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Down with Early Access... Quality is an important part of software, why the hell would I want to use software without it?

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Best of 2009

Shuborno: Best of 2009

List items

  • This game is the one we can cite when we consider games the fully realize the potential of a promising premise.

    Too often we have to choose between tightly designed, restricted, polished scenarios and open world freedom and choice. Batman: Arkham Asylum manages to provide both, with the visual fidelity and deep combat of a linear game, and the refreshing freedom of an open world with smart (and fun!) traversal mechanics.

    The success of the mechanics alone would be enough for the game to be great, but layered on top is an intriguing story, creative art direction, a fan-favourite voice cast, and copious Batman lore.

  • I can not put down this game.

    Borderlands, like last-year's Too Human, have taken the next step of loot game design - tying the loot and abilities directly to an inherently satisfying game mechanic. The compulsion isn't to play to get better loot - you play because the game mechanics are inherently fun, and the loot enhances those mechanics.

    Where Too Human faltered was that the game mechanic was either explicitly disliked or misunderstood. Borderlands doesn't fall into that trap because it takes the ubiquitous game mechanic of this generation - first-person shooting - and polishes it to sit with the best of the genre.

    You want to loot and shoot? This is your game.

  • I consider Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World two of the greatest games of all time, so it's no surprise that this would show up on my list.

    New Super Mario Bros. Wii takes a subset of the things I loved about those old games and gives me new levels to play with my friends. Both the difficulty and fun ramps up significantly with each added player, which is just the way I like it.

  • My patience for music games has worn thin. However, my appetite for great music is endless.

    The latter is treated with such reverence in this package that I can't help but find it exhilarating. It's fascinating to deconstruct The Beatles' music and hear and interact with these great mixes. Three-part vocal harmonies are a great and important addition - it's always more fun to sing along and extremely rewarding to hit the harmonies!

  • The concept of tower defense games usually turns me off completely, but I couldn't imagine Pop Cap would design an intimidating game, so I felt comfortable jumping into Plants vs. Zombies.

    I was foolish to think the game would be a "casual" endeavor, as I found it constantly eating more and more of my life. I forgot about TF2. I forgot about Borderlands. It was all Zombies, all the time. The art style and sound design is delightful and hilarious - watching cutesy plants kill zombies never gets old! I love games that give you a toolset to be creative with and make your own solutions to the challenges, and this is definitely one of those games.

  • You can consider a game as a value-for-money proposition, or you can consider the quality of the experience you have when you play it.

    Considering only the single-player component, Brutal Legend is a very short but fantastic experience. For fans of metal, this is an homage to that which you love. It manages to bring together a genuinely funny and engaging story with excellent voice acting, good pacing and variety, satisfying combat and exploration, and an awesome soundtrack. The visuals are also an absolute feast for the eyes, both on a technical level and in terms of its inspired art direction, character models, and animation. Jack Black's performance as Eddie Riggs is actually quite restrained and nuanced.

    Ultimately, my only complaint is that I wish the game were longer, because I would love to spend several more hours enjoying the vivid world Double Fine has created.

    (Also, for the record, Brutal Legend is no more an RTS than Borderlands is a driving game. Only reviewers barreling through the story missions would have found a large proportion of RTS missions, and even then, they were in the minority.)

  • When allegiances are drawn between Guitar Hero and Rock Band, I fall firmly into the Rock Band camp, as (at least upon each franchise's original release) the Rock Band experience is generally more about the music and less about the "game" than Guitar Hero is.

    Nonetheless, Metallica is one of the great metal bands and their music is very well suited to the format, so I couldn't help but try out this game. What I found was impeccably transcribed note charts, an excellent job of motion-capturing Metallica, and a more forgiving and more fun progression through the career. The developers' love and reverence for the band is evident, and it results in a higher-quality product. If this attention to detail translated to the main numbered entries in the series, the Guitar Hero franchise would be neck-in-neck with the Rock Band franchise for game quality.

  • I'm no Left 4 Dead evangelist. I think the game is fun, but it doesn't quite tickle me in the way other Valve games do (eg. Team Fortress 2, Half-Life). That being said, Left 4 Dead 2 has made significant strides to inject a lot more fun into the Left 4 Dead formula. This game pays off on the concept of the first game, making the moment-to-moment gameplay more satisfying with melee weapons, much more interesting level design, and smart boss infected additions that force you to switch strategies on the fly.