s Virtual Console. Sony’s PlayStation Store then saw a jump with downloadable games of a similar nature to the XBLA offerings with the likes of Calling All Cars which helped show they too, could keep their gamers online.

Speaking of which, Nintendo’s Mario Strikers Charged for the Wii equally proved that platform could host some stellar online gaming while Microsoft continued to lead the way with Xbox Live thanks largely to Halo 3’s release as well as the Call of Duty 4 Beta. However, as you would expect, the PC community maintained a strong handle on online gaming with more and more MMOs popping up and more and more people jumping on the WoW bandwagon. Games like VanGuard, Guild Wars and the Aussie-developed Fury kept the fantasy MMO field busy while the likes of Counter Strike Source and the massive Team Fortress 2 sated shooter fans - in 2007, online gaming most certainly reigned supreme.

With all that said, there are many, many winners in various gaming fields, on various platforms and across a number of different gaming styles and genres. So we’ve compiled a number of short lists as well as a definitive Top 10 Games of 2007 list. The short lists for platform and genre-specific games have been added (and scattered) throughout this feature to show that, while we do have an overall non-discriminate Game of the Year list, we also recognise there are other titles that need more than just an intro mention. Equally, some games appeared on multiple platforms but weren’t necessarily good on one versus another (case in point: Team Fortress 2 was amazing on PC and less than great on both PS3 and Xbox 360 because of its MMO aspect). So, without further adieu and counting down from 10, we present to you the AusGamers 2007 Game of the Year awards.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is the first massive step in the right direction for exclusive content for the PS3. It is both visually and aurally stunning while the story and characters should keep you glued until the very end.

From our review:
Visually there’s nothing better on the PS3, and Uncharted is most certainly a game many developers should be looking at for ocular inspiration. There’s an almost Pixar-like feel to the look; a deliberate move on Naughty Dog’s part. They have definitely shifted their focus from over-the-top cartoony characters, but they also know how to make sure you remember you’re still playing a videogame.

Steve: This was a game I couldn't put down, the adventure, the treasure hunting, the action and the stunning cut-scenes just had me wanting more. I was a bit let down by the 180 degree turn the plot takes towards the end, but not so much that I stopped playing. Finally the PS3 has something worth wanting.

Dan: More than just Tomb Raider with a dude, Uncharted is a solid adventure. If you're a PS3 owner dissapointed with a limited games library, don't give up without checking this one out first.

AusGamers Review Score: 8.7/10

Taking on Activision and the established Tony Hawk franchise is a daunting task no matter who you are, but EA didn’t back down and Black Box Games created one of the most realistic and organic skating experiences ever. If you haven’t played this, get off your arse and do so.

From our review:
As a game to just roll around in and skate wherever and however you want though, there really is nothing better than this. The reinvention of the controls is the first great thing skate. has done, but the added scale and realism of the game-world and the freedom you have to use it in any way you see fit just brings this baby home.

Steve: As a skater and a videogame fan, this was a match made in heaven for me, but beyond being a skater, this is also one of the most enjoyable games to just roll around in the genre has ever seen. Hawk’s reign is challenged – how will he respond?

Dan: Black Box not only stepped up to the plate with a competitive skateboarding game, they provided a very different experience. If only the EA Sports contingent would take a page out of this book.

AusGamers Review Score: 9.0/10

Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow
Top 5 Exclusive PlayStation Portable Titles

The PSP, like the PS3, had a rough year in the face of competition, but with the launch of the new Slim & Light model, the sleek portable began to show growth as the year closed out with not only some great games but new innovative features and add-ons like Talkman or the system's online browsing options. Here are our top five picks for the games that mattered on PSP in 2007:

      5. WipEout Pulse
      4. Final Fantasy Tactics
      3. Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters
      2. Silent Hill Origins
      1. Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
Top 5 Exclusive PlayStation 3 Titles

There's no denying the PS3 had an uphill battle from day one here in Australia. A massive dry-spell after the PS3's launch saw even more flack hit the machine, but as the year drew on, so did the releases. Here are the games we think made the PS3 a viable next-gen platform for 2007:

        5. Motorstorm
        4. Resistance: Fall of Man
        3. WarHawk
        2. Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction
        1. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

Assassin's Creed
Assassin's Creed
Ubisoft Montreal’s Assassin’s Creed matures the studio’s Prince of Persia technology to masterful levels. A deep sci fi story mixed with an ancient setting makes for some of the most engaging gameplay of 2007. However, falling victim to repetitiveness, AC isn’t nearly all it could be, but here’s hoping a sequel comes along and addresses this.

From our review:
The further you get into the game, the more the story and characters will suck you in. The cities may actually lack a real sense of AI dynamic, but it doesn’t stop the game from coming to life. Each target you take out will share a moment with you before they pass into the next life and this will gradually flesh out the game’s story – which crescendos wonderfully after all the time you’ll put in...

Steve: Assassin’s Creed was a dream to play. Running about the city, climbing walls and killing hapless guards was some of the most fun I’ve had in a game in a long time. Unfortunately the game-world lacked the sort of dynamic it sorely needed, but it’s a no-brainer this is going to become a massive franchise for Ubisoft – bring on the sequel. ?

Dan: Sure things got a bit repetitive in the middle there but Assassin's Creed just oozed too much style for that to matter. Ubi Montreal's stunning art direction combined with the general awesomeness of being a medieval assassin made this one a must play.

AusGamers Review Score: 8.8/10

The Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass
The Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass
The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hour Glass
The true sequel to the GameCube’s Wind Waker Zelda outing, Phantom Hour Glass recreates the massive, rich world of Hyrule on Nintendo’s little handheld. A stunning adventure with unbelievable visuals, and the best use of the system’s touch-screen yet, Phantom Hour Glass stands as the best reason to own a Nintendo DS.

From our review:
Almost everything you do in Phantom Hour Glass is done with the stylus. Moving, fighting, navigating – everything. The camera view-point is pseudo isometric and allows you to get a good scope of the land around you. Link is controlled by simply drawing a path for him along the touch pad. You can set a pace and he’ll run it, or you can make him walk by drawing a slow line. It’s incredibly precise and offers both a new way to look at DS adventure games, and Zelda games in general.

Steve: Another game I just couldn't put down, and given the damn thing was portable, it was with me almost 24/7 until I finished it. Excellent use of the stylus and easily the best looking game on the system. Not to be missed.

Dan: Having played most previous Zelda titles but not The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, I had my doubts about a return to the wide-eyed cartoon stylings. It works though. Pretty colours and some new funky stylus ideas, a perfect fit for Nintendo's handheld.

AusGamers Review Score: 9.0/10

The Orange Box
Best Value For Money

Valve's The Orange Box presented us with a dillema; how do you review a package like this without scoring it a 10/10? You don't, you score the damn thing 10/10! However, this score is not reflective of each title held within the package, it merely points out that for the same price as a single PC or console game, The Orange Box gave you not one, not two, not even three games. Here you received:

  • Portal
  • Team Fortress 2
  • Half Life 2: Episode 2
  • Half Life 2: Episode 1
  • Half Life 2 (complete game)
Now if that's not the best value seen throughout all of 2007, we want to know what we missed.
Worst Value For Money

There were definitely a lot of great games through 2007, but with the good always comes the bad. The worst we laid eyes upon was the PS3 exclusive Lair. Lair attempted to create a robust fantasy world where humans rode dragons like fighter planes. On paper the concept worked, but in practice this was one of the sloppiest 'next-gen' titles ever seen.

From our review:
Factor 5 would have us believe Lair is an epic Lord of the Rings-inspired opus replete with all the fantasy-based background information, history and lore you could ever hope for, and truth be told when I first heard about this game on paper, I was interested. Within minutes, no seconds, of firing it up, however, I wanted to turn it off.
Tsk, tsk Factor 5. Maybe after all the bad reviews of this game they'll go back to the Star Wars series and make something worth getting excited over again.

Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock
Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock
The third 'official' instalment in this popular franchise brings more original master tracks than ever before. Add to that online multiplayer, Slash and Tom Morello as bosses and a visual overhaul, and you've got 2007's only choice for music game purchase (and Rock Band has yet to arrive).

From our review:
So what's new? Well for a start, the success of the series has meant more artists have been persuaded to contribute their master tracks, so unlike the previous games, the original versions actually outweigh the cover songs this time. Some highlights include Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast", Queens of the Stone-Age's "3s and 7s" and Metallica's "One".

Steve: Much to many people's surprise, I actually enjoy the battle moments GH3 dishes out. And while the songs are definitely a lot harder, they're also far more forgiving in nailing notes, plus out-of-the-box songs to purchase include tracks from two of my favourite bands, Gallows and Rise Against. Nuff said.

Dan: While it's not my #1 pick for overall quality, I've probably spent more time playing GH3 than any other game this year. Guitar Hero is just plain fun and number 3 showed us that on top of new set lists, they've still got some fresh ideas left for the series.

AusGamers Review Score: 9.0/10

Mass Effect
Mass Effect
The first in what is promised to be a trilogy of space adventuring, Mass Effect charges you with control of one Commander Shepard; a legendary soldier who has become the first human Spectre: an agent of the federation who is above the law. Mass Effect’s deep story and robust conversation reel are but one small part of a bigger game dubbed the best RPG to ever grace a console.

From our review:
And that's what the whole game is really about; choice. Mass Effect plays like an interactive Choose Your Own Adventure book, one epic story where the outcome of every interactive encounter can be manipulated by the choices you make. This is made possible by one incredibly in-depth dialogue system - without a doubt the one key feature that tramples all else in the genre.

Steve: As soon as I heard this game’s score I knew it was going to be good (think 80s/90s sci fi movies). An excellent menu and micro-management system, great action and an incredible storyline made this one of my favourite games of 2007.

Dan: The best example of storytelling in a video-game to-date and it's only the first in a planned trilogy. Unrivaled dialogue and a massive Universe of all new IP to explore – what's not to love? If I had my way Mass Effect would be at the top of this list.

AusGamers Review Score: 9.0/10

The Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass
Top 5 Exclusive Nintendo DS Titles

Nintendo had a grand old year with the DS. Life-to-date figures see the handheld with 988,168 units sold through in Australia since its launch with Pokemon Diamond and Pearl its biggest sellers for 2007. Biggest sellers aren't always the best games though, and so here's our list of what we thought rocked the DS boat in 2007:

          5. Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings
          4. Phoenix Wright: Justice For All
          3. Hotel Dusk
          2. Pokemon Diamond & Pearl
          1. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hour Glass
Super Mario Galaxy
Top 5 Exclusive Nintendo Wii Titles

Nintendo's innovative Wii started 2007 with some serious steam, and despite the console looking like it was only going to sport a collection of party games, we did see some stronger, more hardcore geared games for it in the latter part of the year. Here's what we thought was shaking on Wii in 2007:

            5. Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles
            4. Mario Strikers Charged
            3. Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition
            2. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
            1. Super Mario Galaxy

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
The final instalment in the 3D Metroid series sees the Wii finally showing off just how viable it is for the first-person genre. Corruption expands Samus’ universe ten-fold and introduces a number of new features; however, the tried and tested Metroid formula is still more than prevalent here with thoughtful puzzles, plenty of exploration and that all-important sensation of solitude and adversity. One of the year’s best.

From our review:
Despite being a Wii game, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is actually a thing of beauty. It’s not high-def, but after moving around the game-world for an hour you’ll be lost in its stylistic art-direction. Almost nothing here is symmetrical, leaving you wondering just how we consistently dealt with Halo’s cut and paste level and art design. Alien worlds look alien - as they should - and are all the more inviting for doing so.

Steve: Though I don’t feel as if this is the best in the series, through the incredible controls, it is the game I had the most fun with. I’m really excited about the prospects of Retro Studios moving onto a different IP, there’s no doubt in my mind it will be amazing based on the sheer brilliance of their proven art and technology with the Metroid series.

Dan: Finally a first-person shooter that does things properly on the Wii. It's not going to win over the most seasoned PC gamers but Prime 3 has shown us there is another way to play FPS games.

AusGamers Review Score: 9.5/10

This is where videogames become art. From Australia's own Irrational Games (now 2K Australia), BioShock delivers one of the most beatufily and compelling games of any generation. Thoughtful and provocative, BioShock never once ceases to amaze.

From our review:
"... the slide-reel is pulled away and your window shows a stunning view of a single man's vision – a city under the sea where no creative mind from fields such as science, art and industry can be choked by "petty morality" - a sprawling metropolis that seems to embrace and embody the very idea of change. Yet despite this vision of majesty, not all is as it seems, and docking at the first Rapture Bathysphere Station reveals a horrifying taste of things to come..."


Steve: Again, simply another game I couldn't put down. Marred only by a lack of replayability in the form of multiplayer, BioShock was close to top spot and will remain one gaming's greatest, most gratifying moments.

Dan: As a huge fan of System Shock 2, I had high expectations for BioShock. Fortunately it exceeded them. It's a corridor shooter with a great excuse for confined, claustrophobic spaces and that water, all that gorgeous water.

AusGamers Review Score: 9.5/10

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
Top 5 Exclusive PC Titles

Consoles may be stealing the focus from PC development, now more than ever, but the desktop still lays claim to some of 2007's biggest exclusives. The PC has no equal for real-time strategy and online multiplayer features and sheer graphic horsepower continue to keep the desktop boxes a step ahead of their lounge-room competitors. Here's what stood out this year:

Mass Effect
Top 5 Exclusive Xbox 360 Titles

The Xbox 360 really made a point this year. The first was that hitting homes a year earlier than the competition was a good strategy. The second was that home console owners were more than ready to play games online. As a result, Microsoft kept themselves ahead of the competition thanks to a great poise and an equally great list of exclusive titles for 2007:

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Coming in at a close number two, Call of Duty 4 shows that the shooter can be fast-paced, action-packed and incredibly artful. Who would have thought modern warfare could be this engaging. Add multiplayer to a brilliant (if short) single-plater campaign and you have one of the best reasons to own a 360 or PC this side of, well... most things. This is the game that just keeps on giving.

From our review:
From the outset it has been Infinity Ward’s goal to create one of the most cinematic and action-packed combat experiences of recent times. And through their fictional game-setting, have managed to do just that. They’ve crafted an intricate story here, and from the word "Go" you’re involved. In fact, one of the key points about Modern Warfare is you no longer ultimately feel like a generic soldier – another faceless, nameless grunt charging up the middle. Here you feel like you’re making a difference – and believe me, the way this story is told, and your involvement in its myriad of arcs, you are.

Steve: Stunning single-player campaign that will keep you glued to your controller and screen for hours. But when it's over, there's no need to fret because the multiplayer is so damn engaging and fun, you'll have this game in rotation for months

Dan: Moving away from World War 2 was an ingenious move for the Call of Duty franchise. A new playground with new toys but the core gameplay was still there. With top-notch visuals and excellent multiplayer on console and PC alike, Call of Duty 4 has more than earned its place on this list.

AusGamers Review Score: 9.6/10

Super Mario Galaxy
Super Mario Galaxy
Most of you will think we're crazy, but Super Mario Galaxy outshone the competition in 2007 through its very definition of gaming. This is one of the most enjoyable games you could ever play, and it does for the platform genre what no other game has ever done - it owns it. Super Mario 64 might have revolutionised the genre, but Super Mario Galaxy defines it.

From our review:
"Seriously though. Good God this is good. Almost a little too good. In fact it dwarfs almost every Wii game before it. To begin with – who says you need hi-def? Not Nintendo, that's for sure. The amount of colour, vibrancy and pure imagination literally seeping from every corner of this game is wondrous. Mario has never looked like this. His world has never looked like this. In fact, he’s never faced this type of thing before – but neither have you. His usual happenings and our understood conventions haven't just been turned on their head, they've been torn asunder.

Steve: Super Mario Galaxy was the most gratifying gaming experience of 2007 for me. Each and every level was a trip down memory lane, an exercise in reflex and peek into the future. One of the best games ever made.

Dan: Third party developers may not have banked on the Wii early on but I'm glad Nintendo did. Super Mario Galaxy reminds us that you don't need cutting edge hardware to make a world class game. This is videogaming in it's purest form.

AusGamers Review Score: 9.7/10

Like most stuff around abouts, some of you will agree and others will disagree with our choices here. But hopefully we’ve managed to create a dialogue with you all. And at the end of the day, it’s important you know it was actually really difficult to settle on this top 10. There have been numerous games throughout the year worth more than a mention, but we had to look at each game from a number of varying levels, and the results we came up with are what we’re sticking by; if you stand back and look at it, you can see there’s something here for everyone.

The real winners here though, are you guys – the gamers (which is us also). With such variety and choice, and all of such a high caliber, we can only look towards 2008 and hope it’s as fervent a year in game design and release as 2007 was. And with games like Fallout 3, Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Grand Theft Auto 4 all just on the horizon, 2008 is already looking like it could contend with The Year That Was: 2007.