2010: the year in review

Biggest surprise of 2010 
So, a friend asked me, quietly, if I minded him getting a game for my birthday. He didn't tell me what game, and when it arrived I was a little surprised, as I'd hated the original. I went on to sink 60 hours into it, buy all the DLC, even re-buy the original and play through it again. 
Mass Effect 2 was an insanely good game.

Biggest letdown of 2010 
It's hard to pin this one down, so I'll go over the two and decide after. 
Crackdown was one of my favourite games in the early days of the 360. I played the game to death, getting all but 2 achievements out of sheer love of the game. But Crackdown 2 was a disaster of a game. A real lazy sequel, it took the fun and variety of the original and killed it off. No more gangs, no more having fun with the world; just mutants, mutants and more mutants. Even the previously colourful cityscape became duller. Everything I hoped for in a sequel died in this game, as did my want for one. 
Fable 3 had a different problem: it became clear, FAST, that they had redesigned the game to use Kinect to do everything rather than buttons. When they decided that wouldn't work... they didn't change it back to how Fable 2 worked. The useful inventory disappeared, but the achievements that relied on it stayed. The massive wheel of interaction became "good choice, bad choice, other". The health system sucked as well, as it was hard to tell if you were near to death, making the "no deaths" achievement jarring. It was a massive backstep from Fable 2, whose systems were fine but the content was sometimes less so. This time, neither the missions or mechanics were fun, and I did the unthinkable: quit caring. 
I think Fable edges out Crackdown, simply because with Crackdown I still kept playing, tried to wring everything out of it, despite the disappointment. With Fable 3, I finished it and traded it. I couldn't bear to play more.

Weirdest trend of 2010 
Everything wanted you to work for your points this year. The Wii had Just Dance, a game that reinforced the  well-worn Wii adage that "a little motion does it just as well" by having the on-screen mirror for you to copy doing some amazingly involved stuff (see any of these) that you didn't actually have to do to get a good score. If you did... well, I can guarantee you'd likely look very silly, as I saw it for myself over Christmas. 
Then of couse, Kinect stepped up and said "no, really, you HAVE to do what they're doing" in Dance Central. And then, it made you do that in everything else, too. On a similar note, due to the constantly mentioned 1:1 accuracy of it, anything on the Playstation Move required that sort of effort as well.

"I'll just Youtube the ending" of 2010 
I will admit, the idea of Splatterhouse making a comeback interested me greatly. Me and my brother played the hell out of the Mega Drive originals, so I was one of a very few people interested. Then it all started to fall apart: development teams were lost, delay after delay after delay, unfavourable preview coverage... and the game just sort of plopped out. The saddest thing about it is, I probably would have still bought it if they hadn't wanted full price for it. So, I Youtube'd a ton of footage, including the ending... and the last of my interest died. It seems the stores lost interest, too, as it's hard to find anywhere that has a copy. At all. 
Runner-up goes to Heavy Rain, a game that would have needed me to buy a PS3 to play it, that I again just Youtube watched instead. Immediately, I couldn't have cared less.

Reason for me to get a PS3 of 2010 
 Gran Turismo 5! Finally, a new entry in my favourite driving series ever! Man, if I had the money, I'd have dropped it for this...

Reason for me to never get a PS3 of 2010 
 ...And then, the patches began, and I was put off ever owning Sony's box. I mean, really Sony? Patches that have to be installed outside the game, and can take hours? I can't believe people put up with it, and I certainly wouldn't be able to.

The "any other year, this'd be it" for 2010 
Assassin's Creed is one of my favourite new IPs of this generation. Like most people, I was skeptical of the alleged multiplayer focus of the new game, but Brotherhood is one of the best games I've ever played. It took everything I loved in Assassin's Creed 2, unified the setting, and heaped on a ton of variety. I plan to do exactly what I did for the previous game, and get everything. The multiplayer will easily last a while. Any other year, this would be my favourite game of the year.

The "but this is it" of 2010     
It has to be Mass Effect 2, though. The fact I still actually have it is testament enough; games are typically traded on completion to pay for the next, but it's still on my stack. I've done every mission, all the DLC, tried every class, and saved everyone on my first try. It's rinsed, but it stays, because somehow I feel I could do more in it still.

The year in review: a quick post to prep tomorrow

Right, I want to cover in detail: 
Biggest surprise of 2010
Biggest letdown of 2010
Weirdest trend of 2010
"I'll just Youtube the ending" of 2010
Reason for me to get a PS3 of 2010
Reason for me to never get a PS3 of 2010
The "any other year, this'd be it" for 2010
The "but this is it" of 2010


Kinect: tried and approved!

So, I was wandering past Game in the Metrocentre, in a vain attempt to not get hassled by staff for a sale and at the same time pick up the Fable 3 Kingmaker treasure there, when I noticed something...
None of the staff hustled me. In fact, they all stood in a semicircle, staring at one guy. Who was dancing. And laughing. In front of an Xbox 360, with some giant... thing on it. And I mean, GIANT.
It took me a minute to realise that, yes, that was Kinect. And the game, that had everyone stopped to watch, was Dance Central. I watched him dancing, and considered surreptitiously sneaking photo proof I'd seen it, when the song finished, and he noticed me. He asked if I fancied a go, and I laughed and politely said "not of Dance Central, with everyone watching, no!" He laughed, and said that I could leap in as a second player, and we'd do some River Rush. 
Now, I've been a massive Kinect cynic. Talk of camera lag, the gimmicky, Eyetoy nature of it, the horrendous "Wii too" nature of the games shown early on, and of course the massive price tag, it all spelled out "not for you". I knew it'd sell; I'd seen evidence of that when I got shown a mothers forum thread full of women frothing over the idea, way back in August. I just didn't think they could sell it to me. 
So, there I stood, in front of a glass shopfront looking out onto one of the busiest parts of the shopping centre, with a guy about half my BMI, waving to a games console. We jumped to set the raft off, sidestepped and leaned to move side to side, and within moments that window no longer mattered. We had fun, teaming up to steer for the maximum clusters of points, jumping in unison, moving our hands and arms to wonder at the Avatars' preciseness copying our own positions, and just enjoying ourselves. 
Then some customers came in, and I was alone, with Kinect. I had a play with accessing menus, changed game, and considered starting it, when another member of staff came over. It turned out he'd been volunteered to "lose a little dignity" to team up with me to have a go. We booted up the Breakout-esque game, Rally Ball. Within minutes, the staff member went from consciously trying not to embarrass himself to fully throwing himself into it. I realised I was in danger of missing another bus (I missed one with on River Rush), so had to dash off. As I left, he wasn't walking away sheepishly; he was booting out to menu to try a different game. 
I was suitably impressed that I told the wife about it, to which she replied, "well, you can't afford it, so surely it sucks you liked it?". And you know, it doesn't, because it was great fun, but the floor space we used I just don't have around my TV. If I won the lottery, however, eliminating cost and room size from the equation (because I'd move straight away if I won a ton of money), I'd be straight after one. It's not an essential purchase, it's not the greatest reason to buy a console ever, but it does justify the hype. And that's enough, I feel.


3DS: Will Nintendo finally lose the handheld market?

So, today Nintendo finally announced the final plans for the 3DS launch. Japan gets it on the 26th of February, with the rest of the world waiting a month before getting their hands on it. A whole ton of data came out: it comes bundled with a charger stand, an AC adapter, a 10cm telescopic Nintendo 3DS touch pen, a 2GB SD card, six augmented reality cards as well as instruction booklets. New functions include a slide pad, motion sensor and gyro-sensor. It will have parental controls like the Nintendo DSi and the DSi XL portables before it. It is can play games downloaded off the 3DS's Virtual Console as well as games downloaded onto a Nintendo DSi and works with  Nintendo DS game cartridges, and keeps the cameras of the DSi line. They even announced exact sizing, which is a little too dull to post.
None of that matters, though, compared to the biggest statistic of all: price. And that is where I think Nintendo will lose people. 
The announced price in Japan is 25,000¥. Current conversion rates on XE.com put that at $299.02 in the US, and £189.30/€219.25 for Europe pre-tax (UK typical rates put that at 20% extra, pushing it closer to £230/€265), which is more than the Wii. 
Now, yes, it's a very cool piece of kit; portable 3D, capable of running games with great graphical quality, etcetera. But let's be serious, here. For the UK price, you can have a 250GB Xbox 360S with 3 games and £20 spare to spend on more stuff, or be £20 shy of a 160GB PS3 Slim. Both offer way more playability. If you insist on being portable, you could have a PSP and a DSi together for that cost. Is it really worth that much? 
I'm sure it will sell well at launch, but like it seems is happening with the Wii now it will tail off afterwards if they can't justify it well. Nintendo need to learn the lesson from Sony and the PS3 launch, which here in the UK launched with a bit of a sad trumpet due to the astronomical pricing. A high entry cost means early adopters might be the only adopters for quite a while, and without holiday sales to prop it up, this could be the first time another company (Sony, with the practically confirmed PSP2) takes the handheld crown...


Nostalgia vs Familiarity: Familiarity wins.

So, I took my original Xbox with me to work yesterday. 
No, it wasn't an act of self hatred (damn that thing is heavy), but nostalgia: with Reach out tomorrow, I wanted to go back and play some CE or the sequel, to get me back in the mood. I'm a massive fan of the series, and naturally I've played every part of the series. Heck, I used to own a mint condition Legendary edition of Halo 3 (which, due to some financial bumps, I've now sold). I figured going back to the first games would be easy, that it'd be a nice trip down memory lane before the new game. 
I was so, so wrong. 
Not for the reason you'd expect; gameplay-wise, it's still fantastic. I got back into the weapon trees, pistol sniping and so on very easily. The problem is... well, you forget how much they've honed the game now. The first time I had to quit totally out of the game to the main options just to invert my sticks (first time I had to do combat), I remembered how inconvenient gaming used to be. The first time I got in a Warthog, I discovered how much game physics had moved on. And everything was so huge (playing on the 42" LCD didn't help, natch), the controls were fiddly... 
I got up to Truth and Reconciliation (post-boarding) before quitting. By that point, on Heroic, solo, I'd had 5 deaths: 2 to enemies (damn that boarding repelling party is tough), and 3 to just not being able to control the Warthog properly. I love Halo CE, and I want it to remain that way - so I had to stop. I can't let reality ruin my great memories...



Look, achievements are like crack to me. I have managed to leverage that off, onto finishing games. 
Then I join here, and there's quest sets, levelling, and rewards for my S Ranks etc. 
Damn. I can never escape these incentives!