4 Team Fortress 2
RELEASED October 2007 | LAST POSITION 7
Tom M: This is a game with incredible staying power, which has received hundreds of patches over the years. Team Fortress 2’s lasting appeal comes from the well-balanced counterplay that exists between its nine classes, who Valve has given funny and lovable personalities to through events outside the game.
Chris T: I can’t get over how brilliant the comics are. The game itself is one of the best knockabout shooters ever made: you’d never see it in a professional tournament, but it’s a reliable source of gun-centric silliness. Its lasting popularity is a lesson to other first-person shooter developers: make it fun, make it free, something something hats.
Chris L: The cartoony art style was a brilliant idea: the game will never look outdated. And, embracing community contributions means there’s always new items to gawk at. This game’s got legs. Hats, and legs.
Phil: It’s not just hats and legs. It’s got faces too: wonderfully expressive faces that imbue each character with a distinct personality. I have no idea what a Battlefield medic thinks about the horrors of war, but I know exactly what TF2’s Medic thinks about the fact you’re not on that point, dummkopf.
Evan: Like you’re all saying, what separates Team Fortress 2 is the way lore is worked into absolutely every scrap of it. What other game has made the announcement of a Mac port into a bespoke event with its own comic, trailer, and in-game item (that became its own currency within TF2’s market)?
RELEASED August 2007 | LAST POSITION 5
Wes: BioShock’s impeccable writing and immensely detailed world-building are so good that its combat tends to be unfairly maligned in comparison. Sure, the weapon feedback isn’t up there with the best shooters, and Vita Chambers can rob combat of some valuable tension. But I still delighted in exploring the environment, picking out the perfect place for an ambush, and unloading on a Big Daddy the moment it walked into my bolt traps. I loved the frantic dance of juggling between armour-piercing pistol rounds and explosive shotgun shells, and how BioShock’s other systems came into play: hacking turrets and sentry bots, and luring splicers and Big Daddies into fighting each other. The freedom to approach combat however I wanted cemented just how alive the world of Rapture felt.
Chris T: BioShock was such a huge success, and so massively influential, that it’s hard to imagine it represented a risk at the time. It really did, however: 2K took a gamble on a cerebral horror-shooter that didn’t look like any other game out there and tried to do more with the FPS than any other game would dare. From its peerless environmental storytelling to its most famous twist, it’s still the best game in the series. There’s a reason Irrational was so keen to return to Rapture: it was in Andrew Ryan’s undersea nightmare that the team made their strongest statement. This is a world in the process of collapse, a dream gone wrong, a slice of history, ideology and horror waiting to be peeled apart.
2 Mass Effect 2
RELEASED January 2010 | LAST POSITION 1
Tim: The Godfather Part 2 or Empire Strikes Back of the series, in the sense that the characters felt more vivid and the darkness threatening them that much deeper. The third game ultimately wound up with too much resolution to work through, whereas ME2 still felt pregnant with so much possibility. And mysteries are, or course, always more exciting than their resolutions.
Chris L: Typically I’m the guy who impatiently speeds through the talky parts of games to get back to the action. Here, the opposite is true. I’ve never, ever enjoyed just talking to characters as much as I do in this series, particularly in ME2. Only when I’ve squeezed every last possible word out of everyone do I finally pick up a gun, and when the battle is over I’m excitedly running back through the ship, hungry for more chit-chat. The characters and dialogue are simply unmatched.
Chris T: It’s been five and a half years and I’m still angry that they made me go and work for Cerberus.
Samuel: This had the Mass Effect plot I wanted: the moral ambiguity, the characters who weren’t necessarily allies and – sorry, I’m boring – my Shepard’s ultimate love interest, Miranda. The shooting was much improved, and all the individual character sidequests are outstanding. BioWare ensures that you’re given a reason to care about all of these people by delving into each of their backgrounds – even Jacob, so often written off as the boring guy on the Normandy, has a difficult relationship with his father that tells you a lot about that character’s motivation. The crew is BioWare’s best: new members like Thane, Legion, Samara and Kasumi join the most-liked from the previous game, such as Garrus and Tali. I think what keeps Mass Effect 2 high in this list is that most of us consider it the tightest RPG BioWare has ever made – it doesn’t have the divisive, more traditional type of combat the first game had, and the story is thrilling throughout, with nothing that proved as contentious as Mass Effect 3’s finale. It’s the perfect BioWare game.