Best of 2009
One of the best years in terms of great game releases.
One of the best years in terms of great game releases.
Fantastic visuals, strong acting and story with probably the most memorable level designs this year (e.g. the train). With the addition of solid and long-lasting multiplayer experience, this will be the clear standard that all future highly rated games will be measured against. The art design was so compelling and beautiful that any gamer would be immersed in Drake's environment. (Did you feel cold in the snow scenes?) The music perfectly fit each narrative scene and moment, guiding the player's mood effectively through the game. The gun fights were satisfying and quite frantic. And the characters and story twist moments will be memorable for years to come. The flaws are impressively so few and minor, and it is very hard to see how the game can be any better, even its inevitable sequel.
This is a very, very close second to Uncharted 2. Fantastic in nearly all aspects that games are judged on, it will probably last for years as the standard-bearer for Metroid-style games, and being the best comic book based game ever made. Most importantly, it truly captured the essence of the Batman franchise that surpassed many of its fans' expectations. The only drawback in the competition for GOTY, it did not "push" our expectations on unique, ambitious, climatic moments like Uncharted 2. By design, the game restricted itself to a very conservative approach. For example, consider its approach to boss fights. That being said, mastering tried and true gameplay elements from such a diverse set is rarely seen and thus worthy of praise.
The best RPG of this year. Again, like the games above it, fantastic presentation, story, acting, and a genuinely fun, tough, tactical gameplay system, which unfortunately is rarely seen in RPGs these days. If anything, this game is probably the best example of the Western RPG single-player epic, and the most refined game that illustrates Bioware's game design philosophy. Its drawback is really the questionable viability of several skill trees and class specializations. This is pretty significant and puzzling when you consider that Bioware was not constrained by any property licenses for this game.
To be fair, this game is high on the list due to the constant content updates made throughout this year. This game really sold the WH40K universe exceptionally well in atmosphere, music, graphics, sound design, etc. It was also daring in making the single-player stand out from other RTSes by introducing a very fun RPG-loot and experience system that incorporated co-op play. The addition of the horde mode, The Last Stand, and the now solidly balanced and frantic, tactical-focused, competitive multiplayer really pushes this game near the top. The areas that could use improving is just a better story plot, and more stuff, like unit types and factions. But then, that is why there are expansions.
Probably the best, all-around FPS made this year. Visually stunning with only Uncharted 2 and high-end PC FPS games to surpass it, and a nearly unmatched audio experience in today's games. The gun fights, while uncompromising, was well-paced, and thoughtfully designed in the single player campaign, and truly blossomed in the exceptional, long-lasting, multiplayer experience. At this point in the list, the flaws become far more noticeable. For example, the exclusion of co-op play is puzzling considering that a squad-mate accompanied you for nearly all of the campaign. The main characters were forgettable, and unreasonable conditions for unlocking useful secondary class abilities in multiplayer were particularly frustrating and unnecessary.
In many ways, this is probably the most innovative, risk-taking, and uncompromising game of the year, and probably gave the most immersive, satisfying, and rewarding gameplay experience that gamers have not felt in several years. It has completely reinterpreted the RPG dungeon crawler genre, moving away from the standard Diablo model, by borrowing elements from the survival horror genre. By taking the conceptual challenge of one vulnerable hero overcoming a world of monsters and demons in a more dire fashion, the game makes the player so intensely immersed by necessity. While the difficulty may seem so brutal, the game's use of multiplayer to both aid and challenge the player really encourages him to continue pushing through Boletaria. It is truly an unprecedented gameplay experience. That being said, there some areas that could have used improvement. While the art design of the environment and atmosphere was perfect, it still could have used a better graphics engine to portray it. The controls, while sufficient, could have been redesigned to be easier to use. Finally, the tutorial could have been more elaborate in revealing the ramifications of certain actions and situations before going through Boletaria, eliminating some unnecessary early frustration.
Simply the best horde FPS out there to date. The graphics look sharp, smooth, and clean, and the flavor of the South really comes through in both the art and sound design. The guns just feel so powerful and satisfying, and playing as the special Infected in multiplayer is genuinely competitive and satisfying, promising this game a lasting online community of active players. Like any great sequel, it truly addressed many of the design issues from its predecessor, and added a lot of substantial improvements with a layer of polish. Some of the disappointing aspects is that it never truly realized some of its advertised features. The multiple pathways through campaigns were insignificant, and the potential to have dynamic environmental changes (weather, time of day, lighting) were ultimately not implemented. Finally, the survivor AI seems to be worse in this iteration that it really restricts enjoyment of playing this game to groups of dedicated friends.
This is the year's best beat-em-up game that will not get much press for being a major revision to a 360 title and for selling few copies. This is unfortunate since the changes made in this version makes it so superior when compared to other titles in its genre, including its predecessors, that it should be considered the standard to judge in the immediate future. The framerate is silky smooth at 60 fps. The character models, textures, and lighting have been improved greatly. The shooting controls are actually sensible, and most importantly, the difficulty levels, the number of enemies and their health, have been tweaked to perfection. This game finally makes it feasible for a newcomer to this series to progressively master its fighting system, and still provide the intense challenges that diehard fans crave. Add in genuinely fun, onilne team missions with more playable characters, and this game has the most content, features, and satisfying gameplay than other title in its genre by miles. There are still a lot of room for improvements: the environment graphics looked too plain in many areas, no local support for team missions, and not having a decent AI partner for the team missions are all very disappointing. Finally, the reuse of several bosses and enemy types for the latter part of the game seemed to be a disappointing means of artificially lengthening the game.
Resident Evil 5 is a game with a very specific goal in mind. It is all about blowing zombies' heads apart, with your friend, in the most visceral and satisfying manner while looking absolutely stunning on your gaming monitor. This game does that really, really well, and it is a lot of fun. That being said, there is not much more than that, though admittedly that experience is lasting, polished, and very satisfying. The game could have borrowed improved controls from newcomers like Dead Space, and it seems to miss some of the creative level and enemy designs in its famed predecessor. Its main drawback for considering it GOTY is that, beyond its heavily improved graphics and inclusion of co-op, it did not make enough improvements to really feel like the next noteworthy milestone of this franchise.
This game is probably the best $20 game in nearly a decade, and it is the best loot-driven action-RPG in nearly decade as well. It is so good that it is frankly superior to a vast majority full-priced retail games that came out this year. It has presented the polished, refined implementation of the addictive Diablo formula to action RPGs, while having fantastic graphics, music, sound design and sporting such satisfying, frantic, visceral action. The value is tremendous considering it takes 20 hours just to complete the story. Add that with each deep and unique character class, the post-game dungeon, character retirement, and the upcoming mods, and this becomes the standard that all action RPGs will be judged by including the upcoming Diablo III. If this was a full-priced retail game with online co-op and a presentation, plot, and voice acting to match its gameplay, this easily could have been one of the top 3 titles of this year.
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