I've never really been interested in making this kind of "Game of the Year" blog. This year, though, I figured what the hell. I can at least give it a shot. See if it's any fun. So here are my ten favorite 2010 releases, the five games I think could've made that list if I had played them, my ten favorite pre-2010 releases I didn't play until 2010, and the ten 2011 releases I'm looking forward to the most.
Just one thing: if you want to point out, for example, that Espgaluda II Black Label is a port of a 2005 arcade game with a couple of new features, or that Demon's Souls was released back in 2009 in Japan and the States, please don't. I already know, and as a European who's also pretty lenient when it comes to the exact details of the releases, I don't care.
Top Ten 2010 Releases
This game has it all. Beautiful, detailed 2D graphics; a kickass soundtrack; a cool medieval-styled sci-fi setting; amazing bullet patterns; incredible pacing; a brilliant, unique system that, amongst other things, lets you temporarily alter the speed of enemy bullets -- it goes on. I've played probably over a thousand credits to date, and will certainly play many hundred more. Espgaluda II is an absolute masterpiece and, without a shadow of a doubt, my favorite game this year -- and one of my favorite games of all time.
With clean, colourful graphics, an upbeat soundtrack, tight controls and incredibly creative, varied level design that plays with physics and perspective in a way that puts even the first Mario Galaxy to shame, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is an absolute joy to play. It has some issues -- it's too easy, the levels could have been longer, and the music, while excellent, isn't quite as grandiose as that of the first game -- but it's extremely enjoyable nonetheless, and easily one of my very favorite 3D platformers.
Bayonetta blew me away. It's easily as visually and aurally spectacular as any of the God of War games (more, even), but unlike those, it doesn't sacrifice the complexity of games like Devil May Cry -- instead, it adds to it. Thanks to a wacky arsenal of considerable size and the most complex (in an easy to learn, hard to master kind of way) controls I've seen in a 3D beat 'em up, Bayonetta's combat is the most mechanically impressive I've seen in the genre since God Hand. I've played through it four times, beaten all the optional challenges except one (the hard-as-fuck Lost Chapter), and I'd still be delighted to play more -- it should say something (both about Bayonetta and how much I like the games above it on this list) that almost the entire first half of the year, I thought the chances of something coming along and topping this were close to zero.
Vanquish blew me away. It's easily as visually and aurally spectacular as the Uncharted games (more, even), but unlike those, it doesn't sacrifice the complexity of games like Gears of War -- instead, it adds to it. Thanks to a wacky arsenal of considerable size and the second most complex (in an easy to learn, hard to master kind of way) controls I've seen in a third-person shooter (the most complex being those of Xbox title Gun Valkyrie), Vanquish's combat is the most mechanically impressive I've seen in the genre since Resident Evil 4. Indeed, Vanquish is, in many ways, the Bayonetta of third-person shooters. However, it's shorter, simpler, aesthetically duller and has considerably less bonus content -- and that's why I could never put it above Bayonetta on this list.
After its release, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift quickly became my favorite fighting game. It's got everything I want from the genre -- a great system, a varied cast of cool characters that are fun to play, nice flow, stunning graphics and a good soundtrack -- and even some things I didn't know I wanted: a visual novel-style story mode, for example. I really like the way the developers periodically update the game with new characters and such via DLC, too. Capcom could learn a thing or three from Arc System Works.
Assassin's Creed II, except more and better; that's what Brotherhood is. Flashier, more fluid combat, more weapons and abilities, more and better side-missions, more and better music, a whole new aspect of the game in which you recruit and train assassins you can order around... the only thing I think II did better is environments, and I can't really fault the developers for that -- they did little more than replicate Rome, and it's hardly their fault that it isn't as beautiful a city as Florence or Venice. I've seen a lot of people whine about Ubisoft's desire to crap out one Assassin's Creed a year, but if the people at the Montreal studio can keep improving on the formula at this pace, I say bring those annual installments on. I, for one, will be more than happy to play them.
After spending well over a hundred hours with Fallout 3, I felt like I'd had enough Fallout to last me several years. I felt burnt out, and thought there was no way in hell I could enjoy another post-apocalyptic first-person open-world game anytime soon. I was wrong. New Vegas has everything Fallout 3 had -- incredible atmosphere, a large world with a myriad places to explore and so on -- and more: improved gunplay, more interesting quests, more likeable characters and locations, and a faction system that, while incredibly shallow, is still significantly better than 3's karma system (which is still present; it just, well, doesn't really do anything -- kind of like in 3, lol). I was hooked from the moment I turned the game on, and remained so for a good thirty hours (turned out I was burnt out on Fallout after all -- just not to the degree I initially thought). Certainly not as long as with 3, but still more than enough to secure a spot on this list.
8. Alan Wake
On a mechanical level, Alan Wake is not especially good. The controls aren't as sharp as they could be, the combat is extremely basic, and enemies are in some ways cheap. Aesthetically, however, it's absolutely amazing. The lighting is second to none; the environments are some of the most authentic-feeling I've ever seen; the sound design is spectacular; the game is so beautiful, and the atmosphere so good, that I'm totally fine with the fact that you spend hours simply walking. In fact, I enjoyed the promenades in this game so much, I extended them by pressing the analogue stick forward very lightly, causing Alan to slowly walk instead of lightly jog. I really, really hope Remedy pull an Assassin's Creed II with the sequel and fix the major mechanical and structural problems -- if they do, there's no doubt in my mind it's going to be one of my favorite games of all time.
A beautiful dark fantasy world one can't help but want to explore. Enemy and level design that demands patience and attention. Probably the coolest online system I've seen in a game, allowing you to see how other players have died, leave and find hints and messages, enter other players' worlds to aid or attack, or have your own world entered. It's got a bunch of issues, too (a sometimes inadequate lock-on system, for example), but Demon's Souls is a unique action game that's terrific fun. Here's to hoping that Project Dark is something similar, thematically as well as mechanically.
I don't really care for modern multiplayer first-person shooters in general. Call of Duty, Halo et cetera -- they're just not my thing. This game, though? I love this game. I love the way the guns feel. I love the way sniper shots echo, and the way distant explosions sound. I love the way buildings collapse when you've put enough holes in them. I love the selection of vehicles. I love the maps. I love the modes (32-player Rush being my absolute favorite). There are a bunch of things I dislike about it (many of which, sadly, are inherent to the modern multiplayer first-person shooter formula), but I've gotten many hours of enjoyment out of it, and I am pumped as hell for the next Battlefield.
Top Five Games I Think Could Have Made My "Top Ten 2010 Releases" List If I Had Played Them
- Sid Meier's Civilization V
- Resonance of Fate
- Donkey Kong Country Returns
- Halo: Reach
- Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable
Top Ten Pre-2010 Games I Didn't Play Until 2010
- God Hand
- Sid Meier's Civilization III
- Mushihime-sama Futari Ver 1.5
- WipEout HD
- Gears of War
- Guilty Gear XX #Reload: The Midnight Carnival
- Kuru Kuru Kururin
- Ninja Gaiden II
- Batman: Arkham Asylum
- Valkyria Chronicles