Halo 3. Call of Duty 4. God of War 2. BioShock. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Mass Effect. The Orange Box. Super Mario Galaxy. Rock Band. World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade.
It’s safe to assume that the majority of gamers have appreciated at least one of those titles. But what do those games all have in common? They were all released in 2007. It’s simple to forget that many of the hallmark titles we now recommend for gamers who haven’t yet experienced the wonders of the current-gen consoles were in fact, released last year.
But what of this year? Let’s see what we have.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, LittleBigPlanet, Gears of War 2, Rock Band 2, Fallout 3, Fable 2, Call of Duty: World at War, Dead Space, Mirror’s Edge, and GTA IV.
Truly, at first glance that list must seem impressive, but as we now know after getting the chance to test out the majority of the "blockbuster" titles we began salivating over so long ago, it really isn’t. That’s why I would like to respectfully ask the gaming community, where has the heart of gaming gone this year? While we have seen pseudo-innovation and the milking of certain cash cows until they’re drier than a desert, the games that have truly made us appreciate our collective hobby have been nowhere to be found this year. Many industry professionals and even regular people called 2008 the "year for gamers." I feel this couldn’t be any further from the truth.
It’s true that we have seen an abundance of new releases that SHOULD leave us feeling satiated, as if we have experienced some of the greatest instances of gaming ever, but as for me? I’m still feeling empty. Where has the heart gone to? This year brought a plethora of disappointments. It’s true that some of the releases were indeed impressive, but when you compare them on a wider scope, say, to what we saw last year, and especially to enduring classics, they pale considerably.
We complain about the lack of innovation in our purchases, and so this year it seemed the big companies listened. They delivered what they believed to be innovative through the hype machine on a silver platter. While they may be good games, they feel so cold and sterile, as if no heart has gone into them. We got our flashy explosions, our level editors, and our "epic" RPGs, as well as our cutesy mascots. But where are the experiences like we had the first time we laid our eyes on Halo, or fought our way through Chrono Trigger? What are the noteworthy games that really left that glowing feeling of accomplishment? Remember how it felt the first time you conquered Ocarina of Time? A comparable feeling has not presented itself this year.
No, what we received this year was the result of a rushed attempt to cater to every type of gamer in a relatively short amount of time. We got Gears of War 2, riddled with bugs in its multiplayer, and Mirror’s Edge, a painfully linear story that leaves no room for exploration lest you fall off the side of a building. LittleBigPlanet’s community has room for creative levels, but dare to use something copyrighted…say goodbye. Dead Space wasn’t terrifying in the least, and many of the year’s biggest and most overhyped contributions were outright failures, despite some generally positive reviews.
It’s a staggering case of quantity over quality, in that we saw a sea of games released and none of them were the be-all and end-all. When you have real difficulty proclaiming a game of the year, you know something is wrong. When there is a stack of games sitting in your room that you have obtained in the last couple of months, but you prefer to play through what came out two or three years ago, it’s also evident that there is a glitch in the system. Can you honestly say that by the end of this year, you will feel that this year was actually satisfying? What we saw this year was nothing more than pure PR magic. Personally, rather than being served up 20-30 titles that are shoved down my throat every time I open a gaming magazine or surf a website, I’d rather see the 5-10 quality games that stick with me and don’t turn to trade-in fodder that I can’t wait to rid myself of.
Let’s hope that 2009 is a year that showcases what we really look for in gaming: characters, stories, control schemes, graphics, and FUN that sticks with us, rather than a bevy of mediocre efforts that PR people like to shove down our throats.