Specials: Two racing sims enter, only one racing sim leaves!
Year in, year out, the video game industry keeps on growing. Ever since Pong ushered in the video game industry in 1972, each year brings familiar faces in different places and new and wonderful worlds to explore.
But what if the gaming industry didn't keep churning out new titles for an ever more rabid audience? What if a crash of epic proportions forced us to make due with only the games that were released in the last year? What would we do then?
I'll tell you what we'd do then. We'd take the 52 best games released in 2005 (one for each week of this hypothetical new-gameless year) and gorge ourselves on all the gaming goodness that should be more than one person can handle in a year. So that's what we did. The staff of Gaming Target went back over the 2005 slate of games and picked out the games we'd keep playing for another year if we had to. Of course, we'll play all of these great games in 2006 anyway.
So what if the gaming industry stopped? This is what we would play in 2006...
The First Ten
The Second Ten
The Next Ten
The Last Ten
The Top 12
Forza Motorsport (Xbox)
PlayStation 2 owners have long been smug about the Gran Turismo series, the acknowledged king in racing simulators. Or should I say ?former king?? The Xbox exclusive Forza Motorsport has done the unthinkable and usurped the long reigning champion to become the best racing simulator on the market. And it's not just because of the beautiful graphics and accurate recreations of real tracks; or the incredibly realistic driving physics that calculate tire wear, brake fade and even the effects of body damage on your aerodynamics; or the wide array of customization options from tuning your engine, suspension and brakes to creating amazing custom paint jobs; or the realistic damage modeling that even leaves paint scratches on the track; or even the fact that you can take your customized ride online in wildly fun head-to-head eight-player races. No, it's all that and more that make this package an absolute must-have for racing fanatics everywhere. - Troy Matsumiya
Gran Turismo 4 (PS2)
Through delays, dropped features, and general innovation in other genres, Gran Turismo 4 finally hit stores last year, and through it all, GT4 turned out to be a top-flight racing simulation for PlayStation 2. Yes, the online play, once a central focus of the game, was dropped to get GT4 finished. Yes, there's no damage model, something that's almost a requirement now. And yes, GT4 isn't much more than an evolution of GT3, but even with all that in mind, GT4 features some of the best simulation gameplay on the planet. Hundreds of cars, dozens of tracks, a seemingly endless amount of races...GT4 is unquestionably the deepest racer ever made, regardless of dropped features and a general 'been there, done that' feeling. Even if you get bored of racing, just take your car out and participate in the Photo Mode to practice your photography skills. - Adam Woolcott
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (Xbox, PC)
The Grand Theft Auto series is a classic study in contradiction. On one hand, gamers, gaming media and fellow developers love it for its revolutionary style of gameplay, excellent design and focus on providing a fun, entertaining experience. On the other hand, politicians, parent groups and the general media hate it for its perceived influence on violence and criminal behavior on kids. Needless to say, the latter were frothing at the mouth during the now infamous Hot Coffee controversy and practically blaming Rockstar for the downfall of modern civilization. Fortunately, Rockstar's customers know better. We know that GTA: San Andreas is a ridiculously fun kick-ass game, with great story reminiscent of a Spike Lee or John Singleton movie. It also stars Hollywood heavyweights Samuel L. Jackson, James Woods and Peter Fonda, among other notable celebrities, which raises the question why three highly respected actors with five Academy Award nominations, four Golden Globe awards and three Emmy awards between them would participate in something that is supposedly so degenerate and bad for society? Whatever. You and I know that GTA: SA rocks with its free-form open gameplay, innumerable mini-games and limited two-player co-op mode. And really, that's all that matters. - Troy Matsumiya
Guitar Hero (PS2)
There usually aren't many music games released each year. 2005 wasn't any different when it came to the PS2. Besides a few Beatmania knock-offs, the music scene was severely lacking, that is until the release of Guitar Hero.
The game itself is fairly simple, play notes as they appear on screen and try not to mess up. When played with a regular PS2 controller, the game completely loses the edge it has when using the mini Gibson SG controller. The controller features five buttons along the neck of the guitar, a switch on the face of the guitar, and start and select buttons. When playing the game on expert difficulty, the songs become as accurate as they possibly can be with such a limited controller.
Guitar Hero features an awesome soundtrack filled with many different kinds of rock music ranging from old classics like Joan Jett's ?I Love Rock N' Roll? to newer bands such as Queens of the Stone Age. Guitar Hero gives us a promising look into the future of music games here in America. - James Dauer
Half-Life 2 (Xbox)
What stands as one of the most technically impressive PC games of all time also stands as one of the most technically impressive ports of all time, as well. Despite being delayed multiple times, Half Life 2 managed to live up to all the hype and launched to critical acclaim on the PC. Though the Xbox version wasn't expected to be quite as good, it most certainly is.
Retaining the incredibly complex and fun Havok physics engine, as well as the jaw-dropping visuals of the PC version, Half-Life 2 is one of the best ports, and easily one of the best Xbox games out there. To top it all off, it controls like a dream. Even though this title doesn't reek of sheer replayability, it's a landmark title that can be played multiple times through and still be appreciated. - Dave Hulick
Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee (PSP)
Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee accomplishes almost everything needed to make a great portable game; a zippy pace where you can play 18 holes in roughly 15 minutes; minimal load times so you're not sitting around constantly (unlike its closest launch-era competitor, Tiger Woods PGA Tour); and plenty of depth to make your $40 investment worthwhile. The learning curve is the best in HSG's history; you will improve and the game will make it easy to do so. There's plenty of characters which you can customize with numerous unlockable gear, and plenty of courses, even if it takes a very long time to access them, one of the few real flaws with the game. You don't even need to be a fan of golf to enjoy Open Tee; the light-hearted design and simple gameplay using the familiar 3-click system makes for the sort of game anyone can play...no wonder they call it Everybody's Golf in other territories. - Adam Woolcott
Indigo Prophecy (PS2, Xbox, PC)
In the last quarter of 2005, Attari released a suspenseful adventure game mysteriously titled Indigo Prophecy. Indigo Prophecy however is a different breed of adventure game. While allowing the player to interact with the world around him or her, Indigo Prophecy also mixes in action scenes resembling a fast paced game of Simon, stealth segments, and multiple branching dialogues that the player chooses in real time. The game also features an interesting plot that allows the player to see the same story from up to four different perspectives by splitting the narrative into chapters, all while giving a convincing illusion that the player is in complete control of the outcome of the story. Indigo Prophecy features three different endings, and multiple scenarios per chapter adding plenty of replay, which is really something to a game in such a linear genre. Indigo Prophecy is guaranteed to put a suspenseful chill in your new year. - James Dauer
Kameo: Elements of Power (Xbox 360)
It's crossed three consoles, but finally, Rare's Kameo has made its debut as an Xbox 360 launch title. And thankfully, it delivers the goods, a welcome sign that Rare is back on the right track in the next-generation. As Kameo, you must harness the power of numerous elemental warriors and gather the Elemental Sprites necessary to summon these allies, in the solitary task of beating Thorn, the King of Trolls and rescue your family, all the while dealing with a pompous talking book. Thanks to some clever gameplay tactics, absolutely beautiful high-definition visuals, a collection of memorable characters, and of course, that legendary Rare charm, Kameo: Elements of Power stands out as one of the most unique titles on the Xbox 360. - Adam Woolcott
Lego Star Wars (PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PC)
What if you could experience the events of the Prequel Trilogy through a different set of eyes? What if those eyes saw the little stubby legs of a Lego guy running around with a lightsaber taking on Darth Maul? Or another Lego guy outstretching his little detachable hand and making the bricks that make up the floor rearrange themselves into a staircase? Looking at it through those eyes might make your average gamer not believe his own eyes. I thought Lego Star Wars was a brilliant April Fool's joke that couldn't possibly be a real game. But it was a real game, and all of those things I saw with my eyes showed me some of the most fun I've ever had in the Star Wars universe in video game form. Lego Star Wars is the perfect game for the young, and the young at heart, and I can't wait until that Lego Star Wars II rumor turns out to be true. - John Scalzo
It seems puzzle games were a popular choice for PSP launch games. The new system saw three soon after its immediate launch. Of the three, Lumines is a puzzle game that is easiest described as Tetris meets Columns, where the player is given a series of dual colored blocks and must arrange the colors into squares.
Lumines offers deceptively simplistic gameplay with a fresh new presentation and an awesome soundtrack that builds up as the player removes more and more blocks from the screen. Add to that the fact there are numerous gameplay modes that include single player, vs. computer, puzzle mode, and a wi-fi two player mode.
An interesting draw to Lumines is that each time a new skin (the background music and art) or computer controlled character is completed, the player can then use them at any time they want for as long as they like. - James Dauer
OK, 20 down, 32 more to go. The next ten await you tomorrow.