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Best of 2010

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  • There are two types of great games: those that are so popular that they inspire countless imitators, and those that are so well-made that no other developers even try make a new game to match. Red Dead falls into the latter category. This is certainly not a perfect game, and I'm sure I could think up a laundry list of flaws if I were so inclined, but it's easy to overlook the game's issues when the overall package is as complete as it is. Rockstar has created the best Western game ever made, and frankly the only one I will ever want to play (at least until RDR 2). Lengthy single-player campaign? Check. Memorable story? Yep. Outstanding graphics? Quality music, sound design, and voice acting? Unique multiplayer? Awesome DLC? It's all there. Red Dead Redemption is the total package, and my GOTY for 2010.

  • Full disclosure: I wasn't a huge fan of the first Mass Effect game. I'm not sure why, but the game just didn't hook me with its story or setting, and it was only after several months of off and on playing that I finally completed the main story arc. Still, I decided on a whim to buy Mass Effect 2, and I'm very glad I did. Everything about this game is an improvement on the original and I'm now eagerly awaiting the final installment of the trilogy.

  • If you would have told me at the start of this year that I would have a Battlefield game ranked higher on this list than both Halo: Reach and CoD: Black Ops I wouldn't have believed you. Don't get me wrong, I've played and enjoyed the Battlefield series since BF1942 first launched for PC those many years ago; but, the large-scale, vehicle-centric gameplay just never appealed to me the way small-scale arena/twitch shooters did. In fact, I can say that I still prefer the fast-paced action and focus on individual skill that Arena shooters provide more than the standard Battlefield formula. So why is this game ranked ahead of the others? Simply, because DICE seems to understand that a game can be made more palatable to new players without sacrificing a skill gap. The new Vietnam expansion further enhances an already terrific multiplayer shooter.

  • Super Meat Boy is an exercise in frustration, but at the same time one of the most satisfying games I've ever played. The thing that I appreciate most about SMB is that the guys designing the levels have made no concessions for the novice player. From the very first level the player is faced with challenging stages that result in plentiful deaths and evoke controller-throwing rage. I enjoy games that have a quality narrative or provide an immersive emotional experience, but sometimes I just want to play a game for the challenge. When you fail and die, and you certainly will do both in Super Meat Boy, you have no one to blame but yourself. The game isn't impossible or rigged against you, and your success (or lack thereof) is directly correlated to your own skill. Also, the music is terrific.

  • I completely omitted Modern Warfare 2 from my "Best of 2009" list. The over-the-top, "let's push the envelope and make an emotionally charged level where the player mows down innocent civilians in an airport terminal, then throw all of that seriousness out of the window with a ridiculous plot" campaign was a disaster, and the fine multiplayer balance that IW had created with CoD4 had been forsaken for Chopper Gunners and Nukes. Thankfully, Treyarch managed to not only make a game that was not worse than MW2, but also added some really cool new features and game modes to the series. Best of all, they have been taking community feedback to heart since the game's launch, and have fixed a lot of the issues that have popped up with the online multiplayer. For the first time since the glory days of CoD4 all the way back in 2008 (I know, not that long ago), I'm not rolling my eyes and shaking my head when I get a game invite from a friend to play CoD.

  • The number one complaint that people seem to have with this game is "repetitive combat" and I'm inclined to agree. One-dimensional shooting notwithstanding, this is a fantastic game. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and setting, and while the narrative wasn't airtight, it was definitely compelling. The DLC add-ons were well-made, and I'm very hopeful that Remedy will look past the rather mediocre sales numbers for this game and give us the full sequel that the game deserves (hopefully with a development time of less than 50 years or however long they worked on this game).

  • I hadn't played a Pokemon game since the Ruby/Sapphire generation for the GBA and had no intention of picking up the series ever again, but Soul Silver roped me back in. Were this game not a remake of one of my favorite childhood games, I probably wouldn't have given it any thought. But watching the pre-release Quick Look here on Giant Bomb was like getting hit with a tidal wave of nostalgia, and I decided to pick the game up at launch. I was instantly sucked back into the world of training and battling and trading. Say what you will about the Pokemon formula wearing thin after all of these years, but the games are still well-designed and extremely addicting. To date I've probably put over 40 hours into Soul Silver, and will keep going back for more.

  • I wasn't very enthusiastic about this game at first, especially after I found out that Ubisoft had completely scrapped the original "Jason Bourne"-style premise of a fugitive on the run who has to blend in with the crowd and then smash a dude's head through a table when he is eventually noticed by the bad guys. Still, I loved Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory (especially the multiplayer of the latter) on the original Xbox, so I decided to give the game a try. The game is almost nothing like PT or CT in terms of stealth gameplay, but that isn't a bad thing. Ubisoft have made a lot of positive changes to the series, and finally created a game that allows for stealth OR shooting (they always claimed that you had that choice in Chaos Theory, but run-and-gun almost always got you killed). The story was great, and the Deniable Ops and co-op were terrific. Definitely a return to form for Sam Fisher.

  • If I could sum up Halo: Reach in one word it would be: disappointment. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Halo fan; but, Reach was presented to fans with a promise from Bungie that it would be "the definitive Halo, from the people who created Halo." (Credit Marty O'Donnell for that quote). If that is what they were trying to deliver with Reach, they failed. It isn't the definitive Halo; in fact, I don't even know if it can claim to be better than Halo 3. The campaign was solid but not too memorable, with a lot of frustrating encounters towards the end. The story was awful, and destroyed the previous canon that Eric Nylund had provided with his fantastic novel "The Fall of Reach." Firefight was greatly improved since it was introduced last year with ODST, but endlessly fighting soulless AI has never appealed to me. And finally, the multiplayer, which had (and still has, with the right amount of patching) so much potential for greatness, is broken. Armor Abilities have completely changed the gameplay for the worse, making evasion far too simple and shooting skill less important than ever. The bloom is poorly implemented and rarely ever fair or reflective of player skill. The on-disc maps are mostly mediocre, and the creativity of map designers on Forge World is limited because of the frame-rate lag that accompanies maps built with lots of objects. I thought for a long time that the problem with Reach wasn't the game itself, but rather my own changing tastes. A sortof "it's not you, it's me," thing. But after a little reflection, I realized that it actually wasn't me. I don't have Halo fatigue; more than ever, I have a hunger for Halo gameplay. Bungie has now failed three successive times to make a game that tops Halo: CE, but at this point I don't even want that. I'd be just fine with a game that matches Halo 2's quality. Reach, sadly, doesn't scratch that itch. For the first time ever, I am completely ambivalent towards a Halo game. The reason I included it on this list is because I did have some genuine fun with the campaign on the first playthrough, and because of the potential that it has to be great if Bungie were to swallow their pride and fix what is blatantly broken.

  • My enthusiasm for the Assassin's Creed series has cooled a bit since I finished ACII last year, but Brotherhood is still a great game no matter how you slice it. I especially enjoy the multiplayer, which is unlike anything I've ever played before.