Best of 2009

Massive change on January 30th, but I still need to play Batman, Borderlands and Fire Emblem.

1. Assassin's Creed II

2. The Beatles Rock Band

3. Dragon Age: Origins

4. Uncharted 2

5. Left 4 Dead 2

6. inFamous

7. New Super Mario Bros. Wii

8. Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story

9. Resident Evil 5

10. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

My first list (pre-Christmas)

1. Assassin's Creed II

2. The Beatles Rock Band

3. Uncharted 2

4. Left 4 Dead 2

5. inFamous

6. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

7. Resident Evil 5

8. Shadow Complex

9. Pokémon Platinum Version

10. Guitar Hero 5

List items

  • While I was skeptical that this would remain at the top of my list, Assassin's Creed II has blown me away by never, ever getting boring. No, I haven't beat this game yet, but that's due to my pre-game completionist nature. I've already cleared Florence of all its Codex Pages, Assassination Contracts, Viewpoints, Glyphs, Races, Courier Missions, Beat-Up Missions, and Assassin's Tombs, and I've also already bought all the art, all the armor, all the Villa upgrades, and found the statues in the Villa. Not to mention that I just beat Carnivale last night as well.

    With this game, there's very little bad I can say about it. My only problem is that certain things are just too small for me to read on the television in my bedroom (which is maybe a 16" screen), so I have difficulty with a few sections of the game because of it. The only other thing I wish they'd done was mark building with glyphs on your map so that you could actually find them again; these cities are huge, and sometimes it's difficult to tell one church from the other.

    Even after playing Assassin's Creed, everything feels new again. In fact, it puts the original to shame, and that's the first time I've ever been happy about that. The fact that even with everything new, the simple backstab maneuver with the hidden blade still feels great helps cement the fact that this was a game that needed to be made. This game, with its stellar cities, its interesting missions, the way it actually PULLED OFF stealth for once, its very engaging story, and, if nothing else, the amount of time I've been able to pour into it (roughly 30 hours) without beating it makes it my Game of the Year.

  • This is the game I'd been most excited for all year. To be fair, I'm a Beatlemaniac from birth, but honestly, that's who this game was really made for. Aside from the sheer joy of being able to play all the songs I've loved for so long (albeit a few real gems are missing), the game design is done with so much love and care that it's obvious to me that the Harmonix team really loves The Beatles as much as I do.

    Only a few little things keep it in a different league from Assassin's Creed II; for one, some of the real gems could've easily replaced songs like "Boys" and "Getting Better", and it seems like we might not get the chance to play them because the DLC hasn't exactly shattered any records. Meanwhile, there are some historical accuracy things that just bugged me; for example, Starr publicly quit the band for two weeks during which they recorded "Back in the U.S.S.R." and "Dear Prudence" with Paul drumming, but nevertheless Ringo's hammering away in the game. The lack of the studio musicians such as Billy Preston and Eric Clapton is also a bit disconcerting.

    Even with these couple of missteps, though, the game shines above most of the games of the year. These are nitpicky things, and only a true Beatlemaniac will be even mildly bothered by them. The thing that surprises me most is that, for the most part, when my friends come over (including the ones who DON'T like The Beatles all that much), they're picking this game over Rock Band 2. This game is just so well done, and so reverent of its source material that it's impossible for me not to put it this high on the list.

  • I'm not a huge Mass Effect fan, but BioWare certainly turned it around with this fantasy epic. The only complaints I've so far heard are that too much time is "spent in menus", something I certainly haven't encountered as my elf ranger, and that the setting is "more generic than D&D." Well, I won't quite let you have that; it's not MORE generic than D&D, it's pretty much just D&D without the halflings, gnomes and orcs. Still, a lot more emphasis is put in this game on the distrust between the races, and the game is a bit dark in comparison to, say, Warcraft or The Lord of the Rings, but it's not really darker than any of the good D&D campaigns I've been involved in.

    The thing that makes this game work? I was interested very, very quickly, the combat just feels right, and the characters are all very cool. I've put very little time into this game, unfortunately, but it stuck out to me very quickly as just more enjoyable than the games below it on the list, separating the boys of 2009 from the men.

  • Uncharted 2 and I have had a very interesting relationship. I first watched my brother beat this game back in October, but I had too many other things to do, and so I refrained from playing it myself. In fact, I even had my friends over to try the game out, and I hadn't played it myself yet. Finally, my brother forced me to play the game, and I did from about ten at night until about four in the morning. I'm in Tibet now, approaching the end of the game.

    For me, the part of this game that is so good is its cinematic approach to EVERYTHING. It is an absolute joy to watch, and the action scenes are every been as entertaining as the calmer dialogue sequences filled with sarcasm. If Metal Gear Solid 4 had taken this approach last year, it likely would've made my list.

    Unfortunately, Uncharted 2 shares a very big problem with Metal Gear Solid 4. The gunplay is not up to the standard of the rest of the game, and the fabled "train" sequence that everyone else is gushing about is mostly just the shooting aspect of the game. Unfortunately, I spent nearly a fourth of my time playing on that train, not to mention the longer gunplay sequences in the previous parts of the game. Don't misunderstand; the shooting mechanics work fine, and it's not that I have a problem with how it controls, but rather the lack of satisfaction when I shoot something in it. When I play Call of Duty, I'm gratified in multiple ways with every shot I land. The controller rumbles whenever I fire, and if I hit, I also get that little "click" sound and the crosshairs even turn into an "X". Every shot makes you feel awesome, and that's what I expect out of shooting in video games now. This game, unfortunately, did not have the gunplay that matched everything else in the game.

    Still, so long as you're not actually holding the controller, this game is a definite contender for Game of the Year. Its amazing platforming sections, its genuinely interesting puzzles, and the fact that it happens to be (not "would be", is) a great freaking movie, up to par with Indiana Jones and National Treasure. The absurd detail and care taken into the graphic design, the sound effects, the awesome voice acting (which never fails to live up to par), and the excellent characterization make Uncharted 2 a game that's going to be hard to forget.

  • For anyone who's spent extensive time with the game, I could merely mention Ellis and it would justify a #4 slot on the list. This game is bigger, funnier, and better in every way than Left 4 Dead, and although the changes are small, that's enough for me. It's like not justifying Rock Band 2 as a sequel to Rock Band 1; really, not a whole lot has changed in the eyes of a newcomer, but to someone who's played extensively, the differences are huge.

    Unfortunately, while I was able to get online, I was playing an extensive amount of Assassin's Creed II. Although I played the game a few times, it wasn't enough to really suck me in as much as ACII has, and as a result I haven't played it much. Now I'm without a wireless adapter again, and while I search for a way to get online, I have little desire to hop back into the excellent world of Left 4 Dead 2. Once I get back online, though, and especially after I beat Assassin's Creed II, this is going to be my all-nighter.

  • This is easily the best superhero game ever made. Now, one qualification must be made: Batman isn't really a superhero, more of a comic book character. You don't feel superhuman when playing as Batman, nor should you ever. Cole MacGrath, however, is definitely superhuman, and you feel the power.

    The game paces your powers so well that it's amazing; the leveling approach is perfect, with the player getting the skills he needs as he needs them. The action is unforgettable, nor are any of the powers he gains in the game. Unfortunately, the story is, and there's literally no intriguing reason to replay this game. Even the most important "morality" plot twist is a sham; either way, you pretty much wind up with the same result. Also, the game doesn't really reward you all that much for being good-aligned, although you do get the more powerful superhero abilities.

    inFamous is still a great game, but it doesn't really reward you enough for its morality decisions to merit a replay. Still, the first time through, this'll be one of the most excellent games you've ever played. There's a TON of things to do (albeit not as many as ACII), and any completionist will love some of the little touches they've added that make inFamous such a great game.

  • This is another game that I was skeptical would wind up on the list at all, but having played more of the game, it stuck with me. There's really not much to say other than this is a great Mario platformer, certainly not as good as the SNES and NES titles, but it's not too far off. If you like classic platformers, this is the game for you; if you always preferred the "exploration" platformers like Castlevania and Metroid, I hope you've already picked up Shadow Complex because that game is just barely off my list. I always preferred Sonic and Mario, and this game is the first great example of this kind of platforming since Sonic Advance came out all those years ago.

  • I haven't played much of this, but what I've played was awesome. I need to get back to you guys on this one, but the little time I spent with it was more enjoyable than any time I spent with Modern Warfare 2.

  • I'm a Resident Evil 4 addict. Part of me wants to say that's why this game is on the list at all, and another part of me wants to argue that's why it's so low. This game is awesome, so long as you haven't played any of the previous Resident Evil games (not the light-gun shooters on the Wii, those won't infringe). Unfortunately, if you've played any game other than Resident Evil 4, you'll be looking for horror elements this game is lacking. This game is about as scary as Halo 3, to be honest, only with some grosser looking enemies.

    If you've played Resident Evil 4, you'll be looking for the intense action of the previous game as well as the excellent level design, but you will also be disappointed. The game doesn't control as well as Resident Evil 4, and the way the enemies take bullets is MUCH less satisfying. Enemy deaths are no longer dramatic, they just sort of collapse; while maybe some kind of realistic, it's also VERY boring in comparison to the way Ganados went down in RE4.

    Now, Resident Evil 5 is in other ways a great game. It's got one of the better narratives the series has seen, less of those terrible lines of dialogue that sometimes are endearing ("Your right hand comes off?", "Whoa! You almost became a Jill Sandwich.") as well as annoying ("Don't open that door!", "Hey, it's that dog!"), and the gameplay rolls along without a hitch in its pacing. My only real complaint is that fact that it's just not as good as it should've been, and it's not scary enough to justify the fact that its action is under the Resident Evil's high note. Still, if you haven't played any of the others, you'll see this as one of the best games of the year.

    I guess I don't give this game enough credit. This game was still a great game even from a Resident Evil fan's point of view, it just falls short and that's why it's hard for me to leave it on this list at all when Shadow Complex failed to disappoint in the least. Comparing the two games, RE5 is still better, but RE5 should've been incomparable to everything else on the list.

  • I loved Modern Warfare. That's part of why I don't love Modern Warfare 2 as much as the rest of the world. The multiplayer complaints cycling repeatedly through GiantBomb have stuck out to me since the beginning, especially those damned Akimbo Shotguns. The story mode also just wasn't that engaging (to the point where I still haven't completed it even with its miniscule length), and the infamous "No Russian" level was a letdown.

    That said, Spec Ops mode is one of the best co-op experiences of the year, and makes the game worth a rental. If you like the multiplayer from Call of Duty 4, though, I'd at least try MW2; maybe the complaints everyone else has won't bother you, in which case this game is a must-buy simply for its excellent multiplayer.