2010 was a year of ups and downs for me. Personal problems have made the last half of the year not the greatest ever. But I have enjoyed a lot of great games, music, movies and tv shows this year. So without further ado, here are my favorites for 2010:
1. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (or AssBro) was the biggest surprise for me this year. I was very worried that this would be a cash-in from Ubisoft, trying to get a quick buck out of the insanely brilliant Assassin's Creed 2 (AC2). The fact that Patrice Desilets, lead designer for AC2, left Ubisoft the second they announced AssBro was also very worrying. But then I played the game and it's even better than AC2! There's more to do, you feel like more of a badass than in AC2 (which seemed impossible to me) and Ubisoft actually took a chance and changed some things around (like the combat system) and added new stuff (like training your own assassins, which is awesome).
2. Fable 3A lot of people had complaints about Fable 3's overhaul of the menus and inventory system. I admit it's not the most user friendly change but I have to give props to Lionhead for trying this. The new menu stuff feels so natural after a while and that's just because you CAN do this stuff in a video game. I hope they stick with it and expand it in the inevitable sequel to make it a little more smooth. Even though the game was full of bugs and it tried to screw me over near the finale, I'm still placing this at #2 for one simple reason: I had some pretty good co-op sessions that were a lot of fun. And the keyword here is fun. I had tons of fun with Fable and I can forgive the game all of its faults because of that.
3. Red Dead Redemption I have faith in Rockstar. In my opinion they are just about the only game developer who get what a sandbox game should be like (although Ubisoft is closing the gap with AssBro). Red Dead Redemption was amazing. Everything about the game just showed a level of quality and polish you don't find in many games. Yes, the game had bugs, but when it was firing on all cylinders it was hard to deny it's beauty and brilliance. There were numerous moments where I was just riding my horse around the environment and had to stop to take in the sights because the world is so beautiful. The gameplay and story are also very well done and that's what kept me coming back.
4. Dead Rising 2 Anybody who knows me will confirm that I am crazy about zombies. I am one of those people who thinks zombies can make anything better and try to insert them into as many game concepts I can at work. So when I tell you I was a big fan of Dead Rising when it first came out, this should be no surprise. I have been waiting for Dead Rising 2 from the moment I finished the original Dead Rising so having the game in my hands was a pretty great moment for me. The game isn't perfect and I have some issues with it. I wished they would have strayed further from the original game and the boss fights are just horrible. Other than that I had a lot of fun with the game and it was that same familiar feeling I had when playing the original game. The new ways to kill zombies and the ridiculous combo weapons had me coming back for more every time!
5. Alan Wake May 18th was a hard day for me. I was holding both Red Dead Redemption and Alan Wake in my hands and had to choose one game to start playing. This meant the other game would have to wait a while. I picked Alan Wake first because I suspected Red Dead Redemption would be better and take longer to complete. I'm glad I did, because I don't know if I would have enjoyed Alan Wake as much after Red Dead Redemption. That being said, Alan Wake is an amazing game. Like Red Dead Redemption, the game was polished so everything in it contributed to the atmosphere. And the atmosphere was superb. I am a sucker for story-driven games that don't try to cram in useless functionality. Alan Wake did get pretty repetitive after a while but the story and the visuals had me on the edge of my seat at every turn.
1. The Damned Things - IroniclastI can appreciate the odd Anthrax song, I used to like Fall Out Boy before they became too poppy and I am a huge fan of Every Time I Die. Combining member of these three bands into a single super rock band sounds stupid and you'd expect some very conflicting results. But, it happened and the album they recorded... is one of the best albums I have ever heard. It might be the 'filthy rock 'n roll' phase I'm in right now, but it's really, REALLY good. Every song just rocks like a motherfucker, the guitars are heavy and have plenty of solos, the bass is thick and chunky, the drums are rowdy and angry and the vocals are brilliant. I didn't know Keith Buckley could sing that well but apparently he can. What really puts it over the top are Buckley's insanely creative lyrics that just beg to be sung (or screamed) at the top of your lungs. I think I'm going to enjoy this album for a long, LONG time!
2. Danko Jones - Below the Belt I am fairly late to the Danko Jones party but this album rocks like a motherfucker. Since I saw them live this year at Pukkelpop in Belgium, I haven't really listened to a lot of other bands. Danko Jones got me through some rough times this year so just for that, this is my #1 album of the year.
3. A Day To Remember - What Separates me From You I am a sucker for popcore (or moshcore or beardcore or whatever the hell is the 'official' term). A Day To Remember really is one of the best bands in this genre as they blend pop-punk music and vocals with hardcore breakdowns and screams perfectly. This album is not as good as their previous effort, Homesick, but at least it doesn't have as many slow songs!
4. Veara - What We Left Behind I always enjoy discovering new bands. And while Danko Jones was my big 'new' discovery this year (even though they've been around forever), Veara was a welcome addition to my music collection. Some fresh and upbeat popcore music that was immensely enjoyable during the summer. I hope they can follow up this album with an even better one next year!
5. Story of the Year - The Constant Story of the Year is a band that has been in my music collection since their first album, Page Avenue. My friends have since dropped them because of horrible live performances and lyrics they consider simple and basic. While I agree with both those criticisms, I always enjoy their albums. Maybe their lyrics aren't that deep but they can rock like nobody's business and put a lot of emotion in their songs. And really, songs like 'Eye for an Eye' and 'Won Threw Ate' are exactly the kind of songs I love.
I find it hard to pick favorites among movies. I like so many of them and with movies I find it harder to point at one and say:"That's the best one." I have no problem doing that with games or music because I enjoy them longer and repeatedly so it's easier to pick. So even though I'm going to pick 5 movies right now, this isn't necessarily the right order or the only movies I enjoyed this year.
1. Inception I had a lot of expectations from Inception. I've been a fan of Christopher Nolan for a while now (since Memento, really) and enjoy his movies immensely. Sometimes I think he is the only director left in Hollywood who has the chops to create a blockbuster movie that is as entertaining as it is intelligent. So anyway, I had a lot of expectations and I didn't really watch a lot of trailers for Inception (since it's Christopher Nolan and I trust him to make a good movie). So I was really blown away when Inception exceeded all of my expectations. It was smart, suspenseful, entertaining, visually interesting, well acted, well written and something nobody had ever seen before.
2. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World Having read the comics books, I didn't think this movie could ever be made. Even when it was announced that the brilliant Edgar Wright would be doing it, I had my doubts that they could cram everything into one movie. And besides that, there are so many quirky things happening in the books (both story-wise and visually) that this could never work on a screen with real actors. Well, having finally seen the movie: I stand corrected. It was perfect. They got so insanely close to the source material that they deserve some kind of prize because that must have been really hard to do. I enjoyed each moment and all the actors were perfectly cast. No complaints except that this might be the first and last Scott Pilgrim movie unless Bryan Lee O'Malley writes some more books.
3. Kick-Ass I am a comic book freak so whenever Hollywood announces they are making a movie of one of the comics I love, I hold my breath. More often than not, Hollywood goes completely nuts and puts people on the project that know nothing about the source material. Luckily, every studio turned down Matthew Vaughn when he tried to sell the Kick-Ass movie and he had to raise the funds on his own. Keeping John Romita Jr. (the artist) and Mark Millar (the writer) on board during development of the movie was another good move that made the movie a bit better. All in all, Kick-Ass is one of those comic book movies that stays close to its source material but also becomes its own thing (which is good, in case you're wondering).
4. Iron Man 2 I loved the first Iron Man movie. It was the first movie that Marvel did themselves. This gave them the opportunity to pick the cast and director without studio executives trying to force big stars on them who have nothing to do with the source material. Robert Downey Jr. was the perfect casting choice for Tony Stark because even in his personal life he looks, talks and acts a lot like him. Iron Man 2 was a nice extension of the first Iron Man movie but the real reason I enjoyed it so much is because Marvel started putting in the building blocks for their 'bigger universe'. I can't wait to see the Captain America and Thor movies that will then lead into the Avengers. Marvel has the opportunity to make this happen finally and I really hope they pull it off.
5. The Social Network For a long time I have resisted the urge to throw myself into social networking sites. To me it always felt like people were being self-obsessed idiots and posting useless information. Recently I have come around on this opinion since I am now living in a strange city and don't have a lot of contact with my friends or family. It's nice that I can keep up to date on them and they can keep up to date on me (without using phones, because I hate talking on the phone). Anyway, The Social Network did something I didn't think was possible: it was a movie of dudes sitting around computers creating a website. Somehow they managed to make this interesting, suspenseful and very recognizable. To me, that is a very big achievement because, again, I didn't think that was possible. This also gives me hope that a Masters of Doom movie might work (seriously, if you like games and are interested in game development/history, check that book out).
1. The Walking Dead This one is a no-brainer for me (Ha, see what I did there?!) The Walking Dead has been my favorite comic since it started. I've recommended it to pretty much everyone I know and the people who have started reading it have really enjoyed it. For years I have said that the Walking Dead, if done right, could be the greatest TV show ever. Finally, somebody listened and the Walking Dead tv series is now a reality. While it is not quite the best show ever yet, it has been handled really well. The show stays close to the books but diverges regularly to keep things interesting for people who have read the comic books and know them by heart (like me). The casting so far has been sublime and I have faith in Frank Darabont because of his previous work. I can only hope this series gets a lot of seasons from AMC and they raise the quality even more in the following years.
2. Fringe Fringe started out as a show that was maybe a bit too much like the X-Files. Like most JJ Abrams shows, the characters were interesting, the episodes well written and the actors perfect for their roles. Then slowly, some deeper plot threads started getting weaved into the first season. Season 2 expanded on this and ended with a really awesome season finale. Now we're a few episodes into Season 3 and shit is getting really awesome. If I had to explain what's going on this season to somebody who knows nothing about Fringe, they would never watch it. Seriously, if you've seen the show, try to summarize the last 8 episodes in 10 to 20 sentences. The result will sound like the worst B-movie sci-fi fan fiction ever written (only without all the sex). But somehow Fringe makes all of this seem natural and exciting. It's mind-blowing at times. I just hope this doesn't get canceled prematurely and that the ending will be better than Lost and Alias' endings!
3. Dexter Dexter has also been one of my favorite show from the first episode. The concept is crazy enough to work: a serial killer who was trained by his stepdad to only unleash his inner monster on people who deserve it and who also works for the police (and so does his sister) as a blood spatter analyst. The series is very suspenseful and has taken some unexpected turns at times. I can usually predict where most shows are going from a while away (and I'm usually right) but Dexter has been surprising for most of the way. The current season is playing with the new dynamic they put the characters in and it's been awesome all the way!
4. Modern FamilyIt's hard to find decent comedy shows lately. It seems that the easy laughs are what networks prefer (judging from shows like Two and a Half Men, S#!t my dad says and How I Met Your Mother). But every once in a while, somebody greenlights one of those shows that has everything lined up perfectly: writers, performers, sets and style. Modern Family is that show. It's hard to explain why it's so funny (other than Phil's boasting and subsequent ineptitude) but I guess the easiest thing to point out is that the characters are very strong and play off each other perfectly. I think the writer's can just throw in every subject matter they can think off and the show will make itself funny just by how these characters react to it. And if you thought that there couldn't possibly be a character on tv more clueless than Michael Scott from the Office, you should really check out Modern Family's Phil Dunphy. That man... Is just... I don't have any words, just watch it!
5. Castle Like my belief that zombies can make pretty much anything better, I also believe that Nathan Fillion can make anything better. Yes, I am one of those people who still curses Fox for canceling Firefly when they did and desperately want Joss Whedon and Nathan Fillion to just finish that show. Sadly, that will probably never happen. But somebody realized that it doesn't really matter what situation you put Nathan Fillion in, as long as you give him a slightly arrogant yet insecure smart-ass to play. Which is exactly what he does in Castle. Normally, I don't care about procedural police shows (as in: a new case to solve each week) but Castle stays interesting because of... well... because Nathan Fillion plays Castle. That's it. I just enjoy watching Nathan Fillion play this character. The rest of the show is pretty ok, but Fillion takes it to a level above ok, completely on his own! They could make a show about Nathan Fillion cleaning up his garage and I would still watch it.
And that's it! If anyone made it this far: thank you for reading! You rule!
I hope 2011 will be better for me personally and for everyone else too! Have a good one!