Hi guys, and welcome to the second part of My Best of 2010 Awards. If you missed Part One, you can find it here. Before I get this underway, I just want to clarify that this is going to be a little different to most other end-of-2010, game-of-the-year style blogs. For a start, this isn't limited to games that came out in 2010. Instead, it encompasses every single game I've seen the credits roll in since January 1, whether they were a 2010 release or not. The reason behind this is simple – I spend a lot of my time playing older titles. Even though 2010 saw me playing a lot more 'current' titles than any year before, I'd still feel a lot more comfortable incorporating everything I've played this year into this little award ceremony. Also, you won't see me picking a definitive 'Game of the Year' anywhere here. I'm dead set against the notion that one game can be held head and shoulders above the others, because they all offer such different experiences. Instead, I'll be selecting my top ten most memorable gaming experiences of 2010 and blogging about them on New Year's Eve. With that cleared up, let's proceed.
Part Two - The MomentsEvery game that has left a mark on you will probably have done so through a specific moment. Whenever you think of that game, that incident also emerges, symbiotically tied to it. This second part of My Best of 2010 Awards is designed to acknowledge those moments that I experienced over the course of the year, that have left their mark upon my mind and will forever be associated with the games they came from.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: It probably goes without saying, but this blog is going to be pretty spoiler heavy. It is, after all, dealing with some of the most memorable moments from specific titles. If you're sensitive to spoilers and don't want any of the following games partially ruined for you, I'd advise you to back out of this blog and look for something else to read:
- Assassin's Creed
- Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
- Far Cry 2
- Final Fantasy XIII
- Just Cause 2
- Mass Effect 2
- Red Dead Redemption
- The Secret of Monkey Island
- TimeSplitters: Future Perfect
Most Amazing Visual MomentEvery now and then, a game throws up a visual moment that catches you completely off-guard and bowls you over with its impressiveness. Whether it's a graphical subtlety, or an epic moment unfolding before your eyes, striking visuals have made for some of my most memorable moments of 2010. Here are my top three.
Bronze – Climbing The First Sync Tower (Assassin's Creed, X360)I'm not sure why this is up here instead of some of the other gorgeous games I've played this year, but it seems to make sense. When I think back to my time with Assassin's Creed, the first thing that comes to mind is being at the top of one of the game's many sync towers. Watching the camera pan around Altair and giving me an incredible panoramic view of the city below me, right down to the bustling crowds on the streets. Every tower I climbed was its own reward, but none was quite as striking as the first time this visual treat unwound before me.
Silver – The Descent To Lake Bresha (Final Fantasy XIII, X360)Up until this point, Final Fantasy XIII has been a very straightforward affair (no linearity puns intended). The locations have been anything but diverse, hinting at a visual style hinged on high-technology and drab greens and greys. Then, in a flash, my ragtag band of warriors is chaotically thrown into an environment that is the complete antithesis of everything I've seen before. The crystalline shards of ice, snow-capped mountains and bright blue skies of Lake Bresha are the first indication that my journey through Final Fantasy XIII is going to be visually diverse and consistently gorgeous throughout. More than any other location in the game, this is the one that will stay with me for a long time to come.
Gold – The Nuclear Explosion (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, X360)
Casting the completely unexpected nature of this moment aside, there's something visually incredible about watching it unfold. The sudden flash of light, the ascension of the mushroom cloud, the way the choppers begin to spin out of control behind you as the dust kicked out from the explosion turns the atmosphere a deep red. I don't think any other gaming moment over the course of my 2010 left me so dumbfounded as I watched it unfold. Controlling Sgt. Jackson in his dying moments, crawling through the devastating wreckage left by the nuclear detonation, was the icing on this tragic cake. There's no way I could have awarded my Most Amazing Visual Moment Award to anything else.
Most Memorable Use of SoundGreat use of audio in a game can really mark a moment as something special. It could be a full-blown song, a simple leitmotif, a humble sound effect or even total silence. Memorable moments in games throughout my 2010 have been augmented by brilliant sound design. The following are some of the best examples of that.
Bronze – Battle Theme (Final Fantasy XIII, X360)While I was a tad disappointed by the overall quality of Final Fantasy XIII's soundtrack from a musical standpoint, I couldn't deny that it suited the mood of the game and the locations perfectly. Nowhere was this more obvious than in the game's superb battle theme, Blinded by Light. Uptempo and energetic, it really geared me up for combat. I also never got bored of it, and considering I spent nearly sixty hours with the game, that's a major plus in my book.
Silver – Parachuting (Just Cause 2, X360)Rico Rodriguez takes a deep breath and launches himself off the sheer cliff face. Plummeting downwards at an alarming speed, he reaches for the cord and deploys his parachute. Gliding over the forested chasm below, the wind whistling in his ears and rustling the 'chute above his head, the music begins. Just Cause 2's ambient 'parachute music' is one of the game's greatest points for me, capturing a sense of isolation and relaxation that really does make you feel like you're above the clouds. I spent a fair amount of time in JC2 parachuting at great height just so I could listen to this music. Make of that what you will.
Gold – Riding Into Mexico For The First Time (Red Dead Redemption, X360)
Red Dead Redemption was one of my favourite gaming experiences of 2010, but one moment in particular sticks out in my mind when I think back to it. The moment in question is just after John Marston crosses the national border to the south into Mexico. His tentative first steps in this new region of the gameworld are taken to a completely different level by the accompanying music, Jose Gonzalez's Far Away. Everybody I know who's played Red Dead Redemption has been blown away by this moment, myself included. Awarding it my Most Memorable Use of Sound Award was a no-brainer.
Funniest MomentFor the most part, I tend to think games that try to be funny are usually trying too hard. However, there are some titles out there that are genuinely funny. The moments below are the ones that I remember most from 2010 - the ones that had me laughing out loud, squirting milk out of my nose and perilously close to losing control of my bladder.
Bronze – Harry Tipper Dressed As A Woman (TimeSplitters: Future Perfect, PS2)Yes, it's puerile, but it still made me giggle like a schoolboy on the playground. The truth of the matter is, TimeSplitters: Future Perfect features some very well-written dialogue, and I could have chosen from any number of moments in the game, but this is the one that I remember the most vividly. It's made even better by Tipper's stereotypical 60s secret agent, free-love characterisation, giving the writers licence to play with the concept - Tipper not only hints that his disguise is a little breezy, but alludes to the fact he may have worn similar clothing in the past.
Silver – A Rubber Chicken With A Pulley In The Middle (The Secret of Monkey Island, XBLA)Even now, almost twenty years after its release, The Secret of Monkey Island is a damn funny game. It had me in stitches quite a few times while I played through it, but the funniest point had to be the infamous rubber chicken with the pulley in the middle. Beyond the general ridiculousness of the item itself, most of the humour I derived from it was through trying to work out what to do with it. Eventually finding out what it was actually used for was funny, but nowhere near as chuckle-inducing as my myriad attempts to offload this weirdest of inventory items all around Melee Island.
Gold – Mordin Sings Gilbert and Sullivan (Mass Effect 2, X360)
The funniest thing about this is the fact that it came completely out of nowhere. Mordin is far and away Mass Effect 2's funniest character, but it's his fast-talking jibes and blunt dismissals that contribute to that. Hearing him sing this variation on Gilbert and Sullivan's Modern Major-General Song from The Pirates of Penzance completely goes against his character, making his sudden bursting into song all the more hilarious. Just when I'd managed to stop myself from laughing, his quiet throat-clearing cough sent me into another fit of hysterics. Funniest Moment of 2010? You bet your Scientist Salarian it is!
Moment I'll Never Forget. Ever.Every year throws up a lot of memorable gaming moments for me, but only a select few are moments that will stay with me forever. Examples of moments that have achieved this in the past are the T-Rex encounter in the original Tomb Raider, the opening minutes of Metal Gear Solid, and stepping out of Vault 101 in Fallout 3. Now that 2010 is over, these are the moments that have officially joined the ranks of Moments I'll Never Forget. Ever.
Bronze – The Suicide Mission (Mass Effect 2, X360)The climactic end of Mass Effect 2 isn't a surprise twist. Quite the opposite - it's made explicit from the start of the game that it's a suicide mission with a very slim chance of survival. The culmination of forty hours of space exploration and interstellar team-building was a memorable moment for me purely because of how tense everything was as it panned out. From the second I passed through the Omega 4 Relay until the second my assault on the Collector homeworld was complete, I was on the edge of my seat. In the end I managed to make it through the mission without losing any members of my team, but it was still a very tense couple of hours and it really felt like the life of every one of my squad members was poised on a knife-edge.
Silver – The Last Days of John Marston (Red Dead Redemption, X360)Red Dead Redemption's story missions were the very definition of a roller-coaster ride. After investing so many hours in John Marston's tale, helping him bury his past, recover his family and earn the fresh start he craved so desperately, the change of pace offered by the ranch missions was a welcome reward. All the while, though, a niggling feeling at the back of my mind kept telling me something wasn't right. That feeling was proven right when the bureau and army showed up at the Marston ranch and gunned down the game's protagonist. The shock of losing the main character of an open-world Rockstar game was huge for me, and it made the post-game search for revenge as his son Jack really matter to me.
Gold – The Death of Quarbani Singh (Far Cry 2, X360)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Sorry about the lack of video for this part. I couldn't find an appropriate one on YouTube.
I had a hard time choosing between this and Red Dead Redemption, but ultimately this moment in Far Cry 2 had a much greater initial impact on me. After spending much of my early game co-operating with Quarbani Singh, another gun for hire in the middle of this struggle, I ended up in a situation where he was badly wounded after a gunfight. Perilously close to death myself and out of healing syrettes, the only options available to me were to either abandon my companion, or fire a bullet into his brain and give him a quick release. I opted for the second choice, and ended up carrying the weight of that decision for the rest of my time with the game. Even now, thinking about it brings discomfort into my chest. The loss of Quarbani Singh was the moment that made 2010 for me. It's a Moment I'll Never Forget. Ever.
And with that, Part Two of My Best of 2010 Awards draws to a close. Any thoughts about the above, please do sound off below - I enjoy reading your thoughts and feedback just as much as I enjoy writing these things. I hope you'll be back tomorrow to join me for Part Three, in which I'll be looking back on The Characters that made 2010 for me. As always, thanks very much for reading, Giant Bomb. See you around.
Currently playing – Fallout: New Vegas (X360)