Games of the Decade (part two)
Here is part two of our run-down covering the decade's most influential games, starting with...
Platform: Games for Windows
Release Date: October 2007
Proving beyond any shadow of a doubt that first-person shooters don't have to be run-and-gun exercises in mind-melting linearity, Valve's genius pocket-sized puzzler came from gaming's shadowy left field and, in one stroke, completely dismantled the dullard corridor-to-corridor mechanic (ab)used for so long by the largely unimaginative FPS genre.
Removing any sense of in-game threat where generic gun-toting bad guys are concerned, Portal instead tasked its player with battling against the environment and their grey matter in order to overcome tough but always fascinating physics-based challenges. This involved using the player's Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device (technically not even a weapon) to create and strategically place inter spatial 'portals' and use them to navigate the player and various mandatory items from entry to exit while steering clear of deadly traps.
Laced throughout by a dark sense of humour, provided by the soothing yet sadistic tones of monitoring A.I. construct GLaDOS, the player's all-too-brief journey through the enthrallingly creative Aperture Science Computer-Aided Enrichment Center is one that should have inspired FPS makers to spin the category off in a whole new direction. Sadly, that hasn't yet happened... and run-and-gun sequel (Call of Duty) Modern Warfare 2 is the year's biggest selling game.
Still, Portal went on to spawn the Portal: Still Alive expansion on Xbox Live, left razor-tongued reviewer Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw unable to spew any acerbic criticism whatsoever, and even threw out its own line of fluffy Weighted Companion Cubes - so it's not all bad. Are we looking forward to Portal 2? Ya think.
Title: God of War
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: SCE Studios Santa Monica
Release Date: March 2005
Hack and slash gameplay has never really been 'The West's' thing. Sure, we all occasionally enjoy a bit of combo-specific action in the third person, but when it comes to creating the stuff... Well, we've largely left that to Japanese studios like Capcom, which has years of hacking and slashing experience thanks to renowned series such as Devil May Cry.
But that all changed in 2005 when a certain David Jaffe and Sony's Santa Monica studio looked to cause some much needed ripples in the increasingly stagnant 'Japaction' genre pool. And, not content with merely upsetting the water's surface by dipping a tentative toe, the team behind God of War clearly hurled themselves bodily into uncharted depths with a view to crafting a riptide of momentum sufficient to carry their game beyond all that had come before.
While that may be something of an overstatement, God of War duly arrived with more than enough combo-heavy clout to handle a toe-to-toe encounter with any established hack and slash heavyweight. Frenetically violent from the outset, the game's epic story of a betrayed mortal intent on wreaking revenge upon the Gods of Olympus was fuelled by eternally furious Spartan warrior Kratos, one of the decade's most unremittingly angry central protagonists.
Complemented by an intelligent and unobtrusive game camera, stunning set pieces, and an often-bewildering sense of scale, God of War's near riotous impact continues to resonate alongside the swelling ranks of its fan base. And, with God of War II (PS2) and God of War: Chains of Olympus (PSP) both subsequently pushing the series even further up the quality ladder, it's no surprise that God of War III - even without the guiding hand of Jaffe - is one of 2010's most anticipated releases for the PlayStation 3.
The true testament to God of War's supreme quality likes in the recently released God of War Collection on PlayStation 3. Unchanged beyond sporting a fresh coat of 720p gameplay gloss, the original remains nothing short of exemplary on all counts and Kratos - Gods love him - is still unrivalled as the snarling epitome of the tragic videogame antihero.