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Last Updated: Friday, 29 December 2006, 23:49 GMT
Experts pick 'best game of 2006'
The last 12 months have proved to be among the most eventful in the history of videogames, with the launch of the PlayStation 3, the Nintendo Wii, the consolidation of the Xbox 360 and gaming being embraced by more and more people.

Lots of videogames proved themselves to be must-have purchases but which ones have been selected by our panel of experts?

MARGARET ROBERTSON, EDGE MAGAZINE EDITOR

Final Fantasy XII
The Final Fantasy series are globally popular

FINAL FANTASY XII - PLAYSTATION 2

One of my dark secrets is that I don't really like any of the 3D Final Fantasy games, and I had very little enthusiasm for XII until I sat down with it.

But it's clear within minutes that it's a masterpiece.

Despite its inexhaustible beauty and technical ambition, it's an amazingly humble game.

It always puts the player first, letting them shape their own experience, but without ever compromising its own ability to tell a story - and, for once, that's a story with a bit of depth and nuance.

MATT CUNDY, GAMESRADAR.COM ACTING EDITOR

Rockstar Table Tennis
Table Tennis has proved very popular online

TABLE TENNIS - XBOX 360

Simple controls make it easy to jump into, while a staggering - yet subtle - level of depth rewards dedicated players - this is easily the game I've racked up most hours playing online. It is still the most fun I've had with an Xbox 360 and a broadband connection yet.

Plenty of games have dazzled and entertained this year, but while the majority of those have been relegated to the shelve upon completion, the "ping" and "pong" sound of Rockstar's virtual celluloid balls endures and is still music to my ears - a pure gaming experience that every 360 owner should have in their collection.

DARREN WATERS, TECHNOLOGY EDITOR BBC NEWS WEBSITE

WII SPORTS - NINTENDO WII

Wii Sports
Does Nintendo have a big hit with the Wii?

It might be hyperbole but Wii Sports has changed the attitudes of friends and family to videogames forever.

For years I have ploughed a lonely furrow trying to convince friends that videogames are a worthwhile pursuit. But I have had limited success. Occasionally games like Buzz or Singstar ignited a flicker of interest but the flames never took hold.

But putting a Wii-mote controller into the hands of someone who would flinch at the sight of a traditional controller has been a revelation.

Tennis, golf and bowling have been a particular highlight - and a smashed light fitting from a particularly vicious overhead shot by my neice is the only Wii damage to report so far.

The graphics may be limited, especially in the high definition era, but all of this is forgiven when you are having so much fun.

Can Nintendo maintain the appeal of the Wii? That's the big question. But for the last few weeks at least, there has only been one game worth playing.

NEIL MCGREEVEY, BBC

Zelda
Zelda returned with motion sensitivity

ZELDA: TWILIGHT PRINCESS - WII

Nintendo's love letter to Ocarina of Time is hardly a generational leap over Gamecube fodder; indeed, the game is also available for Nintendo's purple box.

But by drawing on artistic rather than technical prowess and distilling all that's good about the Zelda franchise, this is arguably the greatest launch title ever created - even trumping the developer's own Super Mario 64.

In the darkest Zelda yet, Link must awaken the hero - and the wolf - within on a quest to save the land of Hyrule from perpetual twilight.

The Wii's unique controls suck gamers into the biggest Zelda ever, with swordplay, aiming weapons and even fishing achieved through miming the actions on your sofa.

A huge improvement over the short-lived, sailing-heavy quirkiness of Wind Waker, and easily the equal of the incredible Ocarina of Time, this is a nostalgia-riddled addition to the series.

Of course, the 360 and PS3 set will baulk at how the Wii hardware pales beside its next-gen peers, but that would be missing the point entirely. While, fittingly, the last ray of life for the Gamecube, Twilight Princess represents a new dawn for Zelda fans on the Wii.

GAVIN OGDEN, C&VG.COM

Gears of War
Gears of War was a monster hit for Xbox

GEARS OF WAR

With no new Halo for Xbox 360 this Christmas it was left to Gears Of War to feed the hardcore gamers' need for a new shooter.

Gears has a great single player game but Epic's shooter really comes into its own over Xbox Live.

The nature of the game encourages you to talk to your team mates and work together to overcome your online rivals.

The third-person shooter has officially been given new life through the use of environmental cover, jaw-dropping visuals and tense multiplayer gameplay.




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