Video Games | Head Games: The best and worst of 2007’s console and joystick entertainment 

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(MySpace.com/AmberAlertRock)This year seemed to go by exceptionally quick. Maybe it’s because I spent most of it in a Guitar Hero-induced daze. Nevertheless, it really does seem like this year was over before it started. So, with the end of the year comes the entertainment journalist’s most important and revered responsibility: a “best of” list.

There definitely seemed to be more violence this year. Manhunt 2 was the whipping boy with bans and initial adults-only ratings, but there were a lot of titles that pushed the envelope. In Assassin’s Creed, one of my favorite games of the year, the violent kill scenes seemed slow and deliberate. All the same, the game is breathtaking to look at and move through.

As gamers, we may well ask: Is it violence for the sake of violence, or is it just part of the game? That’s not to say that gratuitous violence in a fantasy setting can’t be a little fun. In fact, that’s where games like Manhunt 2 find their popularity.

All of which segues nicely into our awards:

Best Way to Whack an Imaginary Character: Its predecessor won this award previously, so it’s only fitting and unsurprising that Manhunt 2 gets the prize this year. If the unedited version had been released, the winner would have been nut-pluckin’ with a pair of pliers. However, since it was cut, it’s got to be using a toilet to kill a foe wearing a leather S&M mask in a sex club.

Worst Video Game Moment of 2007: It’s not the usual legislators who get this one, but organizers of Slamdance’s Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition who take the prize this year. In 2006, organizers asked the maker of a controversial Columbine massacre-themed video game to enter the competition. He did and was named a finalist by judges … and then was unceremoniously dumped by organizers for what Slamdance chief Peter Baxter said were “moral obligations to consider with this particular game and the interests and welfare of the Slamdance organization and its community.” Well, the Slamdance community was pissed. Other finalists withdrew, no grand prize was awarded and a symposium was held to discuss controversial games. This year, the game competition has been dropped from the Park City festival. It will be held instead either spring or summer in Los Angeles “to be closer to the gaming industry.” But after last year’s decision that castrated the power of this festival, does anyone really care?

Best Moment Sitting Alone Holding Something in my Hand: I love Shrek. I’m not afraid to admit it. I also love sim games where you have to complete tasks and take care of something. My two passions were nicely combined in Shrek: Ogres and Dronkeys for the Nintendo DS. When I’m playing DS or PSP, I’m not looking for an awesome gaming experience; I’m normally killing time and just want to be entertained. This game didn’t reinvent a genre, but it was addictively fun. And at the very least, it was better than Halo 3, which brings us to …

Most Overhyped Game, Worst Sequel and Worst Game of the Year: Let me begin this award by saying Halo sucks. You know what? Let me end with that, too.

The “What the Hell Happened?” Award: The past two years we get awesome movie games based on The Godfather, The Warriors and Scarface. This year, we get Ratatouille, the Bee Movie and the Golden Compass. Next year promises to be better with Dirty Harry and Ghostbusters. We can only hope.

Most Replayable Title: WWE: Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 has only been out a month or so, but I can’t stop playing it. I had given up on wrestling games. They were the same year after year and the controls never seemed right. But this game fixes those things for me. I haven’t played the title in a couple of years but thought I would give it a dance this year. I was impressed. I love the 24/7 career mode where you can play as either a superstar or general manager. This game comes with hours of quality gaming and opponent maiming (wrestlers like to rhyme stuff).

Best Sequel: Without a doubt, Guitar Hero III is the best game with a Roman numeral in the title since … well, Guitar Hero II. This was almost game of the year. I like the addition of Slash, and I have played Paint it Black 68,456 times, which is five more times than Keith Richards has played it.

Game of the Year: How could Rock Band not be the game of the year? It’s GH with a bass player, microphone and drum kit. Where else can you get your and mates together to perform “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” and “Enter Sandman,” without actually forming a band I mean? This game takes a surging genre, kicks it up a notch and let’s you perform REM’s “Orange Crush.” Rock on.

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