By Sparky_Buzzsaw 3 Comments
...which, by the way, is a superb film. Go watch it if you haven't seen it.
Gang, I can't quanitfy this year's games. I have written and edited this blog three or four times now, and each time, the list swelled, numbers changed, and I could never quite make up my mind as to a numbered order of things. I know what my absolute favorite game of the year was (Fallout: New Vegas), but the year was full of top-notch releases and a shocking number of awesome little gems.
I feel like I should also mention the amazing list of games I haven't played yet and want to. Games like Starcraft 2, Black Ops, and Hot Pursuit aren't listed below, but that doesn't mean they're not incredible games. It just means that I haven't yet had a chance to play them. I may do a future blog at some point of games from 2010 and prior that I still want to play, but that task is daunting, especially after writing this beast.
I've been a gamer since roughly 1987, when I was a young'un and my parents brought home a Tandy 1000 with Quest for Glory (then Hero's Ques), Police Quest, and a forgettable flight simulator. Since then, I've played many, many games on all sorts of platforms. I'm not without my biases, and I'm not an expert on the specifics of all the games released within particular years. But in all the years I've gamed, there have always been at least a handful of fantastic games released that year. After looking back at the games I've played and the games I want to play released solely from this year alone, I've gotta say that this has to be my favorite year of gaming. All of the games listed below have been more than worthy of their purchases, and the sheer number of games I've yet to play should say a lot about what this year held for gamers in general. We had an awesome Assassin's Creed, Dragon Quest, Mass Effect, Super Mario, Metroid, Fallout, Fable, Gran Turismo, and Civilization. We saw new IP's like Enslaved, Bayonetta, and Darksiders. We saw a retro return of unparalleled quality games in Goldeneye, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Pac-Man, and Space Invaders. Red Dead Redemption took a stalled series and turned it into something entirely awesome. This year, readers, has the sturdiest backbone of games that I can remember.
Perhaps the biggest gauge of a year's games is in its disappointments. To me, two games this year hold that honor, and sadly, both of them share the same title. Final Fantasy XIII and XIV weren't disasters by any stretch of the imagination, but strange development decisions and a number of bad creative ideas turned what could have been the banner year of Square Enix into something middling and disappointing to a long-term fan of their games. And yet, if those were the worst this year had to offer (at least, that I've played and was anticipating), it's been a pretty damn good year.
Here, then, are my favorite games of 2010, in no particular order after the first.
--Falout: New Vegas--
I've waxed poetic about the grand scope of New Vegas before, but I want to reiterate how much fun this game is. Obsidian has taken everything that made Fallout 3 great (the first person adventuring, the VATS combat system, loads of interesting characters and locales, and tons of guns and weapons) and expanded upon it. The overall buggy nature of the game is a severe negative, but with comprehensive fixes on the way and DLC just around the corner, I suspect these woes to be a thing of the past. And truth be told, I never experienced anything that really broke the fun nature of the game. Was I annoyed that I couldn't find my companions from time to time? Sure. Did the game try to load every outdoor NPC each time I stepped foot outside HELIOS? Yup. Did any of that stop me from killing countless members of Caesar's Legion, exploring every nook and cranny for specialized guns, or keep me from exploring the post-apocalyptic wastes of the Mojave? Hell no, it didn't. If you didn't like this game because of the bugs, I respect that, as I do if you're waiting to play it until the patch is released. But don't hold off on playing this game forever. New Vegas is without question the finest Bethesda-styled RPG to date, and is almost certainly guaranteed a spot on my future "Favorite Games" lists.
-- Super Mario Galaxy 2--
The House of Mario did not disappoint this year. The level design shows a level of craftsmanship unrivalled by any other platformer to date, and the typical high quality gameplay I've come to expect from the primary Mario games is definitely intact. The addition of Yoshi was a clever move and opened up some great new ways to play. The bosses, while sticking to a general 3D platformer "hit me X times in Y soft spot) tend to be challenging and creative in their design. The difficulty of the game might drive some away, but honestly, I think the challenge is just about right.
Of all the games on this list, Civ V will probably be the one I sink the most time into years from now. It's the best in a venerable series of games because it's both accessible and insanely deep. While my computer can only run it well with a small number of players, I still find myself clicking through just one more turn, time and time again. What's that, you say? There's new DLC available? Ahhhhh, shit... there goes another month of my free time.
--Enslaved: Odyseey to the West--
I saw the Quick Look of this and wasn't impressed. The level they demonstrated felt generic, and the gameplay didn't look like anything too spectacular. Thank God I got Black Friday Fever then and picked this one up when it came on sale at Amazon. I'm gaga over this game. The gameplay is fairly vanilla action-adventuring, but it's been polished and feels right in the same way that the gameplay of inFamous felt just so. The story and characters are engaging, the environments are a delight, and the game feels tough without feeling stupidly so. It's also got one of the best first levels I've seen in a game to date.
This was, unfortunately, the only game I downloaded on my PS3 this year not related to the PS1. It's an awesome little game, with a ton of replayability and charm. It's breezy, and you can rush through it fairly quickly, but like Civ V, I kept finding myself investing much more time into the game than I originally wanted to. Achieving just one more star on any particular level becomes an obsession quickly, and the perky atmosphere and perfect controls certainly help in that regard. It's not a complex game, but damned if it isn't a riot.
I've ripped on Fable 3 a little bit on Giant Bomb, and that's unfair of me. Fable 3 is actually a hell of a fun game, but it's definitely not on the level of Fable 2. That being said, there's a lot to like here. Of particular note is the sometimes surprisingly funny dialogue, the shockingly good vocal talents of the actors and actresses, and the same basic solid gameplay from its predecessors. Lionhead took a lot of small gambles on trying to make this game more accessible, and unfortunately, while those risks didn't pay off, I have to applaud them for trying. I genuinely hope there is a Fable 4, but that they take a long, hard look at their target audience and determine whether or not they really want to divide the appeal between accessibility and actual fun.
This is the most fun I've had with a first-person shooter's campaign since Timesplitters. I even liked the firefight stuff, which I thought brought a level of intensity to moments of the campaign as well as offered up something new to me personally (I didn't get a chance to play ODST). While I don't have the capabilities to play a decent multiplayer match, I'm looking forward to it. I love what Bungie did with unlocks in this game. Bungie, thank you for the decade of great Halo games, and I hope that whatever projects you work on in the future bring me as much joy as these games have.
--Sam and Max: Season 3--
I loved the uprade to the Sam and Max episodes. The addition of psychic powers for Max as well as the general update of the locations and characters of the game breathed some much-needed fresh air into the series while maintaining established characters and the same insane humor. I wasn't (and still am not) a fan of the new control scheme, but overall, these episodes shouldn't be missed by anyone with an interest in funny games or the adventure genre.
There are three games on this list that took me by total surprise, and this is the second of the two after Enslaved. Darksiders is a superb action-oriented Zelda-esque game with a ridiculously awesome premise. I liked the visual style, with its almost cartoonish looking characters and the devastation of the world.
I love Risk, and I love what Risk Factions has done with the classic gameplay. Oh, you don't, you say? Well, then, just turn on the option to go back to classic Risk gameplay. The goofy animations are awesome, the characters (while groan-worthy) are pretty hilarious, and the game's unforgiving nature definitely reminds me of those six-to-eight hour marathons of Risk back in college. Ahhhh, good times.
--Gran Turismo 5--
I like Gran Turismo's car selection. There's really nothing like it out there in terms of variety. I admit, I greatly prefer the gameplay and accessibility of Forza 3, but Gran Turismo is an incredible game if you're a car lover like me. And really, that's who this game is geared towards, which is both pretty cool and its biggest problem. That being said, Gran Turismo 5 is one of my favorite releases this year.
--Dragon Quest IX--
Wow. I wasn't sure if I'd like Dragon Quest IX, but I'm delighted to say that it's my favorite traditional turn-based RPG since the days of the PS2. For any fan of that particular genre, DQIX is a fucking delight from head to toe. Classes are customizable, there are tons of quests, and a great many traditional places to explore and discover. It does get a little grind-focused towards the end, but that's sort of a hallmark of the series.
Rounding out that triumvirate of pleasantly surprising games is the batshit crazy Bayonetta. Again, I wasn't impressed with what I saw until I played the game for myself, at which point my jaw sorta hit the floor and I was hooked. It's Japanese on a level I don't think any other game this year has topped, and there wasn't practically a moment in the game when some part of my brain was screaming, "What the hell?" The gameplay and controls are very polished, there's a lot of variety in the combat moves you can eventually unlock, and Bayonetta herself is just one hell of a kick.
--Mass Effect 2--
Mass Effect 2 really cleaned up a lot about what I didn't like in Mass Effect while introducing some classic characters and moments. While the game lost some of its RPG elements, it made the combat much more fun and efficient. And thank God we don't have those stupid Mako exploration bits anymore. Good Lord, I hated those.
--Red Dead Redemption--
Holy shit, did I like Red Dead Redemption. This game is now my standard bearer for open-world games, beating out my old favorite Saint's Row 2 pretty handily. Rockstar addressed everything that pissed me off about Grand Theft Auto IV and made their games fun again. While I don't much care for the post-game stuff, I think the story up until that point was incredible and very well-told. The graphics were stunning, the gameplay as solid as a rock, and there were a ton of side quests, activities, and even the introduction of peripheral quests, which added a surprising amount to the game.