Top 10 Games of 2010


9. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Number 9 this year is another reboot of a flagging franchise.   After a blockbuster debut back on the original PlayStation, followed by a few solid sequels, the Tomb Raider formula started to stagnate, relying more upon the sex appeal of its busty heroine than gameplay innovation.   By the fifth entry in the franchise, the Tomb Raider series started to feel like a cheap cash-in, with gameplay elements stuck in the mid-1990’s.  

Anniversary and Underworld saw the series make a slight comeback, refining the gameplay and control elements, while adding some much-needed polish that had been missing from the series.   However, in the age of games like Prince of Persia and Uncharted, the games still seemed fairly bland.

Imagine my surprise, then, when developer Crystal Dynamics decided to take Lara Croft into the DLC arena, crafting a wholly different type of experience for the download-only market.   The result was a fresh and inventive new direction that managed to capture the best of acrobatic platform exploration and puzzle solving, and combine it with the visceral adrenaline rush of a dual-stick shooter.

The storyline is admittedly somewhat bland.   An evil force is unleashed upon the world, and in order to save the day, Lara and her new companion Totec must infiltrate a jungle ruin full of traps in order to deliver a mirror to its rightful place.   However, the story is just a framework for the action, which takes center stage as you climb and shoot your way through the landscape from a fixed isometric perspective.   The action is suprisingly thrilling, and expertly paced, and level-specific challenges add to the replay value.  The co-op mode introduces a number of new elements, relying upon Totec’s unique skill set to tackle the puzzles from a different perspective.   Only some minor control issues mar what is otherwise one of the freshest entries in the landmark series.


Top 10 Games of 2010

10. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit


Need for Speed: Most Wanted was, for me, the highlight of the Xbox 360 launch, sporting a surprisingly deep customization system and high-tension police pursuits, wrapped in a stunning presentation, bursting at the seams with slick visuals that still hold up well today.   Add to that the perversely engaging high-camp cutscenes, and you have the makings of a modern classic.  

The next few years were not kind to the series, with a number of missteps into niche gameplay that nearly derailed the series.   Last year’s Shift was a surprising but enjoyable step into detailed simulation, but it still wasn’t enough to buoy the flagging franchise.

EA was wise to hand the franchise over to the folks at Criterion, famous for the high-adrenaline Burnout series, and they have risen to the occasion, infusing the series with a long-lost sense of over-the-top arcade racing action that harkens back to the series’ golden years.

Exotic Cars and Stunning Visuals Abound

While lacking any semblance of a storyline, NFS: HP throws you right into a series of challenging race and pursuit scenarios, pitting you as either a street racer or a cop, outfitted with the latest in racing technology.   Events have you outrunning cops while deploying traps and EMPs like a classic cart racer.   Or, you’re on the other end, racing to join a pursuit in progress, or even better, taking on the racers yourself in frenzied paint-trading that recalls the best of what Burnout has to offer.

Add to this the innovative Autowall, which tracks your achievements against other racers and lets you immediately drop into contested challenges, and you have not just the best racing game of the year, but perhaps the best of the current generation