Gary Whitta Gary Whitta is the former Editor-in-Chief of PC Gamer and Next Generation magazines, and a regular contributor to Tested’s weekly This is Only a Test podcast.
10. Medal of HonorThis was doomed from the start to be eclipsed by the Black Ops juggernaut, but having played both to completion I much preferred the gritty and intense realism of this game’s Afghan campaign to the increasingly eyeroll-inducing antics of the CoD franchise.
Rockstar’s most vibrant and alive world to date, some of their best storytelling and the most refined execution of their well-worn gameplay dynamic by far.
Blizzard again demonstrating that there’s no limit to how this amazing world they’ve created can continue to evolve and grow.
6. LimboProof of how much can be achieved with so little, Limbo generates a more immersive atmosphere than most games with ten times the budget. Throw in the most fiendishly-designed platform puzzles since Braid, and you have the best downloadable game of the year.
Kinect’s viability as a fun delivery system so far. Harmonix’s trademark polish and accessibility makes this the best party game of the year.
3. Heavy RainHaters gonna hate, but for me this game comes closest to fulfilling the promise of the interactive movie concept since the advent of the CD-ROM era. High ambition, beautiful production values, a compelling (if ultimately wonky) narrative and tense snatches of gameplay all combined to make this a rare successful example of a nascent hybrid art form. More like this, please.
Criterion from now on?
BioWare and this fantastic sequel added multiple new layers to an already fascinating sci-fi universe along with countless improvements to the gameplay experience. Near perfect.
Adam Boyes Adam Boyes is the founder of Beefy Media and the former Director of Production at Capcom US. He is far and away the most Canadian dude we know.
10. Just Cause 2Open-world games have always felt a bit linear and contrived, but Just Cause 2 thumbed its nose at that concept. Grappling hooks, ridiculous physics, vehicles out the wahzoo and over-the-top situations all lend to making this a game I got lost in for weeks and weeks. Think about it--this is only Avalanche’s second open-world game--I can’t WAIT to see what these guys are up to next. Great game, can’t wait for the future.
Inafune-san, lamented often that the Japanese video game industry is dead. This little game came along (with, I might add, a terrible name, but who am I to talk… Super Puzzle Fighter HD Remix? Really Adam?) to show us that Japan still has it in spades. An IP that has long sat dormant, they proved that the dudes at Namco Japan still get what Pac-Man means to the world, and how to captivate Western audiences with their thousand-ghost chomping expertise.
8. DarksidersSome people criticized this game for being a clone of Zelda. I don’t give two shits about that opinion--every game has either be inspired by another game ( Robotron -> Smash TV) or a direct copy ( FarmVille -> Farm Town) of another game. This game hit a ton of the Zelda beats, but in a way that I wanted it to. THQ has been stepping up to the plate lately, and they nailed it with Darksiders. A world, character, and premise that seemed forgettable on paper came alive in my hands, from the ability-unlock path and new bosses that you came across, to me not even minding the backtracking here and there. All in all, a great gaming experience for me.
7. Halo: ReachI had the first PC LAN setup of anyone in my home town of Abbotsford, BC. We had 2 PCs that we had convinced my dad to buy "for his business," and were able to connect two games-- Quake 1 and Rise of the Triad (both via serial cable). At that point, I got my first true sense of what community-based multiplayer first-person shooters were like. That experience only got resurrected a few times in my life-- Tribes with my brother and friends, TF1, and a few others.
That being said, I'm a closet Halo fan. What that means is that I will boo against the game until it comes out, and then I usually finish (and enjoy it) on Legendary. What Halo: Reach did for me was it brought back that feeling of waking up in the morning and frenetically counting down the hours until I could team up with my buddies and play some Reach. Bungie had finally mastered the team-based gameplay and UI experience, and it lent to a fantastic experience. Where Johnny V, Kraig, Dave Lang, and I were smashing on AI in Firefight for achievements or just chilling with strangers on Headhunter or Slayer finishing in the top five. The cherry on top was the addition of the new classes--I always wished that Halo had something fresh, and the jetpacks added just enough Tribes flair to make this game knock squarely in the top 10.
Boy was I way off. The internal team at Ubisoft Montreal (and many other members around the world in the Ubi collective) banded together to translate the AC world into a fantastically executed experience. There’s no sprinting around with a gun and shooting fools in the face--this is calm, walking, stalking, sneaking murderous hilarity that is fresher than any multiplayer experience I’ve had in years. Most massive franchises these days are pretty stagnant, but AC: Brotherhood proved to me that innovation in massive games can still happen.
Sid Meier's Civ I era, I’ve been a huge fan. Bought and played every version, and when Revolution came out I thought we were in trouble. How pleased was I when Civ V dropped, evolving the core Civ experience in so many wonderfully delectable ways. Back to 20-hour single games, epic scale of world interaction, and an AI system that isn’t completely jacked up anymore, it fixed everything I wanted them to, and evolved in all the right areas.
3. MinecraftIn a world where Zynga has mastered the art of psychological manipulation of making people search that one extra tile or harvest that one extra vegetable, an indie developer outside of Stockholm, Sweden decided to take the popular trends of the day and do a 180-degree suplex on that shit. Notch took a mini-concept from previous games of combining a few ingredients, and built an endless experience based on users smashing, digging, and chopping their way into infinity. This was a game that grabbed mindshare and huge sales numbers not because it followed the typical modern-day gaming nomenclature, but because it looked at trends of "me too" plays and told those guys to f&^k off.
Minecraft is a disruptive play that has captured the imagination of hundreds of thousands of people who have missed playing Legos for far too long, and has built a game where achievements, power-leveling, and competition are trumped by endless creativity and freedom.
2. LimboI’m probably a bit biased, because I got to meet Dino Patti, the President of Playdead Games, a little over two years ago and saw a small little black-and-white prototype of Limbo. At that time, he hadn’t met with any publishers, and since I was at this small show, I was literally the first publisher representative he had met with. It was serendipity--at Capcom, we were big believers in the IP and the team, but it just didn’t make business sense.
What I love about this game is that it breaks all major traditions. Almost no music. No cutscenes. Very little storytelling. You play as a small boy (which is a massive faux pas nowadays). Black and white. Less than four hours long. And yet, with all of these rules broken, they became the fastest selling new IP on XBLA ever. That’s an incredible feat. Every moment of that game is fresh, unexpected, and concretely sets this game squarely in my number two spot.
maple syrup, but my dad was a lumberjack. No word of a lie--for six years, he was best friends with his chainsaw in the deep northern British Columbian woods, with nothing but a bunch of dudes and flapjacks for breakfast. Sounds homoerotic, but he told me stories many many times about how many of his good friends died while "logging" (their term for being a lumberjack). I'm sure that is what spawned his interest in the Wild Wild West. That, and according to records, Jesse James is my sixth great uncle on my dad's side. No shit. So I grew up in a household that coveted everything and anything that was Western. Clint Eastwood was my dad's hero--every year I bought him a new VHS Western movie, and every year he watched it pretty much 365 times. It made me grow a vile hatred for everything cowboy and Western. Got a cowboy hat? Eat a bowl of dicks. Cowboy boots? I'll throat chop you. Say "Y'all" and I'll stick a shiv made of wires and battery acid up your fingernails.
You now should understand why I had absolutely no desire to play Red Dead Redemption. I didn't mind the other cowboy games ( Call of Juarez, etc) but at that point in my life I was a full blown self-certified achievement whore. This game was different--from the stirrup to the outback, it was an incredible experience. It was a theme I didn’t care for, but the gameplay, story, and incredible vistas sucked me into the world. Top the game with the Undead expansion, and man-oh-man, you’ve got my game of the year.