games / Columns

The 8 Ball: Top 8 Games of 2004 – Burnout 3, Riddick, More

November 28, 2017 | Posted by Marc Morrison
burnout 3 takedown

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week I’m here to talk about the year 2004. Last week I mentioned that 2003 was a bit of a slow year but this is certainly not the case for 2004. Frankly, having to only pick 8 games was a bit of a challenge, so I present two honorable mentions: Mega Man X8 and GTA: San Andreas. I love that Mega Man X8 was an honest attempt to make a modern Mega Man game, at least at the time. It wasn’t just a rehash of classic gameplay. While San Andreas really blew out GTA formula, making it more of a RPG game, and expanding the scope significantly. Enjoy:

#8: Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy

Psi-Ops is the very definition of a B-grade game that has become all but gone in today’s gaming climate. It’s built around two hooks, psychic powers, telekinesis, pyrokinesis, mind drain and so on, and the Havok physics engine. Both psychic powers and the physics allow you to approach situations in a variety of ways. You can just go in guns blazing, but that’s the boring way. You can instead pick up barrels and throw them at enemies, or use the fire power to torch them, or mind control an enemy and have him take out his buddies, etc. The story in Psi-Ops is kind of boring, but just the gameplay alone made it a cool game, and one that should have earned it a sequel.

#7: Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines

Vampire was an incredibly ambitious game when it came out. Unfortunately, it was rushed out the door and in a barely playable state. It took years of fan-made patches to bring the game into its intended state. Even with this caveat, Bloodlines was still a very cool game. You started off as a newly turned vampire, able to pick your clan affiliation and abilities. Then you’re swept into the machinations of the vampire political structure where you can align yourself with different factions over the fate of a mythical sarcophagus. Along the way, you undertake quests, drink blood, and unlock more vampiric powers to make the game easier. I hope that the upcoming “Vampyr” game from Dontnod has some of the same ambition as Bloodlines did, when it eventually comes out.

#6: Katamari Damacy

Katamari Damacy was a real anomaly when it came out. This was a distinctly Japanese game that came to American shores when not a ton of quirky games were being released anymore. Katamari Damacy’s main game involves you, as the Prince, rolling around the Katamari, a big ball, as it sucks up various objects, causing the objects to stick on it. You then roll up more objects, causing the Katamari to get even bigger, and more unwieldy to control, and the cycle goes on and on. You are doing this to restore the stars after your father, the King of All Cosmos, got drunk one night and destroyed them all. There is also a parallel narrative of a Japanese family going about their daily lives, as the Prince is doing his duty. It’s still a pretty bonkers game, and I wish Namco would make a version for the PS4.

#5: Shadow Hearts: Covenant

Shadow Hearts was a pretty unknown RPG franchise during the PS2 era. Those were the days when RPGs, particularly from Japan, would come to a console without any press and it was up to a die-hard fanbase to support them. Covenant, the second game in the three game franchise, set in World War 1, you play as Yuri (same as the first game), only now he has been cursed and has lost his demonic powers. Traveling with a female German soldier who switches to your side, you travel around to regain your powers and strike back at the secret society that cursed you. The notable thing about this game, other than the setting, is the “Judgement Ring” combat system. Akin to Legend of Dragoon or Lost Odyssey, this game has an active battle system where you press buttons to time your attacks, and possibly do critical damage. You can expand the ring sweet spots with equipment you pick up in the game.

#4: World of Warcraft

WoW isn’t the first MMO, not even the first popular MMO, but it was the first MMO to truly breakthrough to the general public and become a phenomenon. At one point, WoW had over 12 million players, which is a lot when you really think about it. WoW launched with two factions, four playable races, and 9 different classes, you could generally play the game however you wanted, outside of some arbitrary restrictions, which were generally removed with various expansions. WoW is what started the big shift into MMO games, which generally didn’t work out for the other imitators who tried. It was, and still is, a landmark MMO game, the likes of which we aren’t going to see again anytime soon.

#3: Burnout 3: Takedown

I really love Burnout 3, and generally think it’s the best game in the Burnout franchise. A lot of people like Burnout Paradise, but I think the open-world nature of racing in that game is distinctly not fun. Burnout 3 had a great sense of speed, good tracks to race, and gameplay that really emphasized crashing other racers to make you go faster. The size of your turbo meter was entirely dependent on causing other cars to wreck, going up to 3 times its original length if you were racing correctly. Aside from the main racing part of Burnout 3, there was the puzzle-esque Crash mode, where you would have to figure out the best route in order to get the highest score. Sadly, the Criterion Games that made this game is no more, especially once they became fully enmeshed into the EA machine. The last racing game they did was the somewhat maligned Need for Speed: Rivals, and the last good racing game they did was in 2010 with Hot Pursuit.

#2: The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay

There are some good first person stealth games out there, Dishonored, and the recent Deus Ex games spring to mind, but Riddick is in a class by itself. Not only is it the greatest FPS stealth game around, it’s also the best movie-based game ever made. It’s what happens when you have a studio, Starbreeze, who actually care about the source material and making a good game, instead of just trying to make a quick buck. Set before the events of Pitch Black, Butcher Bay seeks to get deeper into the Riddick character, such as how he got his Eyeshine, and his relationship with the Johns character. Really though, Riddick is just a fantastic game, you have to navigate the levels of a brutal prison, aligning yourself with certain inmates to get the necessary tools in order for you to escape. The sequel, Dark Athena, was an “ok” attempt, but couldn’t hope to meet the quality of the first game.

#1: Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne

Nocturne was the game that got me into the Shin Megami Tensei franchise. I remember reading reviews for it, at the time, and being curious so I grabbed a copy and was suitably impressed. The basic gameplay is very much like other SMT games, or Persona games, turn-based JRPG combat, gaining new turns when you exploit elemental weaknesses, recruiting new demons by talking to them, and so on. What I really enjoyed about Nocturne though, besides the tried & true gameplay, is the story. You play a high school student who has survived the apocalypse and is transformed into a demon and is then trying to rescue his friends and see if and how the world can be saved. It doesn’t have the overt personality and relationships that a typical Persona or other SMT game would have, Nocturne’s world is far more stark and philosophical, but that’s why it stuck with me so well.

For comments, list which games of 2004 you liked and why.

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Top 8 Games of 2005

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The 8 Ball (Games), Marc Morrison