Sunday, January 2, 2011

My Favorite Games of 2010

With my 2nd complete year as a member of the Gaming Press behind me, I realized that the way I play games has changed a lot since before Sept 2008 (when I started writing for Game Focus). I used to play only a few games, the ones people talked about or got great reviews, and usually focused on Sports, Strategy or RPGs. With writing about games, I opened the door to new genres, experienced titles I would have never played if it wasn’t for assignments and had a greater appreciation for those really good games. At the same time, because I covered games, often the ones I wanted to play or the ones people most talked about were missed because of other engagements. My favorite games of 2010 was a tough list since while every game on my top 10 I spent a good amount of time with, there were others that I just didn’t get the opportunity to experience and couldn’t consider them. While they might not be on the list, they are still games I expect to play, especially since I already shelled out the cash to get them.

Here are my favorite games of 2011

Games I couldn’t consider since I didn’t spend enough time with to qualify them:

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (360 and PS3 - Currently playing it on PS3)
Bayonetta (360 and PS3 - Currently playing it on 360)
Call of Duty: Black Ops (360 and PS3 - Currently playing it on PS3)
Fallout: New Vegas (360, PS3 and PC - Currently playing it on PC)
God of War III (PS3)

Just missing out:

2010: FIFA World Cup South Africa (360, PS3 and Wii - Played it on all three)
Alan Wake (360)
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (360, PS3 and PC - Played it on PS3)
Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising (PC)
Halo: Reach (360)
Mod Nation Racers (PS3)
Super Street Fighter IV (360 and PS3 - Played it on PS3)
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction (360 and PC - Played it on 360)

10. Civilization V (PC)

I remember when I was younger watching older kids showing off the first two Civilization games and me being awe-struck with the game. What a simple concept involving taking a group of people and see what you could do it them. You could take it easy and coast through the ages, be aggressive or be defensive, there was no right or wrong way of playing because every choice you made was the correct one (in your eyes). I honestly was afraid of spending too much time with Civ V because I knew I could easily get lost and start in the early afternoon only to look up and realize it was already morning. It’s a real time sink but it never got bored; you’re thinking of things to do, contemplating your decisions and devising your next course of action. If you have never played a Civ game, this is the perfect place to start and once you start, it’s hard to stop.

9. Red Dead Redemption (360 and PS3 - Played it on PS3)

My enjoyment with Red Dead Redemption was a roller-coaster affair. There were times when I straight-up questioned why it was given so much praise: trying to aim while riding a horse was realistically difficult yet dead aim was such a thrilling aspect to ever gun fight. I felt the story’s pacing was off especially once you reach Mexico, the 2nd half of the game, and the three key parts that could have ended the game, but I will completely admit, I teared up for obvious reasons (won’t spoil it). Because I had that emotional attachment, it was reason enough to give it praise. I still prefer GTA IV in terms of the grand scheme of RockStar’s Open World style of games but my 28 hours playing as John Marsden was worth every it in the end.

8. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (360 and PS3 - Played it on PS3)

The Need for Speed franchise has been very up and down but one I’ve invested a lot of time, money and love with. Without a doubt, the most memorable games in the series have been the Hot Pursuit branded games (NFSIII and NFS:HP). Thanks to Criterion, this game is fast, frantic and extremely addictive. Even with only a small group of friends on PSN on my Autolog, I am always looking to find ways of improving my time. Also, how strange is it that for a game where you want to play as the man; being a Police Officer is so satisfying when you smash that punk racer’s car into a wall. While the Autolog is incredible, the lengthy career as both a racer and an officer is so deep and there is much to discover and experience. Don’t get me started on the cars, so many great choices that any car aficionado will find one that they will love to drive.

7. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (360 and PS3 - Played it on 360)

Who says word of mouth doesn’t help. I can honestly admit that when Enslaved was released in September I had no knowledge of its existence or cared about it. But then a fellow member of GF gave it such high praise and others also followed suit, I began to pay more attention. Then I picked up the demo and was completely prepared to get it. Luckily the game dropped in price and I managed to snag a copy in time for the holidays. In what I thought would be a game I would play on and off ended up being two minor sessions followed by a massive six hour period where I completed the game and began to question what the game’s ending meant and would we see more. The gameplay might not be that original, but so very few games are. What held my attention was the wonderful set-designs, beautiful character designs (I absolutely love the way Trip looks) and captivating story. I seriously doubt we’ll see a follow-up to this, but if Ninja Theory get the opportunity to expand the game’s mythos, I will be first in line.

6. Kirby’s Epic Yarn (Wii)

Talk about being super cute. I remember sitting in the E3 Media room hovered over a computer when Nintendo revealed Kirby’s Epic Yarn and realizing then and there this would be a smash hit. The Kirby frachise has always taken risks and this is no different. Could a game that looks like your grandma’s hand-made quilt be really that good? Yes it can!. Fine, the game is really easy but the things that you can do and the unlockable surprises along the way more than make up for that fact. Even with a story that can be rushed through in about 5-7 hours, if you invest the time to get everything in each level and play all the bonus games, you can quickly see that number double, if not triple. Best part, those bonus games were where the real challenge began to show itself and presented some interesting thoughts in my head (Is this purposely difficult or am I not as smart as I think I am). It might be geared towards younger gamers and parents with kids, even someone like myself, in their mid-twenties, can jump in and leave with smile on their face...something games are supposed to do.

5. DJ Hero 2 (360 and PS3 - Played it on 360)

Living in an apartment had more or less ruined my enjoyment of music based games. I could no longer play Rock Band thanks in part to the constant noise complaints my downstairs neighbour made, and just playing Guitars or singing wasn’t enough to interest me and/or my guests. DJ Hero changed that. I didn’t get around to buying the first game, but I spent many lunch hours at a local Best Buy playing setlist after setlist, then finally decided to spend the cash and pick up the sequel. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed mixing and mashing some of my favorite songs by some of the best DJs and Producers in the industry. I couldn’t stop playing this and had to play the game with headphones on because I wanted to hear the music as loud as I could. Not only was the soundtrack fantastic but the blending of set-lists worked so well that it helped fuel my addiction. I just went from one song to the next without realizing how much time I was spending.

4. FIFA Soccer 11 (360, PS3 and Wii - Played it on PS3 and Wii)

Well looky here, a soccer game on my favs list. What can I say, I am a footie junkie and I’m not afraid to admit it. I played a lot of soccer games this year but the one I would always turn to was FIFA 11. It might not be a giant leap from last year’s edition but the subtle changes were enough to keep my attention. Yes, the addition of playing as a Keeper in Be a Pro was not that successful, it showed that EA was willing to take a risk. They included the Russian League and the improved passing system, which felt even more realistic gave me more reason to play. After playing FIFA 10, I was really worried where the series would go but they met my expectations and more. Now I have to wonder what can they improve for FIFA 12 because the bar is just getting higher and higher.

3. Heavy Rain (PS3)

Heavy Rain was one of my most anticipated games of 2010. I remember seeing it for the first time at PAX ‘09 and while I refused to play it the fact that I saw two very different people play out the same part of the game with two completely different end results showed me that this game would be something else. Yes, there are some faults: the story loses traction near the end due to some plot discrepancies and the voice acting is spot at best, you can’t fault what the game’s main intention was, to bring up conversation. Talk to different people and they will have very different thoughts on their experience. If I decided to do one thing, someone else may have done a completely different thing. If you played it a certain way, may have missed a section some one else may have seen. I also had the same emotional attachment to Heavy Rain as I did with RDR, so it struck a cord that way. Then they added PlayStation Move Support which made the game even more enjoyable. In my gaming history there have only been two games I played through more than once from start to finish, Metal Gear Solid and Chrono Cross; I really want to play through Heavy Rain again but I don’t want to ruin my first play through because the end it ended was the way I made it end.

2. Mass Effect 2 (360 and PC - Played it on 360)

When the first game in the series was released, I passed it by without much hesitation; I was never a fan of BioWare and could care less of a sci-fi based RPG. It wasn’t long afterwards that I was eating my words and wanting more. I loved Dragon Age last year and Mass Effect was a hotly anticipated release. I got to experience a great story and one that I blended myself. The cast of characters was incredible, the missions were so much more fleshed out and the choices you had to make felt more meaningful. The last part of the game was extremely tense with decisions that had to be made and there were a few times when I was certain I was making the wrong choice. Mass Effect 2 fits in the same category as Heavy Rain, I want to play the game again but I didn’t want to experience the game differently since it was my story. This will change in 2011 when ME2 hits the PS3 but then I’ll get to experience life as a different Shepard. Thankfully, we won’t have to wait too long after that for the end of the trilogy.

1. Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty (PC)

“Lock it down” a famous quote by a high-school classmate and a direct reference to the Ghost units of the original Starcraft. It was a game I really enjoyed in High School and the sequel brought up fantastic memories and made new ones. Once again, Blizzard has succeeded in giving us an experience worth playing. New Units, choices that altered the game and an ending that made me anxious for the next game. Missions weren’t that difficult or overly long but it was the choices and the hunting for achievements and additional content that made so happy. I might not be a great player but that didn’t phase me since I still played how I wanted. Best part, even if you’re not familar with RTS, they made it so easy to pick up, that newcomers could jump in and not feel too intimidating. It may have been a long time coming but the wait was certainly worth it and the next two games in the Starcraft II trilogy can’t come soon enough

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