Monday, July 18, 2011

The Top 10 Games Of 2010, As Chosen By Top 10 List Writers

We have a lovely community which spends its time discussing past and future top 10s. I was looking at DDJ's list series; "Best Games of All Times According to [...]", and they got me thinking: isn't it lovely that we can write top 10s together as well? Isn't it good that we can collaborate?

This simple thought evolved into an idea for a list. Let's write a top 10 with 10 different writers. Each writer writes 1 entry. For what subject? Ah, the best game of 2010. I opened a topic and asked my friends to join me in writing this list. We had only one condition: you had to be a top 10 writer, meaning, you must have contributed a top 10 in the past. So we got together. Each of us chose a game and wrote an entry about it.

So the list before you is an opinion list with 10 writers talking about their favorite game of 2010. The list is ordered alphabetically, based on the name of the author. So the order is not value based.

Now, let's read on.

2010 wasn’t nearly as dry for good games as a few of its preceding years so choosing a favorite game was difficult but Mass Effect 2 was a completely natural choice for favorite game. These past couple of years have been all about the sequels and sequels are usually a step down, often from a game I didn’t like to begin with. This does not mean, however, that I will pass on a sequel to a game I really like: There was no way I could pass on a Mass Effect sequel.

Mass Effect was a fantastic game with a massive scope and inhabiting a sci-fi genre rarely seen in video games today: Space Opera. From the start Mass Effect established a complex and well thought out universe but enough about Mass Effect, you might have expected me to say a lot more about it as a base for comparison for its sequel and that’s what I almost did before realizing that any game should be able to stand on its own and since Mass Effect 2 is much improved from its predecessor in every way, so all you need to take away from this is that Mass Effect is slightly less good.

Everything about this game is streamlined and simple but with a great deal of diversity, there are several classes and where other games would make them slight variations on each other Mass Effect 2 makes them completely unique. Each class has only a few abilities and virtually all of them are useful, which ones you choose to use and invest in are completely up to whatever play stile you want. There are no more weapons as abilities, you can use whichever weapons your class uses and you can use them well without having to spend points, meaning you can invest the few points you get into your more useful abilities. Combat is visceral, and while cover based firefights have been done before a lot they’re done better here being completely intuitive and natural, running up to a wall causes you to duck behind that wall, rather than needing to press a button to glue your spine to it. Unlike many other games combat is also completely engaging. This is also the first game where the moral choice system accomplishes exactly what it wants to, instead of the standard choice between baby killer and Santa Clause: Renegade options feel satisfyingly like Dirty Harry and Paragon, well I haven’t really figured out what to compare Paragon to yet, maybe Batman. Rounding out the game is the cast; a few familiar faces from the first game but just about all of the characters are interesting and complex.

Normally at this point in a normal review I’d discuss the negatives but I’m not going to, this is a brief look at my favorite game of the year and the few negatives I can think of aren’t all that important, particularly when my biggest complaint was that I was sad when it ended because I wanted to play more and see where the plot was going. Few games are nearly this big in scope and if you haven’t yet, you should go play it, luckily you don’t need to play the first one because all is explained and they don’t do it in a long conversation or wall of text.
At first look the new GoldenEye for the Nintendo Wii looks like a replica of the original N64 game, but it is so much more. The game is loosely based of the movie and in this case that is a good thing, because it allows for more levels including some that where not on the N64. There has been some more extreme changes made to the story, such as Valentin Zukovsky not being affiliated with the KGB, but such changes do nothing to interfere with the gameplay. Older levels have been modified and re-mastered giving them a new feel. Another bonus in the re-mastery is of course the graphics they now look better than every (naturally that was expected). The music and sounds had been re-mastered as well, but like all Bond games it still has the same opening theme as well as many other familiar 007 pieces. The gun roster is still just as loaded as every with some of the all time favorites of Bond games like the Golden Gun (which is still one shot death and one bullet forcing players to make their shots count). Other things that got changed where things like the watch and cigarette lighter (which were used for scanning documents, communicating with headquarters, and taking pictures) got replaced with a cell phone (which can do basically all three). That might be the only complaint with it, the fact that Bond lost a pretty fair chunk of his spy gadgets and picked up a few more common items. Personally a plus for me was the designers getting rid of the Pierce Brosnan James Bond model and creating a Daniel Craig likeness allowing the game to appeal to the new crowd of people who haven’t seen James Bond movies that predate Casino Royal. This game allows for many types of controllers from the basic Wii Remote and Nunchuk, to a Wii Zapper, to a Classic Control or Plus, heck it even allowed the use of a Gamecube control if one did so desire to use one. Of course like the N64 game this game is best for its multi-player with many familiar faces like Jaws, Oddjob, Dr. No and a bunch of others. Multi-player was by no means a disappointment with both split screen play and online. It was quite fun to finally kill that one bad player on GoldenEye without having to be in the same room with him. As for those players who don’t have or like online gameplay this game can still offer a bunch for you as well. It is very easy to learn this game picking up and playing can easily go from a few minutes to hours giving this game an amazing high replayablity. All that said, GoldenEye for the Wii was defiantly worth the wait, and is one of the best games of 2010 (shame it can be so hard to find in retail and rental stores sometimes).
Perhaps it’s because I’m getting a bit older in gaming years that I tend to throw more praise behind games that offer me something new. Sure, in 2010 I’ve logged hundreds of hours into Monster Hunter Tri, and was perhaps more excited than most at the release of Fantastic Contraption 2 among other things, but ultimately these were simply some great updates to something I’ve more or less already experienced. I suppose it’s not without a hint of irony that the new experience I did find also came from a sequel, but I can’t help but shake the thought that Endless Ocean: Blue World was able to pull me in like nothing else this year.

A virtual scuba simulator certainly won’t be winning too many “Game of the Year” awards, and I can admit the game has its own flaws (you walk like a tank on land, and dolphin training can be tedious, for example), but none of that matters as soon as you dive underwater to find gorgeously created worlds to explore, brimming with everything from tiny sea slugs to massive sperm whales. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s the prettiest looking game on the Wii, with phenomenal detail given to textures and lighting, a high and steady framerate, and some brilliant draw distance (really – it’s amazing to watch some of these big creatures drift into view). These fish look and move like they were real, and it’s quite the immersive experience, honestly pushing close to the sublime at times.

With such amazing detail given to bring the underwater worlds to life, I was equally amazed to find the overflowing amount of content packed in. While the game does contain a main story (roughly 6-8 hours) traveling through the 6 dive sites around the world, it barely scratches the surface on the available things to do in the game. Special dive quests, treasure hunts, photo submissions to magazines, finding legendary creatures; this game allows you to experience a great deal, and is wisely complemented by a smart set of tools at your disposal (ranging from a camera, to a pulsar gun, to a pet orca!). All this and I haven’t even mentioned the equipment upgrades, the aquarium, the day/night/lunar phases mechanic, the marine encyclopedia, the guided tours, GG...

Simply put, there’s a lot to be found in Endless Ocean: Blue World. It’s a unique blend of adventure, discovery, and sensory stimulation not commonly found in videogames.
I'm an RPG fan. Traditionally, I don't like platformers all that much. So how is it that I'm choosing a platformer for my Game of the Year 2010? For starters... well, for starters, I didn't play any of the RPGs released this year.

But even if I had, I think Super Mario Galaxy 2 still would've received my nod for game of the year. It received the second-highest score I've ever given to a game I've reviewed, behind only Final Fantasy Tactics. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a beautifully polished, flawlessly executed game. Its level design is absolute brilliant and wildly varied: among the 120 levels, every single one is somehow somewhat distinct. No level is phoned in. No level is simply padding. The presence of Yoshi, while sadly not used all that much, was executed flawlessly, with level design that leveraged his skills perfectly. And perhaps most importantly, the game has a great beginner/expert balance: young to old, casual to hardcore, the game can appeal to everyone, depending on what you want to complete.

But as I mentioned in my review for the game, the most important thing about the game is that it deserves to exist. The best games are, in my opinion, ones that take a simple idea and leverage it thoroughly in multiple ways. Think of Portal: it took a very simple mechanic and used in a variety of interesting ways. It wasn't complicated: just an easy idea used in a variety of excellent level designs. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the same way: the original idea just didn't exhaust the possibilities for the gravity mechanic. There's so much more that can still be done with it. Thus, not only does Super Mario Galaxy 2 deserve to exist as a game in its own right rather than just a milking of the most popular gaming intellectual property on earth, but it even echoes the need for a third game. At the end of Super Mario Galaxy 2, I wanted more. More levels. More world. After collecting 240 stars over the course of two games, the majority of which leveraged a rather simply idea, I still wanted to play more. That's remarkable for any game.
There’s been a lot of amazing and good videogames this year but few of them could be labelled as “Spectacle”. Bayonetta is one of those games that transcends the barriers of the genre and goes beyond, taking all the videogame elements we are familiar with and twisting them for the best. It has really fluent combat that’s intuitive and doesn’t force you to button mash. It has jaw-dropping graphics with thousands of elements and actions going on the screen at the same time. It’s riddled with references to videogames (the Space Harrier level, the Arcade mini-game Angel Attack, Eggman the destroyer, Rodin is voiced by the narrator of House of the Dead, the currency is Sonic Rings) and movies (from Indiana Jones to Jay and Silent Bob, passing through Saturday Night Live!). The gameplay is always changing from the solid beat ‘em up core to driving, flying, shooting and platforming sections, all spiced with some QTE’s that are never hard to get through, frustrating or unjustified.

But what makes this game so awesome it’s the woman that gives name to it, Bayonetta. Because she is one heck of a hair shape-shifting, lollypop-licking, pole-dancing, kick-ass fetish fuel gas station attendant witch and probably the most charismatic female protagonist not based on how big her breasts are. This is the type of game we have been begging for years, a game that is fun to play, easy to control and hard to master, an excuse to look back 10 years later and say: “Remember Bayonetta?” and we will reply “Oh yeah, they don’t do them like that anymore, don’t they?”
I've been a fan of the Mega Man series since the day I first saw screenshots for Mega Man 2 in an issue of Nintendo Power. Like many people, I played 2 before the first game in the series. I've always admired this series for its unabashed numerical system, never (aside from Mega Man & Bass) changing the name of the game to make it sound like it's not a sequel, like Mario, Zelda, Metroid and many other franchises have. When the X series came out, the original series took a big hit in popularity, slowly fizzling out into oblivion. 11 years later, Mega Man 9 became a hot new downloadable title, and it was clear that they put a great deal of effort into it. I remember remarking that if the NES were still current, this is what the next Mega Man game would look like on it. It was the entry that single-handedly introduced me to downloadable gaming.

Only 2 years later, the next installment came out and it didn't receive quite the hype of its predecessor. However, as a long time fan of the series and as someone whose favorite has long been its third entry, I can say, without a doubt, that this is my new favorite. Unlike Mega Man 9, the challenge was intense, but fair. The music is easily the best in the series, but the action was so intense that it was hard to notice while actually playing. The visuals are still top-notch. The weapons are fantastic, unique (at least as unique as they can be after having 80 others throughout the original series alone), and, most importantly, useful (except maybe Thunder Wool). I am willing to address the ridiculous nature of some of the robot masters, but I didn't feel it really detracted from the experience, since Mega Man has always come with its fair share of camp. The original series isn't entirely to be taken seriously, but it doesn't have to because it's supposed to be fun.

Even the downloadable content is great. Proto Man is now available from the get-go, but you can purchase Bass, one of my favorites from the original series. Endless attack mode returns as well as the Special Stage. This time, however, there are 3 Special Stages, which not only have exclusive bosses from the Rockman World series (Game Boy Mega Man games), but also allow you to acquire their weapons after beating them and use said weapons in the main game. The stages themselves are some of the most intense, adrenaline-pumping bits of platforming I have ever experienced, which is saying something. They are thoroughly satisfying to complete and the music in them is just mind-blowing. Even the achievements are better. I've never liked achievements and have always found them to be fairly pointless, but now 88 of the 100 are just completing these special tutorial-like stages, most of which aren't that bad, if a little tedious.

Perhaps you let this game pass you by for one reason or another. If you're a Mega Man fan or even just a fan of 2D platformers, give it a try. You'll see why this was an easy choice for my favorite game of 2010. All of this for only 10 bucks (plus downloadable content)!
Heavy Rain is a very special case. When you first finish it, you're very aware of its errors: you know of all plot-holes and shortcomings. Yet, you feel you've finished something special. The experience is not perfect, but it's memorable.

But as the time goes by you discover the worth of the game even more. You find out that it has stayed with you. You remember it, and you feel it has changed the way that you view gaming. At the end of the year, you look back: it seems the most noteworthy experience you had.

The game's approach to gameplay is minimal and yet it's intriguing and haunting. The game narrates a chilling moral story with important questions. You face moral dilemmas, control plausible characters in a realistic environment. The narration is so great that it reminds you of Hitchcock. The story is so deep that you can discuss it from multiple aspects. And as a game, it tests you, as the gamer. You reach an awareness after finishing the game. This awareness is social, but it's also of yourself. Heavy Rain is not an interactive movie. It's a game. For only a game is able to bring the inner personality of its audience on screen, as part of the plot.

I wrote a positive review about this game before. After a year my approval of this game is only stronger. It's a true masterpiece, because as time goes by, its negative aspects and shortcomings fade and its worth and depth is more revealed.

Remember Heavy Rain- and David Cage. These are the names you will hear a lot in the future.
Let it be said that this was a good year for games. There have been few years that I was actually impressed by the vast majority of what was offered up, but this year really did the trick for me. From my all time favorite Capcom character making his return In Super Street Fighter IV to nostalgia induced bliss from games like NBA Jam to games reminding me that not everything is handed to you on a silver platter such as Super Meat Boy, I was just very happy with what was given to me this year. My wallet definitely took a beating this year. With that said, let's talk about the biggest surprise I had this year... the game I chose for this list.

Now yes, we all know that the Call of Duty franchise has now become a staple in the gaming industry since 2007 with the hit Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. That game was phenomenal in what it brought to the table. The story was awesome, the action was intense, and the multiplayer changed the way we looked at deathmatches. CoD4 was definitely a tough act to follow. The following year, we got CoD: World at War. The game was great, no doubt about it, but even with the nice addition of zombies as a gimmick, it just lacked that... oomph, so to speak that CoD4 had. The case was the same with CoD Modern Warfare 2. An awesome game, but for some reason it just didn't seem to have that impact that CoD4 had. Sure both of their sales stomped CoD4, and they had brought more to the table, but for some reason, you could feel this sense amongst all the people playing it that it just didn't have that thing that CoD4 had. Maybe they dropped one too many nuclear weapons by this point? Who can tell? Then we were introduced to Black Ops.

Now by the time I had put more than enough hours behind the online play, and beating the game on expert on MW2 I was beginning to be put off by the idea of Call of Duty being put out each year with basically the same set up and lack of originality, only with a different set of weapons and time period it's gracing. I thought it was interesting that they were bringing things to a controversial time period first of all, and that it was suppose to be a cloak and dagger sort of feel. Yet I still knew that it was Call of Duty and I figured it was just going to be a repaint of MW2 only with Vietnam all over the place. So I didn't exactly rush out the door like in previous years to get this one. I wish I did.

Black Ops decided to say screw what was put in place, we're bringing new stuff to the table. The story for this game reminded me of how I felt when I played CoD4 and how awesome I thought it was. The story for this game, I believe, blows it out of the water. It leaves you guessing all the way up until the very exact end of the game as to what was really going on and what was the purpose of the entire story. If you haven't played it by now, then don't look to me to divulge any details for you here and now. Just go play it.

The extra modes in this game are in full force and on the top of their game as well. Lets take a look into multiplayer shall we? First I want to say, thank you for giving us what I always wanted to see in an FPS multiplayer game... options! The amount of details and suttle differences that you can do in this game are huge. This lends itself to finally making each player different from each other. For the most part, everything is open to you... for a price. Gone are the days of having to wait level after painful level to get the weapon you want. If you can buy it, then you got it... no matter what level you're at. There's just a very small amount of what is opened up by levels and even smaller that has to be earned, but so long as you're quick about both, you'll have everything at your fingertips.

The modes are same match styles as ever. If you've played any kind of FPS in the past, then you'll recognise the matches available here. One interesting match though, is the Wager Match. If you're cocky enough and want to get more money than you usually can, then here is your place to do it... if you have the skill to do it that is. You can't expect to walk into this match and think that you'll win in the money. You have to bring everything you got to show everyone that you're the bad ass around here. Other than that, it's as I said before... same style of matches you've seen before. The maps on the other hand are very nicely put together. You have maps ranging from small and close quarters to expansive and war trodden. Not since CoD4 have I seen maps that lent themselves to unpredictablity. Maps you would think best suit close quarters can equally be used as a sniper map, and vice versa. Needless to say, the mulitplayer brought to you this time will keep you on your toes.

If that wasn't enough to wet your appetite, then Black Ops brings back the zombies as well! In style no less! They have the nostalgia of the original cast open for you to play as in a map styled like the ones from World at War, but a new cast of zombie slayers enters the fray in this one. The map "Five" brings you a whole new way of playing the zombies game and an entertaining way of doing it as well! The only thing is, you have to earn this map by beating the game.... So get to it already! You won't be disappointed by what you see. Not only is there the regular zombie game though, they bring you an old school two stick overhead shooter as well with Dead Ops Arcade. It's a great way to pass the time and do some score jumping amongst you and your friends like in the glory days of the arcade. And if that wasn't enough... then find the secret game Zork. A game that works like the text adventure games of computers from the 80s. You want to see how they played games before you were born? Zork will do it for you.

There's so much to say about what this game has brought to the table and not enough time people. I personally loved this game and it has taken the mantle of top CoD game in my mind. This is what the franchise needed. I won't say that it's a reboot or an upgrade, but I will say that it is what the franchise needed before things were about to start getting stale. Was it an obvious choice for a game to be put on this list? Yeah it was... But does it deserve it? Hell yeah it does. Sometimes the obvious choices don't disappoint like they sometimes do. Do yourself a favor, if you haven't played this game yet... do it already! You won't regret it.
If Red Dead Redemption proved anything to the gaming community, it's that cowboys are still totally cool. It also proved that zombie-cowboy expansion packs are a wise investment.

A direct sequel to Red Dead Revolver, you play as John Marston, an ex-gang member who sought a normal life after all of his dueling, bank robbing, murdering and whatnot. Yet it was not so simple, as the government has him by the cojones, and forced him to eliminate those he rode with in order to secure the safety of his family.

Red Dead Redemption blew the gaming community away, for a number of reasons. The vast, open world and sandbox nature of the game appealed to many. Not to mention the fact that the world was so vibrant with wildlife and the domestic, homo-sapient variety. It was truly a well put-together, fully realised game world. One of the few in the Western genre.

The story, too, was well-written and pulled off extremely well, fully utilizing the conventions of the video game medium. The dialogue was very well written, and voice acted beautifully by unique and intriguing characters. There was also a ton of extras - things to do in the game world, multiplayer, and the downloadable kind. Let's not forget that brilliant use of music.
I didn't play many games from 2010 because of a big backlog, but that didn't stop me from being hyped as anything for God of War 3. And then the game came out, and exceeded every single expectation I had. That is very difficult to do, and it was very welcome given how badly Brawl's hype disappointed everyone. It's nice to be hyped for a game that actually delivers.

Take everything you know about how angry Kratos was in past games and throw it out. In 3, he's quite literally back as the biggest jackass in the universe, willing to wreck the entire planet to get his revenge on Zeus. Past games were ruthless and could make you cringe with all the stuff Kratos did to people, but in 3 he goes completely nuts. There is no quicker way to die in a video game than asking Kratos for help. And in God of War 3, he kills things -- a lot of things -- in the most ruthless possible ways imaginable. If you play God of War games for copious amounts of violence, you'll love this game. The entire gameplay experience is improved upon how past games did it, but there's enough familiar things kept around to make you nostalgic if you loved past games in the series.

If you have any doubts at all about how great this game is, hop on Youtube and check out the first hour or so. Look at how bats*** insane the whole intro sequence is, right up to where Poseidon is dumb enough for beg for mercy from freaking Kratos of all people. If that doesn't make you want to play this immediately, you're the antithesis of a real man.
This is the list. As you can see, the opinions are quite diverse here, we have all sorts of games and all sorts of genres. We have all the different platforms, and this shows the diversity of the opinions of top 10 writers. I enjoyed reading the entries and putting my friends' writings together, what about you? Be sure to drop by and give us your opinion.

Before going on, I have to extend my special thanks to DetroitDJ. His efforts were vital in creating this list. First, he contacted different contributors and got them on board. Second, he collected the write-ups from different users. Secondly, I want to thank all the other users who wrote the entries, commented, and suggested different things during the creation of this list.

Well, I hope this won't be our last collaborative list. Stay tuned for more!

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