It's Halloween once again and the witches are out. I know, because the other day two kids demanded money at my door and someone threw a rocket at me in the street. To celebrate, Pro-G editor Tom Orry and deputy editor Wesley Yin-Poole have picked out their gaming Tricks and Treats for you to pour over this fine spook-tastic holiday. A treat is a game we didn't really expect to be any good but turned out to be fantastic, and a trick is a game that had massive hype but ended up falling well short of its lofty promises. Read on, and let us know what your personal gaming tricks and treats are in the comments section below.
TREAT - Crackdown, Xbox 360, Microsoft Game Studios, 2007
When Tom reviewed this surprising gem back in February, he said it "must rank pretty high on the list of games that looked doomed to fail but actually turned out pretty damn well". Early screenshots were hideous and the game had almost no buzz. And when Microsoft announced that the game would come with a Halo 3 beta key, it all sounded like a cynical marketing ploy to sell more copies of a rubbish game. How wrong we were. Crackdown quickly found a home in the hearts of many unsuspecting Halo fans and stands on its own as one of the 360's best games. Wesley.
TRICK - Lair, PS3, Sony Computer Entertainment, 2007
Lair will surely go down in history as one of the most over-hyped games for the PlayStation 3. During the system's troubled first few months Lair was seen by many as the game that would welcome in a new wave of brilliant first-party efforts by Sony. Who doesn't like the idea of flying powerful, fire-breathing, mid-air fighting dragons? Sadly, what we got (or at least will get on the game's UK release in November) is a fairly uninspired aerial combat game, with Sixaxis motion control that borders on broken and visuals that range from beautiful to ugly. Lair showed so much promise early on, but for whatever reason the decision to make it a motion-control-only title has cemented it as a real turkey. Tom.
TREAT - Wii and Wii Sports, Nintendo, 2006
Surprising choice perhaps, but cast your mind back to April 2006, when Nintendo officially unveiled the name of its new console. Internet forums and message boards exploded in a cacophony of disbelief. "They've called it what?" was a question asked by gamers across the world. Back then, many thought Nintendo had gone mad, naming a console with an unconvincing and alien control system after a bodily fluid. Now, there can be no dispute - the Wii is a gaming phenomenon and Nintendo are resurgent, hailed as saviours of our industry. Wesley.
TRICK - Killzone, PS2, Sony Computer Entertainment, 2004
During the bitter PlayStation 2 versus Xbox war there was one game in particular that Sony fans were jealous of: Halo. Game after game was touted as the 'Halo Killer' but none delivered. Then came Killzone, a game whose hype was built around a tiny blurry image inside Official PlayStation 2 Magazine. In the mind of Sony zealots this was to be the last word in first-person shooters and finally wipe the Master Chief sized grin off the faces of Xbox owners. In true over-hyped fashion the game disappointed, barely being worthy of mention in the same thought process as the iconic Halo. The AI was terrible, the game engine struggled to keep up with the impressive visuals and numerous other game design problems consigned it to the Halo wannabe bin. Tom.
TREAT - Chili Con Carnage, PSP, Eidos, 2006
When talking about games that came out of nowhere, this spicy PSP action game should be right at the top of the list. Loosely based on the PS2, Xbox and PC title Total Overdose, Chili stripped off the fat, featured a brilliant PSP control system and some of the best visuals on the handheld to date. On its release the game received little fanfare but I still rank it as the premier third-person shooter on the PSP, with a superb campaign and numerous game modes designed for competitive play. What's more, you get to use a wrestler in a gimp mask as a weapon - enough said. Tom.
TRICK - Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness, PS2 and PC, Eidos, 2003
An obvious choice we know, but one that's impossible to avoid. TR: AoD is the quintessential rubbish game that we all thought would be good. It looked like being the most ambitious TR game ever, with incredible graphics and a new look Lara Croft. But the game was released half broken, with tonnes of bugs, poor controls and continuity errors. It was a rushed mess, and it took Eidos three years to get over it with 2006's Tomb Raider: Legend. Wesley.
TREAT - Rogue trooper, PS2, Xbox and PC, Eidos, 2006
Eidos and Rebellion snuck out this comic book licensed third-person shooter back in April 2006 and it's fair to say that no one expected much from a blue man with talking weapons. How wrong we all were though, as Rogue Trooper turned out to be one of the most entertaining and original shooters of the year. It featured solid visuals, great enemy AI, some unique locations and the best weapon set you'll find outside of an Insomniac shooter. Even the cover system that Gears of War made popular appeared in Rogue Trooper. Truly an overlooked classic. Tom.
TRICK - Enter the Matrix, PS2, GameCube, Xbox, PC, Atari, 2003
Enter the Matrix was hyped as the first game that would properly fit into the lore of a film franchise, as opposed to a poorly developed movie cash-in. It reportedly cost over $30m to make and included two hours of live action footage written and directed specifically for the game by the Wachowski brothers. You controlled two of Neo's mates, Ghost and Niobe, and the game was set roughly in the middle of The Matrix Reloaded. It was meant to expand on the films and fill in story gaps, but it ended up being a boring, uneventful chore. All gamers wanted was to kick Agent Smith's ass as Neo. Instead we got two useless minor characters from the disappointing second film instead. Wesley.
TREAT - Viva Piñata, Xbox 360, Microsoft Game Studios, 2006
Has any game in the history of gaming fooled us like Rare's Viva Piñata? Early on we all thought the 360 was getting a fancy looking virtual pet game, no doubt made for kids and not at all of interest to the 360's more mature user base. Yet the game that hit stores in December 2006 bared little resemblance to the Tamagotchi nightmare we'd predicted. This was a full-on ecosystem simulation, complete with complex animal behaviours and interactions, plant growing and management. Ironically, the features that make Viva Piñata so good for adults made it less of a hit with the kids that the franchise is squarely aimed at. Tom.
TRICK - Driv3r, Xbox and PS2, Atari, 2004
This little gem arrived before the days of Pro-G, back when I was working part-time in retail after completing my degree. Driv3r was the big event of April, our company's focus, and this wasn't even a video game store. The level of hype surrounding this game was just insane and the publisher was so confident in its success that it was a fiver more expensive than the other new releases. We were all given instructions to hard sell the game to customers and half the video game section in the store was turned into a big promotion for the game. Of course, Driv3r was a monumental disaster, and the day after launch wasn't pretty. Our no returns policy on opened games went down brilliantly with the 20+ customers demanding their money back. Thanks Atari. Tom.