As another year comes to a close it’s time to look back at the media that helped us get through it and will remind us of it in the distant future. This was meant to be the first week of a three week event, although Nancy seems to busy to post and Kevin is having his own troubles. Regardless, look for music next week and movies the week after that.
2010 was an interesting year for games, with a really spread out release calendar. Usually I have to wait for November to play my most anticipated games, but it seemed like there was a big release coming out every month right up until December, which, as we all know, is too late in the year for anyone to release anything good.
|10. God of War III|
The number 10 spot is always a tricky one. Do I reward a franchise for reinventing itself (Splinter Cell: Conviction)? Do I single out an amazingly fun, but stupid game (Just Cause 2)? Do I talk about some of the great downloadable games that came out this past year (Pac-Man CE DX, Limbo, Super Meat Boy)? How about one of the most competent games of the year instead? Kratos is angry, and so he’s going to kill everybody. That seems to be the entire plot of God of War III, which picks up right after the second game and then kicks our “hero” around enough that he just doesn’t seem to care anymore. Kill the Gods, kill the Titans, kill the innocent people caught in-between. And enjoy some exceptionally pretty visuals and solid combat along the way. You could complain about the weapons being too similar or other unessential nitpicks, but at the end of the day I enjoyed putting an end to a story that started back while I was still in high school.
|9. Heavy Rain|
Heavy Rain is not a great movie or work of fiction, but it’s one hell of a compelling gaming experience that sticks with you like glue from outer space. I can’t think of any title before this one that worked so hard at making you care about the characters you play as, making you experience the minutia of their lives. While not all of that pays off in the end, what does work works really well, and in a way no one has seen before. Sure, it’s easy to laugh at the ridiculous accents and some of the moments can be ruined by silly gamers, but can you think of anything as thrilling as the segment driving on the freeway in the wrong direction? The finger chopping scene? The murder? Did you even get those moments? Was my experience totally different from yours? It probably was, and that’s another reason why Heavy Rain is a game that helped make 2010 worth remembering.
I really liked that first Devil May Cry. The third one was good too. The fourth one was alright, I guess. But this new game, Bayonetta, well, that’s something special. She’s a hyper-sexualized witch/stripper/librarian on a journey of revenge and self-discovery, but the why doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that Bayonetta kicks some stylish ass, and then shoots it, and the cuts it with a sword. Watching Bayonetta play out was among the most mind-boggling experience I’ve had, and that’s not a bad thing. I mean, where else but in video games do you get to see a woman turn her skin-tight leather suit, which is actually made of her hair, into a giagantic demon dog head that goes on to devour a spear wielding angel monster while said lady does sexy dance moves on rubble falling a seemingly infinite height? Where, I ask you.
|7. Rock Band 3|
And so the music genre of video games comes to an end, not with a whimper but with a glorious chorus of keyboards and vocal harmonies. Rock Band 3 is the logical conclusion of this legendary franchise, which not only adds a new instrument but modes to actually teach people to play their instruments all by themselves. Learning a new instrument for the game is an experience we haven’t had in years and while it has been a struggle it has also been a lot of fun and somehow a little bit nostalgic. The UI makes all the necessary improvements and of course you can play all the songs in your massive song library. I just wish I didn’t have to buy songs all over again. Now that Harmonix is independent again, I hope the can just go on making DLC for, I don’t know, the rest of my life.
|6. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood|
Assassin’s Creed II was a helluva game. Brotherhood is better. The Desmond stuff is better than it has ever been, actually turning the rag-tag crew of futuristic assassins into people I didn’t mind talking with and rooting for. Ezio is just as badass as ever, taking up the mantle of leadership in the assassin’s guild of Renaissance Italy. Rome is an amazing city to run around and kill people in. Ubisoft has gone so far from the first title in the series. Earlier complaints of repetition have been destroyed by a robust collection of addictive sidequests and the sheer number of collectibles hidden all over the city. Plus, what other game let’s you hang out with Da Vinci and Machiavelli in-between murder sessions? It’s even got multiplayer that is actually pretty fun and is being supported by free DLC, or as I like to call it “free-LC.” That sounds better when said than when written.
|5. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty|
“Hell, it’s about time.” One of the most anticipated games in recent memory finally made it to store shelves this summer, and has become a fact of life for gamers all over the world since then. While I’ll never be good enough to truly enjoy what most people come to StarCraft II to play, spending more than a month going through the singleplayer campaign, the ingenious challenge mode and even a few matches with friends made it totally clear that this is a landmark game. It’s also the most watchable game I’ve ever seen, as I’ve probably spent more time watching matches on YouTube and uSteam than actually playing StarCraft II at this point. Yeah, that’s right, I’m talking about eSports. Deal with it. South Korea’s cool with them, why can’t I be? Watching pro-level StarCraft II is like watching professional 3D chess in fast forward, but with blood.
|4. World of Warcraft: Cataclysm|
As soon as I got to fly in the Burning Crusade expansion, I’ve been waiting to fly in Azeroth proper. “But we’d have to remake the world,” Blizzard said. “So do it, you makes crazy money every month,” I said. So they did. And Cataclysm is the best work they’ve ever done. Questing is crazy fun, the new races are great and while the level 85 cap is dumb, thinks are looking bright for the endgame as well. I genuinely enjoyed watching my druid gain tens of thousands of HP as he gained those last five levels, and the simplified talent trees allowed me to actually build my spec on my own instead of looking up a guide on the Internet (which I probably should have done). Blizzard has definitely reshaped the game to be simpler, more fun, and yet more tactical and skill-based than ever before. There’s never been a better time to hop into the World of Wacraft.
|3. Halo: Reach|
The beloved Halo franchise bids farewell to its creator with Reach, the best game in the franchise. I know that’s kind of hard to swallow, what with Master Chief being sidelined in favor of dudes and a lady we’ve never met before, but the concept of a planet being taken over by aliens while humanity desperately tries to fight back, and later simply survive, is more compelling than the intergalactic stories we’re used too. It helps that we dealt with a much smaller cast of characters who were more willing to take off their helmets and let you get to know them. But now they’re dead. Plus space battles, jet packs and the most robust multiplayer suite thus far, with all sorts of great armor customization, gameplay mode flexibility and even the Forgeworld, a land you can alter any way you wish. This is the definitive Halo experience, and my current online FPS of choice.
|2. Red Dead Redemption|
Cowboy’s never got their just reward in video games. Every once in a while, someone would take a shot at the old west, but it never quite paid off. Rockstar changed that with Red Dead Redemption, which is not only the best cowboy game ever, but possibly the best game the studio has ever put out. John Marsten is a tremendous character to play as, and his version of the old west is fully realized. This is simply one of the best stories I’ve ever played, with a remarkable cast and a satisfying series of endings that delivers a profound sense of closure. It’s also worth pointing out that this amazingly robust game also includes a complete mutliplayer package that I hear is a lot of fun, but haven’t touched myself. There’s so much to do, to see, to experience in Red Dead Redemption you could probably play is for the rest of next year too.
|1. Mass Effect 2|
The sequel to 2007’s Mass Effect came out in January and I could still play it right now. That’s after three substantial DLC releases and multiple attempts at playthroughs. Hell, I’ve even thought about replaying the first game to set up the ideal Mass Effect 2 run. The new combat system is terrific, making the game a competent third person shooter made exceptional by the biotic and technical powers that you and your squad can use. I love how Bioware streamlined the RPG systems, making character leveling substantially less complex and turning armor into a fun cosmetic experience instead of a constant battle against your inventory. The story is great too, crushing you with the gravity of your suicide mission right through the end. Mass Effect 2 is everything I love about video games and a reminder of why the medium remained my favorite in 2010. Now let’s get that Mass Effect 3 already.