I guess as it’s January I should be posting an obligatory “best of 2010” list… Mine isn’t really a very strict list and it’s not in any real order of preference, except number one, really. Also some of the games aren’t technically 2010 games but they just happened to be played by me in 2010, so if you’re going to be fussy about it then bugger off! I did try to follow some loose guidelines when composing the list, the main ones being how “fun” the game is to play and how memorable the experience was. For me the number one priority in a game should be the way it feels when you play. Now this obviously varies from genre to genre but it has to feel fluid, natural and satisfying. That said, if you’ve glanced down at my list and seen Red Dead Redemption as my number one you may feel like calling me out as a hypocrite and I completely understand, as this games controls are sometimes a little clunky but the other qualities of the game more than compensate for this. I think I’ve compiled quite a decent selection of varying tastes in my list and looking back over it now I really could easily play any one of these games for days and not get bored. Overall I’d say 2010 was a healthy year for games and indie games especially seemed to be gaining in popularity, either that or I’ve just become more of a “nerd” during the past 12 months, thus exposing me to more underground, indie type games and relieving me of some of this ignorance I carry around in this quite large head of mine. It’s also seen some innovations in the hardware department with the Playstation Move and Xbox Kinect arriving (rather late) to the “motion control” party that Nintendo started in 2006. The 4 years since the Wii seemed to have made the difference though as both Move and Kinect features much more impressive tech than the Wii ever has. I got a Kinect for Christmas and have been very happy with the way it works. Kinect Sports and Dance Central are current favourites but I shall be doing a write-up on Kinect soon, so let’s just get on with this list…
Red Dead Redemption (360)
Without a shadow of a doubt my favourite game of 2010. I feel bad I didn’t write a proper review of the game at the time now, but it was when I first started the blog so was kind of finding my bearings and this game had already had so much written about it elsewhere it just felt like I’d be pissing into an ocean, if that’s even a phrase…
Aesthetically, it looks gorgeous, with controls and physics that feel heavy and realistic. The guns are loud, messy and purely satisfying to fire which makes those down-and-dirty gun fights one of the highlights that I’m yet to tire of. The best thing about Red Dead Redemption though, is the world you inhabit: it’s beautiful, atmospheric, and with its dramatically shifting weather and interesting inhabitants, it really becomes a character in its own right. Some of the moments you experience are simply breathtaking; even from the very beginning I knew it was going to be something special and not just “Grand Theft Horses” like some people had predicted. I remember stepping foot off the train and squinting as the sunlight poured onto the screen, reflecting off the sand. I walked John Marston towards the nearby saloon and just as he tipped his hat to a lady, a drunken old man stumbled out and landed face first in the dirt. I stopped and watched as he picked himself up and shuffled off. This was the first of many small, but well-scripted moments that come together to make this one of the most enriching, engrossing stories ever told in a game. The plot, albeit a relatively simple one, plays out perfectly, but it is the world that Rockstar have created that steals the show.
Call of Duty: Black Ops (360)
I’ve pretty much covered all there is to say about ‘BLOPS’ in my review (click link above) and although I can see the many flaws the single player game has, I really can’t find much fault with the multiplayer. With the right group of people there is an endless amount of fun to be had. Basically this game makes firing guns feel AWESOME. War, huh!? What is it good for?! Absolutely nothing!!! (except the simulated war video games that are influenced by it and are super cool and fun to play)
Assassins Creed 2 (360)
Again, pretty gutted I never wrote a full review for this game as I enjoyed it so much. I realise it’s actually a 2009 game but I was a latecomer and it was a big part of my 2010 gaming so I couldn’t leave the poor fella out in the cold. Even though I could see its many flaws I loved the first Assassins Creed and the concept and gameplay style had me hooked from the start. AC:2 succeeded in reeling me into the franchise even further by vastly improving on its predecessor and creating a near-perfect assassin simulation (which is the type of game I used to dream about playing one day when I was a wee lad) I am yet to play Assassins Creed: Brotherhood but from what I’ve heard about the multiplayer I can only assume that I’m going to love that too. I can’t wait to get my teeth into it, that said, I highly recommend that you check AC:2 out, especially if you liked the first one but even if you didn’t I definitely think this will change your mind.
Super Meat Boy (360, XBLA)
I love this little guy, so much so that I’m actually wearing a t-shirt with his cheery mug on as I type. Actually that gives me an idea… A Super Meat Boy mug would be amazing! I could drink my beefy broth from it as I play! The game is one of the most technically perfect games I’ve ever played. What I mean by that is no matter how many times you get frustrated whilst playing it (and you will) you won’t ever blame the game, you will only blame yourself and your stupid fat thumbs for not doing what you tell them to. Meat Boy responds to every control in such a perfect way and the physics are so technically sound that it will only ever be the player who is at fault, not the game. This, my fleshy friends, is a massive relief in a game as potentially annoying as this. Another way it quells frustration is by allowing you to instantly restart the level any time you die, which allows for continuous play in a genre that usually ends up with a stop-start style of play, which can be very annoying. Super Meat Boy is a real gamers game that contains hardcore gameplay that will really test your platforming skills and an abundance of old school video game references, the most prominent being Super Mario Bros. Yes this game is ridiculously difficult and it may put some of you off, but I suggest try the demo and if you get past that then download this little meaty sucker and play the shiznit out of it!
I’ve said my piece about this game (see link above) and I couldn’t leave it out of my top ten list as it was one of the most strange and compelling experiences I’ve had with a game this year. The only thing I can compare it to is when I was about 10 years old and playing with Lego, it’s that same feeling of having an unlimited amount of possibilities in front of you, oh and it’s also got blocks in it, innit? Lovely game. Play it.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (360, XBLA)
This is the game that’s freshest in my mind as I’ve just completed it with Adam in co-op mode. I’m so glad I finally went back to it as I was nearly put off by it when it was first released because it just seemed like quite a bland puzzle/action game that I would no doubt get bored with. It didn’t help that the co-op mode was delayed by about two months! That said, the single-player is a pretty solid experience on its own and I was quite surprised at how good it was. The puzzles are fiendish at times but very satisfying to solve once you do. This is due to the fact that all the puzzles don’t really follow “video game rules” like some other titles do. Every solution is a logical one and there is sometimes more than one way to solve a problem, which leads to you having to be quite creative and think outside the box on more than one occasion. This is even more prevalent in the co-op puzzles and I thoroughly enjoyed ploughing through the entire game with my buddy Adam.
Fifa 2010 + South Africa World Cup (360)
I never see the FIFA games as a “video game” really but more of a separate entity, so it feels weird to put it in the list but because of the amount of time spent with this game I had to include it really. The FIFA franchise has really stepped up its game in the FIFA vs Pro Evo war and I have to say I think FIFA finally takes the title of best football sim with 2010′s offerings. The World Cup edition added some improvements to the 2010 model that I hope have been carried over to Fifa 2011 (haven’t played much of it, sadly!) I still think the manager mode needs improving but the game itself is beautiful, as it should be… You know, with it being the “beautiful game” and all.
Monkey Island 2: Special Edition (360)
I don’t think I can ever get bored of this game. I loved the original MI and MI:2 on Amiga, which I think I never actually completed because it was the days before internet guides and some of the solutions are just mental, seriously, how does Guybrush fit a monkey in his pocket? Who knew you could even pick up the monkey? And what do you use it for… As a MONKEYwrench to turn off a water pipe…. Ridiculous. But also kind of makes sense… Which is why I love these games so much! It feels more like you’re watching an old film that you like or re-reading a favourite book more than playing a video game. The writing is brilliant and still the funniest game I’ve ever played. The Special Edition adds fancy new hand-drawn graphics to replace the old sprites, which you can switch back to with the press of the ‘back’ button at any time. Also present is the developers commentary, which is a feature I think all games should have as it’s such a neat way to do it, with it being interactive and context sensitive to the scene/level you are playing. The guys at Valve also played around with the idea in Left 4 Dead and Portal, so I hope it catches on! But the main reason I picked this game, even though it is technically just a remake, is just because it’s effortlessly charming, funny and as long as you don’t get stuck on a non-sensical puzzle (which can be avoided thanks to the hint system) is always a joy to sit and play through no matter how many times you may have done so before. If you’ve never played any of the Monkey Island games before I suggest you change that right now and download both 1&2 of the special editions on XBLA! Trust me, you’ll love them*. *Xbox Live Marketplace does NOT offer refunds and any enjoyment NOT received as promised by me (the author) can not be refunded either and it’s not my fault if you don’t like the games, it’s yours and yours alone you cold-hearted, humourless bastard.
Heavy Rain (PS3)
See review by clicking link above for more in-depth chat about Heavy Rain and I’ll just give my reasons for its inclusion in my list. Firstly it’s one of the most engrossing games I’ve played and even though the story as a whole has some quite large plot-holes the individual scenes sometimes created some brilliant moments of real tension. Some of the decisions you are forced to make are the hardest thing you’ll have to do in the entire game. I genuinely had to sit back and really think about some of the decisions I was making and it really makes you empathise with the characters and engages you in the story in a way I’ve not seen before. It was an eye-opening experience for me and I felt like I was taking a peak at the future of video games. It really felt like the next evolutionary step in gaming and although it was a little rough around the edges and it’s no-where near perfect, it hopefully will inspire developers to step-up and try to offer this kind of cinematic experience. Rockstars’ L.A. Noire seems to be heading in that direction and I’ve got no doubt that it will be one to watch for 2011.
Dirt 2 (360)
Ok, kind of cheated with this one too as it’s a 2009 game but again, I didn’t get to play it until late 2010 and it impressed me so much I just had to include it. It’s the best racing game I’ve ever played that doesn’t feature red shells. The controls are fantastic and mixed with the super slick visuals offer a driving experience like no other. I liked GRID and what I played of the original Dirt I liked too, but they never really grabbed my attention in the same way that Dirt 2 managed to. The presentation is flawless and there are plenty of modes to keep you busy. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Dirt 3 has to offer when it’s released later this year.
So that’s my top ten games of 2010. Like I said, they aren’t really in any sort of order apart from the top spot as I think they are all quite different experiences in their own right and can’t really be judged against one another fairly because of that. Anyway, let’s forget about the past and focus on 2011 which is already shaping up to be an excellent year for gaming!