Zestful Contemplation’s Best of 2008 Awards
Way the hell after 2008 is a thing of the past, it’s Zestful Contemplation’s Best of 2008 Awards. I’m not pretending to make my awards comprehensive or unbiased or any of that other pretentious crap. The fact that these awards reflect my own personal experiences, tastes, and dislikes is exactly the point. I haven’t played every game that came out this year and I’m not going to consider a boatload of titles I never played. But I did play a huge number of games this year, and these choices reflect my personal tastes and thoughts about the games I spent time with in 2008.
- Gears of War 2
- Left 4 Dead
Shooters are quite the competitive category these days. It is a genre I enjoy, but one in which it is easier than some of the other crowded categories for me to choose a favorite. This is because I tend to be rather selective with my shooters. It is a genre from which I accept no mediocrity. The primary reason for this is honestly that I get bored of any shooter that isn’t fantastic, so I don’t waste time or money on anything that’s not pretty much spectacular.
Thus, for me, a game like Call of Duty 4 was only a rental. I haven’t even bothered to play Resistance 2 yet. Call of Duty 5 and its WWII setting holds no appeal whatsoever. You see my point.
Two shooters in particular managed to sneak their way into my lineup last year. For me the choice was clear. Gears of War 2 was a brilliant dose of high-octane, testosterone packed, spectacular action fun. It was also immensely predictable, bogged down with poorly told story points, riddled with a few too many moments that were overly frustrating, and set damn near entirely in drab underground environments.
Left 4 Dead, on the other hand, is a game that is brilliantly simple. There’s no unnecessary story. Just four people, a few guns, and a whole hell of a lot of zombies. The environments themselves tell all the story you need to know (and do a great job of it). It is one of the best cooperative experiences I have ever played in a game. While there are perhaps fewer levels than I might like, you can go back to them countless times without getting bored thanks to the AI Director.
This artificial puppeteer keeps thin￼gs so consistently intense that you’ll never once be bored, changing things up every single run through a level just enough to keep you on your toes and avoid too much predictability, but at the same time rarely lets things feel frustrating or needlessly difficult (unless you happen to be playing on Expert of course, but the entire point of that difficulty level is to be stupidly hard, so I can’t really fault the game for delivering there).
I even enjoyed the online play and the versus mode, which are things I normally don’t even touch in shooters. Now that’s an impressive feat.
Left 4 Dead is one of the most intense and consistently fun games I have played in a long time. It nails the aesthetic, the difficulty, the co-op mechanics, the online play, the versus mode, and pretty much everything else (hell, even the achievements are pretty well done), making it clearly my favorite shooter of 2008.
Now come on, Valve, just give me a few more levels.