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Monday, December 27, 2004  

The 2nd Annual Octys!
It’s that time of year where every site on the interweb posts its top ten, best of, and picks and pans lists, and the ‘Hat is no exception. The Octys are given to the stuff that I liked the best in 5 different categories (Movies, music, video games, TV, and tech/gadgets) and they don’t necessarily represent the best of what’s out there (as shown in last years awards where I overlooked the Shin’s “Chutes too Narrow” which would have easily taken the prize had I discovered it a few months earlier. And so today we begin with what was this years most clear-cut award: the 2004 Octy for

Best Video Game
The runner up in this category is a game that will probably sit on the top of many other “best of” lists this year: Halo 2. The games is really a lot of fun, and it probably the best on-line console game this year. It really isn’t hard to find a review that will sing its praises, so I don’t really feel like parroting those feelings, so instead I’d rather highlight a few aspects that irk me about the title. The single player campaign is well put together and fun, but it really feels like just more of the same. Sure, you can dual-wield and you play part of the game as a different character, but it still feels JUST like Halo 1 (which isn’t entirely bad since Halo’s gameplay is compelling enough to keep you on the edge of interested through some REALLY questionable level design.) But I really wanted MORE out of the game. Halo 2 really shines on Xbox Live, and if that is your bag then you’ll easily be enthralled by the great maps, cool games types, and gorgeous visuals. But the learning curve is STEAP and you really have to WORK at the game to rise above the level of controller-hurling frustration. Still if you are an FPS fan you owe it to yourself to see what the cutting-edge of the genre’s implementation on consoles can be.

I didn’t used to consider myself a big-fan of racing/driving games. There have been some stand-out titles in the past that I’ve REALLY gotten into (Wipeout comes to mind) but I never got into what are generally considered the “titans” of the genre (Gran Turisno, Need for Speed, Project Gotham etc.) But then I remember some driving games that have really effected me: last year’s Octy Winner “Mario Kart: Double Dash,” and The various incarnations of Sega’s masterpiece “Crazy Taxi” and I realize that I enjoy racing games when there is more to do that make a perfect drifts around corners. And so it is with this year’s winner: “Burnout 3.” This game is SO fun; I don’t even know where to start selling it. The mechanics are fantastic: it is a race (usually) and you go faster if you cause the other cars to crash (and you never get tired of causing all kinds of vehicular mayhem.) The visuals are known to cause spontaneous eye-bleeding, and the sense of sheer uncontrollable speed is palpable. When your car is flying down a busy freeway at 200MPH it really FEELS like you are traveling at a speed that is entirely unsafe, and that would cause lesser drivers to soil themselves. Take this absolutely top-notch gameplay, best-of-show visuals, and tight controls and mix in the multitude of game-modes (including a puzzle-like mode where the object it to cause as much damage as possible by orchestrating a massive crash) and tracks and you get one hell of a time-suck. There where days that I would go home for lunch just to get in a couple of races before returning to work, and even Julie (who has typically avoided driving-games) got SERIOUSLY into BO3. Simply put there is no game more fun and ACCESSABLE on any of the systems (and it is available on all 3!) So you really don’t have an excuse to go out and buy it. Even if you don’t like driving games I would wager that you’ll Love Burnout 3.

The “Honorable Mention” this year goes to a game that I didn’t even play: Half Life 2. I may not have been able to play it on my aging PC, but if I COULD, I KNOW that I would have been sucked right back into the world of Gordon Freeman. So I envy those who have a rig to run the game, and I’ll eventually get there, but until then I can only imagine the inner-conflict I would experience if I had to choose between HL2 and BO3. So yeah, go buy Burnout.

posted by JMV | 12/27/2004 04:42:00 PM
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