Paul Barnett Creative Director at BioWare Mythic, Paul Barnett is a professional lunatic known for his unique fashion sense, outspoken personality, and extreme Britishness. In classic Barnett-style, rather than write out his top 10 list like everyone else, Paul chose to fly out to the Giant Bomb offices expressly to record his top 10 list as a mini-podcast, which you can find here.
Jeff Green Jeff Green is the Director of Editorial and Social Media at PopCap Games. In a former life, he was a writer/editor at Computer Gaming World magazine for 12 years, including 8 as editor-in-chief. He's been a big fucking dork longer than you, and has the 1970s high-school marching band uniform to prove it. Jeff also served a 2-year sentence at the Electronic Arts maximum security facility, but about that, the less said the better.
Sent from my iPadBefore I get to my Top 10 Games of 2010, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. I am no longer in the gaming media, so the only games I get (other than PopCap games) are the ones I buy myself. Thus the games I played in 2010 was rather self-selecting. I bought 'em because I knew I'd be predisposed to liking 'em. And for the most part, this turned out to be true, with one notable exception.
2. I still don't own a PS3. Why? Because I am a pud. So there are no PS3 games on this list. deal with it.
3. I'm on vacation in Hawaii as I write this, so if this list seems particularly, brain-dead, blame the sun. I really don't care what you think anyway, because I'm in Hawaii! LOL!
Okay, here's the list, in the order that I'm feeling right now. If I wrote this tomorrow, I'd probably reorder them. Yes, that's how arbitrary this is, just like everyone else's list. They just don't always admit it.
10. Zuma Blitz
Look, what do you want from me? They pay me. What would you do? Besides, this game fucking rules. Zuma was honestly the one big PopCap franchise I was never fully into--I have to shoot balls out of a frog's mouth, you say? -- but, given to me in 60-second challenges, competing against all my friends, and, yeah, I'm in. I'm not going to try to sell you on the game or the gameplay, because that's just PR. I've said enough. Try it, and you'll know I'm not just earning a paycheck here.
The best game I played with my daughter this year. No masterpiece, surely, but you could almost feel the relief and joy that Tim Schafer and Double Fine poured into this project, freed from the constraints of a AAA budget and gigantic publisher. As usual, the offhand jokes and dialog were a highlight, but even the game's concept was great, tapping into that little-kid fantasy world that is Halloween trick-or-treating night. Here's hoping no one ever tempts Tim Schafer with a giant publishing deal again, and that he doesn't need one. I'll take one Costume Quest over ten Brutal Legends any day.
It endures. Thirty years ago, I was feeding quarters into a machine--always wishing I had more quarters. I don't need quarters for this anymore, thank god, but the addiction--THE FEVER--is back, as strong (or maybe stronger) than ever, in this totally brilliant reimagining of a game that, really, none of us thought could be reimagined any further. I mean, really--Pac Man? But the fundamental change here--from one of survival to high-score attainment--while seemingly butt-simple and not particularly profound, turned out to be a stroke of genius, as did the gazillion unlocks, which, as we all know in 2010, is how to win over our 21st century ADD, reward-starved lizard brains. Seriously, this had no business being any good. The fact that it's awesome is just kind of the Feel Good Story of 2010. When Pac-Man is good, all is right with the world.
I swore I was out. I quit, in fact, for 16 glorious months. And I didn't miss it, either. I could recall my addiction, I could remember how sucked in I was, and I would shiver with relief that I didn't need it any more. And during that 16 months I discovered a whole world of games I had been missing out on while serving the cruel mistress that is WoW. But goddamn if I'm not all the way back in again. And happy about it. What Blizzard has done in this monumental expansion is essentially build an entire new game on top of the old one, ripping out the antiquated parts and replacing it with all the good stuff they've learned over the six years of running this monster. Everything is easier, more streamlined, more fun, more engaging--and if you're stuck on this being "too easy" now, then you weren't paying attention 6 years ago when it was already too easy, at least to those of us who cut our teeth on the old school MMOs. WoW has never been about making you feel like a tough guy hardcore gamer, okay? So get over it. WoW is the Disneyland of computer gaming--an amusement park with thrill rides for everyone. And these new rides? They're better than ever. Now someone bring me a pizza and a bucket, because I'm not moving my fat ass off this chair for another year. Yay!
My favorite RPG of the year. Also my first Dragon Quest ever. And the only game I played on my Nintendo DS this year. I loved everything about this JRPG, including the cutesy graphics, but the highlight for me, and one of my gaming highlights of 2010, was hanging out at PAX with hundreds of other Dragon Quest players, all with DSes in hand, as we "visited" each other's games via the game's clever "multiplayer" (in quotes because, ya know, you're not really playing together), which rewards you based on the number of visitors you get. A gimmick, maybe, but a neat way to expand such a normally closed, individual experience. And it didn't hurt that that closed, individual experience was such a well-designed and addictive one.
Given how miserable this game's publisher made me in 2010, I tried hard to keep this off my list. But if I'm being honest (and, look, I'm trying), then Mass Effect 2 not only makes the list, but makes it near the top. I didn't finish Mass Effect the first time around because, frankly, it bored me shitless, thanks to 20+ hours of elevator rides. But Mass Effect 2 trimmed all the lame fat out of the first game, amped up the action, and gave us one of the best adventures of 2010. Note I did not say "RPG", because, really, BioWare veered away from the genre with this franchise. Yeah, there's still decision-making and tons of dialog, as always with BioWare, but this time it was less about morality than just getting you towards the big action movie that serves as the game's final act. I had such a great time with this that I actually went back and played Mass Effect 1 all the way through just to play ME2 a second time. And the second time? I liked it even more.
One of the best board games of the past 10 years gets an absolutely awesome port to the iOS. Makers of the far-inferior Catan and Small World, take note: This is how you do it. Totally faithful to the look-and-feel of the board game with an interface that takes full advantage of the digital platform. All that's missing now is GameCenter support. And the board game's expansions.
Where 2008's indie darling, Braid, honestly left me a bit cold, this one I loved. Limbo is a total triumph of artistic vision, and proof that all you need is artistic vision--and not a multimillion-dollar budget--to produce a beautiful, original gaming experience. A quiet, haunting platformer with devious puzzles around every bend and a WTF-is-going-on-here storyline that keeps you going from the second those two eyes first open on the stark black-and-white screen. If I had actually been stupid enough to engage in yet another one of those "are videogames art?" debates that surfaced this year, this would have been the game I'd have shown to prove the Yes argument. They're not all art, not by a longshot, but Limbo is.
Truthfully, this is a bit like ranking Fellowship of the Ring before The Lord of the Rings was fully finished. Because this is just the first part of a trilogy. So StarCraft II's full impact and quality won't really be known until Blizzard has released all three parts. Still, this is all we have right now, and, for me, it was plenty, and it was great. I'm a single-player guy, mostly, and, as usual, Blizzard put together a great campaign, with excellent cutscenes, some great twists on some of the individual missions, and a learning curve that let you fully get a grip on all the new units. Multiplayer-wise, it's still like swimming with five-handed, anal-retentive, aggressive, assholish sharks, but, hey, welcome to the Internet. And I appreciated Blizzard's ample tools for teaching you multiplayer tactics while offline. Blizzard had incredible obstacles to overcome here: 10 year anticipation, a moribund genre, and the need to improve on a game that was almost already near-perfect. It's easy to take them, and this, for granted--but not by me. StarCraft II is a fantastic achievement.
The first Rockstar game I've ever felt compelled to finish, and then did. I've always admired the GTA games more than actually enjoyed them, and have never fully understood the near unanimous press splooging for their games, which reached new, ridiculous heights of hyperbole with GTA IV (yeah, no it wasn't The Godfather, or the next evolution of storytelling after John Steinbeck, sorry). So I was all prepared not to get the hype over this one either. But, for me, Red Dead delivered. The setting, the storytelling, the characters, the graphics--all of it. All the things that bugged me in previous Rockstar games just felt better here. I never felt stymied by game mechanics or lame missions, but instead was constantly propelled forward with smart, fun, and challenging-but-fair gameplay. And just when I was feeling serious WTF-dom over what felt like an anti-climactic "ending," I kept playing and then got to the real ending. So what do you know? Rockstar may be awesome storytellers after all.
Biggest Disappointment of 2010: Sid Meier's Civilization V
Understand that for old-school PC gamers like me, the Civilization franchise is kind of like the Holy Scripture, or Noah's Ark, or, I dunno, something...sacred. Each new release is An Event. And while early previews had me psyched as usual, the actual delivery left me thoroughly underwhelmed. I was wowed by the slicker, prettier interface for all of about 15 minutes, after which I began missing all the things they inexplicably took out, like Religion, which was so key to the way I used to play. Honestly, I can't really put my finger on it, but whatever magic ingredient it was that used to make this an impossible-to-resist strategy game just went missing for me this time. I just don't grok it.